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Last week I got a copy of author James A. Hunter’s sci-fi novel Viridian Gate Online: Cataclycism: A LitRPG Adventure. I got to say, this one was a little out of my wheel house. However, James hit it out of the park! The characters are fleshed out, the action is non-stop, and the character development is solid.
Our story takes place in 2042. An asteroid is about to hit the Earth and our protagonist hasn’t won the lottery allowing him to survive in deep earth bunkers. He has, however, won a different kind of lottery. Thanks to a next generation virtual reality MMO, he has an opportunity to immerse himself in a digital world. After being connected for three days, his body will die, but his consciousness has a good shot of surviving the process, making him immortal. The only problem is that he would live out his existence in a fantasy MMO, fighting monsters and collecting magic items.
This is the genre of Litrpg
The protagonists are caught in a game world and have to figure out what there next step is. This kind of novel blends the sci-fi action of Tron with the specifics of MMO’s like inventory screens, digital maps, skill and class progression and money totals. All the stuff that hard core games want in their sci-fi novels. And Viridian Gate Online delivers on all of the goods.
I was surprised how rich and detailed the world was. I was also surprised how out protagonist, Grim Jack, has to balance what his MMO habits are with his desire to act humanely as he tries to figure out how to do the right thing. While he knows he’s in a video game, it’s so realistic that he can’t help but treat the people he meets as if they are real. He is humane and merciful. Surprisingly, these traits always end up benefiting him. Kindness is rewarded.
Then the girl shows up
The story hums along well until Aby, a former college friend, appears. You see Aby gave Grim Jack the equipment to get online and survive the asteroid. He now finds out why. Aby thinks there’s something rotten in Viridian Gate and she needs Jack’s help to find it. Aby explains what she knows and what she thinks it happening. She asks him to go on a quest with her, which only brings up more questions. Their quest for answers is complicated by the feelings they are just now admitting to each other.
The author breaks the team up when Aby decides she wants to be alone during her final transition. See, after three days connected to this virtual reality world, a person’s body goes into cardiac arrest – they die – in the real world. Most people survive this process with their consciousness intact, 1 in 6 do not.
A well crafted book
Author James Hunter has created a rich world for the reader to explore. He’s also skillfully added a mystery into an action novel. Did I mention the twist at the end? Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you. Just read the book!
If you like reading new genres of fiction with lots of action and a little bit of mystery, Viridian Gate Online: Cataclysm is for you. Ebook versions are $3.99 on Amazon. Paperback is $9.99.
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I have been a Stant Litore fan for quite a while now. It all started when I was perusing books on my Kindle and his name kept coming up. I would read the titles of his books and then read the descriptions. Wow. Just wow. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and I bought Death Has Come Up Into Our Windows.
I came away from that book with three convictions.
1.) Stant Litore is a master of sorrow and loneliness.
2.) Stant Litore has an understanding of Biblical literature that would blow the rest of us away.
3.) Stant Litore knows how to write!
Why am I telling you this?
See, the book I’m gonna review, No Lasting Burial, requires a little bit of set up.
Stant Litore writes Science Fiction (which is also awesome!) but he writes what can only be described as weird fiction. He has a whole series of books entitled The Zombie Bible.
In these books Stant takes a Biblical figure and asks the question how would a devoutly religious person from the ancient world respond to a zombie apocalypse? This is a fascinating question!
It brings up issues of culture, material culture, values, faith & identity. It also takes the question of religion very seriously.
See, I’m a devout Catholic. I have been one most of my adult life. However whenever I try to find movies or television shows that authentically lay out how a sincere Christian would act, I am left empty and hollow.
Its not that entertainment gets the Christian wrong (which they often do – but that’s another post.) For the sake of faint of heart, they get the experiences wrong.
We all know that life can be hard. It’s visceral, guttural, earthy and sometimes gross. Very rarely do movies, television & books with authentically Christian characters get their world right. The producers shy away from the heard realities of life. Everything is veiled or discussed in coded language.
Stant Litore get’s it Right.
His characters are full of rage, pride, lust. They watch their loved ones get murdered, or starve. They are hard, lean people who have gone through some tough times. In spite of those times, when their backs are against the wall, they lean on their faith to keep going. Stant’s works are visceral and gritty.
Let’s talk about No Lasting Burial.
I’ve read every Zombie Bible Story published so far. I saved this one for last because it deals with the Gospel of Luke.
Let me start out by saying Stant knows his Hebrew and Biblical Aramaic. He makes liberal use of terms and names, so that you feel like you’re visiting a foreign world. However, because he knows the Jewish Law, you quickly get the sense that his characters live with a certain amount of tension as they struggle to be faithful. The results can be both good and bad, for the characters.
Also, Stant Litore’s writing is beautiful. He has a way of describing the most basic – fish cooking on a wood fire, walking along the sea shore, or an intimate moment between a young girl and a boy – and making you feel vulnerable for witnessing it. There were times in this book I was embarrassed because the scene was so intimate, so personal, that I felt like I was eaves dropping on two lovers. When a writer can make you feel that, he’s done something.
The characters are wounded and broken people. This one can’t forgive his father. That one is full of fear for her child. This one has grown dogmatic and self-righteous because he can’t forgive himself for his cowardice years before. Yet they all go through their own growth as the story advances. Stant Litore is a master of the character arc, and it shows in this book.
Meanwhile, the dead walk the earth, consuming the living.
They have one intense moment after another. When the dead attack, most people work together to fight them. When the present danger has abated, their interpersonal problems resurface. Finally, these Iron Age Characters try to make sense of a world where the dead keep coming back, while also being good, observant Jews and dealing with the Romans.
There is a richness to Stant Litore’s prose that feels like poetry. H has woven a rich tapestry of belief, emotion, ancient history, and – dare I say it – hunger, into a wonderful book. I highly recommend all of the books in the Zombie Bible, especially No Lasting Burial. Pick it up today!
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This week I’ll be reviewing one of my favorite writing craft books. It’s called Write. Publish. Repeat. by authors Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, & David Wright. Maybe it’s wrong to describe this book as a craft writing book. Those books usually suggest things you can do when it comes to the specifics of your story. Lots books are about plot beats. Others are about the character arc. Some want you to write a great villain, or structure a romantic subplot. This book, however, is light on those mechanics. What this book is about is the business of being a self-published author.
See, guys like me, who are chasing a traditional publishing contract are quickly becoming a bison in a thinning herd. More and more people are self-publishing. And they’re not just doing it on Kindle. It’s an exciting time in in the publishing world – if you’re a self-motivated writer.
And that’s what these guys are. Throughout this 462 page book, you get the impression that these guys work very, very hard.
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THIS BOOK
- The book is broken up into five sections with introductions and clear guidelines.
- They write argumentative essays explaining why they do what they do – and why you should do it too.
- The authors deconstruct what needs to be done, step by step, with humor and panache.
- The writing is crisp, clear, and entertaining. You’ll laugh out-loud.
HOW THE BOOK IS ORGANIZED
- An extended introduction of themselves and terms you should know.
- Explaining the Self-Publishing landscape and how it can help you.
- Creating a professional book – from story, to editing, to concerns of post-production like formatting, book covers and Pricing.
- Marketing 101. From creating an email list, to blogging, to the concept of funneling. (This is the real gem of the book. Really good stuff here.)
- Thinking like a publisher (i.e., an entrepreneur)
- An appendix with interview with successful independent authors.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT I REALLY LIKE ABOUT THIS BOOK?
There not dainty about the subject of writing and publishing. They have no problem speaking the unvarnished truth. And boy, are these guys funny! There sophomoric antics shine through the pages of this book. I sometimes mourn for their long suffering wives.
My favorite story is how they set up a giveaway for signing up for their email list. Eventually they ran a contest to determine what the subject of their new flash fiction stories. The winner? Caveman time-cop.
The information in this book is in-depth and exhausting. I read it the first time in 2014 and it scared the crap out of me. In many ways what they were talking about was overwhelming. How was I going to implement all this? How was I going to get this stuff together? How was I going to find the people I needed to help me do book covers and format and all that other stuff? It was inspiring and intimidating at the same time.
If you’re looking for a business book on writing that is going to serve you a warm cup of chamomile tea, pat you on the hand and tell you “Everything is alright dear. You just write your book and nice people will magically do all the rest of that nasty business stuff,” then this book is NOT FOR YOU!
However, if you’ve got a story you really want to tell, if you’re more than curious about self-publishing and want to try it for yourself, if you are willing to do the dirty work of marketing yourself and creating a platform, If fighting for your spot in the marketplace gets you excited in the morning, than this book is for you.
It’s not pretty at times, but it is hones.