Review: Off Leash

Off Leash
Off Leash by Daniel Potter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s very difficult for me to give a 5 star review to a book. They must have all the things. In this case, I am very happy to do so. This book was just plain fun to read! Political intrigue, a who-dunit mystery, firework throwing squirrels, talking animals, telepathic bonds, werewolves, dragons…. like I said, this book has all the things! It’s a rousing Urban Fantasy that brings to mind a cross between Redwall & Harry Potter.

Thomas Khatt, a man without a lot going for him, suddenly finds his existence turned upside down when he witnesses the violent death of his next door neighbor. There’s much more to it than that as he wakes in his home to find he’s become a cougar. Not that kind, the kind with fur and a tail.

After that, he’s rudely submerged into the world beyond the Veil, where magic exists and magi turn animals like him into their personal servants to help them with their spells.

It’s a rousing action story told in a world within our own, but hidden by mystic forces so that we mundanes can’t see it. The characters are outstandingly created. The details describing the transition of Thomas’ body and mind from man to cougar is just amazing! The plot is never dull for even a split-second. I am looking forward to the next installment!

I give this debut novel from Daniel Potter five stars, and call it a Khatagorically Stupendous Read!

PS – The few pieces of artwork found in the e-book are ASTOUNDING!

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The e-book also contains 25% of a short story titled “Rudy & The Warren Warriors” (about 68 pages).  You can get the whole story by subscribing to the author’s newsletter here.

 

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Review: Dragon Virus

Dragon Virus
Dragon Virus by Laura Anne Gilman
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Didn’t like it. Plain and simple. Pretty short, so not a lot of time lost. A virus, cause/cure unknown begins to ‘leapfrog evolution’ of human children. Society breaks down around the upheaval over a century or so of elapsed time. In the end, everything becomes barbaric & bestial.

The blurb describes the story as a tragedy in six parts. OK, I can agree with that. The stories were tragic. But, I don’t like no-hope tragedy type stories. I’ve ranted on this in several places. The worst example of this I can reference is The Road by Cormack McCarthy. This story is not nearly as well written, though; it simply shares that dreary, no-hope, vibe.

The story is highly focused on the morbidity (perceived?) of human society. The biases (anti-religious, pro-climate change, environmentalist, etc.) shown in the story are too thick for me. The story is very halting in the way it’s written, also. It’s hard to read the train of thought style. It throws me out of the story because I have to go back and re-read things to understand what was happening.

But, it was short, and a freebie… so not wasted funds at least.

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Review: The Scarlet Plague

The Scarlet Plague
The Scarlet Plague by Jack London
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Published in 1912, Jack London – of Call of the Wild & White Fang fame – penned this dystopian novella that is today in the company of a plethora of similar stories in the Biological Apocalypse sub-genre of science fiction. This work, although unavoidably dated in some aspects, is quite good, and amazingly in the realm of ‘possible’ still today.

What I found most enthralling was the historical dates involved. The main character is a man of 87 years. He is recalling the time of the Scarlet Plague that had taken place some 60 years before. That year, for him, was 2013, so the story takes place in the year 2073. That is exactly 100 years after I was born. I write this review in 2016, 104 years after Jack London wrote the story, which for him was set 100 years in the future. Literary Inception! Or is it Literary Temporal Paradox?

With all that juggling of time and date, I find I want to review, not so much the story itself, but the ‘guesses’ that were made. So, what did London get right, and what did he get wrong with his futuristic dystopian tale?

Well, his understanding of disease is quite good. His version of a plague is one with a medium length incubation with sudden onset of symptoms (the victims skin turns scarlet red) followed by astonishingly rapid death due to cardio paralysis (starting at the feet and moving upward). It’s possible. It’s similar to the rapid onset disease vector shown in the movie 28 Days Later, but without the crazy rage thing. Next, he gets fairly close to the correct population figures for the world at that time. I think it was 5 billion in his future 2013. In reality, it turned out to be more like 7.1 billion.

Some of the things he got wrong are things that about the state of culture in his time that he could not conceive of changing.

One was the rapid growth of technology. He could not see the modern cities of today, nor the ubiquitous use of autos, etc. His future is early 20th century San Francisco, with a mixture of horses, carts and the beginning of automobiles being used by the affluent of society.

The second is the culture change. He is very accepting of the class distinctions that were prevalent in the era he lived. Condescension toward the ‘lower class’ servants (what we call blue collar today) was considered normal, and thus it is a focus for the change of fate of some of the plagues survivors. I’m sure this would have been quite a shock to his readers in 1912. I just shook my head at the thought of the ‘uppity’ snobs that he obviously admires.

That brings us to another item that he does not have the ability to see; literacy rates. Today, almost everyone in the United States is literate (less than 1% adult illiteracy – I found this stat on the internet, so it must be true!). Whereas, in 1910 it was around 8%. So, 1 in 12 people couldn’t read in his day. This detail of societal change is a major contributor to a shift away form the culture of class segregation that is a major plot point in this work.

Lastly, no one could have predicted what we have today in the way of electronics. The main character mentions saving books in a cave to help society one day rebuild. He was a literature professor in a university, but his grandsons are illiterate. Well, I don’t believe that people would let their children and grand-children be completely uneducated and barbaric, even if society crumbled. Someone would teach them how to read, and what words meant, and how to count! The level of culture loss shown in this story is too much for me to accept.

Still, my overall take of this tale is good, and London is a wordsmith of exceptional caliber. This is a great story to pass the time, and is from a very unique perspective. I give it 4 stars and call it an excellent read.

And best of all, you can get it for free at Amazon!

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