Review: Crackle and Fire, Russ Colchamiro

Crackle and Fire, Russ Colchamiro, Crazy 8 Press

This very readable little book is billed as a science fiction detective story.  Ha!

OK. Here’s the scenario.  For a long time the world (OK, the universe) has been reasonably led and controlled by a broadly benign oligarchy of rich and powerful beings, “The Minders”. These beings live in their very own dimension (“Eternity”) which looks (to judge by the descriptions) more or less like California, by which I mean rather richer than here in Europe and with lots more weapons, classier technology, and more colourful skies, but otherwise pretty familiar.  

OK, so it seems that the Minders haven’t been managing quite perfectly and some unfortunate infighting and corruption have been leading to some governance glitches, but they’re doing OK.  Really. Yes, they’re the good guys. True, they do interfere pretty cynically in the rest of the universe, (mostly from a distance, with a great deal of secrecy and abuse of superpowers), but anyway, they feel entitled to, because really they own the universe (don’t they?) and from their perspective the rest of the universe is pretty backward and lame, so it ought to be grateful.  (Hmm. Feeling like I know this scenario.) 

Well, where the story picks up, this off-world paradise is unfortunately going pretty pear-shaped and it seems likely that the rest of the universe is going to feel the aftershocks.  Or get destroyed as collateral. There’s a conspicuous amount of climate degradation going on (represented in this case by disorderly planets and moons and galaxies, and the sky changing colour, and unexpected blackouts… you get the idea).  And the population of paradise is definitely going astray. Not realizing that the established and well intentioned people who’ve always been in charge before are really the good guys and were doing their best, the misguided populace is letting a load of crazy conspiracy theorists persuade them that they really don’t need the nanny state (sorry, “the Minders”) at all, and that they’d be better off without it. 

Just then – well blow me down! – along comes a deranged, narcissistic, power-crazy demagogue who hates the Minders with a vengeance because they’re better than him, and he’s more than ready to commit whatever crimes it takes in order to get control, whip up the crowd, channel the conspiracy theories and throw away the old world order for his own self-aggrandisement. (Oh what a thing to happen!)

All this leads to a lot of adventures for those (including our trusty heroine, Angela) who would really rather the world went back to how it was.  However flakey the old order was, the alternative now unfolding is very much worse.  And with the Narcissist setting light to most of the oil that there is in the universe and paradise going up in flames, (the writing must be pretty vivid you know, because I could swear I’d seen this on the TV recently…) they certainly aren’t wrong.

Let’s just be glad that it’s just a novel, eh?  How we love science fiction in difficult times: all so far away and fanciful. And this story reads well, carries you along. It’s kinda neat. Ends on a bit of cliffhanger though. Wonder how it’s all going to turn out….

(Good luck with the election, Mr Colchamiro.  All of us down here on Earth, by which I mean Europe, are seriously rooting for the Minders.)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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This review was undertaken as part of a Blackthorn Book Tour. I was happy to purchase the book myself.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Russ Colchamiro




Russ Colchamiro is the author of the rollicking space adventure, Crossline, the zany SF/F backpacking comedy series Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza, and is editor of the SF anthology Love, Murder & Mayhem, all with Crazy 8 Press.
 
Russ lives in New Jersey with his wife, two ninjas, and crazy dog Simon, who may in fact be an alien himself. Russ has also contributed to several other anthologies, including Tales of the Crimson Keep, Pangaea, Altered States of the Union, Camelot 13, TV Gods 2, They Keep Killing Glenn, Thrilling Adventure Yarns, Camelot 13, and Brave New Girls.
 
He is now working on the first novel in a new series featuring his hardboiled private eye Angela Hardwicke, and the first of three collaborative novella projects.

Review: A Dying Wish (Razor, book 1)

A Dying Wish – Razor book one, by Henry Roi, paperback, e-book, audiobook (narrated by: Jamal West)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

You may in these pages have seen me refer to “boys’ books”, invariably, I have to confess, in a righteously dismissive tone.  I mean to refer to books whose gratification comes from fighting and motor vehicles and weapons and sex, generally mixed unhealthily together, and without much concern for any moral or psychological or political context.  Bam bam bam, I’m the winner.  Vroom vroom, you can’t catch me.  And a certain amount of ah ah aaaah…. Well, enough said.  I’m a literary woman, I tell you, I have no time for such nonsense.

It was pretty clear from the start that this was going to be a “boys’ book”. After all, it starts with a fist-fight so gratuitously unrelated to the plot that I have to conclude that the author just likes writing fist fights.  Outrageous.  Next we get the motorbike, whose indulgently sensuous depiction leaves no doubt that the author very much likes these too.  Followed by a girl-on-girl fight scene so shamelessly relished that I can offer no commentary, and thence to a predictable moment of ah-ah-aaah involving one of these pugilistic young ladies….  A boys’ book in pure culture, so if I had any backbone I’d have switched off the audio straight away, and focused my mind on something worthy.  

I didn’t.

The seduction here was the audiobook format.  An audiobook is so wonderfully free of guilt, since it’s quite compatible with simultaneous creditable endeavours.  I could switch it on without committing myself to indolence.  I could have weeded the garden while listening to it.  Or hung out the washing.  Or painted the hall.  I didn’t actually do any of those things of course, but hey, I could have done.  At any moment I could have got off the sofa and I swear I was about to several times. 

It was the author’s fault that I didn’t. I got distracted by the minor characters.  I had been warned in advance, and on excellent authority, that the eponymous hero of this work was ‘a bit of an asshole’ (excuse this vulgar quotation, but the vulgarity rather ‘nails it’, as I believe young people say these days) whereas the other characters were worth a second look.  And so it was. 

There is Blondie, Razor’s girlfriend – an excellent amateur boxer and an engineer to boot (not to mention an author and a slightly-retired criminal) who I feel should have done a bit more to keep her asshole Romeo in order, but who none the less acquits herself rather well throughout the book.  Playing opposite her there’s Anastasia, aka the “Girl Beast”, a professional boxer, career woman and prisoner-on-the-run, towards whom I felt a most curious affection, almost as if I’d met her somewhere else, in some other life, though my memory is short, particularly when I’m embarrassed.  And there’s her geeky boyfriend, Julian, all skinny limbs and muscular brain, and their powerful minder Bobby and lurking in the shadows behind them, the gentle spectre of a honorable trainer, now sadly departed, whose dying wish is the pretext for all the shenanigans.

They seemed to be good people.  I liked them.  I liked the dynamics between them and (I hesitate to say this) I even liked the romp of a story whereby they tackle the local bad-guy gang, whose overweening ambitions are disrupting the local criminal economy.  Oh it’s a bad story, true, and politically incorrect in ways I can’t begin to reflect upon, but it made me smile and (in the increasingly frequent moments when I wasn’t thinking that I really should turn on Radio Four and calm myself with Women’s Hour or the Moral Maze) I found myself getting quite carried away by the cut and thrust of the conflict and the exuberance of the narrative.  Could it be that I felt my own biceps twitching for a bit of Bam bam bam?  That I found myself revving that bike a bit myself for a bit of vroom vroom vroom? That I even… no I won’t go there. That wouldn’t be seemly.

Yes, it was fun.  And even the hero, who I was quite determined to dislike, seemed a little less of a discredited bodypart by the end.  After all, he really does respect his clever girlfriend, and he’s faithful to her too, despite a number of temptations.  And he concedes without rancor that Anastasia – a girl for heavens sake! – is actually a better boxer than him, and possibly, just possibly, that Julian is smarter.  He even (and I’m not talking about any of his many fistfights) has a moment of heroism. Self-sacrifice almost.  Perhaps – oh reader, I’m sorry to say this, and I fear the author may hate me for it – perhaps he’s really, underneath all that asshole stuff, a bit of a sweetie.

 I can claim no moral virtue in this book, but after it I felt much amused and decidedly invigorated.  And these are dark times, and they certainly call for a bit of that.  And it’s an audiobook, remember.  You can still take a stab at the washing up or at deadheading the roses – but at least switch off Woman’s Hour and forget the Moral Maze. Maybe even you deserve a boys’ book sometimes.  (Or maybe you don’t, but your secret’s safe with me).


A Dying Wish – Razor book one, Henry Roi, published by Next Chapter with audiobook by Audible , narrated by: Jamal West

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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This review was undertaken as part of a Blackthorn Book Tour. I purchased the audiobook through Audible.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Henry Roi

Henry Roi is an author, publicist, and teacher.  He has been writing crime and horror since he was a teenager and worked for several publishing houses as an editor and publicist before setting up Henry Roi PR in 2018 and Blackthorn Book Tours in 2019. He has also worked with many independent authors as an editor and mentor.

As well as A Dying Wish, his published works include the other two volumes of the Razor Trilogy, A Long Ride and Criminals, and also With Her Fists.

Henry was born and raised on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and still finds his inspiration in its places and people. As a GED tutor and fitness instructor, working both face to face and online, he is an advocate of adult education in all its forms. His many campaigning and personal interests include tattoo art, prison reform and automotive mechanics. If you’re not lucky enough to catch him fishing round the Biloxi Lighthouse or teaching martial arts in your local gym, he can usually be found on Twitter or Facebook, under Henry Roi PR.