All posts by Hawk

Hawk is an expert in Survivability, Space, and Radiation Modeling. He has worked with civilian and military designers for over twenty years to protect spacecraft and installations from nuclear, EMP, radiological, and chemical weapons as well as natural environments. He is also an historian, martial artist, writer, swordsman, and showman.

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero gets four stars.

So, I’m going to start out stating that Edgar Cantero will be someone to watch in the future. Meddling Kids is a good read with several good things going on throughout it. You can enjoy the “Scooby Doo” mystery, the Lovecraft-ian elements, or the somewhat more literary Obsession story. It is fun to read. The tone is a bit poorly held in some areas, and the mystery is a bit too convoluted, but it is a good read.

While there are differing opinions on how well he succeeded in this novel, it never becomes a bad novel. At worst, it is an inconsistent novel, where some jokes are a bit overplayed.

 

Traditional Scooby Doo

The main conceit is the Scooby Doo gang re-imagined in a more-gritty, more-realistic world. This is lightened by cartoon elements from the past as well as certain scenes were cartoon elements are more prevalent. The core characters are Andy and Nate. Andy may fall into the Daphne position, but she resembles the original character none at all. She is the “tough girl with a heart of gold” archetype and that is continued solidly throughout the novel. She shows a lot of heart and seems to really care about each of the others. Nate, the Shaggy character, is a horror geek and, unfortunately, psychotic. He appears to be visited by Peter (Fred)’s dead spirit and in that way, along with a dog named Tim and a geeky girl named Kelli, the team is “back together.” 

I’m not here to give you a ton of spoilers, but basically this is the same old plot of all the movies, only ten times more. This time, unlike all the other adventures in the popular cartoon, the monsters are real. Of course, this is the base plot of every live-action movie made of Scooby Doo. Also, every movie edition has been turning Daphne into this Andy character, so it isn’t much of a change. And again, due to the same forces, Fred has become less and less effective in each movie, pushing him into an ineffective ghost of his traditional role – a direction that this book takes literally. Kelli/Velma breaks free of her nerdy role – reprised in the movies – but she is as sexy as every nerd-boy fan fiction dreamed she would be. (Don’t ask, you can google as well as I can.) Shaggy is the only one with a truly different role. He’s still taking drugs and running away, but it’s anti-psychotic medication, not marijuana. Overall, Meddling Kids version of the Mystery Inc. gang is spot-on with modern sensibilities.

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SUMMER 1977. The Blyton Summer Detective Club (of Blyton Hills, a small mining town in Oregon’s Zoinx River Valley) solved their final mystery and unmasked the elusive Sleepy Lake monster—another low-life fortune hunter trying to get his dirty hands on the legendary riches hidden in Deboën Mansion. And he would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids.

1990. The former detectives have grown up and apart, each haunted by disturbing memories of their final night in the old haunted house. There are too many strange, half-remembered encounters and events that cannot be dismissed or explained away by a guy in a mask. And Andy, the once intrepid tomboy now wanted in two states, is tired of running from her demons. She needs answers. To find them she will need Kerri, the one-time kid genius and budding biologist, now drinking her ghosts away in New York with Tim, an excitable Weimaraner descended from the original canine member of the club. They will also have to get Nate, the horror nerd currently residing in an asylum in Arkham, Massachusetts. Luckily Nate has not lost contact with Peter, the handsome jock turned movie star who was once their team leader . . . which is remarkable, considering Peter has been dead for years.

The time has come to get the team back together, face their fears, and find out what actually happened all those years ago at Sleepy Lake. It’s their only chance to end the nightmares and, perhaps, save the world.

Literary Novel

In some ways, Meddling Kids is far from Scooby Doo. One third of the novel is an interesting coming of age story with a specific interest in obsession. Peter was apparently a charismatic character. The fact that he leaves them and becomes an actor may have been somewhat traumatic. He then commits suicide, which further poisons their ability to reasonably grow up. Kelli, who had a somewhat unresolved relationship with Peter, is crashing at college, focused more on drinking than study. Andy, who is obsessed with Kelli, has chickened out of confessing her love to Kelli and run off to explore the US. Nate, who may also have been obsessed with Peter, is having a psychotic break and imagines that he’s visited by Peter’s ghost. Kerri/Velma dips back and forth into relevance, but is mostly a foil for the hyper-athletic Andy, and focus for Andy’s obsession. Tim/Scooby Doo is a good dog, who contributes to conversations in a realistic, dog fashion. The dog also has his obsessions…which are fairly reasonable given that he’s a dog.

All of them seem to have been running away, in one way or another.  This third of the novel is an interesting exploration of obsession and running away, which would make a dirt-common novel on the literature aisle. Not a bad read, but without the other two elements it would have been a bit boring.

Lovecraft Novel

The Nate/Shaggy character is the center of both the ‘cartoon hijinks’ and ‘Cthulu mythos’ plots, which is a bit odd of a combination. He isn’t a particularly sympathetic character, as Shaggy was, but is more of a mental mover. Here the combination of comedy and horror leads to the conclusion that fantasy novels are based in real magic, so a lifetime of reading Conan prepares you to become a sorcerer. Overall, some of the sorcery explanations seem a bit ‘tacked on’ so I’m not positive I understood ‘what caused what’. That and the constant flips in tone from serious to comedic, during the Lovecraftian scenes, made the novel less solid than it could have been.

Summary

Overall, I think Meddling Kids tries a bit too hard to be experimental and weird. I enjoyed it, but I think it could have been more consistent in tone and more clear on resolutions. I really liked it and think that it was a top-notch book, so I recommend it. But, I’m only giving it 4 stars. It was 5 star fun in places…but dropped a bit in others. Definitely, Edgar Cantero an author to watch.

 

 

 

Pure Poison

 

The first in a new series about Purity Wellman. A lot of homage to the great Manly Wade Wellman here. I love the “John the Wanderer” series.

I love my book and you will too.

 

 

Two Books

Heyo again,

I’ve got two books coming out this summer. I think I’ve got The Bone God to the publisher, so look for a publication announcement soonish. The Bone God is a continuation of my Irish Fantasy series, started with The Broken Man and hopefully completing in The Serpent King.

Pure Poison is completely different than The Bone God. It is an Urban Fantasy and it completes in Immaculate Corpse, which will hopefully be out by Dragon Con.

Dragon Con will be a busy weekend, so I hope I see everyone there.

Hawk

 

Lost and Found by J. M. Beal

Lost and Found by J M Beal

One of the joys of going to conventions is finding relatively unknown authors. Some of those authors aren’t very creative and just produce fan-fic of whatever series is doing well. In Urban Fantasy, you see a lot of Laura K Lite (Vampire Porn), Monster Hunter-esque (Gun – Porn), and Supernatural-ish (Homosexual porn) writing.  You have to hunt far and wide to find the gems in the pile. Lost and Found is one of those gems. Here is Beal’s elevator pitch:

Author’s Burb

“Grace has a weird life. Even before she accidentally finds a werewolf that’s not a werewolf on the way home from work, she has a weird life. If it stopped at ghosts and werewolves it wouldn’t be so bad. At least the people who hunt these things know how to deal with those.

Nate’s had an entire life of supernatural crap, but he’s got no idea why Grace keeps exploding in white light every time she’s in trouble. But, surprisingly, they make a good team. If there’s suddenly a little more mystery in his life than he’d like it’s worth it. Even when it’s a lot more mystery, and witches, and psychics, and just mess it’s still worth it.”

This isn’t porn and there aren’t a lot of gun scenes. Frankly, it doesn’t feel derivative of any other novel or movie at all. The dead or magical creatures, of which there are a variety, are mostly of a different sort than the usual fodder of the Urban Fantasy canon. There are werewolves, but we are spared the usual “pack dynamic” discussions. I don’t mean to dismiss other author’s takes on these things, but I’m happy to see someone NOT fall back on the standard archetypes.

This is a story about people, wounded people. The focus in this novel is the long-term damage taken from a lifetime of dealing with monsters. Nate and his mother are definitely Exhibit A in the museum of “People Whose Lives Were Destroyed By Monsters”. Grace’s principle damage is from the less-magical monsters. In fact, a major examination in this book is whether people should be hunting monsters at all.

NEGATIVES:

Honestly, I’d like a bit more development to Grace and Nate. The story focuses on them pretty well, but it doesn’t dig deeply into their motivations most of the time. You get the impression that they aren’t particularly motivated, which sells them a bit short. Still, they are fun to follow around and have a lot of ‘cute’ interaction.

More gun porn would be nice…

POSITIVES:

This is a real gem of a novel. Very light and friendly. I think it is stirring up some good concepts and it stands a good chance of working them out in future books. I don’t agree will all the author’s choices, but I think they are developed solidly enough. I enjoyed picking up the novel and will pick up the next one.

SUMMARY:

I don’t know if this is Beal’s first novel, but it has that vibe to it. There are some concepts that I think are great and some that fall a bit flat. I think she doesn’t develop the interaction with the merfolk enough. I think she needs to link the damage caused by human and non-human monsters more explicitly. (It doesn’t really connect till toward the end of the book.) I’d say the win on this novel is that it was very easy to pick up. I do recommend this book and give it four stars.

Hawkings Austin

J. M. Beal

 

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

See the source image

If you like a grim and humorous world, Sandman Slim is one of the best Urban Fantasy novels out there. I can’t see much daylight between his world and a post-apocalypse setting, but the fact that it is bleak and dark doesn’t much improve L.A. (Though the protagonist has less trouble with traffic than I do.)

His protagonist isn’t quite an anti-hero, but he’s not a good person. He climbs out of hell into a burning pile of garbage. That is probably his best moments. He knocks over a drug dealer for his coat and goes about killing his old coven-mates.

I really like the fact that this is a noir novel in the – L.A. is a character – sense. There is a terrible personality to the multiply destroyed town. The weird theme bars, the over-priced sports cars, and the slowly decaying architecture are all features you can get to know. The action (even the action in Hell) all takes place in L.A. Its a town near-empty, for one reason or another, but it was L.A. (Even in Hell, they have flaming palm trees lining the streets. It makes you homesick. (If you lived in L.A. and didn’t want to set those palm trees on fire, just to watch them burn, you are a better person than I.)

An example scene entry from the third novel: “I come up in the Badlands, though I don’t see how this parcel of the L.A. shit-scape is supposed to be worse than any of others I’ve seen. In face, I’d find the area downright restful if it wasn’t for all the blood.”

Maybe I like the destroyed LA too much, but traffic down to Manhattan Beach or up to past Venice Beach or on the 105… ok, anywhere from Pasadena west…makes you appreciate the finer points of a zombie apocalypse. Sandman Slim takes you on a tour of the finer points of his version of the city, while killing evil warlocks, zombies, devils, demons, and weirder stuff.

Most of the universe has it in for our Sandman Slim, lucky he knows how to kill them back real well. He has a handful of colorful friends, a collection which keeps growing with each book. I especially love his unfortunately immortal alchemist friend, and his pet vampire(ish). He has a collection of enemies as well, which despite his killing them off, doesn’t seem to diminish the total number for much.

Negatives:

Is there negatives about the book? Not really. It is grim and dark and humorous. If those get aggravating for you, you probably won’t put the series on speed read. I’ve just got back and re-read, so that I can start book six. I’m only on book three, but will probably finish them all this week. For me, they are light and easy reads, but I like the grim.

The books are full of drinking, fighting, and sex. The sex is actually not terribly explicit. The gore isn’t terribly explicit, but there are bodies getting hacked up. The drinking and smoking is heavy and constant. I want a smoke half-way through the book, and I don’t smoke.

Rating for Sandman Slim:

Sandman Slim is a perfect example of post-apocalypse fiction. The world (LA) is destroyed and the angels and devils and demons and monsters are fighting over the ruins. Our hero is one of the monsters and proud of it. It is fun, emotional, and interesting to turn the pages. It is fun enough for five stars, and there is no technical crap which kills the fun.

So yes, the series, so far as I’ve read it, gets five stars. Read them.

 

The Serpent King

The serpent king gets me further along my trilogy. Unfortunately, my trilogy is on its third book….I’d like to say that it was the conclusion, but it looks like I’ll need four books in this trilogy, maybe five. Well, we all know I can’t count. Still I get another cool picture. I can live with that.

Urban-Fantasy.com

I’ll be starting an urban fantasy book review over at Urban-Fantasy.com. I’m always interested in recommendations, especially if you are a new writer. I’m starting Camp Nanowrimo over at Cabin Sablehawk this week. (Easter and edits coming in, this will be a busy month.)

My first posts will likely be on Superhero novels. I’ve read a few. My own urban fantasy is still unpublished. I may see if Jagi wants to tackle Pure Poison once the Bone God is in the can. P.S. looking for a photographer for the front art for Pure Poison. I’ve got some ideas I found on the net below.

If you are a photographer/artist who can make pretty pictures for my cover, give me a shout.

Hawk

National November Writing Month (Camp Nanowrimo)

So, as you might expect. The newbie writer is trying Camp Nanowrimo.

What is Nanowrimo? Well, every November we write for 30 days to get 50,000 words. It teaches you good habits and a few bad habits, but you get your story onto the page, which is the first hurdle.

Camp Nanowrimo is a self-directed month where you pick a project, like editing your last mess, and go to it. The nice part about Camp Nanowrimo is the texting in your own cabin. We’re always talking smack, giving encouragement, etc. I really like it.

If anyone wants into Cabin Sablehawk, give me a shout and I’ll bring you in. @sablehawk on twitter or just comment here. I’m going to open it to everyone come Sunday, but I’ll give people a couple days if they are interested.

I’ve got two projects sitting on my desk. The edits from The Bone God are coming in, and the Outline for King Serpent is starting. I really want to do both…but I’ll probably wimp out and do my edits like a good boy.

In mid April is Ravencon, which I’m also attending. I hope that anyone who wants to talk writing gets with me there I’d love to chat about writing.

Dragon Con 2018

Just to inform my occasional reader, I will be attending Dragon Con this year as a guest. I intend to do science, space, Armageddon (Or whatever they call it), and writing this year.

Any time I’m not charging around between panels with my pants on fire, I’ll be escorting my lovely wife or my wonderful daughter around the con. I intend to wear funny costumes and drink beer. Anything else is plain luck.

Yeah, Superversive is hosting a table, so I’ll probably be there too. (And with Speaker to Lab Rats at his Baen party. I better get to work and publish more books.

Later,
Hawk

Valerian and the city of a thousand planets

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Poster

First off, this was a fun movie. I won’t say it didn’t have some ‘drink’ moments, but it was pretty good fun. It tried to be huge, with fantastic scenes changing constantly, but it failed to be consistent, so it made no sense half the time. Just off the top of my head:

  1. Multi-Dimensional world? Man, that was so complex that it has to show up again…nope.
  2. Bashing through walls into completely different (and recently described) sections…that were supposed to be on opposite sides of a giant city? Yeah, that happened.
  3. The spaceship can enhance his fighting ability? He doesn’t mention that till the last scene.
  4. Aliens fishing for humans in the red zone?

But, the one that killed me, absolutely ruined it, was a superior officer hitting on a sergeant under his command. Absolutely improper and bugged the crap out of me, constantly.

So, the plot was simple and fun. They did a good job on one alien species, the Pearls, but the others were just goofy. I saw it with a beer and a hot chick, so I rate it a good solid 3 for movie night.