Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Classic Book Review (Condensed) – The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester


Vintage (1996), Paperback, 272 pages

There isn’t a lot I can add to the myriad reviews written about this fantastic story and the strangest protagonist ever written. So I won’t. I will say that since I first read it in the mid 70’s it’s been on my top 10 list. So, for now, I’ll let the 100’s of other reviewers speak for me. Here goes…

[Please report broken links]

There are many more reviews available on the internet (Google search provides 21M links, give or take) but this sampling should give you an idea of the esteem in which this book is held. Almost every review here is a 4 or 5 star review. And, it looks like they’re making it into a movie scheduled for release in 2012.


Oh, yeah, 5 out of 5 stars – stellar story.

The Alternative

Southeastern Wisconsin

Monday, April 26, 2010

Book Review – Elysiana by Chris Knopf



Chris Knopf

Permanent Press


Bound Galley

208 pages

ISBN: 1579621988

Jersey Shore, summer, 1969, villains, parties, a conspiracy, and drugs… what’s not to like? Okay, so the counter-culture of the 60’s is in full swing, small town politics has taken a turn for the worse, and the Lifeguards are, well, the life of the party. Elysiana, a small island off the coast of New Jersey and south of Atlantic City, is the setting for this quick paced, off-the-wall drama/comedy.

Gwendalynn Anders, a drifter who wakes up in Elysiana after a drug-induced road trip, serves as the catalyst between the fun-loving Lifeguards and the stiff-necked, scheming politico’s. The story unfolds as Gwen wakes up on the beach to the ministrations of six year old Sweetie who has wandered away from home. Gwen delivers the little girl home and Borough Council President Norm Harlan, Sweeties father, immediately enlists Gwen as a nanny. Later Gwen meets Jack Halcyon, a lifeguard who once lost years in a coma because of a car accident and the two strike-up an unlikely friendship/love affair. With a turf war being fought between the Beach Guards and the Local Police the entire situation comes to a head during one of the worst hurricanes on record.

Elysiana is a fast-paced quick read and there is much to enjoy about this book and, in retrospect, I can’t seem to think of a single flaw. The characters are believable, the sex gratuitous, the drugs abundant, the villains skanky, and the heroes noncommittal, which in my humble estimation makes for one enjoyable read. But then, I’m thoroughly warped, just ask my counselor.

Solid story! Lots of fun!

4 out of 5 stars

4 stars

The Alternative

Southeast Wisconsin

Book Review – The Lazarus Smile by J. Christoph Amberger


The Lazarus Smile

J. Christoph Amberger

Secret Archives Press



380 pages

ISBN: 0984315209

Amberger couldn’t have chosen a more controversial person to base his conspiracy on than Saul of Tarsus, otherwise known as Saint Paul. Paul, the Apostle, was by all accounts a very complicated man. He was a renowned world traveler and was opposed to many of the Christian Laws. He suffered from epilepsy, was a life-long bachelor who harbored a fiery temper, was impulsive and impassioned in the extreme and never truly learned to harness his ever-changing mood swings. Now add the concept that Paul may have been a double-agent for the Roman Emperor and a believable conspiracy takes shape. (Note to fans of Biblical history: Paul himself does not appear as a true character in this novel but only as a catalyst to base the controversy on.)

In “The Lazarus Smile” Amberger gives credence to the saying, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” For three simple words may change the course of world events forever. I’ll leave it to the reader to discover what those words might be (and the how’s and why’s.) Suffice it to say that the idea is sound and makes for a great mystery and a solid conspiracy.

The historical fiction is convincingly written and very believable. You’ll visit Nazi Germany in World War II, the Roman Empire of 69 A.D. (the year that four emperors took the throne), and the volatile world of present-day politics and religious belief. The origins of Christianity, multiple conspiracies, and secret societies are described with an eye for the details that make history so compelling to so many readers. While a number of the characters may have been killed off a bit before their time the main, lasting characters were intriguing and well-written. I especially enjoyed the retired CIA operative that dabbled in Black Ops. (I hope to see him again!) The main character, who uncovers a fifty-year-old family secret, was also quite believable and solidly written.

All in all, “The Lazarus Smile” is a fast paced, page turning historical ride that I enjoyed until the very last page.

4 out of 5 stars

4 stars

The Alternative

Southeast Wisconsin

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Book Review – Hawk by Brian Neary


Brian Neary



Trade Paperback

443 Pages

Brian Neary’s “Hawk” is a surprisingly excellent (and very quick) read. I won’t resort to comparing Neary with similar genre writers or his story to theirs but I will say that if you enjoy a suspenseful thriller with fast paced action, believable characters, and political/military scenarios straight out of yesterdays newspapers, then Hawk is for you. But be forewarned, Neary pulls no punches. The very real dark side of terrorism is depicted here as is the squabbling and in-fighting found between various government agencies which I believe gives this novel more bite. To turn a phrase, the fiction is real, the blood-shed and violence is far from pedestrian, and the technology very believable. Which makes the story that much more compelling.

I have to say that the pages flew by and I loved the suspense Neary created as the plot developed. If there’s a flaw in the book it’s that we didn’t see enough of the hero, Quentin Hawk, who might just be a character for the ages. Tough talkin’, ass kickin’, no-shit-takin’ CIA operative with a Mensa-sized I.Q. and the physique of a football player, Hawk (both the character and the book) will keep you entranced and sleepless as you furious turn page after page to find out what comes next. And I guarantee that you will. Here’s looking forward to the next installment.

Oh, and Mr. Neary, as long as you keep writing stories like this you’ve a customer for life.

4 and 1/2 stars out of 5

P.S. Appealing to the vanity in all of us a very cool opportunity for someone has been added to the Brian Neary website at If you go to the webpage and click on the “Contact” button you’ll be asked to enter your e-mail address. This places you into a drawing that might get you named as a character in Neary’s next book. The blurb I received in the Advance Readers Copy states, “You can be a character in the next Quentin Hawk Novel. ‘Good guy, bad guy, you name it and I’ll write you in.’ Neary also states, ‘Midway through the writing process, we’ll select a winner. I’ll email you and offer you some character choices – like assassin, cop, hero, or snitch. You’ll tell me the part you want to play and I’ll write you into the plot.’

So head on off to the site now and enter your e-mail address. You never know what might happen.

Oh, and to make things even sweeter Neary added a five page teaser for the next Quentin Hawk book, “The Manuscript” at the end of Hawk.

The Alternative

Southeast Wisconsin