An Author’s Monster Manual: Table of Contents

I’m a big fan of TTRPGs. I love the imagination involved in creating a story with friends and I love the memories that are made. I often find myself thinking about how cool it would be to include a creature I’ve loved in a fantasy book in a TTRPG setting. I’ve been lucky to have some amazing authors and bloggers share hypothetical Monster Manual additions over the last two weeks.

Here is a list of the awesome guest posts, in case you missed any.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the writers who helped make my idea an awesome reality! The amount of talent gathered here is incredible.

Table of Contents:

An Author’s Monster Manual

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Andi Ewington

An Author’s Monster Featuring J.E. Hannaford

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Geoff Habiger

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Rowena at Beneath a Thousand Skies

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Jonathan Nevair

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Dan Fitzgerald

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Rob Edwards

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Ryan Howse

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Sean Gibson

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Ricardo Victoria

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Jeffrey Speight

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Joshua Gillingham

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Luke Winch

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Virgina McClain

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Dorian Hart

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Rob Edwards

I am so excited about this blog series discussing book creatures as entries in an author’s Monster Manual! Each new creature is unique and so, so cool! Rob Edwards’ addition is no exception. His series, the Justice Academy, is excellent!

Art by Edward Bentley

Hey Jodie, thanks for having me back. I’m excited to talk monsters, even if you’ve had to stretch the rules a little bit to include me! 

I’m not a Rules Lawyer, but…

So, at first blush, it’s possible that my book, The Ascension Machine, was not a great fit for this blog series. Rules as written, “An Author’s Monster Manual” leans into a Dungeons and Dragons feel, and my books are sci-fi, not fantasy. Moreover, my books don’t really have monsters in them. Plenty of villains, several of whom are quite monstrous, but no actual bona fide monsters.

Fortunately, we can deal with both of these issues. As to the first, D&D recently released a 5e version of their Spelljammer setting, which lets you take the adventures to space (kind of, go with me here). So, for the monster I had in mind, I switched out their ray guns for hand crossbows, and we have problem one solved.

As for the monster part, I mean, when it comes down to it, what actually is a monster?

Well, according to the introduction of the 5e Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual, in the section “What Is a Monster?”, “A monster is defined as any creature that can be interacted with and potentially fought and killed.” And if that doesn’t convince, it goes on to say, “The term also applies to humans, elves, dwarves, and other civilised folk who might be friends or rivals to the player characters.”

I think that pretty clearly includes the Brontom Clone Warriors, so we’re in the game!

Begin these clone warriors did 

I hadn’t originally intended to have the Brontom play a major part in my books. Originally, they were a throwaway gag in the opening scene. Our hero, Grey, tells a tall story about pretending to be a Brontom to fool an ATM. An unlikely story because Grey is not 7’ tall, green, and only has two arms instead of the Brontom’s normal four. But Brontom are all identical clones and the only way for an ATM to tell them apart is by scent, so you can fool them using perfume. Or so Grey claims.

It was a fun gag. 

But the idea of this clone race started to tickle my imagination. There was no choice, but I’d have to introduce a Brontom in the main plot. And so, we meet Brontom Clone Warrior 4,923,016,734. Seventhirtyfour to his friends.

Yes, we are all different

The idea of a clone warrior race is hardly unique, I grant you. Star Wars has its clone troopers, Doctor Who has its Sontarans, but it remains a fascinating idea. What are the differences between the clones? 

There’s a question of nurture versus nature here. Every Brontom is physically identical, receives the same training, goes through the same exercises, but even then, what happens to the clone who is always on the losing side of training exercises? The one who has an unlucky accident early on in their training, or a lucky one for that matter. How does that affect their personality, their outlook?

While they are all unique individuals, it’s conformity that is the Brontom’s greatest strength on the battlefield. They have been literally trained together since birth. They know what their squad mates will do, and how to take advantage of it.

Rating, challenged

And then there’s Seventhirtyfour, who is a mutant Brontom. He’s two inches too tall. For a human that may not mean anything, but for a Brontom every uniform, piece of equipment, every doorway is designed for someone exactly two inches shorter than you. You stand out. You probably hit your head a lot.

For some this could make you resentful and bitter. Not Seventhirtyfour. He rises to the challenge of leaving the barracks for the first time with a positivity that practically shines out of him. He makes friends quickly, and will defend them to the best of his considerable abilities, always.

The stat block in this article is not Seventhirtyfour, though, his abilities would be too spoilery to include. No, this is a standard Brontom Clone Warrior, right out of basic training and ready to crew a… Spelljammer ship. Sure, why not?

Multiattack

Each round, this post can make one link to the book, and one to a website for more information about Brontom and other facets of their universe.

About the author:

Rob Edwards is a British born writer and content creator, living in Finland. He writes about coffee, despite not drinking it, spaceships, despite being down-to-earth, and superheroes, despite everything.

His debut novel, The Ascension Machine was published in 2020. His short stories can be found in anthologies from Inklings Press and Rivenstone Press. A life-long gamer and self-professed geek, he is proud of his entry on Wookieepedia, the result of writing several Star Wars RPG scenarios in his youth.

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Jonathan Nevair

I am so excited to have Jonathan Nevair, author of the Wind Tide series, here to discuss his Mutant Bukki Tiger! Half amphibian, and half tiger, this is such an intriguing and intimidating monster!

And guess what? Jonathan Nevair has a new book releasing in December! Find out more about Stellar Instinct here or go ahead and pre-order it here (you know you want to; it’s going to be great).

Credit for the amazing art goes to Stephen Wood at https://stephenwoodgames.com/.

Half tiger, half amphibian, the Mutant Bukki Tiger is the tragic result of a radioactive accident interfering with nature. The Mutant Bukki Tiger is confined to a roughly five-thousand-kilometer grid of jungle on the planet, Hesh-9, known as the Red Zone. A nuclear waste carrier heading to the capital city of Hikesh, from the far side of the planet crashed, rendering the area off-limits until radiation half-life reached safe levels. Rumors of mutations to whatever survived the bloom added disturbing flavor to popular myths and folklore about the rainforest region. Travelers who dare to traverse the Red Zone risk crossing paths with this most grotesque and ferocious creature. 

 The Mutant Bukki has five cat eyes, two jaws complete with fangs, four good legs, and one-half leg sprouting out of its spine, held together by a slimy frog-like torso. It is a radioactive horror that contains high levels of radioactivity that make it a most frightening and potentially deadly encounter. Yet, there are tales of individuals with powers of persuasion (driven by compassion) who have been able to calm the beast and sympathize with its tragic circumstance. Those who do so, it is rumored, have come to no harm.

About the author: Jonathan Nevair (he/him/his) is a science fiction writer and, as Dr. Jonathan Wallis, an art historian and Professor of Art History at Moore College of Art & Design, Philadelphia. After two decades of academic teaching and publishing, he finally got up the nerve to write fiction. His space opera trilogy, Wind Tide (Goodbye to the SunJati’s Wager, and No Song, But Silence) was inspired by Ancient Greek texts and myths and released in 2021. Stellar Instinct, a standalone spy-fi space adventure, is slated to release in December 2022. Jonathan’s books explore speculative secondary worlds where language, culture, ethics, technology, and gender are reimagined to inspire human potential and growth (space opera sprinkled with a dash of hopepunk.) Find out more about Jonathan and his books at www.jonathannevair.com

To find out more about artist Stephen Wood: https://stephenwoodgames.com/

Pre-Order Stellar Instinct:
Amazon

Duckett & Dyer: The Mystery of the Murdered Guy by G.M. Nair

After their very public triumph over the sinister machinations of the Future Group, Michael Duckett and Stephanie Dyer’s accidental detective agency has become a household name. Practically overnight, they’ve cemented their place as the city’s go-to sleuths for solving the weird, oddball cases that would confuse and irritate anyone else.

Join them as they tackle the mysteries of a medically licensed vampire, a mysterious mad bomber, a genderfluid reverse werewolf, and the true meaning of Christmas – just to name a few. Meanwhile, an aging billionaire obsesses over his plans to achieve immortality, which could mean dire consequences for the world. But with Duckett & Dyer: Dicks For Hire on the case, what could go wrong?

If you said ‘everything’, you’d be correct. (Taken from Amazon)

The Duckett and Dyer: Dicks For Hire series is seriously funny. It takes being funny very, very seriously. It is intimidatingly funny. I would even go so far as to say it’s scary funny. Ah yes- and it’s brilliant.

In The Mystery of the Murdered Guy, Duckett and Dyer are back and in fine form. Stephanie Dyer continues to be the Energizer Bunny of disasters and Michael Duckett (at this point, I think his middle name is “Murphy’s Law”) tries his best to survive both Stephanie’s zest for chaos and his own inability to stay out of trouble. I always picture Duckett a little bit as Dante in Clerks (“I’m not even supposed to be here today”), but I think he secretly loves the nuttiness. This relationship between Dyer’s chaos incarnate and Duckett’s weary resignation is one of my favorites.

Dyer and Duckett balance each other out perfectly. Just like Costello isn’t funny without Abbott, Duckett and Dyer are an excellent pair. Michael Duckett brings just the right amount of normalcy to the book, which gives the reader enough time to pause and appreciate all the ludicrous things happening to the characters. And there is a lot happening: attractive Frankenstein’s monsters, gender fluid reverse werewolves, heists that aren’t, and run-ins with the Santa Slayer (my hat’s off to Stephanie for fixing his moniker) are only the tip of the iceberg.

I love this series so very much. Somehow G.M. Nair also has a through-line in the zaniness and characters that grow and develop from book to book. I honestly don’t know how he does it. He also keeps things fresh by changing up not only what’s happening, but how it’s being relayed. There’s even a story told entirely in court transcript, which had me cackling.

Do yourself a favor: don’t go to work, ignore your responsibilities, just go ahead and drop everything to read the Duckett and Dyer: Dicks For Hire series. These books are the best sort of disaster.

Dusk (The Navigator series #2) by Matthew Samuels

Two years have passed since Kael and Alessia discovered Xirra, but despite providing an unexpected source of help, political tensions between Lyran cities have deepened. The Xirran philosophy of hope is causing rifts between the townships, and the two explorers unexpectedly find themselves at the heart of a controversial cult. Worse yet, one of the monstrous creatures from Carthusian, the ever-changing city-ship, seems to have been sighted in Vulpes, Lyra’s farming city.With new enemies coming from unexpected places, Alhambro is determined to understand how the thinnings link universes, dispatching Vega’s best car crews across space, commissioning Basteel and Slyph to investigate the strange creature in Vulpes. At the same time, Kael and Alessia embark on a vital mission to cross a forbidden asteroid, an abandoned planet previously home to a super-advanced race and into the unknown.
As a new, hostile species capable of traversing the thinnings emerges, it seems that the sun is setting on Lyra for the very last time. (Taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Dusk is available now.

After enjoying Parasites, book one in The Navigator series, I was excited to see what happened next. Science fiction and I have an odd relationship: I need it to be complex and creative enough to pique my interest, but simple enough that I can follow the storyline. Once again, Matthew Samuels found the perfect balance of “technical stuff” and accessibility.

He started out brilliantly, bringing the reader up to date on everything that has happened since book one, but he did it organically as opposed to starting with an info dump. The characters had small scenes explaining what had happened to them and where things are for them now. These little glimpses of life and how it’s changed helped to both reintroduce the characters and put the focus on important events and changes.

Dusk jumps pretty much right into things, without a ton of setup or explanation. It moves along at a good pace, never dragging. The characters continue to be great, each one interesting in their own way. Basteel was my favorite in Parasites, but he was in danger of being replaced by Slyph in book two. She’s brusque and to the point and isn’t really all that concerned with social niceties. She’s also ridiculously smart. It was a fascinating combination to read.

The creativity Matthew Samuels exhibits as the characters explore different settings and deal with new problems is so much fun! There is never a dull moment. I loved seeing the new worlds and lifeforms that were created. The Navigator series continues to expand and feel bigger with each well thought out addition. I think the sense of wonder and adventure that these discoveries bring to the book makes it even more enjoyable.

The stakes are high, but Dusk is a hopeful story. Sometimes I need a break from emotionally heavy books and this series has been a highly entertaining breath of fresh air. I recommend picking this up.

A Class Above: D&D Classes in Books-Rogues and Rangers (Repost)

This is a repost, because I loved this series so much. This was originally published in February of 2021.

 I’ve been talking about roleplaying classes in books. A “class” is a set of criteria that sort of shows what type of character someone is playing. For example, boiled down, a paladin is a holy warrior. Examples of different Dungeons and Dragons character classes can be found all throughout literature.

When I decided to tackle this subject, I knew that I wouldn’t do it well on my own. Some amazing bloggers and authors offered their expertise as well! Today, I’m talking about rogues and rangers. You can find my posts about fighters and barbarians here, and my post about paladins, clerics, and druids here. Now, on to today’s post!

Rogue: Rogues use stealth, and cunning to defeat their foes or prevail in a situation. Rather than rushing straight into danger, guns blazing (or giant swords decapitating), rogues prefer to use their own unique skill set to accurately assess the situation and shift the odds in their favor. Rogues can be thieves, assassins, or even con artists. If a rogue is around, best to keep your hands on your valuables!

The Irresponsible Reader has a great take on the subject of rogues: “When I sat down to think about rogue characters (they were still called “thieves” when I played, but changing times and all), I was more than a little surprised at how many came to mind. I’m not sure what it says about me that, in almost every genre, I can think of a handful of stellar examples. The character that created this appreciation in me is James “Slippery Jim” Bolivar deGriz, the Stainless Steel Rat.

Thirty thousand plus years from now, society is almost entirely crimeless. It’s orderly. It’s safe. It’s comfortable. It’s (arguably) boring. There’s some petty crime, but most of the criminals are caught quickly and dealt with by the law.
Then there are what diGriz calls Stainless Steel Rats.

Jim is a thief, a con man, a non-violent criminal (unless he absolutely has to be, and then he can be ruthless). There’s no safe he can’t crack, no lock he can’t pick, no building he can’t get into, no artifact he can’t find a way to walk away with. He’s smooth, he’s witty, he’s charming, he’s…well, roguish. He’s a loving husband (utterly smitten with his wife, actually), a good father (if you grant training his sons to be criminals like he and his wife), and in return for not being in prison for the rest of his life, he’s working to bring down other criminals like him all over the galaxy. Think White Collar or Catch Me If You Can. “

“…At a certain stage the realization strikes through that one must either live outside of society’s bonds or die of absolute boredom.” – Harry Harrison, The Stainless Steel Rat

Beneath a Thousand Skies explains why she thinks Thren Felhorn from the Shadowdance series by David Dalgish is a great rogue: “Rogues are fun. There’s nothing like rolling high and knowing that your target isn’t going to have a clue you’re there until you introduce them to your dagger, or slipping out of situations with nary a scratch because of evasion. Then there’s the sneaking, intrigue, and outright thievery because what better way is there to get what you want?

That is who Thren Felhorn is, and more. He’s the quintessential rogue- a thief, a survivor, an assassin- and he has a ruthless streak a mile wide when he needs it. He also blurs that line of living in the moment, focusing on the current situation or target, and looking to the future and clawing (and stabbing) his way to the top. There are moments when you’ll love him, moments when you’ll hate him, but you can’t help but be drawn to him and into his world.”

“‘That’s how you gut someone,” Thren whispered into the man’s ear as if he were a dying lover. A twist, a yank, and the sword came free.”-David Dalgish, Cloak and Spider

Behind the Pages has two great examples of rogue characters, starting with Jenks from The Hollow series by Kim Harrison: “Skilled at stealth, at a few inches tall this pixy is the perfect backup on a heist. He can detect electronics and is a pro at putting cameras on loop. While he isn’t a hardened criminal, Jenks has no problem helping his teammates steal for legitimate jobs. He specializes in aerial combat and has the ability to pix his enemies causing itching sores on exposed skin. Most overlook him due to his size, and it makes him the main scout for his party searching out traps and ambushes.”

“You can trust me to keep my word. I always keep my word, promises or threats.”– Kim Harrison, Dead Witch Walking

Behind the Pages also has some thoughts on Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo: “After a tragedy left him on the streets, Kaz learned to steal to survive. Money is his motivator and if you offer enough, he will steal whatever your heart’s desire. Danger and consequences hold no bounds for Kaz. No lock can hold him back, and his quick mind enables his team to pull off the most complicated of heists.”

“‘I’m a businessman,” he’d told her. “No more, no less.”
“You’re a thief, Kaz.”
“Isn’t that what I just said?”
 – Leigh Bardugo, Six of Crows

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub gets on her soapbox: I love rogues so, so much! I almost always play a rogue of some sort when I’m gaming. In fact, a recent D&D character that I created just happened to be an assassin that had been hired to, um…eliminate a member of the party. The rest of the players were none the wiser. Good times. Everyone else has such great examples of rogues in books, but I want to add a couple more: Both Ardor Benn and Quarrah from The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn fit the bill. Ardor is a charismatic con artist, always a step ahead. He rolls with the punches and is able to think on his feet. Every time I thought one of his cons was going sideways, he’d turn it to his advantage. He would have been right at home planning the heist in Ocean’s Eleven. Then there’s Quarrah, a talented cat burglar (her eyesight is not the greatest, which I think is awesome in a thief). Together, they make for two very unique characters that show the range a roguish character has.

“‘That’s just it,” said Remaught. “I know exactly who you are. Ardor Benn, ruse artist.”
“Extraordinaire,” said Ard.
“Excuse me?” Remaught asked.
“Ardor Benn, ruse artist extraordinaire,” Ard corrected.”

Ranger: Hunters, wilderness survivors, and protectors, rangers are often what stands between civilization and the monsters that live in the wild. They do well in game settings that require treks through the unknown, being more at home outside the comforts of civilization. Like druids, rangers have spells taken from nature’s power. These spells tend to focus on skills that will help with survival and with the fight against what pushes against the boundaries between nature and society.

Kerri McBookNerd has great experience with rangers: “I’ve been playing D&D for a minute and, though I’ve dabbled in almost all of the classes, my tried and true favorite has always been the ranger. I’ve always connected with characters that love to be out in nature and tend to face danger from a respectable distance, lol. Rangers in my mind tend to be outsiders who aren’t 100% comfortable in polite company and gravitate more towards four-legged friends. They’re good at tracking, they’re good at hiding, and they know how to live off the land. And, as anyone who has met one of the rangers I’ve played, they have quite a sarcastic mouth on them! That’s why I think Fie from The Merciful Crow series would make a great ranger! She has lots of experience fending for herself or her clan in the wilderness. She tends to get on with animals (especially cats) more than people. And her wit is sharp enough to draw blood! Though Fie and her clan are outcasts due to prejudices in the kingdom, she generally prefers to stay away from “civilized” society, anyways. She’s got a bit of magic, too, so I’m definitely sensing a sorcerer subclass here. I think she would make a fantastic ranger!”

“Pa’d taught her to watch the starving wolf. When beasts go hungry too long, he’d said, they forget what they ought to fear.”-Margaret Owen, The Merciful Crow

Ricard Victoria has a few good examples of rangers in literature: ” the most obvious option would be Aragorn [from The Lord of the Rings], but I think Jon Snow [from A Song of Ice and Fire] fits the role as well, especially during his time as a sworn brother of the Night’s Watch. He has a combat style of two-weapon fighting, which would help him to wield effectively Long Claw. His armor could be considered light. He also has an Animal Companion in Ghost. The Wild Empathy ability would account for his nascent warging powers (in a low-level campaign anyways). His time with the Wildlings would have given him good tracking skills as well as the endurance proper of a ranger. Talking about the Wildings, one could argue that they would be his Favored Enemy, but I think the White Walkers make for a better Favored Enemy. He would have also as part of his background (and this is a spoiler), some draconic blood (you know, because of who he really is son of). Longclaw would be a bastard sword with a Keen Edge enhancement that could evolve into a Vorpal sword. Jon could have high stats in Con, Char, and Dexterity. Decent intelligence and wisdom.”

Yet even so, Jon Snow was not sorry he had come. There were wonders here as well. He had seen sunlight flashing on icy thin waterfalls as they plunged over the lips of sheer stone cliffs, and a mountain meadow full of autumn wildflowers, blue coldsnaps and bright scarlet frostfires and stands of piper’s grass in russet and gold. He had peered down ravines so deep and black they seemed certain to end in some hell, and he had ridden his garron over a wind-eaten bridge of natural stone with nothing but sky to either side. Eagles nested in the heights and came down to hunt the valleys, circling effortlessly on great blue-grey wings that seemed almost part of the sky.”– George R.R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub gives her thoughts on rangers: Personally, I think Raven from The Black Company by Glen Cook is a good example of a ranger. Yes, he prefers to use a sharp knife over a bow (which is usually the ranger’s weapon of choice), but he can use a bow with the best of them. He’s a great tracker and even knows a little bit of magic.

“I can laugh at peasants and townies chained all their lives to a tiny corner of the earth while I roam its face and see its wonders, but when I go down, there will be no child to carry my name, no family to mourn me save my comrades, no one to remember, no one to raise a marker over my cold bit of ground.”– Glen Cook, Shadows Linger

Meet the Contributors:

The Irresponsible Reader is one of my very favorite blogs. Covering a wide variety of genres from comics through biographies, the reviews on this blog are detailed and interesting. The Irresponsible Reader is responsible (ha!) for many additions to my “to be read” list.

Beneath a Thousand Skies talks about all things nerdy on her blog, including books and Dungeons and Dragons. A perfect haven for those with an eye toward imaginative books, Beneath a Thousand Skies is definitely a blog to follow.

Behind the Pages is an excellent blog and beta reading site, run by the talented Tabitha. Her reviews are very insightful and incredibly well-written. She has excellent taste and never fails to review books that would have snuck under my radar, adding to my already way-too-long list of books to read.

Kerri McBookNerd is a great blogger. She’s my go-to for Young Adult Fantasy reviews (her other reviews are just as great)! Her reviews are creative and unique. You can’t go wrong, following her blog. I guarantee you’ll find some new gems to check out.

Ricardo Victoria is the author of The Tempest Blades fantasy series. Book one, The Withered King, (which I highly recommend reading), is available now. Book two, The Cursed Titans will be released this summer and is available for pre-order on Amazon.

Jodie is the creator of the Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub blog. She either lives in Florida with her husband and sons, or in a fantasy book-she’ll never tell which. When she’s not reading, Jodie balances her time between homeschooling her hooligans, playing Dungeons and Dragons, and lamenting her inability to pronounce “lozenge”. Find her online at http://www.wittyandsarcasticbookclub.home.blog or https://www.twitter.com/WS_BOOKCLUB.

Remnants edited by Stephen Coghlan

Strange clouds on the horizon herald the coming of the swarm. The undulating masses of the hoard cannot be stopped. Terrifying creatures roam the Earth, seemingly with no aim but to devour all that stands before them. Experience the end of the world as we know it with these fourteen tales of horror, survival, and hope. The world ends in a frenzy of death and miasma of terror, but what will become of the remnants of humanity?
Fourteen tales of post-apocalyptic survival horror! (taken from Amazon)

Remnants is a collection of stories about a world ravaged and left for dead, with only a few leftovers- remnants, if you will. Instead of focusing on the horrific monsters that have violently changed life as humans know it, these tales focus mainly on how the few survive and who they become. The stories showcase tenacity, an unwillingness to lay down and die, and the best- and very worst- of humanity. Although, in some cases, humanity has long since left the building.

The concept behind Remnants is not a new one; post-apocalyptical stories like this have been created before. However, where this anthology is different is in its execution. Instead of full stories, there are short vignettes, brief glimpses in time. Some stories are touching, others incredibly brutal. Like humanity itself, the stories have a sliding scale of morality, with some unwilling to cross boundaries that other characters don’t even see as existing.

I found the examination of humanity to be fascinating. Like most anthologies, some stories worked better for me than others, but this was a collection that I consistently enjoyed. While some readers might wish for a little bit more focus on the monsters themselves, I really liked that following the survivors were the main event. Although in some cases, I could argue that not all the characters alive had actually really survived.

Each story added something to the overall atmosphere of the book. The first story, “Resistance” by Stephen Coghlan, set the tone for Remnants. It’s also a good lead-in, preparing the reader for stories that range from bizarre to emotional to disturbing or almost grotesque. The main storyline might be centered around one event, but the way each author tackled it was completely unique. I was never in danger of losing interest at all.

There were a couple of stories that were really unique in their telling. “Heatwave” by Aaron Lee takes a rather coldblooded look at the fallout, in which there is a blog that keeps tracks of death “statistics”, that the blogger utilizes to try to understand the nightmare that they’re living in. I thought this one was both fascinating and chilling.

“First Swarm” by J.D. Sanderson followed two photographers and their experiences, which left me mulling over whether viewing something through a camera lens helps expose truths otherwise denied, or if it allows the photographers to separate themselves from the reality of what they’re seeing. Short yet powerful, this was one of my favorite stories in the collection. The creativity behind both “First Swarm” and “Heatwave” are what elevated them above some of the other stories in this collection, although they were all well written.

Remnants is one of the stronger additions to post-apocalyptic fiction that I’ve read recently, with the grimdark and horror aspects working incredibly well. Thought provoking and just flat-out cool, this is not a collection to miss. I highly recommend it.

Review originally published in Grimdark Magazine, found here.

Tales From Alternate Earths 3

Step into fourteen new worlds that might have been…

What if the Ripper had kept killing, Hitchcock had directed Titanic, or an alien attack forced two adversaries into an unlikely alliance?

Visit worlds where wartime experiments unlocked genetic potential, where magic and magical creatures flourish, and where two detectives solve crimes in a world where Rome still rules.

The third Tales From Alternate Earths arrives with more stories and more award-wining authors. Discover these worlds if you dare! (taken from Fantasticfiction)

Thank you to Inkling Press for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Tales From Alternate Earths Volume 3 will be available on September third.

This collection takes “What if?” in new and exciting directions. What if the historical events we all (should) know unfolded differently? What ripples would they cause? How would our world be different? The creativity behind these musings and the skill of the writers blew me away.

Short story collections can go either way for me. Sometimes I just can’t connect with the shorter lengths. However, Alternate Earths 3 used the shorter formats to excellent advantage, shining a laser focus on unique ideas. While the entire book is strong, there are a few stories that stood out to me.

The collection started out strong with “Gunpowder Treason” by Alan Smale. It takes a look at how things would have been had Guy Fawkes and company succeeded in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. It’s told through an interesting perspective- that of a streetwalker. It made the story feel much more personal than if it had been told through multiple points of view.

“Ops and Ostentation” by Rob Edwards followed the indomitable Mrs. Constance Briggs as she encounters a certain man whose military mind has been spoken of often (I’m doing my very best to be vague, and hopefully I’ve succeeded). Her role in the events that unfolded was fascinating. That ending too! It was infinitely satisfying.

I was unsure about “Dust of the Earth” at first, but I ended up really enjoying how author Brent A. Harris wrote it. It’s told in a series of flashbacks which isn’t something I encounter too often. While it was disconcerting at first, I loved that the story ultimately focused on mental health, which is a subject that I am very passionate about.

“To Catch a Ripper” by Minoti Vaishnav gives a new angle on Jack the Ripper, and it’s the most interesting take on the Ripper that I’ve ever read. There were many things about this story that made me oh-so-happy, from the determined main character, to the intrigue and action. If ever this becomes a full-length novel, I’ll be in line to buy it.

I was delighted to see that Ricardo Victoria, an author whose writings I always enjoy, has a story in Alternate Earths 3. His story, “Steel Serpents”, was thought-provoking and incredibly smart. I’ll be thinking about this one for quite a while.

The collection ends just as well as it started, with a story that follows a couple of former KGB operatives. Author D.J. Butler had me hooked right away.

These are just a few of the stories that stood out to me; the entirety of Alternate Earths 3 was clever and entertaining. This collection is perfect for readers who want to be challenged, who like to muse on all the paths history could have taken. I highly recommend picking this one up.

Now for Something Different: Unique or Bizarre Books

Sometimes I enjoy a book that is really different, possibly even a little – dare I say it? – bizarre. I like to be surprised by books, and sometimes I want a book that challenges my expectations. Here are some utterly unique books that I’ve enjoyed.

Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You by Scotto Moore

Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You is a story of music, obsession, violence, and madness by Scotto Moore

I was home alone on a Saturday night when I experienced the most beautiful piece of music I had ever heard in my life.
Beautiful Remorse is the hot new band on the scene, releasing one track a day for ten days straight. Each track has a mysterious name and a strangely powerful effect on the band’s fans.
A curious music blogger decides to investigate the phenomenon up close by following Beautiful Remorse on tour across Texas and Kansas, realizing along the way that the band’s lead singer, is hiding an incredible, impossible secret.
At the Publisher’s request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You is a book that goes straight past unique and right into weird. I mean that as a compliment. I would bet money that no one could possibly figure out where this book is going. It’s twisty and disconcerting and I was on board for all of it! You can find my review here.

Duckett and Dyer: Dicks for Hire by G.M. Nair

Michael Duckett is fed up with his life. His job is a drag, and his roommate and best friend of fifteen years, Stephanie Dyer, is only making him more anxious with her lazy irresponsibility. Things continue to escalate when they face the threat of imminent eviction from their palatial 5th floor walk-up and find that someone has been plastering ads all over the city for their Detective Agency.The only problem is: He and Stephanie don’t have one of those.Despite their baffling levels of incompetence, Stephanie eagerly pursues this crazy scheme and drags Michael, kicking and screaming, into the fray only to find that they are way out of their depth. They stumble upon a web of missing people that are curiously linked to a sexually audacious theoretical physicist and his experiments with the fabric of space-time. And unless Michael and Stephanie can put their personal issues aside and fix the multi-verse, the concept of existence itself may, ironically, no longer exist.

I read this one with Beth from Before We Go Blog and we had a blast discussing the odd goings-on. I laughed so stinking hard! In a time where laughs are sorely needed, this one definitely fits the bill. You can find my review here.

Around the Dark Dial by J.D. Sanderson

Take a trip around the dark dial with eleven original and thought-provoking short stories that invoke the wonder and mystery of old-time radio dramas. Forget all that you know about modern sci-fi. In Around the Dark Dial, it’s all about the unexpected.

“Around the Dark Dial is a good old-fashioned science fiction, full of twists and surprises and the sense of wonder, but leavened with modern sensibilities-there’s a lot to recommend here, with stories ranging from the present day to the far future, from the promise of new technology to the dystopic future we all dread.” – David Wellington, author of The Last Astronaut

This collection of short stories by J.D. Sanderson was creative and fascinating. Each story was different and it really is unlike anything else I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. This was a different sort of science fiction, one that was very thought provoking. You can find my review here.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house―a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

For readers of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and fans of Madeline Miller’s CircePiranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the clouds.

Piranesi was beautifully written. It was also a little bit confusing. Author Susanna Clarke deliberately gives only bits and pieces of information. I was left with almost as many questions as answers. The prose was magnificent, though. You can find my review here.

“The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat” by Brooke Bolander from Uncanny Magazine

This is by far the best fairy tale about dinosaurs that I’ve ever read. It’s also the only fairy tale about dinosaurs that I’ve read. It shouldn’t work, but it does. It’s odd and clever, and so much fun! You can read my review here.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

This story is so flipping weird, but I love it! It’s thought-provoking and one of the few “classics” that I think actually benefits from being picked apart in a school setting, just because it’s so fascinating to get other opinions on this one.

What about you? What “odd” books have you enjoyed?

Mirror in Time by D. Ellis Overttun

As the sun sets, eerie contrails appear on the dome of the firmament, ghostly streaks that have replaced the stars that should fill the night sky. These “ribbons in the sky” appeared 70 years ago. Since that time, planet Arkos has experienced increasing climatic and seismic activity.

Jo’el is the director of the Jomo Langma Mountain Observatory, a high‑altitude astronomical facility situated atop its namesake. Tasked with finding a solution to this problem, he has concluded something outside the universe is tearing apart the very fabric of space‑time. He has also discovered a gateway to another universe. Sadly, any pathway to this portal has now become compromised.

The solution?

Go back in time and engineer a planetary exodus to the safe haven before it becomes inaccessible. It is a seemingly impossible task, but desperation is the mother of invention and the stuff of storytelling. Jo’el is not alone in this quest, with him are two lifelong friends, Chief Physician Kyros and Chief Psychology Officer Auberon. While only aware of Jo’el’s need for their support, they have a camaraderie born of trust that enables them to jump into the unknown knowing they will land safely.

Space‑time mechanics are outside the realm of Jo’el’s expertise. So, he has enlisted the aid of Prefect Godvina, head of the Cosmological Data Collection and Compilation Center. His plan is to meet with her, confirm his findings and proceed on with his friends. However, their meeting arouses the interest of Prefect Tarsus, Head of Intelligence. The unwanted scrutiny disrupts Jo’el’s plans. Now, the Director must improvise, and he reluctantly includes Godvina in the fold.

Are they successful in their travel back through time? Of course! Without it, there is no story, but how do they get there, what do they find and do they make good on Jo’el’s plan?

Mirror in Time will take you on a journey beyond the galaxy then to the ancient world of Ziem as a band of intrepid time travelers struggle to save existence.(taken from Amazon)

It’s Indie August! Indie August, for those who don’t know, is a month-long celebration of indie books. It’s the brainchild of LiteratureNLoFi, reader extraordinaire! If you aren’t following him, now is the perfect time to start. I’m excited to discuss great indie books, particularly Mirror in Time by D. Ellis Overttun.

Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Mirror in Time is available now.

If you’ve read and enjoyed other books by author D. Ellis Overttun, you’ll be happy (and probably unsurprised) to hear that Mirror in Time is incredibly unique and extremely well written. I am always a little uneasy with books involving time travel, but it was handled skillfully and made for a fascinating tale.

The pacing is fantastic, moving quickly without skipping over details. Mirror in Time avoids the dreaded info dump, instead letting things unfold naturally, with short explanations giving extra insight. The world (universe?) created is very different from ours, with subtle commonalities that allowed me to be fully immersed without ever feeling lost or confused. One thing that I appreciate about the science fiction genre is that there are literally no limits to what can be done. The amount of creativity infused into this book (indeed, in all of Overttun’s books) is astounding.

The characters are all great, although it’s the way they interact with each other that really makes them stand out. Their relationships put their unique personalities on full display, with their interactions allowing for excellent character growth.

I highly recommend reading all of D. Ellis Overttun’s books. That being said, Mirror in Time can absolutely be enjoyed without having read the other books. I won’t say too much else, for fear of spoiling anything. Suffice it to say, this is a book not to miss. Mirror of Time will appeal to fans of excellent science fiction, the sort of book that makes you think.