Review: The Big Sheep

Rob Kroese’s The Big Sheep makes me want to go out and buy everything else the author has written. Dang it, have you even seen how many novels this guy has out? They’d have my book collection bury me alive if they were collected in physical format.This book was quite a shock. I was expecting something over the top and insane. This was more like if Jasper Fforde, Tom Holt, or Terry Pratchett went out and wrote a Raymond Chandler novel.

As the back of the cover says,

Los Angeles of 2039 is a baffling and bifurcated place. After the Collapse of 2028, a vast section of LA, the Disincorporated Zone, was disowned by the civil authorities, and became essentially a third world country within the borders of the city. Navigating the boundaries between DZ and LA proper is a tricky task, and there’s no one better suited than eccentric private investigator Erasmus Keane. When a valuable genetically altered sheep mysteriously goes missing from Esper Corporation’s labs, Keane is the one they call.

 

But while the erratic Keane and his more grounded partner, Blake Fowler, are on the trail of the lost sheep, they land an even bigger case. Beautiful television star Priya Mistry suspects that someone is trying to kill her – and she wants Keane to find out who. When Priya vanishes and then reappears with no memory of having hired them, Keane and Fowler realize something very strange is going on. As they unravel the threads of the mystery, it soon becomes clear that the two cases are connected – and both point to a sinister conspiracy involving the most powerful people in the city. Saving Priya and the sheep will take all of Keane’s wits and Fowler’s skills, but in the end, they may discover that some secrets are better left hidden.

Despite the opening paragraph, I would not even consider slandering this book with the label of dystopia. In this future, there was a problem, everything fell apart for a while, it was never entirely fixed, and government, being government, just walled off the problem area and declared it fixed. There’s a reason it’s called the DZ.

But, in short, the bad parts of LA still suck. No one is surprised.

This was incredibly well put together. The city itself was even a character. Hell, the DZ is a character before you even get to the wretched place.

The jokes are sly without being overly cute. The sheep they’re trying to find is called “Mary.” So of course, they suspect that there’s …. wait for it … something about Mary, and part of the problem is that she doesn’t have a little lamb.

We won’t even get into the titanium shoulder and the crematorium. You have to experience that one for yourself.

Part of the nice thing about this story is that Kroese knows what the reader will conclude as they work through the mystery. And of course, like any good mystery writer, he cuts ahead of them, and pushes the reader down a flight of stairs. Not only does he offer what the reader is thinking as the solution, he also debunks it within five pages after that.

So this was fun. And how can you not enjoy someone named Erasmus Keane?

Keane and Fowler follow the Holmes and Watson school of detective work. Or perhaps Doctor Who. Every great detective in literature seems to need a handler, and Keane is no exception. Unlike needing Archie Goodwin to make Nero Wolfe work, or Watson to tell the stories that Holmes couldn’t narrate to save his life, Keane almost needs Fowler to keep him tethered to the planet. They make for an interesting team. Though unlike Arthur Conan Doyle, Kroese doesn’t cheat. Fowler sees everything Keane sees, just doesn’t see the big picture, which Kroese puts together quite well.

Just do yourself a favor and buy a copy of The Big Sheep

Declan Finn is a Dragon Award and Planetary award nominated author. His “Catholic Vampire romance novels” can be found on his personal website. As well as all the other strange things he does.. 

30 second sci fi, worth a read

I am, on and off, reading a fun little book called 30 Second Sci Fi: Three hundred and sixty-five stories of a science fictional nature, that consists as it says of stories you can read in under a minute. I don’t know if the author will appreciate this observation but they make excellent loo reading. Over all the quality of the stories is good, it can be a little hit and miss but at 30 seconds a story it doesn’t really matter if you hit the odd dud and it is only the odd one so far. Each story feels almost like an elevator pitch for a longer story in a lot of cases.

What can I say? I am throughly enjoying this quirky collection of sci fi flash fiction and it is perfect for all those times you have a few minutes to kill and don’t want to risk getting absorbed in something longer!

Available in paper and ebook

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

Claire North has written a wonderful book that I recently finished called The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August that tells the story of a time traveller called Harry August who, unlike the usual time travel story, lives the same life over and over, being reborn at the moment of his birth each time he dies. It is a fascinating story and has some ideas that are utterly unique in what this sort of life would entail, especially if there are others of your kind scattered throughout history.

Pick it up, you will love it!

What i’m currently reading, Origins of a D-List Supervillain

I currently reading Origins of a D-List Supervillain the sequel to Jim Bernheimer’s Confessions of a D-List Supervillain and can I say I am enjoying it throughly.

In the first installment Calvin Matthew Stringel, “Mechani-CAL” tells of his adventures and how is winds up in a globe spanning plot, but that is Volume 1. In Volume 2 we meet Calvin as he gets set on the road to being a supervillian, his first faltering steps as Mana-CAL. I’m enjoying it throughly and would recommend both volumes to anybody. I will need to do a more through review when I am finished.

John C. Wright has a new book for Christmas

Taken from the Castellia House relase

It being December 1st, we are now properly in the Christmas season and so this seems a propitious time to announce the newest John C. Wright book from Castalia House, a collection of 10 holiday-inspired science fiction stories collectively known as The Book of Feasts & Seasons. This is not your average cup of Christmas tea, as a look at the story titles alone will tell you. Over the course of the year, from January to December, the science fiction grandmaster takes his inspiration from ten different holidays and explores their meanings in a series of stories of marvelous imagination.
The book begins with New Year’s Day and “The Meaning of Life as Told Me by an Inebriated Science Fiction Writer in New Jersey.” The Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin is represented by “A Random World of Delta Capricorni Aa, Called Scheddi”, while “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds” represents the Feast of Pentecost. The calendar, and the anthology, culminate on Christmas Eve with “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus”.
My personal favorite is “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds”, which rather reminds me of one of Tanith Lee’s best works, “The Tale of the Cat”, and is, in my opinion, a serious contender for the best thing that Mr. Wright has ever written.


THE PARLIAMENT OF BEASTS AND BIRDS

The animals gathered, one by one, outside the final city of Man, furtive, curious, and afraid.

All was dark. In the west was a blood-red sunset, and in the east a blood-red moonrise of a waning moon. No lamps shined in the towers and minarets, and all the widows of the palaces, mansions, and fanes were empty as the eyes of skulls.

All about the walls of the city were the fields and houses that were empty and still, and all the gates and doors lay open.

Above the fortresses and barracks, black pillars upheld statues of golden eagles, beaks open, unmoving and still. Above the coliseum and circus, where once athletes strove and acrobats danced and slaves fought and criminals were fed alive to wild beasts for the diversion of the crowds, and the once noise of screams and cries rose up like incense toward heaven, statues of heroes and demigods stood on white pillars, glaring blindly down now at mere empty yards and silence.

Within other walls were gardens whose trees were naked in the wind, and the silence was broken only by the rustle of the carpet of fallen leaves wallowing along the marble paths and pleasances.

Above the boulevards and paved squares where merchants once bought and sold ivory and incense and purple and gold, or costly fabrics of silks from the east, or ambergris from the seas beyond the Fortunate Isles, and auction houses adorned and painted stood where singing birds and dancing girls were sold to the highest bidder or given to the haughtiest peer. And here were gambling houses where princes and nobles once used gems as counters for cities and walled towns, and the fate of nations might depend upon the turn of a card. And there were pleasure houses where harlots plied their trade, and houses of healing where physicians explained which venereal disease had no cures and arranged for painless suicides, and houses of morticians where disease-raddled bodies were burnt in private, without any ceremony that might attract attention and be bad for business.

And higher on the high hill in the center of the city were the libraries of the learned and the palaces of the emperors adored as gods. But no history was read in the halls of learning and no laws were debated in the halls of power.

Not far outside the city was a mountain that had been cut in two, crown to root, by some great supernatural force. On the slopes of the dark mountain, in a dell overgrown and wild, two dark creatures met, peering cautiously toward the empty city.

A black wolf addressed a black raven sitting in a thorn-bush. “What is the news, eater of carrion? Did you fly over the city and spy out where the corpses are?”

The black raven shrugged uncomfortably. “I thought it unwise to intrude…

As you will have noticed from the text sample, THE BOOK OF FEASTS & SEASONS is not the traditional light-hearted seasonal fare, but is as deep and as dark, as full of grief and joy, as the true story of St. Nicholas, Wonderworker, Defender of Orthodoxy, Holy Hierarch, and Bishop of Myra, himself. It is available from Castalia House as well as on Amazon.