LISTENER

C.T.

Ashland, Ky USA
  • 81
  • reviews
  • 197
  • helpful votes
  • 273
  • ratings
  • Kings of Paradise

  • Ash and Sand, Book 1
  • By: Richard Nell
  • Narrated by: Ralph Lister
  • Length: 25 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10

Ruka, called a demon at birth, is a genius. Born malformed and ugly into the snow-covered wasteland of the Ascom, he was spared from death by his mother's love. Now he is an outcast, consumed with hate for those who've wronged him. But to take his vengeance, he must first survive. Across a vast sea in the white-sand island paradise of Sri Kon, Kale is fourth and youngest son of the Sorcerer King. As the first prince ever forced to serve with low-born marines, Kale must prove himself and become a man, or else lose all chance of a worthy future, and any hope to win the love of his life.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Grimdark at its finest

  • By C.T. on 10-09-18

Grimdark at its finest

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-09-18

KINGS OF PARADISE by Richard Nell is one of the favorites to win the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off (#SPFBO). It is a story which has been recommended to me over and over again. I was surprised by this because the fantasy fans I hang around with are a very cynical bunch. If one liked THE POPPY WARS, then the next disliked it. I was a huge fan of 1000 SCARS but others were iffy about it. Here? Just about everyone who read this novel had nothing but praise for it. They said it was the best grimdark they'd read since THE GREY BASTARDS or WHERE LOYALTIES LIE. So, i decided to check it out.

What did I think? Kings of Paradise is really solid fantasy. I didn't like it quite as much as the aforementioned books but it's definitely something that both earns its moniker of grimdark (which I define as "dark, gritty fantasy for adults") but also is just good fiction in general. The characters are interesting, the twists are actually unpredictable, and world-building is solid. This is one of those books for people who don't like their fantasy to read like Dungeons and Dragons but more like George R.R. Martin or Joe Abercrombie.

The premise is centered around three characters: Ruka, Kale, and Dala. Ruka is a deformed cannibal savage who may be the son of a god but is certainly the son of a witch. After being raised with love by his mother, he is cast out of civilized society by a corrupt priestess--which causes him to decide that it his destiny to destroy the old world. Kale is the spoiled prince of an island nation is that is one part England and one part Polynesia. Dala is a beautiful farm girl who grew up on a impoverished farm with an abusive father, when a chance encounter with Ruka results in her deciding to join the upper-crust priestesses on what she believes is a mission from her goddess.

Ruka is an interesting character and reminds me a bit of Kratos from God of War crossed with Caliban from The Tempest--not exactly a very common pair of team-ups. He's a genius with the face of a monster and his rage is all-consuming. He's not quite as sharp as he thinks he is and his only real move is "burn down everything that ticks him off." It's an effective move, though, and it's interesting how his partners keep trying to screw him--only to realize they've brought down holy hell on their heads.

Kale is a character I want to punch in the face and that's a good thing because it's what the author obviously intended as a reaction. Kale reminds me strongly of Jezal from THE FIRST LAW TRILOGY and his romance with Lala is not too dissimilar to said character's romance with Ardee West. That isn't to say the characters are identical but they have arcs of privileged individuals discovering their privilege comes with severe costs and have left them helpless once outside their comfort zone. The fact he discovers he has an incredible talent that can change the world struck me as a bit annoying but I am interested in where it takes him.

Dala is probably my favorite character in the story and I was saddened her role wasn't bigger. Dala is a seemingly sweet poor girl with a story which wouldn't be too out of home in a Disney movie, right before it goes in a bizarre and horrifying direction. When confronted with women who are going to kick her out of the priesthood and destroy her life solely because of her impoverished background, she assembles an army of assassins from the lower classes. It shows a woman with a keen sense of survival and who is every bit as dangerous as Ruka.

I like Kings of Paradise and recommend it for people who want to see a big complicated story with multiple interlocking parts. The book is divided into three parts and really does feel like reading an entire trilogy in one sitting. That's more bang for your book, though, and I'm interested in where the story goes from here. I think readers will enjoy the care and detail Richard Nell has put into his masterpiece and I'll certainly be picking up the next installment.

And the narration? Perfect!

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • This Is My Blood

  • By: David Niall Wilson
  • Narrated by: Philippa Ballantine
  • Length: 7 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 15
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 12

First published in 1999, This Is My Blood is David Niall Wilson’s first and most important novel. It is a retelling of the gospel from a very different perspective. When Jesus goes into the desert and is tempted by the devil, there is one temptation added. One of the fallen is raised as a woman to tempt him with the flesh. Instead, the woman, named Mary, falls in love with Jesus and his promise of returning her to Heaven.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Judas and Mary Magdalen Refined

  • By Madeleine on 06-15-11

Mary Magdalene, Vampire vs. Satan

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-03-18

Jesus gets a lot of vampire jokes made about him. I say this with dead seriousness. "JESUS THE VAMPIRE: Jesus gave his blood, now he wants it back - coming to a theater near you" is a T-shirt I've seen before. This is a in part because the 19th century vampire (and later Hammer Horror's depictions) is a creature which incorporates many elements designed to exist in blasphemous opposition to God. They rise three days after death, they are repulsed by the cross, they drink and share blood to provide immortality, and so on. The vampire is the ultimate enemy of Christ beyond sin itself because it is living death versus eternal life.

I should mention that this book doesn't make Jesus a vampire. It's about Mary Magdalen being revealed as a fallen angl incarnated during the Temptation of Chist by Satan and then cursed by the Devil to thirst for the blood of the living. Our first vampiress thus hangs at the margins of the New Testament until the death as well as resurrection of Rabbi Joshua Ben Joseph.

In many respects, it's a straight vampire story as our antiheroine wanders from the desert and starts feeding on humans. At first, she plans to kill those who are "guilty" but this being a novel set during the New Testament, her choices are less than satisfactory from a redemption standpoint. Mary can read the sins of human beings and know their thoughts but this doesn't give her any sense of "humanity" that would allow her to understand nuance or judgement. Killing an adulterer is the same as killing a murderer or a thief.

Much like the film version of THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST (I didn't read the book) this is about Jesus' relationship to the religion he leaves behind. Instead of Peter vs. Paul like in that work, it's Peter vs. Judas here with the idea of a lost "Book of Judas" that provides the vampire-related subject matter of the Bible with poor Peter getting possessed during events. Basically, if you haven't run screaming from the book so far, you'll be fine. It's a book about our characters' deeply conflicted relationship between faith, Jesus, Christianity, hypocrisy, and the rules generated from both.

The real benefit of David Wilson's work here is his florid prose which is full of all the Gothic melodrama and big ideas which made INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE and THE VAMPIRE LESTAT entertaining. Early on, King Herod's daughter is made into a vampire and pretty much laughs at Jesus' offer of salvation, finding being undead far more entertaining than the idea of immortal salvation. It's a great moment simply because in a book about the literal divine presence of God in the world, we have a teenage girl preferring being a sexy monster.

Personally, I loved this book and think it's great for people who want to deal with vampires in non-traditional situations. Throwing out all the religious symbolism and meaning (which is a bit like saying, "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?"), it's still a good Goth horror novel. Mary is an interesting character in the fact she is a blank slate stumbling around through a world she was never a part of to begin with as well as trying to make sense of the bizarre situation she's found herself.

So, if you're feeling in the mood for something artsy and love Christian mythology as a sufficiently open-minded believer or as a jaded but fascinated by religion disbeliever then I suspect this will definitely appeal to you. It definitely has inspired me to read David Niall Wilson's Ashen Grail trilogy about an order of vampire Templars--though that is set in the World of Darkness.

The audio is great as well. Top notch narration.

  • A Wizard's Forge

  • Woern Saga
  • By: A.M. Justice
  • Narrated by: Leah Casey
  • Length: 14 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 2
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 2
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 2

Victoria believes she'll live a scholar's quiet life until the tyrant Lornk Korng rips away everything she knows and loves. Forging herself into a warrior known as Vic the Blade, she strikes fear into her enemies, but she cannot escape Lornk's obsession. A legendary power may be her only chance to destroy him, if it doesn't kill her first. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazing novel

  • By C.T. on 10-03-18

Amazing novel

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-03-18

his book was an unexpected pleasure and I am going to recommend it highly. It's not going to be for everyone because it deals with some very dark subject matter. However, it's a story that I think benefits from dealing with different things than you normally see in a Young Adult fantasy novel. These include slavery, sexual assault, and Stockholm Syndrome.

Vic is the Logkeeper for her village in the far future where humanity has colonized a world after a starship crashlanded on it. Humanity has mostly forgotten this fact and embraced a local religion as well as superstition (except it's not nearly so superstitious as Vic believes). Vic and her friends are kidnapped by slavers early on before the depressingly realistic outcome of her never seeing them again. Worse, Vic is made into a slave. A sex slave.

Its treated almost entirely psychologically and is handled offscreen. However, the consequences for the act reverberate throughout Vic's life from that point on. Really, I would have appreciated more insight into this period because seeing Vic try to keep her sanity under the conditions she lives is in fascinating.

The rest of the novel is somewhat more conventional with her escape leading to her being adopted by a nearby royal family as a ward, taking up the art of war, and learning that wizardry is a thing. Despite being in the title, Vic doesn't do much magic and doesn't even learn magic is real until the end of the novel.

The book is interesting because it deals with its dark subject matter while squarely feeling like a Young Adult novel. Vic is a skinny and low self-esteem suffering woman who, nevertheless, attracts multiple Princes as well as other men to her side. She's also someone who eventually rises to be a chosen one. Seeing such a character deal with the struggle of being brainwashed as well as fighting those elements puts an interesting spin on it.

The book is full of excellent worldbuilding, action, and likable characters. I am interested in the sequel and where it goes. Leah Casey does an amazing job that manages to capture the various characters, especially the primary one, and its great variety of emotions.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Darkmage

  • The Rhenwars Saga, Book 1
  • By: M. L. Spencer
  • Narrated by: Simon Wright
  • Length: 18 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 12
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 11
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 12

Darien Lauchlin has already lost everything. Now the only thing he has left to lose is his soul. When his own brother unseals the Well of Tears, Darien is the last Sentinel left alive to defend his homeland. Now he is faced with an impossible decision: either watch everything he knows shatter - or forsake his oath of peace to become an instrument of pure destruction. Accompanied by Naia, a priestess of Death, Darien embarks on a harrowing journey to save the people of the Rhen. But will he lose his own soul in the process?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Dark Fantasy at its finest

  • By Al on 10-18-18

Awesome book

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-27-18



I reviewed the first novel of the Darkmage and found it to be an enjoyable epic which told a complete story from beginning to end. Despite this, it very is a "saga" and that means more books in the series with new characters and groups. This is an interesting way of doing a series and one which intrigued me even as I also felt the absence of several characters I loved from Darkstorm.

The Rhenwars Saga is the story of a world where the forces of hell are worshiped by a quarter of the population and much of its countryside has been reduced to a Mordor-like hellhole. Opposing these forces are a bunch of magic-using sects and priesthoods who despise one another almost as much (if not more so) than the forces of hell. Despite its seeming Black And White Morality (see TV tropes) premise, it is actually a Gray and Gray Morality world where the so-called forces of evil are no arguably less dark than the fanatics opposing them.

In this case, the story takes place millennium later when humanity has rebuilt itself. A new order of mages now protects the world called the Sentinels and Darrien Launchlin is preparing to join their ranks. Unfortunately, everything goes to hell as the Well of Tears (a gateway to said realm) is opened and the Sentinels wiped out save Darien himself. Darien, by the laws of magic, inherits the entirety of his order's power all at once. Not only will this eventually kill him but insanity is inevitable. Sort of like the Wheel of Time which I noticed several homages too and which has a few of the same themes.

Due to having lost his family and lover during the Sentinel's massacre, Darrien has become suicidal and decides to bring the whole of his power against the forces of the Darklands. This terrifies all of the kingdoms who should, ostensibly, be his allies even as it gives him the power to potentially win the war outright. In this quest, he's also aided by Naia and Kyel who have their own reasons for wanting to break all convention.

I like Darrien as a Rand al'Thor-esque hero. The fact he is working against a ticking clock which threatens to consume him at any time is one which is an intriguing premise. I'm a big fan of flawed antiheroes as any one who reads my writing can attest. I like the fact he longs for death to be united with his beloved, only to find out even that's impossible due to the fact her soul was consigned to the God of Darkness. He's not a particularly likable protagonist but none of the supporting cast give him much reason to be. All of them think of him as a ticking time bomb at best and none of them are allowing him to go through any sort of grieving process before throwing him at their enemies.

Strangely, one of the things I like best about this book is the "anti-romance" between Darrien and Naia. I say anti-romance because it's really about deconstructing and battering down traditional fantasy romances. Darrien is a dark and brooding figure heartbroken by the death/damnation of his lover. In a typical fantasy novel, Naia would help him heal his heart and we would root for them for a happily ever after. Not so here. M.L. Spencer shows how monumentally selfish Naia's feelings are as well as how completely uninterested in a relationship someone like Darrien would be.

There's also a good amount of questioning whether Darien using the equivalent of magical weapons of mass destruction is actually a good thing. We support Darrien in his quest for revenge and protect the, honestly, too stupid to live kingdoms of "good" but the methods he uses start at ruthless then rapidly move toward genocidal. The original Darkstorm novel questioned whether the "hero" was doing the right thing and Darkmage picks up with the consequences of his actions while this is much the same.

Darkmage is a book full of fantastic magical military action and lots of really bloody battle scenes. M.L Spencer has a gift for writing action scenes and moral ambiguity. I think fans of grimdark and more standard fantasy will enjoy this book. I also liked it enough to pick up the third book as soon as I finished this. The narrator does a spectacular job and I can't wait for the rest of the series.

  • HALO: Bad Blood

  • By: Matt Forbeck
  • Narrated by: Scott Brick
  • Length: 9 hrs and 33 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 585
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 540
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 540

Just hours following their climactic battle on the Forerunner planet Genesis, the Spartans of Blue Team and Fireteam Osiris find themselves running for their lives from the malevolent machinations of the now-renegade artificial intelligence Cortana. But even as they attempt to stay one step ahead, trouble seems to find Spartan Edward Buck no matter where he turns.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A MUST READ for Alpha-9 fans!!!

  • By Amazon Customer on 06-29-18

An okay sequel marred by ties to Halo 5: Guardians

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-15-18

An enjoyable novel that returns us to the adventures of Buck and his crew of misfits. Unfortunately, the story is mired down with its ties to the execrable Halo 5: Guardians. No one liked that game and its villain weighs heavily over the book as its impossible to root for ONI fascists against a beloved video game support character. On the plus side, the narrator does an amazing job as always. He remains the voice of Halo for me.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Satan's Salesman

  • By: Matthew Davenport
  • Narrated by: Joe Feldman-Barros
  • Length: 5 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 5
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 5
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 5

Shane’s a damned good salesman, but when a promotion that he spent years earning gets taken away only hours after getting it, he realizes that sometimes it doesn’t matter how good you are at what you do. But that’s not good enough for Shane. Confronting the person that he believes is responsible for his situation, Shane learns that there’s another, quieter, sales organization that he’s competing against: Perdition Investments. At Perdition Investments the products are whatever you want the most, but the cost is your Soul. Shane has a chance to use his excellent skills in an entirely new way, but at what cost? Can you lose your soul by trading people for theirs? What’s the price for success?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Good book

  • By Anonymous User on 10-17-18

A stellar light horror novel

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-15-18

SATAN'S SALESMAN is a novel by Matthew Davenport set in his Broken Nights universe while also functioning as a stand-alone horror novel. The premise of the novel is a simple but effective variant on the old Faustian pact. In exchange for your immortal soul, you can have anything you desire as long as it is within the "value" of your soul (measured in points). This kind of industrialized post-Wallstreet take on the powers of Satan. In this case, it reminds me very much of the Al Pacino movie THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE which was very different from its novel.

Shane, the protagonist, loses a high paying salesman job to a failing competitor after she makes a deal with Perdition Investments. The somewhat on-the-nose organization makes him a counter-offer, though. They'd like him to get people to sell their souls in exchange for wishes, betting on the short sightedness of mankind versus the proof of the existence of souls. You have to believe in a soul to actually sell it and I think that's a nice twist on matters. Shane is immoral enough to believe he can game the system, stay out of hell, and yet send endless numbers of other people there. He only has a three soul a month quota after all.

Shane is an appalling human being but a believable one because the only people he does care about are his fiance Maggie, his friend Dale, and himself. He has such contempt for Dale's Catholicism that he can't bring himself to respect the idea of good vs. evil when he's dumped in the middle of it. There's a bit of a critique of capitalism going on in the book but no more than any other media which asks what happens when money is more important than people.

Satan's Salesman is a horror novel but it is a horror novel in the Stephen King sense that its' about how a "normal" human being can get caught up in supernatural events simply because he refuses to treat it as any different from any other job. At one point, he gets a good man to sell his soul for the "greater good" while blinding him to the fact he'll be devastating his family both living as well as dead. It doesn't take much of a pitch to get Shane to also feel like he's not REALLY at fault for the horrible consequences of the things he does. There's some Needful Things and Thinner influence in both, I think, and I wouldn't be surprised if Matthew Davenport drew from either.

The ending is great and I think it begs for a sequel or, at least, a continuation of Shane's story as a villain in Broken Nights or a second installment. This is a short book but definitely one worth the money. Infernalism is rarely given a good treatment in books due to how familiar it is to us but here, it works well because it is the banality of evil given just the touch of the diabolic and both made worse.

The narrator does a top notch job and I'm very impressed with the audio.

9/10

  • HALO: Envoy

  • By: Tobias S. Buckell
  • Narrated by: Scott Brick
  • Length: 12 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 746
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 683
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 679

It has been six years since the end of the Covenant War...and yet on the planet Carrow, a world on the edge of the Joint Occupation Zone, a decisive new battle suddenly erupts. Human colonists and the alien Sangheili have already been living a tension-filled coexistence in this place, with Unified Earth Government envoy Melody Azikiwe attempting to broker a lasting peace between their two species.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • The best halo book since Fall of reach

  • By Amazon Customer on 05-08-17

A fantastic new addition to the Halo franchise

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-12-18

War, peace, and the cycle of revenge is extensively discussed in this fantastic new addition to the Halo franchise. There's a war on an independent human world between the Elite and human settlers with three marooned Spartans caught up in the middle. Lots of great references to Halo Wars 2 and previous volumes. It's also a message of trying to figure out how to make peace after much violence with few "real" villains. The narrator does a great job too.

  • HALO: Retribution

  • By: Troy Denning
  • Narrated by: Scott Brick
  • Length: 10 hrs and 25 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 499
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 460
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 460

An original novel in the expansive Halo universe from New York Times best-selling author Troy Denning!

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Full sized novel with good characters.

  • By dk on 02-07-18

Needed more Fred and Veta

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-25-18

HALO: RETRIBUTION is the sequel to HALO: LAST LIGHT. In that book, a group of Spartan-IIIs, accompanied by Fred-104, made friends with a local investigator (Veta Lopis) in order to stop a murderous A.I. Here, about six months later, Veta is now serving as an ONI agent in order to continue the fight against humanity's enemies. This includes an incredibly entertaining undercover sting operation that involves her pretending to be a pirate and arms trafficker in a Russian bar similar to the Mos Eisley Cantina.

I didn't quite enjoy this book as much as LAST LIGHT because it lacked interaction between Fred and Veta. They're one of my favorite Halo couples and I really wish Troy would get those two together (even if Spartans lack most of the human sex drive). Veta serving as Team Mom is always entertaining but I think she'd be more suspicious of ONI given they're, well, pretty much evil incarnate. While the rare agent is a decent person, ONI really needs someone working on the inside against them.

The best part of the book is when Veta is pretending to be an arms trafficker and trying to stay under the radar. I was sad when the story switched from that and to a more tradition shoot-em up storyline. Still, nobody writes Halo action quite like Troy Denning and I didn't mind them resolving things with plasma blasters versus their wits. I also enjoyed seeing the return of the Keepers since they're one of the best villain groups in Halo (if you can call them villains).

In conclusion, I very much enjoyed this and I hope Troy will write another Halo novel with Fred and Veta.

9/10

  • Starcraft II: Heaven's Devils

  • By: William C. Dietz
  • Narrated by: Neil Kaplan
  • Length: 12 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 596
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 506
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 504

For the poor, hardworking citizens of the Confederacy's fringe worlds, the Guild Wars have exacted a huge toll. Swayed by the promise of financial rewards, a new batch of recruits joins the fight. Eighteen-year-old Jim Raynor, full of testosterone and eager to make things right at home, ships off to boot camp and finds his footing on the battlefield, but he soon discovers that the official mission is not what he's really fighting for.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Starcraft lovers rejoice

  • By Alfredo on 08-20-10

A great prequel for the games

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-11-18

I admit to loving game and media tie-in fiction the way I love McNuggets. They're bad for me but I often have a craving for them anyway. Heaven's Devils is, sadly, one of the few Starcraft novels still available despite there being dozens of them in the past. It's a prequel to the video games so there's no Protoss or Zerg. Instead, it's an exploration of the Confederacy and the characters who would eventually star on the "human" side of the video games. I found the world brought out by William Deitz and all levels of society explored.

The Confederacy is a corrupt and vile organization but it's not unrealistically bad so you understand why people just endure in it. I had a lot of fun with the book and recommend people pick up the audiobook version if they can since the acting really lends itself to the story. What is the story? Well, Jim Raynor and Tychus Finnley among other characters find themselves in the Marines. They think they're going to be heroes fighting against evil terrorists, only to discover they're cannon fodder. It's a fairly easy to comprehend story and relevant to many people's wartime experiences.

I definitely recommend this, even for non-fans of the video game. Mind you, you will appreciate it a lot more if you do know the original game. Voice-acting wise, the voice of Tychus from the games narrates the book and I think he does an excellent job.

  • Master of Chaos

  • The Harry Stubbs Adventures, Book 4
  • By: David Hambling
  • Narrated by: Jack Wynters
  • Length: 8 hrs and 43 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 2
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 2
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 2

London 1925: Ex-boxer Harry Stubbs goes undercover, working in a mental institution to investigate an epidemic of madness. Bizarre deaths occur at the asylum, seemingly linked to an occult power. As he starts to unravel the mystery, Harry’s grip on his own sanity becomes increasingly precarious. Who is behind the killings? What are the strange new treatments doing to the patients? Why can Harry not get any reply from his handlers? To get answers, Harry must to venture into the borderland between magic and science, sanity and madness, and face the Master of Chaos....

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • An excellent new entry in the Harry Stubbs series

  • By C.T. on 08-10-18

An excellent new entry in the Harry Stubbs series

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-10-18

The Harry Stubbs Adventures are one of the best series to come out of the independent Cthulhu horror scene along with Andrew Doran and my own work (just kidding--or am I?). They're the adventures of a WW1 veteran pugilist who continually comes into contact with the edges of the Cthulhu Mythos.

Note: I say the edges because Harry Stubbs isn't a guy who guns down Dagon or Deep Ones but usually ends up only encountering the barest whiffs of the eldritch and mostly deals with cultists--this keeps things mysterious as well as explains why he's kept most of his sanity intact.

This book opens with Harry having gotten a job in a mental institution after his previous employment dried away. He's undercover for his new employers in an occult agency but Harry is such a dedicated worker that he essentially, becomes an orderly rather than uses the position to keep an eye on things. Master of Chaos acquaints us with turn of the century treatment of the insane as well as the burgeoning understanding of what PTSD (called "Shell Shock" back then) is.

Being a Lovecraftian mystery, some of the patients are actually not insane and some of the staff are so insane they appear to be respectable members of society while engaging in ghastly tortures. I.e. the mental health practices of the day. Hambling, as always, does an excellent job with his research on both real-life occultism, period medicine, and interweaving Cthulhuoid concepts.

As this is the fourth or so book in the series, long-time readers should note things have gotten a bit formulaic--that's not a bad thing, though. I happen to like cheeseburgers and when I order one, I expect a cheeseburger. In this case, Harry remains likable and his relationship with Sally is progressing nicely despite how scandalous it would be for him to end up with a former prostitute. Also, how dangerous it might be for her to end up with a man who is prone to meeting squid-worshiping nutters. Then again, after WW1 there wasn't nearly as many pickings as Churchill, himself, said to Americans visiting the country.

This book contains references to ancient Egypt, a certain Black Pharaoh, and a man who thinks he's the King of England--all to my considerable entertainment. I hope the next book will be either about the Mi-Go or Cthulhu but, either way, this is another great entry. The narration is perfect as well, every bit as good as previous entries in the series.

9/10

1 of 1 people found this review helpful