Book Review: NOS4A2 a Novel by Joe Hill

NOS4A2 are the numbers of a license plate at the top
NOS4AS by Joe Hill

Vic’s beleaguered dad always calls her Brat. Feel what Vic feels when she rides her new bicycle through a covered bridge that no longer exists — except in her inscape. Like calling a Uber, the shorter way bride is there when she needs to find things or people.

NOS4AS is Joe Hill’s third novel of four. He has also written some graphic books, anthologies of short novels and short stories. Hill comes from a family of authors Stephen and Tabitha King are his parents. Hill even credits Tabitha King for convincing him to make the ending better.

On one of Vic’s bridge-scapes she meets Maggie, the librarian in Here, Iowa. Like Vic uses her bicycle a vehicle into a different reality, Maggie uses Scrabble squares to get information. In their meeting, Maggie tells Vic that they travel to their inscapes in much the same way but for different reasons. Then she tells her about another inscape traveler: Charlie Manx

Manx is on a quest to save children from their mothers who choose lifestyles that he determines immoral or degenerate. He enlists a gullable assistant named Bing because Bing has access to an endless supply sevoflurane gas. It’s a paralyzing date-rape gas usually used by dentists.

On Vic’s last inscape as a child, she almost gets burned alive in her attempt to rescue a child out of the back seat of Manx’s Rolls-Royce Wraith. The Wraith has a license plate of NOS4A2. Now it’s a story of retribution for Manx even after his death. Now Vic has a child of her own: Bruce Wayne. Manx overpowers Vic as she tries to prevent her son’s eventual kidnapping. Now it’s time for Mama Bear to take to her bridge again.

NOS4AS is my second Joe Hill Novel. It was just as captivating as The Fireman, his latest novel. I enjoyed reading this epic work of almost 700 pages. NOS4A2 is a horror story that borders on Science Fiction. I had some difficulty understanding how a person’s inscape could accommodate passengers if the whole thing were supposed to be an altered reality. I struggle with some science fiction concepts, so this one left me a little flat.

 

 

Let’s Write a Short Story

I’ve read my share of books on how to write creatively. I fall into the category of people who enjoy reading cookbooks but don’t ever get around to cooking. It seems I don’t ever get around to writing. I don’t finish reading more books than I finish. I think the odds of finishing “Let’s Write a Short Story” are pretty good. The book is about the size of the palm of my hand and it’s only about 90 pages long. Even Donal Trump should be able to complete it in-between tweet storms.

The book is by Joe Bunting who inspires and educates newbies like me on the writing craft through his website The Write Practice. 

In the introduction to “Let’s Write a Short Story” Bunting challenges the reader to submit a short story for publication before the end of the month.

As proof that I have met the challenge, I will publish the story on this blog, and I will post where I submitted it to.

My girlfriend, Laura, seems to be a more creative dreamer than I am. She also has the ability to remember her dreams. When I told her about my plans to write a short story, she gave me a story beginning that is one of her favorite dreams. She’s the only person I know who can dream in the third person point of view. She wasn’t a participant in the dream that she told me about.

I checked my hard drive and I once wrote a summary of the plot for a novel:

Indian Ghosts kidnap our protagonist from her campsite set in present day rural Wisconsin.  While she is “under their spell” setting changes to frontier times. The reason that they kidnap her is unknown to her for all of the canoe ride down the river.  Only after an adventurous trip does she find out that they want her to save a sick child in their village.

attrape-rêve fait maison par ma squaw...
Photo by Pascal Ray (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

 

 

Book Review of “The Fireman” by Joe Hill (no spoilers).

A glowing flame silhouettes a man walking.

Great Read, but the Fireman is only a supporting character; The story revolves around Harper and a spreading spore, nicknamed Dragonscale. It is infecting much of the world population. She meets “The Fireman” (John) in a hospital that is one of the few places that is still attempting to treat, house, and feed the infected amid societies growing fear of them.

A glowing flame silhouettes a man walking.
The cover of the paperback version

 

John enters the hospital dressed wearing a fireman’s raincoat and helmet. He has a halligan (ax-like tool) and insists on immediate treatment for a 5-year-old boy that he is carrying. Security is called, and the scene is starting to escalate into violence when the Fireman threatens the nurses and security with his halligan.

Harper steps in and defuses the situation by unknowingly using a phrase from the song Romeo and Juliet. Harper

tries to deflect the scene away from the front of the long line of infected when she says, “How about it babe, you and me.”

The Fireman is distracted from his anger. He asks her if she is Dire Straits fan. Soon Harper discovers that one of the boy’s appendix is about to burst and thus justifies his priority admission.

The setting for this story is in New Hampshire. It all starts as Harper sees an infected man stumble on to the playground of an elementary school where she is the school nurse. Before her eyes, the man spontaneously starts burning from the inside out. Later, she watches as the infected, and the resulting fires from them play out in catastrophes on cable news channels.

The region where she lives and works starts to stigmatize the infected similar to rabid dogs. To avoid gangs of vigilantes, the infected to seek hidden communities that must venture out and steal food and supplies from the healthy.

I thought any kind of plot line was slow to develop amid all the catastrophes.  Eventually, the main plotline came and so did a few pleasing parallel plots.

The message I got from this book is that society will act on fear first before considering how much more we are the same than we are different.

 

Book Review: How to Disappear

How to Disappear:
Erase your digital footprint, Leave false trails, Vanish without a trace
Frank M, Ahearn and Eileen C. Horan
Lyons Press, Guilford Connecticut

The authors set the tone for the book on the first page. Frank M, Ahearn and Eileen C. Horan give an example of how not to buy this book.

Hard Cover

Do buy the book. But, if you are trying to disappear from someone don’t buy it with a credit card. Don’t use your frequent-shopper card either. Frank Ahearn is a Skip Tracer. By his definition:

Skip tracer. n: A person who tracks people down and uncovers private information for a living. Targets include jailbirds, deadbeats, subpoenaed witnesses, and just about anyone else who’s trying to hide.

I’m not trying to disappear. To me, this book feeds my growing fascination with all things having to do with sleuth novels. I was surprised to learn that someone doesn’t need to be a computer hacker to find your personal information.

Much of the book includes first-person accounts of how the authors went about finding their target. These are the parts I enjoyed the most because it felt like I was sitting at a bar listening to a great story. Skip tracers use pretexting, a form of social engineering, to get information from customer service agents at bookstores, public utilities, health clubs, tanning spas, and through social media.

Pretexting is done by presenting yourself as someone else either over the phone or in person. A good example of pretexting is calling a customer service agent posing as the owner of the account and subversively coaxing the person on the phone to divulge the targets contact information. Social Engineering is the new science of extracting information from people through conversation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: “Victory Disc” by Andrew Cartmel

The cover art of Victory Disc

Victory Disc is the third book of “The Vinyl Detective” series. I read the second book (The Runout Groove) last year and enjoyed it enough to lay down some money for this year’s release. “The Vinyl Detective” is written from a first-person Perspective.

The cover art of Victory Disc
Available at Amazon.com

It has all the same supporting characters: Nevada, Tinkler, Clean Head, and the two cats. Sorry, I can’t remember their names and I don’t like cats well enough to try to remember their names.

The Vinyl Detective has followers to his blog. This blog? Not so much. He blogs about his hobby of collecting vinyl records.

Again, this time our protagonist’s search for collectible records morphs into a confrontation with some unsavory characters. Some are promiscuous, and some are violent.

The setting is in London, England. The detective and his girlfriend, Nevada have been hired by one of his blog’s readers.  After the detective’s cat finds a rare 78 rpm Victory Disc from the World War II era, he makes a post about it on his blog. A reader became a client when she responded to the post with a personal visit. She commissions him to find other discs by the same band.

Collectors of anything sometimes discover some unsettling history that relates to the owners and the creators of their finds. During the climax of the story, there is a pleasing plot twist.

Tinkler is a humerus as always. Nevada is as eloquent and resourceful as ever. This novel has a light a fun read. I highly recommend it.

 

Spinward Fringe: The Trilogy

Cover of book
Spinward Fringe: Origins

“Spinward Fringe  Broadcast 0″ is the first novella to chronicles of the Spinward Fringe series. It is an ebook that is a box set of three novellas.  It was formally known as “The First Light Chronicles Omnibus.” The trilogy started back in 2009 and is continuing. Randolph Lalonde is the author. I read it for the same reason I read some romance novels. It’s brain candy.

I feel guilty about reading some of the books reviews before writing my own. On Goodread.com, Lee mentions that there are some parts of the book that are unrealistic. In my reading of just the first of three novellas in this book, I find that it is best suited for the young adult reader.

There are made-up worlds in fantasy novels that are unrealistic in a creative way. Then there is the science fiction genre where the silly is acceptable because it could be true. Finally, there is the unacceptable unrealistic of this first novella.

The protagonist, Jonas Valent, is in a job he hates and lives out his passion after work by playing battle simulations on an actual military digital platform that he hacked into with some other amateur players. Their skill is noticed by the military at the highest level. So, all the players are given battlefield commissions and immediately sent on what could only be called a spy mission.

It’s unrealistic that opportunity comes knocking at your door without any effort put forth by the recipient. I think this sends a misleading message to anyone, but especially the young adult audience. The false message is that merely being talented at something, like a video game, will lead to success without any effort. No matter how good you are at anything, nobody is going to notice unless you market yourself.

My Review: I’ll Take You There: by Wally Lamb

An excellent read for those of us in our 60s.

Lamb wrote this novel like an autobiography. In a vintage movie theater, Felix relives some the painful parts of boyhood home on Herbert Hoover Avenue. Imagine Angela’s Ashes only with less poverty, but just as much criticism of organized religion.

A little bit about Wally Lamb and His Books

I’ve been somewhat of a follower of Wally Lamb since a girlfriend recommended the book “This much I Know.” A nurse in a psychiatric treatment facility, she liked it more than I did. Lamb seems to have one character in his novels that is in some emotional distress. I stopped reading “This Much I Know” soon after I started.

I later gave Lamb another try after my sister mentioned that he taught English at the New London, Connecticut high school we attended as students. So I picked up a copy of “She’s Come Undone.” I liked it.

I liked “I’ll Take You There” also, but not enough to become a serial reader. Maybe, Lamb should consider doing a trilogy as the Fantasy and Science Fiction writers do. In “I’ll Take You There” I could relate to some of the familiar settings of my high school days in Southeastern Connecticut. I was born in the 50s, so many of the cultural norms he mentions during the character’s boyhood of that time were familiar.

I’ll Take You There” is a Novel With a Feminist Theme

This novel has a heroine who slips into a behavior disorder because of the internal conflicts she has. The storyline always keeps the reader wondering what’s going to happen next. That makes the reader realize that the stereotypes that feminist deplored in the 60s were harmful and humiliating.

Even though feminism seems dead now, current events a proving otherwise. Women don’t have to march in the streets anymore, but they did nationwide shortly after Trump’s inauguration. The #MeToo movement soon followed and is creating a cultural shift that’s going to be interesting to watch.

The Vinyl Detective: The Run-Out Groove by Andrew Cartmel: Review

No spoilers here, but oh what a twist at the end.

Cover photo of The Vinyl Detective: The Runout Groove.
A Review

This is the second of the Vinyl Detective Series. I have not read the first one titled: Written in Dead Wax. In The Run-Out Groove, our detective is approached by the Colonel and Lucy who want to check into whatever happened to the son of the Colonel’s famous sister. He knew her as Valerie Anne.  She was a rising star in the psychedelic music scene of the early 1970s. The music world knew her as Valerian.

I’m not going to go much further into the rest of the story, but know that this quirky detective and his band of loyal friends will keep you snickering.

This book found me

I picked this book off the shelf at my neighborhood big-box bookseller. It was a random grab while walking type of maneuver. The author and the series were both new to me.  I also bought a Mad Magazine in the same trip to the cash register. I expected to get more enjoyment from my Mad Magazine. Wrong. I finished the book before I finished the magazine.

This first-person Urban Noir Mystery takes place in modern-day London, England. David Quantick is our reluctant sleuth. Along with Nevada, they become the dynamic duo of London. A spunky hot babe, Nevada brings a bit of culture and grace to tense situations.

On the downside: the author drags his love for cats into the story. I don’t like cats. Turk and Fanny play an amusing supporting role in snagging the lead crook of the caper. My next read will be Written in Dead Wax.

You don’t have to be an audiophile, or even have a turntable to enjoy this story. One thing is certain. you will still be reading this book long after you learn what a run-out groove is.

Angels of Vengeance by by John Birmingham

Angels of Vengeance is a very appropriate title for Birmingham’s third book of his latest trilogy. Three female protagonists are thrown into a post-apocalyptic America. The storyline switches back a forth between their separate quest for retribution. Then there is a fourth storyline about an unlikely President of the United States and his overbearing Chief of Staff. It wasn’t until very late (too late) into the story that we finally see how he fits in with the rest of the characters.

What I liked most was the attention to detail. This is probably one of the best-researched stories that I have read. Much of it is set in Kansas City, where I live. The depictions of what a scorched-earth version of Kansas City would look like were so accurate that I could “see” the scenes unfold.

I picked this book randomly, so the author’s references to “the wave” didn’t really get explained until about halfway through the book, and then in was a one-liner. Apparently, it was some mysterious, man-made, energy wave that wiped out everything east of Kansas City. I guess it was something that happened in the first book.

The middle part of the book dragged. I liked reading about battleaxes on parade but I didn’t like the fictional politicians. Birmingham is a Tom Clancy want-a-be. This whole story could have fit into something the size of a comic book. At 544 pages this story was too long winded, like this review.