Michaeldgriffiths's Blog
One's man Chaos is another person's Entertainment

Sep
22

I did not know what I was really getting into when I grabbed A World Without Police by Geo Maher at a brick-and-mortar bookstore. I know this is a hard-core book, but we live in a world where one mistake could lead you into a dangerous situation. Do you call the police or have the police already done more harm than good in your life?

Genre:  Politics

Publisher: Verso

Released:  2021

Stars:  4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths

Personally, I have a wide arc of experience with police officers. I was threatened with being arrested and beat up in jail if I continued to book punk rock shows, but I was also in charge of running a 40-hour course designed to help officers understand people with mental illness and cognitive disabilities for over 10 years. You might think being exposed to the officers for twelve work weeks would help me relate to them, but instead, as I blended in, I learned more about an often-hidden culture which glorified violence.

Violence is one of the cornerstones Mahar calls the police out for using to control not only the poor and minorities, but anyone who speaks out against them. Maher discusses the origins of the police and the abuse they spread. This book is encyclopedic regarding how police have abused the system, a system which is already designed to be abusive. It also contains extensive footnotes, a biography, and a glossary.

There is too much to cover here, but here is a quick example of the facts this book contains. Police commit more rapes each year than non-police are incarcerated for. In 2014 the police seized more personal property than the loses of all reported burglars combined.

If you want to tackle this one, beware you might have some of your assumptions questioned. For what it sets out to do this book is well documented and top shelf. No flaws, although a few times the author loses some of his analytical approach in favor of personal assessment. I learned a great deal from this book and feel I can move forward with more educated approach to this modern goal of police abolition.

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Sep
16

I am still not sure how I ever got a copy of Alternadad by Neal Pollack but it rested on my bookcase for probably a decade before I found the time to pick it up and give it a chance. Now that I can read non-fiction again, I figured I needed to jump in and start doing it. This novel focuses on a young couple, their burgeoning love, and then their decision to have a child. The primary focus is Neal and Regina’s attempt to raise their child in a cool alternative manner where they make their own choices and do not step in tune with the rest of the society they vaguely disprove of.

Genre:  Comedy

Publisher: Anchor Books

Released:  2007

Stars:  3 Stars

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths

Soon, like most parents, they find having a child is extremely challenging and takes up a lot of your time. This is compounded by the fact both parents work from home. The parents are a bit particular in their viewpoints on life and how they wish to mold their child. Throughout much of the novel, Neil seems to be a mix of contradicting ideas and values. On one hand he wants to be a cool underground guy; smoking weed and listening to punk rock music, while on the other, he works with police officers to enforce gentrification in his neighborhood. They are also concerned with food to such an extent I think Chong would have said, “Hey man, relax and let your kid have a cookie, man.”

Neil Pollack has been a writer for a long time, and he already made the mistake of discussing some of his parental failings online and got a ration of hate mail and other things. Being a parent of three times as many children as this book discusses, I feel I can speak with some certainty as to how punk rockers raise children. I am not going to criticize Neil’s choices in child rearing, I intend to take a different route.

I take exception with Neil’s premise that he is an alternative father. If anything, Neal, and his wife could certainly be termed helicopter parents, for they would go to the schools if they found out they were serving a sugar drink. Even though they were $23,000 in debt, they would rather pay to send the child to a daycare they did not really like, so they could work at home without interruption. I always thought the best thing about working at home would be not having to send your kids off to start their indoctrination at age one. I think it takes more than listening to a few bands no one’s ever heard of and wearing a Ramones shirt to be alternative. If you are flustering over your child and bragging about his eight-hour long agenda while working with the police to gentrify a neighborhood, I’m sorry it just does not seem very punk rock. I just see him more as a yuppie with a tattoo. Do not get me wrong, he is a nice guy, and we could probably hang out and have a beer. However, I have a feeling we would be deep in the reeds of disagreement before  beer three kicked in.

I am not saying this is a bad novel, but I do not see much of my punk rock experiences between these pages. I really think a better title for this book might have been, Helicopter Parent with a Nose Ring. They do love their child and they are doing the best job they can, and no one can knock them for that. Despite how annoying much of this novel was, I wish Neal, his wife, and his son, who must now be in high school, the best, and congrats for being able to make enough money off writing to stay home and take care of your kid.

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Aug
26

I received Devolution by Max Brooks as a gift while I was on vacation. Since I had read the Zombie Survival Guide and WWZ, I was excited and almost jumped right in, but I was diving into the Wizard King series and wanted to keep at it. I love everything I have read from Max Brooks and enjoy him as a person. His appearances on the Bill Maher show have always impressed me.

Genre:  Horror

Publisher: Del Ray

Released:  2020

Stars:  5 Stars

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths

This novel not only maintained the authors level of excellence but surpassed, in my opinion, everything he is ever written. This novel is nothing short of amazing. It is everything a horror novel should strive for: originality, the ability to fight back against your foes, and characters so intense you don’t want them to die.

Katie Holland and her husband, Dan, have just moved in to Greenloop; an isolated, ecofriendly, and very small community located deep in the woods of Washington state. When Mount Rainier explodes, Washington is thrown into a panic. Later, when thousands are dying, no one remembers Greenloop which has been cut off from the exterior world as well. They encounter no one except the now starving tribe of cannibalistic Bigfoot.

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The tale begins with Katie keeping a journal of her new experiences as she moves from LA into this isolated region. This becomes a survival journal where she sets out to document the experiences of the small community of roughly a dozen souls. An older woman takes them under her mentorship once she realizes they may need to dig in and become survivalists if they’re going to make it long enough to receive help. They start growing gardens, hunting, and preparing things which will aid in what could be the beginnings of a long winter. Their chances for survival take a dark turn when they go from would be hunters to hunted when a Bigfoot tribe discovers them. The Sasquatch seem to hate humanity and they’re coming for Katie and her new friends

I have been a big horror fan since I was five years old. My idea of a strong horror thread is to take normal people, have them be confronted with an abnormal situation, and see how well they fight to survive. My favorite part of my beloved horror movies and novels are when these typical people do not just panic and die, but instead find their inner greatness, step up to think outside their once mundane existence, and invent new ways to hold on to that which is most precious, their lives. Not only does this novel pull off this horror ideal, but it also takes it to a new level where they think of things that even Max brooks did not cover in his zombie survival guide

Unless you do not enjoy horror novels, you will lose your mind over this book. It is just what all writers should seek to be. I have nothing bad to say about this. If you like horror, even a little, this one should already be on your bookshelves.

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Listen to an excerpt from the audiobook of Max Brooks’s Bigfoot horror novel ‘Devolution’

Aug
11

Trial of the Wizard King by Chad Corrie is the second book in the Wizard King series. I am reading the first two books back-to-back which is a privilege I have rarely enjoyed of the past 10+ years of writing book reviews. After the Created Series which I read in order, I am finding I really enjoy being able to read series again. Also, additional good news, the third book in this trilogy is out on the last day of this month, so I will almost be reading them one after another.

Genre:  Fantasy

Publisher: Dark Horse Books

Released:  2021

Stars:  4 Stars

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths

The novel takes off where the first one ended. The group of adventurers is split apart as the female mage, Cadrissa, is still imprisoned by the evil Lich, Cadrith, who is the primary adversary for the series. The beginning of the novel focuses on introducing new complications and characters both evil and good. It also reviews the comings and goings of the greater gods. Very reminiscent of ancient Greek literature, the gods play a heavy part in the path men tread and are behind many of the schemes and plots which affect the main characters in this novel.

The novel splits into two threads. The first being the gods and heroes who realize the lich is seeking to reinvent the known world and become a God. The second thread consists of the more mundane goals most of the adventuring band wishes to pursue. Yet soon the threads of both more gods and mortals draw them closer and closer together to thwart the lich they released.

I have to say the beginning of this story moved a bit slow for me. After enjoying so many of the characters in the first novel, I was anxious to see how they would fare after they completed their first adventure. Yet instead, we spent the first 100 pages of the novel delving into new characters, new gods, and almost everything other than focusing on the characters I had already enjoyed learning about. My favorite character, Dugan, only had a two-page appearance from another’s POV within the first 100 pages. I appreciate a story with many characters and building up for an epic conclusion, however, I feel that some of the characters such as the dragon master, who did little to help or hinder the characters, perhaps could have been deleted so we could get to the rest of the tale a bit faster. The budding relationship between the human knight and the elven ranger seemed a bit awkward as well. I am not sure why they were attracted to each other aside from proximity, and given the humans terse reactions I’m not sure how the elfish woman could stand him. We  must assume, despite his racism and annoying behavior. she found something else there.

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Once the story picked up, it was more like the first novel, and I enjoyed seeing the interactions and the characters joining forces. Again, this novel delivered. Lovers of swords and sorcery and especially players of Dungeons and Dragons will get quite a thrill out of this series, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy role playing. If you have ever been a character who had to go up against the lich in a game, I think you will really appreciate the tension the author builds as they hunt down this near unstoppable enemy

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and even with the first third being a little slow, it ended with excitement and glory for the characters but perhaps their death as well. For the second novel ended with a cliffhanger and a half. I look forward to buying the third novel in the series. Hell, I might even preorder it.

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Jul
25

Return of the Wizard King by Chad Corrie is a fantasy novel which was released last year. I have already bought the second one and assume the third will be available soon. If you happened to read my last book review you are aware my reading habits have recently changed giving me more freedom to read different types of literature. Ironically, I have ignored this newfound liberty and dove into some new speculative novels I bought at a physical bookstore where you had to use your legs and stuff. You check out OCD, reading, and me here if you feel inclined.

Genre:  Fantasy

Publisher: Dark Horse Books

Released:  2020

Stars:  4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths

The Return of the Wizard King is a fresh fun look at a new fantasy universe. However, instead of trying to be clever in finding new twists and personalized changes to the genre, Corrie embraced the Tolkien fantasy traditions. But more than this, to me at least, it feels as though he is writing out a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. I mean this as no insult to the author, in fact, I find it a positive and refreshing thing. It is nice for a player of Dungeons and Dragons to just be able to read a novel which could be set in that fantastic realm. To me this made it more enjoyable and felt like I was sitting around the gaming table even when I was on a plane flying from one side of the country to the other.

Like a standard DND party, this novel follows the point of view of many heroic figures, and, you guessed it, their various threads woven into a strong rope which became the main party for this adventure. Dugan was my favorite character. A boy raised for the gladiatorial slave pits must make the most difficult decision of his life. Will he stay and let his abusers have the final laugh by torturing him to death or should he sell his soul for a chance to escape?

The group is led by a blind Priest. Gilban has visions in which he sees the group working together to rid the world of the danger presented by the lich form of the final Wizard King. The Wizard King has an agenda of his own and the reader follows him and other evil creatures as the story progresses. While the various heroes gather, their end goal becomes clearer, and they head off into the jungle to thwart the evil elves and the Wizard King.

This novel was highly entertaining and accomplished what it set out to do. This is a fantasy novel, a classic fantasy novel, and if you indulge such things, I feel there is little here that would derail you from enjoying this novel. The author may have gone a little overboard with having multiple points of view for the first novel in the series. For me, it is important not to get too bogged down with multiple viewpoints slowing the tale. I often find when I start to enjoy seeing through the eyes of a particular character having to wait for him or her to resurface can be annoying in some books.

Overall, Corrie gives us a strong new edition to our fantasy library. If you are looking for a dreary dystopia where every race must have a different name, so the author feels like they are not ripping off classic fantasy literature then this is not for you. If you want a fun romp following adventures fighting their way through dangers and traps and magic, then go ahead and grab this one for yourself. I am glad I did.

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Jul
20

Ararat by Christopher Golden is a horror novel which became a best seller.Usually I do not read many best sellers because for the last 12 years I have been a semiprofessional book reviewer of speculative fiction. When you are a lower ranking book reviewer you tend to get more of the indie authors, and it was rare I received the type of book you see on the top shelves in Target or Barnes and Noble. Recently, however, I have lost my paying gig and after 12 years of regimented reading, I have decided to expand some of my horizons. I would not say it started with this novel but if you would like to read about my personal literary change you can grab that article right here.

Genre:  Horror

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffon

Released:  2017

Stars:  4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths

Soon my newfound literary freedom overtook the sadness of losing my book review gig and I dug through my old oak desk and found three Barnes and Noble cards my mother had gifted me over the last five years. Next question, is there still a Barnes and Noble in Tucson? Yes, there is. So, with cards in hand, I went into Barnes and Noble for the first time in years I thought “I am going to get some new books!” Of course, on this trip I did not wander far away from speculative fiction. Instead, I wanted to gauge what books are good enough to end up in Barnes and Nobles, but too good to be in the hands of a mid-level book reviewer like me. Seeing my vacation had just begun, what better time to read a brand-new book then on a plane flight and what better type of book to read than a horror.

Ararat begins with the potential finding of Noah’s Ark. This part put me off for a little bit because Noah’s ark is so obviously a mythical fairytale, however if people can write books about vampires and evil Sasquatch, why not throw Noah’s ark into the mix? If you can get past this, Golden creates a spooky malingering dread throughout the novel where people work amidst a blizzard on the side of Mount Ararat. In the decayed corpse of this fantastic ark darkness lurks in every corner and the interpersonal and multicultural tensions rise when a demon is discovered in the bowels of the ship. The horned demon is mummified and looks thousands of years dead; however, its malignant evil remains and begins to manipulate the people who are trapped within the dig site amidst a ranging blizzard.

Tensions run high as the Kurds work with Christian scholars while trying to keep the dig secular. A government fixer named Walker is sent in with a United Nations representative. Walker quickly finds even his specialized needs are going to fall short when pitted against this ancient evil. Soon the murders begin, but they cannot be proved. People are going missing; the storm keeping them from having any hope of recovering bodies.

Meryam and Adam are the leaders of the dig, but their impending engagement turns sour as secrets and betrayals are caught on film. This and different conflicts are making them and other people weaker and more easily possessed by the spirit of the demon lurking in the ancient sarcophagus.

The author does a great job providing not only a nerve-wracking atmosphere but also leaving this mixed group of investigators completely shut off from the rest of humanity. The novel builds to a height of terror where the humans feel helpless as one by one, they are cut down then destroyed. This novel delivers on the horror of being helpless and alone, or perhaps worse isolated but with someone you love there who could be killed.

It was nice to read a professionally produced novel. I had never read anything by Golden and this was a great vacation book, I guess the only problem I have with it I have already mentioned and that is the improbability of anything to do with Noah being real. If the whole earth were flooded with saltwater than all the ground would have been salted and no plants would ever grow again. This and a thousand other things make anything to do with the bible a hard pill to swallow, but if you can get past that, this novel brings it home and puts some new twists on how people can be removed from society and unable to get help even in our current age.

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Jul
17

Often it is the dark figure which hunts in the Night

Using his malign energy to set things Right

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Going where others fear to Tread

Returning with evil’s Head

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Dak is in charge of ridding the menace of New Cluster’s Clones. His main problem… he’s dating one.

Jul
12

The Book of the Created by Robert Boyczuk is the amazing third novel in the Created Series. If you have not read my recent reviews of the first two novels perhaps take a moment to bounce back on this site and check them out. Unlike many trilogies I have devoured in the past, I read these novels back-to-back. This only becomes stranger because the first was published in 2012 the second was published and 2015 and even though the first book sat on my shelves for almost 10 years, Boyczuk released the third book in just February of this year. So in an odd twist of fate, I’m glad I waited so long to read them because they were such fantastic novels that having to wait five years for the next one would have been difficult.

Genre:  Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror

Publisher: Choleric Press

Released:  2021

Stars:  5 Stars

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths

The novel continues the quest David has been given by the angels of lower heaven to stop the leaking of water into Hell. Soon however, the biblical landscape is replaced by one slowly drifting into science fiction. In fact the author has done something in this series few others can claim. He not only made a bizarre biblical quest come to life, but Boyczuk has written a novel which could claim to be fantasy, science fiction, and even horror all at once. The original setting is fantasy; a medieval land of clerics and Angels who battle for their own goals. However, unlike many fantasy novels, this novel dips into pure horror. Problems are not solved by some warrior leaping in the room and cutting things down with swords or flame throwing mages. No, David is only a young boy. He cannot solve his problems physically and most often, particularly in this novel, must watch atrocities and evil of the highest magnitude while helpless to do anything to prevent it. The guilt installed into his psyche through years of religious torment never cease to plague David as he witnesses horror after horror. Yet as the novel progresses, what we thought of as magic turns out to have its roots in science and high technology.

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Another strong point of these novels is the holistic nature in which old characters, alliances, and even enemies are reintroduced while maintaining a constant feeling of mystery and uncertainty. The only thing more prevalent in this novel than the uncertainty is the danger David, and anyone associated with him is plunged into.

I see little I could throw a stick at within these pages. As an atheist none of the religious overtone bothered me and frankly, I found them fascinating. These are biblical tales, like any other, written from an author’s imagination. However, if somehow, I have a reader who is still devoted to the Christian doctrine. they might find this trilogy disturbing. Good Catholics might not want to let their kids read this one, but they probably should.

It is hard to overstate how pleased I was to find these novels. They took me on a wild ride. Inventive does not even scratch the surface of what is presented here. Everything about this series took risks and plowed new paths rarely seen. Like Dickens writing a biblical tale, David is a weak child with only his mind, wits, and his ability to convince others of his path to see him through dangers which would make Conan worry. I have already mentioned how the author mixes all the speculative fiction genres into one bundle but to say more would risk diminishing the pleasure you should get when you pick these up because you should.

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Jun
28

Druid’s Bane by Phillip Henderson is a fantasy novel set in a low magic feudal country. The world of Arkaelyon is similar to Europe except they believe in magic even less than the medieval Europeans did. In some respects, this novel is just an alternative world text and just barely a fantasy novel.

Genre:  Fantasy

Publisher: Acclaimed Books

Released:  2010

Stars:  3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths

Danielle is a Princess who is involved with reforming the lives of the serfs within her country, however her brother Kane seeks to do just the opposite and without the knowledge of the king, is trying to pass a bill legalizing slavery. Danielle is her brother’s rival, and she is forced to engage in a delicate political dance where she disobeys her father’s edicts in order to unravel the truth.

As the book progresses, Danielle suffers many setbacks and finds herself consistently struggling to see through the gaps in the knowledge she is allowed to possess by her father and his counsel. Working with her half information mixed with lies, she tries to ignore the fetters placed on her by her father and unravel the truth for the sake of the poor in her Kingdom. Danielle is a master at Machiavellian plotting and does her best to circumvent complicated alliances.

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This is an interesting novel but, as I said, is extremely low fantasy with just a few dreams and a single witch with mild supernatural powers. The novel focuses more on political intrigue and there is little action. There is not one real battle within the entire book.

Other than the lack of traditional fantasy elements and action, this novel had a few other patterns which grew old for this reader. Foremost was the repetitive nature of Danielle trying to take care of something and being reprimanded for doing something wrong. This happens a dozen times. Also, there are many instances in which she discovers information has been withheld and she has been lied to, and this also occurs again and again. Then, she will take matters into her own hand and fail. Part of me wonders what the message is here. The author has set this world up for continuing series, which is fine, however additional books are absent on Amazon. Thus, scenes where she is hidden from knowing things about people we do not know and never meet, seem to be useless filler just making the novel longer for no reason,

If you enjoy feudal political plotting more than action, then this book is something you should look up. however, if you are looking for mages and monsters this one should remain on the shelves. I do not want to be too hard on the author as it is well written and was enjoyable for me to read, but it was bit repetitive, and I feel if some of this had been removed, we would have gotten a bit farther in the tale.

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Jun
27

When Zano tries to walk from Phoenix to Tucson in the middle of the Blazing Arizona Summer, the last thing he expected was for the heat to be the least of his Problems, cuz well, he has a lot of problems.

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Zano out of his environment in the environment.

If only I had caught him sooner, but his spectral wife told me he had already left on his 100 mile mid-summer Arizona walkabout. We had to scramble to save him… or at least scramble after I have finished a few more beers. You have to drink a lot of ale before your head into a 115 degree desert. That’s just science.

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The heroes return to the scene of the crime

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But then things only got worse, because… we had to go back out there.

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So many hats

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Please take a few minutes to find out if these *cough* men have what it takes to head into the Sonoran Inspector General’s territory and make it back alive. Listen we might not have made it. My brother could totally be writing this, you know, like a eulogy.

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