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As the title suggests, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything Covers several major areas of interest for any Dungeons and Dragons player and even more so for a game master. Just how there is a little of everything in this book, I think anyone involved with playing 5E will be hard pressed to fail to find something which will help their game and they cannot wait to dive in trying.

Xanathar’s Guide to EverythingGenre:  Fantasy (RPG)

Publisher:  Wizards of the Coast

Released:  2017

Stars:   4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths






It starts with all the new subclasses for players and they are a bunch. Xanathar’s adds no less than Thirty-one ranging from a Shadow Magic Sorcerer to a Gloom Stalker Ranger. These new classes could allow a person to never have to play the same character twice even if they gamed for a hundred years. I found them very wide sweeping and fun.


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Most of the rest is for the game master. Everything from new magic items to some very useful random encounter tables based on the character tiers are quite useful. Rules are updated and new concepts suggested. This goes on to the end where dozens of new spells are provided for both player and GM.

What is the quality of all the things presented within this tomb? I would have to say its up to par with the ideas in the Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Masters Guide if not just a tad better. This is no hasty presentation. You can feel the love for the game within the pages. The writers take their work seriously and just want to help you raise the bar of excellence for your play.

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Downsides will probably be the sections different people will disregard. For instance, I have already used the wandering monster tables before I have even finished the book, but others my not like things not geared for their world. I for one will not get much out of the twenty pages of names provided. Taking the time to look something up instead of using my own imagination seems unlikely to occur.

Any serious player of 5E should grab this up. It will not unbalance a campaign, just enrich it. I for one say Hazah.


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Hi friends, please take a moment to enjoy the video my friends and I made which will end up costing tRump the election.


Have fun with Tiny Hands!!


Covid 19


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Ragnarok Unwound by Kristin Jacques is a dark fantasy novel which immerses the reader into the world of the Norse Myths but during our current era. It focuses on Ives, her fairy sidekick, Jules, and large cast of odd, interesting, and often famous demi-gods.

Ragnarok Unwound by Kristin Jacques


Ragnarok Unwound by Kristin Jacques

Genre:  Dark Fantasy

Publisher: Self Published

Released: 2019

Stars:   3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths

Ives is a Fate Cipher which means she can free people from their preordained doom. This could come in handy for Loki and his family when Ives finds out Ragnarok has begun. However, the Fate Cipher is supposed to be immortal to withstand the strain, but Ives, although living within a world of high fantasy, is mortal.

She meets Hel, who is more like a sassy teen than the Goddess of the underworld and Loki’s other offspring and then meets the god of mischief himself. She must not only release these deities from their fate, fight off giants, but also figure out who is behind their creating the curse of Ragnarok.

This is a fun creative tale. It mixes action and comedy, plus a strong dose of Norse Myths. It is pretty G rated and could be considered Young Adult in most respects. Although, unlike a lot of fiction geared to a younger audience, this aspect did not bother me here.

What I did not like as much was how Loki felt a little sleepy through much of the novel. Everyone had one liners but him. It is not often I get to read about Loki being a hero and I felt a bit let down he did not shine more here.

This novel would be a fun way to introduce children and teens to the Norse Mythology. It is lighthearted and fun, but with tense moments and danger. Would be a good book for parents to read to their children since both parties could enjoy it.



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The Dungeons and Dragons, 5th Edition Monster Manual was released from Wizards of the Coast a while ago. As mentioned in previous reviews, I have delved into the newest edition of Dungeons and Dragons with the goal of teaching my growing boys the playing style they are more likely to encounter out in their circles when they reach a gaming age. And thus, here I am, a chronic first edition player reviewing this D and D’s newest version.

The Dungeons and Dragons, 5th Edition Monster Manual


Genre: Fantasy Role Playing Game

Publisher: Wizards of the Coast

Released: 2014

Stars:  4.5  Stars

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffith




Overall the newest Monster Manual is a feast for the eyes. Color and art on every page. I suppose I would have lost my mind if I could have seen something like this in 1979. It is vast and well detailed. They simplify many more standard beasts and animals and also provide a smattering of pre-made characters such as Archmage, Priest, and Spy, which can also be useful for fast tracking someone you might need suddenly during game play or save you time while setting up a scenario. So the overall monster count is huge.

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This version tries to keep the monsters tighter. This has the advantage of making them easier to run without being confused, but also tends to make the creatures identical over the different gaming tables across the globe. They combat this by making many more subgenres and different types even within the same species. It has such a huge sweep, however, it would be hard to not be inspired to create a world in your own style.

The book also defines monsters much more than the original Monster Manual did. Backgrounds are provided and where they fit in the world is often discussed. Things like which demon lord created a creature is revealed.

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Things I didn’t like were how low some of the armor classes were. I understand they are creating their own game balance, but it seems like they increased the hit points while making everything easier to hit, as though players couldn’t handle not being able to hit and might get sad. Also, I always enjoyed the odd spells creatures like Devils, Demons, and Slaadi possessed. These abilities were toned way down. They also lost the magic resistance stat. I found these made the outer planes creatures more dangerous and interesting. Instead they are more like huge monster hit point bags.

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This being said, it is a fun book, and yes, I know we all resist change, but the manual does not make it too hard. It is a fantastic effort and gives the Dungeon Master all sorts of creative ideas. Yeah, I think this will work for most of us.


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Friday the 13th

It evolved slowly, much as a virus does, this split goal of mine. Could I prep for the incoming C-Virus in manner which of course would help keep me and mine safe, but also perform a test of sorts. While I protect my kids, lover, family, and friends from at least being contaminated by me, I would also try to quarantine myself and my boys to the best of our abilities. I heard the signs of sickness appear within 6-8 days. So 8 to go just to be safe.

Backgrounds and Baselines

  • I couldn’t start before Friday the 13th because the kids were still in school.
  • I’m not a doomsday prepper, but I keep backup 2 weeks of food and water on hand.
  • My Lady and I did 3 trips to the store before we began.
  • I’m pulling the quarantine trigger at 2:25 when I pick my oldest son up as school.


3 bar cans


Saturday the 14th

Fortifying our choice, three social engagements we were involved with fell like dominos in  graveyard. Digging in, the boys and I plant chili peppers, broccoli and tomatoes. They won’t be providing food any time soon, but just in chase this lasts longer, I’ll have more things to add to my rows of lettuce growing in the front.


Sunday the 15th

Some plans can’t be broken, and my sweet lady heads off to the little artist town of Bisbee, with her best friend. This leaves me alone with two boys, I’m sure this will be easy. Oh did they just take all the blankets, pillows, and sheets off the bed to make a mound of blankets in the middle of the room to jump into?


3 Bar Quarintine fun


Monday the 16th

Yep that was a lot of laundry to wash. Going through our food a little but no issues yet. Hell, I still even have snacks for the boys, but if I run out, will they turn on me?


Saint Patrick’s Day

Can you say stir crazy? Not me, but the boys. I decide a germ free desert hike should help things and I have a full tank of gas. My lady is due back today. She’s a nurse, so I know she takes these things seriously.


Desert Kids


Kinda weird to have such a non-social holiday, but I’m happy to see my lady back safe and happy.


Wednesday the 18th

The CDC states the average incubation for the C-Virus is 5.5 days and one can be considered in the clear if they fail to develop systems within 12 days of potential exposure. So with me and the boys having roughly the same level of exposure now, odds are, if none of us show signs by tomorrow, we’ll be clear…just in time for me to go to the grocery store before we take off.


Thursday the 19th

The local Safeway turns out to be a strange and haunted place at 7am. Masked individuals mix with wild eyed shoppers. All of us amazed to see an absence of most of the things we’re accustomed to in this country. No prepared meat, the vegetables were nearly gone. Pasta and cans gone. Although I did get the last four cans of chili the store had to offer. Normal cheese, nope, but fancy cheese yep. I guess we’ll have a little luxury while camping.


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5 hours later, I’m pulling up to the site, but after my new ride’s first off-road test, I have to pull the plug 200 yards short of my goal. The road itself has become a wash and a series of boulders leave me thinking perhaps having my little family allowed more privacy is better than bottoming out and cracking my oil pan on a rock. I have better ways to spend my afternoon.

I meet a new friend after lugging my gear uphill and my boys are happy to burn off the energy of six days of isolation.


Friday the 20th

It has been a week since the schools have closed and I have done my best to keep the boys safe. Sure hope the plague doesn’t show up here. Ha ha, just kidding, ah… no I’m not.

A little about this area, the wonder we call 3-Bar. The usual sounds of the waterfall crashing into the wading pool is, this time, a torrent of raging foam as the snow run off mixes with the results of the recent rains.


3 bar waterfall


Another phenomenon I’ve rarely experienced has also occurred. All around us springs of clear water have opened out of the ground. Within just a few feet of our camp, I count five. Every hillside has pools and moving water like the entire mountainside has become huge sponges leaking water. Not the type of thing you see too often in the desert.


Saturday the 21st

It appears reasonable to assume the two older hermits I am sharing this campout with have avoided the C-Virus as well, so this trip has taken social distancing to the a new extreme. “Don’t let anyone within 6 miles of you.”


Kids fire


Self-isolation is an unusual thing for some, but just a normal day for others. It’s odd to see the stranger as an ‘enemy,’ but this is what they could become if they are the one to spread a virus to you which could damage your lungs or risk your parent’s lives.

In the end, the hoarding and lack of food could become more of a concern than the virus itself, at least for some of us. The virus has in some ways done us a favor by exposing the frail deck of cards our lives sit at the top of. Few of us can live off the land or have the means to support our needs for food. We all depend on a huge web of supply to insure we have goods on the selves. It is the virus threatening us this time. But the next time could be gasoline or the power grind. All it takes is one dirty bomb to kill a city for generations.

Things like my garden help, but are not a solution. Hoarding can help, but we’re still playing within the rules of this house of cards. Cans don’t multiply if left alone in the dark. So what is the solution? There are too many of us to all buy 40 acres and become farmers. Things like this virus could lower those numbers, but no one wants to see their loved ones perish before their time.


3 bar mountian mount


However back to the now, we have to get over this C-Virus hurdle first. Part of me wonders how effective I’m being for my family. Sure I’ve keep my boys clear enough to be about 92% certain none of us have the virus, FOR NOW. How much use is this in the long term? Our lying president says it is due to last until perhaps August and since he downplays everything which makes him look bad… So am I going to all this trouble for my boys, saying, “Hey we quarantined ourselves long enough to be sure we don’t have it, just to get it later from the ice cream man?” I’m being careful now, but will I get sloppy in May and just have us all get it anyway?

We’ve been told to ‘flatten the curve’ of infection. So I guess we’re doing our part, but again will this matter if the lack of food becomes the real problem? Perhaps I’ll have to head up here again and try to live off the land. It might work as long as I can still get gas. Hopefully the cell towers will work too so I can get these guys out here again as well. I’m probably catastrophizing, but I guess we’ll see. And remember if I’m not, you heard it here first. Be safe out there and kick this Virus in the ass!!


3 bar river


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3 bar damn it


You can check out my own grim vision of a future where we lose control here!


bone tunnel


Camouflage by Ivy Keating and Scott Spotson sounded like a Horror novel at first glance, but as mentioned on the back cover, it is more of a mystery. The story focuses around a police officer named Sean and his developing love interest, Vanessa. The story takes place in a quiet town in New England, which seemed a strange choice, for it is harder to imagine isolated lonely places in Connecticut, but it worked.

Camouflage by Ivy Keating and Scott Spotson


Genre:  Horror

Publisher: Champagne Book Group

Released:  2019

Stars: 3.5  Stars

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths



The scene begins with an encounter with a giant ‘Nessie’ type aquatic dinosaur which somehow survived throughout the eons. An attack from this creature puts Sean’s best friend into a hospital and starts a manhunt for these beasts, for yes, there is more than one of them.

Things escalate quickly when the state police, led by Frank, decide the creatures need to be killed. After getting assistance from a Herpetologist, named Greg, Sean fights, not to slay, but to save the creatures.  Some detective work helps them discover where the creatures came from. It then becomes a test to see if they can find a way to get the legal rights to save the beasts and somehow safely guide them back to their homes.

The novel had a certain wholesome aspect to it. Besides Frank, who comes around, there are few in the way of adversaries. The creatures themselves, although dangerous, are seen as things which need protection and everyone allies themselves to do so. Sort of a feel good dance, while the relationship between Sean and Vanessa blossoms.

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A few dead ends remained unexplained, which is strange for a mystery. Some things were hinted at, but were left unsure. I also wish the horror level could have been raised to create a deeper tension. More close calls and maybe some characters paying the ultimate price might have gone a long way in making this happen. Again, this created a feel good vibe even in regards to the creatures. Sort of like, wow this amazing thing happened, we found dinosaurs but then it just becomes a nuts and bolts journey to get them home with everyone working as a team.

This might be a good book for younger kids moving from dinosaurs toward a mystery enjoying stage in their reading. Sean and Vanessa move quickly, but I still think this would be a good novel for middle school or high school readers.


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Loch Ness Centre Plesiosaur


Volo’s Guide to Monsters is an amazing addition to the Dungeons and Dragons 5e game. Unlike former monster manuals, it goes past giving the reader descriptions and stats, although it does do this as well. I enjoyed the manual for many reasons which I will detail below.

Volo’s Guide to MonstersGenre: Fantasy Role Playing

Publisher: Wizards of the Coast

Released:  2016

Stars:  5  Stars

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths

The first part of the book focuses of looking into some of Dungeons and Dragons’ greatest and most popular monsters with increased detail. The monster’s culture, history, and tactics take a front seat to how many hits they have as the writers dig deep into explaining how these creatures interact with the rest of the world. This was enjoyable and at times a scary read. All players would like these sections, but I think they should stay for the Dungeon Masters eyes only as much as possible.


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Things such as how hyenas bloated from eating humans are transformed by Yeenoghu into gnolls and other secrets are revealed and discussed.  If you wanted to learn how Beholders are born, this is a great place to start. These insights give a good DM dozens of new ideas and platforms to start just as many adventures and enrich the ones they already have going. Things like this makes one wish there were more hours a week in which to throw dice.


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There are some charts in the back and other useful things, but the second half of the book reviews both the new creatures discussed in the first section as well as classic creatures which could not fit in the 5e Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual. These monsters are mostly heavy hitters, but lower level Challenge  creatures are included too so it could be used for DM covering a wide span of character levels in their campaign.

Another advantage of this manual is it could be used by game masters running campaigns with different Dungeons and Dragons editions. The beginning could fuel adventures for any game master.


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There are not many downsides to the book as long as role playing games and Dungeons and Dragons are your thing. Some people resist the new versions, but this might not have the biggest effect with this book, since much of the manual discusses the monsters as a general concept.

I recommend this manual to all game masters. It is a little expensive, but hey, like me, you just need to know how to ask from the right presents when Christmas or your birthday draw near, and also make sure you have a rocking partner. That is how I got it.


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“So with the nails poking through these boards anyone who tries to walk up our path with have a big nasty surprise,” Glenn said as he showed his wife Franny the work he’d just completed.

“YooWho,” an older woman voice called up to them.

Glenn snatched up his AR15, cast a stern look at his wife, and whispered under his breath. “Are you armed? Be ready for anything.”

“Oh hi, I’m Martha your neighbor from down the way.”

“Hello Martha, I’m Franny and this is Glenn.”

Glenn noted she was walking a small cockapoo. “This could be a trap, go get the pepper spray gas bombs ready.”

“Sorry to bother both of you,” Martha continued, “But I just wanted to let you both know we’re having our community barter day tomorrow. Sorta a post-apocalyptic farmer’s market.” She chuckled at her own joke. “I’ll be selling my peach jelly,” she kept walking by and called over his shoulder, “It’s to die for.”

Glenn clutched his rifle tighter. “Yeah, I’m sure it is.”

“Oh Glenn, she seemed nice to me.”

“Right, like they’d sent the maniac with the neck tattoo and loose morals to lure us in. Luring in innocents is probably the only reason they let the old diddy stay alive. No way are we going there. We still have enough wheat flour to last us three years. There’s no limit to what you can use that for.”

“Oh really, well in that case you can prove its versatility by cooking dinner tonight.”




Later in the evening, while Glenn served his wife a wheat cake with a ring of burnt browned crust around the edges, he looked at Franny’s stern face before sitting down.

“Uh, sorry about the cake. I guess I haven’t learned the timing as well as you.”

“I think there are a lot of things you need to learn, like how to trust people.”

Glenn fumed a bit, but knew enough not to blurt out what remained on his mind. Instead he cut off a piece of cake and jammed it into his mouth. It tasted horrible and he his first urge was to spit it out, but he didn’t want to give her the satisfaction.

After forcing it down, he looked toward his wife and said, “I know you want to go to this market, but wouldn’t you agree that if you wanted to trap people you would send someone like Martha to lure them in?”

“Oh and I suppose she’s won an Oscar too. Glenn, I’m happy we prepared for the collapse of the system, but just because the power died doesn’t mean our neighbors are raving lunatics.”

“But people turn quick, Fran. No one prepared for this as much as us we did. If they found out what we have, people are going to take it from us.”

“I hope they start with these wheat cakes,” she said while looking down at her food.

“Franny, we aren’t going, that’s final.”

She looked up at him and frowned.




The next day found Glenn and Franny hiking toward the center of the town they used to frequent. Glenn’s eyes darted from side to side as he adjusted the rifle on his back. His hands itched to be holding his AR15, but he held off for Franny’s sake. Although he figured it would end up costing them their lives.

Yet, instead of being ringed by maunders, he saw tables and stands. People of all ages, including children, milled about. The younger ones laughed and played tag. Others clustered in groups under the trees eating meals and chatting.

Smells of cooking meats and other delights filled his nostrils. Colorful baskets filled with fruit and grains mixed with small cages holding clucking chickens. He also noticed, although several men and a few women wore pistols on their hips, most of the people appeared unarmed.

“Hope you feel safe enough,” Franny started. “I’m worried some of those kids may jump us.”

“We haven’t made it out safely yet,” he said under his voice. “Hells bells woman, they might be raiding our house while we’re gone.”

She groaned and then turned heel to head toward Martha who waved at them. On her way she shrieked and ran over to one of the teachers their daughter had enjoyed in middle school.

Suddenly alone and unwilling to join Franny in her frantic batter, he stood uncertain.

This didn’t last long before he was approached by three men.

“Hello there,” the oldest, a man with a close cropped grey beard, said his way.  “Don’t think we’ve seen you here before.”

“Nope,” he said while scanning them for arms and yes all three wore sidearms. “Uh, Martha over there invited us. I hope it’s okay we showed up.”

“Well Martha should have mentioned we try to leave our rifles at home,” he voice sounded rough, but then he suddenly smiled, “but it’s your first time, so no bad, but more importantly what did you bring to trade.”

“I have some honey wheat in my bag and I-”

The man to the right, wearing the Stetson, smiled, “Oh damn stranger, I think my wife may be interested in some of that. You like bacon?”

“Yeah,” he stretched out the word.

“Well come over to our table, I got pounds of it ready to trade.”


*         *         *         *


Later, back at their unraided home, the couple sat at the table enjoying a dish of homemade pasta, tomatoes, and fresh chicken.

“I’m waiting,” Franny said while trying to hide her grin.

“Okay, you were right, not everyone in the apocalypse needs to be killed.”


“Isn’t trying to kill us.”

“Good, I’m glad you understand not everyone is out to steal your fertilizer piles and we can focus more on rebuilding civilization instead of tricky ways to kill people. Now go get some of your homemade pepper spray this need a little spice.”


camp one one


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Let me back up before I move forward. I have just passed my 40th year of playing Dungeons and Dragons. When the first remake came out, at the time, I was angered over Gary Gygax being kicked out of his own company and the game becoming too politically correct. So I never added to my collection with the newer books and I stayed on this vein through the proceeding decades and various D and D updates. Although I have been participating as a player in a 3.5 game over the last couple of years, I have not updated my own first edition game for over 40 years.

Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook for 5E

Genre:  Fantasy (RPG)

Publisher:  Wizards of the Coast

Released:  2014

Stars:   4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths

So what made me break down and spend the money to start accumulating the newest edition of Dungeons and Dragons, 5E? My young boys would be the answer. I wanted to start getting them to game with me and figured, if they like it, the kids in school will not be playing an edition from the 70s.

This being said, let’s dive into this system, which although 5 years old, was new to me.  The handbook guides a player through character creation in a long and very detailed manner. The instructions for the most part make sense (Although I still have some unanswered questions) and should excite old and new players alike.

Besides the subtle changes in the systems, which might be too complex to really dive into in depth here, one of the primary changes is the vast number of character classes one can play. For instance, Rangers used to be a subclass of Fighters, but now Rangers have their own subclasses. Many races have subraces too, so overall I would say there are roughly four times the number of classes and maybe five times the number of races one can play. Each of the subraces and classes have various divergent abilities which increase as they advance in levels.


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In my eyes, the classes appear to start off much stronger, but slow as they increase in levels compared to the original. They also max out at 20th level, which although my highest level character is 18th, this still seems a little limiting.

I guess in general comparing the original against the most recent version of Dungeons and Dragons brings up the interesting question: Which is better, a system designed by one genius or a team of people editing and building on his ideas?

I think one of the big the pros of the original is it felt gritter and much more deadly. Poison killed a character and did not give them a headache and minus on rolls for an hour. People could be hit by death spells, get levels drained, be turned to stone, or swallowed whole and in a round your character is gone.


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In the newer edition much of the teeth is taken out of spell and monster effects. It also allows short rests which can recharge characters, but nothing is as crazy as the idea that a character gets all their lost hit points back when they take a long sleep! This and many things make this seem more like a game, instead of real events interpreted the best way possible through rules and dice rolling. No way would a guy peppered with eight arrows feel perfect after a snooze.

For what it sets out to do it accomplishes. It seems fun and for a guy like me feels like a strange mix of playing a brand new game while slipping back into a comfortable broken in set of shoes. The goal and effort is epic, I just tagged it down a little because I feel they made it a little too easy for players and made them rock stars even at first level to insure, even from the beginning, the players will have enough tricks to continue to want to play and buy more of their books.


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Do Not Resuscitate by Nicholas Ponticello is loosely a science fiction book which bounces from recent years to a few decades in the future. It follows the life of Jim Frost and his family. The book itself only dips its toe in the smallest fashion into any type of science fiction concepts. If anything the differences between our current times and these future decades is minimal and not discussed to any real degree other than water is scare and crops are failing, but it does not affect him and his family because they are prosperous.

Do Not Resuscitate by Nicholas Ponticello


Genre:  Science Fiction

Publisher: Booleanop

Released:  2015

Stars:  3 Stars

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths

The novel moves from the future to dozens of different levels of flashbacks where Jim details himself and his family. He discusses things of mild interest and his strange messenger job where he receives and transports red coolers.

In some respects this does seem like an older man telling his memoirs and trying to include anything he might consider interesting enough to share. So there is a dose of realism, which you often do not get in fiction where authors search for the fantastic and dramatic. This seems more like sitting with your grandfather on the back porch while he tells you how he met your grandmother.

There is really no plot or endgame although some of it is amusing. It is also a likeable tale, but more of a fictional memoir than an action or science fiction story. Drawbacks might include the sort of cheery white privilege aspect. “Everything goes right for us and we all get rich and have great opportunities.” Also, despite a build up into mystery with the red coolers, it fizzles out into a small side bar of the story, but allows Jim to have an association to helping the planet, but only as a courier doing something which we are not shown.

If you are looking for a slightly amusing, good humored, fictional ramble by a man living into the near future you should look this one up.


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