REVIEW: Subhuman by Michael McBride

SUBHUMAN is a smart horror story. I’m pretty sure my IQ jumped up a point or two after reading this. Smart writing would be an understatement. It’s a great story but what made it special to me is that it’s a story backed up by facts. Horrifying facts that I simply couldn’t believe until I backed up the author’s (Michael McBride) research with my own and found everything I questioned to be true.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it feels educational because it’s a horror fiction. Yet, being a story that plays out in a way that’s very much possible in real life, it’s a special kind of horror fiction. The kind that you can’t just put down and soothe your fear with denial and indifference. You have to accept the possibility of this story whether you like it or not.

That’s the best I can do without spoiling anything. If you like catchy intelligent narratives from realistic characters inside a “sciency” horror story, you’ll love this novel.

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REVIEW: Retrograde by Peter Cawdron

RETROGRADE’s plot is fascinating and its author’s powerful storytelling ability pulls you right in from the first page and simply does not let go. The coolest part about this novel, to me, is that every thought, idea, and word is backed up by thorough research and rigorous attention to factual detail. It’s apparent throughout the entire story that the author, Peter Cawdron, sought out the right people and resources to learn about every technicality involved with a Mars survival story. What you’re reading is totally viable and, for me, that’s what makes this story special. It touches the intrinsic desire in all humans to seek knowledge, all while entertaining you with top-notch writing and a perfectly geeky sci-fi story.

And what a story it is! Brilliant minds on Mars fighting for their lives and the lives of everyone they love on Earth? Sold. RETROGRADE shows us how a group of amazing scientists and field pillars are faced with life or death decisions that are about as moral as decisions get – save yourself or save the world kind of decisions. And the decisions made in this story are beautiful and ugly. Humanity at it’s finest and, naturally, at its worst as well.

And trust me when I say, you’ll be rooting for these people. Cawdron’s great at emotionally connecting the reader to his characters. By the end of each of his novels that I’ve read, I’ve felt like I’d made new friends. Like I’d met some people with whom I’d love to grab a beer or, in this case, go spelunking on Mars. This novel is no different so when a cast of fellow geeks and people I genuinely admire are dropped head first into a situation in which most people couldn’t survive, I found it very difficult to put the book down.

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There was another piece to this story that really fascinated me. RETROGRADE made me think long and hard about an inevitable choice humanity will have to face in the not so distant future: share our planet with an emerging new species, find a new planet to call home, or become cattle. And the scariest part about it? We won’t be the ones making the decision. Since I have no intention of spoiling this brilliant novel, and it’s about a lot more than the preceding observation, I’ll stop right there and just say this: you won’t regret reading this book.

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In closing, this novel is a true page-turner that gives you a first-hand view of the beauty (and ugliness) of humanity when faced with a hopeless disaster. Furthermore, it serves as a perfect example of how the most important war humanity will ever fight can potentially kick off.

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Colic Chronicle

My son is nearly two months old and has colic. Or is colic. I’m not sure which is right. I stayed up all last night with him while he squirmed and cried and attempted all the body’s maneuvers for pushing out a fart without the use of fully developed stomach muscles. It was painful to watch. It was also very annoying. Never more than five minutes after he’d start to show signs of relief, I would see his brow start to crease, his cheeks bunch up under his eyes, and his lips begin to tremor under his slowing distending jaw and I’d often mutter to myself while feeling an empty pit of frustration and guilt in my stomach turn, “oh, wonderful.”

The doctor’s office called around 7am to let us know they were able to squeeze him in this morning before their first regular appointment. I downed a large cup of black coffee and strapped him in the car seat and off the three of us went. Olivia sat in the backseat with him. Of course when we got in to see the doctor, Owen was sound asleep making us look like total crackpot hypochondriacs. I joked to the doctor how your car always works perfectly when you bring it into the mechanic for something. He didn’t laugh.

The doctor said he’s sure my son is colic. Or has colic. I can’t remember. So we packed him up and brought him home and he slept for another hour before finally turning into a little zombie trying to latch on to anything that remotely looked like a nipple. How can anyone, baby or not, get so excited about milk. I love him. He’s driving me nuts. Poor thing.

I Read Authors, Not Books

I don’t care too much for vampire stories anymore. Along with werewolves, zombies, and Spider-Man, I think vampires have gotten way too much mileage to be interesting anymore.Vampire meme

I’m currently reading Salem’s Lot by Stephen King and even though it’s his Dracula story it still has me hooked. My mother describes King as the Danielle Steel of horror. I’ve never read a Danielle Steel book so I can’t comment on the comparison but if my mother is right and if I liked reading about rich families in crises then I’d probably love Danielle Steel. The fact that I can’t put this vampire story down proves to me that an avid reader reads authors, not books. Lucky for me I read Stephen King who has over 50 novels and countless short stories. It looks like H.P. Lovecraft is also sizing up to be a favorite so I’m happy to say I won’t have any shortage of things to read in the near future.

Reading for Pleasure

I just recently started to read for pleasure. The entirety of my reading before consisted of research for my profession but that’s not something I’d specifically describe as pleasurable. Frederick Douglass said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free,” and although now I couldn’t agree more with that statement, before I would not have really understood what he meant by that.

What turned me on to the idea of reading for pleasure was a movie trailer for The Dark Tower, the new movie based on The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. When I saw the trailer I was already approaching the idea of trying out reading for pleasure and then seeing it made me think why not start with that. I’m a lover of horror movies so I thought it would make sense that I’d love the king of horror’s magnum opus. I wasn’t wrong. The first book sucked me in and the last 30 pages or so blew my mind. I was beside myself. I finally found something to eradicate any trace or thought of boredom from my life. Thank you, Stephen King!

Anomaly by Peter Cawdron
Anomaly by Peter Cawdron

Since then I’ve consumed most of The Dark Tower series, a lot of Lovecraft, a lot by an indie author named Peter Cawrdron, and have even ventured into books I would’ve never thought I’d ever read. Kafka was a genius.

Goodreads sorting options.
Goodreads sorting options.

Keeping track of the books I’ve read but more usefully the books I want to read is an easy task with Goodreads. They’ve got a pretty cool app and their (free) service even ties into my Kindle. Probably the most useful thing about Goodreads though is the book ratings piece. Not only can I see what people, including my Facebook friends, are saying about the books I want to read, I can sort through my list of “Want to Read” books by a number of metrics including “Number of Ratings.” So, if I’m not in the mood to take a risk on a book, I can sort my list by the number of ratings each book has and make sure to select one that has thousands, if not tens of thousands, of good ratings. If I want to take a risk I might look for one with only a hundred or so good ratings. It’s really an excellent service. Here’s my Goodreads profile if you’re interested in connecting with me there.

Journaling

Cat writing a letter.Wiser men and women than I have repeatedly advised me to write everyday. Write anything, they say. It’s the process of writing that’s important, not so much what is written. With that I thought why not start blogging.

I’ve always had various blogs across various websites since around 2005. Some of them were even remotely useful too. Yet, my blogging was always done for reasons that no longer concern me about a personal website. So, I’m hoping that I will use this opportunity to write freely and try to enjoy it a little.

Here goes nothing.

Hello, Owen.

I had a son today. Well, my wife technically “had” him but I had a lot to do with it. He’s perfect and life makes so much more sense now. I really couldn’t be happier and I love him more than anything.

Often I hear parents describing the experience of having children as something you just have to experience yourself to really understand. I use to try to relate by imagining the unconditional love I have for my cats (and my dog who’s no longer with us) but they’d almost always say that it’s not the same or to take that love and multiply it by a thousand. Now that I’ve experienced it myself I can see where they are coming from but I don’t believe that a person can’t experience that kind of happiness unless they have a child. Unconditional love is unconditional love and I believe if you have ever truly experienced that then you know what having a child feels like.

Adam with his newborn son, Owen.

Here’s a picture of me and my son, Owen. Someone had just asked me if he was going to grow up and be a Windows user.