Saturday, August 22, 2015

Review of Dead Reign by T. A. Pratt

I realize this 2008 offering from T. A. Pratt is only the third in a longer series, but it's my first introduction to his master sorceress, Marla Mason.

It would have been nice to get to know Marla a little better before the action of this story begins. Instead, after Death kicks her out of Felport, the city she runs, she hardly plays a role in the story until about 80% of the way in.

While her supporters, led by mysterious entity Rondeau,
fight a rear-guard resistance, we are left to wonder what her next
play will be, if any. Finally, she decides to invade Hell to kick some
butt. She just happens to know a seer who can get her in. It all
sounds a little too easy.

Luckily, I always enjoy it when there's a feckless sidekick, and Dead Reign introduces Pelham, gifted to Marla as a "valet," much against her desires. Pelham is rather naive and wishy-washy (picture Jarvis in "Agent Carter,") but a welcome addition anyway, especially when we see Marla rescue him after he's been eaten by a dragon/witch.

Marla's sortie into Hell can't help but be a real thrill ride. You see, hell is an individual thing. In this case, it embodies all of Marla's worst fears and contains her worst, albeit dead, enemies. Pratt throws an incredible panoply of nightmarish monsters and creatures at Marla and Pelham. But the one monster she never would expect is Death himself--or, rather, the
old Death, who refuses to step down. He makes Marla an offer she can't refuse, and we await the verdict: Who will reign in Hell?

As you might guess, Marla lives to fight another day in the sequel, "Spell Games." Dead Reign's available on Amazon.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Notes from the Editor: "Only Disconnect"

Third Flatiron's summer edition calls upon Presentism as a theme: the pitfalls of distraction, overstimulation, and other attention thieves—too much to do, too little time. We asked: Are we becoming ADD? What are the advantages of being "in the present," or even bored?

      We open with Evan Henry's near-future detective thriller set in Shanghai, "Seventh Sense," a world where there are "too many people" and the State tightly monitors everyone. What would you do to have just three minutes to yourself?
      Arrest and interrogation with undisclosed charges is a common science fiction nightmare, but Steve Coate adds a new twist in his dark tale, "Jacked." ("But officer, I wasn't even there, I tell you.")
      We're so connected to our identity as human beings, it's interesting to contemplate what would happen if we had to take an alien perspective into account, as in Jonathan Shipley's "Aqua Equal," a fun tale about the first Earth student to attend college with our alien overlords. Evelyn Deshane takes us to the "Carnival of Colours," where aliens judge you by the color of your name.
      We're featuring a lot of game-related excitement in this issue. Stephanie Flood's adventure, "A House of Mirrors," and Jason Lairamore's "She Dies," show us that it's not always "just a game," but that's the fun of it, right?
      Though it saves us the trouble of dating, online romance can be risky, and it's even more so if the intelligent AI running the network doesn't like mushy stuff, as in E. E. King's "Just Visulate."
      We can't resist a bit of the steampunk, of course. In Matt Weinburg's "The Eyes in the Water," a young blogger gains a wide audience as he tracks the mystery of his deceased uncle's intelligent creation.
      Connect with the Earth rather than Bluetooth? Maybe going back to Nature is the solution to today's over-booked world. When a couple goes camping together in Adria Laycraft's "Killing the Green Man," we learn that's not always the case.
      It's just a gut feeling, but we think Robert Lowell Russell is onto something when he says "Super Bugs" are about to give us a nudge.
      Other humorous offerings for this round include Elliotte Rusty Harold's "Email Recovered from Genetech Debris, Lieutenant Jeffrey Abramowitz Investigating" and Wendy Nikel's "Life After Download." Whew, take a breath. And then call your mother.
      Finally, we close with Paul Barclay's luminous "Into the Light," where we learn that even though you can't hug a hologram, even a character who's not very likable or connected with people can still have the best of intentions that turn out to benefit humanity.
      "Only Disconnect" proudly showcases an international group of new and established speculative fiction authors, who help us decide whether it's time to disconnect—or instead to connect even further.
      It's available on Amazon and Smashwords.