A Book Review Blog

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Black Creek by Dan Kemp

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect with Black Creek, but I liked the sound of the blurb, which promised some kind of strange, time-spanning mystery. It was pretty vague as to what that mystery would entail, but I can safely say that the actual development was about as far from my mind as was possible to get.

Black Creek explores a strange phenomena that spans across time. In 1890, the mayor of a declining industrial town is desperately attempting to keep his community together while also trying to get revenge for the death of his wife. In 1972, an inexperienced con-artist finds herself in over her head when a supposedly easy job goes wrong. And in 2020, a vigilante prowls the streets of Pittsburgh, killing and injuring petty criminals. In the build-up to the 2020 elections, these stories will come together with world-changing consequences.
I will tell you straight up that that description I wrote above, based largely off of the blurb that I read, is more than a little misleading. That description covers the first third of the book. After that, it becomes Mad Max with dinosaurs. I can’t say that I was expecting it at all, and I can’t help but wonder if a lot of readers will be put off if they were looking to read something more mundane.
The overwhelming impression that I got from Black Creek was one of a book that had a lot of ideas, but wasn’t polished enough to really pull them off. Ideally, it needed more refinement before it was released, to iron out some issues that get pretty glaring as they mount up. For example, going back to the blurb there, it sounds very much like the events of 1890 and 1972 will be really important and influence the later events of the novel. They were disappointingly unimportant to the wider scheme of things. The 1890 section introduces a character who turns up later but isn’t hugely important, while the 1972 section could probably have been cut in its entirety without any real damage to the plot’s integrity. I feel like they could have easily been glossed over with a paragraph or a chapter at most, so that more time could be dedicated to some of the more interesting ideas that get dropped by the end because there’s no time left. For instance, there are a handful of supernatural characters introduced, one of whom has only just figured out their powers and their impending immortality. It’s implied that she’ll have to make some tough decisions in the near future, but the book never addresses it because hey the main plot is over. Another of the supernatural character muses over his nature and contemplates whether he could be a god incarnate. Also never goes anywhere, because it’s not useful to the plot. It’s really disappointing too, because Black Creek could have been a really interesting and unusual look at the pros and cons of immortality, but it ends up being poorly implemented and frustrating to read as a result.

There are a lot of ideas here that could have been great if expanded on and refined, but as it stands it’s a disappointing hodge-podge that is trying to be too many things at once. I can see the misleading blurb putting off more than a few potential readers as well. 2/5

Next review: Battle Angel Alita Volume 1 by Yukito Kishiro

Signing off,

The Violent Fae Blog Tour

I am pleased to announce that I am taking part in the blog tour for the third book in Phil William’s Sunken City trilogy, The Violent Fae. To count down to its release date, each stop on the tour will be debuting one of twelve short stories set in the city of Ordshaw, each providing a glimpse into the city’s chaos. At this stop on the tour you can read “The Neighbours”.

The Neighbours
Number 34 opened onto a lop-sided man, legs wider than his torso and round head perpetually tilted. Capillaries showed through his patchy skin, and his teeth were a bit too big for his lips to conceal. He wore stained sweatpants and a t-shirt too small for his girth, nothing on his chunky feet. His greeting was not exactly a word.
Pritchard did not judge. It took all sorts to make a world. On Bartlett Street, a cosmopolitan bunch took advantage of the cheaper flats above stores, an affordable gateway to West Farling.
“Yes, hello, sorry to bother you – I live across the road.” Pritchard indicated her modest dwelling above the betting shop. “55a. I’ve been asking around to see if anyone’s heard these strange sounds at night.”
From the look on the man’s face, she could have spoken a foreign language. She dealt with enough oddities at the library not to let that trouble her. Some people needed a little patience.
“Strange because they’re quiet, and rather distinct, at the same time. People enjoying themselves, but I’ve no idea where. The gentleman at 32 wasn’t much help, nor the couple in 53, and I think him in 57 is away. I’ve spoken to Riley’s, under me, and the charity shop. No one else has heard these people. But you look an observant chap, perhaps you have?”
The man shook his head mutely, hand hovering towards closing the door.
“The sounds come from this direction,” Pritchard quickly pushed on, “but I’ve seen no sign of activity. Talking, laughter, music, but all rather quiet. Like it’s in the wall, almost.” She gave that an appropriate chuckle. “Quite irritating. Especially when I can’t find a source.”
The man made no comment. Waiting for her to get to the point.
“I suppose you haven’t heard anything yourself, then?” Pritchard sighed. “53 suggested someone left a radio on. A TV. I had Riley’s double-check their equipment. But the sounds aren’t like that – they come and go. Definitely people socialising. Perhaps its travelling in the pipes?”
“You work the library,” the man finally spoke.
Pritchard paused. “I do, yes, the Bolling Crescent branch. Are you a member?”
He shook his head. His watchful quiet was starting to become unsettling.
“And yourself …?”
“Drive the buses.”
Pritchard smiled politely. “Well. You must think I’m loopy, with these strange ideas.”
“Nah,” he shrugged his sunken shoulders. “Probably the sin, is what it is.”
Pritchard gave him a blank look.
“Sin rising up. They’re at it all day, after all, it’s got to go somewhere.” He pointed at the betting shop. Though a gambling house, Riley’s Bettor Off was hardly a den of inequity; they had armchairs and an oddly up-market clientele. And Pritchard quite enjoyed the quirky name. Details apparently lost on the man from 34.
“I’m not a holy man,” he assured her. “Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think sin’s all checks and balances towards some afterlife. Just that it’s got to go somewhere, doesn’t it? All the bad, people’s corruption, it has a way, seeps out, rises or whatnot. I see it on passenger’s faces, the way a little lady creases up when you’ve got a black guy sits down next to her.”
“Oh my,” Pritchard exclaimed.
“Got to be something like that. Don’t know how you sleep at all, up there, if I’m honest.”
She took a very small step back, not daring to blink. He hadn’t moved.
“Come in for a tea?”
“I …” Pritchard swallowed. Perhaps he had misspoken, and a longer chat might clarify his beliefs. It took all sorts. Or perhaps there would be worse, once the surface was scratched. Taking another small step back, she said, “Yes, well, thank you anyway.”
The man didn’t seem to notice nor mind the rejection. “Any time.”
He closed the door. The slam made Pritchard flinch.
Between that and the impatience of 32, she had little desire to continue. Ear plugs would do the trick. Yes. Better to wear ear plugs than discover who else shared Bartlett Street.

If you enjoyed that vignette, then there are multiple ways to read more about Ordshaw and its supernatural inhabitants. To ease you into it, you can read the other vignettes on the tour. Yesterday’s vignette, “The Chemist”, can be found on Bibliosanctum. Or if you’re already following the blog tour, tomorrow’s vignette, “The Artist”, will be available on Out of This World SFF Reviews.

For those of you interested in the Sunken City series proper, the final chapter will be available from Amazon, on Kindle and in paperback, as of November 5th 2019.
If you haven’t started the series yet, you are in luck as the first book in the series, Under Ordshaw, is currently on offer on Kindle on the UK and US Amazon stores until November 1st. They’re available for $0.99 and £0.99, so grab it while you can. There is unfortunately no sale for the second part of the series, Blue Angel, but it is definitely worth picking up if you’ve got the time.

Signing off,

On a sidenote: Project Skylark

Not a review this time, but an appeal to whatever regular readership I have out there. I have a friend in the real world whose book is currently on Inkshares. This site is kind of like Kickstarter but specifically for publishing. At the moment, her manuscript is in the pre-order stage, and if she gets enough people to order copies then it will be properly published. She’s been working on it for a long while now, so if you like the sound of the book pitch, then please consider ordering a copy. So, without further ado, may I introduce Project Skylark by Jennifer Hart.

Lost in Space meets Dune.
The crew of a marooned ship struggle to survive a hostile alien environment, whilst discovering that every decision they make will have far reaching consequences for the future of humanity. 

So, if you interested in Project Skylark then please click the enclosed link. The page includes a sample chapter to whet your appetite, and some very reasonably priced pre-order options.

Thanks for reading!

Signing off,


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