#BookReview: Omega by Jeremy Robinson

Picking up right where RAGNAROK leaves us, we think we know what is coming. Particularly with a title like OMEGA, you’re expecting an ending.

And an ending you get. But it is NOT going to be one you see coming.

Along the way, you get classic CHESS TEAM level kicking of ass. You get old bad guys. You get a couple of new ones. You get old friends. You get new ones. You get old players switching teams.

And in the end, you get…

an end.

Jeremy and Kane throw plenty of loops in that were not expected, as well as a couple of kick ass scenes that are. One fight that you know is coming you do indeed get – but not in the way you expect. One fight that you expect gets one of the players changed – and quite possibly becomes a bit cooler because of it, particularly due to the setup of this particular fight in some regards.

Long time fans may be torn by how this plays out – I know I am. But it is absolutely one of the best books out there and deserving of the full 5 stars and then some. Read this book and you’ll see what I mean about the stars, and possibly understand why I am torn. But then, long time fans are already going to pick this up. For people considering Jeremy and the CHESS TEAM, I’ll say this: Go ahead and buy every single one of them. You’ll want them available as you finish them. Then read them in the order they were published: PULSE, INSTINCT, THRESHOLD, the CALLSIGN novellas, PRIME, OMEGA. You will be in for the ride of your life!

This review of Omega by Jeremy Robinson and Kane Gilmour was originally published on September 25, 2013.

#BookReview: Prime by Jeremy Robinson

The latest edition of the Chess Team saga takes it back to before it all began – when Jack Sigler was known as “Elvis” and before he had ever met Stan Tremblay, Shin Dae Jung, Erik Somers, and Zelda Baker.

I’m not going to get into the plot on this review, suffice it to say that it is a classic Chess Team rollercoaster that has them travel over much of the globe while explaining the need for just such a team very well.

If you’ve never read a Jeremy Robinson book, particularly from the Chess Team series, this one is the first one in storyline order and serves as an excellent origins story. If you’re a long time fan, this is another wild ride you’ve come to expect, with a few geek out moments thrown in – such as when “Elvis” becomes “King”, and even moreso when Stan, Shin, Erik, and Zelda become “Rook”, “Knight”, “Bishop”, and “Queen”.

The introductions to each character are done very well indeed, and some classic moments that have never before been put in the books are revealed. Among them:

How does Stan get his Desert Eagles?
How do Zelda and Jack meet, and how does Jack gain Zelda’s trust?
Who the hell is this “Richard” guy that seems to be financing the bad guys?

The most important question (as far as the future of Chess Team goes) is left unanswered:

How do the events of PRIME – the story of the beginnings of Chess Team – affect what long time fans know and expect to see in OMEGA – the story of the endings of Chess Team, coming out later this year? I have my suspicions, but at this point the only thing any of us other than Robinson and his coauthor for OMEGA, Kane Gilmour, know for sure:

No matter what happens, it will be one hell of a ride!

This review of Prime by Jeremy Robinson and Sean Ellis was originally published on July 27, 2013.

#BookReview: Rise of the Warrior Cop by Radley Balko

Balko opens up this book with the statement that it is not an anti-cop book, but rather an anti-politician/ policy book, and he largely maintains that theme throughout.

He starts are far back as before the Norman Conquest of England, showing how law enforcement evolved under the English tradition and common law, the source of the American model. He moves into the colonial period, where he shows how the writs of assistance – and one defense lawyer’s 5 hour courtroom diatribe against them – provoked the colonies to begin openly opposing the Crown. Then he moves through the Civil War and Reconstruction, showing the origins of the Posse Comitatus Act and the beginnings of the “professional” police force. Yes, unlike what many may expect, the modern police force didn’t come into being until less than 150 years ago. Much of this period of the book speaks of direct militarization – using the military as cops.

He then spends the bulk of the book in just the last 50 years or so speaking primarily of indirect militarization – having cops increasingly act, speak, and look like soldiers. The Boston Bombings happened as the book was being printed, so there is no mention of that particular scenario and the now infamous picture of the “cop” in full military gear sitting in the turret of an APC pointing a sniper rifle through a window and having his picture taken from inside the window he was pointing at.

He begins with SWAT and Darryl Gates, then switches back and forth between SWAT and the nascent Drug War, eventually showing how the two became tied to each other. Even at this point in the book, you’re barely 40% in. The raw numbers he cites at the end of each chapter begin to get more and more chilling, and the case studies he illustrates start bad and get worse.

Through it all, he maintains what he said at the beginning: He focuses more on the policies that allow these abuses than the cops themselves, though obviously he names names when speaking of specific abuses. He also highlights men who bucked the trend, such as Norm Stamper and the police chief of DC in the early 70s who was given explicit authority by Congress to use no-knock warrants and refused to do so. He shows that in San Diego, while crime was getting worse in the rest of the country it was actually getting lower there due to their less militant approach to policing. He discusses the SLA shootout and the pop culture, including the show SWAT, and how they led to the proliferation of SWAT units.

In the 1990s chapter, he specifically speaks of the North Hollywood Shootout and Columbine – and shows how that if the SLA raid and North Hollywood Shootout highlighted the strengths of SWAT, Columbine arguably showed them at their worst. It was another situation almost tailor made for SWAT – and SWAT said it was too dangerous for them.

He then spends time on the Battle for Seattle and how Norm Stamper, who defended the actions at the time as Seattle’s police chief, later came to call his decisions there the worst mistake of his career.

Through it all, Balko points out time and time again the truth of the old adage “give an inch and they’ll take a mile”. In his last two chapters, he drives the point home repeatedly that had my grandparents at my age woken up one morning to the America I now live in, there would have been riots in the streets at how (my illustration here) Andy Mayberry had become Judge Dredd.

His recommendations for changing things are solid, though I wish he would have mentioned the organization I have worked with for the past couple of years as well as a newer offshoot – CopBlock.org and InnocentDown.org. The closest he gets is acknowledging the rise of “cop watch” sites and social media as one useful tool in holding police accountable. Through all of his recommendations, he keeps a realistic eye on how likely they are as well as pointing out simple things that could go a long way to restoring at least some balance. While he does indeed address the police culture in at least one of the recommendations, by and large his recommendations all center around the overall theme of changing bad policy.

IMHO, every American citizen needs to read, comprehend, and take action on this book’s recommendations. Together, we can save ourselves, our families, our communities, and complete strangers we’ll never meet on this earth. As cops like to say so often, if it saves a single life, it is worth it.

This review of Rise of the Warrior Cop by Radley Balko was originally published on July 15, 2013.

#BookReview: Deception by Kelly Carrero

This book starts off with our heroine from the first two books, Jade, reeling from the revelation at the end of the second book. While fleeing from the madman still trying to torment her, she gets another note from him: “You took something from me, now I’m going to take something from you”. Instantly in panic mode, she reveals her secret to her human best friend in order to try to protect her. The tension never really lets up, and as has become Ms. Carrero’s style, the last 2 pages reveal a major bomb that yet again sends Jade reeling. For more on that, I guess we’ll have to wait for Ms. Carrero to write book 4!

Go ahead and pick up book 1 (Evolution) before reading this one, as this particular series you really have to read in order to understand even half of what is going on. I can tell you from both my own experience and my wife’s that once you read Evolution, you’ll be hooked on this series!

Ms. Carrero, please write faster! 😉

This review of Deception by Kelly Carrero was originally published on May 2, 2013.

#BookReview: The Crypt of Dracula by Kane Gilmour

Gilmour warns at the outset to the book that he is a big fan of the 70s and earlier incarnations of Count Dracula, and he sticks to that warning throughout the book while doing a superb job of showing what vampires are SUPPOSED to be like.

From the opening scene of the book where a pile of ash gets bloody and a creature arises, to the first time we see our hero and see the reaction of the villagers when they are told where he is going to be working, to the first time we see Castle Dracula, and at every point in this book… you get the dark, mysterious, awe inspiring power of evil that is Vampire.

None of that sparkly, angsty, weak crap here. The only romance you’ll see is just a touch of it between our hero and his wife – who are both subsequently put in mortal danger along with a couple of their friends.

Instead, you get intriguing mystery – what happened at this castle? Why is it in such disrepair? Who is the mysterious Count? Why are his servants never seen? – and fast paced action.

With a particularly good ending.

If you want to see what Vempires – and particularly the infamous Count Dracula – are REALLY supposed to be, do yourself a favor and pick up this book!

This review of The Crypt of Dracula by Kane Gilmour was originally published on May 2, 2013.

#BookReview: Island 731 by Jeremy Robinson

Yet again, Robinson – already one of the greatest authors currently writing – outdoes even himself.

We open in WWII, where we get a sense of what is to transpire throughout the book. After the opener, we find ourselves in the middle of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch aboard the Magellan… about to be eaten by a shark!

It never really lets up from there, though when the crew of the Magellan finds a pillbox inscribed with “731”, anyone who has heard of the real-life Unit 731 of the Empire of Japan during WWII automatically has a skin-crawl moment.

Robinson has written of chimeras before, but never before has he based a story around such an atrocious real world event – and he even gives a real world history lesson during the course of the book.

Just when you think the book is winding down and all the monsters are revealed, you get a plot twist you never see coming. Then the surprises are over, right? Not at all. Indeed, Robinson keeps them coming right until the very last word of this masterpiece.

If you’ve never read Jeremy before, pick this up – you won’t be disappointed.

This review of Island 731 by Jeremy Robinson was originally published on April 21, 2013.

#BookReview: Primal Thirst by Kent Holloway

In Kent Holloway’s Primal Thirst, we start out with Jack, a cigar chomping professor/ cryptozoologist/ adventurer in the Amazon chasing a supposedly mythological creature – and get pounced on by real cats at the edge of a ravine! Barely escaping that calamity, Jack gets offered a simple job with a lot of money behind it. Fly immediately to Malaysia, rescue a Senator’s daughter, and fly her home safely. Nothing to it, right?

Except that she’s beautiful and the remote tribe she is working with is being slowly slaughtered by creatures that a) are not supposed to exist b) IF they exist, they are supposed to be no more than a foot or two tall and c) are over 4 feet tall! Oh, and they suck you dry of blood… without leaving a mark on you.

Can our daring adventurer save the day? What are these creatures? How did they get so big? And why does some former Soviet who is intent on overthrowing the Malaysian government want the oldest of the creatures for himself?

Well, you’re just going to have to read this book to find out!

*Disclaimer: I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review.

This review of Primal Thirst by Kent Holloway was originally published on February 27, 2013.

#BookReview The Djinn by Kent Holloway

This is my first book from J. Kent Holloway… and it most certainly will NOT be my last!

The action starts off with King Solomon (you know, ancient Jewish king, Son of David, Solomon’s Temple, all that jazz) thirsting for knowledge – and nearly paying for it with his life.

Several centuries later, during the Crusades, a new man – Baron Gregory – seeks the same knowledge. He has been sent to Jerusalem, blessed by the Vatican with the mission of finding the Urim and Thummim… except that isn’t why he’s *really* in Jerusalem.

As he nears completion of his actual goal, a specter begins showing up and kidnapping his men. Those few who see it and remain to tell the tale speak of a living shadow that smells of brimstone. They call it… The Djinn, based on Saracen/ Muslim folklore of spirit beings between humans and angels.

What is The Djinn? What is its goal? You’ll just have to read the book to find out. Well paced with lots of intrigue and action, as I noted in the title of this review, this is a book you REALLY don’t want to put down!

*Note: I received my copy of the book free from the author (who happens to also be the publisher) in exchange for an honest review.

The review of The Djinn by Kent Holloway was originally published on February 13, 2013.