Cozy Paranormal Small Town Apocalyptic Romantic Mystery. Holy shit, what a combination of genres we have here. This is absolutely one of those “cozy” mysteries you keep hearing about – there aren’t any bodies or even any particularly dark secrets here, and the focus is more on the lighter, almost Hallmarkie, side of things. But there is active witchcraft involved in this small town… and possibly (absolutely) a few other paranormal elements, but that gets into spoiler territory. And the mystery involves an almost Buffy the Vampire Slayer type Apocalypse… but *only* for this particular small town. Yes, it may face annihilation but the world as a whole will be perfectly fine. And of course we have the requisite “Angel” type character for our more grown-up “Buffy”, the dark and mysterious dude with serious connection issues yet who manages to “randomly” connect with our female lead. But hey, it all works, it all has a more relaxed yet serious vibe, there’s quite a bit of humor and heart here. I mean, really… what more do you actually want? Bodies? Erotica? World wide catastrophe? Well, if you want those last three… as I’ve alluded to or outright said earlier in the review, this book aint that. But if you’re looking for a more relaxed read by the fireplace or while the kids are at yet another practice or some such… this is a great book for that. Very much recommended.
The Most Fantastical Sigma Book Yet – Yet Also Much More Real Than Previous Attempts. You can almost see in this book where Rollins was working on his fantasy books by this point, or at least his mind was already going that direction, just by how truly implausible and into the outright fantastical the “science” of this book gets. As in, hello Fergully / Avatar, complete with vividly colored creatures and mystical tree with healing powers. And yet, this is still solidly a Sigma Force tale, complete with a divided team and links to both history and science, however tenuous. Still, it may truly be getting to the point of needing to end on as high a note as possible before becoming a laughingstock, because yes, admittedly, this one does truly get that bad at times in reflection, while still feeling like the taught action thriller it is while reading it.
For those that can’t possibly read about animals being in any degree of “harm” at all, know that war dog handler Tucker and his dog, Kane, play major roles here – and indeed, some of the more inventive while still realistic roles in this tale.
As for the “Much More Real Than Previous Attempts” bit, in The Last Oracle Rollins portrayed Autistics as damn near superhumans, with almost god-like abilities. Here, the Autistic character – a different one, and seemingly the first one mentioned at all in Sigma since Oracle – is a much more grounded and realistic Autistic, complete with hyperfocusing, rambling, self-recriminations, blowups, sensory issues… and no real meltdowns, which is perhaps the only “not-real” aspect of this particular character. In other words, at least in regard to Autism generally, Rollins shows tremendous growth over the last decade or so and is to be commended for showing how such a person could be a benefit even in such tense, potentially Apocalyptic, times.
Overall, this is going to be a particularly divisive book mostly because of just how fantastical it does get at times, but I thought while reading it that it worked perfectly well within the story – though even while reading it I was thinking it was a touch fantastical, and the Avatar notes in particular were unavoidable even while reading – and this was a solid several hours of pure escapist fun, no matter the exact bent of the genre of the story. Very much recommended.
Solid Middle-Of-Trilogy Tale. This book is one of those that has basically one goal – tell a solid tale that picks up well from the opening book and sets up the final book to be MUST. READ. It does that job pretty solidly. It continues our various storylines from the first book, though it perhaps could have used a “Last Time, On…” bit at the beginning for some of the storylines that don’t get *as* much attention. But the two main storylines – in the Amazon and on a race through the US – are well done, the chapters nearly all end on the classic mini-cliffhangers that make you want to read the next chapter immediately (while skipping to one of the other storylines for the next chapter and thus making you wait to come back to the cliffhanger you just left). The reveals get more and more impactful, all while the overall situation continues to deteriorate in light of the events of the opening book. And yet… *so much more* is coming. Indeed, the only real weakness of the tale here is that while so much more is indeed coming and this book truly sets up the final book where those things, along with the major confrontation between our heroes and primary antagonist, will be resolved… because of the *timing* of those So Much More events, the ending here takes a much more expanded time scope than the rest of the tale before that point, which leaves one with a minor sense of pacing issues. Still, this is a problem even the great T2 trilogy by S.M. Stirling faced – and wound up working quite well. So we’ll see how this works out when AEON FURY releases next year.
A note here: This is the book that Mather had apparently mostly completed when he was tragically killed in a car accident in September 2022, and thus this is his last work. While it is always a high honor to be able to work such a book as an Advance Reviewer Copy, my thoughts on the tale itself above are *just* about the tale and how it was completed out by Dale Nelson, whom Mather’s family brought in to do just that. This book really does do quite an honor to Mather’s legacy, but my own hope is that Nelson’s name can be on the cover of AEON FURY along with Mather’s, recognizing his work both here and in that book. I do not know if FURY will be entirely Nelson (or some other author, potentially)’s work or if Mather had at least left some level of notes or perhaps even rough drafts of some of that tale, but to my own thinking the cover author there should perhaps read something like “[smaller letters]In Memory Of[/smaller letters][big letters]Matthew Mather[/big letters][smaller letters]Written By[/smaller letters][medium letters]Dale Nelson (or whoever it turns out to be)[/medium letters]”. But this is just my own thoughts there based on my own sensibilities, and won’t really actually affect that book in any way.
Overall, this book truly was a solid Book 2 of a trilogy, one that did a great job of extending the story from Book 1 and setting up an exciting conclusion in Book 3. The more complex emotions relating to this being its author’s final work only add a touch of extra “spice” to the feelings of a genuinely good book. Very much recommended.
Good Change Of Pace After The Last ‘Trilogy’. The prior three books in the Sigma Force series proved to be almost an in-series ‘trilogy’, with a lot of events playing directly off prior events. Here, we get a good change of pace – Kowalski actually starts the tale, and he has some major things going on. Gray and Seichan come in later, when things get a bit more hairy, and Kat and Monk, and even Painter, are barely mentioned at all after playing major roles in the prior books. The actual story here is one of the more intriguing in the series, particularly with more modern findings establishing that at least parts of the Illiad and Odyssey may have been factual. Rollins then does his thing with combining history and science into fascinating “what-ifs”, with plenty of action and drama and double crossings to boot. If you’re reading these – or virtually any – action/ adventure books expecting 100% realism… well, you’re probably *really* fun at parties, aren’t you? (/sarcasm) For the rest of us looking for a few hundred pages of fun escapism… let’s go on a romp from one end of the Mediterranean to the other, with a couple of stops in some other places to boot, shall we? Very much recommended.
Review of HUNGER (Originally written June 9, 2015):
Curing world hunger sounds great, right?
That is why I did it. I wanted to be the guy that solved World Hunger.
And I did. I used genetic modification to unlock so-called “junk” DNA in plants, and with this I was able to allow them to grow anywhere that had a permeable surface. Desert? Not a problem. Marsh? Not a problem. Mountains? Not a problem. As long as it didn’t involve steel, concrete, rock, or the like, my plants would grow.
Unfortunately I never really tested my breakthrough before it got out of control, and my boss never looked at my work either.
So I wound up causing the apocalypse by solving world hunger.
Now it is several years after my breakthrough caused the end of humanity, and my boss is on the run. She still has hope that what little remains of humanity outside of our San Francisco complex can be saved. Me, I’m not so sure – but her bosses sure seem to be intent on stopping her for some reason.
How did we do it? How did we cause the end of humanity? Will she be able to reverse what I did?
Well, you’re just going to have to read Jeremiah Knight’s debut book to find out…
Note: Hate to spoil the illusion here, but just to be clear: I am a real person who is a long time fan of the author (as in, we met via MySpace) whose name the author used for a character in this book. The above is solely my own review, my way of trying to thank the author, who is easily one of my favorites.
Review of FEAST (Originally written June 9, 2016):
This time we travel, interestingly, not far from where the real me actually lives – to the swamps outside Charleston, SC. This book in particular is great because it slows the pace down a bit from the first book, yet WAY amps up the drama. There are certain situations in this book that will make some/ possibly many uncomfortable, but this is still a Jeremiah Knight/ Jeremy Robinson book – you don’t have to worry about actually seeing any of the things I refer to. The monsters here are top notch, as always, but the case could be made that the real monsters of this story are the humans our heroes encounter – and along the way, we may just see the possibility that perhaps the monsters we know aren’t so monstrous, and the people we know aren’t so nice…
Review of FAMINE (Originally written June 24, 2023):
Years ago, Jeremy Robinson created a seemingly fantastical dystopian tale of what *could* happen if genetically modified organisms and specifically food somehow found a way to run amok. He even included a version of me that is probably (almost certainly) more accurate than I’d like to admit, as the absolutely brilliant yet also cocky, self assured scientist who doesn’t double check the safety of his work. Thus, while I manage to (accidentally) solve World Hunger… I also caused the Apocalypse in the process and kick started the events we see unfolding through this now (finally) completed trilogy. After literally *years* of me *begging* Robinson to write this book, FAMINE – and show me how “I” die. And to be sure, while the “me” presented in HUNGER is all too real, the “me” presented in FAMINE is… remarkably less so. 😀 But that’s actually quite awesome, because now I’ve had a chance to buy *both* of Robinson’s “Jeremy Robinson [Spared/ Killed] Me In A Novel, So I Had To Buy This Shirt” shirts.
Here, in this book that I’ve been begging so long for, Robinson manages to again outdo the MCU in that while the follow up movie from Avengers: Endgame was a bit of a letdown, here, Robinson shows that his talent is still in full swing and truly at the top of his game. While the INFINITE TIMELINE and its conclusion, SINGULARITY, was one of the best science fiction collections ever written – and whose epic story makes it rank among the best complete stories ever written, period – FAMINE comes in equally strong, showing not a single modicum of a hint of a slide from that peak. The creatures throughout the book are fantastic, the character growth of our central team is on par with some of Robinson’s best ever work, and the final fight scene here is quite possibly one of the best creature feature fight scenes you’re ever going to encounter anywhere in any medium. It has laughs, it has high drama, the tension is razor sharp, and the flow is superconductor level perfectly smooth.
And yes, one might argue that my opinion is tainted because I *have* been begging for this book for so long and building it up for so long in my head. How could I ever think it would be anything less than THE BEST THING EVER!!!!! But that’s just it: Yes, I *had* built this book up in my head for so many years. I *had* been dreaming of seeing my death and how Robinson would orchestrate it. I *had* been trying to figure out the endgame and how Robinson would solve some of the pickles he had written himself into by the end of FEAST. And yet… this book was *still* more than anything I could have ever dreamed. While it is no SINGULARITY, it also wasn’t doing the same things that book was. This book simply had to be a solid conclusion to a great trilogy, and instead of coming in and hitting a base hit to drive in the one walk off run, this book *still* came in and hit the walk-off Grand Slam.
Robinson is pricing this entire trilogy at the normal price of just a single book, making this a 3 for 1 deal – a great value in nearly any situation. Do yourself a favor. Take the deal. Read this book. Have a great summer with a great escapist adventure. Because the “real” world is bad enough, and we could all use some mindless fun, right?
Very much recommended.
The New God Of Science Fiction Outdoes Even Avengers: Endgame. First off, let me tell you up front: This isn’t the book for you if you haven’t read the other 12 books in the Infinite Timeline first. That noted… you NEED to read those books, because you NEED to read this book.
Because it is quite possibly *THE* unique novel in all of human history. Certainly in my own expansive, yet *very* tiny relative to all novels, few thousand book reading history. Here, Robinson openly takes inspiration from the “event” form comic books have taken for decades and which movies finally got a taste of with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and brings this structure into novels – hence, the Infinite Timeline itself.
SINGULARITY, this book, is its “Avengers: Endgame”, and Robinson is able to execute on the things that Endgame does well *even better* than it did… *and* add several instances of depth, fan service, and meta commentary that Endgame could never have attempted, let alone fit in.
The darkness in this book is intense. The world is about to end, and our ragtag group of simple humans, enhanced humans, and outright Greek Gods has to come together to stop it… with enough humor to make one think your favorite group of comedians had somehow written a dark and gritty scifi action epic. You’re going to *feel* the world ending, the threat growing and becoming impossible to defeat. Even through this, you’re going to laugh your ass off at the antics of our heroes as they fight with all the (considerable) might and talent they can bring to bear.
Are there any outright “Avengers! Assemble.” moments here? For me, there was in fact one. The moment we encounter the titular Singularity. The moment the MCU could never hope to replicate (even though it has tried, post-Endgame).
This is quite possibly *the* unique novel in all of human existence.
It will very likely be *quite* some time – if ever – that I encounter a *better* novel.
Do yourself a favor. Read the Infinite Timeline. Just so you can experience this particular OHMYGODAMAZEBALLSAWESOMESAUCE novel yourself.
Very much recommended.
LOTS Of Moving Parts. This is one of those longer books at 634 pages with a LOT of moving parts that can be difficult to track at times – but which it is hard to say that McBride could have separated into two books at any given point. MAYBE by separating out some of the individual threads into two separate yet concurrent 300 ish page books? Yet I struggle to think that the tale would be so compelling without seeing all that is happening at once.
Essentially this is the tale of the beginning of the Apocalypse, and McBride makes it clear in his author’s note that a major inspiration was The Stand (which believe it or not, I’ve never read). Another somewhat similar story that I drew several parallels with from one of McBride’s contemporaries is the Project Eden series by Brett Battles, which I’ve noted for years was the best full series I’ve yet read.
Here, McBride begins to make his case to take that title, and despite the length here and just how many individual threads are all going on… he absolutely makes a strong opening statement. By the end of this book, it is quite clear that this particular tale setting up the Apocalypse and showing how it began is complete… and yet it is also quite clear that several threads will be left for subsequent books and at least a few of them are likely to not be resolved until the final book of this series, whenever that may be. Very much recommended.
Go Right! For a Fitting Conclusion. OK, so the “Go Right!” bit is somewhat of an inside joke you’ll get to when you read this book. Overall, with this book Battles once again collapses the global to the personal, and in so doing gives us a very fitting end to the series – while allowing other tales in this world. We get answers for one central character somewhat early in this book, but overall the arc of this book truly is Captain Daniel Ash’s final revenge against the organization that took nearly everything from him before he even knew they existed. The ending, in particular, was a bit mind bending in a very cool way that is not unique, but is fairly rare. Absolutely a fitting end to an excellent series, and one that leaves the reader with an adequate sense of closure.
The End Begins. In this longest book of the PROJECT EDEN series so far, Brett Battles does a superb job of taking us from the shocking ending of EDEN RISING, bringing the key players back together briefly as they figure out the enigmatic message that ended that book, and setting up a truly global endgame. Fraught with taut sequences that fill the reader with dread about the possible survival of characters you’ve been following for several books now, this book is arguably the single best book in the series of leaving the reader desperate to dive into the next book. Fortunately for those of us late arrivers to this series, the next and final book in this saga has already been published. But I had to write this review before I can allow myself to go to the next book, so goodb
Solid Succession, Surprising Ending. This book superbly continues the tale of PROJECT EDEN, the Sage Flu, and the Resistance. Battles does a superb job of illustrating just how shocking such a world would be to any survivors, and even manages to introduce some things most would likely not consider. And that ending… with very nearly the very last words of the book, the storyline is irrevocably changed. Superb.