Sanction: The Book


There’s a small cadre of writers plugging away in the dank belly of the indy scene that are well worth a look.  Schantz’ Hidden Truth series of conspiraciana led me to Neovictorian’s Sanity, an excellent spy thriller, which introduced me to the civilizational collapse tales of Abraham Lopez’ Going GoneAll of these great works are related – their authors talk and share ideas online – and it has been a pleasure to expand my own reading circle outwards to find such a valuable pool of thinkers and readers.

And then came Sanction: The Book.

Our postmodern world denies the dual nature of Man as both beast and intellect. This denial grows steadily worse into the near future, where politics are even more polarized than today, and the primal nature of Man is forcibly constrained by naive and reckless policymakers.

Roman McClay’s book has been getting a lot of positive word of mouth from people that are smarter than me.  They claim it is a deeply though provoking book filled with profound insights into the nature of man and that delicate balance between civilization and barbarism along which we all tiptoe.  And maybe it is, but the nearly 800 page length spooked me into checking the free preview before diving headlong into the work.

And what I saw put me off the rest of it.  It’s a rambling mess of observations and insights and backwoods philosophy.  Every time the narrative approaches something cogent, it retreats back into more discursions and tangents that never quite gel into something more than a Thomas Pynchon mess of cross-referentialism.  It reads as profound and insightful, but once you come up for air, you’re left with a feeling that there isn’t any there there. All it evoked in me was the same feeling I got listening to Jordan Peterson answer a direct question – a lot of preamble and thoughtful connections between unrelated topics that provides a lot of “I know that reference” responses without actually answering the question.

The Amazon reviews sing the book’s praises with the sort of self-congratulatory praise that lets you know the reviewer is one of the elect – the few, the proud, the elite intellects capable of appreciating the mysterious beauty of the long winded passages and oblique references.  They sound a lot like NYC hipsters talking about paint spatters as a majestic insight into anything other than the lengths the CIA’s handlers would go to in order to siphon money away from true artists and towards well connected drug-addicts.

Maybe it’s me.  I don’t have time to read and reread and ponder and puzzle and pore over a book to deduce its hidden and secret meaning only fit for the rugged thinkers of the modern day return to barbarism movement.

Which way now, philosopher kangz?

Maybe the insights this novel provides are buried too deep for my smooth brain to tease them out, but the practical side of me wonders: if the ideas are so smart, why do they have to be hidden and buried beneath so many layers of obfuscation?  That might sound simplistic, but the mathematician in me sees beauty in simplicity.  I’ll take the use of the Pythagorean theorem over a proof to the Guassian Correlation Inequality any day of the week.  The former is easier to digest and more applicable to daily life than the latter.  In much the same way, Frodo’s simple point A to point B quest and journey through misery in service to others provides way more insight to the human condition than a hot mess like Finnegan’s Wake.

You might like Santion.  Maybe you don’t have kids.  Maybe you’ve got a surfeit of time on your hands and a comfortable fireplace to set next to and delve deep into mysteries best left untouched by the hand of a surgical butcher-cum-editor.  Maybe you’re smarter than me, and you’d love this book.  And that’s why I’m talking about it.  It ain’t for me, but clearly it’s for somebody, and maybe that somebody is you.

I wish you the best of luck on your journey.  I’ll just be over here licking windows and reading Chesterton quotes on Twitter.

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Pulp Modern: Tech Noir

New review of a surprisingly hopeful collection of grim and dark tales of future tech.  I picked this title up on a lark – my own WIP is a retro-future adventure, and I wanted to immerse myself in a host of styles to help nail the mood.  Expecting the usual tawdry tales of sex and murder, I got it – but I got a lot more than just that.

Check it out over at Castalia House.

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Three Days In November

Good luck to everyone kicking off NaNoWriMo with that easy layup of a kickoff weekend. You are at the 3,000 word mark today, right?  As usual, every month is a month dedicated to writing for your humble host.  I’m cruising along and over the hump on my retro-future tech noir gangland and international finance thriller.  With any luck you’ll have it on your Kindle in time for Christmas.

True story, the first long form fiction that I ever completed was a terrible screenplay written as part of NaNoWriMo.  Since then I’ve published nine novels, two collections of short works, sold numerous short stories to paying magazines, and still have a number of completed novels in the hands of publishers waiting for editing.  It’s a great way to get started, and before long you won’t even need the motivation anymore.  The cold hard cash you earn from selling your work will be motivation enough.

Once you rookies finish on November 31st, don’t stop.  Keep grinding through December.  You’ve proven you can do it once, now do it again.

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A Brief Commentary on the State of Modern Tabletop RPGs

Two thousand words worth, to be exact.

This is what they gave us instead.

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Bad Dreams and Broken Hearts

Happy Halloween, ya mopes.

Now live over at Castalia House: You won’t want to miss this one.  Misha Burnett is operating at the top of his game with a book that hits you with a series of slow and subtle gut punches that will leave you reeling.

Bad Dreams and Broken Hearts – this year’s best Urban Fantasy.  Bank on it.

Erik Rugar makes Harry Dresden look like a chump, and makes Discworld look like a set from Scooby-Doo.  Imagine if Bright wasn’t so preachy and had some solid romance subplots.  It’s that good.

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Halloween Reminder: Saint Gregory III, Pray For Us

Tomorrow night marks the one celebration that traditionally brings neighbors together to celebrate as a community.  Yes, we all grumble about early Christmas decorations and wish each other Happy New Year at parties, but Halloween is the one where you go out and meet your neighbors and share in a communal love of the macabre and candy and making little kids smile.

Some of the mega-churches view this holiday as a marketing exercise.  They trade on low-trust fears of non-existent “poison candy” to convince members to skip the community celebration and retreat behind the walls of their church.  They ask people to close their doors and find an insular community away from home rather than reach over the fence to celebrate with their literal neighbors – a mistake that only encourages distant and infrequent relationships and tribalism over immediate and everyday ones.

Even if you forget that the point of Halloween is mocking the devil and all his works and preparing for the next day’s efforts to help souls escape purgatory and earn a ticket through the pearly gates – which you shouldn’t – even if you treat Halloween as a purely secular holiday, remember that building communities begins at home.  Make this year a happy one by meeting your literal neighbors, and celebrating as one community.

You can’t tell me Jesus would frown on that sort of loving your neighbor.

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Love Town

Regular readers know that I’m a big fan of the ‘buy local’ movement. It helps shovel money away from Dinosaur publishers and towards the next generation of independent creators. Me and my lil Bender hit up a small kine geek fest a few weeks ago, and one of the little treasures we found was an urban fantasy comic book called “Love Town”.

In fact, they had a whole quarter of the dealer room dedicated to Indy Publishing, which was a nice touch.  May have to pick up some author copies of my own works and give personal sales a shot some time.

The Yuan Twins were live on-site hocking their wares – always a plus – and they recommended grabbing the Issue Zero prologue.  Unfortunately for me, “Love Town” features two things that just don’t appeal.  Urban fantasy.  Anti-hero.

I’m a massive Glen Cook fanboy, and just found his McGarret PI series uninteresting.  That’s the series with the Adjective Metal Noun titles.  A fine gumshoe noir series, something about the combination of those two genres just doesn’t click with me.  Unless the author firmly ground the action in some sort of gritty system, the easy out of magic kills the mystery for me.

Likewise with “Love Town”. The gal on the cover is -spoilers- a vampire.  I can take my heroes flawed, but murderous blood sucking demon is a bridge too far.  The art is nice – the near monochrome black and white with one shade of gray works well, and the Yuan Twins know how to paint with shadows. 

The dialog is suitable snappy, and the small little mysteries that lead up to the big mysterious cliffhanger keep the reader engaged from starting page to back cover.  It’s well written for what it is, it just isn’t for me.

If you like your grimdark extra grim and extra dark, you might like it.  It’s a no for me, but in this case that’s just a matter of taste.


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The Inverted Hero’s Journey

At least the memes are good

Yeah, I saw Joker. Didn’t use a gift certificate either, but that’s only because I mistook my “Rewards Card” for the gift cert I have and went to the wrong theater. Given how rare sneaking away from the kids is for a grown-up movie, there was no chance of bailing out at the ticket booth.

It was fine.

A good looking film with great cinematography. The story was really heavy handed, and not in a good way. Don’t get me wrong, I paid my money to be manipulated, but I expect a little subtlety in that manipulation. The director’s product spent a lot of time shouting, “NOW IS THE TIME WHERE YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO FEEL SAD” and “NOW YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO FEEL EMBARASSED”. Eh.

The Batman scenes felt shoe-horned in, and Kid Bruce was oddly brooding and intense. Which makes the death of his parents cause him not to become something new. It just makes Bruce’s transformation into a cosplay vigilante a case of him becoming more of what he was going to be anyway. It cheapens the drama of the moment.

Joaquin spends half the movie ACTING! Once again, the film wears its Oscar Bait like a sequin jacket that distracts from the goings on. As with most of the film, it really needed a lighter and less-is-more touch. It’s the Tom Cruise, THIS IS ME ACTING NOW school of acting that comes off as forced and awkward to watch.

One thing that did interest me was the inverted Hero Journey shown. Joker starts off low, rises to a high point, then just when you think everything is going to be okay, he digs deep and hits a wall that sends him down a quick spiral to outright villainy. Now THAT was interesting. That kind of nuanced story-structure was different from the ordinary and well worth observing because, like everything else it’s obvious even while you watch it.

On the whole, it was okay.

It was fine.

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Hell Spawn: The Sounds of Horror

Anyone want me to read them a scary bedtime story?

This ain’t your wine aunt’s urban fantasy. This is pure, distilled, demon-kicking urban fantasy with a direct line to that gorgeous Catholic iconography that makes even the worst Hollywood director want to tap into it. It’s bloody in the worst (redrum!) and best (transubstantion!) ways.

Throw a couple of bones in, and prepare yourself for a gritty fight against evils both mundane and arcane.

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Scorched Earth or Controlled Burn

Generally, I agree with Brian Neiemeier and the rest of the gang when they go strong on this message:

Merely mentioning a Disney/Marvel property, even to negatively contrast it with a superior indie work, just gives the Devil Mouse brand social proof as the one to beat.

But I’m also a “don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good” kind of guy.  Converged though our culture may be, there are times when being conversant in the poz can come in handy.  Particularly when guiding those yet to awaken to the fifth column in our midst away from that pozzed element.  Here’s where he gains my full throated endorsement:

Refusing to feed the beast doesn’t suffice by itself, though. We also need positive messaging that promotes superior alternatives.

And that right there is the impetus behind my irregular reviews of indy comics here on this blog, and my reviews of long form fiction over at Castalia House.  Given that indy comics are shouting into the gale-force winds of multi-billion dollar marketing campaigns.  It’s hard to get noticed, and every little of help that I can offer my fellow creatives is time well spent.  These reviews aren’t just the writings of a fan, they are recommendations to help you choose the best works to fill your time.

It is worth noting that I rarely receive advanced reader copies.  Most of the works that earn reviews are works that I discovered organically via recommendations on Twitter or through Amazon’s pushy A9 algos.  Word of mouth works – it’s the best way to reach me, and probably you as well.  So take advantage of it, whether you are a reader or writer, it’s the best way to get more of what you want out of this world.

As a quick recommendation for proof of concept, allow me to urge towards  Micha Burnette’s Bad Dreams and Broken Hearts .  It’s a urban fantasy, boiled hard and served in a collection of short stories that are muscular and heroic.  It has a distinct 1970s grindhouse grittiness to it so far that helps ground the magic in a way that makes it feel more wonderous and more threatening than most works like this.  Full review to follow, but go buy it and find out for yourself why Misha is one of the best of the new breed of independent authors.

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