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Review: The Spider in the Laurel by Michael Pogach

Review: The Spider in the Laurel by Michael Pogach published on

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About the Book

From Goodreads:

The Spider in the Laurel combines elements of Indiana Jones adventures and Jason Bourne thrillers with a V for Vendetta dystopia, and an American Gods fantasy.

The Spider in the Laurel is the story of history teacher, Rafael Ward, in a world that has outlawed the basis of most of our history: religion. When Ward is forced to take a job destroying the relics he cherishes, it will take the uncompromising faith of an outlaw as an ally, and the acceptance of his guilt for his mother’s death, to help him break free of the government’s yoke. If he’s lucky, he might just prevent the coming apocalypse, for which this secular future is completely unprepared.

The Spider in the Laurel straddles the line between simple adventure fun, and the kind of novel which can force a reader to question his or her own beliefs.

The Spider in the Laurel was released by Ragnarok Publications on 9/19/2015.

It can be purchased at Amazon HERE.

Review

Reading the synopsis gives a fairly honest perspective of what this book is about. My own “it’s like” description for this book is “It’s like The Da Vinci Code set in the world of 1984.” It isn’t that precisely, though. It definitely has shades of “Indiana Jones” (even to the point that a character says, un-ironically, “It belongs in a museum,”) and the Bourne books (the lead character, though a new-ish agent, has training and executes well in some amazing hand-to-hand and fight and a few shootouts). I don’t personally see much American Gods, but there could be shades I missed. I’m a big Gaiman fan, so my rose-colored glasses might be limiting my critical perspective. They are both books about a man who lacks faith and who goes through some spiritual/psychological torment in the process of potentially acquiring it.

Faith is an important aspect of this book. I did not in any way find the book to be “Christian fiction” even though Christianity is a key factor in the events of the story; this isn’t a book like the Left Behind series, the sort of story that can only be seen through a single lens. The protagonist’s past has been deeply affected by Christianity, he spent his early adult life studying it (and other “mythologies”), he has recently taken up (for the government, not that he has a choice, really) collecting and destroying its relics, and he spends a lot of this book thinking about whether or not he believes in it. There are a lot of Christian allusions, with little things (such as a door opening three times, feeling much like the many instances of occurrences in triplicate in the Bible). Christianity and history are strong parts of this book’s backbone. It wouldn’t exist without religion. And it asks some interesting questions about what a society might be like if religion was no longer allowed to exist.

This book is about a man’s crisis of faith, a life in flux. It is also a high-action, fast-paced, gun-heavy, sometimes-gory, world-traveling adventure that kept up the punches through the final pages.

The book ends without definitive statements. We can believe what we want about the ending, and that is perfect, considering the nature of the questions asked by the author throughout. I don’t think this book is for everybody, but I think many readers can find something to like here. I was not sure what to expect; I was pleasantly surprised by the absence of (literal) spiders.

Excerpt

He spun. The other man–the taller one–was there at the opposite curb. With a military glide the man approached, his hand over his heart for quick access to the weapon in his jacket.

Ward slowed his breathing. I should be in a library, he thought. Books. Everything was so much easier in books. But that single lament was all he had time for. Clenching his fists, Ward rushed forward.

About the Author

5785591Michael Pogach is an English Professor and the author of the dark fantasy/sci-fi thriller The Spider in the Laurel. His short stories have appeared in various journals such as New Plains Review, Third Wednesday, and Workers Write. Michael lives with his wife in Quakertown, Pennsylvania.

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Author Interview: Seth Skorkowsky

Author Interview: Seth Skorkowsky published on 3 Comments on Author Interview: Seth Skorkowsky

Seth Skorkowsky’s debut novel, Dämoren, an urban fantasy featuring nasty monsters, modern-day knights, and a sentient pistol, was released in 2014 by Ragnarok Publications. Since then he has proven to be an incredibly prolific writer. Not only did he publish Hounacier, the second in his critically-acclaimed Valducan series, but he’s also released two hefty collections of stories featuring his hero, the Black Raven.

He graciously agreed to an interview with galleywampus, to celebrate the publication of The Sea of Quills.

J Wilbanks: Hi, Seth! Thanks for joining us.

Seth Skorkowsky: Thank you very much for having me.

JW: First things first – you have a new book out this week! You must be pretty excited. What can you tell us about it?

SS: I’m very excited. Sea of Quills is my second collection of stories following a thief called the Black Raven. They’re a pulpy throwback to the old fantasy tales where each story is a self-contained adventure. I regularly refer to it as a mixture of James Bond and the Gray Mouser.

JW: I read that you first envisioned this character back in 2008. What gave you the impetus to drag him out of your mind and expose him on the page after all that time?

SS: In 2008 I published my first Black Raven story, The Porvov Switch, in Flashing Swords Magazine. They picked up a total of six Black Raven stories, but went under after printing three of them. At the time we’d discussed makingthe first collection, Mountain of Daggers, and they advised me to get the total count up to 90,000 words. After Flashing Swords folded, I started work with Rogue Blades for it. Then a very large publishing house expressed interest, and it spent two years waiting on a decision before I retracted my submission to look elsewhere. All in all, the process was over five years of frustration before Ragnarok picked it up. By that time, I had twenty stories and had split the collection into two volumes.

JW: You’ve written The Sea of Quills (and its predecessor) to be a series of interrelated short stories. I love that format, and it reminds me of the shared-worlds of the 80s and 90s, like Liavek. But it’s not a commonly seen format. What led to you creating it this way?

SS: I love short fiction. So my original plan was to publish them like the old Conan or Fafhrd & Gray Mouser tales where they appear in different magazines and anthologies and eventually being brought together into the collection. It didn’t quite work out that way.

JW: Which of the stories are you most proud of in Sea of Quills? Which was the hardest to write? Which one is your wife’s favorite?

SS: I’m the most proud of The Noble Hunter. Some of the scenes in that one were floating around in my head for years before I found a good place to use them. It was also the hardest to write because I had to balance everything with its companion story, City Beneath the Kaisers, which I wrote at the same time. My wife’s favorite is Temptation’s Proposal. We both love masquerade balls (even our wedding was one) so she likes the setting and the villain in it is her favorite.

JW: The world you’ve built in Mountain of Daggers and Sea of Quills is rich with untold stories. Can we expect more?

SS: Definitely. I have plans for several specific adventures and hope to keep Black Raven stories as something I continue to write for years to come.

JW: You have another series, also published by Ragnarok. The first two in the series are already out. When can we expect the third book?

SS: The third novel is Ibenus. Currently I’m 75% through the first draft. The plan is to finish it up and have it ready for Ragnarok by the end of the year. Publication should hopefully be mid-2016, but that’s really an educated guess until I have it turned in. In the meantime, I have a pair of Valducan short stories coming out with Emby Press and Bloodshot Books that will take place before Dämoren and expand some on the world and the weapons.

JW: I love that you’re writing a female lead character! Is the process of building her character different from how you created your male characters?

SS: Yes and no. The biggest difference between Victoria and the heroes in the previous books is that we get to experience her growth with her. Dämoren and Hounacier both begin years in the past and then fast-forward to the present, bypassing the transition from everyday person to demon-slaying knight. Victoria’s journey begins after the events in Hounacier and we get to ride along with it.

JW: Thanks for being so forth-coming about your yet-to-be-written Ibenus! We’re very excited to read it. We love the Valducan series – it is a series, right? You plan to write more Valducan after Ibenus, yes? We have to have more, Seth!

SS: It is a series. I have some ideas for the fourth book, and began sprinkling seeds for it in Hounacier. Once I’m finished with Ibenus, I’ll have to see if I have enough to go ahead and start it, or possibly continue work on a different project that’s been mulling around.

JW: Okay, now for a fun question, just because I’m nosy. List three things you would NOT do for 10 billion dollars.

SS: 1: I would not leave my wife. Whatever escapades I can do with $10 billion would be no fun without her.
2: I would not give up gaming. It’s too much of my life to live without it.
3: I would never cut off my own legs and serve them at a formal dinner no matter who might attend it.

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Sea of Quills is available to read today!

Review: The Silent End by Samuel Sattin

Review: The Silent End by Samuel Sattin published on 1 Comment on Review: The Silent End by Samuel Sattin

silentend

This is a rare YA book from Ragnarok Publishing.

I am not entirely sure why they don’t publish more novels suitable for Young Adult, but I do know exactly why I don’t often read in the genre: there is a fundamental dishonesty in some of those books, they’ve been sanitized, and they try to fit the mold of what they think teenagers want to read. Often this succeeds, but it doesn’t make for entertaining reading. When I was a teenager, some of us were swearing, some of us were getting high behind the gas station at lunch, and some of us were exploring our sexualities with actual real live people. Not much of that happens in YA, and not only is that dishonest, but it’s boring.

Samuel Sattin has written The Silent End for teenagers who are actually teenagers, and not blocky goody two-shoes. From the back copy, I could tell that this was going to be a little deeper, and a little more wistful than the average book aimed for teenagers.

In a mist-covered town in the Pacific Northwest, three teenagers find themselves pitted against an unearthly menace that dwells beneath the foundations of their high school…

Eberstark is an outcast and he’s tired of pretending everything is fine. His mother disappeared almost a year ago after a long battle with depression. His father is conducting experiments and running around town in the middle of night with a mysterious man known only as The Hat, ranting to Eberstark about beasts no one else can see.

Then, on Halloween night, Eberstark, alongside his only friends Lexi and Gus, discovers something in the woods to challenge the notion of his father’s apparent insanity: a wounded monster. Rather than stir the town into a frenzy, the three friends hide the creature and are pulled into a web of conspiracy, dream-logic, and death. Faced down by living trucks, mirror-dwelling psychopaths, and hellish entities who lurk behind friendly faces, Eberstark, Lexi, and Gus find themselves battling to save not just themselves, but the soul of their quiet little town.

Sattin’s particular talent (at least in this book) is tone, followed swiftly by character development. The novel is set in the Pacific Northwest, and somehow his word choice conveys that his characters live in a rain-drenched world, and they see the sun but rarely. There are no turns of phrase that would belong in a book set in Fresno, California, or Mexico City. Here, the setting fits the story, for the story is deeply melancholy, a little frightening, and a lot of the plot remains obscured for a good chunk of the novel.

The characters are extremely well thought out. It’s a book set in a small town, so it can’t really get away with having anonymous store owners, teachers, or kids the main character knows personally. Everyone mentioned has just enough detail that I wonder if Sattin created a comprehensive map and filled it in with details of every single citizen before he even started writing. It has that kind of realism.

The rest of it is not so realistic. The back cover copy advertises dream logic, and that is an understatement. As we get deeper and deeper into the book, we begin to see that there is this miasma of unreality that settled over the town long ago, and it’s just now being noticed. The main character, Eberstark, has had these perceptions of people (his friend’s father, his mother, etc.) that first read as — here’s another slightly depressed grown-up. It’s sad, but normal. And then… the mist starts drifting away, and things like depression or inertia become a hell of a lot more sinister.

This book is worth reading, if only for the shivers.

Purchase on Amazon via THIS LINK

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