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[Review] The Love of Danger by Jeremy Zimmerman

[Review] The Love of Danger by Jeremy Zimmerman published on

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Review

Jeremy Zimmerman’s Kensei is a tightly-plotted, dramatic-comedic YA superhero tale about a kick-ass bi-racial, teen, lesbian crime fighter named Jamie Hattori, who targets baddies in Cobalt City through her ability to communicate with the spirits of places and inanimate objects in the city. As if dealing with her own family, school, and relationship drama wasn’t enough, she has a massive deity problem to handle. If you haven’t read it yet, give it a shot. It’s a fun YA title with a nice crossover appeal.

The Kickstarted sequel, The Love of Danger, continues the adventures of Jamie Hattori. And now we’ve got undead, fascist villains and their robots, plenty of relationship (family, professional, and romance) drama, and Jamie’s new set of skills.

I love the backdrop, with Jamie working in a world already populated by well-known Cobalt City superheroes. Her experience is a bit like being a minor superhero in The Incredibles, but with less family togetherness and more getting smacked around by her racist grandfather. The shared world Zimmerman accesses gives him some interesting characters and events pre-fabricated, a history of conflicts and resolutions, of biases and trust issues that already populate the landscape. We also learn a great deal more about the conflicts and motivations of some of the awesome characters from the first go-round.

The first book gripped me more than the second, but The Love of Danger is an excellent follow-up and I am looking forward to where the series goes next.

 

Links:

Goodreads
Amazon

About the Author

Jeremy Zimmerman is a teller of tales who dislikes cute euphemisms for writing like “teller of tales.” His fiction has most recently appeared in 10Flash Quarterly, Arcane and anthologies from Timid Pirate Publishing. He is also the editor for Mad Scientist Journal. He lives in Seattle with five cats and his lovely wife (and fellow author) Dawn Vogel.

Book Spotlight: Shadows Collide by Dan Levinson

Book Spotlight: Shadows Collide by Dan Levinson published on

Shadows Collide cover

About This Book

The Orion Psi Corps is in shambles, the dead still being counted. And though Orion’s retaliation has begun, Calchis isn’t finished yet.

New Axom City—that’s where Nyne Allen has taken refuge in the wake of his desertion from Orion. Soon, it will become a battlefield, as forces from both sides barrel toward a collision that will change the world forever.

Meanwhile, in the Far East, Aaron Waverly learns the truth behind the red-robed man, and discovers a destiny that might one day spell the end of the world as he knows it.

Excerpt

1.

JANE DOE

Date Unknown

Location Unknown

 

1.
JANE DOE
Date Unknown
Location Unknown

The air was on fire.

As the blaze embraced her, she raised her hands, shielded her eyes; the billows of flame engulfed her as she screamed her defiance. The world blinked shut, like an eye closing, and when it opened once more, she saw faces, murmuring alarm. She tried to tell them they should leave her be, let her die in peace, her body still ablaze as if subsumed in the inferno. Yet before she could speak, wings of darkness enveloped her, carried her into oblivion.

When she surfaced again, she saw glaring lights.

She lay upon a gurney, moving swiftly through florescent-lit halls, the acrid stench of burned hair like a halo around her. Again, faces peered at her, their voices a low babble, distorted, as if through a tunnel. When a sudden movement jarred her, she howled, her vocal cords raw, like pulverized meat. Even the air rushing by tormented her.

What had happened?

She glanced about, eyes rolling, unable to move her head. A sign loomed above: Burn Ward. Another jolt shook her, and an animal sound escaped her throat as she lapsed again into unconsciousness.


She awoke in a white, sterile room, and for a moment thought she was somewhere familiar. But the hospital room was only an echo of a place she couldn’t quite recall, the memory slipping from her like sand through a sieve. She shifted in her bed, gasped, and only then looked down at her arms and hands, covered in bandages, the rest of her hidden beneath a thin, tan wool blanket. She could feel where those bandages compressed her flesh, chafed her raw throat, her belly, breasts, legs, and feet.

To her left, she saw a morphine drip, but could not reach it, the effort of moving her arm more than she could bear. She tried to cry for help, but now her voice came only in croaks and whimpers. She was trapped in her scorched body, no one to help her, while machines and monitors mocked her with ceaseless beeping.

A male nurse walked by the room, peered through the door’s glass pane, and she met his eyes, silently begging him for aid. He ran off, and for those next interminable minutes, each second seemed to her a test of will simply to exist. An inner voice told her to be strong, that she could make it through this, and she clung to it, the vague notion that she could endure all that she had. Mentally, she counted, One, two, three, four, five, those numbers like a life raft, though she did not know why.

At last, the doctor arrived—an austere, dark-haired man in a white coat, his eyes gauging her behind silver-framed glasses. She could read the pity on his face. “My name is Dr. Shipley,” he said. “You’ve been involved in a very bad accident. I don’t mean to alarm you, but you’ve suffered third degree burns over sixty percent of your body. Do you understand?”

She tried to nod while her mind processed. An accident? Of course. How else could she have ended up like this?

“How’s the pain?” Shipley asked. “I can increase the painkillers if you—”

“Hurts,” she rasped, her voice like sandpaper.

Shipley adjusted the morphine. “Your esophagus is damaged, from inhaling superheated air. I’ll ask a couple more questions, but keep your answers to one or two words. After that, no talking. Okay?”

She nodded again as the painkillers entered her system, making her woozy.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

She opened her mouth to reply, then closed it, the answer elusive. The pain had so consumed her that, until now, she hadn’t realized the details of her life were whispers and shadows lurking in unseen corners of her mind. She couldn’t remember her name, nor the accident, nor anything else. She choked back a sob, the force of it stabbing at her injured body.

“You don’t know?” Shipley asked.

Feebly, she shook her head.

“Well,” Shipley said, “given the trauma you’ve been through, it’s not unheard of. Unfortunately, when you were found, you had no identification, and your hands are too badly burned for us to take fingerprints. But don’t worry. When you’ve had the chance to recover, I’m sure it’ll come back to you.” He offered her a reassuring smile.

She knew he was trying to comfort her, and so restrained the urge to tell him to go fuck himself. Don’t worry too much? What kind of advice was that?

“Is the pain still bad?” he asked her. He fiddled with the drip again, and the room grew hazy, indistinct, before she could manage a word.

When she opened her eyes, the room was dark, all shapes indistinct save the colors on the monitor feeds. Burning, throbbing blanketed her. She rolled her head to the side, saw that the window shade lay slightly open, revealing the lights of an unfamiliar city—the greens and reds of traffic signals, the whites of far-off windows, the myriad colors of illuminated billboards. She had no idea where she was.

Despairing, she wept, and as the grief shuddered through her, it ignited her body anew, though she could do nothing to stem her tears. “Why?” she murmured. What sin had she committed that she was being punished so? “Why did this happen?” She didn’t care that she was not supposed to speak, for hearing her own voice reassured her; it was an anchor, even if it was a whisper.

And that was what she had become, she realized. A shadow of her former self.

A whisper.

 

About the Author

51tHGgkCExL._UX250_Dan Levinson is a NY-based writer of speculative fiction. Trained as an actor at NYU’s Tisch School of Arts, he also writes for the stage and screen. He grew up immersing himself in fantastical worlds, and now creates them. In addition to the Psionic Earth series, he is also the author of the upcoming YA fantasy novel The Ace of Kings, first book of The Conjurer’s Cycle.
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Author Links

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads

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Review: Kensei by Jeremy Zimmerman

Review: Kensei by Jeremy Zimmerman published on

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About the Book

Jamie Hattori’s alter ego, the masked hero Kensei, has been doing pretty well protecting her neighborhood from petty villains with her martial arts skills, her father’s katana, and a little help from the local spirits. But things get rough when the spirits start flaking out, the Goddess of Discord throws a few cursed apples, and an online gossip site sics an angry football player on her. Then there’s her slipping grades, the vampire owls, and the cute roller derby chick looking for romance. And even worse, Jamie’s hero-hating mom is starting to get suspicious. Can Jamie defeat her mysterious nemesis without tearing her family apart? And more importantly, will she score her first kiss?

Review

I really enjoyed this novel. Zimmerman starts off with an action scene and keeps the energy flowing throughout the book. It clocks in at a seems-slightly-longer-than-advertised, taut 188 pages. I think these pages might be packed with a greater than average number of words. It feels like a 220-250 page book to me.

Jamie Hattori, alter-ego Kensei, is a teen in transition. She is living a secret life, keeping her superpowers and night outings from her mother. Her dad knows all about it. He’s a pretty laid-back, reasonable guy. Mom lost her parents in the middle of a superhero battle, and hasn’t been able to let it go since. She watches one of those channels that rile people up against specific groups, spouting bile and anger, and she lets herself seethe in it. She’s, admittedly, tightly-wound and not willing to see shades of gray when it comes to vigilante activities. Jamie’s extra-curricular activities are hurting her grades and social life. But what can she do? She has the power to help others, and doesn’t take that lightly.

Jamie Hattori resides in the portion of Cobalt City known as Karlsburg, and the supernatural dangers are pretty light there. Usually, it’s just enough to keep her busy at night. She takes on muggers and robbers and physical abusers. But things change suddenly, and she’s in over her inexperienced head. Someone is running a gossip blog called 2thefairest, and it is putting out some ugly envy magic. Golden apples are turning up around town, sowing seeds of discord. And Jamie has been targeted. This might also be connected to Roman vampires, Greek deities, and a bunch of missing students from Jamie’s high school.

Cobalt City exists in a world where superheroes are fairly common. A flaming hero might chase an ice-chucking villain across the street as you’re waiting on a red light. The Traffic Enforcer might fly past, being dragged by the back of a car. Heroes and villains are everywhere, like erectile dysfunction ads, or internet trolls.

The problem is that a group of big-time superheroes, the Protectorate, was infiltrated a few years back, and achieved a lot of destruction and created mistrust among the citizens of Cobalt City. Even the big-time heroes, The A-Listers, like Star Dust, the Worm Queen, Wild Kat, Libertine, Velvet, and the Huntsman, need to remain secretive. Except Star Dust, because he’s one of the richest people in the world, and he isn’t really touchable.

Then there are small-timers, maybe the C-and-D-listers, like Kensei and the Traffic Enforcer, (who spends most of his time beating people up for using their cellphones while driving, or misusing roundabouts). These sorts need to remain cautious. Anybody could be a danger.

Zimmerman captures the teen experience pretty well. We view a lot of Jamie’s firsts: first date, first kiss, first arch-nemesis, first fight with god, first battle with a superhero. Each character comes pre-loaded with motivations and reasons for his/her/their actions. The characters have histories and goals. The characters are dynamic and drive the novel, even if Jamie doesn’t have a license.

I love Jamie’s powers. She can interact with the spirits of places and things. Pretty much every place and every thing has one or more spirits, and being able to see them and talk to them is actually very helpful. Especially when they are feeling cooperative; sometimes they aren’t, which can be quite funny.

I am also a huge fan of the fact that Jamie received martial arts training from the age of three. Her powers aren’t specifically physical, and therefore knowing how to use her body as a weapon is very important.

Among my favorite characters are Jamie’s father, Charles Hattori; Agyo, the Cobalt City Buddhist Church guardian; and the manic-pixie-girl-esque Parker. Jamie is multi-faceted: she’s gay, she’s biracial, she’s a Buddhist, she’s in high school; she is hiding things from her mom, her dad, her classmates, her potential girlfriend; she can talk to the spirits of cars and buildings and light bulbs. She has to deal with how these things affect other parts of her life. Zimmerman navigates these muddy waters expertly.

The second book in the series, Love of Danger, recently went through a successful Kickstarter campaign, and is expected to be released soon. I will certainly be reading and reviewing it here sometimes after that.

About the Author

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Jeremy Zimmerman is a teller of tales who dislikes cute euphemisms for writing like “teller of tales.” His fiction has most recently appeared in 10Flash Quarterly, Arcane and anthologies from Timid Pirate Publishing. He is also the editor for Mad Scientist Journal. He lives in Seattle with five cats and his lovely wife (and fellow author) Dawn Vogel.

Author’s Links

Website
Mad Scientist Journal
Amazon Author’s Page
Goodreads
Twitter

Review: Fires of Man by Dan Levinson

Review: Fires of Man by Dan Levinson published on

Fires of Man cover

About This Book

Supposedly the war between Calchis and Orion ended decades ago. But upon reporting to an isolated Orion army base for basic training, Private Stockton Finn learns the war still rages; only the weapons have changed, and Finn has been selected to become one of them.

Across the border, Calchan farm boy Aaron Waverly learns how determined his country is to win the war when he is abducted by a sinister government operative known as Agent. Trapped and learning to use deadly powers he’s never before imagined, Aaron struggles to reconcile his ephemeral faith with his harsh new reality.

As the two nations hurtle toward a resurgence of open hostilities, Finn and Aaron, Agent, and two Orion officers and former lovers—Nyne Allen and Kay Barrett—must prepare themselves for the inevitable clash. Meanwhile, Calchan archaeologist Dr. Faith Santia unearths a massive lost temple in the frozen tundra far to the north, which hints that the brewing conflict may only be the first of their worries…

Excerpt

1.
AGENT
He ran toward the edge of the cliff.

The sun beat down upon him as his limbs pumped. Earth crunched beneath his feet, and a breeze blew across his black-stubbled scalp. His breathing was calm, meticulously measured.

When the ground slipped away, he felt only anticipation.

Plummeting, the man inhaled. Power flooded into him, thrilling, delicious. He reached out with that power, warping reality with an energy born from the depths of his being. Suddenly . . .

He winked out of existence . . .

And then reappeared at the base of the cliff.

Ahead lay a farmstead, suffused in noontime light. Past its assorted buildings—barns and silos, stables and chicken coops—a field of wheat swayed like the hair of some sleeping giant.

It would burn soon.

Through his years of service, he’d been called many things: “raven”; “hellhound”; “black-hearted bastard.” There was but one epithet that mattered—the one he’d earned with blood, and devotion.

He was “Agent.”

A man with no name. A man who owed his nation everything.

Just then, he spotted his quarry—a teenage farmhand named Aaron Waverly. The boy had power—strong power, according to the readings.

Agent dashed toward the farm; dry winds kicked dirt and debris over his steel-toed boots. The expanse of greenery blurred past. He moved swift as a shooting star, his power saturating him with speed and strength.

When Waverly turned, and saw, it was too late.

Agent teleported behind Waverly, and struck once, at the base of the farmhand’s skull. The young man swooned, and Agent caught him, slung him over his shoulder.

“Stop!”

A frown split the crags of Agent’s face.

Before him stood a girl, no more than sixteen, a pitchfork clutched in her fingers. She was a pretty thing, her blonde tresses tied back in a ponytail, her face darkened by hours in the field. She was an innocent. Agent did not relish the thought of ending her. “Run,” he said.

“I’ll scream.” Her eyes flitted to the silenced pistol at his side. She hesitated.

He laid a hand on the gun. “Run,” he repeated.

She ran.

He drew his weapon and shot her in the back of the head.

She pitched forward, hit the ground, dead. Blood spread in a widening pool around her. Waverly groaned, eyelids flickering. Agent holstered the gun and looked at the girl. Killing civilians was distasteful, but she had seen him. He’d had no choice.

Now, time to go.

Agent stepped toward the nearby barn, and pressed his palm against the red-painted planks. He sent his power into it, and a ripple spread through the wood, like a pebble striking the surface of a pond. Furrows of heat fanned out from his fingertips, crackling furiously.

He turned away and teleported to safety.

Back atop the cliff, he paused to watch his handiwork.

Review

Fires of Man is a difficult book to review. There were some elements that I really enjoyed, and there were a few that puzzled me enough to leave me frustrated and unhappy. I’ll get into all of that.

There are shades of X-Men here: look, it’s like this. The youth develop powers, and these powers are often dangerous, right? These young people, in this case, are called Psionics. The protagonist (of these chapters) is Finn. He’s a younger sibling of several rough-and-tumble brothers. The Psionics are discovered by people in a satellite who sit around all day looking for bursts of power, and then people are sent to grab the newly special kids and, well…they need to learn how to control these powers, obviously. Anyone can see that. They need a nurturing environment in order to learn how to use these baffling but amazing abilities (shooting laser-like flames from their hands, super-speed, super-strength, shields, that sort of thing). And then these young people can become useful members of society, much less dangerous to themselves and others than they were before they took their own talents in hand. In a sane world, it makes some sort of sense.

Unfortunately, these young people don’t get a nurturing environment. They get conscripted by the military and trained with some tough love. There’s no Professor X here to make sure they are given a balanced and mentally healthy education. These kids are essentially trained like the lovable losers in the Vince Vaughn movie “Dodgeball.” They get shot with tennis balls and are told to throw up a shield. If they can block three balls, they get to take the day off. Most of them don’t get to take the day off. They are put into tight quarters with a bunch of other burgeoning tweens and teens, and expected to behave. Of course, you then have some issues with bullying, because every high school has ’em. Also, if you wash out, you’ll probably end up dead. Psionics are not allowed to return to civilian life. Good luck!

The basic concept there is intriguing. I like it. I enjoy Levinson’s skill in the written word. There are some really interesting things in this part of the book. I’ve read a few strong YA and NA titles lately, like Jenna Lincoln’s The Protector Project and Jacinta Maree’s Soulless. The basics of this portion fit in well there. I have some quibbles about some of the character traits–I don’t like the trope of the nerd who can’t help but stare at a girl, or the violent outburst that is rewarded by the pretty girl because she has low self-esteem and has never had someone stand up for her before. Yeah, there are people like this, and the characters are meant to be flawed, I’m sure. But I worry–and I’m a worrier, so I see that this is an issue for me that won’t be for some others–that this trope slips a little into the girl-as-reward thing. I probably dwelt too much upon it, but sometimes it happens. But moving beyond my own highly-responsive empathic abilities, this would make quite the YA series.

One oddity for me, though, is the book’s intended audience. If the whole book was about Finn and the Psionic teens, I’d say this is a YA book. Even Aaron, the kidnapped teen from the excerpt, could make his way into that book. There are some liberal F-bombs and some brutal, bloody passages dribbled about like chocolate syrup on vanilla ice cream. But YA is a broad realm of reading tastes, and books with “adult” language and violence are certainly viable in that market.

But then we also follow a few adults around–a noble Orion military officer and his tough-as-nails former flame, for example. Teens read about adults. These adults have very adult concerns. Relationship drama and fancy dinners, passive-aggressive arguments and things unsaid. I enjoyed these stories, too. I have a soft spot for the noble military officers in a lot of works (I am currently thinking of Django Wexler’s Marcus in The Thousand Names particularly,) so Nyne was one character I found myself excited to explore. One scene that really gripped me involved Nyne as he left a club and encountered a young man who had overdosed. Nyne’s emotions in this scene are powerful, and his reactions are realistic for his character. But it almost feels like a different book taking place in the same world at the same time–the adult ballast to the unstable teens. Though the adults are at least as unstable as the teens.

We follow a lot of other characters, third-person limited, over-the-shoulder style. We have those I’ve already mentioned: the noble commanding officer of the military and his tough-as-nails former flame, and Finn. We also have an archaeologist, a brutal Calchan called Agent–the man who shoots a girl in the back in the excerpt, he’s a bad (but complex) dude–and a boy, Aaron, who is kidnapped (this occurs in the excerpt above) and forced into a Calchan military unit.

This is a book about people first. Yes, it does feature a war between nations, and war and battles dominate the second half, but this isn’t about the nations or about war. The characters are individual from one another, and there is a lot to like about them. They grow and change. They aren’t perfect, and that’s good. The villains are deeply disturbed. Good people do bad things for the wrong reasons, and bad people do good things for the right reasons. Complexity abounds.

I am left with a lot of questions. The book ends with a lot unsaid, but another book is on the way. We’ll find out more. And there is enough going on, enough of the iceberg beneath the sea, that further books are absolutely supported. The world building is deep.

For some, this book will push all the buttons and move along in all the right ways. It wasn’t quite that book for me. I am glad I read it. I find myself curious enough about where the stories will twist in the next installment to consider moving forward with the series.

The book is currently available at Amazon as well as your favorite book retailer.

About the Author

51tHGgkCExL._UX250_Dan Levinson is a NY-based writer of speculative fiction. Trained as an actor at NYU’s Tisch School of Arts, he also writes for the stage and screen. He grew up immersing himself in fantastical worlds, and now creates them. In addition to the Psionic Earth series, he is also the author of the upcoming YA fantasy novel The Ace of Kings, first book of The Conjurer’s Cycle.
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Author Links

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads

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