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By Jonathan Lowe

FEB 2015
by Jonathan Lowe

Horror is on tap in this watery trip to hell. THE DEEP is an off kilter genetically modified nightbreed clone of Clive Barker, Stephen King, and a few of the Dead Poets Society (like TS Eliot, Alan Ginsberg, and ee cummings.) What starts out in our sane world slowly descends into madness. So HP Lovecraft too. Which is not to say it isn't riveting, or that Nick Cutter (not his real name) can't write. So into the meat grinder, James Patterson too. The final scene, after our hero goes into the dark deep (to perhaps find a cure to what is turning humanity into amnesia victims) is a savory exercize in wordplay, each revelation getting a focused triple slow-mo punch of phrasings. A kind of verbal tonality reminiscient of the final visual scene of Gone Girl. Rubbernecking at its finest. The setup is not without irony, too. There is reasoned talk about how homo sapiens are causing the mass extinctions of other species, and that something (like what is happening in the novel) may bring our population explosion more into line with what the Earth can sustain. To horror lovers, this is a must-hear---a deliciously disturbing book given an appropriately quirky performance by Corey Brill.

If your brain needs healing after hearing this, (or if you just need help with your own memories due to aging or Parkinson's), Dr. Norman Doidge's new audiobook is THE BRAIN'S WAY OF HEALING, read by George Newbern. It's the latest science involving brain research, with many examples of those who have been helped. The major takeaway: our brains are plastic (well, not literally--they look like four pound lumps of jelly in various Shades of Grey.) So although neurons can die or become less effective due to plaques, you can also grow new ones (unlike limbs.) Stupid is not forever, either, (except among Hollywood comic book movie producers.)

Speaking of science, CARBIDE TIPPED PENS is a new hard SF story collection collected Ben Bova and Eric Choi, with multiple authors and narrators lending their respective talents to the mix. Those who appreciate and/or understand physics and time dilation effects will enjoy these 17 science heavy stories (which can stretch your hours more imaginatively than any frivolous game or game show.) Geeks are already in: "You had me at 'carbide.'" But for sports fans there is also a story featuring a baseball game in which players can continue into their 70s (playing as well as 30 year olds) due to implants that are better than PEDs. Naturally owners balk because the older players demand pay increases year after year. The solution? (Sorry, you'll have to buy a ticket.)

Finally, THE LUPANE LEGACY by Darby Holladay is narrated by Paul Heitsch, and is a cross genre literary suspense that amounts to a lesson in African culture and politics, centered on a man named Patrick whose family history as victim in an atrocity in Rhodesia as a child sparks rekindled emotions for revenge when he sees an old film. It's a bit wordy and unfocused as a suspense or romance. As a different kind of listening experience, however, it fits the bill as a study of character and interesting account of the shifting loyalties which despots of such regimes attract. Heitsch narrated one of my own novels, which was also cross genre, so the question of reader expectations arises, too. If you go into such books looking to check off every cliche and convention, you'll be disappointed. Remote African villages don't sell Big Macs. (Well, at least not yet.) So the special sauce might taste different, (if predictable is what you demand.) But how many novels are set in Zimbabwe these days? The advantage of listening to stories set in other cultures or other times is that they allow you to see life from a viewpoint otherwise unknown to you, and this gives you perspective on your own life, thereby decreasing stress and anxiety. (Your own life is likely to seem privileged by comparison.) Besides, why does everything have to be judged by the standard of a pop slasher novel? Of course there are suspense plot twists here. So when you're given a familiar script upfront, and a slower backstory comes, readers or listeners may get bored. I was not bored, and don't expect or enjoy books that are relentlessly played out, with nothing new to learn or discover. That said, some of the scenes seem padded, and the romance is nothing extraordinary (or escapist.) Yet overall, a worthwhile effort for a debut by a writer familiar with the military intelligence game, and first of a promised trilogy that is more complex (like real life) than most of the genre specific clones which popular authors grind out every year.


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