Book Review

Echo Complete Edition by Terry Moore

Published by Abstract Studios: abstractstudioscomics.com Terry Moore, Artist and Writer.

I just finished reading Echo by Terry Moore for the second time. This is an unbelievable story about a young woman who is testing a nuclear beta suit that covers her body like skin and enables her to fly as fast as a jet plane. Her name is Dr. Annie Trotter and this is part of what HENRI ( Heinrich Nuclear Research Institute) is testing.

The man second in charge is Jack Cooper and they have decided that Dr. Annie Trotter is in the way of what they want to create with this material. They have made a decision to shoot her out of the sky and recover the material when it falls to earth in a secluded area called Moon Lake. What they didn’t count on was a photographer named Julie Martin taking pictures in the Moon Lake area and also a homeless man with a Jesus complex in the same area. When the suit breaks apart after Dr. Trotter is killed by a missile it forms itself into small pellets that fall all around the Moon Lake area, the majority of them hitting Julie and her truck with some other pellets hitting the homeless man.

When Julie touches her truck the pellets swarm together and form a thin breast plate on her that she cannot remove and the homeless man has less pellets but just enough to cover one of his hands.

Julie doesn’t realize it but she has become a nuclear weapon and HENRI will stop at nothing to recover the material even though it will kill her if they try to remove it. The homeless man thinks this material is a gift from God so he can remove the evil from the world with his hand as the Hand of God.

Dr. Annie Trotter, deceased, had a boyfriend named Dillon Murphy who works as a Park Ranger and is very familiar with the Moon Lake area. Dillon is also extremely upset when he finds out that the woman he loves is dead and HENRI has no body to show him. He runs into Julie Martin and is a witness when the army tries to take her into custody and without meaning to, Julie blows the soldiers to hell.

Julie Martin has a sister named Pam whose family was in a terrible accident and her husband and children were killed and she now resides in a psychiatric facility. She is extremely empathic and plays a part in this thrilling story.

The art and text in this giant graphic novel is fantastic and Terry Moore is responsible for it all. The science fiction writer Harlan Ellison says this about Terry Moore and Echo: “Terry Moore does an acre more straight-up memorable storytelling in one black & white issue of Echo than either of the two comic’s giants’ in a years’-worth of their prolix, boring, barren crossover ‘events. This, ECHO, is what we long for, would die for.”

Annie’s distraught boyfriend Dillon decides to help Julie Martin with her predicament, not fully realizing what he is getting into. Also, Dillon has a group of friends that are hardcore Bikers
and he enlists their aid. The head of the biker group, a giant of a man named Dan Backer has been watching HENRI and different events that have been taking place in their area and he suspects them of creating dangerous elements that they let loose in the area where his bike club roams.

Jack Cooper, from HENRI, hires a woman named Ivy Raven to track down Julie and take her into custody but doesn’t reveal all the facts to her. HENRI wants the material back to conduct an experiment that could destroy the world; building a machine that is called a Collider and they want to create a Black Hole.

Ivy Raven is not a woman to fool around with being related to an underground group of women called the Parker Girls which were introduced in Terry Moore’s first comic series called
Strangers In Paradise. I highly recommend reading Strangers In Paradise.

Ironically, a new series of Strangers In Paradise has just started running in the comic stores and it connects directly with the epic Echo. Issue #1 just came out a couple of weeks ago and can still be obtained at your local comic store. This is Volume 2 of Strangers In Paradise. Volume 1 of Strangers In Paradise is a top seller and consisted of a 90 comic run and is available on the internet on Amazon and eBay. Abstract Studios still has some back issues and has a giant trade paperback of Echo which you can obtain from them or your local comic store with some luck.

Once you start reading Echo, you will be hooked, as I was.

“People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and
future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”—Albert Einstein

It by Stephen King

It by Stephen King: “Pocket Books, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.; 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020; Published in 1986 and Republished in 2016.”

It, a book by Stephen King, demanded to be republished because of its powerful horror, which is personified by a supernatural that becomes Pennywise the Clown. It, the creature, reappears every 28 years and feeds on the children of Derry, New Hampshire.

A group of children band together to defeat this creature. Their power lies in the fact that they let their fear be wiped out and overcome. What does the creature really look like? There can something frightening about a clown, but It is more frightening than that.

Circus clowns make people laugh but underneath the laughter lays fear of the unknown. This book is one of the favorites of the Stephen King’s fan club; it is so popular that it has been made into a show for television. The author, King, was not satisfied with the show, but Pennywise The Clown has a dynamic role.

It has just been made into a movie again this year and Pennywise is much more frightening in the remake. One of the main characters is Bill Denbrough, a young man of 10 who stutters so much that behind his back he is known as “Stuttering Bill”, but no one uses the nickname to his face.

He is the leader of a group of children called “the Losers Club” and they hang out in a forested valley with a stream running through it. This area is called the Barrens and is also the lair of the creature known as Pennywise The Clown.

Pennywise morphs into your worst fear. If you are afraid of spiders, it will appear as a spider. Bill Denbrough has a younger brother known as “Georgie” who was the family favorite. One rainy day Bill builds Georgie a newspaper boat and waxes it so it can run down the streams in the gutters that build up when it rains heavily.

The boat is Georgie’s downfall. In the beginning of the story he is chasing the boat down the ripple of water by the curb and it flows into a sewer. The sewer system connects like a labyrenth under Derry and is the lair of “It.”

Georgie peeks into the sewer in a vain search for the boat and all of a sudden Pennywise the Clown, with a hysterical laugh, holds the boat up and says, “Here’s the boat Georgie; don’t you want it?”

Torn between fear and the desire to have the boat back, Georgie is coerced into reaching into the sewer to take the boat from Pennywise’s hand. Quicker than you can say “rip”, Georgie’s arm is torn from his body. Pennywise disappears into the sewer leaving Georgie dead and bleeding in the street.

The loss of Bill’s brother causes his stutter to get much worse. The Loser’s Club is composed of Richie Tozier, who sees Pennywise as a werewolf, Ben Hanscom, who sees Pennywise as his dad who died in World War II, Eddie Kaspbrak, who is a hypochondriac and his most feared illness is asthma, Stanley Uris, a young Jewish boy who does not believe in the unknown, Mike Hanlon, a young Black boy who grows up to be the Derry Librarian, and Beverly Marsh, a young and the only girl of the group. Her greatest fear is her father, who is not a nice guy.

Beverly’s father always says, “I worry about you and those boys; I worry about you a lot.” But the way he looks at her is not quite right.

It by Stephen King is really divided into two stories. In the first half, the children known as the Loser’s Club confront Pennywise in his lair and make silver slugs to shoot him down. Beverly Marsh is the best shot with a slingshot.

Down in the sewers, three school hoodlums, Henry Bowers, Belch, and Huggins, chase the Losers Club down into the sewers, only to become victims of Pennywise themselves. They get caught in what Pennywise calls his “Deadlights” which hypnotize them and make them unable to fight their fear.

I can’t tell you the story of the children’s confrontation with Pennywise because that could ruin the book but afterwards the children clasp hands and make a vow that if the children of Derry begin to be taken by Pennywise again, they will all return to finish him off for good. If they can, that is.

Mike Hanlon, who becomes the town librarian, is the only one of them who remains in Derry. The others leave town and become very successful.

Bill Denbrough becomes a famous horror writer. Ben Hanscom becomes an architect and Beverly Marsh becomes a decorator and winds up living with a man who is very abusive, just like her father.

Richie Tozier becomes a comedian and man of many voices and Eddie Kaspbrak still lives with his overpowering mother but gets rich as the owner of a giant limo service driving famous actors like Al Pacino around Hollywood.

Then there is Stanley Uris, the realist, who becomes a professor. It’s Mike Hanlon’s job, because he remains in Derry, to call the Loser’s Club together again if Pennywise reappears.

By the time the Losers Club starts their entry to middle age, the children of Derry begin to disappear again. It is 28 years later and Mike has to make the calls. No one is happy to hear his voice because of what it means. But they all pack up and leave for Derry, with the exception of Stanley Uris.

Stanley Uris goes upstairs to the bathroom, carefully lays his clothes on the closed toilet as the water in the bathtub fills steaming. Stanley lies in the water, a razor in his hand, and slits his wrists writing as he dies, on the wall in his own blood one word—IT.

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King & Owen King

“Sleeping Beauties; Scribner; An Imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.; 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020”

This book is an insane thriller and it is also a father and son re-union.  Owen King has written a few books by himself but this time he teamed up with his dad, Stephen King, to write a book about a disease that affects women when they go to sleep.

They sleep and a soft growth like the cocoon of a moth grows out of their mouths and covers their heads and the rest of their bodies.  But if you peel the cocoon off of their faces to get to them, the women go wild and become berserk killers.

In Dooling County, a relatively small women’s prison in the Appalachian Mountains, people are frightened because what you don’t know is more threatening than what you think you know.

The book begins when a meth lab blows up and a woman they refer to as the ‘Avon Lady’ kills the chemist by putting his head through the trailer wall.  Linny Mars, the desk dispatcher, takes the 911 call from Tiffany Jones, who is freaking out.

At first Linny Mars doesn’t believe Tiffany Jones but then she hears a boom in the background.  Linny asks Tiffany how they will be able to identify the ‘Avon Lady’ and Tiffany tells her that she’ll be the woman covered with the chemist’s , Truman Mayweather’s, blood.

Linny calls Lila Norcross, the deputy on duty, who doubts everything until she sees the smoke rising up near Adam’s lumberyard.  Then Lila sets out for the scene of the crime.

This book is full of twists and turns and women who are desperately trying to stay awake.  If you can imagine a women’s prison, staffed 50 per cent by women, where the male staff are always trying to get a little piece of sex from dissatisfied women who don’t want any part of it.

Dooling Correctional is a prison that has never won any awards for excellence.  There is too much going on there for that to happen.  Stephen King and Owen King work like madmen creating an insane world with a bizarre disease called the Aurora Sickness.

How is the disease spread? Does a moth carry it?  Does the Aurora Sickness affect animals?  There is a woman named Evie who can talk to animals.  She is locked up in the Dooling Correctional Center.  She sleeps but does not seem to be affected by the Aurora Sickness.  The cocoon never covers her.

Evie was arrested under the name of Eve Black after she blew up the meth lab where she killed Truman Mayweather and another gentleman.  I’ll use the word loosely here.

Stephen King and Owen King have been working together since Owen was a child.  Their first collaboration was not for public consumption.  Growing up in a house full of writers, Stephen, Tabitha, Joe and Owen were all full of word soul.

On the kitchen table there was an ongoing story where everyone took part.  Each person tried to leave the story in a place where it would take some verbal maneuvering to get the hero/heroine out of a seemingly impossible jam.

This ongoing game kept everyone in the house on their toes and helped them learn to build thrilling narratives.  The story drives the writer and the writer steers the story.  Nothing is impossible.  The webbing in Sleeping Beauties keeps all the characters in Sleeping Beauties dealing with all sorts of twists and turns.

There is a talking fox, a Mother Tree, and what does Eve Black have to do with the Aurora Sickness that covers women with something like webbing or while they appear to be asleep? Do the women who are sleeping in the cocoon communicate with each other in another psychic world?

While the men in the story think of the webbing and sleeping women as sick in the grips of a strange disease, it could it be just the opposite.  Why is it that when a person tries to strip the webbing from a woman’s face to wake her up, the woman reacts violently and slays the intruder as if they are invading a world where they are resting peacefully?

Owen King and Stephen King have come up with a story that is a dark fairy tale and very different than the fairy tale of the Sleeping Beauty where a kiss can bring the princess back to life.  It is quite possible that the women are enjoying being where they are in dreamland.

This book, Sleeping Beauties, is an evil tale and it is another King Conspiracy.  You can find it at the Harvard Book Store, where I bought mine, or on the Internet.  This appears to be Owen King’s breakthrough novel and I am sure that Joe Hill, Owen’s brother, is excited that another member of his family has reached out to twist the mind of the American and European public.

Don’t miss this twisted tale by Owen and Stephen King.

Cold City: The Early Years by F. Paul Wilson

Cold City: The Early Years by F. Paul Wilson. A Tor Book, published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N Y 10010

If you’ve never read a Repairman Jack novel, Cold City: The Early Years is the perfect place to start. Jack Moore, which isn’t his real name, dropped out of Rutgers and moved to New York City and has, for a number of reasons, decided to work off the grid.

That means no Social Security number, no record of who he is, just a guy who doesn’t want to take part as a registered member of our civilization. In the beginning Jack is working off the books as a landscaper for a company called Two Paisanos Landscaping, even though there is only one Paisano.

The crew is five men, 4 Dominicans and Jack, the white boy. During the growing season they work 7 days a week and get paid $4 an hour off the books. It’s 1990 so that type of pay without any deductions doesn’t get you rich but you’re not poor either.

One of the Dominicans is named Rico and he was the lead man until Jack started working. Because Jack came from New Jersey and worked as a landscaper for 4 years, he had more experience than any of the other guys.

Why has Jack decided to drop out? The first three books of his life, as a teenager and until he was 24, create his story. When he was nineteen years old, some young prankster threw a cinder block off a bridge that ran over a throughway and it went smashing into the windshield of his parents car and his mother was killed.

In the very first book written about Repairman Jack called The Tomb, Jack hides on the overpass two or three nights a week until he catches the young punk who killed his mother. Revenge is not always a dish served cold.

One day Rico was in a particularly bad mood and starting ragging on Jack with various despicable slurs and Jack was struggling to keep his temper. Then Rico did the unforgivable. He started saying negative things about Jack’s mother. Jack did everything he could to hold himself together and, by some miracle, he did.

Then Rico, out of nowhere, sucker punched Jack and Jack saw black and used all of his martial arts skills on Rico. Jack broke Rico’s nose, kicked Rico’s knee so that it went backwards and got him on the ground and starting pounding on his face. Then Jack picked up a rock and was getting ready to smash it into Rico’s face and Giovanni, the owner of Two Paisano’s, wrapped his arms around Jack and lifted him into the air.

Giovanni held Jack up in the air and all of a sudden Jack cooled off. He told Jack to go home because the other three Dominicans were really angry and Giovanni said that when they went back to work one of them would have used the sharp gardener’s tools to kill Jack.

That was the end of Jack’s work as a landscaper in New York City. It wasn’t his last run in with the Dominican’s that he worked with but you’ll have to read the 1st three books of The Early Years: Cold City, Dark City, and Fear City to find out what happens next and why it happens.

Giovanni recommends that Jack get a gun just to stay safe and that is when Jack finds out that Abe, his close friend in New York who owns a sporting goods store, is also a weapon supplier. In the back room of the sporting goods shop is a giant room with a big sign on the wall that says “The Weapon Shop of Isher.” Have you ever heard of the science fiction writer named A. E. Van Vogt?

The next job Jack procures is through his weapon trainer, a man named Dane Bertel, who smuggles truckloads of cigarettes from North Carolina to New York City and is always in the market for a trustworthy driver. At $3,000 a trip, Jack gets a substantial raise.

On one of these runs, a major incident takes place that changes the course of Jack’s life. I don’t want to ruin the series so I can’t tell anymore about what happens.

I can say that if you have heard of the Jack Reacher series written by Lee Child and like it, you will love the series about Repairman Jack written by F. Paul Wilson which is about twenty books long. People clamor for Dr. Wilson to write more Jack stories but, at this time, he has taken a break and is writing other things. If they ever made Repairman Jack movies, and did them well, they would be giant moneymakers.

I highly recommend this series of books and I would say you should start with Cold City. There are others who would disagree with me but, that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. The great thing about this series is, at this time, you can find these books in used book stores and on the internet for reasonable prices unless they happen to be signed by F. Paul Wilson, the writer.

Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar

Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar.  Published by Cemetery Dance Publications, 132B Industry Lane, Unit #7, Forest Hill, MD 21050, www.cemeterydance.com

When Stephen King partners up with another writer who shares the same darkness dancing on the buttons (keys) of his computer, magic happens. That is exactly what takes place when Richard Chizmar and King told a tale out of school and decided to name it Gwendy’s Button Box.

It is a story about a young girl named Gwendy Peterson who came to possess a beautiful wooden box that came with magic buttons and a great responsibility. There are many countries in our world where people in charge have buttons at their disposal, which would make horrible things happen, if they were to be pressed.

Those buttons are a great responsibility and the people of our world can only pray that the rulers of the countries that possess these buttons are of stable mind. Here in the United States, one of the most powerful countries in the world, the situation is debatable.

Nevertheless, we’re here to talk about a thrilling book called Gwendy’s Button Box, about a young girl who possesses that box and the changes it brings to her life.

The box doesn’t hold buttons; it has buttons attached to it, like keys on a computer, and each button is a different color. If a button is pressed it has an effect on a specific part of the world. Then there is the red button, which will give you whatever you ask for, when it is pressed.

There is also the black button, which should never be pressed; it is similar to the button that launches nuclear missiles all over the world. Similar but much more hazardous; it is a great responsibility to be in charge of that button, let alone the whole box.

There are also two levers, one on each side of the box. One dispenses the best chocolate Gwendy ever tasted, shaped like animals. The other lever doesn’t always work, but gives a pleasant surprise when it does.

When Gwendy presses the button for the chocolate animal, it comes out perfectly shaped; let’s say a small turtle this time. She pops it into her mouth and enjoys it immensely; afterwards, she has no desire for another chocolate that day.

As a matter of fact, after eating that chocolate, her desire for all unhealthy foods goes away. Gradually Gwendy finds herself losing weight. She had been overweight and even started running the Suicide Stairs to lose weight because Frankie Stone, not a nice guy in school, called her the Goodyear Blimp.

The exercise and the diet are effective, and now, when she looks down, Gwendy can see her feet. That wasn’t always the case.

Gwendy met Richard Farris, the man who gave her the button box, at the top of the Suicide Stairs. He had been sitting on the bench at the top of the stairs for about a week and seemed to have his eye on her.

He introduced himself, friendly-like, and gave her the box, explaining all of its ramifications. Mr. Farris appeared to be a nice guy and, despite warnings about talking to strangers, he allayed Gwendy’s fears. Mr. Farris wore a black bowler hat that suited him well. He gave her possession of the box with various warnings and cautions. Then he left and his hat blew off, resting on the grass next to the stairs.

But enough about Mr. Farris and the box. Let’s talk about the Suicide Stairs, so-called because it happened that a few people leapt to their death from the top of the stairway. For Gwendy, however, the Suicide Stairs changed her life for the better.

This book, written by both Stephen King and Richard Chizmar, is a thriller and had me on the edge of my seat. Richard Chizmar is not as well known as Mr. King but he has a twist in his mind that he can share on paper. Both writers are masters of their craft.

Cemetery Dance Publications has been putting out excellent books for a while now, many of them beautiful limited editions, signed and numbered by authors who can send chills up and down your spine. You’ll find Cemetery Dance Publications on the Internet where you can see the books they produce, giving great authors the opportunity to offer beautiful limited editions to the public.

Gwendy’s Button Box is one of the special books put out by Cemetery Dance Publications. Gwendy is one of those special people given a chance to deal with a great responsibility. I highly recommend this book. You can find it in bookstores and on the Cemetery Dance website.

Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel. The Themis Files: Waking Gods, April, 2017: Book Two; Sleeping Giants, Book One; by Sylvain Neuvel; Published by Penguin Random House LLC, New York, N.Y. in 2016. www.randomhousebooks.com

In doing this book review of Waking Gods, which is Book Two of The Themis Files, I find myself in a quandary. When I write a review of a wonderful book, this time a series of 3 books, I don’t like to insert spoilers.

We have a problem. What if you, dear reader, have not yet read Sleeping Giants, which is the 1st book of the series, and you are intrigued by what is happening? In this series, The Themis Files, it is definitely a requirement to read Sleeping Giants before reading Waking Gods.

Let me say this—Waking Gods is a wonderful book and it could stand by itself, however, if you don’t read Sleeping Giants first, there will be much of the story that you will be missing. You might think you understand what is happening in Book Two, however, there may be pieces that you don’t quite understand because of the intricate nature of the invasion of earth by a yet undefined species.

Oh, was that a spoiler? I think not. That sentence gives no more information than little blurbs about Sleeping Giants that are easily found on the Internet. Especially if you go to Sylvain Neuvel’s website and find out interesting facts about the author.

Sylvain quit high school at the age of fifteen but at some point in his life, due to an expanding curiosity, he went back to school and received his PHD. in Linguistics. He also became a father who told a story about giant robots to his son and then, when his son began asking questions in depth about the robots, Sylvain had to come up with a back story.

Which he did. And that is lucky for you because, if it weren’t for the back-story, you would not have a fantastic trilogy of books to read, already optioned by Sony for a movie. It will probably be more than one movie. After all, look at what happened to Hunger Games and this story is wonderfully equal to that tale.

I really hate to inform you what happens when the Waking Gods appear. When the giant machines appear in densely populated areas of the world, they come with attitude. Only the Sleeping Giant can stand against them but there is quite a cost to humanity and the aliens.

Do you trust your government? Can you trust god-like beings with amazing powers that can raze cities to bare earth? The giants and Themis go toe to toe and the cost can be quite high.

You will be amazed by the events that take place in this series. I cannot wait to read the 3rd book and book 2 is only coming out in April of 2017. From one step to the next, the mystery of where these aliens come from and our relationship to them becomes intertwined. Is it possible that they have changed the face of out civilization starting eons ago?

The tension in book one was excruciating, but Waking Gods made Sleeping Giants seem like a walk in the park. I’m thrilled with the twists and turns that take place as the aliens drop into our cities all over the world.

In book one, the story was a search and find expedition and as the giant robot comes together, the human operators are altered in such a way that we can doubt the pure genes of the humans on earth. I really don’t want to discuss the attacks that take place in the cities, but they reveal facts that change the history of humankind.

Life and death are not open to conjecture at this point. This is one of the best scientific series of the history of the world that I have ever read. I have read that this story can be compared to The Martian by Andy Weir or World War Z, because of the style it was written.

However, World War Z was a sleeper compared to The Themis Files. What I mean to say is, World War Z was a series of communications between characters in a rather boring manner, where as Waking Gods is a thrilling series of communications amongst characters.

To compare those two books because of the style in which they were written is a gross error. Sleeping Giants and Waking Gods pulled me along in the narrative and I found it difficult to put the books down. Sylvain Neuvel, the writer, is at home in his medium and is one of the best writers I’ve ever experienced. I’m really excited to find out how the final book of the Themis Trilogy wraps up.

Until then the Waking Gods strike in mid April. You’ll be sure to find a copy at the Harvard Bookstore. They’ll order one for you happily if they sell out. Enjoy!

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. Crown Publishers, an Imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. www.crownpublishing.com

“What might have been and what has been
point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened.”
—T.S. Eliot from “Burnt Norton”

Jason Desson is sitting at the dinner table with the family he loves very much. His son is fifteen and his name is Charlie. His beautiful wife is named Daniela and she watches him with her dark Spanish eyes.

Jason loves his life and can’t imagine anything different. He teaches at Lakemont College, a class in physics, and he enjoys that too. He could have been so much more if he had gone into the private experimental sector but he made a choice and doesn’t regret it.

Well, maybe sometimes he does have a twinge of regret. His wife was on the fast track in the art world and she gave all that up to raise a family and become a teacher too. The paths we choose change everything about our lives.

Then there is Ryan Holder, Jason’s friend and former colleague, who just won the Pavia Prize for identifying the pre -frontal cortex as a consciousness generator. Jason is at the celebration, where Ryan gives him a hard time because he thinks that Jason could have won the prize if he hadn’t gone into teaching.

Jason, who feels quite lucky to be married to Daniela with a wonderful son, fills with anger and leaves the celebration. And that is when the change begins.

It’s one thing to be kidnapped for ransom. But it is quite another thing to be kidnapped and sent to another world where your life is totally different and you become the award winning physicist, but lose your wife and family. Suddenly you are rich and famous, but alone and miserable, and not to mention scared to death about what just seemed to happen to your life.

It also raises the question of who has taken your place in the world you came from and how did that happen?

Advantage—you have all the tools to get back to your real life, but you lack the skill to use the tools. There is a Black Box, which gives you options of doors you can go through to find your correct life. But you don’t know the rules for choosing the correct door, and there are myriad doors to choose from. How do you find the world you want to get back to and who did this to you? Was it the man who took your place in the world you were taken out of?

That man is you, in your old world, yet he is not you. He is a pretender who is now sleeping with your wife. You are now him, in another reality, yet you really are not him. In the world you are now in you are the owner of Velocity Laboratories and you are rich and powerful, yet you can’t seem to get back home to your wife and depose the usurper.

Who is the real Jason Desson? How many Jason Desson’s are there? When Jason Desson goes into the Black Box that he created at Velocity Laboratories which allows him to visit myriad alternate realities, how will he discover the world he wants to re-enter? And he has a limit on the number of tries he can make to go home.

Whose place are you taking and who took your place? How do you use the Black Box? How do you choose the reality that will take you home? These are the questions facing Jason Desson in Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.

This book is dynamic and unbelievable yet, could it happen? It grabs your attention from the very beginning and takes you along on Jason’s travels and discoveries. A futuristic detective story/science fiction mix, Dark Matter is an exciting adventure about an unusual situation. It will definitely keep you interested and entertained, from first page to last.

I saw it at The Harvard Bookstore so go on in and grab it. But look out which door you leave the store by. Anything can happen.

Dead Man’s Blues by Ray Celestin

Published by Mantle, an imprint of PanMacmillan, 20 Wharf Road, London NI 9RR www.panmacmillan.com

Dead Man’s Blues is a fantastic book that takes the reader back to the wild Chicago of 1928 where the booze and drugs flowed freely. The city is controlled by Alphonse Capone, a man in the grips of tertiary syphilis. The disease is in its third, incurable, stage.

Capone had syphilis for over fifteen years, before he went to an out of town doctor under a pseudonym, and got the bad news. It shook him to his core.

Capone was so upset by the news that he had his bodyguards drop him off at a sauna to relax his nerves. They waited outside while he reminisced the words of the doctor “If it develops into neurosyphilis, the spirochete, like a worm, will enter the brain and attack the frontal lobes—your personality may become exaggerated”. He sat in the sauna brooding until his mood changed when he rationalized that now he could do anything he felt like doing and blame his behavior on his illness.

With this in mind, Al Capone goes violent in the sauna before he leaves, riding off with his bodyguards afterward.

All the greats of jazz make their appearance in this thrilling crime drama—Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Henry Hines, etc. Chicago is the Big City and corruption is its first name.

Pinkerton Detectives Michael Talbot and Ida Davis play a major role in this book, hunting down a serial killer who likes to take out the eyes of his victims and leave them staring into space next to the corpse.

This is Ray Celestin’s 2nd book. His first book, The Axeman’s Jazz, took place in New Orleans in 1919, and a few of the same characters appear, more developed, in Dead Man’s Blues. Two of the main carry over players are detective Michael Talbot, married to a Black woman, which was a big deal back in that era, and Ida Davis, Michael’s Pinkerton’s partner, who is a light skinned Black woman who can pass for white, which she uses to her advantage.

Michael and Ida are offered $50,000, big money in those days, by a society belle, to find her daughter Gwendolyn. But because there is a conflict of interest here, they have to decide whether to take the job and leave the Pinkertons or decline and stay on the payroll.

The Axeman’s Jazz, Ray’s debut novel won the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award and was shortlisted for the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year 2014. Actually, as good as his first book was, Celestin’s 2nd book, Dead Man’s Blues, caps it and is much more cohesive. It appears that The Axeman’s Jazz was the introduction to what is going to be a four book series dealing with the era of Prohibition.

You might not hear much about Ray Celestin here in the United States but his books are both best sellers in Europe. It’s ironic that they deal with our history, the unwritten history of the mobs, the drugs, the brothels, and the free flowing liquor of the time. The story narrates one of the most corrupt periods of the United States.

Another main player in the story is Dante Sanfelippo, a gangster from Chicago, who made it big in New York City. But because of a tragedy unwittingly engineered by men he knew, Dante was responsible for the death of his wife Olivia and a bunch of New York mobsters. It so happened that champagne was laced with poison by guys who didn’t know what they were doing, but Dante was responsible for the distribution of the brew.

The poison brew also struck Chicago. But because of the quick action of a few bodyguards, the politicos and gangsters who drank the poison were rescued by prompt medical help. Al Capone, ironically, calls Dante back to Chicago to find the people at fault for the tragedy in New York and the near tragedy in Chicago.

Ever since the poison brew struck and killed Dante’s wife, he turned to heroin to ease the pain of his conscience. This puts him even more at risk to raise the ire of Alphonse Capone, who hates people who use and/or deal heroin, because he believes it makes them unreliable.

At one point, Dante scores a small block of heroin from his favorite shoeshine man, and goes to the beach to shoot up. While he’s shooting up, a stray dog comes over to him and watches. Afterwards the dog cuddles up to him so he takes it home. One of his friends names the dog Virgil, from Dante’s Inferno, and the name sticks.

Much of what I have related to you is just background information. I don’t want to reveal the main plots of the story because this is a book you should read and enjoy firsthand—after all, it’s a piece of American history that they don’t teach in school. Ray Celestin will be regarded as one of the great fiction writers in the near future. Currently, he lives in London, but you can buy his book, Dead Man’s Blues, at the Harvard Bookstore in Harvard Square.

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters. Mulholland Books/Little Brown & Company, Hachette Book Group; Goldsboro Books, UK Ltd. Edition S & N.

“No future amendment of the Constitution shall affect the five preceding articles, . . . and no amendment shall be made to the Constitution which shall authorize or give to Congress any power to abolish or interfere with slavery in any of the States by whose laws it is, or may be allowed or permitted.”—–The Senator John C. Crittenden Compromise, May 9, 1861.”

Imagine if President Lincoln was shot before the Civil War took place and then, because of that, and the greed of humankind, the Civil War never happened. If you were Black and born into a slave state—there would be no way you could ever be a free man.

There were four states that embraced slavery and even if you ran, there were hunters, most often Black themselves, who work to break into the Underground Airlines, and bring you back. There was no safe place for a slave to hide—unless they made it into Canada. And even there . . .

Ben H. Winters’ new book alters history and tells the story of a Black Man who was a slave, and his price for freedom was to become a hunter of other slaves and in his thankless quest, Jim Dirkson, free since he was 14 uncovers the horrible truth of the Underground Airlines.

With a GPS Tracker buried in the back of his neck, and a merciless handler that he contacts by cell phone, there is no escape. This is not the United States we know, yet, it can be horribly close. It’s not unknown for Black people to be suddenly grabbed and sold into slavery—their entire previous life erased by the press of a button on a computer.

The man we know as Jim Dirkson is closing in on a “runaway” slave who is waiting for his flight. Yet neither of the men have any idea of the situation they are really in.

The horrors of the jobs a slave must do include long and monotonous days. Our runaway would, for twelve hours a day, pluck the loose threads from the collars of shirts as they continuously rode up an assembly line. They are the type of jobs no one in their right mind could do for long.

I can remember when I had a factory job where I would watch a piece of metal the size of a paper clip move along an assembly line through a magnifying glass. The pin would move; I would press a lever and make a notch on it; the pin would move; I would press a lever and make a notch on the other side. A new pin would move into place. Work like this can make a person mad, in the sense of a falling apart of the mind.

These were slave jobs. Imagine, in the modern world, there being 4 states where it was legal to own a thinking, feeling man or woman just because his skin color is darker than yours.

“Under the Fugitive Persons Law, those who escape from service are to be captured and returned, anywhere they are found in the United States, slave state or free.” This is why Canada is the only answer, or any other country that doesn’t condone slavery.

Back in history, the escape route was called the “underground railroad”; there were no aircraft. Times have changed. We have aircraft, and GPS trackers, yet slavery still exists.

In Underground Airlines, Ben H. Winters has written his best book yet. It is certainly his most frightening tale. I saw copies of this book in the Harvard Book Store, one of my favorites, in Cambridge. If they don’t have it, they will order it and it will come in quickly.

I can’t tell the story like Ben H. Winters narrates the Underground Airlines, so I won’t. I hate spoilers in book reviews and try to avoid them as much as possible. His last three books, The Last Policeman trilogy won the 2012 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America. The second book of the trilogy, Countdown City, was an NPR Best Book of 2013 and the winner of the Philip K. Dick Award for Distinguished Science Fiction.

Ben H. Winters is truly coming into his own. Right now Goldsboro Books in London has a Limited Edition and the last time I checked they had some left. I’m sure these Signed and Numbered books will be collector’s editions in the near future.