Review of Ancestor by Scott Siglar

Every five minutes, a transplant candidate dies while waiting for a heart, a liver, a kidney. Imagine a technology that could provide those life-saving transplant organs for a nominal fee … and imagine what a company would do to get a monopoly on that technology.

On a remote island in the Canadian Arctic, PJ Colding leads a group of geneticists who have discovered this holy grail of medicine. By reverse-engineering the genomes of thousands of mammals, Colding’s team has dialed back the evolutionary clock to re-create humankind’s common ancestor. The method? Illegal. The result? A computer-engineered living creature, an animal whose organs can be implanted in any person, and with no chance of transplant rejection.

There’s just one problem: these ancestors are not the docile herd animals that Colding’s team envisioned. Instead, Colding’s work has given birth to something big, something evil.

Okay, that’s a pretty big promise of chills and thrill, right? The obvious comparison is Crichton’s Jurassic Park, as this is about a team of scientists who meddle with Mother Nature using genetic engineering and wind up creating a bunch of monsters that lead to their doom.

On the surface, it kind of reminds me of Deep Blue Sea, but what that film lacks, this novel has in spades (by that I mean character development).

Now, I’m not criticizing Deep Blue Sea for not having lots of character development because it is a monster movie and the main characters are the big, bad sharks. The people they are trying to eat are almost secondary to the story, so it makes sense not to invest too much time in their story, especially when most of them are just going to get eaten anyways.

But Ancestor spends time letting you get to know the characters – some of which are admittedly caricatures (like the insane head of security and the reluctant scientist), but Siglar’s genius is in developing the less important characters, like soldiers-for-hire, the C-5 flight crew and those living on Black Manitou Island.

There were also many great little bits and pieces in this book IMHO. The evil billionaires heading Genada were Canadians, including Magnus, who had spent time in JTF (Canada’s version of Delta Force). They set part of the novel in the Canadian Arctic. If that wasn’t interesting enough, one of the security guards was busy writing vampire novels in his spare time! :lol:

I actually read this BEFORE I read Infection and I was very impressed. Scott Siglar gets one star just for setting part of the book in Canada – far too few authors do that IMHO. While the book has its flaws, it was hard to put down and that’s what I look for in a book – something that will entertain me and keep me hooked.

Four stars out of five.

Coffin Hop Souvenirs – you know you want ‘em!

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The Coffin Hop rises again

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It’s back baby!

The Coffin Hop Blog Hop is running from October 24th – 31st and features a wide number of authors from around the world talking all about horror.

For those of you who don’t know how it works – it’s pretty simple. You ‘hop’ from blog to blog and read interviews, blog posts, stories, etc and leave comments. Maybe you pop by the writer’s Facebook page and/or follow them on Twitter too. Then you get entered into a contest for cool prizes and if you’re lucky you win something.

Don’t forget to visit all the other writers in this blog hop, as most of them are running giveaways too.

If you want a chance to win a signed copy of Zombie Night in Canada: First Period, all you need to do is comment between now and October 31 at midnight.

Coffin Hop Souvenirs – you know you want ‘em!

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Review of James Patterson’s Zoo

All over the world, brutal attacks are crippling entire cities. Jackson Oz, a young biologist, watches the escalating events with an increasing sense of dread. When he witnesses a coordinated lion ambush in Africa, the enormity of the impending violence becomes terrifyingly clear.

With the help of ecologist Chloe Tousignant, Oz races to warn world leaders before it’s too late. The attacks are growing in ferocity, cunning, and planning, and soon there will be no place left for humans to hide.

I’d seen this book a ton of times while shopping at Wal-Mart and other stores around town, so I figured I’d see if library had it. They did, so I reserved it and waited a month or two until a copy became available. Having never read a Patterson book, I didn’t know what to expect, but given his long list of bestsellers, I guessed it would entertaining.

The story moves along nicely, although I didn’t understand how the protagonist innately understood that a seismic shift in global ecology was happening when trained biologists in the field didn’t (Jackson Oz never finished his PhD). Still, inquiring minds want to know and he travels the world investigating his theory, slowly piecing it all together.

However, for such a smart guy, he does a fair bit of dumb things – like owning a chimp for a pet. That is a risky proposition at the best of times, but when you’re investigating animal attacks on humans, it’s probably not a good idea. He also travels to the African Savannah and is nearly killed when a pride of lions attack the tour group he is with (an event for which he is ill-prepared).

A problem with the book is that for no reason, it suddenly jumps five years into the future. Sorry, but that seems like lazy writing to me. Why not start it there and use flashbacks to tell Oz’s back story? Or have a prologue to provide some background?

The biggest cliche of this book though are the women. His somewhat frumpy yet trusting girlfriend gets killed off and is almost instantly replaced by a super-sexy French scientist who of course falls in love with him. Really?

SPOILER ALERT: The premise that mankind has altered the biosphere by burning massive amounts of hydrocarbons is not all that exceptional, but it’s manifestation is an interesting one. However, as with Dave Freedman’s Natural Selection, the quantum shift that occurs in all mammalian species worldwide at the same time (in under a decade) is a touch difficult to accept.

This book is lot like a Michael Bay movie – if you don’t ask too many questions and just sit back and enjoy it, it’s okay but not overly memorable and odds are you will forget about it shortly after closing the book.

Two stars out of five.

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Review of Natural Selection

A shocking biological discovery. A previously unknown predatory species. Evolving just like the dinosaurs. Now. Today. Being forced out of its world and into man’s for a violent first encounter. Weaving science and thriller in a way not seen since Jurassic Park, Natural Selection introduces a phenomenally dangerous new species that is rapidly adapting in a way never before seen. A mystery. A chase. A vast expansive puzzle. A team of marine scientists is on the verge of making the most stunning discovery in the history of man.

That sounds pretty interesting right? And the cover, with its giant set of jaws filled with razor-sharp teeth, draws one in too.

The book has a lot of promise – a super-intelligent, carnivorous flying predator and a team of marine biologists out to learn about and later deal with them. Based on that, it sounded a lot like Steve Alten’s Meg series, which while absolutely fictional, were fun books to read. That’s about what I was expecting here – something plausible but fictional and a fair bit of gore and mayhem.

The fictional monster in Natural Selection is the Demon Ray – a massive intelligent ray forced from the depths that learns to fly AND breath air. I found this unlikely. Sure evolution occurs, but two such quantum leaps in the same generation? It was simply too fast.

But that’s not the only problem with the book. Some reviews complain about paper-thin characters, poor dialogue, etc., but honestly, when you are reading a book like this, those are all secondary.

The biggest problem is that the monster doesn’t eat anyone until well into the book. When the big ‘hunt down the monster’ scene occurs, it’s a handful of scientists tracking it in a park? Seriously? If this thing is so dangerous, why aren’t they better armed or calling out the National Guard to assist them?

All in all, if you’re willing to suspend belief, it’s a fairly decent thriller. Personally, Freedman pushed too far and made it unbelievable.

Two stars out of five.

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October is Monster Month!

I’ve read a number of monster horror novels over the past year. Instead of publishing them piecemeal throughout the year, I thought, what better month to publish my thoughts on monster novels than October?

I haven’t finalized the list yet, but here are a few of the titles I’ll be reviewing;

Natural Selection by Dave Freedman
Zoo by James Patterson
Ancestor by Scott Siglar
The Games by Ted Kosmatka

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I’ll be at Edmonton Expo this week

I’m happy to announce that I am scheduled to be at this year’s Edmonton Comic & Entertainment Expo. I’m still not famous enough to be a guest, so I’m going as an exhibitor for now…

It takes place this week (September 26 – 28) at Northlands Expo Centre.

This year, they are bringing in Raj & Howard from the Big Bang Theory!

Who’s the hero and who’s the sidekick?

Edmonton Comic & Expo didn’t stop there – they got tons of other guests from a wide variety of movie and TV franchises.

I'll be signing (and selling paperback copies) of Zombie Night in Canada: First Period and live tweeting from the convention.

So if you happen to be in/near Edmonton this week, drop by and say hi – I might even have a cool gift for anyone who mentions this blog (hint, hint)!

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Worried about Peak Oil?

If you’re not, this might change your mind!

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Worried about an Alien Invasion?

If you are, you might want to watch this video:

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After Armageddon – A SHTF scenario

This History.com show on a global flu pandemic offers a ton of great tips, many of which are applicable in almost any survival situation.

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Review of Slow Apocalypse

Despite wars with Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as 9/11, the United States’ dependence on foreign oil has kept the nation tied to the Middle East. A scientist has developed a cure for America’s addiction—a slow-acting virus that feeds on petroleum, turning it solid. But he didn’t consider that his contagion of an Iraqi oil field would spread to infect the fuel supply of the entire world…

In Los Angeles, screenwriter Dave Marshall heard this scenario from a retired U.S. Marine and government insider who acted as a consultant on Dave’s last film. It sounded as implausible as many of his scripts, but the reality is much more frightening than anything he can envision.

An ordinary guy armed with extraordinary information, Dave hopes his survivor’s instinct will kick in so he can protect his wife and daughter from the coming apocalypse that will alter the future of Earth—and humanity…

So reads the preview on Amazon of John Varley’s Slow Apocalypse. Somehow I missed this one when it came out, but I saw it on a trip to the book store – and it sounded interesting enough to get me to cough up the $10.

Overall, it was a decent read with an interesting premise – a screenwriter hears something ludicrous from a retired Army Colonel who used to provide him with story ideas. The characters are generally likeable and the story is interesting. Varley keeps the apocalyptic mayhem rolling with natural disasters (Dave Marshall live in LA, think about it) one after the other, as well as the things we might expect if the power went out and our high energy civilization collapsed.

The protagonist, Dave, after seeing his informant assassinated almost in front of his eyes, flees the scene and begins to stockpile food, fuel, water and everything else one might need to survive a catastrophe. Interestingly however, most of what he buys is he geared to the short term, not things that will make his life better long term, like seeds or tools or spare parts or even solar-powered chargers for his electronics, as one might need if there was suddenly no gas to power our society any longer. That made it interesting to me, as the author could have turned him into a prepper extraordinaire and ruined the novel. Instead, Marshall and members of his family make mistakes here and there, which is far more realistic than a screenwriter suddenly doing everything right all the time.

The only drawback for me was that I would have preferred to see a more global approach in this novel. Varley sets the novel in Los Angeles and never really leaves the area for very long. He describes in detail which street intersects with another street in LA, which neighbourhoods are located next to each other and so on. It would have been nice to use a broader lens at time to really see how something like this might affect the entire country, if not the world. Other End of Oil novels like Ill Wind and World Made by Hand show a wider canvass and were, I think, stronger for it.

While this wasn’t the best apocalyptic story I’ve read, it was better than quite a few and kept me turning the pages to see what happened next. Best of all, Varley adds an Epilogue so that readers can get some closure and sense of what happened across the country.

*** Three out of five stars

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