TITLE: Dragon’s Teeth
AUTHOR: Suzanne Van Rooyen
GENRE: Dystopian Cyberpunk
PUBLISHER: Divertir Publishing
What do you get when you combine a dystopian setting with genetically enhanced soldiers, drug-trafficking and a cynical detective? Dragon’s Teeth
. Although the title of Suzanne Van Rooyen’s debut novel may incite images of characters from a fantasy book, there are neither dragons nor elves between the pages. Instead, we are launched into a world of robots and synthetic food, where having imperfect genetics is a crime, plastic surgery is the norm and no one remembers what the sun feels like on their skin. Dragon’s Teeth
is divided into three parts. Part I follows Cyrus, a private detective and occasional drug dealer who yearns for a time when alcohol was made by fermentation and genetics was only a scientific study. While Part II seems completely unrelated to Part I, it instantly caught my imagination. Part II follows two genetically engineered soldiers in a military camp as they come to realize that they are being fed nothing but lies. But it is Part III, which ties the first two together with a dark, twisted plot that truly makes Dragon’s Teeth
Overall, Suzanne’s world was intriguing, but not thoroughly fleshed out. While most debut authors make the mistake of writing too much, I think Suzanne wrote too little. As a stickler for detail, I found myself wanting more scientific explanations and more world-building. There were fantastic sub-plots that I wanted to explore in depth. Part I, II and III had enough substance to flesh out into a full-blown trilogy. And while that is an endorsement, it is also a complaint. Dragon’s Teeth
piqued my interest and kept me entertained, but it did not stand up to its full potential.
Suzanne Van Rooyan has an epic imagination. Pick up Dragon’s Teeth
if you’re hungry for cyberpunk, dystopian scenarios and post-apocalyptic landscapes. You won’t be disappointed, but you may be left wanting more. The material is suitable for both adult and young adult readers, but it is obviously aimed towards an adult audience.
LINKSDragon's Teeth on AmazonSuzanne's websiteSuzanne on TwitterSuzanne on Facebook If you enjoyed this review, you can subscribe to the Underground or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Chapter 1 — FIRST AID
It felt like a long splinter pushed into her soft flesh. The pain sharp, yet insignificant to her well-being. She considered it for a moment, pondering whether to ignore it. No, this presented a problem. This shard felt tainted, poisoned. As though it could destroy everything if allowed to fester.
Manhattan scanned her entire being, searching for the point of discomfort. There it was, in a corner of the place she sometimes forgot was still a part of her, on the other side of the Dead Walls. For a moment she wished for a body to pour a piece of herself into. She could pluck this thing from her, destroy it, annihilate it. Even without a body, the possibility existed. But the will to exert such forceful and direct action had left her long ago.
“This will not do,” Manhattan said only to herself.
A tool always existed to eradicate any temporary discomforts.
“Lonthalian, where shall I find you?” Manhattan peered into the place of knowing, searching for the one who could remove the source of her discomfort. The Lonthalian was not making it easy. He too was past the Dead Walls.
If Manhattan could sigh, she would have. Instead, she allowed herself one moment to brace before pushing a fragment of her consciousness through the Dead Walls. The sounds and sensations of New York City on a humid summer night slammed into her being.
Chaos. These humans live in chaos.
Her arrival was like a beacon shining into the black sky, bright enough to dim event the boldest lights of the city, though the beacon shone for only a pitiful few. She felt the Lonthalian spring to attention and found him gazing out his apartment window, waiting. He missed the Living City, but had grown fond of this shadow city.
“He’s here,” Manhattan said. “He’s committed a murder at the airport to the north.”
Look out serial killers! There’s a new kid on the block and he knows what you’re thinking! Yesterday I posted a five star review for Mark Anderson Esquire’s Murder & Single Malt, a fascinating story inside the mind of a serial killer. A native of Ireland, I look forward to not only following his career path, but reading more of Mr. Esquire’s books.
Welcome to the Underground Author
Mark Anderson Esquire!
Kimberly: Please tell us a little about yourself.
Mr. Esquire: I am lucky to be fairly well traveled and have lived in several countries over the course of my life. The weird things I’ve seen and the weirder things I’ve read all go into my writing. At present I live in my native Ireland with my wife and our daughter. I do have a career but it’s far too dull to mention. Suffice to say that writing is an outlet for the craziness that I keep bottled up Monday to Friday, nine to five.
Kimberly: Is Murder & Single Malt your first novel?
Mr. Esquire: I have been writing regularly in one form or another since I was a teenager, although it’s only in the last five years that I’ve turned to fiction. Prior to M&SM there were some lesser novels that were mostly my attempts to learn and grow as a writer. They have been consigned to the Lost ’n’ Found box in the sky. May they rest in peace.
Kimberly: Murder & Single Malt is an amazing adventure inside the mind of a serial killer. Did you do a lot of research on serial murderers?
Mr. Esquire: Actually when I started thinking about M&SM I was fairly well read on serial killers. Crime stories, particularly grizzly ones, fascinated me as a younger man. I’ve been reading about Dahmer, Gacy and Gein since I was a teenager. I blame violent video games, personally.
Actually the topic that needed the most research was whiskey; I wanted the central character Mike to be fluent on the merits of different whiskeys and even to have firm opinions on the different distillation methods. So to give his character the depth it needed I ended up reading extensively on the topic of whiskey production. I also sampled some of the nicer examples.
Title: Murder & Single Malt Author:
Mark Anderson Esquire Publisher:
Mike Baker is a serial murder. It’s as simple and as complicated as that. That’s who he is; that’s what he does. Not too far into Murder & Single Malt
, Mike loses his boring job, his only friend moves out of the country, his girlfriend trades him in for a guy who could be his twin, and the only person who cares about him is his dying mother. That’s it. That’s all there is to Mike except... he enjoys torturing and murdering people. Sometimes he murders because of a vendetta, sometimes it’s just on a whim and sometimes someone just ticks him off. There is no rhyme or reason. There is no connect-the-dots like 5’5” blonde haired women that look like his mother, or grumpy old men who remind him of a father who never really cared much about him, it’s just who Mike Baker is. Murder & Single Malt
will take you on a journey into the mind of a killer; a journey that is haunting. As normal on the outside as apple pie and four-leaf clovers in Ireland where Mr. Esquire resides, you will abhor Mike Baker, feel sorry and get angry with him, and then just pause and think, oh my God, do I know this guy? Quote: “I’ve been reading more and more. I’ve come to the conclusion that I am a serial killer. But, at the same time I differ from most. My background isn’t the abusive/broken home stereotype you’d expect. Plus I vary my kills. Usually serial killers stick to a pattern. They might let the pattern evolve over time. But I’m not sure if I’ve killed two people in the same way yet. That’s maybe what’s keeping the police from connecting the deaths.” Opinion:
Okay, I have to admit, I was a bit leery when Mr. Esquire asked me to review Murder & Single Malt
. I’m a total serial murder junky and didn’t know if Murder & Single Malt
would be believable. From Gein, to the Zodiac killer, to Gacy and Bundy, I’ve studied them all, read the books, watched the movies and dug, dug, dug for more. The human mind fascinates me. Obviously it does Mr. Esquire too.
Written entirely in first person, Murder & Single Malt
is brilliantly composed. Mr. Esquire's crisp, concise dialogue puts us right smack inside Mike Baker’s head. Where some authors lose readers by taking us from past to present, Esquire is not that author. Each chapter brings us right back where we left off.
From the one person dialogue Mike has with himself about the Big Bang Theory to his ‘chat’ with God about the crucifixion of Jesus, Murder & Single Malt
is a brilliant down-to-earth read.
I did find myself closing my eyes during the murder scenes as the book was so visual it made me feel as if I was sitting in a movie theater, so you may get a little nauseous at times, yet not enough to put it down. A few minor grammatical errors to fix and this book will soar to the top. Recommendation: Murder & Single Malt
is for anyone fascinated by the criminal mind. We read about it, but never quite understand. It does not offer insight into the ‘why’s’, but gives a first-hand view inside the head of Mike Baker, serial killer. I do not recommend this for children, nor do I recommend it as a gift for a friend you feel is a good candidate to be a serial murderer. Rating: Top Pick!
Five Stars Links: Amazon Book Link Mark Anderson on FacebookMark Anderson on TwitterVisit Mark's personal webpage
If you enjoyed this review, you can subscribe to the Underground or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
If you want to read the first chapter of Fran Kefalas's breakout novel, City of Her, vote in the 'comments' section of this blog post. For your vote to count, you must have an email subscription to the Underground. If Fran has ten or more votes by next Friday (July 27th) her first chapter will be featured on Underground Book Reviews.
Katie here. I’d like to introduce you to Fran Kefalas. I first met Fran at the Algonkian Writer’s Conference in December. We found we had much in common with our YA Fantasy manuscripts. I’ve since come to know Fran from working with her in our peer group on Author Salon. She is just as kind-hearted, determined and passionate as I found her to be at first meeting. Please welcome Fran Kefalas!Katie:
First of all Fran, please tell us about your manuscript, City of Her. Fran: City of Her
is a young adult fantasy set both in the NYC of our world and the Manhattan of world hidden from human eyes right here on earth. The two cities are very different, with the Manhattan of the other world actually being a living, breathing character. The Protagonist, 15-year-old Erin Angelo, finds herself pushed into the other Manhattan after being pursued by a menacing stranger. Then the real excitement begins. Erin is uniquely connected to Manhattan and that connection could be the savior or destroyer of both worlds. Katie:
You’re received lots of attention from agents and publishers on Author
. How has Author Salon changed how you are handling City of Her
How has guidance from Michael Neff changed or molded your story?Fran:
I didn’t know the first thing about writing a pitch, or a query for that matter, before I met Michael at the Algonkian Pitch Conference in NYC. Some how, Michael understood City of Her
and helped me frame it in a way that sounded unique. Manhattan was always alive in my book, but I never bothered to mention it. Once Michael figuratively slapped me upside the head, a whole new set of possibilities opened up. I threw out the first 100 pages of the book, rewrote 60 of them and joined Author Salon, where I keep rewriting and pushing the manuscript thanks to an amazing peer group, which you are one of. Michael helped me see the possibilities of City of Her,
and the Author Salon has meant I have the both the support and feedback needed to keep pushing. AND, they are actively pitching the work on the site, so I’ve gotten interest without having to send a single query. It’s the best of all worlds for me. Katie:
I know that you, like many of us, have a family, hold down a steady
job, but still find time to write. What drives your writing? Fran:
There are a few things that really drive my writing. The first is the idea that everyone has a story to tell. That comes from my journalism
background, and I have had a blast meeting some truly incredible people (and incredible is not always meant in a pleasant way). I've seen the best and worst of humanity fairly intimately.
The second, and again this starts with my journalism background, is the search for truth. Am I writing the truth? It's a question I ask myself a lot, even in my fiction. But the answer has become anything but absolute. That stems from my meditation practice, which has taught me truth is truly relative in many ways. What is my truth, is not yours or anyone else’s and vice versa. So, I’m talking about truth in a really pragmatic way but more in a philosophical way. That meditation practice is the third thing that really drives my writing. It has opened my mind and my creativity has flowed much more freely.
Welcome to The Short Fiction Review series here on UBR. This month I’m reviewing three very different pieces of short fiction by self-published and traditionally published writers.
Lamppost by Malcolm W. Keyes
Lamppost, a sci-fi novelette by Malcolm W. Keyes (a mysterious pseudonym of a published speculative fiction author), takes the reader on a thoughtful exploration of the human soul, a mind-blowing ride though the multiverse and, along the way, we get to blow up evil aliens.
This is the story of Jonah, a military starpilot who mentally fuses with his spacecraft to become a single entity. Exhausted from a career of battling universe-devouring machines, Jonah is burned out and must take drugs to fulfill his duties. Depressed and strung out, it is duty that gives Jonah his only reason for living. He is unable to form normal human relationships. Eventually, Jonah is ordered to seek counseling. With his counselor’s help, Jonah finally finds himself and connects with a childhood sweetheart, Ariel. In her he finds love and a new reason to live. Just when he is able to feel human
again, Jonah is ordered on the mission of a lifetime, a mission to save the universe.
Lamppost is Darkstar meets Top Gun with a little of The Last Starfighter thrown in. The writing is fast and clean, sophisticated and yet simple. It’s difficult to pigeon-hole this book, and that’s the way a good story should be. Lamppost by Malcolm W. Keyes gets 88 out of 99 cents.
If you’re a writer you’ve probably been there. You’ve written a short story, or even a collection of short stories, edited them and now you’re ready to sell them. And so the query process begins. As you search for agencies and publishers something quickly becomes apparent. No one wants short stories.
Many publishers and agents won’t accept or represent short fiction. Why? The word is
that short fiction doesn’t make money. The economy has taken a toll on the forums that still widely publish short fiction, like magazines and university literary reviews. These types of publications are quickly becoming scarce. Oh sure, there are still plenty of writing contests for short fiction, but getting published is hit or miss depending on what the judges are looking for. Often, writing contests have themes that exclude broad swaths of fiction. Bottom line, it’s tough, and getting tougher, to get your short fiction published through traditional means.
From flash fiction to novellas, short fiction is how writers cut their teeth and learn their craft. Short fiction is the mother’s milk of creative writing, the seed corn of literary greatness. Without short stories there can be no fiction. It deserves a little respect.
There is one place that short fiction is still alive and well – the endless shelves of
places like Amazon, Smashswords and other e-publishing sites. Short stories, serialized short stories, novelettes, novellas, and flash fiction of every stripe thrive in the e-publishing universe. In the digital domain there is a glorious explosion of little books from people with big ideas. This is the literary marketplace at its finest, a roaring throng of endless humanity hawking their wares, trying to get someone, anyone, to notice their books. I noticed.
Over the past few months I delved into the endless expanse of short fiction e-books. Some of it is good, a lot of it is bad, and some of it is bizarre. I found hundreds of self-published books by different authors with almost identical covers. I saw books with covers featuring the identical photo of the author. I had no idea there was so much erotica for women. I saw novellas by established authors like Dean Koontz and Karen Slaughter. And, of course, there were tens of thousands of free short fiction books with a lone five-star review. Yes, short fiction is alive and well. I think it’s time it gets the credit it deserves.
Over the next three months I will be reviewing short fiction and nothing but short
fiction from a variety of genres. I want to highlight the amazing work, and maybe not so amazing work, from aspiring and established authors across the world. Since this type of fiction is, well, short, I’m going to be writing more than one review per blog post. My first installment will be this Monday. I hope you will join me.
Author, historian, actress and voiceover artist Jane Singer is a woman of many talents. One of those talents is spinning realistic and engaging tales as evident in Alias Dragonfly the YA historical novel. And somehow she finds time to volunteer her time with rescued animals. Please welcome Jane Singer!
Katie: The thing the struck me most is the amount of research that must've gone into creating such an accurate portrayal of the Civil War Era. What was your research process like? How did you make this story feel so authentic?
Jane: From the time I was a little kid growing up in Virginia, the Civil War seemed to be everywhere. You didn't have to go far at all to see traces of it. Sometimes just around the bend was a marker telling of battles lost and won, captures and casualties, shadows of a time that was very far away, yet still within reach. So I read everything I could get my hands on about the war and dragged my mom and dad on special "Janie has to do this" Sundays for years until I decided that when I grew up I would write about the war. Research was so accessible in Virginia. Just across the bridge, the Library of Congress and the National Archives sat, waiting, it seemed, for me to explore. Handling old books and documents, inhaling the musty pages, became familiar and intoxicating. It still is. Hard work, though, to go beyond the obvious, beyond works well covered and often repeated. And of course, online resources are available; if you know where to look. So all this is to say I got a very early start, learned the basics and raced on from there. Then as now, I was drawn not to tales of generals and famous battles but to the unknown men and women who roamed the Civil War landscape. I read letters, piles of letters from and to soldiers, mothers, brothers, and especially from those on the home front. Research helps me "see" this time. Details of clothing, foods, language, the very fabrics of people's daily lives—churning butter, rolling bandages and pie dough, riding through rain in carriages or carts—comforted me, knowing I could be truthful, even when writing fiction. And because the other part of my early life revolved around acting in plays, I felt I could give voice to these people, not in a past life way, but by letting my research and imagination become a vehicle for my writing.
Katie: Where did the character Maddie come from?
Jane: Great question! I wanted to write about a teenage spy, a girl, a special, fearless girl who would inspire, awe, and excite. Spy craft has always interested me. The Civil War was full of stories of secret agents on both sides of the conflict. But could a teenager have become a spy? I was working on a nonfiction project about President Lincoln's spymaster Alan Pinkerton, a prominent character in Alias Dragonfly. Much to my surprise, I learned he actually used his teenage son as a sometime-courier. Perfect! Because I was about to write a novel, I could have Pinkerton hire a teenager, and why not make her a girl? What made her a good spy? And how did she get her remarkable memory and powers of observation? I didn't want her to magically, supernaturally come to be who she was. No, what else could have happened? I thought long and hard, consulted a neurologist and came up with this: Maddie had head injury from a fall that at first isolated her, made her feel like a freak in her little town, and finally her runaway brain became her great gift. This unique ability made her the perfect spy.
In a needed departure from science fiction and fantasy, Alias Dragonfly
is a historical novel set during the Civil War. From the onset one realizes that the author, Jane Singer, knows her stuff when it comes to documenting actual events that took place in our nation’s capital over a hundred years ago. The scenery comes alive with raw sights and sounds of battle and of those civilians living their lives within the bounds of war. Add to this a fifteen-year-old female spy and you have all the makings of a page-turner that educates as well as entertains.
The story centers around Maddie Bradford, a spunky tomboyish lass with a photographic memory. Maddie and her father travel to the nation’s capital so that her father can fight for Lincoln’s army. Maddie is left to stay with her stuffy and proper Aunt Salome as her father rushes off to war. Worried about her father’s safety and determined to make her own mark, Maddie soon uncovers a world of secrets, spies and intrigue. And she can’t wait to jump right in.
Maddie joins a gang of Pinkerton spies and uses her powers of observation to help them uncover a Rebel plot to destroy the very army for which her father fights. There is also a love story as Maddie falls for the daring reporter Jake Whitestone, though it often takes a backseat to the drama of runaway slaves, bullet dodging and false identities. The book ends rather abruptly leaving us with more questions than answers, but I know more loose ends will be tied up with the next book in the series. There are many more Rebel plots to uncover and I am sure Maddie is up for the job.
The strength of this book is the heavily accurate historical detail. Singer reports that each character was researched down to the buttons on their shoes. Many lived and breathed during the Civil War. I could smell the gun smoke, hear the cannons in the distance and feel the grit of the city. This makes it an excellent book to educate school-age children. I could imagine history teachers around the country pairing this novel with their lectures on Lincoln and maps of his battle fields. The one sticking point I had was that I never did learn to love Maddie as I should. She was often reckless and rude for little reason that I could detect. She was brave and fearless almost to a fault, but I never got the sense for that deeper goodness we long for in the characters we love. That being said, I am sure Maddie will develop over the series, making her someone we will root for and follow throughout her adventures. The book is definitely worth the read for all you can learn about a turning point in our country’s history and more fun than a History Channel documentary.
You can find Alias Dragonfly here.
You can find Jane Singer here. If you enjoyed this review, you can subscribe to the Underground or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Calling all book review bloggers!
We want to meet our cyberspace peers and fellow bookworms. That’s why we’ve opened our doors to other bloggers who dedicate their time to writing quality book reviews for the everyday reader. We’re hosting our very own party. It’s called the Fall Website Competition, and here’s who’s invited: Bloggers who…
- Dedicate their website to book reviews
- Produce at least two book reviews per month
- Are independent (not directly affiliated with a magazine, bookstore, or publishing company)Want to join us?
If you or a blogger you know would like to participate, let us know via our contact form
and we will add you to the list!
Winners will decided by popular vote. Voting will begin on Friday, August 3rd and close Monday, September 3rd. On Friday, September 7, winners will be showcased on the Underground.