Tag Archives: Fiction

Fiction: In the Blood

943926_10153832730627165_8632581879542487187_nMy colleagues in the Professional Writing Program at Algonquin College and I put together an E-zine called Wordstruck during our second year, and I recommend giving it a read. There are a lot of talented people that graduated from that class.

Within Wordstruck‘s pages is a short story I wrote, called “In the Blood.” It’s a Weird West / Steampunk heist story with a twist ending. It is also built with an interesting story structure which switches back and forth between two time frames: the present moment – during the heist, and the past wherein the protagonist brings together his team.

Of “In the Blood” Steampunk Canada said, “This is FANTASTIC and far too short. Needs to be a full length novel.”

Get yourself a coffee or tea, and sit down to give “In The Blood” a read.




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Once begun, there’s no escaping “The Sixth Extinction”

TheSixthExtinction-JRollins_cvrYou can judge this book by its cover, and it will not be found wanting. I spotted it on the bookshelf at Shoppers Drug Mart. It has a cleverly illustrated dinosaur skeleton wrapped around to form a “6” in the book’s title, The 6th Extinction. It’s beautiful, and the cover did exactly what it should: it got me to pick up the book and check out the cover. The synopsis on the back did the rest. Hook, line, and sinker; I bought the book.

This was my first foray into the writings of James Rollins and the world of Sigma Force, and I was barely able to put the novel down. In my eagerness to start reading what promised to be an incredible story – and it did deliver – I missed the various ads that revealed this novel was part of a series; the tenth book, in fact. In spite of this, Rollins has written the characters with enough detail and backfill that I was able to grasp all the characters and run off with them for hours at a time. It didn’t matter that I’d never read any of the other stories. The novel is a perfect entry-point into the world of Sigma Force. Rollins, masterfully introduces characters, brings them together, and separates them again, sending them off to different parts of the world. Each group of characters encounters separate and distinct threats, dangers, and horrors. Between these and the growing threat from a genetically-engineered virus that kills everything in its wake – released during a precipitating event – Rollins keeps the reader turning pages and reading on.

The story is bookended with Notes from the Historical Record and Notes from the Scientific Record at the beginning, and a Truth or Fiction section at the end; something I hadn’t seen before. Rollins mixes fact and fiction into an intoxicating brew that seduces readers into becoming willing co-conspirators in the suspension of disbelief, sucking them down the rabbit hole into his all-too-real fictional world.

I haven’t read any of the preceding nine books, but believe me – I will. If you enjoy a fast-paced thrilling read with mystery, history and science as elements, pick up a copy of The Sixth Extinction, turn off your cell phone, and get lost in this novel’s pages. The world will still be there, with all its concerns, when you surface again. Or will it?

The Sixth Extinction, published by HarperCollins, is available at Chapters, Amazon.ca, fine bookstores, and perhaps, at a drugstore near you.

Stephen Lowe is a graduate of the Professional Writing Program at Algonquin College and lives in Maitland, East Hants, NS and Ottawa, ON with his wife, Gwen, and their dog, Rosie.


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The Ghost in the Machine: Predator One by Jonathan Maberry

Predator OneJonathan Maberry’s seventh novel in the Joe Ledger Series, Predator One, dials up the fear that turns techno-thriller into techno-terror. Rarely does a novel actually scare me, but this one gave me a sense of dread the likes of which no book ever has.

The story centres on a dying madman and his plan to watch the world burn. In the process, his henchmen and minions undertake to destroy the Department of Military Science (DMS), the organization for whom Joe Ledger works. It begins when a simple model plane, packed with explosives, buzzes the opening ceremonies on opening day of the new baseball season. Things quickly escalate, and in short order, chaos and havoc are unleashed. The villains are soon poised to deliver a crushing blow using the hijacked Air Force One like a drone, from a remote location.

The book plays on fears of autonomously-controlled technology, the rapid expansion of drone use, and what could happen when it all falls into the wrong hands.

As I read Predator One, I found myself questioning whether drone technology is safe in any hands. Within a day of having finished the novel, I read an article in the news about some people who attached fireworks to a drone and made a YouTube video. They now potentially face charges related to the incident. It drove home the point of how easily drone technology could be abused.

Flitting from the present to the past and back again, Maberry builds the reader’s sense of dread, revealing a chronology of events that the DMS has yet to piece together. Using short and succinct chapters, shifting from one group of characters to another, he escalates the tension to keep the reader turning pages.

Maberry also excels at character development and portrayal. I especially noticed this in his last two books, Predator One and Code Zero. If you’ve been along for the entire Joe Ledger experience, you’ll be familiar with the former, villainous henchman, Toys, from earlier novels. I experienced an irresistible urge to compare and contrast Toys with Dr. Pharos, something that I feel was intentional. They are two faces of the same madly spinning coin, but where one is capable of remorse and redemption, the other is beyond it. Like Dr. Pharos, the characters simply known as Boy, and the Gentleman, are equally despicable. Yet, Maberry manages to deftly draw from the reader some empathy for them, even though we can never agree with their motives or actions.

Predator One is Jonathan Maberry’s best book to date. If you like techno-thrillers, and you’re looking for an exciting read that will keep you pondering the story and topic well after you finish the novel, check it out. New to Maberry’s books or the Joe Ledger Series? You can get your feet wet here and enjoy it well enough. You’ll quickly want to go back and start from the beginning with Patient Zero; there’s a world of monsters and mayhem that awaits.

Predator One is available in Canada at Chapters, Amazon.ca and other fine independent book stores.

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