Book Review: Krimson by Thomas Emson

Hi all…

Vampires. In popular media today, vampires are more about masquerading as human in a human world than ripping your throat out and guzzling blood directly from your jugular vein with no pretense of any remaining humanity. These days, the word “vampire” tends to evoke images of wan, whiny teenagers or Civil War-era Louisiana gentlemen more than “cold blooded killers.”

Author Thomas Emson is working to change that. First with Skarlet in 2009 and now with the follow-up Krimson, Emson is embracing the monster in the vampire myth and providing hooks to thousands of years of history. And like the majority of human history, not all the monsters are inhuman. Sometimes it takes power-mad humans to resurrect the past even if they don’t quite understand the consequences of their actions…

In Skarlet, we were introduced to a modern-day London, England on the brink of change. A small group of men and women with bloodlines stretching back thousands of years have brought a drug to London’s youth. Distributed at a dance club called Religion, those who take the drug die and are reborn as vampiric killing machines with an unquenchable thirst for blood. One man – Iraqi war vet Jake Lawton – working as a bouncer at the club is drawn into this nightmare nobody can accept and fights against the monsters with a few companions he gains along the way.

What I loved about the first book was the use of multiple story lines from different eras of history. Emson incorporates the conquering of Babylon by Alexander the Great and battles between the Ottoman Turks and the British army in the 1920s alongside the Iraq War we’re still trying to finish and the modern day. Weaving in an alternate history based on real events made this a much more tangible tale to dive into.

Now with Krimson, the second book in the Vampire Trinity series, the story picks up three years later after the events of Skarlet. Jake is still fighting the good fight, but he’s getting tired. You can only go so long without sleep. And those left alive in positions of power in England are hunting him day and night, so his paranoia isn’t just due to exhaustion. He and his warrior woman Aaliyah have done damage to the vampire cause, but it’s like putting fingers in a dam about to burst – it’s impossible to cover all the cracks.

And like Skarlet, Emson does an amazing job of working an alternate history into the mix. This time it’s ancient Babylon and the time of Dracula in the mid-1400s. And though I wasn’t as surprised by the Babylon links this time around, I was very intrigued in how the Dracula myths were brought in. Again, the history set the stage for the events in the present day and was seamlessly integrated into what started in that first book.

After reading Zombie Brittanica, I was a bit concerned that Emson had lost his touch. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case. The first half of Krimson sets the stage and offers enough background that readers new to the series should have no problems diving in. For me, the action really didn’t get going until about the half-way mark. At that point it was as though a switch was thrown and we were in free fall to the end. All the characters of the first book are back and we start to see their individual threads get resolved one by one…

I can hardly wait for Kardinal, the conclusion of the trilogy, to be released in another year or two. Can Jake and his friends survive? Only Emson himself knows until the book is released!

If you want a taste of the book, be sure to check out the first three chapters at Thomas Emson’s website. Unfortunately US rights haven’t yet been sold, but you can order via Amazon and other retailers through international wholesalers!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up these books at Amazon below!

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Book Review: The President’s Vampire by Chrisopher Farnsworth

Hi again!

Have you ever wondered what’s at the root of some of those bizarre myths and legends you’ve read about in school or in popular fiction? It sometimes seems as though there may have been supernatural creatures and strange events down through the ages. But all those gods, monsters, ghosts and aliens are just stories, right?

But then again, what if they’re not? That brings into question everything we know as adults and doubts begin creeping in where they’re really not wanted. Paranoia sets in and soon we’re looking deeper into shadows to make sure there’s nothing there and the boogie men aren’t coming to get us.

In Blood Oath, Christopher Farnsworth introduced us to Nathaniel Cade. For more than 140 years, he’s been attached to the office of the President of the United States, protecting the nation against supernatural threats other agencies can’t hope to deal with. What makes Cade perfect for the job beyond his longevity? Well, he’s a vampire for one. And two, he swore a blood oath to the office of the President at the hands of a Voodoo priestess. He is compelled to fulfill his oath through thick and thin unless released by his death or the United States no longer exists.

We were introduced to Cade through his new handler Zach Burrows in the first book. Poor Zach was put through the wringer a few times, but managed to always creatively come through in the end. Either that or Cade has to save his bacon.

I loved Blood Oath – it presented a vampire story with deep roots in U.S. history and a style that was more 24 than Twilight. Beneath the surface of the world we live in is another world teeming with people, monsters, and worse – seeking to destroy us, eat us, or make us slaves. And personally I’m not too keen on any of those options.

Now Farnsworth is back with another tale of Nathaniel Cade saving the world in The President’s Vampire. And once again we catch glimpses of that secret supernatural history of the world behind the scenes. This time there’s some politics involved and shadow agencies devoted to reforming mankind for their own nefarious purposes. Can Cade stop them? Only time will tell. And of course, it’s not just humans causing trouble. There are monsters involved as well, but I’ll try not to spoil the fun too much.

I do have to provide a bit of a hint to a few people. Does the name “Innsmouth” mean anything to you? I thought it might.

Beyond the creatures in the book, I will say Farnsworth has also managed to slip in some great historical tidbits. Some related to 9/11, some earlier, like John Wilkes Booth, but each time one of these juicy tidbits from history came up, I nearly giggled out loud with glee. There’s just something more tangible about Cade simply because he’s walked the halls of a century and a half of history and survived.

My one criticism of the book is the opening. The first couple of chapters left me feeling a bit perplexed, wondering if Farnsworth had lost his touch. However, once things get rolling, there’s no stopping them. The President’s Vampire starts with a few tentative nibbles and then sinks its teeth into your jugular vein until it’s done. This was another book I could hardly bear to put down until I was done.

I can only wonder what’s next for Cade and Burrows. Can they continue to survive the battle between politics and the dark malevolent forces threatening the United States every moment? Only time will tell. But something tells me Cade will find a way to survive anything short of a nuclear bomb going off in his face.

If you like your thrillers with a bit of bite, look no further than The President’s Vampire that was just released this week. And if you haven’t read Blood Oath already, I’d encourage you to do so. These two books together will make a powerful one-two punch!

For more information about Christopher Farnsworth and his books, be sure to check out his website at ChrisFarnsworth.com. The partial chronology of events in Nathaniel Cade’s world is definitely worth checking out!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up these books below!

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Book Review: Zero Day by Mark Russinovich

Hi folks!

There was a time when a computer was just that thing on your desk at work or the giant monstrosity locked away in an air conditioned room in the basement. Now just about everything has a computer inside. Your phone and car are just for starters. What about the airplane you’re flying on? Or the power plant providing electricity to your home? We’re all more dependent on computers than ever before.

So what happens when those computers start to fail randomly for no apparent reason?

Zero Day by Mark Russinovich paints a chilling picture of what might happen if hackers lose interest in stealing credit cards and become more focused on cyberterrorism. First a passenger jet’s controls go dead when the computer goes offline. Then an oil tanker plows into a Japanese port and a nuclear power plant loses control… But that’s just the beginning.

When Jeff Aiken, a computer analyst who used to work for the CIA, starts investigating a failure at a large law firm in New York, he discovers that somehow a virus has corrupted data on the server. Not only is their financial data gone, but all of their litigation data as well. Though they have backups, Jeff does a thorough check to make sure those aren’t infected too and down the rabbit hole he goes. After hours of work, he uncovers a name – Superphreak.

At the same time, Dr. Daryl Haugen at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and part of the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) is investigating other instances of computers shutting off. Critical computers at hospitals failed and caused medication confusion that led to patient deaths. Were they simply isolated incidents or part of a broader attack on US interests?

As Jeff & Daryl’s investigations progress, they find shocking coincidences and connections between the various computer failures in the US. Can the two computer investigators figure out what’s going on and who’s behind it before more people die? Can they figure out what, who and where Superphreak is before it’s too late.

I won’t spoil the plot twists and surprises for you, but I was hooked from beginning to end. It’s hard to believe that this is Russinovich’s first novel.

If his name rings a bell, it might be because you’ve seen it in conjunction with Winternals, a website dedicated to helping system admins manage, diagnose, troubleshoot, and monitor Microsoft Windows environments. It was so influential in Windows circles that Microsoft acquired it in 1996. Russinovich is co-author for several books in the Windows Internals book series, as well as a contributing editor for TechNet Magazine and Windows IT Pro Magazine. He has some serious geek cred.

Zero Day offers a scary scenario for what could happen via cyberterrorism. Hackers are only part of the problem and usually only out for their own best interests or to illuminate issues that need to be fixed. If terrorists can harness hacker knowhow and find ways to take down key systems, we’re going to be in a world of hurt. Russinovich does a great job of shedding some light on the possibility. Hopefully businesses and governments are listening.

He does get a bit deep into “geek speak” at times, describing the inner workings of computers, BIOS, and operating systems and how they relate to one another. If you don’t like the jargon, you can skim it and get the gist of what he’s after, but I found it fascinating to see just how far he goes to detail the potential of this looming threat. It doesn’t quite offer a step-by-step guide to destroying the world with a storm of computer viruses and ‘bots, but damn if it doesn’t come close.

Whether or not you’re a computer geek, Zero Day tells a compelling story with thrills and chills to entertain you. I found it more plausible and fun than Dan Brown‘s Digital Fortress, so I’m hoping that Russinovich gets ideas for further cyber thrillers to educate us while entertaining and scaring us!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up these great books at Barnes & Noble below!

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