Pantheon – By Eric Syrdal

Pantheon
by Eric Syrdal
Reviewed by Ernest Russell
Photo Courtesy of Jon Barmore

Pantheon

Pantheon, the debut novel from Eric Syrdal, is unique. His free verse poetry weaves mythology for modern times while being entertaining, insightful, and visionary in its scope. His passion within each tale, told in semi-epic verse, blends modern constructs with ancient forms, mixed with fairy tales and spaceships, only to find characters you not only want to be a part of your life but want to be them.
Mythologies have existed as long as our species has been able to communicate. Myth has provided us with explanations for the world around us, and answers for existential questions such as:
Who am I?
Why am I here?
For centuries, artists have turned to ancient myth as a reference for their art. Today, I have finished reading modern mythology worthy of being added to the archives of inspiration. For if a picture is worth a thousand words, contained within this debut novel by Eric Syrdal is a museum’s worth of art.
Syrdal’s heroines are the Queen of Hearts, Grace, Karma, Courage, Fate, Mercy, and Hope. The story unfolds as our anonymous narrator/protagonist meets or reconnects with these personifications of human concepts, for what else is a god or goddess, who have each influenced and assisted the hero through his many journeys.
The many tales woven throughout the myths of Pantheon create a rich tapestry, showing us in vivid imagery the journey through a multi-verse of genres. Our protagonist explores worlds set in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Time Travel as they learns what they really seek. Eric Syrdal has blended these concepts and different visions of reality with skill and deftness surpassing any single genre story. The imagination creating this mythos is genuinely greater than the sum of its parts.
To experience life in all of its variety, the joy, and heartbreak, as it all echoes the spirit within so we may fully experience the exhilaration of life. This hero’s quest is not one to save the world, but ultimately, ourselves, as the tales unfold, the questions asked, only to find we are the answer.
The, at times, semi-autobiographical mirror held up by Eric Syrdal reflects not only paths he has trodden but sheds light on the paths we have chosen for ourselves. It demonstrates why we should choose our path carefully, and do not settle, but select only the path with heart for you. The way will not always be easy, but if you take the established path, you may never realize your own potential.
As an epic poem, the style was as enjoyable to read as it was fresh. My eyes flowed as freely as the verse over each page. The drama, humor, and flights of fancy as you follow will keep you turning page after page, for within are multilayered depths of meaning and experience. I have followed Eric’s writing for many years, was able to watch as this incredible work developed, and with each reading I find new concepts to regard and consider.
One of my favorite myths within Pantheon is Amor Vincit Omnia (Love Conquers All) which is the story of Fate. It still chokes me up. If it does not move you, then you may need to check your own heart.
I want to offer this short excerpt from the myth, The Dragon and the Damsel.
“This time it’s not a roar
No
it is a sorrowful
pitiful howl
of an animal that is realizing
it’s just been cornered
and the odds of escaping
with its life
are not good…

‘Never heard that before’ says Angel as she takes her first
steps toward the door sword in hand.

Courage smiles, ‘All this time you’ve heard what it sounds like
when it’s in control. When it’s on top. Now…for the first
time, dear Angel, you will know what it sounds like
when it is afraid. And it is. It is afraid of you.

And together
They step through
the doorway to engage
in a battle,
the outcome of which,
is not only a victory for one woman’s soul
but for the soul of mankind.”

Please look for more by Eric Syrdal on his blog My Sword and Shield

And you can find this fantastic novel, Pantheon by Eric Syrdal, on Amazon

 

Nightingale by Ellie Raine – A New Book Review

 

Nightingale – Ellie Raine

Pro Se Productions

Nightingale

One of my favorite parts of any workday is my lunch time. It’s not the food, it’s a solid block of time I can count on for one my favorite past times. Reading. This past week lunch has been really pleasurable as I devoured the most recent offering from Ellie Raine, Nightingale.
I had the pleasure of meeting Ellie Raine at Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention in November 2017. Her energy and smile were infectious. I picked up her first book, Willow of Ashes, and I immediately became an Ellie Raine fan.
Ellie Raine is a very talented author, bringing a distinct vision and fresh voice to her stories. I am glad to have an autographed copy of her first book. I will be getting her autograph for this one as well. She is an author in whom I believe will be a constant delight as she matures in her art.
When the chance came up to read and review Ellie Raine’s current offering from Pro Se Productions – Nightingale, I leaped at the chance. All I knew about it was from the promo tease, “A New Take on the Private Eye tale…and Death as well.” I already knew Ellie has a talent for writing fantasy that absorbs you into the story. Could she do it with a Detective Story?
Ellie’s main character Alastor Deus, P.I. seems to be the archetype of a man seeking vengeance for the murder of his father. Nightingale properly opens straight into the action. While “discussing” a lead to his father’s murderer, the interrogation is rudely interrupted by the murder of the informant. This is the last “normal” scene. From here on out, we are on the rollercoaster with Alastor as he finds his true family…even meeting Death. Just when you think you have a handle on the plot twists, Ellie finds a monkey wrench. But she doesn’t hit you over the head with it. Most of the plot twists came with a subtle lagniappe, a little extra. As a veteran reader of detective stories, it was quite refreshing. Imagine, reading a story that is almost predictable, but not completely.
The world of Nightingale is a very different, yet familiar reflection of our own. The twists in mythologies are highly creative and well imagined. The marriage of Private Eye story and the mythologies invoked is just shy of brilliant. Her prose is clever and evocative in the best tradition of Pulp detectives. The characters begin a little flat but each page reveals more of their past, adding shades of depth and grey motivations. There is not quite enough growth for them to become fully 3D but enough I wanted to see more of them. What else is waiting to be told? Between the pace of the story with new questions and revelations constantly expanding the backgrounds of the characters, Nightingale was very difficult to put it down.
As a pulp story, this tale really sings.

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for writing a review. I was not obligated to give a positive review, and all thoughts are my own.

Book Review: Bishop & Hancock’s Pulse Friction: Anthology

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Craving adventure? Pulse Friction has all you could want. This anthology will take you on a whirlwind tour of pulp stories. The collection does a good job of presenting various archetypes from Masked heroes, Mercenaries, Cat Burglars, Westerns and Hard boiled detectives and all undeniably Pulp.
Pulse Friction is a great buffet of authors. I am familiar with and have enjoyed three of the authors in both other anthologies and their own work, D. Alan Lewis, Barry Reese and Tommy Hancock are all favorites sitting on my shelves and they do not disappoint. I enjoyed the sampling the works of Eric Beetner, James Hopwood and Brian Drake and will be looking for more of their work. Each author brings their own flavor and the result is a series with a good rhythm. Each story has a plot with memorable characters which drive you forward in the action. A complaint I sometimes have with anthologies is a tendency for the stories to feel the same. Not to worry about Pulse Friction, the variation in protagonists and settings means you will not be reading the same story over and over.
The narration by Chase Johnson is solid. There are no background noises to distract from the narration. He enunciates clearly and is well spoken. In listening to the different stories Chase was at his best tone and style in the hard-boiled detective stories such as “Never Enough Corpses” or “Cry Blood”. This is personal taste but he did not feel quite right to me in “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Worst Friend”. Overall, the listening experience was enjoyable and I would listen to more books narrated by Chase Johnson.

Bishop & Hancock’s Pulse Friction: Anthology   

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for writing a review. I was not obligated to give a positive review, and all thoughts are my own.

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

The Blood in Snowflake Garden

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The Blood in Snowflake Garden
Author: D. Alan Lewis
Narrated by: Clark Clayson

Christmas can be murder, a murder most foul. Murder and a note from S. Claus, pleading for help, was the only thing which could draw retired Inspector Max Sneed back to active duty. A duty to investigate the murder of the North Poles Premier. Robert Watson, sent by a London paper to write about the jolliest place on Earth, is put instead straight to work by Max. In a twinkling he finds a merry chase through Civil Rights, Labor Disputes and Cold War politics. Robert’s sugar-plum laced pipe dreams of the cheeriest city on Earth are quickly shredded. The more Max and Robert slog through the sleazy, underbelly of the North Pole, the thinner the ice upon which they stand. This murder investigation is rife with a delicious trail of red-herrings, each with the lustre of new fallen snow. Do you want to know the secret history of Santa? How the city at the North Pole was founded? What is it about cupcakes? Once you know the answer, you may never see pastries the same way again.
The answer to these questions, and many more, will impact the world. The Cold War is heating up at the pole. Whoever is in charge at the North Pole could change the course of history. What is the connection between electronic toys and the military base proposed outside the warm zone?
The Blood in Snowflake Garden is one D. Alan Lewis’s earlier books. As such, while this tale does have a few rough edges compared to his later books, the visions within will dance in your heads. His talent for blending real world historical events combined with a different take on a well-known mythology will satisfy your sweet tooth for knowledge. Though you be in ‘kerchief or cap, and settled down in your bed, the last thing you will be taking is a long winter nap. Thoughts of all else, except what lies upon the next page, fly away like the down on a thistle.
The narrator, Clark Clayson, has just that right tone to bring the necessary grittiness upon the breast of the new-fallen snow sprinkled throughout the story. Switching easily between the world weary detective and the wide eyed reporter, err..journalist, to The Jolly Old Nick himself, Clark’s narration helps to create an alternate history you can believe as the tale is unraveled. His enunciations are clear and there is no background noise. His voice is the little old driver of the tale by which soon you will know, there is nothing to dread.

The Blood in Snowflake Garden

 

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for writing a review. I was not obligated to give a positive review, and all thoughts are my own.

 

History Now!: Apollo 11

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History NOW!: Apollo 11
Author: D. Alan Lewis
Narrated by: John Dunleavy

Historical documentaries are a favorite of mine. History Now! is a nice twist on them. How do the documentarians in this story know what really happened? A trusted few are granted access to time –ships. These Chrono-journalists carefully record and document the events they witness. At least the ones they witness in that particular time stream, for slightest change could send ripples through time changing the very event witnessed.
This story tells the tale of mankind’s first landing on the moon. Did you ever wonder what may have sparked the tale of aliens on the moon? Jace Vern, Chrono-journalist, might be have an answer. Most consequences can be predicted but as Jace says, “It’s always something you don’t think about that bites you in the ass.” Or in this case, it bites us all.
As we learn in the end, even as we try to remember our past and learn from it, the past always has a way of returning. For those who chronicle history are doomed to stand by helplessly while everyone else repeats it. We can only be glad the DaVinci accords of 2218 are in effect preventing everyone from re-writing history in their image.
John Dunleavy provides the perfect voice for a documentary. His enunciations are clear, though a little gravelly, which for the nature of this story provided a bit of gravitas. You can clearly distinguish which character is speaking. There were no background noises to distract from the story.

History Now!: Apollo 11
DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for writing a review. I was not obligated to give a positive review, and all thoughts are my own.

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

Keely: A Steampunk Story

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Keely: A Steampunk Story

Author: D. Alan Lewis

Narrated by: Phillip Mays

 

A new synonym has been found for Hope. That word is Keely.

Keely: A Steampunk Story from D. Alan Lewis is an excellent short tale of adventure and romance. In Humanity’s darkest hour a star falls from the sky.  Told from the perspective of Thomas Layborne, whose inventiveness are all that stand between Fortress Britain and defeat by an alien invasion, nurses our one true hope back to health. Her innocent discovery of the world is a delightful contrast to the cloud of gloom nibbling on the human spirit, Keely blossoms into a beacon of hope. For the human race in general and Thomas Layborne in particular.

I admire Alan’s craft in the steampunk genre. His character developments, both of the main and supporting characters, are what drive the story. While definitely Steampunk, the technology is not the driving force of the story, it is second to his characters. All of whom are delightful.

A story, whether print or audio, is a doorway into a theater, the theater of the mind. Alan’s characters may drive the story; it is his masterful descriptions which show you the story. These elements woven together create an experience you will not soon forget when you have reached the climax. Keely: A Steampunk Story is engaging through its humor, compassion and adventure. I do not know I have seen anyone else consolidate so much into a short story.   

The narration for Keely: A Steampunk Story is excellent. Phillip Mays has a smooth delivery and great tonal qualities. There was never a question what character was speaking or what they were feeling. Male or female, you had no doubt their emotional state. No background noises and though I could hear him swallow a couple times, but as with his pauses, just made me more comfortable listening to him. While I am not generally a fan of audio books, I would listen to more books narrated by Phillip Mays.

 Keely: Steampunk Story

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for writing a review. I was not obligated to give a positive review, and all thoughts are my own.

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

 

A Swashbuckling Adventure in the Sky

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The Adventure of Anastasia Hawke: The Celeste Affair
Author: D. Alan Lewis
Narrated by: Kat Marlowe

A stirring steampunk adventure from the mind of D. Alan Lewis. The stakes are sky high in The Celeste Affair for ace spy Anastasia Hawke. Set in the Civil War era Anastasia must find the courage to fight personal battle all the while preventing the war in North America from escalating worldwide. A well-paced swashbuckling exploit filled with sword fights and airship combat this is sure to keep you entertained.
Do not listen to this expecting to hear another tired steampunk story. Alan has an interesting take on the tropes we often see in the genre. Listening to his stunning visuals I could taste the bitterness of the sea mist, almost smell the grease and hear the grinding of gears. Between the action of the story and the depth of his all too human characters you too will be drawn in from the first chapter.
Here a confession must be made, I do not usually listen to audio books because I do not care for being read too. That being said, Kat Marlowe did a very good job of getting and maintaining my attention to the story. She has a lovely voice which is easy on the ear and she enunciates beautifully. I could listen to her read the phone book. Her reading in this case is a little flat. Almost as if she never took a breath. Her attempts at changing voice for the different characters, while clearly differentiated who was speaking was also mildly distracting. In this instance. I believe varying her pitch and rhythm would have sufficed. Her attempts to deepen or affect accents drew me out of the story. Because of this I found myself with a need to listen multiple times before I felt had the entire story.

The Adventure of Anastasia Hawke: The Celeste Affair

Thank you for reading,
Ernest Russell