Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book Reviews (June, 2014)

Book Reviews! Each of the following books may be purchased through any large book store or online through


REVIEWED: The Abominable
WRITTEN BY: Dan Simmons
PUBLISHED: October, 2013

I find that one of the greatest indications of talent in authors is the ability to write in entirely different styles and voices, and this Dan Simmons possesses in excess. He has the ability to weave tight narrative, to fill dialogue with humor and insight and fear, has the ability to create worlds set in the future, present, or past. Quite simply, he outputs vast diversity amongst his many stories. The downside of this talent is that the reader doesn’t know what to expect when beginning one of his new works. Perhaps my mind just had expectations of heart-pounding action or of supernatural mayhem, but reading ‘The Abominable’ was somewhat boring.

I love historic genre fiction, and I think Simmons is one of the absolute best in this field. His prose is beautiful and carefully crafted to convey the spirit of the era he’s writing in. Simmons knows every detail of every manufacturer, every geographic element, every slang in vernacular that his characters encounter. But in this latest book, he simply takes it too far. Tens of pages go into the detailed explanation of climbing shoes and chapters of description explain the ins-and-outs of scaling every type of ice, differences in toeholds, variations of granite, distribution practices of pack suppliers, etc.

The author has done his research and he seems to want to cram every footnote of those studies upon you. The story itself is a well-crafted drama, written in memoir fashion, but Simmons could have cut out half of it and the novel would have succeeded twice as well. Overall, it’s a rich and magnificent book, but entirely too slow-moving for my subjective taste.

Four out of Five stars


REVIEWED: Clean Freak
WRITTEN BY: Sean M. Davis
PUBLISHED: August, 2013

‘Clean Freak’ is the first novel written by author Sean M. Davis, and it’s certainly a freshman triumph. The main character, Clarence, suffers from OCD germ avoidance. Naturally his occupation is as a janitor, and he takes his job seriously. At first, the in-depth description of Clarence cleaning door handles and desk surfaces seemed to be a bit over-indulgent, but that sense quickly gave way to a dark humor mirroring the character’s actions and thoughts, which led to more than one out-loud chuckle; in the most unseemly moment of suspense or danger or development, Clarence’s thoughts invariably turn to fears of some strange germ or illness developing from said event. The protagonist’s back story slowly comes through, so his actions and motivations begin to make more sense. I never quite understood the reason why his fellow janitors obsess in their own way to include Clarence in their games, nor did I relate entirely to the boss who seemed to waffle one way then the other, making contradictory decisions. But all that didn’t matter so much, as the grabber of the story is the dream-like little girl, Lucy, whom he befriends when her voice begins to speak to him from the bathtub drain. Who she is and what she represents offer Clarence’s most meaningful obsession.

Four and a half out of Five stars


REVIEWED: Annihilation (Book One of the Southern Reach trilogy)
WRITTEN BY: Jeff VanderMeer
PUBLISHED: February, 2014

Ugh, so many trilogies these days! You get hooked into a story and have to wait several months to find out what happens next. Such is the case with ‘Annihilation’ which speaks credit to author, Jeff VanderMeer; I want more of this book, and I want it now. It’s a wonderful, strange tale of exploration by four women – each with their own specialty – placed in a coastal point of the country which is mysteriously manifesting unexplainable occurrences. The style of writing and mood it sets is part ‘X-Files’ and part ‘Lost’ in that there are so many layers of peculiar doings, of conspiracy, of monsters and violence, and confusion, that the reader will either dismiss it all as arbitrary or find themselves drawn inexorably into its mysteries. I happen to be in the latter camp, though find no fault with those of the former; this book is truly not for everybody.

I happen to love the unknown and I love to explore and I love mysteries, and ‘Annihilation’ is all these things and more. I questioned some of the characters’ actions as stray or not true to themselves, but in a story like this I soon found it easy to suspend my disbelief, as at later points the author adds touches of further information which then lends credibility to earlier actions. This is a psychological thriller as much as anything; characters’ thoughts have been implanted, hypnosis is abundant, and the protagonist is infected by a mind-altering organism, so truly, ‘anything goes,’ though VanderMeer is respectful of this self-granted license; it’s not a self-serving experiment, but rather a deep character study in grief and resolution.

Five out of Five stars


Midnight cheers,

Eric J. Guignard

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

I’m a Writer

For the first time, I finally told another living human that I’m a writer. To explain, I mean that I said those three words with full confidence and without any explanation about how I used to do ‘real’ business work and that I’m engaged in various other studies, projects, and endeavors. For the first time in my life, I said, “I’m a writer,” and I didn’t drop my eyes, or mumble about how I’m ‘aspiring,’ or quickly change the topic of conversation.

Imagine all the times in your life you said, “I love you” to someone, and though the intent was there, the expression was more perfunctory, more socially or familially-expected. But then remember the first time you voiced those words, and you meant it more than anything else, when the emotion poured from your heart in flushing sincerity...

My experience wasn’t quite on that level, but close enough that I still felt like soaring away on wings of beatitude.

The consequential moment occurred this past Saturday, June 7, 2014. I was part of an ecological survey on bats, travelling between Palm Springs and the Salton Sea. It was early night, and I walked with a small group of strangers through a palm oasis in the desert, reading echo meters. One of the other men, as natural small talk develops, asked what I did for a living.

I said, “I’m a writer.”

His response was, “Wow, that’s really cool.”

And, yes, cool it was indeed. It was an occasion of self-validation, a flash of empowerment. I said those words and didn’t feel like a duplicitous charlatan, or that a bolt of lightning would strike for my false tongue. I’ve only been writing since about February, 2011 (three years, four months, but who’s counting?) and, though I’ve wanted it, could never honestly make that assertion with any degree of conviction. But the circumstance occasioned itself and I met it with courage and pluck, and now feel I have certain expectations to fulfill, less I’ll be discovered to be that fibber after all.

And, to qualify my trinal-worded declaration, I don’t make a living off fiction, but rather a combination of contract work in technical writing, copy writing, and now teaching writing (though each year I’ve made ever-increasing amounts of money off creative works... not that any of those are worth enough to buy a fancy coat, though the checks are on the upswing – but I digress). Some people may write a single story and declare to the world that they’re a writer, but I’ve not felt truth in that in my own experience. It’s a personal moment each person must discover, in any pursuit, and now I’ve had mine. Being a contract writer, I don’t know where my next ‘gig’ will come from, or that I’ll be able to survive lulls in employment. But I’ve been able to muddle along these past few years and I now have work set through next spring, so I finally found it time to proclaim to another those sweet three words:

I’m a writer.


Midnight cheers,

Eric J. Guignard


ric J. Guignard writes dark and speculative fiction from the outskirts of Los Angeles. Assorted stories and articles that bear his byline may be found in the disreputable publications reserved for back alley bazaars. As an editor, Eric’s published the anthologies, Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations and After Death…, the latter of which won the 2013 Bram Stoker Award®. Read his novella, Baggage of Eternal Night (a finalist for the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award), and watch for many more forthcoming books, including Chestnut ’Bo (TBP 2016). Visit Eric at:, his blog:, or Twitter: @ericjguignard.