Category: Fantasy (Page 1 of 6)

Review of Alpha Max by Mark A. Rayner

Available on Amazon and other online retailers


Great cover design by Xavier Comas

As I sat down to write the initial version of this review on Amazon, it prompted me by asking, “What did you like or dislike? What did you use this product for?”

I’ll answer the last question first. Oddly enough, I used this product for reading. I believe that’s what it’s best suited for. That can’t be said for all books; happily it’s the case with this one. Alpha Max is a book for people who like to read funny, thoughtful novels written in an engaging style.

Alpha Max is about a man, Max Tundra, who is recruited to help save the multiverse. Doing so he visits many different versions of Earth and meets many (sometimes unusual) iterations of himself. The story moves at a brisk pace with not a single dull passage toward an engaging conclusion as Max gradually figures out what’s really going on.

Mark Rayner has many strengths as a writer, among them charm, humour, and inventiveness, all of which serve a higher purpose, to explore ideas in a fun way. It’s all on display in Alpha Max as Rayner fires on all cylinders with perhaps his finest work to date.

What did I like? I liked it all, including the softcover copy, which looks and feels good. I love the cover design and the interior layout was a pleasure to read.

What didn’t I like? Struggling to come up with something here. Maybe the ISBN number could have been better. A few more 7s would have been nice. But hey, nothing’s perfect, at least not in this version of the universe.

Five out of Five for Alpha Max by Mark A. Rayner.

“Frankenreview” (Part Two)

Here’s a slightly more positive “frankenreview” (hey, fair’s fair…)

Photo by Dad Grass from Pexels

Once again, this “frankenreview” is comprised of direct quotes from existing reviews found on Goodreads, Amazon, Librarything and elsewhere. I did not change a single word, though I did omit some words (as indicated by ellipsis) and added others (indicated by parentheses) in the interest of readability.

I encourage you to visit any of the sites mentioned above and post your own reviews. Not just for my book(s), but for any you’ve read. Whether the reviews you leave are positive or negative (or somewhere in between) you’ll be doing your favourite writer(s) a huge favour.

Et voila… A Time and a Place “Frankenreview” Part Two:

(Click here for Frankenreview Part One)

What a story! Unlike any other sci-fi you’ve ever read. Non-stop action. It… had me hooked from the beginning. I really enjoyed this novel and recommend it for those who like their science fiction stories to be quirky, human and compelling. I loved this book!

Mahoney relates a pretty rollicking Fantasy-Science Fiction adventure story with a lively, imaginative degree of world building. There is a veritable smorgasbord of funky ideas at play in the novel and passages of sneaky thoughtfulness cheek by jowl with subversive goofiness. With wry, tongue-in-cheek similes and metaphors at his disposal, Mahoney seems to be both winking at the tropes of the genres he is engaged in while encouraging us as readers to give them another look with a fresh set of eyes.

This book was both comic and tragic, sad and funny, with a hero who tries to do the right thing but always seems to stumble. The protagonist is an endearing sad sack. I… found the characters to be sympathetic and memorable. Mahoney… deserves credit for taking a passel of relatively archetypical supporting characters and either spinning them off in unexpected ways or giving them much more nuance and depth than expected. Beings of all stripes enter the field of battle, the most charming being Jacques, a one-eyed tentacled Necronian who will engulf you unless you have something he wants. I greatly enjoyed the chapters in which our time and dimension travelling hero finds himself in the body of an alien, purple-furred cat with opposable thumbs and then a seagull. The T’Klee were my favorite bit. I love the idea of large cats with opposable thumbs, their own language & culture, and having to fight the technologically advanced Necronians.

The magic of A TIME AND A PLACE resides in its rich description of places we’ll never see—not even in dreams. The author has a great imagination. His ability to evoke imaginative worlds and alien creatures is what makes reading this book such a pleasure. The vivid descriptions and wit kept me hooked from beginning to end. A Sci-Fi Fantasy with literary notes, there is so much to love about this book. 

The writing is so polished that if it were my hardwood floor, I would be able to see my face in it. Quintessentially Canadian, beautifully written, displaying the dry humour that made Stephen Leacock a national treasure. By turns droll and exuberant, this novel reels you into its strange world with as much pull as the portal that sends Barnabus through time and space. This book sprawls, wildly (I didn’t mention the shapeshifting demon Iugurtha or the sentient artificial intelligence Sebastian or the warrior cats), yet it all fits together. Through its unflinching depiction of conflict, this book packs a surprising emotional punch. But – mark my words – this doesn’t disqualify Joe Mahoney from being the next Terry Pratchett… the author has a decided knack for humorous word play which brings some levity to otherwise serious situations. Mahoney writes with a practised wit. In A Time and a Place, the humour sneaks up on you and results in under-your-breath chuckles. This all interweaves into Joe’s style, which is actually quite pronounced for a first novel.

This is the first time—in this lifetime—I’ve read anything by Joe Mahoney, and it won’t be the last. I enjoyed the book tremendously and appreciated how the background story unfolded in stages. (It) was so well written and intriguing, I did not want to put it down. A page turner. I stayed glued to it until late into the night. With questionable allies hiding in every closet, layered characters and a plot that kept the pages turning, you won’t regret adding A Time and a Place to your shelf. By the time you reach the end, you’ll be sad to leave this crazy universe behind.

Joe Mahoney was also a fine narrator. I have to say with a voice like that I would listen to anything he narrated. I loved this mesmerising audiobook with its non-stop action and adventure. Can’t wait for Mr. Mahoney’s next book.

CULLED FROM VARIOUS SOURCES SUCH AS GOODREADS, LIBRARYTHING, AND AMAZON

A Time and a Place Softcover Available

2nd Edition Cover

First order of business: Happy New Year! I wish you all health, happiness and success in 2021. May it be one whole heck of a lot better than 2020!

A bit of an update on A Time and a Place before I get on with this exciting and hopefully infinitely better new year.

I woke up to see that Barnes & Noble finally has the softcover version of A Time and a Place on sale. It’s deliberately as inexpensive as my esteemed publisher Donovan Street Press can sell if for: $12.99 US.

I’m quite pleased to have this version out and at such a reasonable price point. The text is slightly updated. It is as typo free as possible (I really hate typos!) and I also updated a paragraph in chapter three to clarify a little plot point. (This is the kind of devotion to perfection that normally you would only find in somebody like George Lucas. Still, rest assured that everybody who shot first in the original edition still shoots first in this second edition.)

A Time and a Place is now available in the following formats: e-book, softcover, hardcover, and audiobook (on both Audible and via Findaway Voices). It’s also available via many different online retailers as Donovan Street Press is reluctant to deal with Amazon exclusively. You can find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, Scribd, Tolino, 24 Symbols, Vivlio, Baker & Taylor, Google Play, Smashwords, and many more throughout the world, including several bookstores (it can always be ordered via a bookstore even if they’re not stocking it on their shelves).

This coming year I will focus on finishing the follow-up to A Time and a Place (tentatively titled Captain’s Away), which takes place in the same universe as A Time and a Place, a thousand years later with at least one of the same characters (and the descendants of others). I will also do my best to finish a memoir I’m working on.

In the meantime, best of luck to all of you and all the terrific projects you might have in your own pipelines.

Speculative Fiction Community Reflects on 50 Fantastical Years of the Merril Collection

Happy 50th Anniversary to the Toronto Public Library’s Merril Collection!

The Merril Collection, housed in the Toronto Public Library, is “one of the world’s leading research collections of speculative fiction and popular culture.”

Originally called the Spaced Out Library, it began in 1970 with the donation of five thousand books from science fiction writer and editor Judith Merril. Now it contains over 80,000 works of speculative fiction including science fiction, fantasy, horror and magic realism.

This year, this crazy year, is the collection’s fiftieth anniversary.

The Merril Collection graciously allowed me to hold the book launch for my debut novel A Time and a Place at the collection (which I wrote about here).

To mark the Merril Collection’s anniversary, several award-winning writers, editors and scholars of speculative fiction have shared their thoughts about what makes Merril so special. I am honoured to have been included among them.

With Sephora Henderson and Annette Mocek at the Merril Collection (Oct 2017)

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