Category Archives: Kindle ebook

“Progeny” by Patrick C. Greene follows a tried and true formula for a scary monster yarn featuring the legendary Bigfoot, but a tad too much formula for me


As a person who reads more than 100 books a year, it’s easy for me to quickly spot patterns and formulas after reading just the first chapter or two of a novel. So it swiftly became apparent that PROGENY would deliver its plot in tried and true, but familiar formulaic fashion — and it does so to the end.

There’s nothing wrong with writing a formula or genre novel as long as the rendering is skillfully handled by the author, and PATRICK C. GREENE manages that here.

On the other hand, such a book will necessarily embody a certain blandness. Think of it like going to a fast food restaurant: It’s familiar, you go there because you like it; you know what to expect; the food will be good enough; you’ll get full and happy with the price — but you won’t fool yourself into believing that you just feasted at a fine bistro.

Progeny is like good fast food. It reads much like a made-for-TV movie screenplay for the Science Fiction Channel. All the standard props are here: (a) some unsavory, despicable bad guys, (b) some sweet and nice good guys, and, (c) a monster in the wilderness. I don’t have to tell you what is going to happen, do I? Okay, I will anyway, and don’t worry, there’s no need for a spoiler alert warning because you already know the formula. You’ve seen it a thousand times. It goes this way:

Patrick C. Greene

Some of the bad guys – out of hubris, greed, or both – will be horribly mangled and killed by the monster. The good guys will be in grave danger, but they’ll come out okay after some close scrapes and terrible frights. The bad guys will be at odds with the good guys to bolster the subplot. Speaking of subplots, you know there will be a lovely female character – one of the evil guys will have the hots for her –but she’ll fall in love with the good guy somewhere along the way. This will make the evil guy even madder and creates more tension.

The good guys will emerge from their harrowing encounter with the monster enlightened, amazed, humbled and giddy to be alive. The bad guys? Most of them will be dead. Their manner of dispatch will be painful, bloody and shocking.

So in Progeny the “monster” is Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, if you prefer. But you could switch in just about any creepy beastie — the Creature of the Black Lagoon, a giant ant, a mutant man-mosquito hybrid, chupacabra, a space-alien fiend – and everything would play out more or less the same.

Sometimes you’re in the mood for a popcorn movie, or a decent but basic page-turner you can read on the beach. Well, when you’re in that kind of mood, and you like scary monster stuff (like me) – this book is your choice.

Ken Korczak is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

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“Paco: The Cat Who Meowed In Space” is a series of rather disjointed anecdotes about Homer Hickam’s experiences with his cat and NASA


Writers with years of experience in the yoke and thousands of pages inked eventually end up with what I call “a drawer.” It’s a chapter that had to be cut, an article or essay they never sold, or maybe manuscript that just never gelled. So the pages get put on the shelf – or in the drawer.

Then one day the writer might be thumbing though his Writer’s Market, looking at random magazines and journals. He spots some obscure publication, and thinks: “Hey, I bet I can sell them that such-and-such thing I wrote nine years ago! It’s in the drawer!”

Today, the ebook revolution, and especially the Kindle Singles format, has tempted many a writer to go drawer diving. That’s the impression I get about PACO: THE CAT WHO MEOWED IN SPACE. There are more than a few marvelous gems in here, some truly juicy “insider” glimpses of what went on behind the doors of NASA, and great writing but …

… but … the fact is, this offering is a series of veering digressions and disjointed anecdotes glued together only loosely with a premise surrounding the author’s cat. By virtue of belonging to a rocket scientist – Paco, the adorable kitty, earned a footnote in space exploration history by becoming the first cat to have his meow transmitted into space.

It’s a wonderful story to be sure, but the kitty premise is not enough to carry an entire manuscript even as short as this. And so my impression is that author HOMER HICKAM went rummaging through his drawer for odds and ends to fill out a complete document.

Let me just say without an iota of cynicism – Homer Hickam is a man of such stellar accomplishment, and is such a powerful writer, hacks like me are unfit to as much as sit at his feet. His memoir ROCKET BOYS is one of the best I’ve ever read, and without question deserves to be a considered a classic of 20th Century American literature.

I am also the kind of person who should be “predestined” to love this Kindle Single: I own three cats, I’m an extreme cat lover; a did my graduate work in space studies at the UND’s Center for Aerospace Sciences and worked in the industry; I’m a lifetime amateur astronomy nut; I’m a freelance writer and, like Hickam, I am fascinated with paleontology.

However … well … I’m not saying I didn’t love this …I freely admit I cried at the end … (I really did) … but … this is not a piece of writing that hangs together as a whole. Furthermore, shoppers judging a book by its cover may get the impression they are buying an ebook primarily about a cat – and that’s not what this is. What you actually get is a lot of personal observations, anecdotes and opinions about what was going on inside America’s space program, especially the Space Shuttle era, and from a bona fide NASA insider.

If you love cats but are not particularly interested in space exploration, you may be disappointed. But if you love kitties and space both – this ebook is the cat’s meow.

Ken Korczak is the author of: THE FAIRY REDEMPTION OF JUBAL CRANCH

‘Alien Blue’ by DeAnna Knippling Will Go Down Smooth and Easy Like Lite Beer … Er, I Mean Lite Literature


Science fiction, like all genres, has developed a number of sub-genres, and one of them is a humorous, farcical brand represented by books such as the Hitchhiker series by Douglas Adams, and the Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon offerings by Spider Robinson. This same sub-genre is popular in sci-fi movies, too; notably flicks such as Men In Black, Mars Attacks, and more obscure films, such as The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai.

It’s science fiction only in the sense that it features weird and exotic intergalactic aliens as props for gags and creating situation comedy, dark comedy or melodrama. Another feature of the genre is that characters confronting the aliens tend to be down-to-earth, small-town folksy types — bartenders, mail men, nurses, cops, farmers – and they all favor swilling a lot of alcohol, which in turn inclines them to be cheerful, witty and bristling with funny quips, puns, lightning-fast repartee and pithy observations.

But there is almost another sub-sub-genre of these humorous brands of science fiction involving bars. The Hitchhiker books start off in a pub, but also features another kind of bar, The Restaurant at the Edge of the Universe. There’s Callahan’s, of course, but we can find any number of other science fiction tales centered around bars, such as Tales from Gavagan’s Bar by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt; the anthology, After Hours: Tales from the Ur-Bar and quite a few more. (Even Edgar Allan Poe as a bar story with a speculative edge!)

ALIEN BLUE is solidly of this realm, and those readers who enjoy these kind of works will certainly enjoy this novel by DEANNA KNIPPLING.It is competently written, and is at least as clever, and speeds along as quickly as anything by Adams or Robinson.

As for me, I’m not a fan of this brand of science fiction. I know, I know, I’m not with the in crowd on this one. I’m probably the only person I know who did not like the Hitchhiker books, and I especially did not like the Callahan stories by Robinson. I found them tedious in the extreme.

Part of what bugs me is this mythos of happy, cheerful, clever, witty people who are lubricated by alcohol as a persistent theme in literature and film. Think of the bums in John Steinbeck’s 1945 novel Cannery Row, or the gang in the bar of the TV show Cheers. Then there’s the booze-soaked Arthur character of film, or how about the delightful sot, Elwood Dowd, and his giant invisible rabbit friend, Harvey? The more they all drink, the more cheerful, witty, clever and delightful they become. But in real life, we know that the more people drink, the more obnoxious, dull, depressive, angry, crude, dumb or even violent they become.

Yet, novelists, playwrights and film producers can’t resist this “delightful drunks” motif, and so we get a steady stream of this kind of thing. (Hey, I’m no teetotaler myself – even my dad was the owner of a Minnesota small-town bar, “Mike’s Tavern.”). But one could argue that it’s just not all that much of an original concept for literature – on the other hand, one might just as fairly say that this is a popular model for a particular sub-genre. It depends on how you look at it.

As for Alien Blue, an unkind reviewer might say the book lacks originality in ways additional to the pervasive delightful drunk syndrome– the author professes herself an ardent fan of Spider Robinson (of Callahan’s Saloon fame) and Kurt Vonnegut. That she names her viewpoint character “Bill Trout” (who, incidentally, is from a small town in Minnesota like me) is certainly an homage to Vonnegut’s character, Kilgore Trout. However, the author should not be overly surprised, then, if other readers suggest her work is just a tad too derivative of the likes of Vonnegut and Robinson – but more so Robinson, in this case.

It’s not that I dislike science fiction humor. It’s just that I like mine bitter and black, like my coffee. Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions and Sirens of Titan are two of the funniest books of all time – but, significantly, these works defy genre and are highly original. And Jack Vance’s The Eyes of the Overworld and Cugal’s Saga are so sublime (and so funny) as to be completely without peer – they’re masterpieces.

I mention these because I think Knippling is an author capable of writing a masterpiece – I’m not kidding, she’s really that good at rustling words. She’s proven she can skillfully write within sub-genres of genre novels (she’s also the author of a ZOMBIE BOOK) – and other works — and, well, she’s clearly a writer to keep an eye on.

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