Category Archives: fantasy

Timelock by R.G. Knighton is Devilishly Clever Fun: Well Written Campy Blood and Gore Horror At Its Best


I was trying to think of the last time I had as much fun as I did while reading TIMELOCK by R.G. Knighton, and then it hit me: The year was 1987.

I was at the movies with a friend. The film we were seeing was EVIL DEAD II, Sam Raimi’s campy-but-ingenious blood and gore classic. Evil Dead II is outrageously goofy but devilishly clever. It became an instant laugh-and-shock-a-minute classic. I still consider it to be among my personal “best movies of all time.”

Devilishly clever, nutty, bloody, gory, funny and fun would well describe TIMELOCK, which is actually a set of two novels.

The first book involves a group of twenty-something college students attending a second-tier, but upper crust British university. They began to dabble in occult practices and stumble into a way to open a portal into another time and dimension. Trouble ensues when malevolent spirits leap through the portal and attach themselves to the students.

Each student is now “infected” with evil forces from the distant past. A variety of nutty hijinks ensue. What’s worse, one of the evil spirits is that of an extremely powerful witch with the wacky name of “Toomak.” She has the power to bring about he return of the Antichrist — Satan would be unchained resulting in the destruction of everything that is good, decent and holy forever.

R.G. Knighton

While the first novel takes place in the 1980s, the second novel shifts the action to the ancient Mideast at the time of Jesus. In the end, the events of the first novel and the second converge in a climatic ending pitting a fierce battle between the forces of Good and Evil.

What really makes this a first rate novel is the author’s superior ability to create interesting characters — they are ordinary human beings with all the normal strengths and weaknesses of people we find in the real world.

Each character’s motivations are shaped by their circumstances and background — which the author inserts into the narrative with marvelous finesse and ease.

R.G. Knighton is a rare writer — I believe he is a natural talent. He commands a razor-edged wit and a wonderful sense of sardonic irony. His ability to place ordinary people into extraordinary situations is what gives this book a breezy kind of power that doesn’t pretend to be anything but sheer entertainment.

The humor of Timelock is dripping with cynicism. Yes, this is dark humor, but pleasant; it’s like a premium dark chocolate with a tad of bitterness but ultimately sweet.

Timelock gets my highest recommendation and will easily make my Top 10 List of best books I’ve read in 2013.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer and has been successfully freelance writing for the past 25 years. He taught writing at the University of North Dakota. Ken in the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

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“Prophets of the Ghost Ants” by Clark T. Carlton: An absorbing, exciting work of epic fantasy that soars to the highest level of the genre — and just pure fun!


Readers who dare enter the realm of PROPHETS OF THE GHOST ANTS should be prepared to be carried off, as if by a giant swarm of locusts, to a world of epic fantasy that rivals Lord of the Rings and is on par with the likes of Dune or Watership Down.

First-time novelist CLARK T. CARLTON pulls off an amazing feat. He “out-Gaimans” Neil Gaiman, channels a bit of Jack Vance and pulls it all together with the technical finesse of Ben Bova.

Prophets of the Ghost Ants finds a perfect balance between science fiction and fantasy but should easily cross over as mainstream fiction to enthrall a general audience. It does that with vividly realized characters embroiled in a compelling plot, all immersed in a rich and vibrant world – a beautifully imagined, yet not-so-make-believe version of the insect world.

If the idea of plunging yourself for 400-plus pages into the creepy crawly world of bugs does not appeal to you, I say, take the ride into the hive anyway! It’s a land of agonizing beauty, aching pleasures and bold loves – combined with the most abject dungs, filthy smells and putrid slimes.

Danger and horrid multi-legged death lurks behind every leaf and twig, but joy and triumph await the pure of heart and the brave.

We all know that our real-life dominion of insects is like an alternate universe. The rules “down there” are so bizarre, the behaviors so weird and the guidelines for survival are so arcane that even our species, wielding the most powerful intellects on the planet, are today at best holding a only a stalemate for dominance of the planet.

But now — what if you could magically reduce the size of the humane race to insect scale? The “rule-set” of the survival game would completely change. All this sets up a fantastic premise for a fantasy novel – and in the hands of a gifted writer such as Mr. Carlton, the result is magical.

Prophets of the Ghost Ants also leverages our most central archetypical themes. The viewpoint character, Anand, is a Moses-Messiah-like figure – lowly born into the most abject and despised caste. But he is destined to rise through sheer force of unlimited will (and divine providence?) to become the most pivotal figure of his age.

Can Anand and his growing cadre of followers, captains and lieutenants overcome seemingly impossible odds to carve out a new kind of existence based on joy, hope and equality? Will they be crushed by the grinding cruelty of a deadly environment — or will they succumb to swarms of human foes grown as wicked as bloodthirsty insects?

Even if you can guess the ending you’ll eagerly keep turning pages to the finish – and then, believe me — you’ll be wishing for the quick release of a second book in what promises to be a trilogy. As for me, I’ll be relentlessly sawing my legs like a cricket chirping away for Hollywood to make the movie.

Your reviewer, Ken Korczak, is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: THE MAN IN THE NOTHING CHAMBER

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The Way of Wyrd by Brian Bates is a magical book that captures the ancient spirit of pagan Saxons, even if it may not be entirely authentic


Over the past couple of years I’ve occasionally seen mention of a book called THE WAY OF WYRD by BRIAN BATES on sites such as Facebook and other online forums. It was one such prompting that motivated me to investigate what this book is about. I was surprised to discover it was published 30 years ago in 1983.

After reading The Way of Wyrd, I can understand its enduring popularity and the fond and even reverential praise it garners from fans.

This is a fictional tale centered on Anglo-Saxon pagan spiritual teachings and mythology. The year is 674 A.D. It tells the story of a Christian monk from England who is sent to some location on the European mainland so that he can study the gods of the Saxons. His purpose is what was always the purpose of Christians of that era – to find out just enough about the ancient pagan systems so that they could wipe it out and displace it with Christianity.

The young monk who gets the assignment is the humble and meek Wat Brand. Shortly after arriving in Saxon territory, he meets a shaman of extraordinary wisdom and power. This Saxon sorcerer, Wulf, immediately agrees to teach brand everything he can about the power of the pagan gods and spirits. The book plays out as a kind of master-student series of lessons in Saxon spirituality.

There is a spectacular amount of magical activity among the blissful natural setting of an unspoiled European forest. This combination of magic couched within skillful descriptions of sparkling rivers, pungent green forests and dramatic mountain landscapes appeals to those of us who long for an increasingly lost, pristine planet — long before earth was tainted by the pollution and ravages of the Industrial Age.

Either by design or by accident, the author benefits from the aura of J.R.R Tolkien. He chooses to call the land of the Saxons “Middle-Earth” which leverages the magic of The Lord of Rings. It’s true that Tolkien didn’t exactly invent the term Middle Earth, but he might as well have. Tolkien was the first to popularize Middle Earth as a modern description for what the ancients referred to as Midgard, Middenheim, Manaheim, or Middengeard.

Tolkien first encountered the term in 1914 when pouring over rare fragments of centuries old documents. He found this line by the Anglo-Saxon poet Cynewulf:

Éala éarendel engla beorhtast / ofer middangeard monnum sended.

Which translates to:

Hail Earendel, brightest of angels / above the middle-earth sent unto men.

Before Tolkien, no one was using Middle Earth as a popular description of pre-Chrisitian Europe, but now it’s fair game for all.

Brian Bates

While I enjoyed nearly every page of The Way of Wyrd and give it my top recommendation, I think the criticisms of how Saxon spirituality is portrayed are fair. Many question the authenticity of the presentation. The Way of the Wyrd reads as much (or more) like a modern New Age conception of magic as it does a scholarly documentation of what the pagan Saxons actually believed and practiced.

In the introduction of the book, Bates makes a strenuous case that his work is a faithful and accurate rendering of Saxon magic. He says his narrative is based on a 1,000-year-old manuscript written by a Christian monk who serves as the model for his character Wat Brand. He also sites a lengthy bibliography of resources.

But I say, no way. Granted, I’m not an expert in pagan spiritual practices, but my strong impression here is that the author granted himself copious poetic license and overlaid much of this with his own modern interpretations.

Also – the structure of the narrative is one that is tried, true and familiar – the story plays out as a series of lessons between master and student, the same vehicle that Carlos Castaneda used to churn out his best-selling (and phony) series of tales of a sorcerer and his apprentice. Richard Bach also used this structure in Illusions – as did many other authors – all of which hearken back to the Platonic dialogue developed in ancient Greece.

There’s nothing wrong with adopting this formula; it’s just that, Brian Bates is obviously a crafty writer who knows how to write a crowd-pleasing yarn – leverage a little Tolkien, execute the tale with a time-tested formula, and take as many liberties as you need to make the information appeal to a modern New Agey audience.

Good for him, I say, because we’re all winners. The Way of Wyrd is a beautiful book which has bolstered interest in the ancient pagan beliefs of Northern Europe – and those beliefs were more sane and sound than what passes for modern mainstream religion today.

Ken Korczak is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

Follow @KenKorczak