Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Book Review: Black Earth - Dark Masquerade

Black Earth: Dark Masquerade Review

As the Earth continues to fall into destruction the young Nathan Pierce and his allies race to rescue his sister Daisy from her immanent public execution. The president of what’s left of the United States is grabbing all the power she can, as the malevolent alien force Legion, along with their demonic allies, continue to transform the Earth into a violent, dark and frigid world.

     The saga of Black Earth continues on in the third and penultimate in the series, Dark Masquerade. Like the previous novels, Alderman has several story arcs that run alongside each other. Most of the characters in these storylines cross paths at some points, while other characters seem to be waiting to meet until the final story in the saga. Whereas many books that attempt this sort of divided attention have a difficult time maintaining either focus or interest in the story, Dark Masquerade (and indeed the entire series so far) does not. Alderman is very skilled at creating unique and engaging storylines through the world of his stories. The reader has no problems keeping these storylines and character separated, while keeping the overall story moving forward. This book was a little slow in the beginning, but picks up and explodes after the first few chapters.

     The characters of Dark Masquerade are equally engaging, and Alderman gives us a great variety of believable and relatable characters. From the chain-smoking ex-timeline cop Macayle, to the self-described sexual predator Cynthia Ruin (who in reality is a terribly broken person), the characters contain a great deal of depth and the reader readily identifies with them. There’s a few two-dimensional characters in the story, but most of them don’t stick around (or survive) for too long to really matter. The one exception to this generality is the president, Amanda Stone. She’s a “two-and-a-half-dimensional” character, that I wish was fleshed out a little better, but fortunately is the exception, not the rule.

     In summary, Black Earth: Dark Masquerade is a piece of well-written, enjoyable, and often profound story of science fiction art. Alderman writes as a Christian, and there are certainly Christian themes in his stories, but they are a part of the story, rather than a sermon unnaturally inserted into the story. Some of his characters are believers, some aren’t, but all of them are flawed in their own ways. And unlike so much of “Christian Fiction” (which I wouldn’t do the disservice of labeling this book as) Alderman presents life as it is. Amidst the towering demons, the vicious Legion force and systematic destruction of Earth, the characters curse, use sex to get what they want, smoke, fear, laugh, cry and make horrible choices . . . just like in real life . . . just like in the world most people live in. So, even though portals are opening, hulking beasts are consuming people by the truckloads, and the sun is all but blotted out from the face of the earth, David Alderman paints the picture of a world that all of us recognize as real.

     Dark Masquerade sets the stage for the final book and gives the reader a reasonable ending for a second-to-last series book. Any fan of science fiction, fantasy, supernatural drama or apocalyptic stories really ought to read this fast-pace, and engaging series.

Quality: 9/10

Relevance: 9/10

Releases Wednesday, July 25th

Monday, December 7, 2009

The writer I wish I could be . . .

There's probably only two living writers that I wish I could be (or be as good as):
The first is J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5 among other moments of awesomeness).
The second is my good friend April French. I had the pleasure of reading her stories in several creative writing classes . . . and unlike most other students in the creative writing program, she wasn't in it for the glory. She was in it because she loved to write. And also unlike most other creative writing students (and professors) she was good.

Several years ago, while we were still in undergrad school, April had made the suggestion that we collaborate on some sort of project. I was interested, but did little to pursue that end . . . and I think that may have been the single most fantastic blunder of my writing career.

April's work is sophisticated and fun, serious and beautiful, complex but fast-paced, and drowns readers under incredible waves of imagination.

Go check out her new website

There, you can get to know about her. Purchase her novella Egg of the Damned and preview her upcoming works, including the much-anticipated The Unmentionables.

Closed for Business?

Closed for business? Hardly. Every time I try and "give-up" writing I get horribly depressed and find myself scrawling stories during my Hebrew class, or composing paragraphs in my mind as I drive to seminary. I have been fairly quiet as of late though . . . and I think the website needs an overhaul.

Stay-tuned . . .

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pilgrim’s Progress: Audio Drama

Reimagining John Bunyan’s allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress, Spirit Blade Productions explores this classic tale in a fantasy setting filled with magic, danger, dragons and swords.
Pilgrim’s Progress: Similitude of a Dream faithfully follows Bunyan’s work, but makes the story more accessible to modern listeners. Far from a mere audiobook, Similitude boasts a complete cast, with a fully composed score and stunning special effects that brings the story into vivid reality.

Without compromising the message of the story, Spirit Blade Productions has transformed the difficult-to-read allegory, into a symbolic story that resounds with readers today. As an added bonus, the audio drama comes bundled with the an audiobook of the parallel text from Bunyan’s actual work! (And this audiobook has its own unique soundtrack and sound effects for enhanced listening.) The end result of all this is a super-accessible Pilgrim’s Progress.

Go listen to the trailer here.

Or go purchase the first chapter of the drama ($5!) here (over 90 minutes of content).

I can’t recommend this enough!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Valencia Hills: Using Jesus as Bait

I posted an article (and a link to a song) over at my church blog.

"Using Jesus as Bait"

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I'm drowning . . .

I know this blog is new . . . and for the most part just an update page for, but I'm drowning right now.

Kristin and I are buying a home (which will then need a boatload of work)! Seminary work continues to be rather demanding (especially Hebrew class). I'm trying to steer the youth ministry in a new direction (developing teen-leaders, and adult leaders along the way). I just started up the college group. And a few other things are going on now that will have to be revealed at another time.

I'm drowning!

So . . . I'm sorry The Shade hasn't been updated. I really do have some awesome things down the road . . . and I'm certainly not abandoning it. Until I can return, you can always catch yourself up on my rantings over at my church blog.

Adios for now!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Of the Night: Audio Drama

Many of you know that, Lord willing, a script of mine will be produced by the Spirit Blade Underground Alliance. Well the first production from the group has been posted and it's great!

Mourning the death of his fiancée, former policeman James Elysian must uncover the truth about his deceased love. Has she been transformed into a blood-thirsty vampire, or was he rightfully committed to an asylum?

Roughly a fifteen minute drama, Of the Night: Kiss the Night is the first episode of a series. Set in a modern world, the drama effectively sets the stage for James Elysian's future confrontation with evil. The storytelling is cohesive and compels the listener to want more. The audio effectively creates a believable world within the listener's imagination, utilizing the full force of music, sound effects and dialogue to create a visual scene in an auditory medium.

There's only two minor flaws in the work. First, the audio levels of the screaming-scenes is a bit too high (and actually took me out of the story for a moment). Second, in a scene where Elysian and his partner banter back and forth the dialogue seems a bit forced and jilted.

None of that is enough for me to withhold my recommendation for this drama, though. Fans of horror and mystery will be well rewarded with Of the Night's first episode Kiss the Night.  I hope we see the next episode in a month!

Download it here for free!
WARNING: Due to the graphic violence portrayed, this audio series is recommended for ages 16 and older.