Should ‘Ring Shout’ Have Won the Hugo?

Teeth on the eyes are just soo creepy

It’s been a while since I added anything to my long list of posts about the Hugos. To me this is somewhat understandable, as the 2021 Hugo Awards have come and gone, and already people are nominating for the 2022 awards in Chicago this September (sadly I’ve read almost zero books published in 2021 so my nomination list will probably be light or non-existent. If you want to see which ones I have read though, check out my reviews for Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor, Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, and Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee).

However, I am determined to make it through the list eventually, and so I’m continuing on. This week, Ring Shout by P. Djeli Clark.

Ring Shout is in essence, a great period piece that does not shy away from a point in our (American) history that is usually downplayed and sometimes forgotten all together. It puts racism, internalized hate, and body horror in its cross hairs, and does not flinch at pulling the trigger, over and over again.

Set in 1922, an all female and African American group of monster hunters kill “Ku Kluxes”, people who have let their hate grow so strong that they become literal monsters. Djeli’s writing is very visceral and evocative, which really allows the reader to become immersed in the world, and feel the horror that the characters experience in their everyday lives. Through the lens of the supernatural, we’re able to experience the horror as a metaphor for being black in the 1920’s.

To me, Ring Shout was very reminiscent of books like Lovecraft Country (by Matt Ruff), or The Ballad of Black Tom (by Victor LaValle). I could see this title doing well with fans of Get Out or Sorry to Bother You (though I’ll admit StBY maybe doesn’t quite fit as it’s more surreal than horror, although there is definitely a good dose of horror too).

And while these moments of shock and horror were incredible in their own right, I think what really made Ring Shout sing, was the more normal moments in which we saw the characters thriving in small ways despite the constant struggle they must put up with in this weird world. For instance, Maryse stealing upstairs with her man after an night out, or Sadie disregarding her one-night rule for slightly overweight gent who says black people once ruled the world. Mama Jean turning a neat profit selling Mama’s Water (I was definitely curious about the Gullah and their magic in this book! Will have to do some research own someday). Each of these characters felt real in a way that I feel is very difficult to achieve even in a longer novel, let alone a novella.

My only complaint was that I felt the ending dragged a little bit. Like the main thrust of the plot ended too soon, and we still had a sizeable amount of reading after that kind of lacked urgency as a result. But this was a complex tale, with many threads to tidy up at the end and so I can understand why it had to be so.

Should it have won then?

I think I probably would have picked this one over Empress of Salt and Fortune which took the award, but I still think Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi is my favorite. This piece is comparable in a lot of ways and I wondered while reading it, if I had read Ring Shout first, if Riot Baby would have lacked a bit of its luster, but as it is, I got to Ring Shout second and so it would probably be second in my estimation.

What do you all think of this piece? Should it have won? What were your favorite parts? What might you like to see in a sequel? Excited to talk about this one!

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you next time!!

Review: Irredeemable by Jason Sizemore

Hmm. What to say, what to say. Sometimes, I try to come up with some clever play on the title of a work to get my reviews started. Something witty and charming which will set the tone for the review and give it a finished feeling towards the end. Jason’s Sizemore’s Irredeemable allows for no such turn of phrase or flip in rhetoric. Indeed, if the definition of the term means “unable to be saved, improved or corrected” (I Google therefore I know) then the only way the work can match its name is to say that there is no need for it to be saved, improved or corrected. Perhaps the title fits perfectly.



If the work itself stands without need of redemption, the characters that populate its pages are another story entirely. 18 other stories to be precise, and each of them are, in their own unique way, exactly as the title suggests. I think I’ll tell you about my three favorite pieces within the collection and then perhaps have some kind of conclusion worked up at the end. We shall see.

#3 City Hall –

For some reason, this story kept coming back to me. I found myself comparing each new story I read with this one. I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll just give you the premise. Essentially, a man named Alton gets into an elevator with some of his associates at work. It’s a tight squeeze and two passengers, who he does not recognize, recommend that he step off. He doesn’t. Things start to go bad . . .

I found the relationship between the two unknown passengers and the main character Alton to be very thought provoking. The man (James) and the woman (Rebecca) are both seemingly attractive and well groomed. The other passengers are decidedly not. Clearly, Rebecca & James do not belong on this elevator or perhaps even in the same building as Alton’s co-workers but there they are. Alton has some qualities that would put him right at home with his co-workers on the elevator but also some that might excuse him their fate. In the end we’re not sure whether he was meant to be there or not, although it is implied that perhaps it doesn’t matter.

Finally, whenever I meet characters like James and Rebecca I can’t help but think of the Rolling Stones’ song Sympathy for the Devil. These two characters certainly seem to match a similar theme (Devil as refined Gentleman or Lady?) and I always enjoy this when I see it. Plus, James is wearing pinstripe and I love pinstripe!

#2 Plug and Play 

As with the last story, Plug and Play is all about the end so I’ll try to tell you what I enjoyed about it without giving away that end. First and foremost, I think I enjoyed the ‘world’ in which the story takes place. We begin on an satellite or some other object orbiting the Earth. The main character works writing software and apparently needs some motivation. His supervisor is an android and seems to have a textbook solution to everything. An employee does X and the android’s programming spits out Y to resolve the conflict in the way that is most efficient, and best for the company. However, our main code monkey gets drunk, and then gets involved in some activities (drug trafficking mostly) which are quite outside the scope of our android’s programming  😉

There he is the man himself: Jason Sizemore

There he is the man himself: Jason Sizemore

I think there is really a lot to think about here in terms of business and the human condition. For me it was interesting to see the Android in a managerial position. Typically this is considered the ‘cognitive’ stuff that only people are supposed to be able to do. Also, the idea of robots is that they are supposed to do all of the mundane, laborious work (in this case coding). However, Plug and Play posits a world in which it is instead the human who accomplishes these tasks and the android who oversees him. Very interesting.

The motives within the story, while perhaps a bit dark thematically, are quite hilariously written and the world in which they exist is as thought provoking as it is humorous. A+’s all around.

#1 Mr. Templar –

This story was the one I enjoyed the most and I feel a bit awful because I don’t have very much that is ‘literary’ to say about it. I simply love Robots! Our main bucket-0-bolts is called Mr. Templar. He’s just trying to make his way on a desecrated earth. You know, find some android-grade petroleum to keep the gears spinning and the circuits firing for just another day, week, year etc. He meets up with another android who’s in worse shape than himself and decides (after a little bargaining on the other droid’s part) to rescue him and go on an adventure to find the creators (humans). I won’t give away the ending but it’s a bit emotional. That is all.

Conclusion –

In all, I highly recommend Jason Sizemore’s Irredeemable. The three stories mentioned above are the stories I enjoyed most, but there are 15 other stories that are equally as good and totally different. Just go and get it already. I think if I try to continue any longer these sentences will get less and less coherent. What you need to know is that it’s a great collection and you should absolutely read it.

If anyone out there has already read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section. Or even if you haven’t read it, still comment your thoughts anyway. Goodbye for now . . .



Book Review: The Unholy

Cover shot!

Cover shot!

Well, it’s been a little while since I last reviewed any books on the site but you know what they say about falling a horse . . . I guess this is me getting back on (don’t call it a comeback). Our subject today will be a little book entitled The Unholy, by Paul DeBlassie III. Let’s get started.

Things I enjoyed about this book:

1) Setting – In terms of the setting, this book touches a lot of ground. Indeed, the vast Aztlan desert might seem a wasteland, but as we traverse its expanse, we find it to be a solid foundation on which to build a story. DeBlassie himself, has a background in psychology so immediately I was interested to see how this might show through within the novel. I wasn’t disappointed. DeBlassie takes us back in time, just a skosh, into the era of sanitariums and electro-shock therapy. An asylum supported by religious fanaticism is a trope we’re familiar with but DeBlassie employs it effectively and it doesn’t feel tired. Then we add some Native-American Medicine Women and we’ve got our drama.

2) Dream Sequences – I mentioned DeBlassie’s background in psychology, and it is clear from his writing that he is extremely interested in dreams as a portal into the psyche. There are many scenes within the novel which rely upon dreams for foreshadowing but also (I think) for misinformation. Any way you view the scenes, it’s fun to read them and try to puzzle out what exactly is going on. What does the symbolism mean? Why are some characters represented in this way? How are others represented? etc.

unholybanner (2)

The Cons:

1) Klunk – There is no doubt that DeBlassie is a vivid and descriptive writer; however, I felt his writing style sometimes got in the way of itself. Mostly, I’m speaking in terms of mechanics. Some phrases seemed to bear too much punctuation while others not enough. Also, the multitude of repeated descriptors was sometimes tiresome and had me thinking “Wait did I just read this section?” I think that one more round of editorial would have smoothed this out. Really a minor hindrance.

2) Give me 25 more pages! – Normally I’m never in favor of books getting longer. Most things I read could have a three quarters the page length and still be too long. One of my favorite things about The Unholy was that it was an easy (and quick) 200 pages. However, it could have used a few more pages at the end. My reasoning?

paul (2)CATHARSIS!

I didn’t feel it. The penultimate scene in which the tension of the entire novel will be resolved (for good or evil), was like 3-4 pages. Give me more DeBlassie. Give me more!


I certainly recommend this one. I always feel a little bad when the cons portion of the post takes up more space than the pro’s because I like talking about the good things authors do in their writing. Indeed, The Unholy has more good things going for it than bad. I think I was just looking for an excuse to write CATHARSIS! in all caps (got it in there again!).

Can you blame me?

Give this one a read if you’ve got the time (which you do). I’ve posted the links below:


Amazon – Kindle 
Amazon – Paperback
Barnes & Noble – Nook



Book Review: Maze by J.M. McDermott



Welcome back! Finally, a new post on A&A. I’ve been reading quite a few novels lately, and as such have been slacking on the writing aspect of things recently. My apologies. I think this is mostly due to the fact that I haven’t read much recently that I was compelled to write about. However, after finishing Maze, I knew I couldn’t sit around and not say something about it. There’s so much within this book to talk about that I hardly know where to start. I guess, I could narrow it down into three topics, the first being my general impression, McDermott’s treatment of time in the novel, and finally I’ll attempt to discuss any themes I think are relevant. By the time I’m all finished with that, my head should have successfully exploded and you should have a pretty good idea as to whether or not you want to give this thing a read (hint: you do!). Ok, here we go!

General Impressions-

In a word, Wow. I’m not familiar with J.M. McDermott, or any of his other work, but now I’d like to be. Maze follows the story of a village which must fight for survival against a myriad of strange creatures both known and unknown. I always think of mazes as 2D in as much as they eventually lead to one place and you’re confined by the walls and the pathways laid out for you. This is not the case in Maze. Trouble lurks around every corner but also in the sky and below the ground. McDermott makes use of all three dimensions and possibly a 4th if we count time as well. It’s pretty amazing to me that anything survives in this crazy world of McDermott’s creation. The horrors just keep coming. And it’s not just the Minotaur in front of you that you need to watch out for but your brother beside you who covets your wife. Or maybe the chill of the winter and poisoned blood of the . . . whatever you happen to be chewing on.

A Famous Escher Painting

A Famous Escher Painting

McDermott’s writing style is perfect for the task at hand. His clipped prose and liberal use of repetition really bring readers into the minds of the characters. So closely are you aligned with them that you might as well be in the maze yourself. You can almost taste the maggots (yea gross right? This is a world where people eat maggots on the regular). The only thing that sets you apart (besides eating maggots) is that you see five different points of view throughout the story. There seem to be many threads that tie each of these sections (called Mazes) together but you have to watch closely and it’s often still unclear as to what the relations mean. You have enough information to know that there is a larger picture, but that picture was painted by M.C. Escher.

Oh dear look at the time-

Despite the fact that you have characters arriving from all different points in history (from neanderthals to women who live in space), there does seem to be a progression as far as the ‘village’ is concerned. This ‘progression’, in spite of all the chaos, is what I find most intriguing about the novel.The members work together to survive and each year it seems like they’re better at it than the year before. When the reader first arrives in The Maze, there’s a feeling of chaos that can be quite overwhelming. And while the monsters and other creatures are certainly based on myths and legends, there is something mythic about the start. This scene, at least in my mind, seems to mimic the dawn of awareness. It’s as if, the rest of what has occurred in the Maze is simply chaos while the first character’s arrival, begins the movement towards order. This first character (Maia) is from the future, a scientist who, without any of the advancements of her former society, must survive using the simplest of tools. When she is taken in by the other villagers, she can only use tools as advanced as the village has become. She tries to teach her daughter about bacteria and germs, but because the villagers have not yet progressed through the other modes of though which precede this way of thinking, her daughter cannot grasp what she is attempting to teach. Also, just because Maia’s arrival seems to signal the beginning of something resembling order, that does not mean that there isn’t plenty more chaos to ensue.


Without a second read through (or perhaps a third, fourth or fifth), it will be tough to attempt any discussion of the themes present within this novel. There seem to be plenty, but as I mentioned before, they are obscured enough that it isn’t clear if McDermott has a deliberate message which he is attempting to convey. For instance, religion does not seem to play a very large role in the beginning or middle of the novel. It is mentioned that different members of the village believe in different gods, and their beliefs are different depending on what point in time they came from. Some members do not seem to hold any belief at all which I would think would mean that religion is either a) not important to the novel or b) religion is something to be discouraged. However, as we read about Julie Station and Lucius Caveman, it seems to be very important thematically. I mean, certainly the name Lucius Caveman is a bit loaded. And his adulterous relationship with Julie is in direct conflict with what he professes to believe. It first seems easy to chalk Lucius off as a hypocrite but as we learn more about him he is more sympathetic. In fact he starts becoming so devout that it turns Julie into something of  a succubus and we lose sympathy for her. Needless to say, my feelings were all tangled up. I wasn’t sure what to think. Maybe that’s the point.

Anyway, please give J.M. McDermott’s Maze a read through. And also when y’all have read it, please leave some comments below. I’d love to get a good discussion going on this novel as there is plenty to talk about. As far as logistics are concerned, the novel is put out by Apex Publications and releases today. Here’s the link.

Please read!


Deadman’s Hand: Not Your Average Case

Aww yea . . . She's dead alright

Aww yea . . . She’s dead alright

It’s not my first night working the beat. I’ve experienced a lot of detectives solving a lot of crimes. Of course I’ve read the greats. Poe & Doyle. Agatha Christie and Dorthy Sayers (ugh I should do a whole post on Wimbsey alone). I can’t think of any modern authors right now but I think I’ve watched enough Law & Order (and NCIS . . . and CSI . . . You get my drift?) to know a Police Procedural when I see one.

Needless to say, most detective fiction fails to impress. However, I still seem to have a ‘soft spot’ for ‘hard boiled’ detective fiction. Dashiel Hammet and Raymond Chandler will always be my go to guys when it’s time to start handing out recommendations (unless you like fantasy and sci-fi, then it’s a whole different list). There’s something about a guy who has every chance to take the easy way out but doesn’t. Something about a man who stays by his principles (even if they’re screwed up principles) and does the right thing (even if it’s for the wrong reasons) . . .

Well let’s just say I’d like to buy that guy a drink. Maybe I’m a Romantic. Or maybe that guy would have great taste in drinks. Not sure which (what’d I just say about doing things for the wrong reasons?). That being said, sometimes even my precious hard-boiled detective fiction can run a little dry. After all, formula is formula and lord knows there are hundreds if not thousands of imitators out there (will the real slim shady please stand up?)

Dress like me and solve crimes like me and wait . . . what?

Dress like me and solve crimes like me and wait . . . what?

What was the title of this post again?

Ah yes. Not your average case. Well in the case of Richard Levesque’s Dead Man’s Hand (Ace Stubble), imitators need not apply. When I say Ace isn’t your average detective, I mean it. He’s actually not a detective at all. He’s a lawyer who defends less than normal clientele . . . Oh and did I mention zombies? That should give you at least a hint as to what’s going on here. Should at least give an idea of the world we’re inhabiting.

Basically, Ace Stubble defends vampires, werewolves and any other sort of paranormal crook who ends up on the wrong side of the law. He’s going about his business, drinking (ah yes the true staple of a hard boiled detective) and needing a vacation, when he’s attacked by a werewolf on a full moon. He’s able to walk away with his neck (mostly intact) because of a young, seductive hacker (possibly a vampire?) who happens to have some silver. Ace does the gentlemanly thing to do and accompanies her back to her flat. Turns out she has an abundance of problems and when Ace offers a helping hand, our vixen (name pixel) pulls one (a hand) out of the refrigerator. You’ll have to read the rest yourself, and I recommend that you do.

Incase you’re skimming . . .

What I love about this book is the way the author mixes two genres that I don’t think normally mix together. The whole ‘Vampires, Werewolves, & Zombies’ thing seems pretty trendy right now and there is a lot of content being produced in this vein. However, I wouldn’t say there is a lot of quality work out there (I’m sorry that you love Vampire Diaries but really?).

And ‘Hard-boiled’ detective fiction?

Well it died around the same time Kennedy got hitched. So essentially, Levesque takes one dead genre mixed with a dying (or perhaps undying?) genre of fiction and creates something that is refreshing and quite comical at some points (oops forgot to mention the humor until now).

But enough of me prattling along. Just go and read it already!

Hello Red.

Hello Red.


Oh my god! Zombies Everywhere!! In all seriousness, Devan Sagliani’s THE RISING DEAD is pretty solid zombie fiction. Interesting characters and intense action sequences. I really enjoyed the book!


I’m pretty new to Zombie stories in general, but it with the prevalence of horror titles which feature zombies (AMC’s Walking Dead, World War Z, the Plant vs. Zombies iPhone app, etc. I just watched Disney’s Hocus Pocus. Even that movie has a Zombie in it.) it is pretty hard to know absolutely nothing about Zombies. Nevertheless, Sagliani puts you through the paces. He explains the breakdown of society, and how all of these scary zombies came to be. But he doesn’t waste too much time on it. He gets you into the action quickly and constantly presents new challenges for his protagonists. He also leaves the story open-ended enough that there could plausibly be a sequel, or it might be part of a series (I know he has another book out called Zombie Attack! which is part of a trilogy. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be part of that or not.) but at the very least, we are left with the hope that we will get to see more of this new, post-apocalyptic world.

I’ve waited three hundred years to say that!

Overall, I greatly enjoyed THE RISING DEAD. It is only 99 cents, and for that price, I believe it answered all the calls of duty. It perhaps would benefit from one more round of Editorial. I found quite a few mistakes and I wasn’t consciously looking for them. But, other than that, it was a lot of fun to read. I’ll definitely be watching Devan Sagliani to see what he comes up with next.