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Monday, October 10, 2016

Mini-Reviews: Cthulhu Armageddon & Straight Outta Fangton by C. T. Phipps

Official Author Website
Order Cthulhu Armageddon HERE
Order Straight Outta Fangton HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Esoterrorism
Read Fantasy Book Critic interview with C. T. Phipps
Read "Giving Back Vampires Their Bite" by C. T. Phipps (guest post)
Read "To Mythos Or Not To Mythos" by C. T. Phipps (guest post)

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Cthulhu Armageddon is a book that grabbed my attention for two reasons. One it’s a dystopian, post-apocalyptic story that mixes Lovecraftian mythos with action & terrific characters. The second reason being C. T. Phipps himself, he has impressed me a lot with his previous work and so I have high hopes for this one.

The book's main character John Henry Booth is an Remnant Recon & Extermination ranger & squadron leader. He's been trained to retrieve objects, humans & other items of interest from the surrounding areas. John in his last mission went with his team in different area of the wastelands and came back a different man. He doesn't quite remember what happened but his entire team got wiped out & he has been branded a traitor. Events are in play which call for his execution but then a fortuitous turn leads Booth to finding out what might have happened & sets up the main plot.

The best way to describe this book is Mad Max meets Cthulhu and with lots of action and horror mixed in. The thing I loved about the book was the world settings, usually it's very tricky to balance a post apocalyptic dystopia but kudos to Charles Phipps for making this world believable and also providing a rich mythological feel to it.

The characterization is another plus point as I enjoyed those characters who are introduced in this series opener. This goes majorly for the side character cast which is introduced. My favorites were Katryn and Richard as they both seemed so much more than their appearances.  Particularly I was plain horrified at one of the minor character’s death as that was just out of the left field. This is to the author's credit that he makes us invested in ech and everyone. The main character Booth is a bit unsavory but he has reasons to be such and there are tiny snippets of his past revised which reveal a further humane side to him. Another particular aspect of the book which I loved was the main character is black and the author doesn't make too much of it. His world is a diverse world reflecting our own and it was very heartening to see the author include the mythos but add his own touches to make it so much more diverse.

This book is mainly about secrets, secrets about Booth, secrets about the world, secrets from the past affecting the future and much more. I like how you get to know some but others remain just that; secrets. I hope that the author reveals Booth's past connection to a side character (from what is revealed, it's too rich to not be further explored) as well as lets us meet his ex-wife. The pace of the story is such that you will constantly be flipping pages to see where it all ends.

Now going to the negatives about the book, there are a few situations within the book that stretch the imagination even more that what is required. It felt more cut & dried rather than  being organic and within the story so that detracted from my enjoyment. Lastly Booth while being a main character isn't all that strong to drive your interest. In fact it's the secondary characters who often prop up the story as much as him. So with that in mind I'm hoping that the author can rectify this in the sequels and make the story stronger.

Overall this is a story that is similar to Steven Montano's Blood Skies series but less grim dark and has more of a human element involved. The authors spoken about where he wishes to take the story next & based on the potential shown in this story, I’m willing to go along for the ride. Cthulhu Armageddon is a good thrill ride mixing Lovecraftian horror along with grimdark dystopia and for the most part gives the readers exactly what its blurb promises.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Straight Outta Fangton while having a funny, catchy title also has a great story. Charles T. Phipps wrote this book because he wanted to do a slightly different spin on one the most overused supernatural creatures to be found in the speculative fiction genre. He wrote about how he believes that Vampires need to be brought back to their scary days.

The main story begins with Peter Stone, a poor vampire who works in a convenience store. He frequently tries to make sense of his recent status and he’s also hassled by his co-worker who wants him to turn him. Things get hairy when Peter discovers a newly-formed vampire in his store bathroom and no idea about who created the vampire. Forced to return to New Detroit to his maker, Peter tries to make sense of the new horror unfolding. But what he finds are the some of the same issues that previously caused him to leave. He however does make contact with his maker and what he learns will shock him to his core.

That’s the central plot which then spirals into many more twists and goes into full blown horror that’s tinged with dark comedy. I loved this urban fantasy because the story was so unpredictable, imagine if Blade was a broke vampire trying to do the right thing and trying to solve a murder-resurrection. Peter Stone is a fascinating narrator and as a vampire trying to retain what’s left of his humanity He’s the main draw of the story as we see the story almost entirely via his POV. His powers haven’t flowered but he still does his best to do what’s necessary.

Another aspect which I enjoyed is the setting of the New Detroit, which is a weird mix of a vampire mecca and Las Vegas. It has the decadence and the debauchery that vampires have been famous for and some more. The author presents New Detroit in fleeting glimpses and factoids that add to its mystique. Lastly the story is very much like a procedural but flipped completely on its head as the mystery being investigated is who created an undead. I liked how the author managed to make it interesting and yet made it original via the merging of vampires and procedural aspects.

There’s a duality that is enhanced within this book, Peter a vampire trying to be more like a human. This plot is a vampire story that reads like a crime procedural, the comedy and horror aspects often take turns twisting the plot further. Lastly the main antagonist is also doing something good (from a human perspective) while not being entirely of the same species. All of the characters struggle with this duality of purpose and yet strive harder to accomplish their goals.

The only thing that would have made this book a five star read, was the world-building  which wasn’t done all the way. What I mean by this is that while the world is constantly peeked at, we are never given a full accounting. I would loved to see what the rest of the world and the country looks like with the vampire reveal. How would it affect the geo-political situations? What would happen to regions and their predictable reactions? All of this and much more was not entirely shown but just hinted at. Now I realize that this is a short first entry so the author might be planning to further uncover the world in the sequels.

Straight Outta Fangton is a wonderful mix of urban fantasy, dark comedy and scary vampires. It reads very much like a thriller and whose pace will have you flipping pages as fast as you can. Charles Phipps is an author who is revealing himself to be a master of many genres as he continues to thrill and amaze.



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