Saturday, August 2, 2014

Goin' Through Changes

Hello my friends,

As you have probably noticed, things have slowed considerably here at Craig's Book-ends. As you have probably guessed, that means that times are a-changin'. The journey I have been on since starting this blog has led me to wonderful places and I have met wonderful, incredible people. The result of that, however, is that my focus has changed. Craig's Book-ends is no longer the right place for what I want to do.

So what does that mean? Well, I'm about to begin a new blog called The Pulp Chronicler. Anyone paying attention can realize that we are living in a golden age. There are people working in crime, noir, and other pulp genres that are writing the best stuff that has ever been written in those genres. I've talked about several of them here: people like Mike Monson, Heath Lowrance, Chris F. Holm, Todd Robinson, and so many more. I want to focus on documenting this movement while it is still living and breathing. The Pulp Chronicler is where that is going to happen. There you will find news, reviews, interviews, and everything else you could want.

I hope that you'll follow me there. It's going to be a lot of fun.

Does that mean I will never use this blog again? Maybe. Maybe not. If I become enamored with bookish things that do not fit at the Chronicler then surely I may consider posting here again. However, my focus is pretty clearly going to be over there and in my upcoming pulp fiction magazine Dark Corners as well as my own writing career.

Thank you for joining me here at Craig's Book-ends. As always, keep reading. You never know where that reading will take you.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Great American Novel: A Review of A Swollen Red Sun

The novel is a literary form that has a unique potential that other literature does not. In my opinion, no country (other than Russia) has produced so many writers that can realize the potential of the novel than the United States. From John D. MacDonald to Jim Thompson, Herman Melville to Daniel Woodrell -- my favorite novelists are American. Forms like the hardboiled crime novel or the noir allow American fiction to deal with the world not how we would like it to be but rather how it is. One might argue that the pursuit of the Great American Novel (which is to say, a great novel that is firmly American, that could only exist because of its American-ness) I firmly believe that (with the exception of Les Edgerton maybe) there is not another writer alive that does this better than Matthew McBride has done with his new novel, A Swollen Red Sun. With his newest offering, McBride has succeeded in writing The Great American Novel.

The plot of A Swollen Red Sun, to put it loosely, deals with a good man that has done the wrong thing for the right reason and a bad man who has done the right thing for the wrong reason. As you might expect, these two opposites will inexorably collide. What you get on the way, among other things, is something about love, hate, life, death, addiction (of many types), greed, forgiveness, selfishness and selflessness. You get the sum totality of the human experience.

As you're reading, it feels like the book will not be contained in its 254 pages. You expect to return to it later and find that it has grown on its own to accommodate the big ideas that are held within the covers. You are introduced to so many characters who are not caricatures but some of the most finely crafted individuals in all of literature and it seems impossible that McBride could do them justice. However, Matthew McBride is a master of his craft, a born storyteller, and there could not be a better captain at the helm. The novel is epic without being superfluous, tragic without being exploitative, and understanding of its characters without being too soft.

A Swollen Red Sun brings to mind some of Daniel Woodrell's classic material -- it is set in Missouri, deals with less than savory characters, and is written with such beautiful and powerful prose that you will stop to reread sentences and phrases because you want to relish the feeling they give you. However, I believe it is better than anything Woodrell himself has produced in some time. Certainly McBride handles his characters in a balanced, nuanced, compassionate way that Woodrell does not. It sounds cliche and perhaps it is but this is the sort of novel that has characters that you will feel very strongly for and, when the book is closed and the light is turned off, you will wonder what they are doing now as you would a lost friend, someone you can no longer access directly.

It won't surprise you to learn that this will earn a place on the list of best novels I have read this year. It will probably be on a similar list for this decade's worth of books down the line. It is a book that I will read again. It is a book I will recommend to my family and friends and feel envious of them being able to experience and enjoy it for the first time.

I really, really like this one, guys. No matter who you are, you need to go and pick this up. Matthew McBride is one of the best, most skilled writers of our time. You best get acquainted with him now and start praying that he keeps putting words on paper.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

BEAT to a PULP and Heath Lowrance

If you are a fan of this blog, you probably know BEAT to a PULP. If not, you should. You should leave this page, visit theirs, and then come back. Now that you've dropped some cash on their stuff, let's talk.

Recently I talked to David Cranmer, who is head honcho over there, and instead of just posting the interview outright, I'm going to reveal the answers as we talk about some books. I've talked to a lot of people recently, a lot of people you'll really like if you don't already. I'll give you all their answers like this. What will emerge as a result is, I hope, a relatively comprehensive look at why I'm so damn excited about the pulp/crime/noir scene these days.

Discussing his childhood reading habits, Mr. Cranmer says, "It really started way back when I read The Hardy Boys as a kid and that transitioned into Robert B. Parker and Raymond Chandler. Crime, detective, and mystery style fiction has always been a favorite of mine. Along the way, thanks to my dad, Westerns became a big part of my reading diet along with science fiction which I discovered on my own." He also mentioned the influence of "Ernest Hemingway, Ross Macdonald, Agatha Christie, Larry McMurtry, James Reasoner, Charles Bukowski, Jean Didion, Patricia Highsmith..", saying what is clear based on the names he has cited in addition to the books he publishes, "I've always enjoyed a smorgasbord when it comes to authors. A good book is a good book regardless of genre."

These influences loom large over the mindblowingly terrific catalog of books at BTAP. Superhero tales, westerns both weird and wonderful, and science fiction all share a home there. Indeed, the one constant thread connecting the books is incredible quality. When I first got into BTAP, I couldn't help but wonder how such a unique thing came to be. Thus Spake The Cranmer:

"So when I decided to start BEAT to a PULP in 2008 I wanted to include all these genres and a few more. The pulp/crime/noir scene was very strong at the time though the webzines that hosted these writers had a habit of closing shop like a case of hit-and-run. I had several of my stories at various webzines that abruptly went belly up, that's when I decided to start BEAT to a PULP. I knew I had longevity in my veins especially when it comes to something I love, and here we are five years later -- still in the ring." 

And how could he not love the books that were coming across his desk? Take, for instance, Thomas Pluck's BLADE OF DISHONOR. If you knew me when I stumbled upon Pluck's great book, you know all about it because I couldn't shut up at the time. It floored me. You're going to hear me say that SO MUCH when I talk about BTAP but, boy, is it true! BLADE OF DISHONOR follows 'Rage Cage' Reeves (if that doesn't interest you already, we probably aren't friends) after he returns home from war. He goes to live with his grandfather, a badass in his own right, who has been entrusted to keep safe a samurai sword. When the sword goes missing, the story proper is set into motion and it will throw a shuriken right at your balls if you've got 'em and if you don't it will give you balls just to then have a shuriken thrown at them. Pluck writes about ninjas and samurai and WWII and so many tough-as-nails people that you wonder: has Pluck actually fought ninjas? I mean, the dude seems pretty damn tough but is he actually a character from a Sho Kosugi movie? I think he might be.

I'm not the only one who loves the hell out of BTAP's catalog. Cranmer himself shares the love when I ask about his current influences:

"This past year, Vladimir Nabokov [has influenced me] in a big way. My nephew, author/poet Kyle J. Knapp, was a huge aficionado of the Russian-born author, and after Kyle's death I've plunged head first into reading books like DESPAIR, TRANSPARENT THINGS, and PNIN. Also many of my peers have had a huge influence on me like Steve Weddle, Frank Bill, Alec Cizak, Garnett Elliott, Jake Hinkson, Heath Lowrance, Patti Abbott (to name a few), and they continue to hit their high marks." 

Many of these people are featured in the anthologies that BTAP has released. Take, for example, BEAT to a PULP Round 2. Literally nothing can prepare you for the outstanding quality of BTAP's anthologies and this is as good a starting point as any. Just take a look at the writers who have stories in this thing: Craig's Book-ends favorite Chris Holm, Charles Ardai, Anthony Neil Smith, Alec Cizak, James Reasoner, Jake Hinkson, Patti Abbott, and a look at Pulp Art by Cullen Gallagher. That's just a look at who is in this anthology. Impressive doesn't even begin to describe what it is.

One story that I am especially fond of is James Reasoner's "A World You Don't Know" which takes the familiar story of a drifter coming in to a small town with a corrupt politician and helping out the common man and puts a terrific spin on it. Reasoner is one of the masters of pulp fiction and he puts those skills on full display here. Since these are short stories, I won't elaborate any further on the contents of this anthology, save to say that you really need this in your possession. You really need all of BTAP's anthologies. They've got one exclusively featuring tales about superheroes, for instance, and they ALWAYS feature this level of talent.

Since Cranmer is such a powerful force in modern pulp, I wondered what he might like to see change in the scene. He said, "Instead of bloated novels, I'd like to see pithier releases. Too many writers think they have Stephen King blood in them and try to pen these magnum opuses that just go on and on. Cut 'em down. Long live the novella."

Long live the novella, indeed! I've already talked about my love for the short, tight, mean noir novellas of Mike Monson. However, there is another man that reigns supreme in writing short, no-bullshit stories. That man: Heath Lowrance.

One of the best books I read this year was a book called Axeman of Storyville by Heath Lowrance. In fact, it was the one-two punch of Thomas Pluck's Blade of Dishonor and Heath Lowrance's AXEMAN OF STORYVILLE (that actually turned into a five-six-seven-eight punch from BTAP, but I digress) that really made me sit back and realize that I needed everything BTAP. It doesn't stop there for Lowrance though. I would count him as one of the best writers out there currently and one writer who is writing things that literally no one else is, the sort of thing that I wish there was more of.

Since that time, I have had a number of correspondences with Mr. Lowrance, confirming him as every bit as cool (or cooler) than the books he writes. He hosts a blog in which he occasionally writes ABOUT pulp fiction just as well as he writes the fiction itself. I knew he was a guy that I needed to talk to so I shot some questions over to him. At the time, I was practically a Heath Lowrance fanboy and almost incapable of talking about it rationally. In fact, it's taken me this long to be able to review his work. Obviously I did not want the entire interview to consist of comments like "You write good, heh heh heh heh!"

Luckily, that didn't happen. First though, let's talk books again!

AXEMAN OF STORYVILLE is something of a horror western based on a real serial killer that lived and killed in New Orleans, Louisiana. A Louisianian myself, I have long been fascinated with the story of the Axeman. Apparently, I wasn't alone. When I asked, Lowrance said:

"I first read about the Axeman murders in New Orleans when I was in my late 20's, and thought it was an amazingly creepy story and I couldn't understand why it wasn't as well known as Jack the Ripper or the Torso Murderer. Granted, the body count racked up by the Axeman wasn't as big, maybe that had something to do with it. But the sheer weirdness of it more than makes up for that, I think. And also the fact that, to this day, the case remains unsolved. Regardless, it intrigued me to no end, and I always sort of wanted to write a fictionalized account of it. So when David Cranmer (aka Edward Grainger) suggested I write something about Gideon Miles in his later years, New Orleans, early 20's, it seemed like a perfect fit." 

What's this Edward Grainger/Gideon Miles business? Well, Grainger (as noted above) is a pen name of Mr. Cranmer himself. Under this name, Cranmer wrote about the western adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles. Various other people have been enlisted to write other tales featuring one or both of these characters. AXEMAN is one such tale and it is my favorite non-Grainger tale involving one of the duo.

Gideon Miles is one of the first African-American US Marshals and AXEMAN finds an older Miles in New Orleans in the 1920's trying to settle down and run a night club. Of course, Miles is a Real Badass and those types can't ever settle down for long. Miles gets caught up in the Axeman murders and the resulting stories is one of the best reads of 2014. Seriously, I might be downplaying it because I'm afraid of hyperbole, but this joins the ranks of the books I truly love. Lowrance does some really great things with Miles' character and I asked him to elaborate on this. Here's what he had to say:

"I'll tell you honestly, I LOVE Gideon Miles. Just love him. His partner, Cash Laramie, is maybe a bit more glamorous as the bad boy lawman archetype, but Gideon has depths that not too many fictional characters have. This whole thing started when David put his characters on the table for me and a handful of other writers. I felt honored to be included, but I knew immediately that Gideon was the one I wanted to write about. Fortunately, David trusted me with his toys and gave me leeway to develop not just a narrative for Gideon, but some back-story and fresh motivations. I built on what David established, and it was immensely satisfying. So far, I'm the only one aside from Edward Grainger who has worked on Gideon and I'd be lying to you if I said I haven't gotten a bit possessive of him." 

I implore you, reader, to buy this book. I feel confident that if you like the things I've recommended so far, you're going to love this. It's brilliant. Lowrance is so damn good. However, there's one more character that Lowrance has written about that I need to talk about: Hawthorne!

The weird western is a western subgenre that mixes in elements of horror. I'm not sure if Robert E. Howard was the first one to do it but he was certainly the first one to do it well. For a long time, the only other guy to do it right was the incomparable Joe R. Lansdale. Now, however, we have Heath Lowrance and the badass character of Hawthorne.

All the stories to-date about the mysterious figure have been collected in HAWTHORNE: TALES OF A WEIRDER WEST, also from BTAP. How do you know straight off the bat that these stories are must-haves? Take a look at the introduction to the collection, it's by James Reasoner. If Reasoner, a man who knows pulp westerns almost better than anyone alive, approves then you know it is worthy of your shelf. Like any good weird western tale, the stories included in WEIRDER WEST good westerns and good horror. The enigmatic character of Hawthorne reminds me of another Robert Howard creation, Solomon Kane. Apparently, Lowrance had that in mind too...

"Hawthorne is huge fun to write about because he is so single-minded. He doesn't question what he does. He doesn't have pity or remorse and there are no shades of gray. He kills, that's what he does. It's as simple as that. To be able to write a character like that is immensely freeing; you can put all your own rage into him and it becomes cathartic. Of course, there is more to Hawthorne than that, but he doesn't carry it around with him all the time and I, as the writer, don't have to slow the narrative down to explain what he does or why he does it..." 

He goes on:

"I've made no secret of the fact that Robert E. Howard was the biggest inspiration for the Hawthorne stories. Not just his weird western tales, but his character Solomon Kane; a roaming man of action, driven by a burning need to combat and destroy evil wherever he finds it. In some ways, Hawthorne is a wild west take on Solomon Kane. Without the religious mania."

You really, really need to buy this book. If you don't know Howard or Lansdale, chances are you've never been exposed to the weird western. This is probably the best possible introduction to the genre. If you have read Howard and Lansdale, you probably have yearned for more westerns with a horror bent. You will love WEIRDER WEST. You will read it again and again, just as I have. You will write letters begging Lowrance to write more. You will build a straw effigy of him, take a photo, mail it to him, and tell him that if he doesn't do more Hawthorne, the dolly gets it! (Ok, don't do that last one. It didn't work out well for me. I mean, not me. This guy I know who did that. He told me it didn't work out well. Lowrance won't even talk to him anymore. PLEASE BE MY FRIEND, HEATH!)

So what's next for Lowrance?

"There won't be a sequel to AXEMAN", he tells me, "not exactly. But I do have plans to return to Gideon Miles very soon, catching up with him shortly after the events in 'Miles to Little Ridge'. There's more to be told to that tale, and I suspect it will play out in novella form. Hawthorne is also far from done. I'm currently working on a novella-length tale that explores, among other things, the events that led to his obsession with destroying supernatural evil. There's also a Cash Laramie/Hawthorne cross-over in the works that Edward Grainger and I will write jointly. There will be the occasional unrelated short story, hopefully to round out the year. After that, I plan on spending most of next year working on my third full-length novel before visiting either Gideon or Hawthorne again."

Whatever he does, here's hoping that Lowrance keeps writing for years and years to come and shares that writing with us. Here's hoping that he gets the legions of adoring fans that he deserves. Our modern world is drowning in so many voices, Mr. Lowrance has one that truly stands out. We should all do what we can to support that voice and read his remarkable, brilliant, fun, thrilling tales. He is a man equally comfortable in many genres, saying "I've probably shot myself in the foot, career-wise, but not settling into one thing, but honestly, I'd rather be obscure to the point of ridiculousness than be forced into writing one sort of thing forever and ever. Maybe eventually I'll find the niche I can stay comfortable in long-term, but it hasn't happened yet."

The same can be said about BTAP as a whole. As I said before, the common thread is quality. I have barely even scratched the surface of what you can and should get from BTAP. I haven't mentioned Garnett Elliott's Drifter Detective novels. You'll love those. I haven't talked about THE DAME, THE DOCTOR AND THE DEVICE which features a collaboration of many different writers including Chris F. Holm and Chad Eagleton. I haven't talked about the poetry of Kyle J. Knapp. However, I will talk about that last one later this week and I'll review BTAP's newest, THE LIZARD'S ARDENT UNIFORM which is inspired by Knapp and features, in true BTAP form, an unbelievable amount of talent.

If this is your introduction, I believe in time that you'll find, as I have, that every single BTAP release should be a blind buy.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Review: SILENT CITY by Alex Segura

Here at Craig's Book-ends, it should be clear what type of books I enjoy. I love crime fiction. I love noir. I love pulp. I love dark books with complex characters who find themselves in over their heads, either by their own design or someone else's. Recently, I had the opportunity to read a book that is precisely the sort of thing I love. The book: SILENT CITY. The author: Alex Segura. 

SILENT CITY is set in Miami, though it's not the Miami you're likely to see on television or in travel brochures. Segura's Miami is a dark, seedy place. It is as fully a character in SILENT CITY as anything or anyone else.  It is the sort of place that a noir happens, full of broken people and broken dreams. 

Enter Pete Fernandez, our main character. Pete's an alcoholic who works for a newspaper and he's just about hit the bottom of the barrel. A chance conversation with a friend transforms him into a kind of private investigator on the trail of a missing girl. Aren't they always on the trail of a missing girl? Segura hits all the beats of the hardboiled crime novel but what results is not formulaic. Rather, SILENT CITY is carefully composed to recall these old tropes even as Segura offers you something fresh. The result is you see Fernandez slipping down the rabbit hole as he searches for the truth. 

This is not to say that SILENT CITY isn't fun. It certainly is. It's fun and fast, like all my favorite novels. Segura does not mince words. I blasted through this one in just a couple sittings. Plainly put, I loved the hell out of this book. 

The characters are three-dimensional and feel real. Fernandez is one of the better protagonists I have encountered in a while. Segura is going on my shelf next to Mike Monson as someone I will blind buy in the future. 

Go buy this one and soon. There is more that I could say about it but I won't because I need to pester Segura into releasing more fiction starring Pete Fernandez. Please, Mr. Segura?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Review: Cold in July by Joe R. Lansdale

Joe R. Lansdale is one of the best-kept secrets in literature. That's kind of funny to say about a guy with Lansdale's writing credits, which run the gamut from Batman: The Animated Series to Bubba Ho-tep which became a cult film starring Bruce Campbell, but its true in a way. Lansdale is so incredibly prolific, having his hands in so many different genres, but the bulk of this material is not talked about as much as it should be. Enter the 1989 novel Cold in July.

Posting the review today is no coincidence. A film based on this novel gets released today. It is directed by Jim Mickle and stars Michael C. Hall. I'll talk about the film once I see it but for now let's have a look at the novel. What do we have in store for us? Well, if you know Lansdale, you know you're in for one hell of a ride.

The novel centers on Richard Dane, a man who kills a home intruder in self-defense. The intruder's father, of course, doesn't quite see it that way. However, as Richard and the intruder's father are set at odds with one another, it becomes clear that the situation is more complex than they believed and a chain of events is set in motion that puts Richard and the intruder's father, Ben, in way over their heads.

Released in 1989, Cold in July is one of Lansdale's earlier works and I wondered if the novel might feel like it had been written by someone who had not mastered their craft yet. I can safely say that is not the case. Lansdale is one of the best writers of fast-paced, violent, witty fiction alive and it is already evident in this early novel. Lansdale is yet another one of those writers who are consistently reliable. Like one thing from Lansdale, you can get ready to seek out everything the guy's ever done. If he has ever faltered, I haven't seen it. His name on a book means quality.

I don't want to talk more about the plot. I'll leave that for you to enjoy as you discover it for yourself. It will stay with you, you will love this book if you love the kind of fiction we talk about here, and Lansdale will become one of your favorite writers ever.

Get it. See the movie. Let me know what you think about both.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Review: Mike Monson

Hello everyone! Things are finally back to normal here at Craig's Book-ends. There have been a lot of great books pass my way since the last post so be prepared to hear about some great things. Speaking of great things...

Mike Monson is editor of, what you'll recall, is one of my favorite magazines -- All Due Respect. However, he is also a heck of a storyteller in his own right. Recently I had the opportunity to read two books from him -- WHAT HAPPENS IN RENO and THE SCENT OF NEW DEATH. Since we are here talking about them, you can probably tell roughly what my opinion is, but I think these are some books worth talking about. Therefore, let's see how they hold up on the shelf.

First up, Mike Monson's debut novella -- What Happens In Reno. I'm going to be straightforward from the beginning and say that if you like your crime fiction dirty, violent, and fast -- this is the book for you. In fact, both of these books are for you. Probably everything Monson will ever do will be for you. What Happens In Reno is a fast-paced gutpunch of a book that does not shy away from the gory details like many others.

The novella follows the exploits of Matt Hodges who is a loser alcoholic. In other words, you know his story is going to be a noir because he could never hope for anything better. He is a man with more money than he can handle giving into all the vices he can think up. Things are already south when his wife hooks up with a really bad guy and then things get nastier and bleaker.

Monson writes his stories black as night but he always manages to add in a touch of humor (still black) here and there. Reno is in many ways what you always hoped you'd get out of your noir novels with the lurid covers, except Monson amps it up to 10. The book is short, does not overstay its welcome, and packs a mean punch. So often crime novels are promised to push boundaries or be no-holds-barred but the writers do not have what it takes. There is no fear of that with Monson. He shows you the dark, nasty side of the human condition and shines a light on it for the duration.

My verdict on What Happens In Reno: worth every penny, worth more than that. If you like your noir bleak and mean, get thee to Amazon and pick this one up immediately.

THE SCENT OF NEW DEATH is the newest offering from Mike Monson, having dropped in April. In many ways, if you enjoyed Reno then you can rest assured that there is plenty to like here. Monson does not hold back and continues to offer another strong shot of noir.

In The Scent of New Death, Phil Gaines is a Zen practitioner who gets by robbing banks. This is working out reasonably well for Gaines until he meets a girl. That girl, Paige, ends up being his new wife and also ends up unraveling the carefully controlled life that Gaines had going on. When she leaves with Phil's business partner and all of his money, Phil sets out for revenge and leaves a bloody trail in his wake.

Of the two, I might give Reno the slight edge over Scent. However, this is comparing two really great things. I actually read this one first and was raving about it so I went straight to Reno and, to my surprise, liked it even more -- so don't let my preference of one over the other deter you. Plainly put, if you love one you will love both of these novels. I prefer the protagonist of Scent. Gaines, with the Zen twist, is a very interesting character and probably the only person in the book who appears to have some kind of moral compass.

As before, Monson does not shy away from the darker side of life and Paige is a truly despicable character. In fact, you will likely find yourself rooting in Phil Gaines' corner simply because those he opposes seem to have no redeeming qualities.

Scent is another book which does not outstay its welcome. It is a brisk, fast, mean read and it wraps up in a way that you won't forget. Many writers have trouble knowing how or when to end their stories but Monson is not one of them. Initially, I considered these books to be too short but I realized that it is just because I want more. These books are not for everyone -- they're dark, mean, nasty, and filled with sex and violence -- but if you like noir or the stuff you've read in All Due Respect, this and everything from Monson in the future should be a blind purchase.

Final Verdict: They hold up very well indeed.

Friday, April 18, 2014

HOLLOW WORLD by Michael J. Sullivan

We are back today with a look at a standalone novel by Michael J. Sullivan. Remember, the contest to win a novel of your choosing by Mr. Sullivan is ongoing until the 27th. All you have to do is e-mail me and let me know your name (if it is different from your name on Facebook) and which book you want. Also, make sure that you like Craig's Book-ends on Facebook.

The standalone novel we are discussing has been something of a publishing event this year. Mr. Sullivan has retained the ebook rights himself (which is quite rare) so while you can get the print version from Tachyon Publications, as Sullivan explains on his website, retaining the ebook rights allowed him to (among other things) keep the ebook DRM free, bundle the ebook with print and audio versions, and enroll in Amazon MatchBook which allows the reader to get a free ebook if they buy the print version. This is pretty darn cool.

So how does the book hold up? Well, let's see.

This is another book by Sullivan that I'm not going to do much talking about in terms of plot. This is because I don't want to spoil it for you. In fact, I'd rather you go in knowing as little as possible. That's how I went into Hollow World. In short, however...

Hollow World is the story of Ellis Rogers, a man who has just been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Down on his luck, he decides to take a chance on something he has been working on quietly for some time now -- Rogers has a time machine in his garage and he plans to use it. But where and when will it take him?

That's a pretty simple set-up and, in fairness, the book hearkens back to an earlier time in science fiction, much like Sullivan did with fantasy in his Riyria novels. However, this is not a simple book. It is a book, like the best of science fiction, that asks the most fundamental questions about what it means to be human. It's a book about utopia (or dystopia). It's a book about love and hate. It's a book about individuality and a book about community. I'm not saying that you'll agree with the book's conclusions. I'm also not saying Sullivan does. Fiction doesn't work that way. I'm saying that the questions the book asks are ones that everyone asks themselves at some point. Wouldn't you like to engage with a great writer like Michael J. Sullivan on such important topics? Hollow World is your chance.

Also, it's got time travel. Things are nearly always better with time travel.