Sunday, March 27, 2011

Book Review: Rut by Scott Phillips

✰✰✰½ Welcome to America in the not too distant future. It's a very different place from the world power we take for granted today. It's a world where artificial limbs and an energy shortage are the norm. The main mode of transportation is now walking or biking. Cars are a rarity as are steak dinners and coffee.

Bridget, the biology grad student, has come to Gower, Colorado to study a pond full of frogs that are reproducing normally, another rarity in this world of the future. As she sets up camp she quickly gets caught up in the town's antics. Land owner Stacey Elder's son, Cole, quickly latches onto Bridget as he considers which religion to declare. The only 'doctor' in town is the veterinarian, Dr. Glaspie, who is also the school principal. There's also a mountain man and Darla, the town's resident wacko.

As Bridget settles in to study another pond of mutant frogs, things start to get interesting. This book has a little bit of everything from puppy love to adultery. Meanwhile, the residents must always be on the look out for Special Forces agents lest they say the wrong thing and suddenly disappear.

The Bottom Line:
Don't let the title turn you off from this absorbing quick read. Phillips has created a kind of post-apocalyptic world for the reader to contemplate. This book will stay with you for a while as you consider global warming and a very different kind of world where China is the superpower instead of the United States of America. Phillips' quirky characters were my favorite part of the book. Recommended for adults who enjoy science fiction; the book includes some strong language.

I received this novel from Concord Free Press in exchange for a donation. Concord Free Press is different from other publishers. They give away free copies of new books. I've been trying to get one of the free novels offered by Concord for over a year. I was lucky to get one of the 2,500 copies of "Rut" available. At the time of this posting a few copies are still available on their website. While the book is free, they ask that you donate to a charity and pass the book along so that the giving can continue. What a great idea! As for doing my part I donated $30 to the
Dubuque Regional Humane Society and have passed my copy along to a friend. If you are interested in the program, check them out on their website: Concord Free Press

Rut: a novel by Scott Phillips. Paperback published by Concord Free Press in 2010. 233 p. ISBN: 978-0-9817824-4-7

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Book Review: Pork Pie Hat by Peter Straub

✰✰✰✰½ Fans of supernatural horror will enjoy this excellent coming-of-age story. A Columbia University graduate student (we never learn his name) arrives in New York City with visions of getting his M.A. in English and enjoying the city's jazz scene. Upon learning that jazz legend Pork Pie Hat is still alive and performing at a nearby club, the narrator slips into the bar for a life changing experience. Hat's music is mesmerizing and the student becomes intent on finding out all he can about the old musician. However, when Hat agrees to a rare interview on Halloween night, the narrator gets more than he bargained for.

Hat shares his horrific tale as he downs a bottle of gin. While the story seems too fantastic to believe, the narrator can't help but to wonder about it for years to come. Indeed, Hat's coming-of-age story about the horrors he and a close friend witnessed as kids on

another Halloween night out in a forbidden area known as The Backs will leave you wondering too. Were the horrors created in Hat's mind or something he experienced at the hands of others?

The Bottom Line:
Peter Straub's Pork Pie Hat took me back to my own grad school days. The story is realistically written; I felt like I was sitting in the bar listening to Hat play as I read this book. It's an excellent weekend read if you are in the mood for a classic, supernatural, horror tale. Jill Bauman's black & white illustrations enhance this eerie tale. Read it around Halloween for best effect. Highly recommended for fans of horror.

Pork Pie Hat by Peter Straub. Hardcover published by Cemetery Dance Publications in 2010. 175 p. ISBN: 978-1-58767-232-3 Note: This spooky tale first appeared in the anthology October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween.