On the road with the oldest driving him back to college in North Carolina. As naturalized and native Texans, we fulfilled our obligation of stopping at Buc-ee’s. (This one in Leeds, AL.)

Retrophisch Review: Unknown Rider

Cover art for Jack Stewart's novel Unknown RiderI would be remiss if I didn’t mention the novel I was most excited about this year, and that is Unknown Rider, by my friend Jack Stewart. Jack and I met via Twitter; we both love thrillers and share favorite authors. I met Jack in person, along with Ward Larsen and David McCloskey, at one of Don Bentley‘s book signings in Dallas. We would meet up again at two of Jack Carr‘s signings. A former Naval aviator, with 23 years as a fighter pilot under his belt, Jack also graduated from the famous TOPGUN Fighter Weapons School. In a word, he knows what he’s talking about.

While on a routine night flight in his F-35C Joint Strike Fighter, Colt Bancroft is routed to check out mysterious lights which are orbiting above and around one of the escort cruisers in his aircraft carrier’s strike group. As Colt arrives on station, his aircraft fails to respond to his control; nothing he does in the cockpit can keep it from rolling inverted—that’s upside down for us non-pilots—and nosediving down directly at the cruiser. At the last moment, the F-35 veers away from the cruiser and Colt regains control of his aircraft. But not his reputation.

Now deemed a threat to his fellow naval crewmen, and looking at the career he fought so hard for slipping away through no fault of his own, Colt begins his own investigation into what happened that night. He finds himself teaming up with a NCIS agent in the middle of her own hunt for a traitor selling secrets to the enemy, and the two realize not only have their paths intertwined, but the people they are looking for are one and the same. Not knowing who they can fully trust, the pair stumble in to a much bigger, and more dangerous, gambit.

Given my friendship with Jack, it’s impossible for me to be 100% impartial in reviewing Unknown Rider, but as I pored over an Advanced Reader Copy while, appropriately enough, flying, I could tell he was on to something with his debut. Mark Greaney, one of Jack’s writing heroes, nailed it when he said, “Strongly evocative of classic Clancy,” and Mark would know a thing or two about Tom Clancy novels. And that’s just it: if, like us, you grew up loving Tom Clancy, Stephen Coonts, and Dale Brown novels, you will love Unknown Rider. It carries the same spirit and multiple plot lines those authors became famous for. It is definitely recommended, and I can’t wait to see what Colt and Punky get up to next.

5/5 phins, a great debut

Amazon: Hardcover, paperback, Kindle
Barnes & Noble: Hardcover, paperback
Bookshop: Hardcover, paperback

“Texas and Oklahoma think they’re ready for the hell that awaits them in the college football heaven known as the Southeastern Conference.

“They are not.”

https://www.al.com/alabamafootball/2023/12/goodman-with-new-schedules-georgia-cant-hide-anymore.html

Retrophisch Review: Montezuma Strip

Kindle cover art for Alan Dean Foster's Montezuma StripSome times, the Kindle Daily Deal email can really deliver, and one day this month, it did with Alan Dean Foster’s Montezuma Strip. A collection of short stories originally published in 1995, it focuses on an imagined USA-Mexico border a century in the future. Here, “stretching from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico,” is the center of techno-industrialization for the world. Like any such place, where there’s industry, there’s greed, and where there’s greed, there’s crime. And crime is the industry Angel Cardenas works in.

Cardenas is a Tex-Mex federal cop based out of Nogales. He is also an “Intuit.” Born with a heightened intuition, he is something of a living lie detector. Angel is able to pick up the subtle visual and audible cues we all give off, but rarely glean from others, and this, coupled with his experience and his own logical thinking, makes him a damn good officer. One who is in much demand when crimes in other districts are beyond the ken of local law enforcement.

From figuring out how two software designers were killed, or in Foster’s parlance, “vacuumed,” to infiltrating a protection racket masquerading as a religious order, Cardenas has his hands full in a world where First World technology butts up against Third World labor practices.

I found the world Foster created fascinating, on par with those built by Gibson, Sterling, Stephenson, Rucker, and others in the 1980s and ’90s. If you’ve ever read those authors’ dystopian science fiction works, you’ll feel right at home in the Montezuma Strip. Angel Cardenas reads to me like a prototype for Steven Kotler’s Lion Zorn. Given the current socio-political situation on the US-Mexico border, and the deteriorating relationship with China as an economic partner, Foster’s work from nearly two decades ago doesn’t sound as far-fetched as it might have when first published.

If you’re a fan of Alan Dean Foster, cyberpunk-style sci-fi, or just good characters and great writing in general, you won’t be disappointed with Montezuma Strip.

5/5 phins, I loved it.

Amazon: Kindle, Mass Market Paperback

New Signum Regis single and music video released today! Joha’s vocals are terrific on “Servants of the Fallen One,” as well as Filip’s usual shredding. And a guest solo by Jimi Cimbala! https://youtu.be/V1dWWuwiPk4

Oh man, if only.

What if a fantasy band of adventurers were treated like we treat rock bands in our time?

That’s the premise behind one of my favorite fantasy novels of the past decade, Nicholas Eames’ “Kings of the Wyld,” on sale for $3 on Kindle today. Definitely recommended: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KT7YTXW/retrophisch-20

The fact that the first song the Apple Infinite Playlist algorithm churned out after the entirety of the debut album by Bad English finished playing was Steve Perry’s “Oh Sherrie” makes me think said algorithm programmer has a very good sense of humor.

Happy Signum Regis release day to all who celebrate.

And is that a kick-butt metal cover or what?

I pulled up “Close My Eyes Forever” by Lita Ford & Ozzy Osbourne, and the Apple Autoplay has been doing yeoman’s work with the ’80s hard rock/heavy metal since.

Just musically wandering through my teenage years while working…