07/29/15
Not One Among Them Whole, A Novel of Gettysburg, by Edison McDaniels

DNFB review of Not One Among Them Whole

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A Review of Not One Among Them Whole by the folks at Definitely Not For The Birds (a book review blog)
See the original posting here.

Mr. Edison McDaniels himself brought this novel to my attention; he sent us two pieces of his work for free to be reviewed, something that I am very grateful for.  So thanks must again be expressed to Mr. McDaniels for this.

 

I was lucky enough to read both pieces of fiction, and I am incredibly impressed with McDaniels.  The first work I reviewed, the novella titled Blade Man, (the review of which can be found here) was truly enjoyable.  It wasn’t necessarily as polished as it could have been  (you can refer to my comment in the review) but the writing was still mostly solid and the suspense was expertly crafted.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, though. when I turned to begin Not One Among Them Whole. The reasoning for this was that the description of this novel made it sound as though it was nothing like the novella, and I was worried that the novel would simply pale in comparison to the novella. It is, after all, hard to excel in two different genres and styles.  I feel confident in saying that my worries were unfounded.  This novel, although very different from McDaniels’ novella, is still very well done.

The Good:
The tagline for this novel is as follows: A Novel of Gettysburg

Immediately, I imagined a rather painful historic account with bland characters drenched in stereotypes.  It really added to my hesitation to read the novel after I had already read the wonderful novella.  However, the impression that the tagline had instilled in me was entirely wrong.  The character are very well developed and although there may be a stereotype here or there (not many), the characters (nor the author) don’t seen to rely on them for identity. Most of these characters take you on an emotionally roller coaster given the heightened historical content that war immediately interjects into a story – especially a war like the civil war.  I also was not expecting such a variety of characters.  I really thought it was going to entirely focus on this Civil War surgeon.  While I do think the surgeons are the readers best window into the onslaught, there are others.  I loved the diversity of view points, as I felt it provided me with a fuller overall picture – a less biased picture.

It is also the first historical fiction novel on the Civil War that I have encountered (although I must admit that I don’t read very many novel that fall into that category) in which the view points of the surgeons were taken into account.  This alone makes it unique and worthy of looking in to as I feel I gained new perspective and that other readers will as well.

The writing, especially the descriptions of the surgeries and procedures, come off as incredibly realistic and authentic.  Of course, as Mr. McDaniels is also a neurosurgeon (yes, a writer AND a neurosurgeon, not sure if there is anything McDaniels can’t do) it is safe to assume that these descriptions are indeed incredibly accurate.  For me, sometimes these descriptions were a little too real, but more on that later.

The historical facts, so important to historical fiction, were there and helped to support the story as opposed them having to be manipulated in order to accommodate the story.   With the facts supporting the fictional narrative, the lines of fiction and history were blended in the way that only truly good historical fiction can accomplish.

The Bad:
As stated earlier, sometimes the descriptions of the medical procedures were a bit too vivid for my tastes, and I had to skim over them.  I am a bit of a wimp, but I think others may have this problem as well.  It can be gross and gory, for lack of better terminology, given the combination of a reader’s vivid imagination and McDaniels detailed and vivid imagery.

 
Not One Among Them Whole, A Novel of Gettysburg, by Edison McDaniels

Not One Among Them Whole, A Novel of Gettysburg, by Edison McDaniels

The Verdict:
Don’t read: If you aren’t a huge fan of accurate and gory accounts of war, this will not be the novel for you – although I must mention that skimming through these portions helped immensely and ensured that I didn’t miss out on a great piece of fiction.

 
Read: If you have been looking for an accurate yet artful piece of historical fiction, I cannot imagine anything more perfect to satisfy that need than Not One Among Them Whole.  The writing is well done, polished, and approachable while the characters and story are convincing, captivating, and deep.

Written by Rachel B.

Rachel is a co-creator and writer at Definitely Not for the Birds (DNFB). She recently graduated with a degree in English. Presently, she writes, reads, and then reads and writes some more, with a giant and ever-present mug of green tea in her hand. Follow Rachel @rrbindl and DNFB @not4birds

07/8/15
Peter Clines The Fold

Review of The Fold

The Fold by Peter Clines
Reviewed by Edison McDaniels, MD
Peter Clines The Fold

I became a fan of Peter Clines while reading “14,” his riveting apocalyptic novel of a mysterious apartment building in Los Angeles—and mutant cockroaches. The Fold is a riveting apocalyptic novel about a high school teacher with eidetic memory, a little known government project about, well, a door—and mutant cockroaches.

The mutant cockroach thing notwithstanding, this novel is, in a word, phenomenal. Oh, and the cockroaches are relevant.

Peter Clines does Lovecraftian fiction as good as any writer on the planet today. And he’s a story teller of the highest order. Leland Erickson, aka Mike—which is short for Mikroft, Sherlock Holmes somewhat more irreverent older brother—is the very likable teacher with the eidetic memory who headlines the story. Although he just might be among the smartest people on the planet, he doesn’t care and has no desire to use his special powers to advance mankind. Following him as he reluctantly comes around to the realization that he is the only one who can solve the mystery put before him and his colleagues was fascinating, all the more so because the writing is so compelling.

The story is not necessarily original, although the spin taken by Mr. Clines and the authoritative way he writes it make the journey between the first and last words a suspenseful, steamy, and ultimately satisfying one. There’s just enough sex to make you smile, enough mystery to soothe sci fi readers, marvelously and ghoulishly rendered monsters for the horror crowd, and lots of homespun humor. It’s told in a linear format with few flashbacks. Therefore it keeps moving forward, gaining more and more momentum until it literally explodes off the page.

I was very impressed with the monsters. It’s rare a writer can make a monster both menacing and weighty without the reader feeling let down when the monster finally makes an appearance on the page. Readers here need not worry. These monsters will fascinate, their ghoul factor is high, and in Mr. Clines’ talented hands, they seem to simultaneously stand somewhere between ten and a hundred feet tall in the reader’s mind. They are breathtakingly menacing, but realistically rendered, which makes them human in scale and scary as all get out. I haven’t seen a monster like this since the first “Alien” movie.

The Fold is the best techno sci fi novel this year. Five stars. Read it. ‘Nuff said.

05/15/15
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Review: Makeup by Robert McCammon

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A helluva feast, like ordering a sirloin and getting a filet mignon…

 

This is one of those stories that’s such a simple concept you have to ask yourself—if you’re a writer like me—why you didn’t think of it. Simple in concept, but masterful in execution. This is an amazingly well done short story.
The writing harkens back to something one might have read in Amzaing Stories or an Isaac Asimov mystery mag in the 1950’s. I was immediately taken back to my childhod, although it’s not a children’s story. It’s about a bottom feeder who steels a makeup case, quite possibly the wrongest makeup case ever made.
The setting is perfect, the characters evoked with a fidelity that had me both seeing and hearing them so thoroughly it was as if I was in the scene myself. When the author told me Marco was three hundred pounds, I already knew it. Not because he had alluded to it, but because I had seen it, because of course a man like him had to be three hundred pounds. Marvelous writing. Simply marvelous.

There are many, many memorable lines in this tale, like “the towering height of him came up like a released spring” and “Marco’s face was the color of spoiled cheese.” You’ll have to read the story to see the others, of which there are so many. When I bought this I thought I was sitting down at the buffet, as it turned out I was seated at a full fledged feast. Delicious.
If you have never read McCammon, this is a great intro. Great writing always leaves you wanting more and after this, you’ll want more, no doubt.
Highly recommended. Five stars. An awesome and fun read.