Justin Blazier

RETIRED REVIEWER September 2009 — September 2012

JUSTIN BLAZIER does IT work for various corporations and helps his wife run a Thai restaurant in Lawrenceburg Indiana. His life-long goals include winning the lottery, ending world hunger, and finding a canned chili that doesn’t taste like sawdust. Like many fantasy enthusiasts, he cut his teeth on Tolkien. Due to lack of space, his small public library would often give him their donated SFF books, and there he met Piers Anthony, Gordon R. Dickson, Douglas Adams, and many more. Currently he’s a fan of Jim Butcher, Patrick Rothfuss, and Brandon Sanderson. Justin is a sucker for an unlikely hero and a happy ending, but not adverse to tragedy if he feels it has a point. He also delves into historical non-fiction (Nathaniel Phillbrick) and adventure books (James Rollins).

Justin lives in a small home near the river with his wife and Norman, his mildly smelly dog. He is notably charming, intelligent, and dedicated, and has just learned that there are benefits to writing his own bio. Through his reviews he hopes to change the world. Failing that, then at least to get somebody to buy a book that deserves to be read.

Game Review: The Keeper’s and Investigator’s Guides for Achtung! Cthulhu

The Keeper’s and Investigator’s Guides for Achtung! Cthulhu by Modiphius Games

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a character in your favorite story? I think everyone has wondered this at some point. Using the imagination to transport you to a place that doesn’t exist in the real world is one of the fundamental reasons we read speculative fiction. It’s a chance to escape reality for awhile. You can take your imagination a step further by actually playing the role. I’m talking about Role Playing Games — games in which you become the character you’re reading about and partake in pseudo-imaginary adventures with your peers.

I was never into RPGs and wrote them off as mostly a past-time for the more “serious nerd.” I chose to occupy myself with way less nerdy endeavors like making Anime Music Videos or painting Steampunk robots. My introduction to RPGs really began at Gen Con. I started Read More

Extinction Point: A zombie-free apocalypse

Extinction Point by Paul Antony Jones

Emily Baxter is a news reporter for a large paper in New York City. Emily loves being in the city, surrounded by people, and finds the hustle and bustle to be comforting. Then, one morning she is sitting in a cafe writing her next article when the red rain begins. Within a few hours, everything Emily loves about the city is gone. Everyone is dead, and not only is she now totally alone, but the Earth is changing. The plague brought on by the red rain is all-consuming. The book follows her escape from New York City and the terrors she encounters along the way.

I'm a big fan of post-apocalyptic fiction. One of the problems with this sub-genre is that it’s often hard to find a unique story. Apparently there are only so many ways to end the world. Lately zombies are the way to go, and frankly I’m pretty tired of them. Good news, everybody: Extinction Point is a zombie-free apocalypse. It’s ... Read More

Red Country: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly with swords

Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

Red Country is technically a stand-alone novel, but like Joe Abercrombie's other stand-alones (Best Served Cold and The Heroes), it draws heavily from events that transpired in his FIRST LAW series. Reading Red Country before FIRST LAW will spoil things for you and you will lose out on a lot of the fun surprises and mystery characters that Abercrombie has set up for fans of the previous books.

The events in Red Country take place in a location west of the setting of the other books. The story draws heavily from Old West themes that are prevalent in American Western movies and folklore. The mud, dust, cattle, wagons, and scruffy adventurers are all here. Abercrombie unapologetically paints the scene with the brush of an old Clint Eastwood movie. I was even expecting those ominous whistled notes followed by a tumbleweed roll... Read More

The Folly of the World: Bullington’s best work to date

The Folly of the World by Jesse Bullington

In a flooded 15th century Holland there are very few opportunities available. Jan may have an amazing opportunity at a life full of riches, but it's hidden somewhere at the bottom of a flooded town. To reach his greedy goal in the dark moldy depths, Jan enlists the help of a wild young girl with a knack for swimming. Add Jan's slightly psychotic but ever-faithful partner Sander to the mix and you have yourself a watery adventure with a cast to remember.

In both of his previous books, The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart and The Enterprise of Death, Jesse Bullington went to great lengths to defy our expectations in every way. His characters were immoral, his language was foul, his violence was graphic, and his subject matter was often nauseating.

His fans will be pleased to know that The Folly of the World Read More

WWW: Wonder: Ties up the story nicely

WWW: Wonder by Robert J. Sawyer

WWW: Wonder is the third and final book in Robert J. Sawyer’s WWW trilogy. It continues the story of visually challenged Caitlin Decter and the self aware web-based intelligence that she has named Webmind. Caitlin and Webmind struggle to deal with the sudden attention Webmind’s emergence has brought on them all. Caitlin believes that Webmind is a benevolent entity, but the government considers it a threat and wants to eradicate it. There are a couple of other subplots that come to together in WWW: Wonder, but the story mostly revolves around the few key characters.

Similar to the previous books, Wake and Watch, Wonder tackles the philosophical themes of self identity, personal responsibility, and the greater good. The message... Read More

Nightfall: A bloody mystery thriller

Nightfall by Stephen Leather

Jack Nightingale was a cop, a negotiator to be specific. He becomes a private investigator after a series of strange and tragic events. Things get really weird for Jack when he finds out the parents he lost as a teenager had actually adopted him, and his real father has left him a huge mansion in the countryside. I should also mention that his biological father was an evil bastard who sold Jack's soul to a demon, and only a few days remain till said demon comes to collect. Jack the level-headed investigator doesn’t buy into any of it, until his loved ones start having “accidents.” He tries to find out who is doing the killing while trying to unravel the mystery of his family’s past.

Nightfall is a bloody mystery thriller with fantasy elements mixed in. It had its scary moments, but didn’t keep me up at night. I found much of the story to be very sad, actually. The th... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: How do you rate a book?

Over here at FanLit we've been talking about how we rate the books we read. We realize that we're not professional literature critics -- we're just a group of readers who love to read and write about speculative fiction -- but we started this site to help SFF readers decide what to read and most consumers, whether of fine dining, vacuum cleaners, or fantasy novels, seem to like some sort of quantification. Thus, we assign "ratings," even though a few of us find the notion disagreeable. This week we challenged ourselves to come up with a standardized rating system. Though Marion and Ryan a couple of us are notoriously stingy with our stars, we still managed to come up with a scheme that we could agree on:

I loved pretty much all aspects of this book: story, style, and characters.... Read More

Hominids: Hugo Award winner now on audio

Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer

What would it be like if Neanderthals had become the dominant race of humans on the planet? Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer explores that very idea. This book follows a brilliant Neanderthal physicist named Ponter Boddet. Ponter and his partner, while working on experimental quantum computers, accidently open a bridge between universes. The bridge leads to the world we (Homo sapiens sapiens) currently reside in. Ponter fell into our world accidently and has now become stranded here.

Robert J. Sawyer is a master at taking an interesting thought experiment and turning it into a full-length novel. What would a Neanderthal world be like? What would a modern Neanderthal do if he were dropped into our world? It’s fascinating to think about. Sawyer answers those questions in a thoughtful, heavily researched, and entertaining manner.

Ponter Bodd... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Favorite reading formats

It's been a couple of years since we've had a passionate discussion about our preferences for reading in non-traditional formats such as e-reader and audio, but technology has changed quite a bit since then! There are many more options these days and most of us carry around devices such as phones and tablets that make it easy and convenient, and often cost-effective, to read in different formats. So, out of curiosity, and also a desire to alert readers about new technologies they may be unaware of, I have some questions:

What are your current format preferences?
How do you do most of your reading these days?
What devices/apps can you not live without?
Does new technology a... Read More

Zoo City: Lovable heroine, unique setting

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

The main character of Lauren Beukes’s Zoo City is a former freelance journalist named Zinzi December. Zinzi is cool, intelligent and carries some big mental baggage. Despite her flaws, you will love her almost immediately. Zinzi lives in Zoo City, which is essentially a slum in Johannesburg for people who have been burdened with animals. In the world of Zoo City, people are magically attached to animals after they’ve done something particularly awful. People with animals are the outcasts of society, and the more conspicuous the animal the harder it is to lead a normal life. Zinzi carries a sloth, which isn’t the easiest critter to conceal.

Since Zinzi is not able to work a real job due to her fuzzy companion, she makes ends meet by using her natural ability to find lost things for people. On one of this lost item cases she stumbles... Read More

Southern Gods: Gave me serious nightmares

Southern Gods by John Hornor Jacobs

Bull Ingram is a very big fellow. He’s a former Marine who is still a little raw from the war like most men in the early 1950s. Bull works as paid muscle and his primary job is finding people who owe his employers money. When he finds them, he “convinces” them to pay back their debts. He is very good at his job. A folk music dealer wants Bull to locate a mysterious blues man by the name of Ramblin’ John Hastur. Hastur’s music has strange effects on those who listen to it, and Bull’s new employer wants him found. The job leads Bull down a strange and violent path through the underbelly of the 1950’s American South.

John Hornor Jacobs sets a furious pace in Southern Gods. It doesn’t let up till you hit the epilogue. I was sent an audio copy of this from Brilliance Audio, and I was so desperate to keep reading the story tha... Read More

Shadowplay: Exciting on audio

Shadowplay by Tad Williams

Shadowplay is the second book in Tad Williams' massive epic fantasy series, Shadowmarch. The plot was just starting to get really interesting when the first book ended, so I was eager to start Shadowplay. Things have gone awry in the March Kingdoms. Book two starts in chaos and things only go downhill from there. I'm not normally a reader of classic epic fantasy, since I often find things like family lineage, court politics and over-dramatic heroic battles boring. This series has all of this, but this time it seems to work for me. I'm being entertained despite the fact that this is territory I've visited many times before.

The story picks up right where Shadowmarch left off. You would think the second book in such a massive series would suffer a bit form middle book syndrome, but Read More

Ghost Story: You have to read The Dresden Files

Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

Writing this review is going to be impossible without spoiling some of the series for those who have not read through Changes, just a little warning. The title of this book, Ghost Story, does a pretty good job of revealing the entire premise of the story: Harry is a ghost. Like all ghosts he has a task that must be completed in order to be at peace. A lot of what was planted in Changes bears fruit in Ghost Story. Harry is now forced to deal with the horrible decisions he was forced to make while the Red Court held his daughter. To the living, Harry has been gone for six months. All hell has broken loose in Chicago without Dresden around. Harry is now dropped in the middle of all this and is practically helpless is his current state to do anything about it. Add that to the emotional turmoil of losing Harry, and w... Read More

Pilgrimage to Hell: A book for dudes

Pilgrimage to Hell by Jack Adrian

Pilgrimage to Hell is the first book in the long running Deathlands series. There are 100 volumes of Deathlands, written by 12 different authors under the house name James Axler. Pilgrimage to Hell was started by Christopher Lowder under the pen name Jack Adrian, but Lowder became ill and Laurence James stepped in to finish it under the penname James Axler. Pilgrimage to Hell is the one that started it all, and I've waited a long time to be able to read it.

Life as we know it was obliterated in a nuclear apocalypse in 2001. Pilgrimage to Hell takes place several generations after the nukes destroyed civilization. Ryan Cowdar and Krysty Wroth are the protagonists, though there is an array of supporting characters... Read More

The Heroes: On audio

The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie

I often struggle when someone asks me what my favorite fantasy book is. I’ve read so many great books that it’s very difficult to pick one above all the others. I don’t have that problem anymore. My answer now is easily Joe Abercrombie’s The Heroes. I cannot think of another book I have enjoyed so much on so many levels. That’s a bold statement, you say? Yes it is. This book deserves it, and I will do my best to try and explain why.

The overall plot of The Heroes is relatively simple. It follows a battle over the course of three days. The battle is being fought between “The Union” and “The North.” The Union is an entity that has much in common with medieval England. The North has much in common with Vikings or some other barbarian state. They’ve been brought together in war through a series of convoluted events th... Read More

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