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Paradise WIP – Chapter 22

Chapter 22

Chet was not one for conversation. He pointed to a table and then disappeared through another door at the far end of the room. Slowly, conversation started up again, though in hushed tones.

“Who is that?” I finally was able to ask.

“That’s Chet. He leads the rebellion against the Hyatt. He thinks they are more dangerous than the Plax,” Sam told me

“More dangerous? How can he possibly think that a group of humans are more dangerous that aliens that are trying to eradicate the human race?”

“It’s personal,” Sam whispered in a low tone. “You’ve seen him. He augmented more than anyone I’ve ever seen.”

Chet was a large man. I couldn’t remember seeing another man even close to as big, though that wasn’t a big deal with so few memories.

Paradise WIP

“So, what’s next?”

“Chet will let us know,” Sam said.

“Let us know?” I was not happy with that answer. The mission was dangerous enough. I needed to be the one calling the shots.

“Since we went underground, Chet has become the unofficial leader above ground. You’ve been incapacitated for too long. Someone had to fill the void.”

“But I’m back now.” As I said the words, I realized how wrong they were.

“You may be back, but you’re not the general we all were following. You will always be the face of the rebellion, but until you regain your memories, you  won’t be  the general we need to lead us.”

The words stung. Anger toward Sam welled up inside me, but I knew she was write. I couldn’t remember things like tactics or battle plans. The weapon I held felt like a foreign object. There was no way I could lead effectively.

A few minutes later, Chet came back into the main room and walked over to our table.

“We do this today,” he stated. “We leave in an hour.”

Review: Working Stiffs by Scott Bell

* * * * *

Chet gathered us exactly an hour later. A platoon of twenty soldiers joined him and our group of four.

The long walk to the rebels bunker had not been too bad, but the walk back up the base revealed just how steep the incline was. I started to struggle early on. My legs burned and breathing was harder than it should have been. I was determine, though. If Sam was going to die on this mission, I was going to die beside her.

“Mechs have been spotted about five miles south of here,” Chet told us when we were back in the military base. “That will be our best chance.”

“What’s a mech?” I whispered to Sam once we were outside. Chet immediately spun around and glared at me. He put a finger to his lips and it was clear there was to be no conversation on our journey.

It wasn’t long before I would find out. Chet walked with a stride three times the length of an average man. Most of us were jogging to keep pace with him. My legs were on fire, but I refused to stop.

Along the way, we passed crumbled building and abandoned vehicles. Sam explained to me later that the Plax had disabled most vehicle through persistent electronic pulses that fried electronic equipment. It was the same reason we didn’t carry communication devices. Our energy weapons still worked, but their guidance systems did not. Fighting relied entirely on the skill of the soldier rather than on any help from the weapon.

I couldn’t help but not that while much of the military base was standing, most of the other building were either completely destroyed or missing at least one exterior wall making them virtually unusable. I thought back to the time in the bunker when I had seen a wall crumble before my eyes and shuddered.

The mech came into view as we were entering a clear. Later I learned that the clearing used to be a park where people gathered on weekends to play group sports. I couldn’t imagine that world looking at the dead foliage and abandoned vehicles that now filled much of the area.

Book Review – A Sword in Time by Cidney Swanson

Not much farther in front of us, I notice one building still standing. The rest of our group noticed it at the same time. Like bugs scurrying away from light in the middle of the night, everyone quickly found cover. I was slow to move, but Sam grabbed me by my body armor and pulled me down behind an abandoned vehicle.

“What’s going on?” I asked her.

“Mech,” she answered.

I was confused. I hadn’t seen anything. Are they small?  I asked myself.

Learned around the corner of the vehicle, I looked into the clearing to see if I could pick out the object that had brought so much fear to our group.

Just then, the building I noticed turned and began moving in our direction.

“What the…” I couldn’t help myself, but Sam silenced me by slapping her hand over my mouth. I saw fear in her eyes as she shook her head from side to side.

So, this is where I’m going to die, I thought to myself.

The building, it turned out, was actually a mech, a large Plax robotic creature that destroyed buildings and captured humans. Nearly as tall as a two-story building, it moved with surprising speed and agility.

My eyes were glued in fascination. How could I have forgotten such a thing?

From my side view, I noticed Chet’s hands were moving. Soldiers in groups of two started to make their way to nearby vehicles. The plan appeared to be to surround the mech.

It wasn’t clear if the mech had noticed us, but it did continue moving in our direction. I watched as Sam disabled the safety on her weapon and pointed at mine. She pulled three balls from a pocket near her should. I imagine they must be some sort of grenade.

Book Review: Contained by S. L. Harpel

The grenade were blue and perfectly smooth, with the exception of a small round button at the top.

“Press and hold it for three seconds,” she whispered to me. “The button will sink deeper into the grenade once it’s armed. Throw it as far as you can. The explode on impact or in five seconds.”

She handed one to me. I looked over the Chet expecting him to be red with anger, but he only nodded in our direction.

“Come on,” Sam said, “He wants us to head around to the West.”

Quietly we hurried from vehicle to vehicle.

“Why didn’t Chet silence you?” I whispered to her when we reached a point she thought was far enough.

“It knows we’re here,” Sam informed me. “There’s no need to be completely silent now, though loud noises will review our position.

A sizzle pierced the air and the vehicle we had just been near turned to ash. Every hair on my body stood up to take notice.

“If I say run,” she whispered again, “Don’t think about it. Run, and with every ounce of energy you have.”

Author Interview: S. L. Harpel, Author of Contained

Chet’s team was now firing at the mech. The goal seemed to be to disable it by destroying the legs it was walking on. Every soldier was making short, controlled energy bursts before quickly moving to another barrier. I watched in horror as two of Chet’s soldiers were too late to run and turned to dust in a flash of light.

“Get ready,” Sam told me. We both armed and tossed our grenades and then sprinted to another vehicle.

Grenades exploded as we exchanged weapons fire with the mech. Then, all at once, the firing stopped. Shaking, I cautiously started to look around the vehicle we were currently hiding behind. The mech had stopped firing and was slowly rotating to the right. First one of the four legs broke off, and then another. The rest of the unit dropped hard to the ground. The force of the impact shook the ground so hard that I lost my balance and toppled on to my back. All was then quiet for a second until we heard one of Chet’s soldiers cheering.

“Let’s go look at the spoil,” Sam told me, but I grabbed her arm.

“Sam, no,” I stopped her.

“What’s wrong?”

“This was too easy,” I told her. “Something is wrong. I’m sure of it.”

She squatted back near me. Sam kept her eyes on the fallen mech, but I scanned the area behind us. There was two concrete pillars standing not far from us, the remains of a building. With my hand still around her arm, I started to pull Sam up and started to run toward the pillars.

“Roman, what?” She looked at my face and we ran toward the pillars. Far away from us, I saw Menton and Benjamin running away from the clearing as well. Chet himself was moving away, but five or six of his team had gone close to inspect the mech from a closer vantage point.

“Move!” Chet yelled out. Most of his soldiers responded, but the ones closest to the fallen carcass kept going closer.

Sam and I had no more than reached the pillars when white light filled the air. I squeezed my eyes tightly closed, but the light was still too bright. We were knocked to the ground as the ensuing explosion robbed us of our sense of hearing.

Lights continue to flash around me for several minutes after the blast. Sam was up and saying something, but I couldn’t hear anything. I rolled to my side and looked toward the clearing. Where the mech had been was a large burning crater. Of his group, only Chet and five of his soldiers remained.

Book Review: Tokyo Story by Tereza Mackova

Sam was screaming at me, but I still couldn’t hear anything. I tried to read her lips, but the flashing lights made it difficult. Menton was there and picked me up and threw me over her shoulder again. I could see Chet waving his hands, but my group was unwilling to go to him. Instead, we were running back north toward the military base.

Menton most have run a mile before any hearing started to come back.

“Put me down,” I yelled out to her. “Put me down.”

She set me on the ground and Sam and Benjamin came running up from behind us.

“Why are we running now?” I demanded. “There’s nothing left.”

“We were stupid,” Sam said. “We should have known the mechs would self-destruct. Why didn’t any of us know that?”

It was a reasonable point. I wondered myself. Even without my memories, my instinct was to get away from the fallen enemy.

“But it’s gone now,” I demanded.

“The mech is gone,” Menton corrected me, “but now more will be coming. The blast will register for miles.”

I was mad at myself again for not realizing that.

“The Plax will descend on that area,” Sam agreed. “They will make sure none of their tech is left behind.”

“Nothing could have survived that explosion.”

“We did,” Sam said. “That’s probably why Chet didn’t run. They are probably looking for tech.

“We should move,” Benjamin offered. “There’s no safety in these streets.”

He was right, so we continued on at a rapid pace.

We were within one hundred feet of the door of the base when something dropped from the sky right in front of us. We all froze in place. There was no doubt it was a Plax, and we were possibly the first humans to see one.

The creature was a goldish brown color and looked like a large insect. it’s triangular head had four gold eyes and a jaw that opened from side to side. There were six legs on its lower long body and four arms on its upper body. The back of the upper body had two sets of wings. Another one dropped from the sky as we stood there, blocking our online route to the safety the base would provide.

As we stood our ground, I couldn’t help but think, There’s a reason why no human has ever reported back about seeing on of these things.


Book Review: Contained by S. L. Harpel

Contained is S. L. Harpel’s debut novel. It is a young adult, science-fiction tale built around a young girl, Ella, who finds herself torn between two worlds. Ella was born in the Outskirts, the barren wasteland that covers most of the planet after man has destroyed it with biological weapons. While still a small child, she is chosen by a wealthy couple and taken into one of the Communities. There are nine Communities and each is dome-protected and full of life and abundance, but very few humans have the chance to live in one.

Ella faces a difficult choice because she wants to be loyal to her sister, Beaunca, who stayed behind in the Outskirts. However, there are many, many good things to life in the Community, from good food to advanced medical care, and Ella starts to be able to see the world from two points of view.

Contained is told from Ella’s first-person point of view. The writing style allows you to feel what Ella feels and do some self-examination as you decide which choices you might make in a similar situation. The book is reminiscent of the time when social standing and civil liberties were determined on where you were born. Had she not been chosen, Ella would not have the options now before her. She must choose to support the Community, find a way to elevate the lower classes, or find a positive middle-ground between the two.

The dystopian nature of the book is a possible future that is all too likely. Seeing a glimpse of how the world could evolve if we continue to destroy the planet was both fascinating and chilling.

What I Liked

Contained has a fast pace with rich characters. Since it is told from the first-person perspective, you feel what Ella feels as she faces each choice and decision. Ella faces a struggle with not only the world she has been forced to live in but a secret that she is forced to keep hidden inside. The story does a good job of not getting bogged down in unnecessary details and tells you what you need to know when you need to know it.

The character development was also well done. Each main character is a solid and fully fleshed out individual. Well not too much time is spent describing each character, you are given enough to see the whole person and their personality.

Book Review: Tokyo Story by Tereza Mackova

Where I Struggled

The only thing I had a hard time with in Contained was the abundance of characters. So many characters were described and named that I had a hard time keeping them all straight. At times, I was a little confused as to whether I really needed to know about a character or not. The plethora of characters introduced is the only reason I did not give this book a five-star review. That said, for the most part, the story sticks to the important characters and you learn who they are and what’s important about them. This minor negative did not detract from the excellent storytelling.

The Review

To me, Contained was a quick read that I had a hard time putting down. I was drawn in from the first few lines and am looking forward to reading Book Two. There were a few minor imperfections in the book, but none so much as to interfere with your reading enjoyment. The only reason I am not giving this book a five-star review is that I got confused more than a few times due to the sheer number of characters that are introduced and developed.

In conclusion, if you like dystopian science fiction and/or young adult literature, you will enjoy Contained. The book builds believable worlds that draw you in, and you find yourself invested as to which world or social group will or should prosper. There is definitely plenty of substance for this series to go on, possible through many more books. I highly recommend this book.

Final rating: 4.9/5.0 Stars

Learn more about S. L. Harpel is her author interview.

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Book Review – A Sword in Time by Cidney Swanson


Book Review – A Sword in Time by Cidney Swanson

This week’s book review takes us into the young adult, science fiction world. Roman Centurions, time travel, romance and art all make their appearance in Cidney Swanson’s A Sword in Time.


A Sword in Time is the third book in the Thief in Time Series by Cidney Swanson. The time travel series is geared toward a young adult audience. This installment focuses mostly on DaVinci Shaughnessy-Pavlov. DaVinci is on a mission to save her childhood home from destruction, but her well intentioned actions create unforeseen consequences that she is not sure she can live with.

Quintus Valerius has been unwillingly pulled from ancient Rome. He is now stuck in modern times, but he has two missions to accomplish. One, he must return to Rome to deliver an important message from Caesar. Two, he must find and punish the man who forcibly carried him through time.

The Good

The Good

Let me start with the cover, which I really liked. All three books have professional covers that add to the appeal of the books. A Sword in Time is an easy and relatively quick read with a generally light and positive tone.

Having not read the first two books in the series, I was concerned that I would not be able to follow this book. For the most part this installment stands on its own. There are a few places when I was a little confused as to what was happening or to a reference from one of the characters, but for the most part it is a good read on its own.

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The main characters each have their own unique voice and personality. The book does a good job at making you feel appropriate emotions for each character. I found myself torn because there are two possible futures for both DaVinci and Quintus, and I kept vacillating as to which future I wanted for them. These possibilities kept me turning pages.

The Not So Good

The Not so Good

While reading A Sword in Time, I found myself stuck on a few inconsistencies that did hamper some of my enjoyment for this book. For instance, early in the book we learn that time travel trips last about three hours. As the book progresses, the main team that works at progressing time travel are stumped because they are unable to make trips longer than six minutes. It might be that this is resolved in one of the other books in the series.

Each chapter tends to deal with a different character. For the most part, I enjoyed this aspect. However, there are times in the first several chapters where the story bounces quickly through characters and time periods, and I found myself lost more than once. That problem seems to resolve itself after the first dozen chapters.



Cidney Swanson does well at conveying emotion and a sense of urgency from the characters that each have their own missions to accomplish. The language throughout is very family friendly, which to me is essential in a young adult novel. The tale is a bit silly at times, but that is appropriate for the intended audience. In the end, I enjoyed the book and found myself caring about the characters, enough so that I am interested in reading the other installments.

I am scoring this a 4.3 of 5.

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A Sword in Time (Thief in Time Series Book 3)
by Cidney Swanson
Publisher: Kindle Press (January 30, 2018)
290 Pages

Review: Working Stiffs by Scott Bell

Review: Working Stiffs by Scott Bell

What if zombies weren’t bad? How might the world change if they could be trained to work and be useful members of society? What would that world look like? Scott Bell’s Working Stiffs gives you a glimpse into that possible dystopian future.


Scott Bell’s Working Stiffs is a new twist on the dystopian zombie genre. Rather than being created from the bite of another zombie, these zombies, called Revivants, are created by injected nanobots as a scientific solution to cheap and endless labor. Bodies of the recently deceased are reanimated to serve an abundance of manual labor tasks. The year 2051 is dark and gritty and not one you will want to live in but will enjoy visiting.

The book revolves around two characters, everyday man Joseph “Joe” Warren and Homeland Security Agent, Angel Ramirez.

Joe’s story is told from the first person. In his mid-twenties, Joe is a bit down on his luck. Due to the abundance of Revivants, he has been unable to find work for more than two years. Living in ratty government housing with his ailing girlfriend is a less than ideal life. In an attempt to better their situation, Joe is inadvertently tossed onto a whole new and often violent path.

Agent Ramirez is a corrupt and sadistic Homeland Agent. His tale unfolds in the third-person. Like most of the government, he is intent on keeping the country’s narrative away from the true happenings of everyday life and instead on what is beneficial to the government. Morally bankrupt, he is not afraid to hurt or kill anyone in the path to his goal.

The Good

The Good

The words flow easily with realistic dialogue and phonetically written accents. Though I did not always understand every word of some of the characters, I was able to hear the individual accents of characters from different ethnicities.

Many of the characters, Millie, John and Alex, to name a few, are lovable and unique. The world of the book is created with enough detail to create a clear image in your mind’s eye without so much as to be exhaustive.

If it were a person, Working Stiffs could be described as a bit of a pop culture junkie, with plenty of references from the likes of Star Wars to The Princess Bride.

The 80’s child in me enjoyed a lot of the one-liners and quips echoing the bygone decade, such as, “Rodents of Unusual Size.” Additional notations to more recent years are equally enjoyable. I guess I am a bit of a pop culture junkie myself.

Joe’s humor, though more than a bit snarky and often crude and juvenile, did lead to some laugh-out-loud moments. In the beginning, one of the zombies, named Larry, was programed with a little of a sense of humor and repeatedly says, “Braaains!” much to Joe’s annoyance. A bit later someone sarcastically refers to hiring a comedian and Joe says, “You should meet Larry.”

The Not So Good

The Not So Good

There was some difficulty on my part in getting through the plethora of expletives, especially in the first third or so of the book. In one section, I noted curse words or vulgar references in almost every line.

Every good book should have color in its dialogue and narrative, but the superabundance in Working Stiffs was a little overwhelming at time for this reader. Had I not agreed to write a review, I may have stopped reading altogether.

I also had a little trouble with many of the pop culture references. While I enjoyed the trip down memory lane, I did find it a bit hard to believe that today’s references would still be as relevant in 2051, especially to someone then in their twenties.



I enjoyed the second half of the book much better than the first and am glad I continued reading. The story really seems to find its way and smooth out the rough edges felt in the opening chapters. Joe becomes the friend you love to hate, and Agent Ramirez the malicious villain that grows worse with each chapter.

Even though there were aspects that I did not enjoy, in the end Working Stiffs is well-written and easy to read. Despite myself, I was not ready for it to end. If there is a sequel, and a big part of me sincerely hopes there will be, it will be added to my reading queue.

To rate this title on a five-point scale, I would give it 3.75.

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