Book Review: Nightland Racer by Fenton Wood


The blurb:

Reynard "The Fox" Douglas is an outlaw racecar driver who despises the government that jailed him, drafted him, and seized his money.

He's also the only man who can pilot an experimental nuclear-powered supercar into the Zone, a realm of mists and monsters where nobody gets out alive.

The Zone is expanding...and eventually it will engulf the entire world. At the heart of the Zone is a singularity, a portal into other times and other places.

Transported into the distant future of Earth, Douglas has to fight his way across a landscape of alien cultures and bizarre life forms, in search of an ancient superweapon that can stop a sentient black hole from devouring the Earth.

Inspired by William Hope Hodgson's classic THE NIGHT LAND (1912), NIGHTLAND RACER is an exciting and inventive tale, using Fenton Wood's trademark combination of mythology and hard SF.


Very much an Idea story, Nightland Racer is a journey into the bizarre unknown that manages at once to be adventurous, full of action, and deeply philosophical. You've likely never read a book like this.

It harkens back to an older style of story in many ways, shaking off modern mores while remaining accessible to modern readers.


The atompunk style setup introduces us to an 80s/90s-esque 'roped back into it' protagonist - the Racer - who ends up embracing his role at the center of the government's secret mission - to infiltrate the Nightland (at that point called the Zone) and destroy the anomaly at its heart.

Now a typical 90s movie plot would have this play out straightforward, with any twists likely being of a personal nature. Instead, the author repeatedly takes us to the edge of the unknown, then plunges deeper.

Without spoiling anything, I'll say that the path forward is graced by characters, factions, creatures and events that you've probably never imagined, but may once have dreamed. Intentionally and admittedly riding the line between hard sci-fi and gonzo future dreamscape, Wood draws us from the beginning to an end you'd never guess but your heart will certainly recognize.


The protagonist and his supporting cast are simple enough people on the surface, with subtly deep backstories to undergird their skills and motivations. The primary appeal in Wood's characters lies in their willingness to be epic. 

Whenever something unimaginable or impossible is required to move forward, they try their best to perform, and this makes them likeable. We are along for their ride in much the same way we follow Frodo and Sam, or one of Conan's more unusual adventures. 

While the Racer himself is not the character I imagined from Wood's descriptions of the book when it was a work in progress, I ended up liking him just for what he was - a man underprepared and yet pressed into saving the world.


The writing is excellent, at times evoking a classic, slightly pulpy style (see the author's inspiration in the blurb). Wood conjures vivid depictions of the strange, wondrous, and occasionally horrific with good polish and poetic flourish in the places it belongs. 

The structure is right on point for this kind of story - introducing us to all the major elements before leveraging everything to support the finale. It's not exactly standard and while some readers may feel the formula they're used to being bent, for me it's a welcome departure from the norm. That's not to say it's any kind of experimental thing - those not tuned into structure much likely won't notice, in part due to the quick pace and modest page count.

I had heard prior to reading this that Wood knows what he's doing, and this book proved it.


These are not things that could rightfully be called detractors but only bits and bobs that poked my sensibilities.

All the characters at times swing into detailed exposition about the history and fate of the Nightland. It's not particularly natural and yet I would say it's the best way that the book's necessary details be communicated. There is one character in particular whose author-given gift is nearly complete knowledge of the world, which both educates the reader and provides the Racer potential solutions to his problems. This creates a slightly rough texture to the story for me, but ensures that the full vision of the story sees light.

I probably would have banged my head against a wall trying to figure out how to exposit smoother and may very well have failed, but this gets the job done, and does it efficiently. It's all so dense, juicy and interesting enough that most readers may not mind or notice this technical or maybe stylistic choice.

There's really nothing else to say in this section because I simply loved the book.


If you're thirsty for something epic and strange that will stick with you for days or weeks and beyond (distant future anyone?), with deep ideas, rich lore and a clear sense of joy and amusement in its skeleton, Nightland Racer is your next read.

Book Review: Chalk by N.R. LaPoint


The blurb:

Catholic schoolgirl Raven Mistcreek has no memory. Her family is missing, her home is gone, and she is being hunted by monsters. Why do demonic forces want her dead?Is her family still alive? And why do her chalk drawings become real? Across the Qualitative Continuum, levels of reality are sinking lower. A colossal terror lies sleeping. Waiting.


This book is an entertaining mix of whimsy and horror that both channels and goes beyond its apparent influences. It’s like a Catholic anime version of Alice and Wonderland, with the benefit of the dreamlike, insane lower realities making sense in the story’s context rather than coming off as purely nonsensical for the sake of it.


A descent into the mysteries of Raven’s extraordinarily odd situation, weaving intuition and mysterious memory hexes to push Raven deeper into trouble. We ride a wave of increasing familiarity with the world and events right alongside Raven, culminating in an intense and satisfying finale that makes great use of all the elements established during Raven’s descent.

I appreciated that the plot felt concise and direct, and I think this book very much benefitted from its length, where another author could have easily tried to extend it by cramming in every crazy riff on the faery and horror elements they could think of.


Raven comes off as a manic pixie type, with the welcome differentiation that she’s pure-hearted. This actually figures into the plot as well, and may even be a cheeky justification for the encoding of her plot armor into an in-story object. I won’t spoil what that is.

Quick note on the notion of plot armor - I don’t say this pejoratively. All main characters have plot armor - selling it is the author’s job.

Raven is funny, energetic, and heroic - everything needed for a fun romp through hell.

The supporting cast is likewise enjoyable and every character is distinct. The image of a floating, gentlemanly cuttlefish is especially sticky in my brain. 

The banter between Raven and her fox-maiden friend goes a long way toward characterizing each of them and bringing levity to the horrific setting. I’ll have a short note on that banter in Critique.


The writing is good and the overall structure works perfectly at this length, as I’ve already mentioned. There are moments of great prose in describing beauties and horrors, which is exactly where I feel an author should go a little purple.

I didn’t see anything awkward or lackluster, which I think speaks to the book's efficiency again.

If I was to pick Mr. LaPoint’s greatest writing strength besides active imagination, I’d choose the dialog. It’s witty and amusing, again bringing light into the story’s darkness.


Once again I find myself satisfied with the author’s art and there’s nothing huge I could nitpick to my own tastes.

If anything I might say the bantering tangents in conversations, especially between Raven and Kasumi, occasionally went on a few lines too long, simply because I wanted to get back to the unravelling intrigue of the evil plot ahead. I sometimes use that kind of humor myself, and so I did appreciate it for what it was.

This was a very enjoyable book, my favorite element of which was the pitting of goodness, humor and light against evil in all its banal horrors. Get yourself a copy today!

Giveaway! A very merry unBirthday to you!

New release - $1.99!

Enjoy this very generous unBirthday gift!

All I ask is that you consider grabbing a copy of Life City, and make sure to leave a review of any books you read!

But act fast - the sale's only running today!

New Release - Life City, a novella

I've been really excited about this one and I hope you all enjoy it too.

The blurb:



The uplifted animals of Life City are used to destructive alien incursions from above. Everyone knows how to fight back.

Heroic rock band Magikrash makes a living playing music and fighting invaders, but there are some threats they may not be prepared for...

When a new and disturbing trend pops up in Life City, punk singer Saqi and her bear bassist Barley must discover how to save their brainwashed friends, and the city.

Vibes of classic Saturday Morning cartoons, punk rock and metal, synthwave, and fast-paced adventure combine for an uplifting read with the Lamb at its heart.


I was in between working on a space opera series and sequels to CTP and HBTS when this idea popped into my head. I'll do another post or video about it if anyone seems interested in the story (I think it's interesting), but ultimately I'd call this my first fully CF (Christian fiction) piece.

It is not what you'd normally find on the CF shelf.

But it's fun, accessible, and a quick read! Get your copy today.

More Hero's Metal is coming up next!

The Mythos Project, or Conservative Retellings

  With the rise of big tech censorship and open calls to silence voices that do not agree with the zeitgeist, I’ve been slowly coming to a p...