ChiZine Publications is one of the best publishers in the business and I unfortunately do not get to read enough of their books even though I know that it will be a treat when I can take one off of my “to be read” pile and dive in. I finally made the time to get a double dose of ChiZine when I started Keith Hollihan’s two novella collection, “Gamification/C-Monkeys,” that was released by ChiZine last month.
“Gamification” is the story of Reid Frank. He had been the head of human development for Xcelsion, one of the world’s largest energy companies, until his gambling addiction lead to him being caught up in an embezzlement scheme that cost him his job and his wife. Now Reid had been contacted by Xcelsion to work, unofficially, to help the company cover up an affair between its CEO and an executive at a competitor. What Reid soon discovers is that this is not simple affair but a portal to a world of conspiracy and intrigue that lies behind Xcelsion’s corporate façade.
“C-Monkeys” finds Gadsen Wells, a pulp novelist, recovering from an illness and its treatment on an island in the Pacific Ocean that is a clinic and rehabilitation center for the rich and famous. It is 1973 and the world is on edge due to oil shortages and unrest in the Middle East. Dr. Petr Chopek has come up with an idea to solve the world’s energy problems and invites the most prominent scientist to a secluded island to reveal the secret. Wells finds himself swept along to the summit and enters a world of adventure as the energy source and its connection to a race of ancient amphibians is revealed.
While these two novellas are connected by their stories, they are vastly different in tone and writing style. “Gamification” reads as the type of thriller one would expect from a writer such as Tom Clancy with a dose of science fiction thrown in for good measure. It is loaded with corporate intrigue that displays the writer’s knowledge of the subject while still maintaining an air of excitement and adventure that keeps the story from being bogged down. “C-Monkeys,” which relates a story that is brought up but not explored in “Gamification,” is more a classic tale of adventure such as would be found in a pulp story or the classic science fiction of Jules Verne or H.G. Wells. The novella is at once both believable and fantastic so that it brought to mind the fantastic tales I read when I was younger that made me fall in love with the written word.
The fact that these two novellas are so stylistically different and yet are both very good is what impressed me most about this book. Hollihan, who I was unfamiliar with before reading these novellas, is obviously a writer with considerable talent and these novellas are proof of his skill. I would challenge anyone to read these two novellas and not enjoy them. “Gamification/C-Monkeys” is another great book by ChiZine and a testament to just how good the fiction being published by independent presses can be. Full of intrigue and adventure, these two novellas are a pleasure to read and made it difficult to put them aside and not read them in one sitting.
I would like to give a special thank you to ChiZine Publications and NetGalley for this review copy. “Gamification/C-Monkeys” is available now.