The Strange wraps readers in a quilt of the wild west, science fiction’s greatest beats, and a vivid concept draped over an old frontier.
Ballingrud’s first dip into the deeper waters of novel writing evolved as a love letter to Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and Frank Herbert, as the author whimsically states in his afterword. His intention is well-undertaken, given the ghosts of each resonate through the tale.
Annabelle Crisp, the feisty young protagonist, begins her journey within the Martian settlement of New Galveston—a waylay of respite on an untamed landscape. Belle’s journey takes us through wastelands (think Bradbury), encounters with ghostly alien sentience (think Herbert), battles with machines of war gone rogue (think Asimov), and, perhaps most unsettling, revelations each child must grapple with as they come of age—namely the one where they discover the adults are not all knowing sages they’d been masquerading as.
This final motif may be the one that resonates the most with readers as it’s one we’ve all endured, but the callbacks to those giants on whose shoulders Ballingrud has chosen to stand is as refreshing a breeze of nostalgia fans could hope for. One such aspect is the tertiary idea of the planetary intelligence that couples itself with the title of the novel—The Strange. An idea as mysterious to the reader as The Silence that bears with it the idea of the demise of humanity back on Earth. Both are concepts the author encourages the readers to understand in their own subjective ways, a choice I find encouraging as I read more and more novels with far too much hand holding.
Written with genuine prose devoid of the weighted words and phrases often seen with less seasoned authors, The Strange gently draws readers through its pages. A story steeped in lamentation that somehow manages to feel refreshing in its nuance while also leaving us hungering for more—though, as with many aspects of this tale, whether we will receive more also remains a mystery—The Strange is a refreshing take on the darker side of science fiction that does not encumber readers with overly detailed explanations of how life on Mars is possible, but how endless adventure awaits us there.
The Valor of Valhalla
Beneath the Veil
OCTOBER 11, 2021
In a battle between two ancient evils, can one naïve young man become the last hope against powerful creatures of legend?
David Dolan thinks he’s already got the world figured out. But when a collapsed bridge plunges him into the icy Hudson, he’s pulled deep into the deadly realm that exists between life and death. And with his earthly form trapped in a coma, he’s vulnerable to the horde of demons hell-bent on his utter destruction.
Traversing the road to the afterlife, David seeks the wisdom and skills he needs to fight the demonic forces reigning havoc on his allies above ground. But as one hellish threat closes in on his defenseless body, David must defeat another terrifying fiend waiting in the shadows to use him…
Can David escape the world beneath the veil in time to stop the bloodshed?
Beneath the Veil is the gripping first book in The Valor of Valhalla dark urban fantasy series. If you like reluctant heroes, infernal myths, and bloody epic clashes, then you’ll love Martin Kearns’s formidable foray into the unknown.
David reached the desert and his fate awaited him.
Months after the loss of Rose, David finds himself traveling through the Middle East to find the one he holds ultimately responsible for her death. But stumbling upon a dark tycoon with the same agenda sends David on a path he’d never thought possible. One of revelation and reclamation.
Navigating a gauntlet of the supernatural has taken a toll on Chelsea and Dodd. The children of Lilith are no longer plaguing their world, but another vile creation awaits them in the shadows. A perversion of the celestial and the terrestrial and one that aims to crush them if they venture too close.
The second chapter of David’s journey reveals a reality without illusion. Will he cope and overcome his true adversary or be consumed by his own need for vengeance?
The Sands of Akhirah is the captivating second book in The Valor of Valhalla dark urban fantasy series. If you like reluctant heroes, infernal myths, and bloody epic clashes, then you’ll love Martin Kearns’s formidable foray into the unknown.
Kearn’s world continues to evolve in a dark, exhilarating story of heroes and heroines with heart-stopping twists from the first chapter. Bring on book 3!
Will music soothe the savage beast that lurks outside?
A love for music brought Mark and Judith together. Now, their son Jason has an opportunity to sit in a prestigious concert ensemble and is placed in the cross-hairs of his father’s anxiety. But a larger horror lurks in the trees beyond their cozy home.
One that has gone unnoticed,
One that has sentient intelligence,
One that has a keen interest in the children of the house.
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Randy Moore’s days in the Rolling Acres nursing home are filled with malaise and depression. A father and war veteran, Randy must come to grips with the harsh reality of his late-stage dementia, but he may find that some things are better left forgotten. A reminder of a past mistake ushers in a horror so terrifying Randy will wish his mind had decayed rather than face the consequences of his deeds.
Hope lies in redemption, but will Randy find it?
The Mythology of VoV
The Valor of Valhalla series is bustling with figures from myth, lore, and legend. Many readers have expressed an interest in learning more about the obscure figures appearing within the series and I've decided to oblige them. Feel free to peruse the brief descriptions. Perhaps it'll take you down rabbit holes or inspire your own stories.