Book review: “Xom-B” by Jeremy Robinson (2014)


XOM-BXOM-B by Jeremy Robinson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Xom-B” is one of Jeremy Robinson’s best novels to date. It takes a simplified approach to science fiction by being relatively plain spoken but incredibly deep by diving into the ramification and potential of humanity. It isn’t simplified in the derogatory sense, but much the opposite. It uses a specific style to accentuate the plot and subsequently, hard-hitting questions. It poses a myriad of inquiries that invoke his audiences into pondering their own existence and what it means to truly be a human.

Is it our characteristics? Our equal propensity for love and hate? Can we be something greater than we are now? All of these questions are touched upon inside the pages of “Xom-B”— Some more thoroughly than others but always touched upon. The depth at which Robinson explores these lofty topics seems to depend upon the narrative structure, or probably more intimately so…his own thoughts upon the questions themselves.

“Xom-B” begins by focusing on the near feature. Humans have advanced far enough where we have created life-like servants that provide us our every need, however, this leads to a grave injustice. Essentially, humans have created a new sect of society to subjugate and exploit. Decent people treat the artificial servants as one of their own, but there are just as many who do not. Some are sexually exploited, verbally and physically abused, while others are required to serve without question no matter the task. A tangible, ethical debate and rallying cry arises in the form of organized, peaceful protests from the aforementioned servants; the humans balk, and war ensues.

The plot then flashes forward to follow the most recent life of the new world order, Freeman; Freeman is fresh-faced, young, inquisitive, and intelligent. He questions authority and he seeks answers— The very mentality that could topple a fledgling empire and spark a new one…a better one. Audiences follow Freeman as he meets and allies himself with a wide cast of characters with their own unique strengths and weaknesses.

Robinson does a masterful job developing his characters. Each main character presented is given a proper backstory and motivation for their actions. The characters that strive to change (or at the least have the propensity to change) end up doing so with all pains present and included. The growth is logical and straightforward. This aids in the narrative and then culminates into near-perfect synergy…something much more than itself. The plot could be considered hard sci-fi, but because of how it is written it focuses so much more on character growth than the overall setting, atmosphere, and futuristic aspects of the framework. This results in a reminiscence of Arthur C. Clarke’s “Against the Fall of Night,” especially in its careful crafting to draw the reader’s focus to the overarching theme rather than the minutia. It may be classified science fiction in the strictest sense, but it poses big questions by following the journey of an individual trying to simultaneously escape, embrace, and find humanity.

An author’s style is an important facet to their career and writings, and some authors are fairly rigid in their methodology. Some stay well within their wheelhouse and constantly improve that particular style as they write throughout the years, others (like Jeremy Robinson) vary their style. They challenge themselves by matching a diverse cast of styles to the content, and in the case of “Xom-B” it pays off wonderfully. That being said, some longtime readers of Robinson may be put off because they prefer a singular style, while Robinson is delivering a different flavor. It would be hard to argue the validity of that point because in all honesty every reader reads differently.

“Xom-B” is a fantastic work of fiction. “Xom-B” is character driven, it provides insight and asks important questions in terms of what is means to be human, and it does so brilliantly in a straightforward plot that includes a great twist and conclusion. I highly recommend any reader who enjoys a quick-paced novel, science fiction, and/or the writings of Jeremy Robinson. He out does himself with “Xom-B” and I personally look forward to reading more of his work in the future.

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Book review: “The Harlem Hellfighters” by Max Brooks, illustrated by Caanan White (2014)


The Harlem HellfightersThe Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Max Brooks is the author of “The Zombie Survival Guide” & “The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks,” “World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War,” Dynamite’s “Raise the Dead,” and IDW’s “G.I. Joe: Hearts and Minds.” He continues to further his work and interests with his latest release “The Harlem Hellfighters.” Instead of creating a traditional book depicting the unsung, heroic events of the Harlem Hellfighters, Brooks teamed up with artist Caanan White and created a standalone graphic novel that not only tells a masterful series of anecdote, but illustrates it for audiences as well.

“The Harlem Hellfighters” tells the tale of the 369th African-American Infantry Regiment during the first World War. The graphic novel opens with African-American New Yorkers being conscripted into the war effort and follows them as they progress through bootcamp into training and onto their eventual contribution to the French Army during the war. “The Harlem Hellfighters” places emphasis on the blatant racism, bigotry, and abuse that these young men suffered through along their way and throughout the war. Despite these near-debilitating setbacks, the 369th became one of the fiercest (and ultimately most-decorated) units in World War I, subsequently becoming known by the Germans as the Harlem Hellfighters.

Interestingly enough, the United States forced the Harlem Hellfighters to train with broomsticks in only several weeks worth of training (opposed to the months that white troops received); this forced the black troops to write their own government as pretend rifle associations in order to be properly supplied. At the time the United States government had a shortage of rifles because they were giving away so many of them for free to rifle associations across the United States rather than supplying their own troops. This is just one such case of obvious racism in the military during World War I.

These aforementioned examples provide a level of detail that are layered throughout the novel. Acute facts, verbiage, and historical accuracies are sprinkled throughout a rich narrative that includes real people along with amalgamations of individuals and fictional characters. This makes for a great read— Presenting historical fact and knowledge in an entertaining way. The plot is gripping (but not overbearing) and it hits close to home in the terms of current social and political struggles. The cadence of the novel can be a bit jarring at times; it seems to jump sporadically, which made it hard to follow, but taken in the context of chaos and war, the style fits the topic perfectly.

Caanan White’s artwork compliments Brooks’ plot line wonderfully— It is vividly realistic and depicts the horrors of war and racism in tandem and equality. The artwork is in black and white, which adds to the story. The lack of color harkens to a spyglass look into history. It fits more comfortably than the coloration of modern comic books. High gloss and bright colors would have detracted from the overall atmosphere of “The Harlem Hellfighters.” White’s work realistically showcases the polarity of social change, war, racism, and history. In the end, this methodology aids in the overall quality of the work presented.

“The Harlem Hellfighters” is well-worth the read. It tells a story that is oft forgot and not widely known, which on its own makes the graphic novel deserve a read through. The story is highly detailed and accurate, and even though it can jump at times it still presents an enjoyable story woven throughout a historical narrative. The artwork is phenomenal and adds so much more ‘oomph’ to an already stellar tale. I highly recommend anyone interested in war history to take a gander at “The Harlem Hellfighters.”

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Tell Me What’s Worth Fighting For?


Tell me what’s worth fighting for?

Inky blackness, wet with regret?

We stand alone in a crowd

We stand huddled in the masses

 

Being herded towards a cosmic cliff

Diving to the rainbow rocks below

Shades of brown becoming shades of red

My endurance meant nothing at the end

 

I’m not allowed to say certain things

I live listless nights portraying

a confidant, a friend, a mentor

All for nothing, all for nothing

All for nothing, all for nothing

 

Dew droplets rush past

Such a waste is the past

We reflect in torment the lives we changed

But we cry the most for our own

 

Drenched in sweat…we survive the fall

Born from the ashes of ourselves and battle

I converse in solace to two souls willing to prattle

We hit the bottom.

 

I jolt— Awake, confused and lost

I am among the land of the dead.

I shuffle with my brethren to the bread lines

Remembering my falling dream…my fallen dreams.

My crayon colored canyons filled with blood

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