Mrs. Caliban by Rachel Ingalls – A Book Review

Like several of my other recent reads, I discovered Mrs. Caliban on Literary Hub’s “The 50 Best Contemporary Novels Under 200 Pages.” At just 111 pages, Mrs. Caliban is indeed a swift, potent read full of social commentary but cleverly disguised as pseudo-fantasy.

The story focuses upon a housewife named Dorothy. Dorothy is in an unhappy marriage. She has suffered great tragedy in regards to children. Her friends are equally troubled in their own way, especially one in particular. Her husband has been known to cheat on her. Life is not at all what she hoped for.

And then a giant, muscular frog man enters her home. She quickly gives the frog man refuge and names him Larry. She discovers that Larry is intelligent, sensitive, and willing to kill in order to preserve his own life. He is from the ocean, had been captured and mistreated by a local laboratory, and recently escaped.

Larry remains hidden in their spare room, unknown to her negligent husband, and soon enough a romantic relationship blooms between Larry and Dorothy.

Again, keep in mind this book is only 111 pages long.

As Dorothy enjoys the kind of relationship she once dreamed of, her best friend, Estelle, endures a series of hardships that will eventually impact Dorothy. Her husband, Fred, also makes poor choices that will prove catastrophic for her as well. In the end, everything builds to a crescendo and connects quite tragically.

Even with the complex, concussive plot, Ingalls manages to insert quite a bit of social commentary into the short tale. Larry himself is a striking figure in regards to xenophobia. However, as he settles into his relationship with Dorothy, he begins to take on some of Fred’s attributes. I believe here Ingalls is commenting on the tendency of men to assume and even abuse their preconceived notions regarding both women and wives.

However, Estelle, her best friend, also proves a challenging figure. On the one hand, she is refreshing in that she rejects the traditional constructs men place upon her. However, on the other hand, she ultimately contradicts the conventional expectations we have for her as Dorothy’s “best friend.”

As you can see, Mrs. Caliban is rife with sophisticated concepts. It is the perfect example of an effective novella. Short, fast, yet no less complex than the longest of novels. I’m so glad I came across this book and I look forward to reading more of Ingalls’ work.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang – A Book Review

When I mentioned to a friend that I grew interested in reading novels written by international authors–especially those from Eastern cultures, she quickly recommended The Vegetarian by Han Kang. Because I completely respect her opinion, I put it on hold at my local library.

I just finished it, and, wow … there’s quite a bit to digest. (No pun intended.)

On the one hand, The Vegetarian is indeed unlike those books rooted in Western culture. On the other hand, it is an incredibly challenging, almost surreal, work.

Broken into three parts, The Vegetarian is about a women who has decided that she will no longer eat meat. This decision begins to impact her husband and family, and, before long, those other characters attempt to assert their control over her. As a result, conflict arises, but not the kind you would ever expect.

As I read over the above paragraph, I’ve made the plot sound very mundane, perhaps even inconsequential.

Believe me when I say The Vegetarian is anything but.

Because Han Kang is a South Korean writer, and because I read a translated version of the book, I cannot necessarily trust my instincts with this novel because I understand that I may not completely understand the deeper context. However, on the surface, it seems to be that The Vegetarian is very much about freedom of will, the ugliness of abuse in a male dominated society, the exploitation of others in order to achieve sexual satisfaction, and the unwillingness to accept behaviors by loved ones if perceived as being odd or eccentric. It’s rare that we are told to live in a way that makes us happy. It’s far more common to be chastised if we don’t live up to others’ expectations.

For such a slim novel, as you can see, it is stuffed with complexities.

I can’t pretend to completely understand The Vegetarian. I reread the ending several times and remain confounded. I also found it surprisingly eerie, brutally violent, and uncomfortably sensual. However, even with all of that being said, I really and truly did enjoy the book. It’s not quite like anything else I’ve ever read, which is exactly what I hoped for.

Sea Of Rust by C. Robert Cargill – A Book Review

Though I enjoy the science fiction genre, I often have trouble finding actual science fiction books that hook me. A friend thought Sea Of Rust by C. Robert Cargill might do the trick, and my friend was spot on!

The premise is not necessarily anything new. There’s been a robot uprising. Humans are the virus. Certain factions of robots band together and begin warring with one another. The landscape as we know it is obliterated. We’ve seen that kind of thing before.

What truly sets Sea Of Rust apart is the narrator–Brittle. Brittle is a scavenger. A robot bent on survival at all cost. A character willing to do almost anything for her own benefit. But what happens when that character is finally faced with something possibly more important than even herself? Of course, “possibly” is the key word there. Additionally, she’s got a great voice and is just incredibly engaging.

Furthermore, Sea Of Rust is a fast-paced, action-packed page turner. I flew through the last 25% of the book in a matter of hours because I simply had to know how it ended.

Of course, you know I’m going to be a little bit critical. My only issue with the book-and it’s a small one at that–is that while it’s science fiction in name, I felt as though this story could have fit virtually any genre with a few tweaks. Realism, fantasy, horror–any of them could have worked. I say that because Brittle and the rest of the robots are so very … human. Cargill is careful to include technological aspects and code jargon, but in the end, all of the characters seemed like what we think of as “human.” This obviously made them very relatable, but it also struck me as a little subversive in regards to the genre. Upon reflection, that’s likely why I enjoyed Sea Of Rust so much!

If you’re looking for a good science fiction book–or any good book, for that matter–I highly recommend Sea Of Rust.

First Sketch of The Celestial Spetatrix from Souls Triumphant

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This is my first sketch of a Celestial Spetatrix.  They are the opposite of the Celestial Knights because their duty is to simply observe and record the life of their assigned human. 

For one specific Celestial Spetatrix, her task was a sorrowful one because she had to watch the worst “human” of all – the Fallen One.  You can read about this particular Celestial Spetatrix and her plight in my novel Souls Triumphant.

(BE WARNED!  If you click on the image and read the notes written next to the sketch, a MAJOR plot revelation will be exposed.)   

These characters and sketches were originally conceived for a short story back in my creative writing class at Illinois State University.  The above notes are from the 1998 journal I used in the class to flesh out ideas.

Oh, and if you look very closely at the sketch, you’ll see the Celestial Spetatrix holding a pair of “goggles.”  At one point, these “goggles” were going to be a major plot device, but I cut them out in order to make the Celestial Knight’s sword more relevant.

First Sketch of the Burnt Ones from Souls Triumphant

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This is my first sketch of the Burnt Ones, Ned’s army of evil doers.  Without revealing too much, they are much more than they seem at first glance.  Oddly enough, they always have a bit of a burnt smell to them as well.  

They have a grudge against Joseph Zadkiel, one he doesn’t remember.  Nonetheless, they will have their revenge as their master, Ned, has his way with Joe’s love, Alessandra.  You can find out what happens in my novel Souls Triumphant.  

These characters and sketches were originally conceived for a short story back in my creative writing class at Illinois State University.  The above notes are from the 1998 journal I used in the class to flesh out ideas.

First Sketch of Buddy from Souls Triumphant

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This is my first sketch of Buddy from my novel Souls Triumphant.  This enigmatic and disarming character was originally conceived for a short story back in my creative writing class at Illinois State University.  These notes are from the 1998 journal I used in the class to flesh out ideas.

My Thanks To Jen Weaver For Her Souls Triumphant Review

I wanted to take a moment to thank Jen Weaver for the following Souls Triumphant review …

“Disclaimer: I describe myself as a lover of murder and psychological thrillers…this does not mean I hate on Sci-fi, but it is not often my first, second or third choice. That being said, when someone gives me a book to read, I read it, and today, I’m glad to say that I may not be putting those Sci-fi books on the back shelf!

I have read a lot of Scott Foley’s other books and I always enjoy the depth and reach of his characters. Souls Triumphant is no different! Within the first few chapters you instantly can relate to Joe! He is kind, inquisitive, and who doesn’t like a dreamer? The action starts fast and doesn’t stop! What will happen to Joe? What will happen to Alexandra? Can they survive? Can their love survive?

I flew through this book, it is easy to read, keeps you turning the pages and ends with you wanting more!

So the real question is….When is book 2 coming out?”

Reviews are so important to an author. They help readers decide if they want to try a book out while also spreading the word. During these busy, difficult times, I greatly appreciate Jen’s time and effort!

Interested in Souls Triumphant? Click the cover to visit it at Amazon.

There’s Something Normal About Souls Triumphant

I recently released the 15th anniversary edition of the one that started it all, Souls Triumphant. I initially came up with the idea for Souls Triumphant while attending Illinois State University in Normal, IL. Then, when I neared graduation, I took an amazing creative writing class and really started fleshing out the plot in the form of a short story. Of course, this eventually led to that short story becoming a full-fledged novel, and the rest is history.

Before uptown Normal became Uptown Normal, it was just a humble stretch of buildings consisting of barber shops, comic book stores, coffee houses, and bars aimed at the college crowd. Those of you who attended ISU before the much needed revitalization of the area may recognize certain characteristics of the old uptown Normal in Souls Triumphant.

This may be the first time I’ve publicly announced this, but uptown Normal absolutely served as the inspiration of the uptown area in Souls Triumphant. Though I never specifically say in the book that it’s taking place at Illinois State University in Normal, IL, the area certainly served as the basis for the primary setting.

If you’re familiar with Normal, IL, and want to play a fun game, see if you can match up certain bars, locations, and cafes in the book with the Normal that existed in the late 1990s.

Haven’t read Souls Triumphant yet? You can find your copy by clicking the cover below.

Special Thanks To Dr. Jane Thomas For This New Review Of Souls Triumphant

Dr. Jane Thomas has long supported my writing. Once again, she has gone above and beyond by writing a review for the 15th anniversary edition of Souls Triumphant. Here it is!

Souls Triumphant is a must-read. Part Christian allegory and part thriller, the story offers a few ‘Avenger-like’ characters, with two very interesting protagonists, one of whom grows from doubts about himself and total unawareness of his powers to a warrior of legend. The other grows into the being she is meant to be and provides one of the twists in the plot line. Percolating through the story, as in all Foley’s stories, is an assurance of the essential goodness of creation, though it must be fought for and defended. The story is so fast-paced, it’s almost impossible to put down until you’ve reached the end. Ten-star recommendation!”

If you’d like a copy of Souls Triumphant, simply click the cover below. Thank you!

Now Available – Souls Triumphant: 15th Anniversary Edition

AVAILABLE NOW. CLICK THE COVER TO PURCHASE.

Souls Triumphant is the story of Joe and Alessandra, two recent college graduates who meet on the street and experience love at first sight. Through a series of adventures and tragedies, they learn that the evil Ned and his fallen angels pursue them. If the world is to survive, they must evade the villains’ nefarious intentions, befriend the enigmatic Buddy, and rekindle their true natures. It’s a story of romance, action, intrigue, fantasy, and faith.

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What people are saying about Souls Triumphant …

Souls Triumphant is a must-read. Part Christian allegory and part thriller, the story offers a few ‘Avenger-like’ characters, with two very interesting protagonists, one of whom grows from doubts about himself and total unawareness of his powers to a warrior of legend. The other grows into the being she is meant to be and provides one of the twists in the plot line. Percolating through the story, as in all Foley’s stories, is an assurance of the essential goodness of creation, though it must be fought for and defended. The story is so fast-paced, it’s almost impossible to put down until you’ve reached the end. Ten-star recommendation!”

~Dr. Jane Thomas

*

“In Souls Triumphant students find a novel they are able to understand, they can identify readily with the characters, and they are encouraged to exercise their imaginations. All of these features yield students who want to discuss all aspects of the book and dig for its applications to their own lives. ‘Theme’ suddenly becomes relevant to their own lives, not just an idea that represents thinking of another age and time, even though it may also be universal in nature.”

~Randal Reichert

*

Souls Triumphant has something for everyone. Part love story, part fantasy adventure, and filled with action. Readers are thrust into the classic dilemma of good vs. evil. However, this is not the tradition tale that has been written many times. Foley has delivered a refreshing and entertaining read for all ages. Adults and teens will finally have something they agree on … this is a good book! … Scott William Foley has penned a one of a kind novel, where the characters, while interacting within a fantasy world, could not be more real. Questions of spirituality, ethics and morals are presented through detailed plot lines that could easily be woven into the fabric of our daily lives. Foley has delivered a well constructed novel that combines interesting characters, intriguing dialogue and explosive moral conflicts. This rare mix, will undoubtedly place Foley on the favorites list of many readers.”

~RJ McGill, 3Rs-Real Reader Reviews

*

“In Souls Triumphant, Foley propels the ever-present struggle between good and evil to the forefront of our world, urging us to choose sides while traveling with two evolving, very human characters. An exciting delight to read – the perfect vehicle to ponder your past or present road to spirituality.”


~Layne Moore

*

Souls Triumphant is an interesting and mature tale about angels and demons. I found myself pleasantly surprised by Foley’s voice because he takes the whole mystical and spiritual aspect of Heaven and Hell and makes it his own. This is a very intellectually written book and it relies very heavily on dialogue rather than all action … Scott William Foley has written a book that is not the normal pop culture fluff that is being written. Any fan who is into religion, spirituality and fantasy should pick this book up and lose themselves in the world of good and evil.”

~C. Garrabrant

*

“For readers, [Souls Triumphant] a contemporary fantasy full of adventure, humor, passion, and optimism that, despite its familiar ingredients, is surprisingly unpredictable … “


~Robert Thompson

*

Souls Triumphant introduces strong, well-defined characters, some evil incarnate, others venerable. The plot offers a love story in an epic tale with a fantasy backdrop; a page-turner(!) with a myriad of literary allusions. It appeals to teens and adults who enjoy reading fantasy, love stories and those who like literary allusions and heroic tales. A delightful read! Teachers and librarians will be pressing this title into the hands of teens!”

~Keran Johnson

*

“Scott Foley has written a wonderful readable adventure… I found that his writing style and storytelling ability held my attention through to the end. Pick up Souls Triumphant and let your imagination flow. You’ll be glad you did.”

~Marilyn Best

*

“I thought it [Souls Triumphant] was one of the most imaginative stories I’ve ever read. It was very meaningful, spiritual, and thought provoking.”

~Barb Gillespie