Book Review – Night Life by B.K. Bass

Serial literature is gaining a resurgence in popularity thanks to ebook publishing. Way back in the murky mists of time, novellas were very much a thing because they were cheap to print and people could consume them during lunches and other off hours. Tastes changed over time and novellas fell out of fashion in favor of massive tomes of fiction that could break your toe if they fell on it. And that was for the paperbacks.

Anyway, novellas and serial literature take a certain kind of author to pull off. You have to come up with a story that’s not novel length and can’t be wrapped up in a short story. Duh, right? It’s a little trickier than it seems. If a story is too simple – think a tightly packed short story – there is no way to extend it to novel length without it being obvious that some filler got tossed in. The original Star Trek movie (yeah, the one from ’79) was like that. It had enough story for a television episode because that’s what it was supposed to be. Everything else was filler. Conversely, the recent Dark Tower movie was abysmal because it condensed 4,316 pages into 95 minutes. Not even the magic of Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey could save that one.

So there’s a fine line to tread. Not too short. Not too long.

Back in December, B.K. Bass threaded the needle with Night Shift, a taut, tense cyberpunk-detective-noir crossover. As with its predecessor, the newest edition in Bass’s Night Trilogy, Night Life, maintains that same taut, uh, tenseness. Is that a word? If it wasn’t, it is now. Both books read like classic detective novellas with bad guys and anti-heroes and basically no one to trust. Bass does an admirable job of building a world that no one in their right mind would want to live in and then dropping his characters into it. His characters are natural products of the gritty, rain-soaked, neon-drenched, flashing, filthy city. They feel like they belong there. Like no matter how many times you take the fire hose to them, the stench of life will cling to them like that a needy girlfriend.

Also, as with Night Shift, Night Life carefully treads the rails of technology. In Cyberpunk, as with Sci-Fi, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of over-describing the tech and letting it be the star of the show. I like my laptop, but I don’t want to read a book about it. Bass keeps the narrative centered. He allows the technology to exist and to be a force lurking in the background, but it never takes center stage. The center of Bass’s stage is reserved for corrupt politicians, mobsters, and all the delightfully seedy things they do.

If you like your Cyberpunk more punk than cyber, check out Bass’s Night Trilogy.

Night Life will be available for purchase on August 11, 2020 from all the usual places, although that date may get pushed forward. If the release date changes, I’ll update this page. You can find links to Amazon, Kobo, and B&N on his website.

Framed for murder, detective Harold Jacobson must delve into the gritty underbelly of the city if he wants to clear his name. To solve the crime pinned on him, he must first solve the murder of a local woman. From the steel towers of downtown to seedy nightclubs and decrepit slums, Harold delves into the night life of the city to pull the threads of the mystery together and becomes part of the criminal element he once hunted down. Going off the grid in New Angeles can be deadly, but he’s out of options and out of patience.

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Book Review – Night Shift by B.K. Bass

A little-known fact about me: I have a minor in Theatre. That’s with the re not the er because theater is different from Theatre. One’s a place, the other’s a much larger things. Among other classes I took, one was set design. Our teacher once sat everyone down and said, “Look, there’s a lot more to good set design than just following the play directly. If you want to set ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in the tropics and have palm trees on stage and make Theseus a ganja-smoking Jamaican gangster, you can do that. Just don’t let the scenery upstage the story.”

Bottom line, a good story is a good story no matter where it’s set.

Take, for instance, B.K. Bass’s take on detective noir that he’s dropped into a cyberpunk-ish setting. Traditional hard-boiled detective stories were a thing back in the day and they wove tales about vicious crimes and the die-hard detectives that set out to solve them. Those tales are still being told today – look at stories like L.A. Confidential. It’s a genre that seems simple to do from the outside. Bad guy does bad things. Good guy sets out to stop them. Simple, really. But to do it well takes a deft hand and an ability to drop oneself into that world to write it well. It’s not a genre for pulling punches or writing feel-good tales. Bad things are happening and they need to be treated with the shot of whisky and punch in the gut they deserve.

It’s also a genre that opens itself nicely to fit into whatever world we decide to drop them into. Because, if there’s one thing humans are really good at, it’s being bastards to each other. It doesn’t matter the time or the place, you can rest assured someone is out there right now pulling the ultimate dick move on someone else.

And that’s why Night Shift made for a fun read. Bass has pulled the hard-boiled detective out of the past and present and dropped him head-first into an ugly future where the country has fallen apart. But for all the technology floating around in the story, human nature is still human nature and there are still bad people doing terrible things. It’s just the way the world works. There are still jerks, they just have better computers. And cyber-hookers.

While Bass may not have given us a ganja-smoking Jamaican gangster, he’s done something similar; he’s taken a good story and changed the set pieces. And, like any good set designer, he’s done so without falling into the trap of letting the setting drive the story. Night Shift lives and breathes in its setting without the setting becoming a major character.

If you like hard-boiled detective stories – and who doesn’t – and also like your sci-fi served up with heaping helping people still being jerks to each other, check out Night Shift. It’s a good read. My only gripe was the book is only part one of a three-part story. That means I need to wait to see how the whole thing is going to play out.

In New Angeles, crime is part of the daily business of running the city. But when a routine murder investigation starts turning up more questions than answers, homicide detective Harold Peterson finds himself unraveling a decades-old conspiracy that leads him to the highest echelons of the mob and the city government. As various threads start to come together, the big picture is revealed to be more than he ever bargained for. As bullets start to fly from both directions, the only thing Harold knows for sure is that he isn’t being paid enough to deal with this.

Get your copy on Amazon or from Kyanite Publishing’s online store.

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Book Review – Warriors of Understone by B.K. Bass

Medieval fantasy was never really my bag. I’ve only read a few books set in the classical fantasy world that caught my attention and those have been few and far between. Terry Brooks’s Shannara series, Anne McCaffery’s Dragonriders of Pern series (although that almost tips into sci-fi. At the very least, it’s debatable), maybe handful of others. This isn’t necessarily a flaw in the genre itself, it’s just harder for me to wrap my imagination around swords and sorcery than it is to wrap it around some epic battle between giant bugs and dudes in power armor. Even though, when you get right down to it, the differences are mostly cosmetic.

Anyway, I haven’t read much fantasy lately, which is really a pity. Maybe my tastes are changing and I hadn’t realized it, but I really enjoyed Warriors of Understone. Not necessarily because it’s fantasy, but because the genre becomes just the setting instead of becoming a character unto itself. Sure, there are elements of world building – you have to have those when you’re dealing with dwarves – but the world fades nicely into the background and allows you all the free time you need to focus on the characters and the action of the story. That, in my mind, is a hallmark of a great writer. It’s all too easy to spend page after page detailing the intricacies of a fictional world but, let’s face it, that can get tedious after a while.

What B.K. Bass gives us in Warriors of Understone is character-driven fiction that uses the fictional world and all its nuances as a jumping-off point for the actual meat of the story. And the story, for all its fantastical elements, is a very human story about very human things. That’s what makes it special and, arguably, what makes any fantasy story magical: Less time spent describing a feast from a thousand years ago and more time focusing on motivation.

Even if fantasy isn’t your bag, give Warriors of Understone a read. It’s a novella, so it’s not like you’ll have to dedicate the next several years of your life to one story like some other authors I could mention *cough Tolkien cough*, but it’s still a very filling story. You’ve got action, adventure, intrigue, and folk getting swatted in the face with battle axes. Plus, hey, it’s got dwarfs as the main characters and those folk are pretty damned cool.

Durgan must struggle to overcome not only his common birth, but also the prejudices of a stagnant and isolated society to become one of the warriors of Understone. The sprawling dwarven city lies deep beneath the mountains, at the heart of a kingdom that has not changed its ways in centuries. Plagued by threats both within and without, life is a constant struggle to survive and furious battle is around every corner. Durgan may overcome opponents with axe and shield, but can he change the very values of his society with the same tools?

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