Curses! The problem with missing out on getting up a review in a timely fashion is that this book, Definitely Not Kansas: Book One in the Nocturnia Cycle, initially published in a limited edition, is not currently available. I hope the publishers will put it out as a trade paperback or at least an ebook soon, though, as that’s the best way to reach the market this is actually intended for. Most readers of YA or middle grade fiction aren’t seeking out small presses for their reading material, and this sounds like a book that would definitely snag their interest. Here’s the review for Definitely Not Kansas, anyway, though, because with a recommendation this enthusiastic, certainly those outside the horror community ought to know about it. You know, like librarians. Who can’t purchase a book that is out of print, so come on, great publishers, and get that book out in a more easily available edition! Read on for a great review and go hassle these folks into getting it out into more hands.
Definitely Not Kansas: Book One of the Nocturnia Chronicles by F. Paul Wilson & Tom Monteleone
Borderlands/Gauntlet Press, 2013.
We’re definitely not home anymore, and I doubt Dorothy would last a minute in Nocturnia. Munchkins would likely find themselves on a menu in this imaginative, fascinating homage to Oz.
The last time Borderlands Press and Gauntlet Press combined their talents to produce a single book, readers were treated to Shadow Show, which garnered a Bram Stoker Award. So when the two presses decided to collaborate again, fans wondered how the presses could top that title. The result of their partnership is a young adult novel penned by two well-known authors. F. Paul Wilson and Thomas F. Monteleone are no strangers to awards, blockbuster books, or each other. Where many collaborations fall short due to varying factors, these two created a fantastic, delightfully horrific world , with writing that flows effortlessly. It could be due to the fact that they’ve been buddies for decades or that they both know how to tell a lean, mean, story. Merging styles is difficult– here, however, the writing is seamless and it feels like a single author penned the entire novel. Not once does the reader feel as if he or she is holding a book; instead, the covers disappear as the reader falls into the grand world Wilson and Monteleone have created.
Definitely Not Kansas owes something to The Wizard of Oz, of course, but that inspiration is merely jumping off point. Nocturnia is a much darker, more frightening place and when the tornado drops Emma and Ryan into the strange world, the similarities end and all bets are off. On a quest to find Telly, their missing older brother, Emma and Ryan are pulled through a vortex where reality ceases to exist. Nocturnia operates in parallel to Emma and Ryan’s world, separate and deadly, as readers discover the origins of these creatures on Earth and even the flowers can kill. The nation of monsters is a nation of states which exist uneasily with each other and something much darker frightens them all.
Humans are considered slaves and cattle, bred for labor– and food — in a land inhabited by vampires, werewolves, zombies, and more. This could be considered a “kitchen sink” story, cashing on popular tropes, and likely would be just that in lesser hands. Yet here, the setting is character, and the creatures reside in a well-constructed world where they are anything but clichés.
Emma and Ryan propel this tale as they take the reader along a journey of survival and discovery. Both are strong lead characters and the cast of monstrous villains are anything but cookie-cutter caricatures. Surprises await around every corner and one can only imagine where the next book will travel.
An interesting afterword is included, on how the series was created by both authors, and will only further intrigue the reader. Monteleone and Wilson obviously love living in Nocturnia, and it shows on the pages. It’s doubtful that readers will be able to resist, either, on this frightening, but fun, ride.
Nocturnia takes the reader by the throat and the heart, and never relents. Anyone who loves a good story, and who still embraces the youth within, will tumble head over heels into the vortex for this new series.
Reviewed by Dave Simms