Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews selects A Journal of the Crazy Year

I just received some fabulous news, and I’m bursting to share it.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this year I submitted the final version of the upcoming print edition of A Journal of the Crazy Year to Kirkus Reviews for an indie review.   The results of that came in a couple of weeks ago, and as I told you in a previous post, the review was excellent.

Yesterday I received an unexpected email from Kirkus.  It said:   “I just wanted to let you know that your review for A Journal of The Crazy Year was selected by our Indie Editors to be featured in Kirkus Reviews 12/1 Issue. Congratulations! Your review appears as one of the 20 reviews in the Indie section of the magazine which is sent out to over 5,000 industry professionals (librarians, publishers, agents, etc.)  Less than 10% of our Indie reviews are chosen for this, so it's a great honor.”

I won’t say I fainted dead away at this point, but I did get palpitations.

But wait.  There’s more.  Kirkus Reviews issues its widely-respected magazine twice a month.  But the December 1 edition is special.  It features “The Best 100 Nonfiction & Best 50 Teen Books of the Year.”  No, my book is not in that section (it’s neither teen oriented in particular nor non-fiction) but the fact that it is contained in a high-interest edition of this nature is an added bonus.

Detail screen cap from Kirkus Reviews Magazine
As those who’ve been following me on my journey for the last couple of years know, in March of 2013 I did what they tell you never to do:  I quit my day job to pursue a dream.  More specifically, I left a perfectly good job as a TV news director and awarded myself a two-year sabbatical, with the full support of my lovely wife, to try to reinvent myself as a fiction writer and, later, as a radio talk show host as well.  I had reason to suspect I might be a decent writer of news, having won or shared credit in 90+ professional journalism awards over a 33 year career in television and radio.  But I had no idea whether I would be any good as a writer of fiction.  Making this decision was a bit like jumping off a cliff in the dark, not knowing if anything would be there to catch me.  Well, nearly two years later, I’m starting to believe I can write.  My first novel, Messages (which one critic described as a “masterful exposé of TV news”) received good critical and reader reviews, and now, so has my second, the sci-fi apocalyptic novel A Journal of the Crazy Year.  And now Kirkus is showcasing its fabulous review of that second novel in a really cool way.  (The radio show is getting great local reviews, too!)

Cover detail (new cover coming in January!)
A Journal of the Crazy Year falls into the zombie genre, but it is not your father’s zombie novel.   For one thing, the victims are not “dead” (which sets up all kinds of problems for the protagonists).  For another, it’s actually not a far leap of the imagination to say that the events in the story really could happen.  The novel is inspired by a very real pandemic that hit at the beginning of the last century, and then mysteriously disappeared without a cause ever being identified, and was largely forgotten.   Some of the victims were affected in a manner not too different from what the novel describes.  What if the disease were to come back in more virulent form?  There’s absolutely nothing to say that it couldn’t.   A Journal of the Crazy Year tells the story of a world gone mad.

Arguably, the scenario laid out in the novel is already unfolding in real life.  The book is as fresh and as relevant as this morning’s headlines—and even a casual glance at those shows that something really frightening is happening to human sanity on a civilization-wide scale at this very moment.   As Kirkus put it in their review, the novel is “A great case made for the idea that the end isn’t nigh—it’s already here." 

The review also compares my writing to Kurt Vonnegut—a high honor indeed, since that is one of many authors whom I admire and who have influenced me.  A previous review compared the novel to one of Stephen King’s books.  Getting mentioned in the same breath with those icons is not a bad thing, and was far more than I had a right to expect.

A Journal of the Crazy Year will be published in print on January 12.  I will post the appropriate announcements at that time.  Meanwhile, the Kindle version is available now, and it’s a good cheap read (just $3.99).  If you don’t have a Kindle, a free Kindle reading app is available for just about any computer or mobile phone platform known to man at this link.  Trust my new friends at Kirkus—if you have any interest at all in realistic sci-fi, or are curious to know what the end of the world might look like especially from a mass media standpoint (written by a news veteran who knows what that experience would be like) A Journal of the Crazy Year will be time, and a small bit of pocket change, well spent.

You can find purchase links and also a free sample chapter at this link.  The full Kirkus Review is below.


Carr, Forrest
CreateSpace (276 pp.)

ISBN: 978-1500300951; January 12, 2015

A pandemic helps humanity destroy itself in this wry apocalyptic thriller.  In 2015, John Cruz wakes up in a hospital in Las Vegas. He’s surprised when a pair of orderlies quickly restrains him, as if he’s capable of violence. He soon discovers that he’s one of only three patients at the mental hospital, and Dr. Marcia Keenan tells him he’s been there since his 2011 attack on a co-worker. The facility is largely empty because most mental illnesses seem to be vanishing. A disease called Sudden Onset Psychosis Syndrome has been on the rise, however, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t have any answers. When John befriends fellow patient Scooter, he learns that frequent gun massacres have swept the United States, and the planet teeters toward World War III. Once he’s deemed stable, John goes home with his loyal wife, Maria. From there, they watch TV media dispute what’s causing the spread of SOPS—which propels many victims into bloodthirsty rages. The gigantic Comet Filipov, streaking past Earth, is a cause that seems preposterous until it’s argued that comets have heralded doom throughout history, and science can’t fully explain the universe. Author Carr (Messages, 2013) does an exemplary job portraying the media circus surrounding the comet and the possibility of flesh-eating mobs; when asked about zombies, a leader from the CDC says the organization “vehemently rejects that term, and would strongly condemn any news reporter...using it in reference to victims of this crisis.” Early on, Carr employs jet-black humor reminiscent of Vonnegut, as when Scooter says: “I’ve got about another two months to live….Wanna play checkers?” But John becomes less sympathetic as the narrative progresses. Chaos envelopes the city, so he takes charge, telling Maria that he wants no “backtalk, no argument, no questions.” Later, the flight from civilization is handled well, and a truly unconventional ending makes for a worthy trip.

A great case made for the idea that the end isn’t nigh—it’s already here.


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