Sunday, August 18, 2013

"Dominant Species Volume One: Natural Selection" - David Coy (Virtual Book Tours Cafe Blog Tour)


"Imagine an alien science where tissue, bone, nerves, and muscle are used like we use iron, wood, rubber and wire. Now imagine yourself held captive with hundreds of others by beings who wield this grisly technology as easily as we do hammer and saw; beings whose lineage can be traced through the morally hollow, parasitic branches of nature's evolutionary tree. What would you do to survive? Would you re-draw the boundaries of your own morality to stay alive? What would you compromise? How might you escape? This is the context of NaturalSelection, the first of three volumes of the Dominant Species series of books. What distinguishes Dominant Species from other stories in its genre is its visceral imagery and more importantly, its rich subtext. The story can appeal to those fascinated and drawn to horror and strong drama, and at the same time will fascinate those who can tune into its broader message about our relationship to the natural world. Taken as a whole, the series is a puzzle linked together with genetic threads that unravel like a double helix. Viewers intrigued by mystery and dramatic puzzles will find a fascinating playground for guesswork, thought and discussion.

The first volume sets the stage for the ongoing conflict between Homo sapiens and a visiting alien race. Like all successful serial drama, the story poses many questions to be answered, each one carefully laced into a central theme about human survival, the action driven by antagonists both alien and human.

The story is character driven, each character fully developed and rich, providing the colorful characterization required by serial drama. Central to the first volume is teacher Phil Lynch.

The story starts as a peaceful visit to his weekend getaway in the Sierra foothills. Hours later he finds himself living an unthinkable nightmare. Paralyzed and taken prisoner, his body is used as an unwilling host in a bizarre and grisly series of parasitic infections. On board the alien vessel within which he is imprisoned are more than a hundred other humans – and like Phil – just as confused and terrified – their bodies subject to unfathomable violence for a dark and malevolent purpose. As the terrible truth about the alien visitation unfolds, a small group of captives must first understand – and then fight for escape from the terror that holds them captive. That struggle will stretch razor-thin the limits of the human will to survive.

There is strong language in the story because humans under stress often use such language. There are no puppy love or adolescent motifs of intimacy in the story. Instead there are very many mature, psychosexual themes that run through all three books. Some are represented symbolically, others described explicitly. There is violence. The story is not PG-13.
The story is a human drama that will be appreciated by most adult demographics. It is strong, unflinching theater played through characters who repulse us, fascinate us, and often, appeal to our better natures; ones who continually remind us of our human strengths—and weaknesses."

"I’ve had a lifetime love of science fiction and horror. I suspect it started in puberty since most obsessions do. My passion for it was so strong as a penniless youth, I resorted to boosting copies of my favorite authors’ works off the shelves of the book section of the local Federal’s department store. My friends and I soon had a collection of great sci-fi at discounted prices to read and read again. But I’m not wholly without conscience about those shifty activities as a scrawny youth. I’ll shake my head from side to side and mumble “Crap, that was stupid” once ever decade or so. But that’s about it.
I consider myself a sci-fi film Nazi. I’m sure I’ve seen every sci-fi movie ever made – certainly the vast majority of them. I can’t pass up even the worst of it. All those god-awful, black and white B flicks of the 40’s onward, with their outrageous and ham-handed themes of science vs. ignorance and good vs. evil, wrapped in whatever pseudo-scientific covering was popular that year, transfixed me, entertained me, and like the works pinched then stashed in my friend’s basement, made me think. When pivotal films like “Alien” and John Carpenter’s “The Thing” elevated sci-fi film up out of the gutter with all those glorious and expensive production values, I was im himmel.
I attended Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Like so many of my peers at the time, I left Wayne

 State with an utterly useless BA with a major in psychology. I’ve cleaned tractor cranes for money and 

worked as a steel mill laborer when the last one of those plants in Michigan still existed. I’ve worked as a 

 night janitor. I moved to southern California when I was 30 years old and sold cars for a while. Shortly 

thereafter I worked for what used to be called the Hughes Aircraft Company as an in-house photographer.

 For the last 10 years of my work-a-day life I worked as a senior project manager for Computer Sciences 

Corporation. I now live in Oregon where I started and recently sold a fitness gym. I relate this choppy 

history to drive home my favorite maxim relating to life and the living of it: you never know where in the f***

you’ll end up. You’ll find my books laced through with that persistent theme. I hope you find the journey of 

reading them, should you attempt it, if not straight and linear, at least interesting."

First, I apologize about the wonky formatting above - it didn't cooperate with me.  :)

Humans are the top of the biological totem pole.  We are taught this in science classes from elementary school on.  We are the dominant species...all food chains eventually lead to us (or at least the big, important ones).  We dominate the planet and determine its course and future.  We are regaled with science fiction stories that tell us of other species, but we generally eventually dominate them to.  But what if we encounter an alien species, or they encounter us, against which we have no defense other than pure, dumb luck?

The Good
There is a full body shiver that overtakes my body as my psyche and very vivid mind's eye work together to create scenes that my psyche finds particularly grotesque.  Those shivers happened a lot while reading this book.  Coy is not kidding in the book's description when he says that this work is not PG13!  RATED R this is...for many reasons.

We, and yes I'm going to generalize about the entire human species, generally do not like our being invaded by other living things.  Whether this invasion is via something we can see, such as rape or finding half of a worm in an apple, or something we cannot see (i.e. germs), we go to great lengths to either protect ourselves from invasion, or rid ourselves of an invasion pronto.  I myself am especially phobic of worms.  Okay, well maybe not clinically phobic (whoops, there's the psychology major in me showing...but seriously - a true phobia is a debilitating fear that seriously impedes a person's daily life), but the thought of worms in my flesh makes my flesh crawl.  bleh.  Maybe it's because I have literally watched a worm wriggle out of salmon that immediately was discarded as my dinner, maybe it is because I was taught to cook the living daylights out of bear meat so you "don't get worms from it", or because I've seen puppies literally poop piles of worms...

Are you grossed out yet?


All of this is to set the scene for Coy's work.  In "Natural Selection", Coy has created a scenario that is utterly horrific and grotesque.  Here we have Phil, the man dude, and Mary, one of the main ladies (I'd argue there are a few), who have been snatched away from their daily lives by aliens who only keep them alive because the aliens need their body to put through a process to harvest....


...worms.  Well, larvae to be exact.  Not gonna tell you of what, you gotta read the book for that.  Just trust me when I tell you the thought is horrific.  It is!  It caused many full body shivers while I was reading.

Now, many of us have seen the "Independence Day" scene where the crop dusting plane flying dude is being harassed by dorks at a bar who ask him if the aliens did anything to him sexually as they make fun of him for his abduction experience.  If only it were that simple for Phil and Mary.

Let's just say this "harvesting" process is as gruesome and horrific as one can imagine, including everything from being stung by a gosh-awful HUGE wasp (I've flinched away from wasps for awhile since reading this book), to being eaten alive from the inside out, to being sliced open by seemingly unfeeling aliens, to being stuck in an healing apparatus only so that they are ready to be used as larvae food...again.  and again.  and again. gives me the shudders just to think of it!  (Reminds me of an episode of Stargate where Jack is being revived in the sarcophagus again and again only to be tortured to death again and again by a poophead go'uld who gets too much pleasure in the process).

Coy artfully explores what can happen to a human being's psyche when trapped in an utterly solutionless, horrific scenario with absolutely no hope of escape...not even via death - these aliens are far to crafty to allow their captures to die.  Oh, and to make it all the more horrible, the creatures pushing them around just "might" have been humans at some point who struggled against their capture tooth and nail.

What if we are not the dominant species, and all of our technology cannot protect us from something that attacks and controls via biological methods?

See...there I go getting sucked in by the story again!  That should, however, show you how masterfully this story was written!!  Coy did an fantastic job creating a truly horrific sci-fi scenario that should satisfy even the most insatiable science fiction fan.  The story is gripping, moves along at a pace that keeps readers engaged (not so slow that bogging down is a problem, but not so fast that you get lost, this pace is just right for the material), and doesn't let go!  When I wasn't reading this work, I wanted to be reading it...I had to know what was going to happen next.  Was there somehow hope?  Where is the hope?

Phil and Mary are superbly drawn as characters.  Coy is awesome at drawing characters that make you feel their emotions and thoughts just as surely as if you were inside their head (which, in a sense, readers are...let's get real - much reading is condoned voyeurism).  He provides enough background for their current actions to make sense and for us to get a clear picture of who the person truly is...or at least was before these aliens intervened.  I wanted a little bit more about Bailey, and perhaps some more about Tom Moon (didn't quite understand his motivations), but most everyone else of consequence were awesome!

Setting?  This one gets tricky as there are two major settings: Earth and...not Earth.  : )  Describing someplace unreal is always a bit tricky as writers are asking readers to do some mental gymnastics in order to picture someplace remotely similar to what is in the writer's mind's eye.  Coy does a fantastic job.  I could almost feel the slime from the healing pits, hear the noise of the aliens' awful tools, etc.  Coy almost does too good of a job, as this work became something that threatened to budge it's way into my subconsicous dreamland at one point.  Not going there!  ugh  /shudder

Point of view?  It shifts here a lot, but all of the shifts make sense.  Coy is even able to keep a work that changes tone with each POV shift, and yet remains internally consistent.  This is difficult, and he does it very well!

Oh, and while the story itself is super good, it is also one of the most original sci-fi stories that I've seen. In a land where giant monsters and blood-thirsty aliens abound, it was refreshing to see something that contained new elements (if you can't tell, I'm a bit of a sci-fi geek myself).  I won't say too much because more spoilers aren't necessary here...but suffice to say, what happens if the ship is not a "ship"?

The Bugly (bad/ugly)
Yeah yeah yeah...fantastic work but there are some issues.  I always find some issues.  What can I say, I'm exacting, particular, and finicky.

First, some of the characters (the aforementioned Bailey and Tom Moon, but also the native guy and a few others) could have stood to be a little more fleshed out.  I wanted to know where they came from a bit more.  Just enough information was given about Bailey to situate her in the here-and-now...but barely.  She intrigued me, and I was sad to not know more about her (especially after some of the detail tid-bits that came out near the end of the book)

Second, this book is so dense!  It feels like a piece of super dense, super rich chocolate cake: it is so good that you just want more, and then you've consumed far too many calories.  This book won't make you fat, it is just super rich and dense.  I know it is part of a trilogy, but it almost feels as though it could have been split into two works.  Details abound, and details about those details.  I can't fault Coy too much because an overabundance of details is necessary when you are dealing with a sci-fi topic with a setting unknown to anyone outside of your brain...they were just so many and just kept coming.  Over explaining just gets tiresome after awhile.  I'd have to take breaks from reading sometimes just to give my brain a rest.

Third (and I know this one makes me sound really picky and bitchy), there were typos all over the place.  Not on every page, mind you, but on enough that it made me cringe after awhile.  This story was too intriguing and good to be constantly derailed by typos...typos just make my brain hurt.

Fourthly, the Bible-thumper bugged me.  Not only because I hold a deep faith and it seemed as though anything of faith was here overtly ridiculed, but also because he didn't make sense to me.  A near psychotic Bible-thumper with a savior complex who works as a...meteorologist? What?

Overall I really liked this work in its entirety, and abhorred it in its horror.  It successfully transported my imagination to an alien world that contains many different horrors I don't even want to imagine, and which made me flinch away from wasps for awhile, and was beautifully written.  It was perhaps too dense and there were a few things that didn't make sense, but that's okay.  It's a superb work that is worth your time, believe me.  Just make sure you aren't reading it right before bed.

Overall, I give this book a 4 on a scale of 1 to 5.



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  1. Excellent review :) I always love reading your reviews! Thank you for hosting :)

  2. OMG! What a grisly blurb... just had to check it out. :)

    Good luck on the VBT tour.

    Pit crew.