Friday, July 18, 2014

"Battle for the Afterlife Saga, Blue Courage: Act 1" by CJ Davis


Battle for the Afterlife Saga,
Blue Courage: Act 1
by CJ Davis

Battle for the Afterlife Saga, Blue Courage: Act 1 is the first book in the series. Also available: Act 2 and Act 3.

Death is just the beginning for Reese, and he is a man struggling to make sense of it all. Instead of the pearly white gates, upon arrival, Reese is met with a pristine modern city in another dimension loaded with wonderful technologies, billions of souls and thousands of colossal white skyscrapers. A formidable, massive wall is the only thing protecting the city from countless ferocious prehistoric beasts, and hoards of ghoulish creatures, known as Lost Souls.
On the eve of a perilous cross-country race, war hangs in the balance. Armed with deadly weapons and their enhanced physical abilities, like strength, vision and quickness - the most gifted warriors, in the Afterlife, are pitted against each other. The first to either destroy their opponents, or reach a distant ancient temple outside the city walls, will win an unimaginable power.
Reese must unlock the mysterious circumstances of his unusual arrival in the Afterlife, and do everything he can to stop the forces of evil from winning the race and enslaving everyone in the Afterlife.

Book Trailer

Nobody had heard from him or seen him in weeks.  Despite their recent fight, giving Pancho personal space was no longer an option.  At this point, Reese had to make sure he was all right.
On his way to Pancho’s house, he sat alone in a jeep at a quiet red light.  His chest was tight and his stomach felt uneasy.  The light turned green and he shifted gears.  His destination was only a couple blocks away.
He drove past a park where his friend and he used to train.  It seemed everywhere he looked another fond memory would flood his mind.  It was a welcome distraction.
He finally pulled up to his destination, and turned off the engine.  The night seemed to swallow the poorly lit house.  All the blinds and curtains were closed.  The moonlight illuminated the overgrown lawn, and a large pile of newspapers by the mailbox.
He took a big breath, climbed out of the jeep and started walking up the short driveway. 
A large dog barking across the street momentarily grabbed Reese’s attention.
The boards on the porch squeaked when he stepped on them.  He peered through a window, but could not see much. 
He knocked three times, hard, on the door.  He waited and listened, but the only thing he could hear was the dog barking from afar. Reese knocked again, but this time with the flat-side of his fist.  It was a louder thud, but once again there was no movement or sound.
Suddenly a large crashing sound came from within the house. Reese’s body tightened.
He called out loud for Pancho, but still no response.  He tried to open the door to see if it was unlocked.  When the door swung open, a musky smell hit Reese like a slap to the face.
Reese slammed the light switch on, revealing a completely disheveled foyer.  The floor was full of crumpled up papers and pizza boxes. Chairs were flipped on their side and a fallen coat rack had a line of wrangled jackets spewing from every which direction.
He stepped forward softly with his hands spread out.
More loud crashes came from the back of the house.
“Pancho are you there?” Reese called out. 
“I’m back here dammit!” Pancho finally replied.
“Coach, what the hell is going on?”
Silence once again filled the air.  Reese kicked a pizza box out of the way revealing an old framed Sports Illustrated magazine laying on the floor with the glass broken.  On the front cover was a picture of a younger Reese with boxing gloves hanging over his shoulder, his trainer Pancho stood next to him with his arms crossed over his chest.  The caption read ‘From the Future of the Sport to Navy Seal.’  Reese had the same magazine framed at his house, only his wasn’t smashed on the floor.
Reese found Pancho in the kitchen by the refrigerator pacing back and forth like a tiger.  His salty black hair was sticking up in several different directions.  The kitchen table had been flipped over on its side, and broken dishes littered the floor.
“What are you doing here?” Pancho demanded. 
“Nice to see you, too,” Reese replied. 
Pancho glared at him.  His nostrils flared.
“Easy buddy,” Reese said. “I was worried about you, so I decided to stop by.  You haven’t returned any of my phone calls, and I haven’t seen you at the gym in a month.”
“I’ve been busy,” Pancho snapped.  He continued pacing back and forth.  He breathed roughly, twisting a white knuckled fist into the other hand.
“Busy with what?” Reese asked.  “Why is your house like this?  Where is Jessica?”
“You ask a lot of question for an uninvited guest,” Pancho retorted.  “Everything’s fine, she’s out with her friends.  I’m just working on a little business project.”
Reese swallowed hard. 
“Remember the fight at the MGM in 99’?” Reese asked.  “You told me everything was fine then too.”  Reese waited, allowing the silence to emerge.
Pancho suddenly stopped pacing.  His head snapped up, eyes glaring.
“I know when you’re lying old man,” Reese said.
The anger slowly dissolved from Pancho’s face. He ducked his head, almost hiding the tear that slid down his check. He fumbled for a seat on a dark wooden chair, covered his face with his hands, and wept. 
Reese grimaced.  In twenty years of being his mentor, boxing coach and surrogate, he had never seen Pancho cry. He stood awkwardly for a moment, then placed his hand on Pancho’s shoulder. “What is it?” he asked softly.
“They have her,” Pancho muttered.  His whole body continued quivering.  He took short quick breaths.
“They have who?” Reese asked. 
“Jessica,” Pancho whispered. “The cartel has my little girl in Mexico.”
“What?” Reese said. 
“I messed up really bad this time,” Pancho said.  “I was backed into a corner.  I had no other choice.”  He sniffed loudly.
“What did you do?” Reese asked.
“I agreed to use my business to smuggle their damn drugs across the border, if they promised to stop harassing my factories in Mexico,” Pancho said. “I’ve put my blood, sweat and tears into this business ever since we retired from the circuit.  Everything I own is tied up in this business, and I couldn’t let them destroy it.”
Reese shook his head slowly and leaned against the metallic refrigerator. 
“It was a disaster right from the get-go,” Pancho declared.  His head hung down. “I had to destroy the shipment on the first run almost immediately at one of my Mexico factories.  It was either that or get caught by the authorities.”
“You did what?”
“The details don’t matter,” Pancho said.  “They have Jessica now, and they told me they’re going to kill her if I don’t make things right.”
Reese scratched his chin. “How long have they had her?” Reese asked. 
“Three weeks,” Pancho said. “They told me that I need to get them a million dollars or they are going to kill her.” 
“Why didn’t you come to me or the authorities?” Reese asked.
“Why do you think?” Pancho asked. He made a gesture of shooting a gun at a recent picture hanging crookedly on the fridge of Jessica wearing a varsity letterman jacket.
“I don’t know what to do,” Pancho said, his voice cracked.  “I just talked to them on the phone, and when I told them I didn’t have the money yet, I heard her screaming in the background as those bastards shot machine guns.  That was the last thing I heard before they hung up.” 
Reese considered the situation. The hum of the refrigerator filled the silence. 
“Well, you have to let me get involved,” Reese said at last. 
“I can’t, they’re going to kill her!”
“Call them back, and give me the damn phone!”  Reese said.
Reese watched Pancho dial the number. The man’s hands were shaking so badly, that he almost dropped the phone.
“It’s ringing,” said Pancho tersely, shoving it towards Reese.
Reese took a deep breath and put the phone to his ear. The ring was a dry staccato. An international call.
“Hola.” The voice is deep and raspy.
“This is Reese Hawthorne, a very close friend to Pancho,” Reese declared.  “I’m getting on a plane with a million dollars in cash tonight.  I want you to tell me where to meet you, so we can make this exchange.”
“Suddenly Pancho has the money?”
“Don’t worry where the money is coming from,” Reese said.
The man didn’t say anything.  Reese gripped the phone so tightly that his knuckles were white.
No response.
“Listen, you can either get paid tomorrow, or kill a helpless young girl, what’s it gonna be?” Reese demanded. 
Pancho gripped his knees so tightly that he looked like he was going to rip holes in his raggedy jeans.
Reese scrambled to think of something else to say. Just when he thought he’d lost the call, the man responded. “5:00 o’clock in a white building six miles East of Cheran,” The voice was loud, almost angry.  “Take the road by the cemetery.  Don’t be late.”  There was a click and the line went dead.
Reese felt a shot of adrenaline shudder down his spine.
“What, what did he say?” Pancho asked.  He shot up out his chair with his hands on his head.  His fingers dug through his salty black hair.
Reese tossed the phone back to Pancho.
“It’s time to pack my bags, Coach,” Reese declared.  “I’m going to Mexico to get your daughter back.”

What a fantastic start to a series. I did not know much going into this but the concept of a fantasy battle in the afterlife caught my attention, and the author did a good job of creating a landscape filled with possibilities.
The first half introduces us to our protagonist and it does a good job of setting the tone which is a fast paced one that takes us on an exciting ride. It is the second half in which we are introduced to the theme of our battle in the afterlife and while the pace does not slow we are given time to learn more about this new world.
I was dragged in by the overall theme but it was the story itself that will have me coming back for more. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

About the Author
CJ Davis is an American writer who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife and two little girls. By day he is a marketing executive for a software company, and by night he writes novels. His artistic influences include: J. K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, George Romero, George Lucas, Billy Corgan, Max Brooks, and of course Tolkien, Koontz, and King.
CJ has a BBA from The University of Georgia with a specialization in marketing, and has published many articles in several major industry publications.
CJ is an avid runner, and just ran his fifth marathon this November in Philadelphia.