Comagate Vol I, The Loops and Lies by Benjamin Michael Greene

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Fall into the world of Comagate, purgatory for creative Minds, where inhabitants have one final chance to live dreams while awaiting Judgment or continue with “The Fall”. Benjamin Michael Greene’s debut title, whose depiction of purgatory is the product of a vivid imagination, rich in detail, with vivid/eloquent descriptions evoking all of the senses, and an impressive cast of characters. In my opinion, Comagate reads like a cross between science fiction/fantasy with a tiny sprinkle of Stephen King gore (The Teaparty of Kahnd L. Vik and Sugar Plum). Each chapter relates the story of a different character, while stories interweave. In the realm of Comagate, time is static, meaningless and different from what Minds experienced during life in the Origin (before Comagate). You’ll meet Chimey Sweep, Skosha, Nof (“Dreadlock Man”), Gerald the Green Chair, C-157, Passerbine the Beetle Maker, Sugar Plum, Kahnd L. Vik, Mr. Turtle, Cogsmith (“The Hammer”, Marjorie, Barkeley, Jottidun, Mimah, Olde King Cole, and Stitcher (returns Mind to the Origin), among others. Greene describes in vivid sensory detail various areas of Comagate, including Steamworks, Overlap (safe land “in-between” where people could live out the lives they desired, on the outskirts of Steamworks), bordered by Mining District on one side of Overlap, and Drafts (sole area of Comagate with green grass, meadows, trees, blue skies, and castles) on the other side of Overlap. My first favourite chapter is The Fall where Greene speaks directly to the reader describing what it will feel like. C-157, relates the story of C-157 who keeps watch over Comagate with its gigantic lens eye. “Sparks rained continually from its joints, illuminating the dark with dancing fireflies, while the dark acrid smoke of the burning metal belched towards the sky, thickening the depressive blanket that killed all life that was not designed by the Hammer.” 86 The World, relates Chimey Sweep’s journey through Drafts to patronize Stine’s Pub. With Greene’s tremendous gift for description, I could imagine vividly the Drafts as Chimey navigates, where “the forest was old. He could smell it. It was a dank, wet smell mixed with an earthy musk and the faint wisps of dark growth foliage. The canopy wasn’t particularly thick, as much of the sky could be seen, but the cloud covered sky kept any rays of sunlight to a maximum of zero.” I enjoyed this read and am anxiously awaiting Greene’s forthcoming title, as well as Comagate Volume II.

The (In)Accurate Assessments of Sage Rathbun – Benjamin Michael Greene

product_thumbnail2Take off your shoes, cozy up on the couch with a cup of coffee in hand (preferably of the Irish variety) or a glass of absinthe, and enter a wild and wonderful world in The (In)Accurate Assessments of Sage Rathbun. Take a sojourn from the boundaries of reality as you enter Sage’s world. Forget about what is or isn’t possible. Turn off that voice in your head that says “that could never happen!” That’s exactly the point.

The first season of The (In)Accurate Assessments of Sage Rathbun, which originally appeared as a series on, is now available in print. Part fantasy, part science fiction, part hilarious, you must turn off the limitations on your imagination. Enter a world with a motley crew of characters including Sage’s portly Japanese neighbor Hans Paz Blanco, Beached Stingray HR Woman, his pet Bengal Tiger-Woman Au Gratin (a.k.a. Tater), Leprechauns, Priest, Thetans, Yarnlings, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Salami Mafia.

The story is told in first person with Sage Rathbun as protagonist and narrator. Sage speaks directly to the reader as if we are right there, almost in a stream-of-conscious sort of way, as inner thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and humorous external interpretations ensue. Greene never explicitly states what the gender of his main character, Sage, is and wants the reader to leave it to their own interpretation (although there are a few strong indications).

The story begins in Sage’s kitchen with “sweaty depressed cloud” of a roommate, Sydney, when they discover there’s no coffee left, the milk has gone sour, and the cabinets are bare except for a package of Ramen Noodles. The next insult comes when Sage’s paycheck is short due to a pending FBI investigation preventing Human Resources from issuing paychecks. The hilarity continues when Sage and Sydney embark on an adventure to the grocery store, battling the hordes of shoppers in the produce section, deli, Asian aisle and check-out line. Who can’t relate to this scene?

Then Sage is severely bloated on the morning of his/her annual physical, and Greene provides very detailed descriptions, along with humor and charm. Sage discovers a box at the door and an envelope containing three gold leprechaun coins. Sage quickly spends the coins on a unicorn at Costco, Chinese buffet dinner at the Jade Phoenix 2, and a pet Bengal Tiger named Au Gratin. The scene is hilarious as Sage and Au Gratin cruise down the road in a 1987 Toyota Camry with Au Gratin swiping at Sage’s headrest and a police officer. When Sage arrives home, he/she is visited by leprechauns demanding Sage steal back the coins. Sage inherits a ‘wee bit’ of leprechaun magic, and Au Gratin is transformed into a tiger woman who can now speak and behave like a human.

One of my favorite chapters is Chapter 4 “Au Gratin on My Hans”, as it is full of rich, vivid descriptions. Greene is quite gifted in his ability to evoke powerful sensory description, such as “Mist swirled up from the empty containers, twisting and twirling until they were sucked up by the darkness that filled the rest of the buffet”, and “The night began to darken in a way that only the paintbrush of death knew how to shade.” Hans and Sage break into the Jade Phoenix 2 to steal back one of the coins, and engage in battle with zombie waiters. Au Gratin has an adventure in space as Empress of the Galaxy in the ongoing war between the Witnesses and the Mormons. Another favorite description, “The iridescent glow of distant galaxies swirled about in silent ballets, while cosmic dust added a gentle effervescent sheen to the thrumming of the stars.” I am reminded of Star Trek’s Starship Enterprise during the chapters involving the U.S. Goodboy and the Yarnlings. A brown-cloaked man helps Au Gratin travel through a space-time portal back to Sage’s bedroom with the assistance of a large amount of Vasoline (for countering the friction).

My favorite chapter is Chapter 11, “Play Time’s Over, Part I”. It reminded me of the feeling that movie goers felt during The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy emerged from her Kansas house (carried by a twister to Munchkin Land and subsequently atop the Wicked Witch of the East). When Dorothy opened the door, we saw the world in Technicolor splendor. Sage and Au Gratin are transformed into gingerbread people and enter the world of the classic board game Candyland. Greene’s descriptions of the lands in Candyland along with its characters brought me back to my childhood, which was a welcome and fun diversion. Re-visit the Rainbow Bridge, Gum Drop Pass, Peppermint Forest, and meet Mr. Mint, Lord Licorice (who’s actually William Shakespeare), and Princess Lolly. Sage is on a mission to save Au Gratin from the Nutt House. Again more beautiful prose, “the path was swirled by powdered sugar snow, and the air held a chilly bite that cut through even my tough gingerbread flesh.”

I can’t wait for Season 2!

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Lucid – Benjamin Michael Greene

I recently reviewed this book on and for my good friend and author, Benjamin Michael Greene.  I gave it 5 stars!

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Lucid, a collection of eight short stories, runs the gamut of humorous, fantastic, hopeful, emotional, and poignant. Lucid is sublime in its abundance of rich, vivid imagery that soars off the page with detailed sensory descriptions. Allow yourself to be transported into a world full of wonder; where the impossible is possible and things you thought resided only in dreams become reality. Greene encourages the reader to never stop dreaming and to reach for those dreams; to be willing to escape limitations of reality; if only for a brief respite.

My favorite story is “That Dream She Lived”, about a little girl who escapes reality of school and less-than-attentive parents. I could easily imagine myself as the girl with long, brown hair wearing a pink and purple paid button-up dress, sitting on her swing, splashing her feet in puddles. Greene presents a beautiful vignette reminding the reader how important it is to imagine, wonder and believe in magic.

“Why We Work” is a poem for those stuck in the rut of the work world; merely existing by doing the same thing without passion; people who lost all joy, hope, purpose and ability to dream. Greene reminds us to grab hold of our dreams and make them reality.

“Gaslight”, the shortest story, is a delightful portrait of winter, perhaps something Norman Rockwell could have painted. This story is rich in sensory descriptions of pure, gentle white snow, moments of peace and quiet viewed from a porch during a snow fall, a brief respite from the chaos at this time of year, and the magic of memories.

“Apple Season” is sad, beautiful, and poignant. This story is about loss and despair, and the magic of a ladybug.

“I Watch Them Quietly” is a charming story about friendship and love, as the guardian of a cemetery watches over its inhabitants. An old inhabitant reminds the guardian how important it is to live so that your soul lives on after you depart making you truly immortal.

“Dandruff” is full of vivid description when two men enter the apartment of their older brother only to find it covered floor to ceiling in coloured sticky notes, and try to discern meaning.

“Best for Last”, with characters displaced from another book the author was writing, is a charming tale about a writer experiencing writer’s block (art imitating life?) and characters without a story.

I highly recommend Lucid. Greene has a unique style of prose, with rich, vivid descriptions and limitless imagination. The only negative I can think of is that there should be more stories!