Running this blog has given me an opportunity to read many novels that I might not have been able to enjoy before, simply because I wouldn’t have heard of them.
James DeSantis contacted me via Twitter about reviewing his debut novel, Exterminators: Infected (which is volume one out of five) on my blog here. I have read but never reviewed sci-fi/fantasy before…until now.
Four young boys from all walks of life receive a mysterious letter…one that tells them to go to a specific address at a certain time. Once they’ve read the letter, it disintegrates.
Nick, a newcomer to New York City and a kid who misses his mother after she passed away a year ago, is one of them. A born leader, a bit awkward but levelheaded, is one.
Then you have Peter, a loner kid who gets good grades and doesn’t really associate with people. He has two secrets the reader finds out about fairly quickly: he has a drunken, abusive father and a mental disorder. The doctors diagnosed him with sociopathic tendencies, meaning he does not feel emotions like a normal human.
Next, you have Fred, a geeky semi-Gothic gamer, who is overweight and an outcast. He is rich, but his parents are never around. His best friend deserted him at the beginning of high school and his only company is the people he interacts with when he plays online video games.
Meet that deserting friend, Marshall, who thinks he is a badass but is he really? he wanted to be popular; Fred didn’t, so they parted ways. Now they are forced to work together again when all four boys gather at the appointed address at the appointed time to learn why they were called.
Carl is a Bora, a mentor and a commander, whichever you want to call him. He works under this former teammate, Amanda Ross (the Gada, leader of the organization), as a trainer for new Exterminators. Carl is also an alcoholic, after something bad happened to the last team he mentored scarred him for life and made him not want to even be a Bora anymore. But now he has to train for new kids to be killers.
Now, they won’t be like mercenaries; killing humans. No, nothing so horrific yet mundane in Mr. DeSantis’s novel! Exterminators kill Unknowns: creatures from another realm that threaten the human world when they try to push through the barriers between realms and cause mayhem.
Think of this as the TV show Supernatural taken to a whole other level and combined with the craziest, most imaginative video game you’ve ever played, all mixed in with friendship, leadership, trust and values, all with a dash of romance for some of the characters.
I wasn’t sure what I would think of this when I started reading it, but I kept an open mind as I turned page after page on my tablet. I couldn’t put it down. From page one on down to the end, it was riveting.
I will warn readers, there is a decent amount of violence, so be prepared for fistfights, fires, stabbings and murder.
As a lifelong fan of sci-fi (if it is done right), I was highly impressed with this novel, especially considering it is a debut. Everything about it was innovative and riveting, from the creation of new monsters (Rockus; wolf-hybrids and killer scarecrows, to name a few), to the use of a demonic presence and realm-jumping.
In between the violence, you have four seventeen year old boys trying to cope with powers, train to be stronger, and deal with everyday life. Nick’s schoolwork is failing, both he and Marshall have to lie to their respective girlfriends on a daily basis (or do they?), Peter is trying not to use his weapon, the Rod, to kill his father and Fred…well, after Fred nearly dies in his first battle with an Unknown, he starts to deal with the voice in his head…a voice that may be his undoing.
To sum it up: great novel, great characters and so unique, Sci-fi fans and people who may not be interested in this genre otherwise will want to get this novel and, once they finish, will eagerly await the next!
1. You published your first novel, Exterminators: Infected, recently. What made you want to be a writer and how old were you when you decided that was the case?
I was 13, when I thought to myself, this is what I want to do. Now over a decade later I finally published a novel. It took some time to get to it, but I wanted to be a bit older before getting my name out there. I knew at the age though that this is what I wanted to do. To give people a world that's exciting, interesting, and a bit scary. Something people would remember forever. That was my goal when I first thought of the idea of Exterminators.
2. What authors did you enjoy when you were younger? What authors inspire you today?
I grew up reading a lot of different types of books. In the fantasy world I enjoyed authors such as Darren Shan, Jonathan Stroud, and even J. K. Rowling. Moving more into the realistic zone I read books from Dave Pelzar, who wrote a Boy Called It. Also, stories from anonymous people such as “Go Ask Aliace”, “Jay's Journal”, and “Lucy In The Sky”. Now days I read works from Stephen King a lot, and try to spread the love to other upcoming writers. I have taste that varies, so I never really get bored.
3. Does reviewing and playing videos games inspire your writing?
In a way. I review so many games, so that means I go through too many stories to count. This helps me from a story that's original. Nothing like I've played or heard before. At least that's my goal. So reviewing a story, hundreds over the years, has help me become a better writer.
4. Where did you get the idea for the novel: four teens battling monsters from another realm?
It's a mix of things. One major goal was to have a group of people in my book. You ever read a book and decide you enjoy the side characters more than the main character? I didn't want that. I wanted you to like my main character. So I created four, very different, people to be the center of attention for the series. So having four personalities, fighting together, was the very first idea I had for the story. It changed a lot but my idea of good vs evil isn't always simple. The basic idea of the first book is humans have to stop monsters. Monsters are always evil. Yet, I make sure certain characters questioned it. I want to make sure the reader also questions what is happening. If you aren't, I probably have to step up my writing!
5. Each character in Infected has his/her own, unique personality. Were any of them based on people in real life or were they wholly imaginary?
Some of their looks are based off of people I know. Some of the names are based off the people I've met or are friends with. However, each character is made up a certain way I envisioned them. Nobody is based off of anyone one hundred percent. I'd be lying, though, if I said I didn't take some people I knew and place their face in the story at least.
6. Why did you decide to make this a 5-part series? Was it because you had too many ideas to fit it into one or two books or are you more fond of multi-book series in general?
Actually, the original plan was to have six books! I only recently decided to have it five. The second to last book was almost entirely scratched for a more realistic take to a ending. I do like longer series though. You get attached to characters. You feel for them. They almost become part of your life.
7. All of the monsters in your story are original, even the Cyclops, as you gave it a new take. Where did you get the ideas for them?
When I think of a monster I try to think of something that scares me. Something that makes me wanna throw up just by looking at it. Something deadly, that can kill you in real life. Monsters in fantasy stories are great, and I obviously take some ideas from general fantasy designs, but I decide to give them their own take. Make them live up to their title as monsters.
8. Why did you decide to make the heroes be kids in high school instead of adults a bit older?
When you're a kid or a teenager you believe more. You're willing to accept and trust people more when you are young. You also go through the hardest times. Love, betrayal, and figuring out what you want in life. I felt that would be a good age for the boys so that they grow into men. Of course I love to also write the older characters, since they are closer to my age and easier to relate.
9. When you finished the first installment, did it end up anything like you had originally thought?
My original ideas slipped into the story. I actually wrote the entire first book back when I was fifteen. I completed it, over fifty five chapters, but got rid of almost all of it in the rewrite. I re-wrote the story maybe four times through my teens. I then rewrote the story in March of this year, and released it in May. I had a set mind path of where my story would end up this time. Re-reading the story around three times now, I like where it ended up. Sure, I had a few cliches I wanted to avoid but overall it set the blueprint for the next three books. Which makes me very excited to release the next one.
10. What made you start getting into reviewing video games, as that is your other niche?
I was sitting in my room one day with a friend and we were very bored. I had just gotten a camera and I already owned a ton of video games. So we figured, why not try something with both? That's when I decided to review games. It is my other niche, along with other things. I'm always a big believer in do what makes you happy!
11. The weapon you gave the characters, the Rod, can become anything they want if they believe hard enough. That is a variation of what people tell kids from the time they're young. Did you intentionally want to reinforce that statement--you can do anything if you believe--when you created the weapon?
Yes! You are the first to pick up on this. In life, I've been thought that if you try hard enough you can achieve anything. I live by that now. I believe that if I tried hard enough I can get what I wanted. This is what the Rod represents. It can become anything you want. The stronger the weapon or item is, the harder it is to use or keep around. So you have to train, both physically and mentally, to gain what you want. In a world filled with people telling you that things are impossible, I thought this was a good answer. This world seems impossible, so why not give those naysayers a little of their own medicine!
12. Why did you create such unconventional monsters instead of sticking to the usual route of werewolves (not hybrids!) and vampires?
While some stories can you conventional type monsters well, I just couldn't. Why? I like to make my own rules up. To many rules in the old tales. I wanted to make my monsters unique and fun. Different than anything you've seen before. Even my take on a werewolf is different. A wolf hybrid shares ideas of a werewolf but it's very different in the end. So I like to create my monsters from scratch.
13. What would you be doing if you weren't writing?
Probably focus on doing more video game reviews. However, while that's fun, it isn't my dream. Writing is everything I could hope for. Creating a world to get lost in. It's amazing.
14. What can we expect to see from you in the future?
Well Exterminators: Shadows is coming out in January of 2014. That will be the second in the series, with the third following behind in somewhere late 2014. I also have a book in the making called Sparks and stars a young adult who has obtained two very unique things. The ability to use electricity with his body. The other one is that he has cancer. It'll be both a story about heroics and trials to try and survive against the city he lives in and the disease he faces. So those are my plans for the next few years.
15. Thank you very much for participating in the interview! Can you please leave the reader with three things that may surprise them about you?
Thank you very much for giving me an interview! I had a blast answering all these questions. To finish it off I'll list the three things that might surprise people.
1) I create music. Another hobby of mine since a kid. I write my own lyrics, produce my own beats, and rap over them. It's a fun hobby of mine that I like to share with the world.
2) Sometimes when I write, I get so absorbed, that I feel like I'm living inside my books. Almost as if I'm actually apart of that world. It's pretty scary!
3) Each character in the story represents my personality or stages in life. So all together they make me. Pretty crazy, huh?
Find James DeSantis online via: