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Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Review Week! Part 2: PHOENIX ISLAND by John Dixon

Ahoy, me hearties!  'Tis the first ever Review Week! here on ye olde blogge.  Enjoy, ye scury dogs.


The judge told Carl that one day he'd have to decide exactly what kind of person he would become. But on Phoenix Island, the choice will be made for him.

A champion boxer with a sharp hook and a short temper, sixteen-year-old Carl Freeman has been shuffled from foster home to foster home. He can't seem to stay out of trouble, using his fists to defend weaker classmates from bullies. His latest incident sends his opponent to the emergency room, and now the court is sending Carl to the worst place on earth: Phoenix Island.

Classified as a terminal facility, it's the end of the line for delinquents who have no home, no family, and no future. Located somewhere far off the coast of the United States and immune to its laws, the island is a grueling Spartan-style boot camp run by sadistic drill sergeants who show no mercy to their young, orphan trainees. Sentenced to stay until his eighteenth birthday, Carl plans to play by the rules, so he makes friends with his wisecracking bunkmate, Ross, and a mysterious gray-eyed girl named Octavia. But he makes enemies, too, and after a few rough scrapes, he earns himself the nickname "Hollywood" as well as a string of punishments, including a brutal night in the sweatbox. But that's nothing compared to what awaits him in the Chop Shop: a secret government lab where Carl is given something he never dreamed of.

A new life. . . .

A new body. A new brain.

Gifts from the fatherly Old Man, who wants to transform Carl into something he's not sure he wants to become.

For this is no ordinary government project. Phoenix Island is ground zero for the future of combat intelligence.

And for Carl, it's just the beginning. . .

PHOENIX ISLAND is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo, and you can discuss it on Goodreads.


This novel is truly remarkable. The truth is, I wasn't 100% sure what I was getting myself into when I picked it up. I had read the back cover which suggested one thing, but I had also watched a few episodes of "Intelligence," the TV show this book inspired, and that told another story, and I also knew that this novel recently won the Bram Stoker Award. So I was fairly perplexed on whether PHOENIX ISLAND was an espionage thriller, horror, YA, or what.

If I had to put PHOENIX ISLAND in a category, I'd say it most closely resembles a classic. The sort of thing you had to read in school. A clean, trim sort of book with only a few characters and only a few locations that manages to draw you in.

Speaking of classics, Dixon obviously wears his love for LORD OF THE FLIES on his sleeve with this one - there are wild pigs, feral kids, and enough LOTF Easter eggs that I was sort of surprised nobody sounded a conch by the end. There's also a lot of the DNA of ENDER'S GAME in here. But where PHOENIX ISLAND really carves its own niche is in the way boxing is woven throughout.

Dixon is a Golden Gloves boxer and he brings a breadth and knowledge of fighting experience to this book like I've never seen before. Whenever the main character Carl fights the book transforms into something akin to ballet where you just have to admire the beauty of the prose as the scene unfolds.

I read this book in four days. It's been a long time since I've devoured a book that fast. I'm still not sure whether to quite call it horror, thriller, YA, or something else entirely. But I'll stand by my label of "classic." I really hope this ends up in classrooms in the future. I can't imagine kids not loving it.

About John Dixon:

John Dixon's debut novel, PHOENIX ISLAND, won the Bram Stoker Award and inspired the CBS TV series "Intelligence." The sequel, DEVIL'S POCKET, comes out August 4th, 2015, from Simon & Schuster / Gallery Books.

A former boxer, teacher, and stone mason, John now writes full time. He lives in West Chester, PA, with his wife, Christina, and their freeloading pets. When not reading or writing, he obsesses over boxing, chess, and hot peppers.

You can follow John on his website, Facebook, or Twitter.

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