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4.6 out of 5 stars27
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 11 April 2014
I started reading this with a mix of trepidation and full on excitement. After thoroughly enjoying The Undead series I was ready for Day 15, so why would an author break away from such an amazing and successful set of books and characters? To create a new a new set of characters and a world for them to run around in of course! And holy crap, what a world it is too! Well, worlds actually, each one crafted in stunning detail, rich and vibrant to the point where I wanted to pull away from the character's view point and go explore on my own.

This book deserved a 5 star review for various reasons, the characters are well developed, though I didn't particularly like Charlotte, even from the start I found her annoying and the way she spoke didn't match the professional manner in which she was described. Yes, it's understandable, to a degree, that she would be flustered/aroused/lost for words etc in the presence of Michael, but that happens way too quickly to feel realistic.

However, that aside, her character serves a purpose, and her later scenes are both shocking and staggering in their brutality. Haywood certainly has a knack for making me turn those pages. This can't be compared to The Undead series in any way as it's a very different story, yet Haywood's signature style of blending humour with action and great sensitivity where needed, is what makes this rewarding and thought provoking read.

For a while I thought I knew which direction the plot would head, so I was surprised and happy to see it veer off and take me on a different path. I couldn't help but smile at the inclusion of the character Eddy, or Eduardo Garay, the amazing cover artist, as it added an extra dimension to the idea of different realities. Kind of creepy too in a way.

I suspect the subject matter, that of mental health, was tricky to write, especially when blended with a fantasy element and adult themes, which though highly graphic in places, don't come across as shocking for the sake of it. Indeed, one particular scene with Eddy drawing two women is incredibly well written and handled with care and sensitivity, with character development first and foremost and the sexual atmosphere a secondary element that serves to show depth to those characters rather than titillate.

The stigma associated with mental health is a bad one, something many people avoid because they simply don't know what to say or how to handle what feels like a taboo or difficult subject to talk about. With that in MIND, it's Time to Change our thinking and I'm glad Haywood has clearly given this a lot of thought and approached the subject with knowledge, compassion and a desire to explore how mental health impacts more lives than the average person realises.

I prefer to leave well-balanced reviews other than one what bestows the author with nothing but praise. This is a damn good book, don't misunderstand me, yet I couldn't help but wish it had received an editor's touch. There are issues with grammar and punctuation that made me frown many times, but also contradictions too which prompted me to turn the pages back and check I wasn't missing something. And as it's written in the present tense there were inconsistencies were a past tense was used in the same sentence or paragraph.

I didn't enjoy that after the first chapter or so I felt there was a bit of an information dump for the purposes of establishing the ground rules of the second reality. That could have been handled better by drip feeding information to the reader via character exploration and discovery, rather than having a single character explain everything in one go, which felt more for the benefit of the reader than the set of characters arriving at the Citadel.

One thing that struck me as odd was how certain characters were described as being highly intelligent, and without giving much evidence of that, the reader must accept it then as those characters develop the reader can then agree or disagree. It jarred somewhat to find when a new character was introduced and being established, it seemed necessary to tell the reader they were intelligent, when their actions/thoughts etc would show their nature in due course.

Having said that, Haywood is adept at showing over telling in many other areas, but often he falls into the trap of writing "...he hisses" or "...he growls" which is actually hard to do, have you tried hissing or growling words? However, the descriptive parts are amazing, and the first time the wraiths appear I felt somewhat sick and repulsed, not to mention a horrific descent into madness, nice work Haywood!

The Second Reality has more than enough matter to run to a series of books. I detected inspiration drawn from a variety of sources such as The Matrix, Inception and Lord of the Rings, blended with high fantasy and gritty realism. There's honour, dignity and courage to be found here, well balanced with rage, hatred, lust for power and plenty of questions I'd like answers to in a follow up book, please say there will be one!

Although I said earlier that The Second Reality cannot be compared to The Undead series, I believe it's worth pointing out that Haywood seems to have grown and matured as a writer and is constantly learning his craft, and to that end I applaud him whole heartedly.

Other than issues that could be solved by bringing an editor on board, they don't detract from what is a stunning story, compelling characters, ones that you care about, vivid description of locations and vistas and a subject matter that is handled very well indeed. There's an awful lot to like about this book, and I enjoyed every word.

Congrats, Rich, you've done very well indeed. Now get to work on the next book, fans are waiting!
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on 26 April 2014
The Second Reality is, on the whole, very different from Mr Haywood's previous work (apart from dead people that haven't stayed dead of course!) The Undead series has entertained me for nearly two years but sometimes, mind, it's time to change, even though I eagerly await Day 15. This book was a lot longer than anything RR Haywood has written before, which delighted me. While the later instalments of the Undead series are progressive increased in length, I seemed to finish them all too quickly! The scale of this latest effort amazed me. I have a vivid imagination but I was blown away by the way in which an entire world was seemingly effortlessly created. As always, RR Haywood's strength is found in his characters. I have not discovered another author with the ability to create such likeable characters, characters who you truly feel for when something tragic befalls them. I was particularly fond of Michael and it was obvious how much time was spent developing his persona. I didn't find Charlotte as 'annoying' as a couple of other reviewers seem to but I was surprised at how quickly her professional ethics disintegrated when she fell for Michael (apologies for minor spoiler) but perhaps RR Haywood used this as a tool to show just how powerful their love was and that it transcended all boundaries. Considering that Charlotte was essentially the protagonist, I was shocked at how her story developed, especially toward the end of the book, but I think the mark of a good suspense story is that nobody, even the main characters, should ever be appear to be impervious to harm. Reviews often have certain clichés that I try to avoid but this book could certainly be referred to as a tour de force. The graphic scenes depicted went further than any of RR Haywood's previous work but didn't seem out of place or too extreme in the context of the world that he created.

From the start of the book, and particularly in the interviews between Michael and Charlotte, it is immediately obvious how much research has been done by the author into his subject matter. When writing the Undead series Mr Haywood could set the parameters as he went along, as there are no rules to conform to when it comes to the zombie apocalypse, but here, when dealing with mental health issues, namely schizophrenia, there are patterns of behaviour that have been researched and documented, and Mr Haywood did a thorough job in his portrayal.

Overall, I loved the book and found it immersive and engrossing and I sincerely hope there will be a sequel (it was certainly left open for one). It shows that RR Haywood can change direction in his work and transfer all the skills we know and love to that new direction.
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VINE VOICEon 17 May 2014
Searing, evocative prose? Check!
Superb characterization? Check!
Fantastic action? Check!
Love, horror and deep, dark dismay? Check!
Wildly abundant imagination? Hell yeah, check!

Oh goodie. It’s all here in this brand, spanking new series from RR Haywood. And whilst we’re on the subject of spanking, please be advised this is a definitely adults only, full on, graphic-in-parts novel. There are sexy parts. Well handled, tasteful, loving, exotic sexy parts. Horrid, disconcerting, eww-making sexy parts. You’ve been warned (oh yes, that’s right…start downloading now. Have you no shame?!)

This is not an Undead novel. Do not come to this expecting zombies. What you will get though is a beautifully, heartbreakingly realized depiction of mental health disintegration and salvation. With swords and gore and sex.

There is a redemptive love story here that takes a dark turn, highlighting how hard it is to find someone you can let your guard down with. Someone who won’t try to make you be something you’re not. Someone who will love you for who you are; whether that is a medication-depressed guy recovering from a psychotic break or the savior of an alternate reality full of blazing righteousness and strength; or even if you’re both at the same time.

In many ways this novel defies categorization. It is, as my title indicates, an eclectic blend of mind-bending alternate reality and heavily rooted realism.

Michael is a physically fit and well built young man who exhibits symptoms that those around him believe are indicative of a significant mental health condition. Medicated to control these feelings of impending doom and the need to take up arms against an unseen foe, he is seen as damaged and unstable by those around him. Yet it is apparent from the start that this man with integrity, dignity and honor is perhaps the most stable of those around him who believe they are qualified to diagnose his mental illness whilst obscuring their own.

Only he is not suffering from a break with reality. Michael is one of the few individuals in this world who has access to another world that shadows our own. A dream world where anything could be possible. And a place under immense threat from a horrific foe. A foe that Michael might just have the tools and the strength to vanquish.

One of the most important elements of an enduring fantasy epic is the ability of a work to create its own mythology. As with the very best in this genre, what works and keeps readers engaged is that fragile balance between concrete information and things you cannot explain. Watching those mysteries and puzzles unfold, revealing layers that were originally hidden is a stunning achievement.

Whereas the Undead is about a catastrophic moment in time and what comes after, The Second Reality allows us, as readers, a window on a complex, established and evolving world. A world with a multilayered history. The sense of things being done because over time, it has evolved that way is exceptionally hard to pull off with authenticity. When a world other than our own is depicted with coherence and logic as well as difference and the fantastic, something special occurs. RR Haywood manages that with apparent ease. But what makes this novel different from the oft-plundered canon of sword and battle rich fantasy works is that this novel straddles two interleaving timelines; two established worlds; two realities. Whilst I liked the sections set in the Second Reality for their verve and audacity, I adored the sections set in our world and depicting Michael.

A strong supporting cast and a wealth of possibilities make this a great start into a new and enticing world. There are sword-wielding battles aplenty and as the novel comes to its close, there is a sense of breathless possibility that this journey and this world have far more to show us in sequels to come.

Like all RR Haywood’s novels, it is the strong and complex characters that kept me reading, even though fantasy is less my comfort zone than horror or crime. Although I didn’t love this as much as The Undead series I think I fell a bit in love with Michael. Though unlike the brittle Charlotte, I loved both the strength and the vulnerability. Michael is the driver of this novel. His dignity is like a blazing klieg light in a dark room full of candles. More please.
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on 4 May 2014
Like many others I was drawn to this book due to my complete devotion of Mr Haywood's fantastic Undead Series and also a discreet nudge from a certain Mr Schleicher who also has me hooked to his Dead Life Series.
I have to admit I was a little unsure in the beginning, it was, in my opinion, a little slow to start and I found my self struggling to understand the purpose and direction of the storylines that I was being introduced to however, as you may have guessed, the further into the Second Reality I ventured the more engrossed I became.
The characters are so well written that you cannot help but be completely immersed within their worlds and with every twist, and there were a fair few, I was drawn deeper and deeper in until I was physically unable to put the book down. There is so much to love about this story including heroes, love stories, monsters, intrigue and fantasy worlds, I believe there is something for every reader to truly enjoy here.
I now don't know if I am looking forward to Day 15 or the second part of The Second Reality more, in fact I'm not going to choose. I can't wait for both to be published and I am, as always, in awe of authors who can sculpt and create such fantastic landscapes that we readers can escape to and enjoy in such a complete way.
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on 2 April 2014
Have just finished this book, really really enjoyed it. It has taken me on a roller coaster of emotions, which is the sign of an amazing author, he makes the reader care about the characters in the book.

He has created a whole new world, again with rich and well written characters, even when i didn't like them, I felt for them when things went wrong.
In his two leading men, i think hes created two more hero's, Eddy, sweet and likable and Michael an almost Heathcliffe type of leading man, and the way that man speaks! :)

It has some fantastic battle scenes, up there with the Undead ones, again i think this is where Mr Haywood is unrivaled, but it is one definitely for adults this time though, The mental breakdown of one of his characters is not only beautifully written, albeit hard to witness, but you can tell its written with empathy and insight.

Don't want to give away anything about his baddies, safe to say they are vile! i really want to know whats happening next and cant wait to read the follow up. It still winds me up i cant just pick this author up in the supermarket, while kindles are great i like to feel a book.

My Haywood, you have knocked it out of the ball park again!
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on 2 April 2014
Just finished it wasnt to sure at first but being a fan of all Richard's work so far I had to give it a go and am I glad I did absolutely loved the story had me hooked from chapter one it has a maturity which I was suprised at and you could tell he loved telling this story as much as I loved reading it 10 out of 10 now he's going to hassled for the next book in this series as well as the rest of his work brilliant well written give it a go.
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on 17 April 2014
Readers of RR Haywood's previous novels will be well aware of how well he is able to craft believable and rounded characters that you can't help rooting for (or against) and he hasn't disappointed here.

Around these characters he's created an exhilarating tale of fantasy, love and violence that you won't be able to stop reading until the dramatic finale.

An excellent story from what's proving to be an excellent writer.
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on 10 April 2014
Really enjoyed this book. It is different from the undead series in many ways but in others very similar - fight scenes and the camaraderie among the guards. I felt the sex scenes were a wee bit 'fifty shades' in places and like them I'm afraid I sped read a lot. I generally find other peoples sex boring. Also the descriptions of the evil characters private parts were repeated a little too often and usually arose when I was eating something. I don't MIND its Time to Change my eating habits anyway !!
I loved the main characters and am quite intrigued by Benjamin. However, while I should be sympathetic to Charlotte I found her exceedingly annoying and wanted to slap her -and that was in the earlier parts of the book.
Looking forward to the next book of this series and of course Day 15
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on 28 June 2014
I started reading The Undead series by Mr Haywood midway through last year. I was instantly addicted. I approached The Second Reality with some trepidation, as past experience with some of my favourite authors, has shown me that a change of genre can have disappointing results. My fears were unfounded. Completely. The concepts put forward in The Second Reality are something new to me. The writing style is engaging and the characters are very believable and recognisable.
This is a tale of love, loyalty, bravery, altruism and deception, painted using vibrant colours and shaded with the darker aspects of human nature.
A tale of black and white and truly grey areas.
I cannot wait for the next instalment.
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on 7 April 2014
Am a bit of a slow reader, so i'm still making my way through this. But so far, i am not disappointed!

Haywood paints such a clear picture of the scenes and characters in your mind and the relationships between them is brilliantly done.

I like that RR Haywood is not afraid to "go there" with mental illness issues. Having been personally affected by mental illness, it's clear to see that he has done his homework around it too. MIND. It’s Time to Change.

I intend to update my review when i've finished the book!! If it's as good as his completely unrelated Undead series, i'm sure it'll be getting 5 stars from me!
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