World Book Reviews
TEMPLE : INCARNATIONS by Steven Savile
Review by Joe Kroeger
With the publication of Temple: Incarnations, Steven Savile once again takes his faithful readers by the hand and leads them deep into a dark and despairing world alive with an intense surreal quality that is sure to haunt your imagination long after the book is safely back on your bookshelf. After following in the footsteps of the main character through this vividly detailed nightmare landscape, it is easy to see why Steven Savile is considered to be one of the finest dark fantasy writers in the genre today. With a consistent lyrical voice and an originality that expertly captures the darkness as well as the beauty that lies deep within the heart of every person, Steven Savile is one author that is well deserved of his position within the literary community.
Originally published as a four part series that appeared in the Apex Digest, Temple: Incarnations brings these stories together into one novella that beautifully chronicles the heart-breaking and desperate quest of Temple as he searches for the truth behind his very existence. Awaking within a quiet motel room with no idea of who he is or how he arrive there, Temple adopts his name from the battered Gideon Bible placed on the night stand before venturing out into a decaying world poisoned with death and darkness.
With Temple: Incarnations, Steven Savile has created a novella that is not to be leisurely read in passing but begs to be consumed by the reader in one sitting. This novella is meant to be taken in and experienced until your heart literally aches with the despair and sadness that drips from each poetically written page. With perfect pacing, this novella moves along without a single wasted sentence towards a brilliantly realized conclusion that will give the reader pause before closing the back cover.
As always, Savile’s prose dances elegantly across the pages as if he exhaustively contemplated every single word before committing it to print which creates an end result that comes alive with imagery that imbeds itself deeply within the reader’s imagination. I found myself repeatedly pausing to reread a passage just to revel in the magic of Savile’s obvious love of the language. With the beautiful writing along side characters that feel alive as you or me, Temple: Incarnations makes for an amazing reading experience that you are not bound to forget anytime soon.
Temple : Incarnations by Steven Savile is one of those must-reads that quietly sneaks onto the literary scene and becomes virtually impossible to ignore. This book certainly would have no problem proudly sharing shelf space along side of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. I have no reservations about giving this novella my highest recommendations and suggest that every lover of dark fantasy fiction get their hands on this book as soon as humanly possible.
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MATCH TO FLAME: THE FICTIONAL PATHS TO FAHRENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury
Reviewed by Joe Kroeger
Ray Bradbury is one of those remarkable authors whose fiction has touched the lives of every reader and influenced the majority of writers who have ever picked up one of his books. The evidence of the effects that his fiction has had is far reaching as his influence stretches out into a wide variety of genres from Horror to Science Fiction. One of his most universally recognized novels with readers and writers alike is Fahrenheit 451, and, for the first time in one volume, Ray Bradbury collects a handful of stories that consciously, and unconsciously, led to the creation of one of his finest classic works of literature. Match To Flame: The Fictional Paths To Fahrenheit 451 is one of those rare must have books for any lover of fiction who has ever enjoyed the magical words of Ray Bradbury.
This book opens with a well-written introduction more than worthy of this exceptional collection in which Ray Bradbury informs his readers about how the imagery of a WWI book burning became stuck within his mind with such ferocity that it unconsciously began to worm its way into his writing in a variety of forms. With a special added introduction from Richard Matheson in which he shares a series of correspondence between himself and Bradbury and two well thought-out essays concerning the classic work of Fahrenheit 451, you will find yourself well prepared to dive into an enjoyable collection of Ray Bradbury’s fiction.
As you read through this variety of beautifully written stories, whether embracing the classic horror style as in the vampire tale Pillar Of Fire or the dark human story in Carnival Of Madness, you feel as if you are a personal part of Bradbury writing process as he works his way toward a masterpiece. With these fourteen stories, two of which are never before published novellas, you get to read the essence of what makes sitting down to a collection of Ray Bradbury’s fiction an exceptional reading experience.
Culminating with The Fireman, the story that was expanded upon by Bradbury to become Fahrenheit 451, this book beautifully documents the literary journey of one of the finest short story writers as he writes his way to one of the most studied classic work of fiction. Even with the heavy price tag, Match To Flame: The Fictional Paths To Fahrenheit 451 is a book that is well deserved of a special place on the bookshelf of any true fan of Ray Bradbury’s fiction.
Match To Flame: The Fictional Paths To Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is sure to be a book that any fan is sure to regret not grapping a copy while they have the chance. I highly recommend adding this memorable volume to any literature collection before it disappears.
* * * *
THE WICKED by James Newman
Review by Mark Justice
James Newman has done something truly remarkable. In a horror field increasingly crowded with novellas padded out to novel length and surrealistic catastrophes masquerading as stories, Newman has managed to create a unique throwback of a novel that’s as fresh as anything published in recent memory.
In The Wicked Newman takes some horror tropes – the big city family moved to a small town, an unnatural evil that possesses the poor rural hicks – and, remarkably, doesn’t turn them on their ear. Instead, he employs the powerful narrative skill he first displayed in the coming-of-age story Midnight Rain to make what should seem old and used-up glow with the shine of a new Cadillac right off the assembly line.
David, his pregnant wife Kate and their seven-year-old daughter flee New York City after a horrific crime. They settle in a small North Caroline town where they hope to start over in a safe environment. Instead, David and his family discover that their town is home to a demon named Moloch, summoned by a mass-murder at a local orphanage. As Moloch feeds his hunger for human souls, the body count grows, and it’s up to David and an elderly neighbor to battle the demon for the sake of David’s family.
In less assured hands The Wicked might have been a hackneyed B-movie of a book, but Newman’s affection for the genre and enthusiasm for the story lifts The Wicked above its 80s throwback roots.
Just as he did in Midnight Rain, Newman creates a believable cast of characters and a town so genuine and familiar that you might have pedaled your bike down its streets as a child. The writer also delivers an ending that fits perfectly with the tone of the novel,
a perfect blend of melancholia and hopefulness.
As fine a debut as Midnight Rain was, The Wicked proves to be an even stronger work, the best novel I’ve read this year. It’s a love letter to the genre and it marks Newman as one of the most promising writers in the field.
* * * *
THE CAGE by Jason Brannon
Review by César Puch
Jason Brannon, who last year brought us the great Winds of Change, returns with his first novel The Cage, an entertaining thriller that will sure appeal to the most adventurous.
On what seems to be an enjoyable day, Captain Jack Omaha arrives to The Preserve—once a highly renowned zoo, which now seems to be unable to step out of the red—with a business proposal for the manager, Kingston Owens. Even though the zoo is home to more than 2,000 species, Omaha can provide something unique: Captain Omaha’s Crytozoological Fair and Freak Show, a collection of nature’s most elusive and legendary creatures whose existence has been questioned for years. The potential for profit is certainly enormous, but to what cost? Is The Preserve ready to house such feral beings?
Kingston finds his answer in the worst possible way when a storm arrives. As bad as the weather is for business, what comes with it is far worse: The Dragon of Bone Island, one of Omaha’s mythical creatures, starts releasing animals in a desperate search of its mate. What began as an ideal family day becomes a nightmare when the beasts start devouring the visitors and staff. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg because Omaha’s creatures are also on the loose. And if you thought being hunted down by a lion, a tiger or a bear was bad enough, wait till the Beast of Exmoor, the Jersey Devil, the Wendigo and the Chupacabra come after you.
The Cage is an exciting read where the suspense keeps building up with every page. The stakes are raised even higher when the Peters family is brought in. Grant Peters, a man who is trying to save his marriage and family after his wife’s betrayal, not only has to find a way of keeping his wife and kids safe, but must also bring forward his skills as a psychologist to understand creatures with an intelligence that almost match that of a human being. Meanwhile, Archer, a corrupt cop once betrayed and left for dead by Omaha, has his own agenda to follow as he seeks revenge.
When I first heard of the premise of this book, I was worried it would become basically a compendium of mythical creatures. Fortunately, The Cage goes beyond merely presenting oddity after oddity. This is a full ride. Brannon certainly knows how to grip the readers and keep them turning pages. The peril his characters are put into is accompanied by vivid images of the carnage around them, complete with pink-muzzled carnivores and body-littered zoo grounds. The final third of the book is as exciting as it is gruesome, and the ending will stay with you for a long time.
I should mention there were some things that didn’t quite work for me. Archer’s motivation, for example, kept changing throughout the book, and it was never clear if he was driven by vengeance, redemption or guilt. The same happened at times with Omaha, though to a lesser degree. While the author made an effort to show readers a more human side of Omaha, it didn’t come out quite right, in my opinion. Also, I’m not entirely sold to the psychic character that tags along with Archer, although I did sort of get used to her as I kept reading. However, Brannon is a very promising newcomer—he proved it with Winds of Change—and I’m sure he will only get better with future deliveries.
It’s interesting to note that in the tradition of other writers such as King, Bradbury and Braunbeck, Brannon seems to be creating his own setting for his work in Crowley’s Point (there’s even a reference to his story Graffiti, blink and you’ll miss it).
All in all, a fun, exciting, action-packed thriller with high doses of suspense. Pick it up and get ready to run for your life in a cryptozoological adventure you won’t forget.
Black Death Books
* * * * *
THE BEAST HOUSE by Richard Laymon
Review by Dennis Duncan
People call it The Beast House. A old rundown house that has been turned into a tourist attraction. People who have dared enter inside its walls at night have usually been found horribly mutilated the next day.
The owners of the house say that it's the Beast. A hideous creature that roams the house at night searching for its next victim. Some of the locals say that the owners made the Beast up so they could make money on tourism. They believe that the murders were committed by either a serial killer or the owners themselves. Others believe that there really is a Beast and it still lives inside the house walls. One thing they all agree on is that it isn't wise to be anywhere near the house when the sun sets.
The Beast House is Laymon's second installment in the Beast House trilogy. I loved The Cellar so I was expecting great things when I started this book; I was not disappointed. It drew me in on the first page and kept me hooked the whole ride. Richard Laymon has become one of my favorite horror writers because of books like Beast House. I devoured this book in one night and when I finally finished I was left feeling
very tired but satisfied The story starts with a
bang and never lets up. There wasn't one part of this story that I found boring or stale. It is very rare to find a sequel that's as good as its predecessor but The Beast House is one of those exceptions. I enjoyed it as much as The Cellar, and I cant wait to finish this trilogy up with The Midnight Tour.
I highly recommend Beast House to all horror fictions fans. It is a fast, fun, blood filled ride that never disappoints. Laymon is one hell of a story teller. Go grab a copy for yourself and see what I mean.
* * * * *
DYING TO LIVE by Kim Paffenroth
Review by Dennis Duncan
The world as we know it no longer exists. The armies of the mightiest nations lay in ruin. Governments have lost all measure of control. Billions of people are dead, and those who are lucky enough to find themselves still alive face a nightmarish landscape.
The Dead have risen and they seek the flesh of the living. They hunt their prey tirelessly and without any remorse. All that made them human in life no longer exists in death. They are mindless killing machines. Those who are still alive in this new world fight to survive. They live on the scraps of a lost world, and hide from the endless hordes of the dead. Hope is almost all but lost in this world ruled by the dead.
Jonah Caine has managed to survive in this new world.
He has walked and fought alone for over a year surviving on whatever he can find all the while hoping to find other survivors. He lucks out one day and finds a group of people that have barricaded themselves in a museum. They have managed to survive the dead and have formed a small community. They welcome Jonah and he soon becomes part of their society. He meets the spiritual leader of the group, Milton and Jonah soon learns that he holds a special power over the dead. He can roam among them without being harmed. He can actually control them to a certain degree. He also meets Jack a military man that keeps the group together. He organizes raids in a nearby city searching for supplies and other survivors. Jonah has finally found a place to call home, but the happiness is short lived. They soon find out that the dead aren't the only thing they have to fear. They find another group of survivors, but they have no interest in living together in peace.
They are a ruthless group that only want to destroy those who are not like them. Jonah and is group must now fight for their very existence in this world gone mad.
Anyone who loves Zombie Fiction knows that Permuted Press is publishing the best writers in the genre today and Dying to Live is their best release to date.
Dying to Live isn't your typical Zombie Story. Mr. Paffenroth has written a action packed story that is at the same time very deep and intelligent. Dying to Live has all the elements that fans of the genre love.
It has plenty of gore and nonstop action, but it also has well developed characters that stay with you long after done reading. It also has a very deep spiritual and social commentary that got me to pondering my own views of God and Society. Mr. Paffenroth has the heart of a philosopher and he has written a story that will stay with me for a very long time. I will go so far to say that is is one of the best Zombie Stories ever written. I know that I am not the only one that feels that way either. Dying to Live has made Mr Paffenroth one of the hottest new names in Horror Fiction.
I highly highly recommend Dying to Live to all Zombie Fiction fans and fans of Horror Fiction in general. It is one heck of a story that will leave even the most jaded readers feeling satisfied. Permuted Press has published another winner.
* * * * *
ALL TOGETHER DEAD by Charlaine Harris
Review by Hank Wagner
The first hundred or so pages of the seventh Sookie Stackhouse novel finds Harris’ heroine in familiar territory, on her home ground of Shreveport, Louisiana, dealing with relationships, friendly, familial, employment related, and romantic. A third of the novel goes by in this leisurely manner until the story suddenly heats up nine chapters in, as Sookie attends a vampire summit on the shores of Lake Michigan as an advisor to the vampire queen on Louisiana. There, as they say, the games truly begin, with political intrigue and murder dominating the early part of the gathering, and terrorism and tragedy its final hours. Through it all, the telepathic Sookie is "Johnny (Jenny?)-on-the-spot", providing a first-hand perspective on the intriguing world of the supernatural folk that exists alongside our own.
No review is going to influence a fan of this series to buy or forgo buying this novel; Harris has a built in audience for her work, and knows exactly what it craves, rendering the series immune to disparaging remarks from antagonistic reviewers. That said, All Together Dead, while quite readable and entertaining in its own right, is not an ideal jumping on point for Sookie virgins, as it feels more like a transitional work, touching on some continuing plot threads but resolving very few. So, for those already enthralled by this series, you won’t be disappointed. For those who haven’t yet sampled Harris’ exotic wares, better to start from the beginning, you won’t be so confused that way.
* * * *
I WAS A SASQUATCH SEX SLAVE by S.D. Hintz, Jerrod Balzer, and Mark McLaughlin
Review by Kelli Jones
This collection reads like the literary love child of the Marquis De Sade, Trey Parker, and Matt Stone, if such a thing were possible. Included in the collection are short stories that deliver on the cover's promise of ripped-from-the-tabloid-headlines subject matter, and the goods are at once gory and hilarious.
Balzer's first story, "I was a Sasquatch Sex Slave," puts the narrator and his friends through an awful encounter with several of the mythic beasts only to deliver a satisfyingly funny punchline at the end. Balzer's second story, "Scandalous Love Triangle Between Scientist and Two Bears" made my skin crawl because of the actions of the appropriately named central character, Randy. His "Abominable Snow Woman Bodyslams Igloo in Crazed Rampage" is a twisted marauding monster short with characters dropping like flies or crew members of Alien. There's one image of a giggling, fleeing snow woman that's disgusting and hilarious all at once. The answer to the question posed by his final story's title, "Why do Skunk Apes Stink?" is not for those with weak stomachs. Old Man Winker's manner of speaking sounds less distinct from the narration at some points than at others, but this is a minor quibble. He has an interesting, disgusting story to relate.
Hintz's "TT Exclusive! Abduction Gone Bad" just gets zanier as it rolls along, constantly begging the question, "No, really, how much worse will this get?" His second entry, "Freakenstein vs. the Undead" made me shudder and laugh simultaneously. These two conclude with punchline endings, but both are amusing rides throughout. "Ritzy Party Ruined by Raging Pets" had a similar effect, with the addition of some pity for the narrator who comes to one ugly realization. My only quibble with this one is that I would have preferred more details about the setting, but things move quickly in this fun, disastrous little ride.
McLaughlin's "Same-Sex Sasquatch Marriage Shocker" introduces an endearing narrator. I'd like to see him pop up again in another story.
These are well-paced entertaining shorts, but if you're violently anti-gore, I wouldn't recommend it. If you have ever paused in your channel surfing to watch Sightings or flipped through the Weekly World News just out of curiosity, you'll find this collection fits like an old shoe...with a squishy surprise at the bottom, likely left behind by the title's elusive monster. In their next issue, the authors intend to expose the Loch Ness monster as a womanizer and reveal what sog monkeys do when you're asleep at night. For now, enjoy this!
* * * * *
VACATION by Jeremy C. Shipp
Review by Kelli Jones
The citizens of the society in Vacation are required to take a one-year corporate-sponsored trip away from their daily routines which, while comfortable and familiar, may prove boring for some, including narrator, Bernard Johnson. He sets his story up as a letter to his parents explaining his disappearance.
Bernard himself is a character who seems to grow up drastically given his circumstances, and the revelations about supporting characters, their motives, and even their very identities will keep you turning pages quickly, even wishing for eleventh-hour miracles.
There is a great deal of commentary on how individuals "shape reality because they don't like the shape reality's in," enough to make you think twice about every rationalization you've ever formed. Bernard is an English teacher who claims "writers may think their words are important, but I'm the one who decides what those words mean." Bernard intends his own words for his parents, but with no other such English teacher to help them through it, they are free to interpret them as they choose and draw their own conclusions, even comforting ones, about their son's fate. The reader might be left reevaluating how he or she "reads" the world. You might even reevaluate your last vacation.
This is a headtrip worth taking, and a short, fast-paced one at that. It's full of lines and passages worth more than a few post-it notes, but really, the whole thing is worth a reread. There's something energetic and purposeful about every string of words in here, telling the reader when to stop and go and pause for a minute. You're in good hands with this writer who gets a lot out of these few words. Some of the bizarre turns of phrase are jarring until the realization sets in that these are the words best suited to the situation.
Get your hands on this one now.
Raw Dog Screaming Press
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BOOK OF LEGION by Victor Heck
Review by Dennis Duncan
His name is Legion. A Demon that was stripped of his true name long ago. He was a part of the great war in Heaven. God cast him, Lucifer and his countless other minions into the depths of Hell; he has been there for countless years hoping to one day walk the earth again. He soon finds a way out of Hell and back to Earth.
Dr. Holleman an evil psychiatrist has done an unspeakable thing to Edward, a patient in his care. The act is so horrible that is has caused Edward to lose his sanity. Dr. Holleman is a worshiper of Legion and by causing Edward to lose his mind he has opened the door for Legion to come back to earth through Edward's body. Legion now roams the earth and he wants to establish his own Kingdom of Darkness. He claims to be the second coming of Jesus Christ and with the help of Ethan Lathrop, a corrupt TV Evangelist in the Bible Belt of Southern Missouri, he goes about collecting the souls of those who give themselves to him. Their souls give him power and the more souls he gets the more power he gains. They no longer have free will, and they become damned to do his bidding. They walk with their master going from town to town collecting new followers. His power grows and it soon looks like he can't be stopped from establishing his Dark Kingdom.
Edward's soul was sent to Hell by Legion and Dr. Holleman, but he has found a way back to earth. He along with Sylvia, a woman who died and went to Hell, are sent back in the bodies of two other mental patients in Dr. Holleman's care and their job is to send Legion back to Hell before his powers become to great for him to be stopped. The final confrontation is about to happen and if they fail Legion will become the new ruler of Earth.
Book of Legion has loads of action and gore along with memorable characters. I could not put this book down.
I must warn however that this book has a particular scene involving Edward's daughters that was very hard to read. I am a father and the scene brought up very strong emotions in me. I wanted to turn away but the story wouldn't allow me too. I was sucked into this dark world Mr. Heck created. It was hardcore to say the least. It was the most brutal thing I have read since J.F. Gonzalez's Survivor.
I highly recommend Book of Legion to all Horror fans.
* * * * *
AT EASE WITH THE DEAD edited by Barbara Roden and Christopher Roden
Review by Joe Kroeger
The horror genre is usually plagued by a number of anthologies that fall short of being an exceptional collection of fiction thus failing to become a truly memorable reading experience. The unflinching exception to this anomaly is the series of ghost stories and supernatural tales published by Ash-Tree Press. With the fourth outing into this rich ghostly territory, Ash-Tree Press collects a thick volume of horror fiction generously sprinkled with highly detailed and atmospheric tales written by some of the finest writers to grace the horror community. At Ease With The Dead, edited by Barbara Roden and Christopher Roden, is the latest shining example of how exceptionally great a horror anthology is capable of being.
Of the thirty stories collected within this brimming anthology, I failed to come across any that felt as if they did not belong within these brilliant pages, but, as with most collections, a handful of tales rose above the rest as truly amazing short stories. That honor most assuredly must fall upon the stunningly written Mr Poo-Poo by Reggie Oliver, which shows the ability of well-crafted quiet horror story to disturb the reader without resorting to the shock value of simple blood and gore. Oliver’s story, above any of the others within this collection, left me the most unsettled without presenting itself as an in-your-face type of horror story. Mr Poo-Poo was as well crafted and effectively disturbing as any tale to come from the pen of Charles L. Grant or Ramsey Campbell.
Dhost by Melanie Tem is a surprisingly haunting tale of a little girl who is slowly being affected by the memory of a father she barely knows. With an exceptional narrative voice, Melanie Tem writes one of the standout pieces of fiction of the anthology. With his trademark prose and never-ending originality, Gary McMahon creates a touching story that is sure to stay close to your heart with My Grandfather’s Ghosts. This selection is just a small glimpse at McMahon’s amazing ability to craft an exceptional coming-of-age story.
The Tank by Paul Finch and A Small Cold Hand by Simon Bestwick are two completely opposite examples of the many forms a wholly original ghost story can take. Finch shows his readers just how powerful the connection between fellow soldiers can be with his ghost story set deep within the heart of World War II. Simon Bestwick’s tale, A Small Cold Hand, is the quintessential haunted ghost story perfectly crafted with a touching ending that is sure to send a chill down your spine.
The one story that truly makes this collection well worth getting your hands on is the rich writing and outstanding originality of Kealan Patrick Burke’s haunting ghost story, Visiting Hours. With Burke’s memorable imagery and heart-felt emotion packed into a smooth story that reads with a well-oiled refinement, visiting hours tells a touching story of a son visiting his father’s deathbed with an ending that is sure to surprise even the most seasoned reader.
If you are looking for a finely-tuned anthology that will supply you with a great deal of exceptional reading sure to carry you well into the night, you cannot go wrong with this collection of supernatural tales. At Ease With The Dead edited by Barbara Roden and Christopher Roden is a phenomenal collection that is sure to become a must-read for any short story enthusiast.
* * * *
INTO THE DREAMLANDS edited by Jason Andrew and Michael Dyer
Review by Joe Kroeger
Dreams are one those widely understood and imaginatively used elements of horror fiction that adds an atmospheric chill to any well- crafted story. Fully understanding the magic that dreams can wield within fiction, Jason Andrew and Michael Dyer have brought together twelve spectacular and horrifying tales from some of the freshest voices in the horror community to create one of the better anthologies to be published this year. Into The Dreamlands is an outstanding collection stuffed full of stories that are sure to keep the reader awake well into the night.
So Runs The World Away by Caitlin R. Keirnan is the perfect opening story for this collection with the surreal quality of the writing and highly imaginative characters that seem pulled straight from the most bizarre of dreams. Going from Keirnan’s disturbing vision straight into the magical fairy tale feel of The Book Of Dreams by Louise Bohmer perfectly sets the mood for the other stories yet to come.
Before The Fall by Bev Vincent and Dreams, Wholesale by A.C. Wise were the two stories that were the most fun to read of the collection. Bev Vincent spins a richly developed tale of a man plagued by horrifically vivid dreams of falling that reads like a classic Twilight Zone episode. A.C. Wise tells a humorous tale of insomnia, dreams and insanity that will have you rereading the story to make sure you didn’t miss any of the brilliant aspects of this expertly written piece of fiction.
Other stories, like the expertly plotted Boyfriend.Com by Amy J.Benesch or the haunting vision of Roadkill by Christa Faust, stuck in my mind above the rest with their beautifully written prose well thought out ideas. However, the one story that truly rose above the rest with its stunning prose and exceptionally original writing style was Wolf Dreams by Gary McMahon. McMahon writes an amazing story about a comic book writer who leaves behind a fabled sketch that is told to have the power to lead an individual into the “Dream Quarter”. With rich imagery and an ending that is sure to stick in your mind long after you have read the other stories, Wolf Dreams is well worth the price of admission.
Even though not every story came across as a perfect fit for this anthology, Into The Dreamlands edited by Jason Andrew and Michael Dyer was none-the-less a truly enjoyable reading experience that I would highly recommend to anyone.
* * * *
STAINS by Paul Finch
Review by Joe Kroeger
After cracking open the cover of Stains by Paul Finch, I instantly felt like I was relaxing within the threadbare upholstered seat with a warm bag of popcorn as the theater darkened and the big screen warmed up. As I read through the novellas and short stories contained within the pages, I realized that Paul Finch truly has what it takes to craft an all-out full throttle horror story with enough frightening chills and real life depth that you would swear you were watching it on the big screen. With Finch’s background in TV and movies surfacing from the depth of his expertly written prose, each of these stories reads like a grand-scaled epic horror extravaganza that is sure to remain locked within your memory long after the final magical sentence. Every single page of Stains by Paul Finch is an exceptional reading experience that is more than worth the price of admission.
The true genius of Paul Finch’s collection lies with The Stain and Ape Of God, the stories that bookend the eight tales residing within these pages. Starting out this collection with a bang, The Stain, the largest of the novellas, follows the evening of a scriptwriter who is commissioned to script a sequel to one of the biggest cult horror movies. As the group of people behind the movie spends the night trapped within the controversial house that the original movie was filmed, supernatural, as well as human, horrors send everyone to the edge of terror. Not only is this one of the most intricately detailed and dark novellas I read in a long time, but Finch also gives his readers an intimate and disturbing vision of the movie industry and the individuals working in them. The Stain sets the perfect tone for this amazing horror collection.
Ape Of God, the novella closing out this book, perfectly captures the limits of human despair as a string of horrific murders plague the normalcy of one man’s life. With a shocking ending that is sure to leave you reeling, this novella treats the readers to a deeply disturbing glimpse of the state of the media today. This story seems to perfectly wrap-up the emotion and horror of this book only to leave the reader wishing there were more pages to turn.
Whether it is the fairy tale feel of The Gatehouse or the startling darkness that resides within the heart of man in Desecration Day, each of these stories contains gruesome horror that could very well exist within our everyday reality. Dressed up with Finch’s phenomenal prose and completely fleshed-out characters, this collection is a shining example of how epic horror should be written.
If this is your first time venturing into Paul Finch’s imagination, then I really envy the exciting yet darkly disturbing journey you are about to take within the pages of Stains. I highly recommend snatching up a copy of STAINS by Paul Finch while they last because this is sure to be a book that future horror writers will take their inspiration from.
Gray Friar Press
* * * *
THE BLUE CHEER by Ed Lynskey
Review by Joe Kroeger
Having been a dedicated fan of the private detective novel since the time I started to read, I am constantly looking for the next big name in the genre to appear on the scene. Never hesitating to lose myself within the expertly written tales by such authors as Michael Connelly or Robert Crais, I jumped at the chance to read The Blue Cheer by Ed Lynskey and instantly realized that I had found “the next big name.” From the expertly written narrative voice to the compact plotline, The Blue Cheer held my interest captive as flipped through the pages in a frenzied one-sitting reading marathon. Without a doubt, The Blue Cheer by Ed Lynskey could valiantly stand up against any of the big name authors who happen to be gracing the retail bookshelves today.
P.I. Frank Johnson has hidden himself away in a secluded cabin near Scarab, West Virginia in an effort to escape past memories and enjoy the quiet. What little bit of peace he found is shattered as a Stinger missile explodes in the air over his property sending Frank Johnson to investigate the reasons behind it. As personal attack rain down on him or anyone around him, Frank finds himself in the crosshairs of a racist cult who calls themselves “The Blue Cheer” leaving him to bring justice to these self-proclaimed terrorists.
Lynskey’s writing had a tight and realistic narrative voice reminiscent of Michael Connelly creating a smooth reading experience that moves with an unflinching velocity. With his fully drawn characters who seem to pull themselves off the page and right into the real world, you feel as if you are actually sharing the experience right along P.I. Frank Johnson. He wastes very little time on flowery descriptions and unrelated rambling, which keeps the story traveling at a solid break-neck pace until the nerve-jangling conclusion.
The story did not contain as many twists and surprises as I had hoped for, but the great writing and beautifully described atmosphere more than made up for that slight transgression. I truly enjoyed losing myself within the excitement and danger of Frank Johnson’s world and impatiently look forward to the next adventure to come from the mind of Ed Lynskey.
Anyone looking for a fun and exciting summer read, you absolutely cannot go wrong by picking up a copy of The Blue Cheer by Ed Lynskey for a great book you won’t be able to put down.
* * * *
SOMETHING OF THE NIGHT by Paul Cave
Review by Patricia Snodgrass
Something of the Night by Paul Cave creates an interesting new twist on an old story. Set during a post apocalyptic era, the Earth is shrouded in perpetual darkness after being struck by an asteroid. During this time, Man discovers that he is not alone. Creatures once relegated to myth and legend leave their dark and dank hiding places and conquer the Earth.
Paul Cave poses the question, how do you feed a planet full of vampires when there are so very few humans left? Cave’s vampires answer this question by creating human breeding stations. Since it takes nine months to wait for dinner, however, the vampires cross breed with humans, hoping to add to the larder sooner, but with disastrous results. The only other option is to go after the few pockets of humans living in underground complexes and bunkers.
There are lots of interesting possibilities in this book. The use of the Ray of Hope, for example, is an ultraviolet gun used to fight off vampires. This is an intriguing way to wipe out vampire hordes. It also does something really cool at the end of the novel which I won’t tell you about. Further, there are vampires who are nothing like any kind of vampire you’ll ever meet. Ironically, this small faction becomes humankind’s greatest ally against their vicious cousins.
The book starts off slowly and somewhat awkwardly. After the intense interrogation tracker Cain and his fellows receive upon returning to their underground bunker, you can’t help but wonder how the mechanic named Squirrel and his friend Alice and Mr. Fleas, the Jack Russell Terrier mix (who seems to be the brightest member of the trio) is able to take a truck out to test on the proving track, only to take a joy ride into an abandoned town. There they get waylaid by a particularly nasty pack of wolves. In an attempt to find refuge, they encounter an insane vampire hiding out in the jail who captures them and uses Squirrel as bait to lure wolves.
During the encounter between Squirrel and the mad vampire, I couldn’t help wonder why, when Squirrel got the rifle away from him that he just didn’t shoot him right there and the?.
But it was a good thing he didn’t because that particular vampire has an interesting destiny to fulfill.
The story really takes off in mid book, when Cain meets Tate and her companions, and the Huey that they’ve stowed away. There you find out about their mission, to obtain the Ray of Hope and use it in the last Great War between the humans and the vampires.
I was afraid the ending would be predictable, but it was far from that. Whatever slack the first of the book has is made up for in the end. The ending was great.
There are inconsistencies, that although not fatal in themselves; were enough to make me want to stop reading. For example, Squirrel and his friends pass by an abandoned Buick on their way to town. Alice tells him the car’s gas tank is empty. On several other occasions, they, Cain and others pass by the Buick. It’s not until the party is attacked by wolves that they actually get into the vehicle and Squirrel, for some unknown reason decides to hotwire the vehicle. And the car starts, has a half a tank in it and they drive off.
On page 111, Sarah, a vampire who managed to get past the holy water test by switching the vial from the father’s pocket during a fainting episode, is standing underneath a fluorescent light while talking to Daniel. Fluorescent light bulbs emit ultraviolet light. If ultraviolet light kills vampires, why didn’t she catch fire? Why go through so much trouble getting the Ray of Hope when you could just build one by raiding local tanning salons? If there’s energy to have lights in the bunker, then logically there’d’ be a power source for that as well. In fact, they could have created a parameter around the bunker where no vampire could have crossed.
Also, it’s difficult to tell where the book is set. Is it set in England, or in the United States? If it’s set in England, why did Cave have his characters fly a Huey to New York City when London would have been closer, especially since fuel is a scarce commodity?
The book has numerous grammatical and spelling errors. Most of the grammatical errors are in the form of passive voice phrasing, run on sentences and way too many adverbs. Yes, I know that spelling in England and the United States is different, but the word quiet is spelled as quiet on both sides of the pond. Again, I don’t understand why editors didn’t catch this and had the author correct it.
Something of the Night is another book that, with further polishing and rewrites would go from an average vampire novel to a book worthy of a Stoker award.
Apex Publishing, Ltd
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SECRETS OF THE BONES by Teri A. Jacobs
Review by Steve Middaugh
It's a long time coming for this second novel by the author of The Void. It was well written, so well written that it managed to pull me into her dark world of the occult and religious phantasmagoria.
The story starts off with the scream of anguish and loss. The lead character, Rani, staggers through the streets of the shadowy New York. She has lost her infant son; murdered by the shady sorcerer Julian. She is forever tormented by the screams in her head. It was only when she stumbles into an abandoned cathedral, and the dark angels, the Gregori, came upon her after freeing themselves from their underworld imprisonment. They rape her and Shamyaza, the leader of the Gregori, impregnates her with his Nephilitic son. Afterwards, the psychic battle royale begins. Rani gets lured by Julian to put her son to rest provided that she acquiesced to his demands for power that resided in her bones.
This is a very daring novel. Jacobs is no slouch when dealing in occult and religious subjects and imagery. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who is easily offended. Jacobs did well in weaving together an entirely different mythology when telling this dark tale of darkest fantasy. There's plenty of eroticism with some S&M trappings. It was nightmarish enough to make even Dante Alighieri tremble.
There's also the icy witch-demoness, Lilith, who's lending a hand to Julian. A nasty one not to be trifled with as Rani's boyfriend, Michael, soon finds out.
Secrets Of the Bones is unlike the first novel The Void. Where there's humor in the first novel, there's none in the second one. A very good book, well written, with characters well drawn and three dimensional. It's not a novel to be forgotten easily. Recommended to anybody with strong stomachs and not easily offended.
* * * *
REBIRTH by Scott McKenzie
Review by Joe Kroeger
It is an extremely difficult task these days to breathe new life into the well-trodden territory of the vampire genre, but I believe that Scott McKenzie creates an extremely successful novel where many others have failed. Even though McKenzie does cover quite a bit of “been there, done that” plot points, he does it with such an original style and action-packed writing that is it very easy to forgive him of his transgressions. REBIRTH, by Scott McKenzie, moves along with such an intense velocity that you will be left breathless by the time you reach the final exciting page.
Detective Tom Ryder’s world is about to be turned upside-down as a simple robbery-homicide investigation leads him deep into the darkness lurking secretly within the shadows of the world. With help from Jane Simpson, an agent from the World Health Organization, Ryder discovers an ancient battle in which The Brotherhood, a vast and secret organization, is fighting to defend mankind against the creatures of the night. Before the investigation is resolved, Tom Ryder will find himself trapped between these two warring factions with more at stake than he ever could imagine.
McKenzie’s sense of character development is flawless as he inhabits his novel with characters that live on within your memory long after you close the book. The only complaint I found with REBIRTH is the fact that McKenzie jumps from first to third person viewpoints without a clear enough distinction between. Many times, I found myself starting a new chapter with the narrator’s first person perspective in my head only to discover a third person viewpoint. Even with this minor annoyance, I immensely enjoyed this thrilling horror novel and was genuinely sorry to turn the last page.
With smooth writing that flows at break-neck speed from the first page, REBIRTH is a highly enjoyable horror adventure of epic proportions that demands to be read in one sitting. I highly recommend REBIRTH by Scott McKenzie for anyone looking for a great summer read that spotlights a rising newcomer to the horror genre.
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