Horror/ Speculative Fiction

Moon Snake by Kirsten Alene
Moon Snake
by Kirsten Alene (Goodreads Author)

8231660

A Double Feature Fairytale Fantastique with a Secret Human Center

Moon Snake is the kind of story that spirits you away to an island of lost dreams, with fantastical collisions between the real and the incredible. While the characters come across as innocent, single dimensional fairytale constructs on introduction, they slowly reveal their true depth as the story progresses through avocado tree houses and dream ships, and the ultimate menace of the foreboding Red Bridge. The story is very well written with a minimalist style and near-poetic prose. Themes of loss, hope, growth, and prejudice underlie some of the most creative, if not bizarre scenes. The lion James and Brutal Fruit the thief truly pull at the heartstrings, despite their disagreeable natures and transgressions.

The second story, Cathedral Bone, reads equally as strange and beautiful as the first. Cathedral Bone, similar to Moon Snake, is told in first person, putting the reader into the story immediately. It is a comfortable transition, and though the material feels more focused on the internal human condition versus the social, it is likewise delivered with a beautiful simplicity that makes an incredibly easy and fun read. Yet it also speaks to a side we all harbor deep down: growing up. As the numbers of Mastiffs dwindle and the giant catfish disappear, you can feel the world grow smaller as the fantasy shrinks to reality and self. From a sea of Mastiffs to a pocket-sized one, the solemnity balanced with the crazy delivers a fun, if not dark, adventure with Cathedral Bone.

Kirsten Alene’s writing possesses a certain quality that makes her stories stand out. Voice. There is a sense of brutal innocence to the writing style of Moon Snake that opens you up to the hidden gems of life Ms. Alene has buried in her two worlds. Once you start reading, you feel transported into a place where anything can happen. And here in Moon Snake? It does!

I highly recommend reading this book with a good coffee porter and a small bowl of halved pecans. An outstanding five stars for “sho.”

 

Beneath by [DeMeester, Kristi]

BENEATH
by Kristi Demeester
A Fresh New Voice; A Terrifying Vision
 

This book scared the hell out of me, and I couldn’t get away from it.

BENEATH is a true horror story. There is no psychological twist, no buried lesson in modern allegory, and certainly no sprinkles or silver lining. If you came here to feel, to be part of Poe’s American Romantic Movement and it’s defining nature steeped in tragedy, strap in. Kristsi DeMeester delivers horror with realism and the terrifying threads that connect us at our shared, basal fears.

There are snakes. There’s a disturbing religious cult with disturbing people. And there are monsters. But you can discover those on your own. Let’s look at why this is an amazing book.

The first thing that stands out in BENEATH is the author’s incredible command of her prose. It flows with a rich vocabulary that delivers the raw character of the fundamental Christian South, yet reads smooth enough so as to keep the story momentum without hanging the reader on awkward or unfamiliar territory. The setting also comes across as very realistic and about the last place on earth you’d stop for gas.

The characters are incredibly well-done. Each comes to life with his or her own personality; and there is such a clear yet unmentioned distinction, jumping between points of view is like stepping into a new skin. The dialogue is real, solid and believable emotion throughout, but also silently defines each person.

Plot-wise, BENEATH remains true to a single storyline with just enough backstory to add depth to the characters and setting. There are no unforeseen twists. It doesn’t need any. The story opens on a tragic and very real horror story steeped in wretched carnality, then rolls deeper towards the end, picking up momentum at each chapter. One mechanism I especially appreciated with this writer is her ability to manipulate that momentum both by context of her story and the chapter-shortening as the book progresses. You can feel the tension building by the climax.

BENEATH is a true horror. It will stand you before your deepest fears and burning desires, then it will hollow you out and leave you thankful for the sunlight. An easy five-stars and a definite must-read.

The Raven's Table: Viking Stories

by Christine Morgan (Goodreads Author)

Violent Raging Breathing Fighting Loving Living Killing Dying: A Perfect Collection of the Unexpected

Collections are scary in that they are multiple short stories written by the same person. There’s no margin for error, as with an anthology of multiple authors. Readers don’t have the option of skipping over to a fresh new imagination if a story starts to drag. The writer has to be damned good at what she does.

The Raven’s Table is a showcase of one writer’s incredible imagination delivered with finesses and skilled word craft. Christine Morgan is a perfect model of what every collections author should seek.

Admittedly, I’m no fan of hairy sword guys and gals in chainmail underwear running around having battles and ghosts and horses and such, yet I was instantly hooked by the gritty, apocalyptic horror of “The Barrow-Maid,” the opening act and fantastic marriage of Viking lore and the macabre. After that, it became a true effort to keep from starting the next story. Each tale is intriguing and uniquely told, yet Ms. Morgan’s command of her craft is so clean and proficient, the words disappeared and I felt like I was watching The Raven’s Table stories rather than reading them.

The characters are individual to each story, as is the voice. But for me, the finest part of The Raven’s Table is the unique way in which these stories are tied together in a Viking setting rendered not only in great narrative, but in a definitive language that brings the world to life. That, combined with the incredible stretch of imagination which not only steps way outside the typical tropes of fantasy and horror, but delivers with believability and often an emotionally haunting end. An ending that, many times, made me put the book aside to let every image sink in. Before diving right back for the next episode.

The Raven’s Table is a Viking masterpiece and Christine Morgan a Valkyrie with quill and well. An easy five stars and huge win for Word Horde Press. Every tale is an addicting adventure into different realms of imagination. Read this book!

Angel Dust Apocalypse
by Jeremy Robert Johnson

Now that’s some dark sh!t

Fantastic and dark at every turn. There are moments that left me feeling like I need to stop doing drugs and going to raves… and I don’t do drugs, nor do I go to raves. Mr. Johnson possesses a beautiful, poetic command of voice that transports you to his modern noir–oh who am I trying to kid. The guy has reader-emotion manipulation down to a freaking science. I enjoyed every story and can’t wait to read more of his work.

Part II. Read this book first. Pay attention. Now take a trip to Skullcrack City, his next book. Mr. Johnson will meet you at the point of everything you perceive as normal and shake the foundations until he’s made you a believer. This a writer to follow!

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An apocalyptic bingeI was first introduced to Jeremy Robert Johnson through his anthology, Angel Dust Apocalypse, also a five-star trip in every acid-steeped, transgressive meaning of the term. When he announced the release of Skullcrack City, I bought it immediately.

There are plenty of reviews here and on Goodreads summarizing the plot, so I’m not going to revisit the same. But I will tell you the voice is as addictive as the extreme and dark concepts. It is fast paced and brilliantly plotted, with a surreal, almost violently deliberate atmosphere in the vein of David Wong’s John Dies at the End and Chuck Palahniuk’s Rant. The characters are believable and the humor is rich; the storyline takes you on a journey dark and riveting. I read it start to finish in nearly one sitting, thanks to Mr. Johnson’s ability to keep the pages turning. I highly recommend this book for fans of weird tales and transgressive fiction.

Wrapped In Black by Jennifer L. Greene
Wrapped In Black: Thirteen Tales of Witches and the Occult (Wrapped, #3)
by Jennifer L. Greene (Editor), Allison M. Dickson (Goodreads Author), Patrick C. Greene (Goodreads Author), Rose Blackthorn (Goodreads Author), Solomon Archer, James Glass, Aaron Gudmunson (Goodreads Author), Gregory L. Norris , more…

Read from October 18 to 24, 2014

A new depth of blackThe initiation to Wrapped in Black sets the tone of chaotic energy found in the black arts, woven throughout the following thirteen tales of witches and the occult. Mrs. Greene’s well-crafted introduction predicts a collection with the potential to spin in any direction, which it does by virtue of excellent prose and unconventional plot. All of the stories come with a finely honed eye for detail and offer unique twists on an old theme. Based on story selection and arrangement, it is obvious an incredible amount of editorial care went into making this anthology.Wrapped in Black opens with my favorite, Gordon White’s transgressive fiction, “Hair Shirt Drag,” that turns dark real quick, then gets vantablack with its ending. Afterwards, the stories weave and dance through a crazy spectrum of horror dotted with humor, romance, and many uncomfortable moments.

Patrick Greene’s use of light-and-sexy to ultraviolence extremes in “Unto the Earth” makes for a fun bipolar trip with perhaps the creepiest denouement of the collection.

Rose Blackthorn’s “Beautiful, Broken Things” is the deepest of these, and captures the Romanticism of E.A. Poe in a dystopian future.

James Glass’s well-executed, profane flip of a classic conjuring in “The Rising Son” adds disturbing historical realism and also ties in with his Metatron series, though much darker.

Allison Dickson’s “Number One Angel” showcases her art of violating her readers’ comfort zones while holding their hands as she escalates from one intense moment to the next.

But for me, one of the best twists of this Wrapped volume came from Michael G. Williams’ “Stories I Tell Girls,” not only a wonderful and creative spin on the magic of reading, but a perfect resolution to Mr. Williams’ “Daddy Used To Drink Too Much” from Wrapped in Red.

Admittedly, I am passing over some stories, but this is by no means indicative of their quality so much as a word limit for reviewing purposes, and rest assured, by the time you finish Aaron Gudmunson’s “Pig Roast,” you’ll have a whole new outlook on witchcraft and dinner. Every story within this collection is at least a 4-star stand-alone, with the incredible assembly and editing easily pushing it to 5-stars overall.

The Grey Matter by Billie Sue Mosiman
The Grey Matter
by Billie Sue Mosiman (Goodreads Author)

Read from August 07 to 16, 2014

The woods are screaming…Billie Sue Mosiman captures a nightmare gem in her apocalyptic THE GREY MATTER, a peek into an Alabama mountain community hiding monsters, each face of the gem increasing with tension and fear.For a realistic, high-tension thriller, THE GREY MATTER does with people what most horror novels achieve through demons and fantastical beasts of terror. Ms. Mosiman climbs into the mind of a killer and allows him to become a real person, expertly conjuring reader sympathy and amping the conflict as the story unfolds. On the flip side, the levels of degeneracy to which the normal population of Herndon, Albama sink in their desperation, rival even the serial killers of the new apocalypse.Ms. Mosiman has a unique way of rendering her characters so each possesses a very distinct personality and stands out both in action and dialogue. The inner conflicts from all major players—good and bad—come together in a multidimensional cauldron, slow-roiling to a turbid boil and sucking the reader in with sympathy and strong emotion.The rural and isolated setting of green mountain cabin life is well detailed, from the joys of daily routine, to the fear of being surrounded by dense woods. Plot and pacing start off extreme, but quickly settle in for a slower build in keeping with the classic thriller feel versus over-the-top violence of modern horror, something I appreciated as it gave so much more dwell time with the characters. As the story progresses, it develops much momentum until it is steaming downhill toward the violent and disturbing climax, screams echoing through those dark woods.Other than being familiar with the outstanding quality Ms. Mosiman’s previous work, I had no idea what to expect with THE GREY MATTER, but it hooked me from the first paragraph and kept my attention throughout. I strongly recommend this book with five-stars. It visits domains the human condition often overlooked in the horror genre, yet delivers a breed of horror to the thriller shelves as disturbing as it is riveting.

Z-End by Suzanne Robb
Z-End (Z-Boat Book 3)
by Suzanne Robb (Goodreads Author)

Read in August, 2014
A Fast-paced, Hight-tension, Dystopian Epic!Author Suzann Robb drops her people in a pressure cooker, cranks the lid tight, and turns the heat up until Z-END clambers toward an exploding finale. And when you work up the the nerve to crack the seal and peek over the rim, it squirms with the most abominable-yet-believable new generations of undead, permutations borne from a world steeped in realistic eco-terror.Z-END explores every angle of apocalypse. Unlike many apoc stories, the zombies in (protagonist) Ally Lane’s world are more than a setting mechanism to explore the human capacity for evil. They definitely bring out the worst in many of the characters, but these creatures evolve—and far different from Romero’s semi-intelligent Bub and Big Daddy stereotypes. Think desperate velociraptors. In some cases, worse. And that’s just the undead. There are plenty of live specimens surviving in a caustic ocean, adapting and changing in even more horrific ways.Plot-wise, Z-END pushes forward with many twists, often through violence of action and sudden reveals sure to evoke an emotional response in readers. The pacing is well executed, as is Ms. Robb’s attention to detail. One of my favorite points is the way she delivers her military scenes with accuracy down to the lingo and tactics. Also, in keeping with the technical tradition of Z-BOAT (Book 1), the science that went into this novel is intriguing as it is realistic. This could very well be a glimpse into our not-so-distant future.The characters develop well across the journey, most notably being Ally Lane who shows surprising new personality facets throughout. Some of the nastier ones act realistically enough to hide their ulterior motives with hints at their true faces, adding foreshadow and jacking the tension higher. Finally, between character conflict, romance arc, and an apocalyptic setting in a deadly environment full of mobs and monsters, the pressure starts strong in a doomed compound reminisce of Aliens and builds to unbearable levels as Ally fights her way back to sea with a very precious charge.This was is one of those stories that will stay with me for a long time. A great end to a memorable trilogy, Z-END finishes strong with five-stars.
Saturday Night of the Living Dead by Brad Carter

Saturday Night of the Living Dead
by Brad Carter

4 of 5 stars
Read from June 21 to July 09, 2014


One Hell of a Realistic, Fun, Frightfest

The scene on the cover happens. That is the only spoiler/ synopsis I will give. But yeah, it went down like that. Incidentally, this was one of the less Fangoria-intensive scenes.

No, SATURDAY NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is NOT some immature splatterpunk romp by any means. I was apprehensive at the title and obvious 70s B-movie cover, and expected 400 pages of boobs and blood with flat character and predictable plotlines. Far from the mark, this is a damned good story that incorporates everything from Lovecraftian Pop Cult themes and devices, to an incredibly well researched and incorporated peek into the horror FX industry and filmmaking history.

The voice of the first-person narrator enchants with realism well dated, starting from the 70s and moving forward with the times. Mr. Carter captures the language of each micro-era across four decades, as well as tiny nuances within a setting stretching from backwoods Arkansas to the North West US, both in his uncanny use of attention-to-detail (Shiner Bock in Texas sealed it for me) and realistic dialogue.

Prose-wise, SATURDAY NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD reads very well, making it difficult to put down even in the slower moments. Whether the protagonist RYAN is remembering or narrating, the story comes across as if you are in the moment with him.

The plot is the only negative issue I had with SATURDAY NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and yet it is my favorite point. The down side: this is not some action-packed speed-read by any means, sometimes falling into well needed but slower backstory and introspection. There are plenty of action sequences, but SATURDAY NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is a mature book, well written and meant to enjoy steeped in characters to the point you love and hate them. That being said, the pacing sometimes slows in order to build those characters, but it is well worth the ride as the author builds them in such a way it is hard to separate from them even in the less kinetic moments. Finally, my favorite part about this journey: the plot blew me away. I expected zombies and a predictable denouement with a typical devil-worship-gone-wrong-to-zombie-holocaust. Not even close. SATURDAY NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD climaxes to a horror show beyond description where the characters grow flesh and the truth is revealed, bringing Lovecraft’s vision to life in a way that embraces science while it strangles you in the dark.

Apocalyptic Organ Grinder by William Todd Rose
Apocalyptic Organ Grinder
by William Todd Rose

Read on May 24, 2014

Spewers are the New Walkers, (Three and a half stars)

The opening instantly hooked me with the author’s use of voice, a disturbing meld of archaic and modern prose. Once the story starts in earnest, it falls into a classic dystopian narrative style, losing some of its bite and flair to settle into a straightforward account. Periodic interludes resume a more subdued version of the prologue to further add background, the world beneath the story growing with the plot.The originality is a welcome change to the typical apoc scenarios of late, and Mr. Rose does a fantastic job of introducing a new and more terrifying horror than zombies. There is no shortage of pus and gore, albeit more of a disease vector flavor, and that works just fine. After all, what is more disturbing? Rotting flesh falling apart… or living, squirting tissue?The plot does become somewhat predictable and there is not really enough dialogue to establish solid character growth, though the two main characters’ inner POVs does help some. On that same note and as I mentioned earlier, the incredible opening prose gives over to dystopian narrative, and while this is strictly personal preference, I felt the story lost feeling with the change of voice. Passive phrasing and a lean toward verbosity helps with the sense of hopelessness as part of the setting, but it also slows the momentum a bit.Overall, APOCALYPTIC ORGAN GRINDER is a solid look into a realistic if not oozing future. More importantly, it is a very original and uncomfortable strain of post-apocalyptic fiction I hope to see more of from Mr. Rose, earning it three and a half stars.
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Colt Coltrane and the Harrowing Heights of Hollywoodland
by Allison M. Dickson (Goodreads Author), Justin Wasson (Illustrator)

Read in May, 2014
A Fast and Furious Deiselpunk blend!Allison M. Dickson paints her noir setting early on and with the perfect amount of pastiche to capture a fun, 1940s gumshoe flick. Dialogue and body language deliver a caste of remarkable characters who are sure to invoke emotion, from victimized actresses to scandalous goons. The Hollywoodland set and political dynamics of the film industry add realism to the story, making HARROWING HEIGHTS a detective adventure reminiscent of classic Marlowe over Gittes. The dame in distress has all the WWII, princess-meets-Rosie-the-Riveter charm, and Coltrane as the slightly flawed detective drives the story with great pacing and tough guy honor. The story is told with a voice that melts into a 35mm reel, a shrug at gravity, and robots. The action begins early on and continues in one movement of increasing tension and back-and-forth conflict sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. Sweet moments of THE MALTESE FALCON give over quickly to Ms. Dickson’s need for speed so that by the end, the pacing morphs into incredible action sequences evocative of the 80s animated arcade hit, CLIFF HANGER. On that final note, Mr. Justin Wasson’s explosive cover art is no exaggeration, capturing but one incredible scene in this short tale of once upon a time in LA. Keep an eye out for Mr. Wasson’s work as well: it tends to deliver the undercover truth with comic book flare as delightful as his authors.I strongly recommend COLT COLTRANE AND THE HARROWING HEIGHTS OF HOLLYWOODLAND. This could very easily be a Spielberg AMAZING STORIES episode.
Apocrypha of the Apocalypse by Suzi M.

Apocrypha of the Apocalypse
by Suzi M.  Xircon, James Glass, Mr. Ministry

Apr 25, 14


666 Words on the Apocrypha

Apocrypha of the Apocalypse begins where modern belief terminates. And after the contributors’ completely rewrite religion, Suzi M. and her other Three Horsemen raze the world across sixteen nightmares and one haunting novelette.

“Scattered” opens this wicked horror show with a Noir snapshot of a Rapture misfire and sets the standard for the rest. For James Glass fans, “Scattered” will definitely give you a squint-eyed moment because of the similar forties gumshoe feel between the two authors, but where James Glass has boundaries which have always kept his writing on the cusp of PG-13, Suzi M. speaks with a rawness that’ll make your inner schoolgirl blush. And so “Scattered” casts the first stone, starting the avalanche that is the Apocrypha of the Apocalypse.

The follow-on stories by Suzi M. pick up at the end of religion—with an incredible amount of theological accuracy in terms of research—and rebuild in a mesh of born-again Greek myths and modern cults. One of my “oh shit!” moments was the appearance of Cthulhu. Not your typical HPL pastiche into “strange aeons [where] even death may die” (Lovecraft, “The Nameless City”), Suzi M. delivers without a single semi-colon or run-on rant, and the dialogue is believable to the point where the words disappear and the voices just happen. Then she describes the physical sound of an inhuman grin and THAT drove home the horror with a stinger-ed tentacle. After that, we get to experience a remake of the Greek Furies that will definitely NOT be part of your kid’s fifth period English Greek Mythology module this semester, followed by the “Four Goldfish of the Apocalypse,” which starts out floating on a dream before going into an uncontrolled, screaming tailspin.

The Books of Suzi M. take us up to a freaky climax where all three major authors converge in my favorite of the Apocrypha, the high tension, “Angels from the Ashes of a Human Fire.” The authors write themselves into the flow and manifest their individual writing styles as fictional self-portraits conflicting against one another as they run from the story line they have co-created. And that story line is Nemesis. Suzi M.’s vision of the Greek goddess of justice and balance (traditionally, a sexy winged Marvel version of Libra that’ll kick a skank’s ass for a catty comment) breaks new ground first by manifesting as a male deity, then by his violence of action that invokes images of the Engineer from Ridley Scott’s PROMETHEUS.

Next, Xircon takes the con and the temperature chills from Suzi M.’s industrial inferno to a looming wasteland. Two stories stand out in the Books of Xircon, “Sundogs” and the novelette, “The Lazarus Stone (Conspiracy Edit).” I’m going to let the title of the first suck you in. Then pretend I can’t hear you beating against the glass once you’re inside the flaming nightmare. In the “The Lazarus Stone,” a twisted homage to Faulkner’s AS I LAY DYING, Xircon does something that really grabbed my attention. He purposely writes the opening chapters in heavy passive voice, effectively demonstrating what Edgar Allen Poe perfected and spoke about openly in his “Philosophy of Composition,” (E.A. Poe, 1846). He writes for effect over denouement and applies an unconventional method to transport his readers into an apocalyptic US where the sea is a malevolent, living… I’ll leave it there. Suffice it to say, the protagonist Leader is a victim of his environment and we get to feel his helplessness as his world is done unto him, over and over.

James Glass only gets one Book, and having read much of Mr. Glass’s work, I have to say he maintained his mild mannered voice with dignity and respect, despite what he’s doing to that poor girl *shudders*

The Apocrypha ends in light-metered prose, perfect for the closing of any canon. Mr. Ministry leads us into despair with the violent, industrial throbbing judgment of five deadly psalms. This new voice for the pantheon comes highly agitated and unexpected, but a perfect fit.

***
STRINGS by Allison M. Dickson

STRINGS
by Allison M. Dickson

Apr 21, 14


“Mouth partway open, C-Zone busting, Bioshock”

It’s like an extremely disturbing game of Bioshock… against Stephen King and Chuck Palahniuk… in the gloom of Leatherface Hewitt’s living room. Norman Bates’ tittering cackle ventrilo-dripping from ceiling shadows while he serves ladyfingers—JESUS! Allison Dickson gets into your head and there’s no turning back no matter how much you squirm. Totally busted my comfort zone.

Let’s get the basics out of the way first and then we’ll start this train. The last thing I noticed was the flawless editing. I could’ve missed something because I sort of got lost in the story at jump, but STRINGS had zero copy edit issues. Which says tons about both the publisher and the writer, outstanding craftsmanship for grammar and prose. Ms. Dickson’s voice is well matched to her characters, bringing them to life and shifting with each to create a dark world of organized crime, hedonistic desire, and horrific monsters. The chapter titles are well chosen, adding just as much to the plot and pacing, and becoming part of the story. Kind of like a teaser for “next week’s episode,” but without the excruciating wait. And the theme of “strings” is strong in different layers from physical to political, but also accompanied by this cool-weird and very human thing she snuck in there, the “winning power of sacrifice.”

Ahh. Pacing. Come on. Let’s go. And hang on because it don’t stop till END.

The intro is haunting. A solid tension build that spirals from PSYCHO to FUNHOUSE and cuts right at the edge of the seat. The violence and insane body horror that goes into this book rank easily with the cast of producers for SIN CITY, possibly pushing the envelope a bit beyond even Rodriguez’ and Tarantino’s own comfort zones. I’m not kidding. You’re going to wiggle in your seat in at least a half a dozen places, if not more.

Each of the character’s back stories plug into the main flow, adding purpose and emotion that creep up and latch on to your heartstrings. And Ms. Dickson does mention Stockholm Syndrome at one point; yeah, she wields that stuff like sorcery. You can’t tell whom to hate because by the finale you care for them all, even the monsters. Even the ones that “kept it all in the family.” *shivers* Well, maybe not that guy.

Speaking of monsters. Full of them. I personally get tired of the whole “real human monsters” cornerstone theme that plagues modern horror because it always ends the same, with that singsong, “the evil of man is far worse…” STRINGS doesn’t bother with idyllic comparisons. Ms. Dickson holds nothing back, giving us a seriously disturbing showcase of greed, lust, brutality, incest, fury, mutilation. Mutation. Meat. Strings. Sticky fecund kisses. Teeth. Strings. But don’t get scared just yet. Strings.

It gets worse.

There’s real romance. Very real. Real people falling for each other at the least expected times. The most alluring type of conflict: two opposing adults fighting passion and exploding libidos against the insistence of intuition. Real sex. And she does it over and over again, keeping you on your toes, as much over the flaring romance arcs as she does the gut wrenching scenes. And I’m leaving that one right there. Enjoy.

Finally, plot. There’s a point where I saw where this thing was going, and then it turned on its head all Palahniuk-gundam style and the pages wouldn’t move fast enough. And at the three-quarters mark it flipped AGAIN, leaving no doubt where this meat train was headed. Ms. Dickson takes on subjects most male writers seem to be afraid to approach, the really squishy, scraping, penetrating ones that rip parts of a person’s humanity out with a yank when they’re done with you.

Not only do I recommend this book, but by the time I finished writing the review, a young Army Private—shoulder surfing and breathing heavy—asked me what’s up and so I told him what’s up and so now he’s all curled in a corner with his very own copy of STRINGS. Mouth partway open.

I think I just need some time… maybe a friend. And a nightlight. Bet your Bioshock, Five stars.

***
Apr 25, 14
New deadliest catch, long anticipated and well worth the wait!This review is from: Z-Boat (Z-Boat Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
A horrific ecological disaster above. Submarines pushing through deadly waters below. Espionage and political intrigue. Monsters. The premise alone makes Z-BOAT attractive, reminiscent of some of the hellish rides from the eighties, DEEP STAR SIX, LEVIATHAN, and even the ALIENS franchise coming to mind. There is something about a group of disparate and hostile personalities stuck in a confined environment that ratchets the terror-factor. Suzanne Robb drops her characters into a pressure cooker from the beginning, then adds beasties and layers of true-to-life human horror.Beginning with the setting, the dystopian world is well researched—as are the technical details of the submarine and underwater operations—and could very well serve as foreshadowing of our own future based on corporate greed and the human nature of endless consumption/ waste. Zooming the lens brings an even more detailed backdrop sure to please the SF and tech-oriented bubble heads: mechanics of submarines delivered in hi-def.Each character is well rendered with individual personalities setting them apart from each other with clarity and that in and of itself is fantastic considering the amount of characters portrayed. Something I especially admired about this book is the different POVs that created a sort of literary panoramic effect. It also allowed the writer and advantage, delivering details in creative ways while keeping the mystery/ thriller aspects thumping to the very end.Finally, the best. Zombies. And not the average Romero shuffler/ biter. Ms. Robb’s undead defy stereo types, from creation to action. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised when the zombies of the Betty Loo did things that made my skin crawl. Gory, oozing, calculated, and raging. Z-Boat more than earned a top shelf five-star in my collection. But definitely not recommended for the squeamish or claustrophobic! Thank you, Ms. Robb, and may we have another!
***
Devil Riders by Allison M. Dickson

Devil Riders
by Allison M. Dickson

Feb 22, 14


The Devil Wears Patches

Ms. Allison Dickson’s DEVIL RIDERS starts off with the significant event that gets the story rolling from the onset. It slows some through the first half of back story, but Ms. Dickson’s writing delivers with a strong voice and command of her craft. Kinda like a smooth glass of Southern Whiskey that takes that first bite of your palette and then glides down your tongue until she’s done with you. Plot and character both grow at a surprising rate for such a short piece, and the themes of unwitting betrayal and paternal bitterness resolve into trust and acceptance by the end of the story. There are also catchy elements of intrigue, from Dan Brown-ish cryptology to classic horror foreshadowing that really sneaks up on you with that, “holy crap…” moment when you realize you should’ve seen it coming.

I do have one issue with the plot: the ending… depending on Ms. Dickson’s future plans. It reads like a badass opening to an incredible novel. Unfortunately, the story as-is terminates right on the doorstep of a world begging for entry, bringing denouement to the initial main conflict but doing so in such a way that the resolution pales in comparison to the speculation beginning with the word END. Please do not take this as a mark against the writing, but understand that it leaves the reader stuck in a new dark world for some time after. Yes. I recommend DEVIL RIDERS. More importantly, I absolutely have to know what happens next!

***
The Vampire of Plum Run by James Glass

The Vampire of Plum Run
by James Glass

Feb 20, 14


The Vampire of Plum Run by James Glass… words that vanish

Have you ever read a crazy news article that was so well written and intriguing the words became invisible to the story and you just couldn’t stop? Yeah. James Glass. “The Vampire of Plum Run.”

As a general rule, I’ve always felt stories told as dialogue exposition suck… as if Glass is ever going to follow freaking rules! The Vampire of Plum Run is exactly that, yet so much more. It starts with the voice of the narrator, distinctive word choice imparting dignity and a realistic tone. And maybe something more, but no spoilers. Actions of the speaker further support the authenticity of character and with plenty of that classic JG wit, making a creepy dip in the creek fun. Finally, the incredible amounts of historical fact and myth weave together to create just enough realism that I had to research to see if this so-called vampire wasn’t in fact based on PA urban legend—and now I’m not telling. For a short guided tour, building layers of foreshadowing and a nest of plot twists make this a short story to remember, as well as introduce a fresh and cleverly constructed U.S. History I for one wouldn’t mind getting lost in a while longer. Just don’t drink the water.

***
The Dispossessed by James Glass

The Dispossessed
by James Glass, Robert W. Cook (Cover Artist)

Feb 16, 14


The Dispossessed by James Glass

He did it again. Twist and tension. Glass builds each chapter with tiny layers of conflict, adding jigsaw hints to the mystery, spice to the sensual (oh yeah he do), and driving the whole thing toward a solid reveal that closes this case, opens the next, and leaves just enough intrigue to demand the third book.

Solid voice and prose make The Dispossessed, once more, a fun read, even sharper than the last—much attributed to one very interesting character addition to Mr. Glass’s cast. An enigmatic goth girl that melts your heart as much as she puts you in stitches with her wit and charm. The demonic-duo of Pazuzu and Marduk pale a bit compared to their role in The Murdered Metatron as they are replaced by a much more fleshed out Koth and Metatron. On the same note, protagonist John Smith seems to have found solid footing as well, both in his relationship with the demonic horde as well as the insomnia-sparking Voice of God. I found it surprisingly easier to sympathize with Smith this go around, despite his incredible predicament.

James Glass applies incredible attention to detail with his supernatural mechanics. It has become a trade mark of sorts, complex soul exchange/ possession/ underworld processes rendered with a beautiful simplicity that just make sense. And the technical aspects lead right up to a fantastic denouement carrying all of the advanced mystery novel deduction opportunities sure to keep readers in step, yet delivering that final reveal with grinning, head-nodding, satisfaction.

I hate to compare sequels, but in this case, I feel it does them both justice. Nothing is lost between the two and the story is only made that much more compelling by Glass’s added detail. I know there is a third book in the works, but I am hoping this is the start of a series. It’s rare to find literature this fresh and exciting, with just the right length and pacing. I will definitely be picking up a copy of the third installment! Enjoy!

***
The Murdered Metatron by James Glass

The Murdered Metatron
by James Glass, Robert W. Cook (Cover Artist)

Feb 14, 14


The Murdered Metatron, by James Glass.

After the first page, one thought resonated in the wake of Mr. Glass’s noir detail, outstanding voice, and page-burning intrigue.

Oh my lord this guy can write.

Normally I shy away from novellas as so many turn out to be overstretched shorts or not-fully-realized novels that leave me wanting and sore at time misspent. The Murdered Metatron totally broke that mold. The story is not just well imagined; it hits mission complete while cracking the cover to a sequel sure to be even better than the first.

The noir setting holds all the detail of a typical smoke and shadow gumshoe… so Mr. Glass turns the whole thing on its head, introducing demons as clients, a creepy celestio-inferno co-op, and a fresh take on the underworld administration process that leaves traditional Judeo-Christian adjudication looking like a clogged Social Security office. Characters are well rendered with individual quirks and action-over-description that sets each apart, following an ever twisting plot. There is never a dull moment and the pacing fits the story well in terms of both mood-to-action and overall interest capture.

While pacing, plot, and cool characters make this a good, four-star story, Mr. Glass’s voice is what launched it well beyond five stars for me. The wit and realism is incredible. You can practically hear the accents and not once does the writer fall on phonetic crutches and gimmicks to bring his people, demons, and angels to life. He skillfully presents each character by virtue of setting, syntax, and action. James Glass draws out his voices by drawing his readers in, and that takes serious talent.

A creepy noir setting, charming and sometimes disturbing players, and a voice that delivers a story with blazing intrigue and character all of its own. The Murdered Metatron is well worth the read. A solid five stars and gladly anticipating the sequel, The Dispossessed.

***
Harvest of the Dead by Ian Woodhead

Harvest of the Dead (Zombie Armageddon)
by Ian Woodhead , Christine Sutton

Jan 20, 14

HARVEST OF THE DEAD: Zombies are Monsters, Too

Any zombie enthusiast/ activist will tell you that the truth about zombies is that they are not really monsters at all, but a simple shuffling, dripping backdrop for the real horror. The fall of society. The evil inherent in humankind. The bane of humanities egotistical view on controlling nature.

Which is one of the reasons I enjoyed HARVEST OF THE DEAD Ian Woodhead and Christine Sutton make it perfectly clear that their zombies are horrific, violent, cannibalistic and power mad monsters.

Set in Vermont, HARVEST OF THE DEAD takes the safe haven, post Z-apocalypse town of Greendale Falls and expedites the degradation of society with the onset of martial law and growing debauchery, then turns the whole thing on its head with immediate outbreak. The traditional “real” monsters are exposed from the beginning, the politically corrupt, the sexist, the bully, the glutton, all of the typical fun cast of a good necrotic read and then some.

Then Woodhead and Sutton throw in their monsters. The undead come in different forms and are more reminiscent of RESIDENT EVIL at times, making for quite a fun if not scary ride. And the writer’s pull no stops on gore, insane acts of violence, and sex. Yes, that’s right, there is enough sex to turn even you necrophiles into a drooling mess.

The pacing is fast and the chapters short enough to make for a great read, and the plot drives on with enough positive/ negative exchange to keep it interesting. At times there are too many subplots, but fortunately the writers dispatch those usually within the same chapter in which they are introduced, kind of leading me to believe this book came with an appetizer menu.

As far as the characters, the POV shifts are done fairly well, although most of the adults tend to have the same over all voice depending on their good/evil polarization, but as the POVs turn to teens and tweens, the writing became most impressive. I had to applaud the midgrade POV in particular. One down side I found was that there is very little room for character growth, and I felt that was in part to the amount of players in this story.

Finally, the theme of poetic justice prevails to the very end and the book has moments when you can’t help but feel a little victory for the good people of Greendale Falls.

Overall, I found HARVEST OF THE DEAD to be a fast paced and enjoyable read, and am hoping to see more of this style in the upcoming KINGDOM OF THE DEAD. I definitely recommend it for the zombie-slayers/lovers, and leave you with a word of advice. Watch for wall crawlers.

***
Plastic Jesus by Wayne Simmons

Plastic Jesus
by Wayne Simmons

Dec 17, 13

PLASTIC JESUS by Wayne Simmons
Forgive me, Father, for I have sim-ed.

The dark opening to Wayne Simmons’ eagerly anticipated PLASTIC JESUS only deepens as it drives you through the futuristic dystopia of Lark. Cerebral jacking, VR phone apps, coils wet-wired into brains, it wasn’t hard to see which direction the gore would take. I winced at the turning page, anticipating exploding heads, electroshock, and otherwise ridiculous Scanners/Mindwarp/Brain Slasher-type garbage in latex. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Make no mistake, there is more than enough blood, flesh, and puke in the first ten pages to leave no doubt this is a Wayne Simmons book. But the violence is very real, man-inflicted damage. And while I hesitate to call it delicious as I don’t want to explain that one to a counsellor, I will say that it will leave the gore-junkie nodding along in time to the fast pace, the uninitiated squirming with crossed legs. And as always, tastefully delivered.

PLASTIC JESUS is imminent science fiction. The setting, a fictitious town of Lark, reflects the reality of a near future dystopia: morality skewed by social acceptance of vice, criminal rule and food chain hierarchy, a police force treading water in a slow bog, religious abuse and neglect. And while there is obviously advanced technology at play in Lark, it is within easy reach of what we already face as a global society. Cell phones, drones, tasers, smart phone apps. Lark’s just hurt a hell of a lot worse.

The tension and conflict remain taught throughout, both with internal issues that any of us could—and probably have—had to face, and external threats that go with the territory, all fueling the theme of: the living struggle of addiction in its various forms. Something to note here, I have great respect for this book because it never addresses those pollyannaish ideals of overcoming addiction. Did I mention that this story is very real? To quote Iron Maiden (who say it best) “The Evil That Men Do… lives on and on.”

Mr Simmons offers a wide spectrum of voices. Every character has their own unique voice, and yet when you meet the VR Jesus doll, he has the perfectly sculpted vocabulary of his servant-messiah programming, yet still maintains the aspects of the VR-user interacting with the doll. My favorite, however, is Billy the nightwatchman. No spoilers, though. Suffice to say that Wayne nailed his futuristic noir cast of characters.

The story is told through multiple subplots introduced in the beginning, all tying together nicely with more than a few twists along the way. Pacing is break neck. Most chapters span only a few pages and are written with great show-over-tell narration and plenty of escalating dialogue. Overall, PLASTIC JESUS was both an enjoyable, solid read with a very believable ending, but came with its own special brand of horror. The real kind we see when we turn off our smart phones and log out of the internet. Incredible ride, highly recommended for the horror fan that doesn’t mind getting juiced on reality!

***
Black Feathers by Joseph D'Lacey

Black Feathers (Black Dawn, #1)
by Joseph D’Lacey

May 16, 13

Joseph D’Lacey’s BLACK FEATHERS parallel story line places it in a league of its own. It is written in separate third-person POV styles for each of the two protagonists, Gordon Black’s past tense to reflect his story happening well before the second, Megan Maurice’s present tense. The plot moves slowly but with finely crafted detail, and the variants of Green Earth stewardship are strong throughout. Mr. D’Lacey does a wonderful job of setting a solid spiritual foundation for his post apocalyptic Isle by borrowing various religious elements and motifs from the Celtic mythos of the Green Man. Overall, I found it to be an intriguing read and do recommend it for the mature dark spec/ horror reader.At first I thought that it felt akin to a modern Tolkien-esque milieu, with the details of setting and action so carefully rendered, almost to a fault. But it was soon obvious that what D’Lacey has done is captured a hybrid essence of two famous series: the raw expanse of Stephen King’s Dark Tower combined with Tolkien’s hand-carved Middle Earth. The wordcraft is remarkable to say the least, D’Lacey prose flowing to the point of near-Shakespearian at times. His vocabulary is not something normally found in this genre and adds flair of dark sophistication that serves to slow the read down so that you are forced to take in the scenery as intended. On the flip side, it is done so well that momentum is sometimes sacrificed.For horror fans, I can tell you that you will not be disappointed. While the dark arts are not as prevalent in corpus, the ambience of the Crowman’s presence hangs heavy over every page. And on that same note, there are a handful of scenes that I can say have topped even Stephen King’s description of splatter. It is in the wording. Joseph D’Laney describes the most disturbing of body horror with a lover’s quill. Yes, some of his scenes made me cross my legs and squirm in my seat.BLACK FEATHERS does lack some in characterization, at least in the cases of the two protagonists. There is an unbalance between narrative and dialogue that causes a certain degree of reader distancing and I felt this hurt the story a bit, making it difficult to get through at times. On the positive, this distancing also serves to ADD character to the personification of the Earth. It is personal preference only, but I sink into a character-driven story more readily. Not to say this isn’t an amazing story!

Overall, I do feel it is one of the better written books of the genre, definitely a breath of fresh cemetery air, but I do not recommend it to someone that does not have the ability to appreciate fine literature. This is not a typical zombie-mosh or vampy-romp. It is an adult novel with mature pacing and texture. And yes, I shall be reading the sequel because I did enjoy it and it has stayed with me.

***
The Shining by Stephen King

The Shining (The Shining, #1)
by Stephen King (Goodreads Author)

Nov 16, 12
Very good story and conflict building. Stephen King’s use of inner voice reflecting transition inot insanity and possession is incredible. As always, his physical descriptions of pain and body damage stretch very deep and the articulation is just simple enough to not only make the story real, but it pulls the reader into the victims skin. My only complaint was that the five-year old is a bit unbelievable at times–thoughts and narrative surrounding him are too advanced for his age, even if he is an advanced child. Other than that, it’s been a fun ride.
***
Blood Society by Jeffrey Thomas

Blood Society
by Jeffrey Thomas


May 07, 12
Al Capone meets Raziel (LEGEND OF KAIN: SOUL REAVER). Historically accurate to the detail and the characters are well-fleshed out. It is hard to find a unique vampire story of late, but BLOOD SOCIETY is just that. A fresh spin on vampires and the supernatural in general (and no they don’t sparkle!). One of the most intriguing aspects of this story is the amount of metaphysical spec that Mr. Thomas puts into it. For anyone that has enjoyed the alter reality of games such as SOUL REAVER and SILENT HILL, this is a real treat. For the historian, the Part I is incredibly accurate down to the first recorded drive-by shooting that made Hymie Weiss so popular in his heyday before Capone’s chopper squads finally got to him.On the literary side, the book is very well written both grammatically and in terms of pacing. Great dialogue, a plot that maintains momentum and interest, and a once-cliche theme becomes so twisted in Jeffrey Thomas’s hands that it screams for attention. He makes an already vile concept very disturbing at times. Well worth the read.
***
Cell by Stephen King

Cell
by Stephen King

Apr 10, 13
I think I am going to be sick.Seriously. I could not put this book down. Amazing story. A voice that reaches into you and delivers the heart of the writer directly to your own. Characters that are not just rich with personality–even the celldead ones–but characters that grow as the story progresses. Conflict that defies reason and keeps you on the edge of your seat. I felt transported into Mr. King’s horrific universe of seemingly hopeless abandon, thrilled as we struggled above the odds together.What kept me from giving a higher rating was the ending. I believe a true horror fan would rate it much higher, but I still felt a bit empty at the conclusion.
***
The Fall of Hades by Jeffrey Thomas

The Fall of Hades
by Jeffrey Thomas

Mar 29, 12


It took a while to pick up on Mr. Thomas’ style. He has a very popular library and fair amount of devotees. I could not understand why this book was as awkward as it seemed. The Fall of Hades was written so clunky on the grammatical side that it was very hard to read. The characters seemed unreal and flat, the run-on sentences and overuse of semi-colons Frankensteined paragraphs together on every page, and the dialogue was fake to a fault at times. Yet the premise and imagination were AMAZING. It was as if Mr. Thomas had this vision and then hired a US Army INTEL dick to write it for him. I was put off and fairly angry until the Demon Scientist scene. THEN it made sense.

Cthulhu.

Wow. I HAVE encountered this before and I had to sit back and 1) kick myself for being so hard on the writer, 2) admire his work for what it is. The Fall of Hades is written as if H.P. Lovecraft were still alive. Yes. And very well written within that particular style. If you have never read Lovecraft, it is hard to get through one of his stories. Run-ons, awkward dialogue, visions of unimagined horrors that will leave you with nightmares, and the whole work is usually riddle with holes from H.P.’s semi-colon gun on 3-round BURST. And it works. He scares the bejeezus out of you.

My hat’s off to you, Mr. Thomas, for doing an extraordinary job in capturing Lovecraft’s style and packing it with a millennial toy inside. I have to say that this started out a two and has definitely merited a four-star rating. My only suggestion is to slap a squiddy-headed fella in a trench coat on the cover somewhere so there is no doubt about what kinda spell we are getting into!

Thanks for the hard work!

***
Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton

Pirate Latitudes
by Michael Crichton

Apr 10, 13
The story as it stands is clunky and odd. However, once it becomes obvious that this is a work prematurely executed due to Mr. Crichton’s passing away prior to its completion, it becomes a writer’s treasure chest. I highly recommend it to those that are professional enough to appreciate it the work as a first draft ms, not a finished novel. For the adventure reader, however, it will be an ADD blunderbuss, though even then the language and historical aspects still make Pirate Latitudes a fun read.
***
Under the Dome by Stephen King

Under the Dome
by Stephen King

Apr 10, 13
I liked it, but not as much as some of Mr. King’s older work, though it has his trademark voice to propel it along. The theme of sick-o small town politics causes it to drag at points, but King’s characterizations are very well executed. The story definitely breathes with life, it just seemed like it was drawn out way too long in the middle and then ended on an abrupt premise. I do recommend it for the avid fan, especially because King’s voice is just so damned good.Overall, not a bad read, just a bit long.
***
Jinn by Matthew B.J. Delaney

Jinn: A Novel
by Matthew B.J. Delaney

Apr 10, 13
The plot and background are well built, but the characters felt a bit stiff in places. Overall, good story but I felt it would have been better with a bit more editing for believability. I do recommend it, as it is a great monster piece and Mr. Delaney has a very original concept here. Overall, I enjoyed Jinn: A Novel and my favorite aspect were creature descriptions. There were definitely some haunting moments here.
***
Gray Matter by Gary Braver

Gray Matter
by Gary Braver

Mar 27, 12

Outstanding premise. The first few pages had me hooked. Dr. Braver combines technical expertise and experience with the human condition to weave a tale that is as haunting as it is intriguing. It’s not often that I find myself hurting and angry at the bad guys.

***
Fade by Robert Cormier

Fade
by Robert Cormier

Apr 10, 13
Very well written, but the plot is lacking. I felt that it dragged a bit until the end, but the last quarter was a good finish. It has a Stephen King endorsement and he is not far off in his explanation of the theme: Invisible Man meets Catcher in the Rye.
***
May 11, 13
I wanted to give a much higher rating based on the milieu. Ms. Roddy does an excellent job of rendering a freaky post-apocalyptic setting, especially in terms of the social structures involved. The plot itself was intriguing, but I felt the characterizations fell a bit flat at times, with some of the dialogue forced and unrealistic in places. One peculiarity that really stood out was something I have never encountered in literature before. Ms. Roddy has created a new visual technique for conveying the sense of vertigo that I felt was very effective. I struggled with this one between a 3- and 4-star, but I think it is probably more personal preference in characterization than writer skill. Overall, the book is well written and her descriptions were spot on. If you are looking for post-apocalyptic non-zombie ride, Ms. Rodding is your ticket. Oh, and her soulless monsters are high on the creep-scale.
***
Fever by Wayne Simmons

Fever
by Wayne Simmons (Goodreads Author)

Mar 27, 12
This is a very well planned sequel to FLU. Wayne Simmons does a fantastic job of incorporating the two books into one seamless story. His pace and realism are excellent. The individual beats within the story are reminiscent of violent horror flicks such as 28 Days and Evil Dead. To go along with pacing, the chapters are shorter and keep the pages turning with momentum. The characterizations are actually better in this book than FLU, and Simmons managed to make me hate his antagonist Dr. Gallagher even more in this one, something I did not believe possible. I greatly enjoyed FEVER and hope that Mr. Simmons is working on a third.

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