Oct 9 - Oct 29, 2012
Fear: A Modern Anthology Of Horror And Terror - Volume One
A horror anthology comprised of indie authors (yay!) with all proceeds benefiting Barnardo's and Medecines sans Frontieres (or Doctors Without Boarders, for us English speaking types). Hoe do you not love this book already?
Of Events At Lowkirk Cemetery by Michael Cail - A deceased gentleman's personal effects are not the only thing troubling his friend...
A nice classy (and classic!) Gothic horror story to start things off right. Beautifully written, and a bit racier (and by that I mean bloodier) than your average Gothic tale, it was a good traditional beginning to this anthology.
Dead Ding Donger by Wayne Via - Woodrow Harper has got something sinister in mind for the young folk who prank him on Halloween...
Very simple and somewhat outlandish. Besides the adult language, it totally reminded me of something I would have read as a preteen. Like R.L. Stine for... ahem... "mature" (read: fucked up) kids.
Old Mabel's Stray Cat by Cameron Trost - Old Mabel's cat is far more dangerous than she could ever imagine...
This story actually make me mutter, "Ugh, creepy!" out loud; I literally could not contain myself. To be fair, I talk to myself more often than most people, but still. I thought I knew where it was going, but was completely shocked by where it ended up. I was genuinely disturbed by this read and I'm sure I'll have nightmares because of it. I'll say it again: Ugh, creepy. And I'll throw in a shudder for good measure. Definitely a favorite.
Last Call by E. L. Norry - A bitter man makes the worst of a bad situation...
So well written (except for "whilst" being used twice so close together) that I was totally cheesed when it ended so abruptly! Definitely read like a first chapter as opposed to a short story.
Don't Break The Glass by Jennifer Martin - A zombie outbreak is no place for a family...
Wasn't so sure about this one to begin with. The protagonist was a little juvenile starting out, but once I got past that the story ended up being great! I would love to see this as a full-length novel. Just lose the phrase "WTF", please. Only Valley girls talk like that, and while Clueless was UH-MAZ-ING, it shouldn't be done anymore.
What Goes Around by Carmen Jenner - Keeping the woman you love captive in a basement can have far greater ramifications than one could ever imagine...
GREAT story. Went in a totally unexpected direction and turned out so SO well. I had a hard time figuring out who I liked and who I felt sorry for - the protagonist or the antagonist. Which means we had some complicated, realistic, and well done characters. Did I mention there was also gore? I'd love to see this turned into a novel. Well done.
Breaker One Nine by Connor Rice - Being an ice trucker can be mighty dangerous, and not just for the most obvious reasons...
Another favorite. So creepy and surreal as well as unique - I'm a big fan of new monsters. As opposed to being a huge metal fan:
Which I actually am, by the way. My only complaint? Editing mistakes a-plenty. Enough so that the ending (while being totally epic and awesome) was fucked up because of a misplaced word that distracted me from the final shebang. Turn it into a full length read and hire an editor. I'd buy it. Little Darlings by Ginger Nielsen - Maybe the creepy old woman across the street really IS all the fearful things you think about her... Definitely had a promising start; creepy and intriguing. But I felt like it transitioned really abruptly and unrealistically. It almost felt like reading two different stories. Two stories is fine. Two SEPARATE stories. Not two stories mashed together like awkward teens in an arranged marriage.
And what about Wickers?! What's his deal?! Salvation Sign by Brad Cobb - Opal Hodges is a good God-fearing woman, but the feelings she's been having lately are less than charitable... I had trouble with this one. Basically, the old woman feels weird. Page after page of how weird she feels. It definitely gets repetitive after a while (especially for someone who feels weird all the time anyways). Then the ending just kind of blasted me in the face, coming way out of left field (I bet there's a sex euphemism for something like that... A Houdini, I think?) and while it was interesting for sure, it was also pretty vague. Either it was too subtle for me, or someone spiked the old bat's communal wine with LSD:
Church Farm House by Patrick O'Neill - Living in the home of a notorious killer can have grave consequences... I liked this one. Well written and creepy (especially one certain scene... nasty in every sense of the word). And hell, there was even a surprise! You have to be pretty good to surprise the likes of me when I'm reading horror, so good show. Harvest Home by Linton Robinson - There's no safety at the homestead in THIS community... A delightful little short. Loved how descriptive the author was; well detailed and realistic. And as a bonus, it was just gross enough to make me smile. A really weird and wonderful take on the traditional zombie tale. I'd love to see this as a longer book. The Book by Lyn McConchie - Fable and legend have to start somewhere... At first glance, this appeared to be a fairy tale. But quickly it revealed itself to be the old dark kind, not the fluffy Disney kind. Enough blood and murder in this one to stand with the best of them. So far the most different of the lot in this anthology in style and subject - a beautiful prodigious interlude. Well done. Synesthesia by E. E. King - If we knew all the wonders the world had to offer, it could drive a person mad... Bizarre. Totally freakin' bizarre. but delightful in a gruesome sort of way. Well written and thought provoking. And another character who may very well have been high on LSD. Hell, at least he tried to go with it... Would love to read this as a novella or even a novel. Another favorite. Octavia by Chantal Boudreau - A phobia can be a powerful mental disorder, but the cure can be much MUCH worse... This had a great opener. Straight up grabbed me from the word go. Very traditional in writing style, and was straightforward and easy to understand - just the way I like my reading. It definitely reminded me of Dread by Clive Barker, but in a good way. The Wild Huntsman by Skander Lafif - Venturing into the woods at night can have disturbing consequences... Now THIS reads like a traditional ghost story. I could expect to find this in one of those spooky as books I loved so much as a kid. But with more sophisticated writing. Tho Storm by Sara Fowles - This apocalypse begins with tiny animals and lots of itching... Skillfully done. A fantastic tense buildup and purple prose that wasn't too damn purple (almost always an issue for me). Kind of finished by winding into Christ-knows-what, but still definitely good. A Cloud Over The Sun by A. A. Garrison - Wishes don't always turn out like one would hope... Wonderful, original, creepy and upsetting. All the good things a horror story should be. A great read. Dave And The Raven by Duncan Jones - There's something more sinister than shoddy service at your local retailer... Hilarious and bizarre; loved the combo horror and humor. So rarely done this well because it takes such immense skill. Though it was missing a really goddamn important writing element (no paragraph breaks whatsoever) I still really enjoyed this. If All Else Perished by Kiona Smith-Strickland - Running a zombie recovery service can be a mighty tough gig... Very professionally done. Realistic characters and reactions not usually seen in the protagonists of zombie stories. Unique and thoroughly enjoyable. A Quiet Corner Of Town by Angel Propps - It takes more work than you think to keep up a trailer park... Interesting. Neat concept. Occasionally over complex sentences, and mildly confusing, but I liked it because of the characters and the alternate realities presented. Which are always damn confusing, now that I think about it. Seamless by Shirley Golden - The perfect woman is, by no means, quite perfect... Whoa. Neat. One of those rare stories that start out confusing as hell and resolve themselves so effortlessly. The writing was ace, the story was weird, and reading it was fun. I really liked this. Possibly because I imagine having one of these little creations for myself.... for research purposes, you understand. Luther by Jay Wilburn - Rehabilitation with the monks isn't quite what we'd think it is... While the writing was good and the characters and concept were interesting, I definitely didn't get what was going on. Not enough explanation for me. But I've never been good with subtle. Granma's House by Tara Fox Hall - Who'd have thought staying in the house your granma died in would be spooky... I thought the monsters/ghosts were particularly disturbing in this one. Nightmare worthy to be sure. And while I would have liked more of an explanation, it was a good ghostly read. The Glass Eye by J. L. Petty - This ventriloquist and dummy have a mighty strange relationship... Because I've been reading horror forever, I pretty much had the idea where this was heading as soon as I got into it. And while the antagonists were better done than most ventriloquist/dummy horror stories, the protagonist had a pretty weird adjective ("almond hair" just makes me think of weird hippie cookies). Plus, the author was using semi-colons incorrectly: "I checked my watch again; which read 4:15 am. I put my hand in my pocket and clutched a silver revolver; with a tight grip. Afraid of whom I'd meet; I quietly concealed the gun in my pocket... I turned towards my car; with hopes of going home."Which was the most disturbing part of the story, really. This is why editors are so damn important. Stuff like that is REALLY distracting. Disturbance Of The Natural Pecking Order by Brandon Swarrow - When children go missing, parents will go along with just about anything to get them back... Extremely sinister and definitely creeped me out; possibly because it pretty realistically depicted how people can get into really fucked up situations (though I'm hoping this particular situation is none too common).
Would make an excellent full length novel. Hurbane Wulf by Raymond John Clarke - Lost love is a terrifying prospect... So there was definitely some lacking punctuation and punctuation where it wasn't supposed to be in this one (I had to lean that 'it's' and 'its' are two different things with two different meanings, and so should other people). But aside from that nasty bit, this was a lovely traditional horror story that, surprisingly, didn't have any werewolves. Alarming by Gregory A. Carter - This car is far more alarming than most (see what I did there?)... There were some missing words in this one, which always confuses and irritates the shit out of me. Luckily, the story was damn good and original, so I was appeased. I thought the idea was very Stephen King-esque (mega compliment in my books) and I liked how the author played the protagonist's relationship; that is, nonchalantly. Awesomely horrific and just the right amount of bizarre. Red by Rick Allden - There are worse things than your child disappearing... like your child coming back... Gripping as hell. Really enjoyed this story and the way it was written. I was totally creeped out by the description of the characters (definitely a good thing). Another Ghostly Figure by Chris Morton - A stroll though a haunted village might not be the best way to spend Halloween... A nice classical English horror story... with a subtly disturbing twist. Well written and nicely done with lots of creeping horror and a shy hint of weird. House For Rent by Phil Richardson - A cheap price on a place to live is never a good sign... Eerie. Reminded me of something I'd read as a kid (if authors and publishing houses didn't think kids were total wieners that can't handle a little murder). The protagonist is definitely worth getting to know better and I think the author could make a novel out of this one that would be worth buying. Last Dance by Peter Lingard - Being lost in the woods can be a frightening experience... A well done little horror story that didn't end up being a horror story at all... at least in the traditional sense. The protagonist was realistic and and situation was well done; it was definitely a nice way to end the book. Altogether, Fear: Volume One was a better than usual anthology. While occasionally the need for an editor cropped up and I usually prefer my reads longer, these facts were more than made for for by the variety and profusion of stories. No matter what you like, you'll find something here to suit your fancy, and it's definitely worth picking up.
Sep 2 - Sep 18, 2012
Eddie Griffin has got a tough lot in life. After winning the Superbowl and becoming one of the most recognizable men on the planet, the unthinkable happens: the dead rise and the Zombie Apocalypse swings into full force. But Eddie is definitely a survivor, and after teaming up with Lt. Jim Shrike, the two set off on a mission of unimaginable proportions...
I can honestly say, without a doubt, that I have NEVER read anything like this in my life. And I think the experience was good.
See, I thought Undead Reckoning was a horror novel. I mean, the cover, the title, the fact that it's about zombies... You can't fault me for pigeonholing the book right off the bat. But while it started out as a fairly straightforward horror/military zombie story, things quickly escalated. Suddenly there were gods and demons and warriors and robots and monsters and lots of chicks with big titties and thousands of other bits and bobs all occurring one after another (or on top of each other... if you know what I mean).
Reading this honestly kind of felt like getting sucked up into a tornado whirling over your local trailer park - there's so much stuff in it that all you can do is hold on to your garden gnomes and hope you don't get whacked by something. Or something else. Or 12 somethings. At once.
There were probably close to 100 characters (one of which was named Eddie Griffin; seeing as how he's a main protagonist, the name is thrown around a lot and it can get kind of distracting... or awesome, depending on how I feel that day) and so many situations; when looked at separately, they seemed to have no relation, and I was having trouble following what was going on.
I also noticed a marked evolution in the writing; it started off fairly simple and green, progressed into your average style, and finished off as full blown good-ass storytelling. And all the while there was a ton of shit going on.
So basically, I read the first part - "I totally get the zombie stuff, and I know what most of this terminology means, so don't treat me like a moron with all these annotations and maybe work on some more complete and complex sentence structures." which led to "I have no idea what the fuck is going on." to "OK, I think I get it." to "This is actually really fucking epic." to "I fucking lost it AGAIN." and finally to "Fuck it. I may not have any idea what the fuck is going on but I'm going to damn well enjoy it."
Undead Reckoning was definitely more Sci-Fi/Fantasy than horror, and while I liked it, I bet I would have liked it more if I was more experienced in sweeping epics and funny names.
July 30 - Aug 4, 2012 The Cabin in the Woods Tim Lebbon Horror/Movie Tie-In Published April 2012 297 pages 10/10 It's the classic horror movie set up - a group of sexy young adults take a trip to a spooky remote locale for some unsupervised debauchery. We all know what happens next. But in this case, what actually occurs is so far outside anyone's imagining, that NO ONE could have seen it coming... Can I just tell you? I was riveted. RIVETED. I started reading, was lulled into a false sense of detached skepticism ("THIS is supposed to be the horror experience to turn all the ones before it on their ears? This is just like any other horror setup! Mysterious plot lines, incredibly sexy but otherwise average Joes going somewhere totally inappropriate, casual sex... Oooh, sex.") But then I got hit by the runaway Weird Train at the What The Fuck Is Happening crossing in the center of Jesus Christ This Is Bizarreville. Not only was I enchanted, but I was also STOKED. I was weird! I want strange! I want different! I want this: "A unicorn gored a scientist against a well, its horn probing through his stomach and chest, grinding, tearing, and his spurting blood painted its gorgeous flowing mane red." I tell you, I don't see this in your average horror novel. Though I will say that I can definitely see similarities between this plot and The Midnight Meat Train by Clive Barker (read my review HERE)
and dashes of Bentley Little in the writing style - strange, dry humor, and viscous gore. If Barker and Little got together and made sweet sweet love at a fetish club in an abattoir during comedy hour, Tim Lebbon would be their freaky fuck trophy.
The writing was fast paced and kept similar time to a horror movie plot. Which makes sense, because the book is based on a horror movie. It was all laid out quite well, and I found it utterly delightful to find telling signs of the author's UK heritage. I can peg one of those Limey bastards from just a handful of pages.
Now, I can't really heap credit on the author for how unique this book is (seeing as how it's a movie novelization and all) but I can applaud him for taking what he was given and doing it a great service. It's not terrifically often that I find a book where the characters are likable and believable.
And you know who I loved most? Besides all the awesome monsters? Marty. That's right, the stoner. Are you surprised, though? I mean, the things that guy could do with a bong made me weak in the knees. And while he was definitely a stereotype, he was definitely given a treat treatment. Now THAT'S a fictional character I'd marry! Or screw. Whatever.
And finally, I just have to say that the ending was FANTASTIC. Seriously great.
Anyone who likes horror should read this, unless they've ruined it for themselves by watching the film first. To those people I say, Fuck you, cinephiles! Bibliophiles is where it's at!
June 30 - July 4, 2012
A Darkness Shattered
Without warning, the zombie epidemic explodes on the North American populace and it's every man for himself - or in Michael Nelson's case, every teenager for himself. Deciding to head for the shelter of his grandparents' farm, he comes across friends, foes, and one very special girl...
This author has potential in a big way. His head must be filled with boatloads of epicness and I'm pretty stoked to read the next book in this series.
See, the thing is, the writing on this one was a little rough around the edges, and hopefully he'll have a chance to hone his skill a bit... or hore (typo STAYS) a decent editor. There were close to 40-some-odd missed words, apostrophes, and commas. The author used a lot of the same words to closely together for my taste:
" 'Well, don't be afraid to have more if you want. Free refills at this restaurant!' His good humor was contagious and they couldn't help but smile with him. With a bright smile, Molly came out of a large nearby tent and brought them scrambled eggs with pieces of venison stirred into the eggs. 'Good morning, you two.' She greeted them. 'Hope you slept well.' 'We did, and thanks so much for letting us use the sleeping bags.' Abby replied. 'Don't mention it. They're extras and we didn't think the blankets would be warm enough. With a smile, she turned and went back into the tent[...]"
All those repeated words could definitely make the writing feel clunky at times.
A few key plot points happened way too quickly for my liking - not even teenagers fall in love THAT fast:
" 'I know it's only been a couple of days since we met,' he struggled quietly. 'But I've never felt this way about anybody before I met you. I think I love you...' "
And there was at least one full blown emo explosion:
"Civilization was lost, and his sorrow at the magnitude of that loss was an anchor dragging his emotions into a yawning black abyss within the depths of his soul."
I had to titter inwardly at that, because if this:
...had a baby, that paragraph would be it.
So because, I laughed, that wasn't so much a bad thing.
But for all my griping over technical details (and you know I love to gripe about that shit) I was totally enthralled by this book. Like, couldn't stop reading at 3AM enthralled. I really felt that the protagonist was making normal, realistic decisions, as opposed to majorly stupid ones ("Don't go into the basement alone, sexy teen! Christ!") or unbelievably heroic ones ("Don't try to save that couple, military guy! They're zombie chow! Christ!").
And somehow, the author created a totally unique zombie story. Literally, I've never read any zombie literature like this. And while I think the author rushed the romance a bit, he introduced the supernatual bit PERFECTLY. I'm itching (even though there's a cream for that) to read the next book because I want to see where that goes, and really, I'd just kind of like to see where the characters go from where they left off.
I liked them, and I liked this book.
May 27 - Jun 5, 2012
Published June 1993
Across the globe, the dead refuse to stay down; they have a voracious appetite for the living, and some have just enough cunning to lure in their livelier counterparts. But there's another breed of the dead that are not only cunning, but also understand that there are changes in the world that can be made... to their benefit...
Rookie cops! Missiles! Trained assassins! Cuban espionage! Betrayal! Violent sex! Hunting knives! Explosions!
I don't even know if there are any other elements available to make it more of a boy book (except maybe dinosaurs). And that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Boy books are great for nonstop action and violence. Hell, there was even a wee bit of romance. Gory, disturbing, occasionally super fucked up romance.
And you know, the writing was good. Really good, actually. I've come to expect a certain grade of writing when it comes to pulp horror (ranging anywhere from a B+:
To an F-:
So when I come across an A, I'm stoked. I really appreciate great writers who do me the service of expressing themselves in my favorite genre. Seriously, if I could send Stephen King a fruit basket (fruit is code for weed, BTW) for his hard work and dedication to scaring the pants off of me and making horror legit enough for modern authors to dip their toes in, I would. But I've been told sending "fruit" across the boarder into another country is kind of illegal. And I don't want to be made the wife of a rough trick named Jimetta. I'm too pretty for prison.
Really, Wet Work was a pretty good book. It took a little while to get to the stuff that really interested me, but I know that just because I'm not personally interested in an aspect of a story (in this case, espionage and politics) that doesn't make it a bad read. I liked the zombies. I liked the characters. I could take or leave the hardcore boy stuff, but that's my preference. It was still well written, as well as being a unique take on the genre. So bravo for all of the technical aspects, and mild yawning for all the stuff that I just never quite found an interest in. More zombies, less politics.
Apr 16 - May 4, 2012
Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations
Edited by Eric J. Guignard
Published March 2012
A collection of adventure stories, not for the faint of heart.
Angel of Destruction - Cynthia D. Witherspoon
When a great city falls victim to tragedy, a lone woman is given the chance to wreak some havoc by an unlikely source...
This was a very intriguing premise, but it was so short! Nowhere near enough information or back story for my taste.
The Door Beyond the Water - David Tallerman
A man following in the footsteps of an explorer gone insane discovers for himself just what could drive someone to the depths of madness... and destruction...
Dark creeping horror with an old-timey feel. Could have used more blood.
To Run a Stick Through a Fish - Mark Lee Pearson
A little bit of lore about a very unusual people...
Strange. VERY strange. I find the juxtaposition of such a traditional style of story with such macabre and visceral subject matter kind of delicious. You know, even though I'm pretty sure I didn't get it.
Quivira - Jackson Kuhl
Tobias Lyddy accidentally stumbles across a secret city, mysterious treasure, and something much more bizarre and deadly than he could have ever imagined...
I found this to be wonderfully witty and clever, in both writing style and subject. It grabbed my attention from the first sentence and kept me barreling along until the very end. The first story I actually "got". Thank Christ. I was beginning to think I was a little stupid there...
Directions - Michael G. Cornelius
It's finally time to hear from ALL the witches of Oz...
While this was a good read, and a particularly unique take on a literary dynasty, I probably would have enjoyed this more if I was more familiar with The Wizard of Oz.
Quetzalcoatl's Conquistador - Jamie Lackey
Bring a Spanish explorer isn't all murder and sacrifice; at least, not the murder and sacrifice of those you had previously intended...
Why does it have to be so difficult to enjoy a story when you don't particularly like any of the characters? Plus, I'm unfamiliar with the original story, so I have to say my ignorance kind of shit the bed on this one.
Konigreich der Sorge (Kingdom of Sorrow) - C. Deskin Rink
Many years ago, the Nazis finally found themselves up against their most frightening foe: a force more evil than themselves...
This was the first story that really struck me deeply, and it packed a real whallop; it's definitely a top contender for my favorite of the bunch. Heroics (the Nazi kind, but still) caves, monsters, madness... It was everything I love in an adventure story, and it was delightfully well-written, to boot. I was going to make a pun about finding myself rooting for the Nazis, but this meme sums it up perfectly...
Gestures of Faith - Fadzlishah Johanabas
When an ancient Island nation begins falling into decline, all hope rests on the shoulders of a most unassuming boy...
Surprisingly, this wasn't the least bit horrific. Instead, it was a pretty little origin story, one which I found to be... pretty nice, actually. Yes, terrifying I know; I enjoyed something was wasn't gore-soaked or frightening. I'm kind of shaken myself.
Bare Bones - Curtis James McConnell
When making a scientific discovery, does one accept a completely new theory, or sweep it under the rug?
This was a story I could really identify with; not because I'm a scientist or proficient in handling skulls, but because it was one of the few set in modern times, or had a modern feel. Hey! I'm familiar with vacations and reports! But besides liking it for its setting, I also found it quite sharp and witty, interesting as hell, smart enough to make me smile but not so smart that I felt like a dumbass, and it had just the right amount of nastiness. Two thumbs up!
British Guiana, 1853 - Folly Blaine
Jungles, paleontologists, and ancient monsters: the perfect recipe for something disastrous...
Hooray! Jungles and monsters! I LOVE stories like this! Not only was it a great read, but I adored the protagonist. I could really identify with him and his decisions... which means I should probably NEVER go monster hunting.
The Nightmare Orchestra - Chelsea Armstrong
In the land we inhabit in our nightmares, there are those we rarely give thought to, except for a terrified shudder of fear every so often. But those denizens of the nightmare world have a life of their own...
This should be a full-length novel. Seriously, the author should get on that, STAT. I want origins, I was explanations, and I want scores of nightmares. Hey I can even help contribute some nightmares! One of my recurring ones starts with me, pant less, on a public bus. I have to pee, and there's only one toilet. Did I mention it's in the middle of the isle and there's no walls around it? Yeah. It only gets worse from there...
The Funeral Procession - Jay R. Thurston
There are reasons why some things are buried, and there are very good reasons why some things should STAY buried...
I can say this was interesting and informative for sure, but I really couldn't eke out a connection with any of the characters. Boo-urns.
Requiem - Jason Andrew
We have often viewed alien life forms as either non-existent or hostile. How would we react if they were just like us?
Sad and sweet. The writing came through for me emotionally, but I don't think I got it intellectually. Doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it, though.
Gilgamesh and the Mountain - Bruce L. Priddy
The saga of Gilgamesh didn't quite end as we were led to believe...
Normally I hate poems. I'm pretty sure I mentioned once in an earlier review that poems were stupid and didn't make any sense and any jackass could upchuck a jambalaya of words onto a page and call it "art". Poetry ranks right up there with paintings that consist of a red circle and a black line that sells for a million dollars to some asshole because their stock broker dude says it's a wise investment. Ugh.
This? This is a story in poem form. I'm totally cool with this. It has a beginning, middle, and end, and contains such words as "the" and "and". It's even cognizant. On top of those features that set it far and above loads of poetry I've suffered through, it was kind of horrific and had a killer ending. A definite gooder.
Buried Treasure - Rob Rosen
Whether you're a 9-year-old playing in your yard in the 80's (I found a necklace once! But mostly I found worms.) or a gown adult in the future, there's always mystery and valuables to be dug up...
I'm a big fan of post-apocalyptic radness, and though I guessed the end (only because I'm a seasoned world traveler *cough* never left North America *cough*) I still enjoyed it a heck of a lot.
The Small, Black God - Caw Miller
Not all archeologists have noble intentions, and not every artifact should be discovered...
Another old feeling one, but the characters were done so well that I totally fell into it. Absolutely well done, and a great read. Nothing too obtuse or vague, just plain old good storytelling.
In Eden - Cherstin Holtzman
When it's time to go to the great mystery in the sky, there are some that just aren't willing to lie down easy...
Hooray! There was a zombie story in here! So no matter what, I couldn't help but enjoy this. There was blood and horror, and though mildly vague, I still got my jollies just fine.
We Are Not the Favored Children - Matthew Borgard
Transitions are seldom easy, and transitioning from one God to another could prove not only difficult, but also deadly...
I really enjoyed the setting of this one, but there were some parts I was still fuzzy on. Possibly because I have little experience existing in an ancient tribe with multiple deities that would be willing to destroy me.
Rebirth in Dreams - A. J. French
When a gentleman decides to take his consciousness into his own hands, he is ill-prepared for the journey that awaits him...
It's no secret that I work in a head shop. I've made that pretty clear, I think. And one of the most valuable lessons I've learned from my boss is that we don't sell things like salvia because "it's a journey plant. And I don't feel comfortable sending people on journeys without providing a guide." And the protagonist in this story found out all about that. This story was very dark (just the way I like them!) and totally neat-o. The author's description of the trips seemed pretty... ahem... spot on, and that was another plus for this one as well. My only complaint is that I wish it was longer and more detailed. A head shop chick who enjoyed a story about getting high; what are the odds of that?
Whale of a Time - Gitte Christensen
In the future, mankind has experienced a heck of a move, and the underwater creatures they share their space with have more to them than anyone imagined...
All I have to say is that this was weird as fuck and boatloads of fun. See what I did there? With the boat reference? Because the story is set in the ocean? Awww, you guys get it. And oh, those crazy steampunks.
Sins of our Fathers - Wendra Chambers
Every person is interested in their origin, but not every person will be delighted with it...
I loved the fact that this was a longer one. It takes time for me to warm up to characters and ideas, so longer is definitely better (that's what she said!)
Unfortunately, though it was long and enjoyable (do I even need to say it again?) it was one of those ones that I didn't get. It was good and all, but it didn't come together at the end with a simple explanation. Fuck.
The Talisman of Hatra - Andrew S. Williams
When you have to make a decision between the well-being of your family and the well-being of your people, there can never be a kind outcome...
You know, this was quite beautiful, actually. And finally, a female protagonist I can really get behind (Christ, these "That's what she said" jokes are just writing themselves, here)! And though it was tragic, I thought the ending was just right.
Sumeria to the Stars - Jonathan Vos Post
Algebra, quantum physics, and ancient tablets from the past; someone is going to get throw for a loop...
I've watched countless episodes of Ancient Aliens:
And I've seen Thrive
at least twice (seriously though, everyone should watch it, so go do that when you're done reading this). And you know what? I'm still way WAY WAAAAYYYYY too dumb for this. I've got nothin'.
The Tall Grass - Joe R. Lansdale If ever you find yourself the only one awake at an unplanned train stop, for the love of Mike DO NOT GET OFF THE TRAIN. This is my other contender for my number one favorite story. It was ridiculously well-written (which may be why Lansdale has such a crazy following) and while it had a nice reserved ghost story vibe, it has utterly hideous and awesome 21st century monsters. The characters were bang on, and I was mesmerized from start to finish. I can't believe in all the reading I've done that this was my first Lansdale.
The Island Trover - JC Hemphill Mysterious Islands from which no one has ever returned are a big draw for the adventurous, as well as the greedy... Jungles? Awesome. Assholes? Fascinating. Gore? Wholly entertaining. S
imple, straightforward, and enjoyable, this was a great choice to wrap it all up. Overall, definitely worth a read.
It was extremely varied in styles and genres, which means that pretty much anyone will be able to find something they'll enjoy in this anthology. There were stories I loved, stories I wanted expansions on, and stories that I found were unclear/I needed to be way smarter for. Which really, is the sign of a good anthology: intelligent, with something for everyone.
Jan 19 - Jan 24, 2012
The Zombie Plague has ripped through the nation, but the survivors are beginning to pick up the pieces; a tentative government has been established, rules are being put into place, and trained teams of volunteers are clearing out the undead, section by section. As Mark Spitz exterminates the stragglers, the horror of the past and the horror of the present create a pervasive static trauma, but he's well prepared when the shit REALLY hits the fan...
I don't know how to feel about Zone One; it's a unique take on the zombie novel, terrifically intellectual and quite unlike anything I've read before.
This is the first zombie novel I've read that focuses on the AFTERMATH of the living dead apocalypse - the slow treacherous rebuilding of society. Truthfully, that's why I picked it up in the first place; who doesn't want to prepare themselves for their own eventual survival after the escape, the slaughter, and the small triumphs?
The fact that the author also brought up the mental and emotional effects of facing a zombie apocalypse was terrifically thoughtful and insightful. Sure, other books have touched on the few crazies this or that character may have come across, but I kind of assume that ANY survivor would be a few cheese slices short of their tray of crackers after outrunning, outmaneuvering, and out-killing the living dead... and the living. If you catch my drift. Even our protagonist of Zone One was a leetle beet weeird and tough to follow at times, though this is chalked up to the trauma, and expertly so.
But you know what else was hard to understand? THE ENTIRE BOOK.
Besides the fact that we zoned in and out of flashbacks without warning, and besides the fact that the protagonist did a fuck of a lot of thinking in his incredibly disjointed manner, and besides the fact that I needed my dictionary every page or so, it was just too... intellectual. I mean, instead of splattering rotting brains to smithereens and rescuing enclaved survivors (we did do a little of that, but not much) we spent a lot of time in the head of Mark Spitz, with his incredibly intelligent (but incredibly obtuse) thoughts and feelings.
This is a thinking man's zombie novel, but how many thinking men put down their Chaucer and pick up a contemporary undead horror book instead? If I wanted to be entertained by thinking, I'd use my own freaky brain (or read an Oprah book) instead. I read to escape the doldrums of my reality, not to step into the doldrums of someone else's.
So while it was good, and different, it's not what I expected or particularly in a zombie book. But you can't argue with great writing, either.
Jan 10 - Jan 13, 2012
Day By Day Armageddon: Beyond Exile
J. L. Bourne
Published July 2010
Our hero is back, with more responsibility than ever.
THE FUCK. The first book in this series was definitely badass; while it seemed male-centric, the protagonist was fuckin' SMART, and I respected that. NOW? This book? Buddy's transformed from clever survivalist with a military background to total military robot. Really, he doesn't even seem human anymore. He's completely detached from everything going on around him; even though he's got a hot survivor woman who wants a piece, she's relegated to being mentioned a few times in a couple of paragraphs. Like I said, our protagonist is a robot. No fun.
On top of that, this book is so liberally encrusted with military terms that, half the time, I had no idea what the fuck I was reading about. I'm not an idiot; I know the difference between a pistol and a shotgun, but an MP4 and an MP5? Why? What can't the author just focus on one? Why does the protagonist have to have both in this book? Does it really matter that he has the first, gets the second, and then debates between the two without really giving any pertinent info on either one? Totally unnecessary. And then they go into experimental weaponry and technology... I was totally lost and just ended up feeling ambivalent about it after a while. You want to throw dozens of technical terms at me without even a goddamn diagram to help me? Fine. See this?
Now I'm I'm just skimming, dude.
I felt like there were some really rad plot lines that were going to be developed; we got the first little bit of them, I got all excited about some real action, and then... NADA. Maybe the author is saving the good stuff for his next book, but I don't think I'll be running out to the bookstore to get it. You know what this book gets from me? One of these:
Because it got my hopes up for another badass book, turned the protagonist into a robot, started to get into some seriously interesting plot lines and then left me hanging, and didn't even bother to refer me to Future Weapons so I could grasp at least an IDEA of what the fuck the author kept going on and on about.
Jan 6 - Jan 9, 2012
Day By Day Armageddon
J. L. Bourne
Published Sep 29, 2009
A military man faces the Zombie Apocalypse, and must do whatever necessary to ensure the preservation of himself, and his soul.
This is one of the first zombie books I've read where the human protagonist isn't a complete mess of an idiot.
This guy is a military man, intent on survival and actually possessing the skills to make it happen. He knows how to handle guns, clear a room, fly a plane, and rescue others who aren't as adept at fending off the undead as himself. He's willing to take risks I wouldn't (Rescue trapped survivors? Well, those zombie hordes look mighty hungry, and my bunker here at Chapters is pretty cozy... maybe I'll just turn this radio off...) but this wasn't like most zombie books where I would find myself yelling, "Why are you leaving safety to look for your wife?! She was trapped in the city 100 miles away when this whole thing went down 3 weeks ago! You're going to get eaten, or lose friends who stupidly agree to go with you on this suicide mission, asshole! In fact, I guarantee one will get bitten but hide it from all of you until the last minute, and then make an idiot 'Noble Sacrifice' to save you all, but most of you will die anyways, until there's no one left but you and possibly a sexy sidekick! And your wife will probably be dead! Or happy to see you, but that'll make things awkward for your sexy sidekick that you probably shared a kiss with after everyone else died. Fuck. This book sucks." And though I probably just ruined every zombie book ever written out there (or ever will be written) you guys all know what I'm talking about. In fact, our protagonist chose NOT to go looking for his parents, because he knew it would be suicide. This is my kind of dude. Yes, he did go looking for survivors, but based on logic and planning, not stupid love.
Sure, the writing was a little under developed, the author repeated himself of occasion, and there were a fuckload of technical terms that meant little to me (I have never been in the military, after all) but it was such a quick easy read that all was forgiven. I was too busy burning through this to really focus on the negative aspects, which is how a book should go. If you're going to make a book draggy as fuck, make sure your writing skills are top-notch. If you're new to writing and maybe have some bugs to work out, make it non-stop action so no one notices if your character thinks the same thought twice.
Finally, a zombie book where I don't have to scream at it because the characters are idiots. I'm sure that'll make my bus rides a lot less unnerving for the other passengers...
Just imagine that nice little old lady is a book, and that'll be a pretty accurate representation of me reading most zombie novels. For real. Don't ride public transit.
Jan 3 - Jan 4, 2012
K. A. John
In the tiny Irish village of Wake Wood, the residents welcome newcomers only if they're a certain type of people, as they live in a very... special place. Patrick and Louise have just lost their daughter in a horrific accident, and are living shattered shells of their former lives, barely hanging on to any semblance of their former selves. And Wake Wood is welcoming them with open arms.
This book is what would happen if Pet Sematary and Village of the Damned got together for a cheap one night stand and had a baby made of paper and ink. Literally. Only the names seem to be different. I mean, I don't think I can really complain; when I read the synopsis on the back of the book, I thought, "This sounds just like Pet Sematary! I LOVED that shit!" and then whisked it up to the insane Boxing Day line-up at Chapters, where I then witnessed a crazy lady scream, "I'm not leaving without my KKKOOOOOBBBBBOOOOO!" and then got chased by the managers and security as she ran screaming through the store, and eventually got dragged out to the waiting police. It was a good time.
The problem is, because I've already seen and read Pet Sematary, and seen (but not read) Village of the Damned (I've actually seen that one multiple times, because hot ass Kirstie Alley is hot) I was easily able to predict where the story was going. I mean, I pretty much figured out where shit was going once I read the back, so I just had to wait for the book to catch up with my *ahem* stunning intellect, which, luckily, didn't take too long. It was a super quick and easy read, and it required very little brain power to get through it, so even when I gapped out over the course of a page or two, all I had to do was a quick re-skim to get the gist of what was happening. I literally blasted through this in less than 24 hours, which is pretty fuckin' good for me these days. Hey, I have a busy social life, including themes such as ferret playdates, Thirsty Thursday, and recovering from Thirsty Thursday.
There was enough blood and guts and horror to get me interested, and it was weird enough to keep me going. There was most definitely some bizarre scenarios being played out on the regular, and I like weird. I wouldn't have been interested in the first place if there was no weirdness to draw me in. And I have to admit, K. A. John can paint a ruined, crushed, and utterly destroyed female protagonist pretty damn well.
The part that bothered me the most though ( besides the blatant disregard for animal welfare) was that it ended so abruptly and without explanation. It was as though the author was under deadline, was supposed to have the last 50 pages done for the next day, got shit-hammered (possibly at Thirsty Thursday?) and threw the epilogue together while she was hungover. It made little sense, and would have benefited from longer treatment.
My opinion? A good beach or camping read, but hardly literature.