The Monster Librarian Presents:
Reviews of Something Different aka Unique Horror Related Fiction
Horror related books that don’t quite fit into any other category.
BlackWyrm Publishing, 2012
Available: Paperback, ePub(Kindle)
Amateur theater director Stephen Thorne plans to stir up trouble in his small town by staging an incredible production of Greek tragedy. The players work fast and loose to get everything ready. In the mix are a dirty politician's secret love child and a group of role-play gamers. Unknown to the players, their little production of mischief has attracted more attention than expected. Ancient gods are taking notice of the games the mortals are playing.
Vine has an interesting concept as its basis: marry Greek tragedy with urban legend and see what happens. The structure is well done, complete with the Muses introducing the action and commenting along the way. The cast of characters was massive. There were so many characters that they all sort of blended together for me. The writing style reminded me of reading an actual Greek tragedy, which, for me, was not a pleasant reading experience. The prose became too dense for me to sort through. Others may enjoy this type of tale as it was consistent and well written, but in the end, this work reminded me that Greek tragedy is meant to be performed and not read. I have not read any of this author's previous works. No Recommendation.
Reviewed By: Aaron Fletcher
Beewolf Press, 2014
Available: Hardcover, paperback and Kindle edition
A young man has come to the remote Shetland Islands to search for an obscure folk song based on the Orpheus myth to complete his university studies. He befriends some local families, hoping they will sing the song and reveal its ending. Broken-hearted from one love affair, he kindles a new one here. He learns of the natural and supernatural history of the island, the selkies, the fairies (called trowies), and the tragedies of this remote existence. The narrator, you slowly begin to realize, is one of the trowies herself, with her unique viewpoints on humans and their foibles. The young man becomes part of the filmy fabrics that shift between realities on these battered, lonely islands. Reality, memory, dream and landscape meld into one. How much of our life is controlled by the trowies and their whims, unbeknownst to us? The poetic prose and stark, eerie imagery is mesmerizing. Grydehoj is a Dane whose affinity for the Scottish islands is evident. This book appealed to me on so many levels, that of Scottish islands, Celtic legend, folk tales and music, supernatural beings … combs… harps… it’s uncanny. I recommend this haunting, beautifully-written tale for like-minded readers!
Reviewed by Julie Adams
BlackWyrm Publishing, 2009
Available: Paperback, eBook(Kindle)
The story begins at the end, in a courtroom. A stranger has drifted into town and taken a room with a witch; the townspeople think he must be a wizard. Only a wizard would take up with a witch, after all. Soon after, people start getting sick. The stranger, named Baour, is seen creeping around in the woods, alone. Ghostweed, a plant used only by those dealing in death, is being harvested by someone. Then Baour lets slip that he is a necromancer, a wielder of death magic. The villagers demand a trial, and Baour willingly goes to court to defend himself. He has nothing to hide. The cross examinations begin and the evidence is presented. Justice will be served this day.
I really enjoyed this murder mystery. A necromancer defending himself in court is a truly original situation, and the author does a fantastic job of writing it. The plot is well laid out with enough convolutions to keep your attention. His method of revealing the past through the process of cross examination in the courtroom worked really well. The characters were well thought out and had unique voices. The tension builds nicely throughout, while keeping a courtroom feel. The descriptions were just enough to keep you in the story. The pace is perfect, although it slows down just a touch before the big reveal at the end, to give you a chance to take a breath before hitting you with the twist. Well done, Mr. Vandereyken! This was a fantastic read! I have not read any of this author's work before. Highly Recommended for adult readers.
Contains: Sexual Situations, Homosexuality
Reviewed by Aaron Fletcher
Plastic by Christopher Fowler*New Review
ISBN: 978-1781081259 (paperback), ASIN B00E7XIEN6 (Kindle), 978-1-84997-638-1 (epub), 978-1-84997-8 (mobi)
Available: Paperback, Kindle edition, epub and mobi formats.
June Cryer is a housewife living in the suburbs of London who assuages the loneliness of her loveless marriage by hauling home bag after bag of high-ticket items from swanky London department stores, putting it all on plastic. When her husband owns up to an affair with the flight attendant next door and makes her return all her purchases, her boozing good-old-girl neighbor gets her a weekend gig, flat-sitting for someone she doesn’t know very well. June winds up in a ritzy London flat, where she witnesses a murder and becomes embroiled in an organized crime ring involving Eastern Europeans, professional criminals, and violent thugs. In a matter of hours, she goes from kept-up housewife to homeless fugitive left for dead, shedding her possessions-- and her enslaved condition-- along the way. Christopher Fowler’s signature wry humor and biting sarcasm leave you laughing and biting your nails at the same time. He’s well-known in the UK where his Bryant and May detective series is wildly popular (Officer Bryant makes a cameo appearance here). I would call this crime fiction, although not a “horror crime thriller” as the publicity materials had touted, unless you call running up thousands of pounds of debt on your plastic daddy “horror”, which you just might….
Contains: Sex, violence
Reviewed by Julie Adams
Mage's Blood by David Hair*New Review
Jo Fletcher Books, 2013
Available: Hardcover and Kindle edition
Mage's Blood, Book One in The Moontide Quartet, is an ambitious novel sure to thrill readers of character-driven fantasy. Hair has done an admirable job in building a complex world populated by a rich and diverse cast of characters. While there is little to be found here that has not been seen before, Hair takes all these well-worn elements and blends them together in a tense, edge-of-your-seat fantastical drama. There's a little something for everyone here — conspiracies, political backstabbing, high magic, swordplay, a smattering of romance, and more. While it's true that there's a fair amount of exposition and far too much derivative storytelling, Hair's handling of the intricate plot he's woven, and his deft handling of the intriguing cast, makes up for these minor missteps. Recommended for fans of George R.R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson, and Patrick Rothfuss.
Review by Bob Freeman
The Emperor’s Knife is the debut novel by Mazarkis Williams, and the first book of the Tower and Knife Trilogy, a high fantasy set in the troubled court of the Cerani Empire. A ‘plague’ is afflicting the empire, marking carriers with a mysterious pattern that binds them to some strange power that controls them. The emperor, Beyon, is apparently powerless against the pattern, and his reign is threatened by the machinations of those around him. The book has multiple storylines: that of Beyon and his court; that of Sarmin, the emperor’s ‘forgotten’ brother; that of Mesema, the young ‘Felt’ woman who is being brought to Cerana as Sarmin’s bride; and that of Eyul, the court assassin who wields the eponymous knife. Gradually, the truth about the pattern and its hold over the court is revealed, and the separate storylines come together to reach a climactic resolution.
The Emperor’s Knife is an epic read. The world of the Cerani and the dazzling cast of characters is a little overwhelming, and the first few chapters require careful reading. However, it is also the sort of book you can immerse yourself in. Williams’s writing is very good, and the story unfolds with a lightness of touch and an eye for detail. The pacing is not always consistent, so some of the early chapters feel a little slow compared with the second half of the novel. However, the resolution is satisfying, and the character development is handled well. For readers of high fantasy looking for something dark, intelligent and complex, this is a must-read. Recommended for fantasy fans.
Contains: some violence
Reviewed by: Hannah Kate
Shambling towards Hiroshima by James Morrow*New Review
Tachyon Publications; 1St Edition edition, 2009
Available: New and Used
The plot: It's 1945. A B-movie actor is shanghaied by the Navy into performing
in a giant monster suit to intimidate a Japanese delegation into convincing
Hirohito that the United States has gigantic, ravenous, fire breathing behemoths
they will unleash on Japan's civilian population if the Japanese don't
surrender. And yes, there really are gigantic, ravenous, fire breathing
behemoths. Clearly, this plan didn't work and the behemoths were never
released-- instead, the military dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
This is the story told by Syms Thorley, the actor in question, just before he
attempts suicide, his tremendous guilt over the events that might have lead
toward the dropping of the bomb more of a burden than he can handle.
The book is loaded with references to B-movies and the people who worked on them, and Syms is an entertaining and sympathetic character, so it's a fun read (although calling any book framed by the main character's contemplation of killing himself "fun" feels... strange). However, it never achieved the emotional depth I would have expected for Syms to actually attempt to follow through on his suicide. I couldn't help liking Syms, his girlfriend, and the bizarre plot thought up by the Navy. I have two big kaiju fans in my family, and I loved both the idea of the "giant lizard monster in a suit" saving the day and the irony of the super secret government project becoming a very public monster movie franchise and making Syms a star. A masterwork of literature it's not, but Shambling towards Hiroshima is an unusual read that might have a wider audience than you'd expect, and kaiju and B-movie fans will definitely get a kick out of it. This would be a great choice to add a little breadth to your next monster movie display! Recommended.
Contains: sexual situations, mild violence, attempted suicide
Reviewed by: Kirsten Kowalewski
Sad Monsters: Growling on the
Outside, Crying on the Inside by Frank Lesser*New Review
Plume; Original edition, 2011
Frank Lesser, a writer from the Colbert Report, takes his sharp wit and turns it towards monsters and the various challenges that they have in everyday life. Sad Monsters includes such gems as excerpts from Godzilla’s diary that would give any fan of those giant monster movies a nice chuckle; the breakup correspondence between vampire Count Radu and his love interest Julie; and the journals of one Dr. Jekyll, who finds out that when he turns into Mr. Hyde that his activities are somewhat political. One of my favorite giggles was Night of the Living written in screenplay format with the living preying on the undead.
Lesser chooses monsters from myths, movies, and legends with puns, quips, and wit giving the reader plenty of laughs. This is a must add book for library collections and is meant for adult audiences. The book is a collection of shorts in varying formats. This is a book that genre readers will enjoy; it should be noted that it really helps to have some passing knowledge of mythological and movie monsters to get much of the humor.
Review by Dylan Kowalewski
Gallows Press, 2012
ASIN: B007387M6C (this isn't the Gallows press edition... I can't find the ISBN for it, but it's a print version)
Available: New & Kindle
Gary Harpster is planning on spending a weekend camping with the boys, but is worried about leaving his wife Rebecca home alone--she's a bit of a scaredy cat. Rebecca promises him she's alright, though deep down she knows she's anything but. After a bit of back and forth, he promises her he'll call and check in, and heads out on his trip. Rebecca struggles her way through the weekend, and never receives a phone call from Gary, nor does he answer when she tries to call him. By Sunday night, she starts to panic. About that time her doorbell rings, and the person on the other side tells her that they are the police. Unfortunately for Rebecca, it's not really the police and she is taken at gunpoint by the stranger at the door. He tells her that he will take her to find out what happened to Gary, but the only way for her to find out is to play their little game. And what they have in mind is something she's not prepared for at all. They want her to go camping. Well, not just camping... they want her to re-live everything Gary went through over the weekend and she can't even begin to imagine what all that might entail.
A good horror/comedy book is hard to find, but all one has to do is find a book with the name Jeff Strand on the title and it's a winner every time (except for those couple of non-horror/comedy books he wrote). Faint of Heart is a fast-paced novella with a bit of torture, a slight bit of gore, and a lot of laughs. At the start of the book the main heroine, Rebecca, seems to be quite the wuss. (Seriously, who wouldn't want a weekend home alone to be able to catch up on their reading?) But as she starts going through all of the stuff that Gary had to go through, she has to learn to toughen up quickly. If not, she would've probably just died trying to eat the hot dog. (You'll understand once you read this novella.) That being said, Rebecca becomes a very likeable character by the end and the love she shows throughout for Gary is just phenomenal. The fact that she would put herself through as much as she does throughout this story proves just how much she cares for him. It's quite the touching story, despite it being full of violence, but what else can you expect from the King of Comic Horror? Highly Recommended!
Contains: Adult language, Adult Situations, Violence, Gore, Torture
Reviewed by: Rhonda Wilson
Sideshow PI: The Devil's Garden by Nathaniel Lambert and Kevin Sweeney*New Review
Graveside Tales, 2009
Sideshow PI is an acquired taste. It’s the tale of a group of sideshow freaks who have settled down in New Ramoth, a seedy city on the edge of a clone recycling plant, and it's rude, crude, violent, and disgusting. It's almost like the characters want the reader to know they deserve to be society's outcasts, and for more than just their deformities. Eddie Gnash is the wolf-boy parental figure that keeps them all together. Following a long depression after ending the show, Eddie rediscovers himself by becoming a P.I., and helping his friend Cletus hunt down whoever is killing johns on the city streets.
Sideshow PI boasts some amazing writing; splendid wrapping on a decent package. The vivid descriptions of vivisections and sex can go overboard, distracting even the characters from the plot. The book will certainly not be to everyone’s taste; it’s best for readers who love extreme horror and wallowing in the ultra-pits of human despair.
Contains: sex, violence, rape, mutations, cannibalism
Review by Michele Lee
Karaoke Death Squad by Eric Mays*New Review
Copeland Valley Press, 2011
Available: New paperback
Odie Wharton is a serious karaoke competitor. One night, a trio of beautiful girls enters the contest at a local bar, weird things begin to happen—and people begin to disappear. Odie and his crew of karaoke regulars are determined to find out what is going on in the karaoke bars of Baltimore. With the help of some Russian mobsters and a college professor, Odie discovers that the newcomers are the Sirens of ancient myth. These mythical creatures are very real and very deadly. They use their power of song to turn karaoke into their feeding ground.
Odie, who works a dead end job and still lives with his mother, believes that karaoke is practically sacred, and plans to make the Sirens pay for what they have done. After some futile attempts, Odie finds a way to bring an end to the Sirens’ use of karaoke for their gruesome interests.
I loved this story! There’s nothing like reading a great horror comedy and Eric Mays has delivered that with Karaoke Death Squad. The Sirens are serious business—they’re ruthless in their use of sex appeal to get what they want. Odie is a loveable loser who takes karaoke way too seriously, but the Sirens don’t seem to have an effect on him. This makes him a target, and he almost ends up as dinner. It’s truly funny to see Odie, a schlub with no ambition, compared to Homer’s great hero Odysseus, Odie’s namesake. Odie’s reasoning for why certain songs are good or bad for karaoke is so precise it made me think Eric Mays must have done plenty of research. Karaoke Death Squad is a fun read with some interesting and memorable characters, and Mays’ Top Ten Lists at the end of the book are fantastic. Read this book! Highly recommended.
Contains: violence, gore, adult language and sexual situationsReviewed by: Colleen Wanglund
The Doomsday Vault by Steven Harper (pseudonym for Steven Piziks)*New Review
Available: New and used mass market paperback; e-book
This is the first book in the Clockwork Empire steampunk series. Set in mid-Victorian London, the story depicts a population overrun by the “clockwork plague”, which either kills its victims or turns them into mindless zombie-like creatures. A few plague victims beat the odds morphing into clockworkers—creative geniuses who invent impossible automatons frequently related to music. Unfortunately, their condition results in eventual insanity. The government locks them up and uses their inventions for “the good of the empire.” A group called the Third Ward is assigned to deal with the clockworkers. China has its own set of clockworkers (called Dragon Men) and is Britain’s biggest technological competitor.
In London society, the rigid class system is in full swing. Women have two choices in this world. They can join the Ad Hoc Women—who wear trousers, vote, and are looked down upon by patrician society—or they can live as respected ladies with no real civil rights at all.
The heroine, Alice B. Michaels, is an impoverished young noblewoman with a crippled father. Early on, she has an encounter with a mob of zombies and gets involved with Third Ward warriors. Alice is adept at repairing automatons because her Aunt Edwina sends them to her as gifts. Alice believes that she must maintain the family title by encouraging the courtship of the wealthy Norbert Williamson, who wants to marry her for her title and for her skill at building and repairing automatons. The villainous Norbert deals in questionable business practices that would ruin him if discovered. A strange inheritance from Aunt Edwina sets Alice off on some independent adventures that free her temporarily from Norbert’s grasp.
In the meantime, a young American airman, Gavin Ennock, finds his life irrevocably changed when his airship is captured by pirates, and he escapes to roam the streets of London. Gavin has an angelic voice and an extraordinary talent for playing his violin. Soon he is kidnapped by a mysterious woman and placed in solitary imprisonment in an isolated tower. The plot follows Alice and Gavin as both try to make the best of their difficult situations. Gavin yearns to be free so that he can continue his life in the air, while Alice dreams of a life that would free her father from his debts and thus allow her to refuse Norbert’s marriage offer.
Eventually, Alice and Gavin meet and are mutually attracted, although they both realize that a romance between an American commoner and a baron’s daughter would never work. When a masked clockworker begins to shadow and taunt Alice, the action ratchets up, until eventually the protagonists become involved in capturing gigantic automatons, freeing an imprisoned clockworker, and leading a rebellion.
This is a fresh and inventive story, with interesting characters and lots of steampunk-inspired action, including airship pirate battles, political intrigue, wild weaponry, automatons of every size, shape, and ability—and plenty of zombies! Particularly entertaining are Alice’s two automaton sidekicks: Kemp, her persnickety manservant, and Click, her clever cat. Recommended.
Contains: some graphic violence
Reviewed by: Patricia Mathews
Blood Ocean by Weston Ochse*New Review
Abaddon, 2012 (original edition)
Available: Kindle, Trade Paperback
Blood Ocean is a magnificent tale of politics, science fiction and horror. Weston Ochse does a wonderful job thinking through what would happen in a world where the only commodity left is human blood. The book takes place after a plague- The Cull- has wiped out 90% of humanity, killing everyone who didn’t have Type O Negative blood.
In Blood Ocean, we meet the residents of Sargasso City, a city of ships that houses all the remaining Asians, and others. Hawaiians, Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos, and Russians are all trying to survive a horrible reality.
This is the tale of Kavika, a young ‘Pali boy’- Hawaiian warrior- who is deemed too small to be a full time Pali boy. Blood is everything to Kavika, his friends and his enemies. Kavika and his friend Leiliani are both caught in a huge mess when another Pali boy turns out to be a drug runner for the cartel called Los Tiburones (The Sharks). When Leiliani goes missing, Kavika is forced to act.
I highly and strongly recommend this book, especially to anyone who likes Asian culture, martial arts, action, political thrillers, or science fiction/horror blends. It feels as if this could be the first book in a series, and I hope it is, because this was a great read.
Contains: Profanity, Graphic Images, Adult situations, Gender Issues.
Reviewed by: Benjamin Franz
Apex Book Company, 2010
Available: Trade paperback and multiformat digital
Fast-paced and stylistically intense, An Occupation of Angels is pseudo-paranormal spy story set in a world where angels came to Earth, ending World War II. Killarney is a secret agent first assigned to assassinate an archangel, and then tasked with discovering who's really behind the systematic slaying of the angels of the world. Could it be Nazis?
Tidhar's style is urgent and wickedly ironic. There are a lot of spy stories with Nazi conspiracies, but this one is different from others that can be summed up in a similar way. Readers will wonder if Killarney herself is something different too, as they travel through her head in this world-spanning short novel. An Occupation of Angels is a great, vivid story perfect for libraries looking for something unique. It won't be up every reader’s alley, but it's a standout example of fantasy fiction.
Reviewed by: Michele Lee
Repeaters, by Erica Ferencik*New Review
Waking Dream Press, 2011
Available: New paperback and Kindle ebook
In the world created by Erica Ferencik, repeaters are people who come back to life in new bodies immediately after they are murdered. They are destined to keep coming back until they are able to love another person. This story focuses on a particular repeater, one who has come back more times than any other ever has. Although this repeater has been both male and female in past lives, she currently has the identity of Dr. Astra Nathanson, a child psychiatrist. Nineteen years ago, Astra decided that she wanted to stop coming back. To achieve her goal, she manipulated her life so that she would have someone she could love. She did this by giving birth to a daughter, Kim, who was born blind. When Astra found that she couldn’t love the pathetic creature, she dropped Kim off at a boarding school for the blind and never looked back. Now, Kim has grown up to be an intelligent, independent woman who has found her own true love in the form of Constantin Damler, her biology professor. Constantin persuades Kim to contact her mother to tell her of their forthcoming marriage, and that’s when the real action kicks in. The plot follows the tragic trio through several decades of horror as Astra’s desperate search for love changes all their lives—present and future. The story begins with a robin sitting on a soon-to-be-hatched egg—an image that might have come straight from the opening scene of David Lynch’s grotesquely fascinating movie, Blue Velvet. Then the mother robin sets the theme for the book when she cracks the egg, grabs up the hatchling, and gouges out its throat. So much for motherhood! The writing is somewhat clumsy, particularly the dialogue in the early chapters, but once Astra’s horrific machinations begin, the story gets better for the reader (but worse for Kim). The cover art (a skeletal snake’s head) has meaning after you read the story, but it doesn’t work very well as an introductory guide to content. Recommended.
Contains: several blood-and-gore scenes.
Reviewed by: Patricia O. Mathews
Scarla by B.C. Furtney*New Review
Comet Press, 2011
Available: New paperback
Scarla Fragran was the youngest female kickboxing champion in history. Now a cop’s widow, Scarla is working undercover to help put a stop to a disease that seems to be spreading on the streets. It affected her husband, and she wants to know what it is and how to stop it. Her handler, Facil LeTour, was Scarla’s husband’s partner. He knows what they went through. He’s also in love with Scarla and wants to do everything he can to help her.
Because Scarla was exposed to the disease by her dead husband, she can sense when someone infected will change….but only during sex. All along, for those running the secret assignment Scarla and her husband proved to be nothing more than guinea pigs. Now LeTour must sit back while Scarla plays prostitute and spirals downward to her own destruction.
Scarla is dark, somber, and extreme. It is a horror story of therianthropy which makes for a nice change of pace from the standard were-tale. The virus is causing people to transform into something other than human, but instead of a werewolf the changes consist of an amalgam of different animals. Scarla herself is an interesting character. She is very sympathetic, especially once you, the reader, realize things are happening to her that she is completely unaware of. The end has a nice unpredictable twist with hints of an impending apocalypse. I thoroughly enjoyed Scarla and had a tough time putting it down. Recommended.
Contains violence, graphic sex and adult language
Reviewed by: Colleen Wanglund
Lost: The Last of the Shamalans (Volume 1)
by Robert Louis Smith, Illustrations by Geoff Isherwood*New Review
Medlock Publishing, 2011
Available: Trade paperback, Kindle
Antiquitas Lost: The Last of the Shamalans is the first book in a series by Robert Louis Smith. Elliot is a loner with weird markings on his hands and feet. These markings are also on his mother and grandfather. When his mother is in the end stage of breast cancer, Elliot moves with her to his grandfather’s house in New Orleans. There he learns of a strange family heritage; they may not originally be of New Orleans or even of Earth. Searching through the basement, he comes across a painting which takes him to Pangrelor, the mother of all worlds. There he learns that he is a shamalan. The shamalan are the power-brokers of that world, and as a race, they are very near to dying out. Only a few shamalan are left, and Elliot is one of them.
Although he does not wish to be involved in the wars of Pangrelor, he soon finds himself at the front of a big battle between the Grayfarers –gargoyle like people – and the serpans –reptilians who walk upright. Can Elliot stem the tide of war? Does he want to? Will he accept his quest to recover the Antiquitas? All these questions and more are explored in this book. I found this book to be very enjoyable. It takes a little getting used to the names of places and people, but it’s a very good fantasy book. Recommended for fans of fantasy, dark fantasy and adventure.
Contains: Violence, graphic imagery.
Reviewed by: Benjamin Franz
The Damned Busters by Matthew Hughes*New Review
Angry Robot; Original edition, 2011
When Chesney Anstruther accidentally summons a demon (hey, it happens!), it leads to a series of events that ends with Chesney having super powers. For one hour a day. With a demon sidekick. Can a good man, under a bad influence, save the world and get the girl?
Reminiscent of Christopher Moore and Robert Rankin, Matthew Hughes' The Damned Busters (Book one of the To Hell & Back series) is an hilarious romp in a world of demons and superheroics. Chesney is the most boring man ever to put on a mask and fight crime: he's an actuary, for goodness sake! I don't even know what that is. Something to do with numbers and statistics and...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. But, Hughes actually makes Chesney interesting. He is, after all, a man who, when offered unlimited power for one hour a day, chooses to try to make the world a better place. With a great group of supporting characters, from Chesney's mother, to the demons of hell, to Chesney's co-workers, Hughes has created the wackiest cast outside of a Douglas Adams book.
Witty and fun, yet filled with real danger for the characters, The Damned Busters is a great addition to the comedy/horror/fantasy genre. From the bowels of Hell to the crime filled streets of the city, Hughes creates a wonderful alternate world that just might be a bit safer, thanks to Chesney and his demon partner. There are angels and demons, televangelists and corporate spooks, damsels in distress and drug dealers, and those crazy superpowers: everything Hughes needs to take readers on an entertaining ride. I certainly look forward to the next book in the series. I recommend The Damned Busters for libraries and fans looking for a good laugh, with some scares thrown in.
Contains: Comic book violence and sexual situations.
Reviewed by: Erik Smith
Meowmorphosis by Franz Kafka and Coleridge Cook*New Review
Quirk Books, 2011
Available: New Paperback and Kindle e-book
Coleridge Cook places tongue firmly in cheek and takes a bold swipe at one of the most fascinating philosophical works of German Expressionism, Kafka’s Metamorphosis. It is funny and thought provoking, and mimics Kafka’s style (in English translation), perfectly. The prose is elegant and satiric, nicely paced.
In Meowmorphosis, lower level civil servant Gregor Samsa is left to support his timid mother, sheltered sister, and useless, broken father, after the collapse of the family business. They depend upon him entirely, but it becomes quickly apparent that they do not value him as an independent human being, probably because he little values himself.
One morning Gregor wakes up transformed into a large kitten. After clumsy attempts to synchronize his four fuzzy appendages and realization that he can no longer communicate with people, he begins to accept his new life. Unfortunately, his family treats him with such fear and contempt, that he escapes through a window, fully meaning to return once he’s had a breath of fresh air.
While out, however, he’s confronted with accusations of worthlessness, lethargy, and complaisance, which are, in the cat world, capital offenses. Gregor is barely capable of asserting his own rights, so cowed he is by society, and has to be nearly forced to defend himself. Upon returning home, he finds no welcome or acceptance, only apathy for his lack of self determination, and so shrivels up into a furry ball and dies.
Meowmorphosis is a highly entertaining romp for the reader who would enjoy reading Kafka’s original. The same rambling philosophies, metaphor, and societal examination are present in Cook’s writing, and in about the same scope. Changing Kafka’s vision from a cockroach to a kitten brings a new and intriguing point of view. The theories espoused spill over into universal behavior, comparing human psychosis to feline bent, adding significantly to the number of interpretations possible in the text, if the reader cares to delve that deep.
The appendix contains an amusing poke at Kafka’s life and a funny section of Discussion Questions. The photo collage illustrations, created by Matthew Richardson, are gorgeous and haunting, humorously mocking surrealism and adding a key element to the work overall. This book falls squarely in the genre of Humor. There is no gore, and very little threatening plot or suspense. The horror of the novel is Kafkaesque, that is, within the mind of the reader.
Review by Sheila Shedd
Voices from Punktown by Jeffrey Thomas
Dark Regions Press, 2008
Available: New and Used
Jeffrey Thomas has created a bizarre, futuristic, other-worldly destination called Punktown, of which he has written several novels, including Punktown: Third Eye and Blue War: A Punktown Novel. In Voices from Punktown, Thomas has compiled eleven short stories that take place in Punktown. For those, like myself, who have not read any other Punktown novels, Thomas provides a brief introduction that gives great insight into the world of Punktown. The introduction also serves as background information for each of the short stories in the collection. Thomas briefly goes over how each story came to be and under what pretense he chose to write the piece.
Voices from Punktown is science fiction horror at its finest. Tales range from a thief who has the ability to ferret away items by using only his mind to a prostitute who has chosen to be adorned with surgically affixed and genetically altered fairy wings. In “Johnny Pharaoh” the reader is introduced to a very Twilight Zone-esque scenario in which a cloning facility’s planned resurrection has gone horribly wrong. In “The Bones of the Old Ones” and “The Dance of Ugghiutu”, Thomas delves into Punktown’s religious alien rituals and cult practices that bring about death and destruction. Without necessarily intending to, the stories intertwine as the reader begins piecing together that which is Punktown.
In the introduction, Thomas quotes Michael Marshall Smith as saying the Punktown stories “create a whole even greater than the sum of their parts.” My first foray into Punktown has me yearning to read the parts to get to the whole. I can’t wait to get my hands on Thomas’s other works surrounding this surreal, gritty, fantastically horrifying city called Punktown.
Recommended for adult readers in a public library setting. This would work as a great novel for patrons who enjoy science fiction and want to explore the horror genre and vice versa.
Contains: Graphic violence, a bit of gore, and a few sexual scenes.
Review by Kelly Fann
Monstermatt's Bad Monster Jokes (Volume 1) by Monstermatt Patterson
May December Publications LLC, 2010
Bad Monster Jokes Vol. 1
is chock full of bad monster jokes grouped together according to monster, movie,
or theme. There is also a chapter full of song lyrics set to everything from
rap to torch songs of the 1940s and 50s. With fantastic illustrations by artist
Kyle Kaczmarczyk, this is a must-have for anyone who grew up on horror, comedy,
comic books and magazines like
Famous Monsters of Filmland.
If you’ve ever stayed up past your bedtime to watch an old Universal monster
movie introduced by the likes of Svengoolie, Count Gore De Vol, Sal U. Lloyd, or
Uncle Ted then you must have this book. I laughed, I groaned, I shook my head
in disbelief. At times I began to wonder if I were reading excerpts from the
scripts for Mystery Science Theater 3000! The song lyrics were my favorite part
of the book and I loved Kyle’s illustration of Fred Flintstone as a zombie. Monstermatt’s
Bad Monster Jokes Vol. 1
will bring a grin to the faces of adults and kids alike….although we all have a
bit of a kid in us. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a good
Review by Colleen Wanglund
Human Harvest: Alien Abduction By Anthony Giangregorio & Keith Adam Luethke
Living Dead Press, 2010
For years we have heard stories of alien abduction—people being taken in the night, having experiments performed on them, and then being returned relatively unharmed. In Human Harvest: Alien Abduction a young couple has been found dead, and another couple is running for their lives. Weston and Catherine have just discovered that there is more than one alien race using humans for their own purposes, and one of them is intent on destroying humans. Now on the run, Weston and Catherine must try to find a way to stop the aliens before they come back one last time.
Anthony Giangregorio and Keith Adam Luethke have taken the alien abduction story to a frightening level. The alien Weston calls the Watcher, has taken humans as they slept and experimented on them fto learn about the human race, but not to hurt them. There are others, called the Greys, who have far more sinister plans. Weston is told of a harvest when he initially meets with the Watcher. Eventually the Watcher shows Weston what the Greys are really up to and it’s far more gruesome than just some experiments. I really liked the story, although I wasn’t too crazy about Catherine. There are some nice surprises that I will not spoil for anyone, and the story contains a fair amount of gore.
One issue I do have with the story was a thread in which Catherine was having nightmares where she seemed to be “witnessing” the deaths of some people at the hands of the Greys. Unfortunately this particular story line just ended abruptly. I would like to have seen more done with that….why was she having those particular nightmares? Was it the Greys trying to scare her off? Other than this one flaw, I enjoyed Human Harvest and recommend it.
Contains a few sexual references and some gore and violence.
Review by Colleen Wanglund
Spiegel and Grau, 2009
Let me preface this review by stating that I was unable to finish Big Machine. To be perfectly honest, my heart just wasn’t in it. I have subsequently read posted reviews for this novel by such vaunted purveyors of literature as The Washington Post and Publisher’s Weekly and have been left wondering if perhaps my problems with Big Machine were my own. Reviews have lauded this novel and its author as brilliant and game changing, a tour de force that avoids the clichés of urban fantasy and paranormal literature to deliver a masterpiece of modern horror. For me, the work was tedious and pretentious. The story of a janitor and former junkie, not to mention the survivor of a Branch Davidian-inspired cult, called to duty by way of a mysterious letter to serve a secret society dedicated to investigating the supernatural. Sounds right up my alley, right? Instead, what I found was a convoluted narrative and a meandering attempt at weaving an epic mirrored on works such as Swan Song or The Stand. Both race and religion are played out with heavy-handed mission to invoke reader response, and both of these attempts failed for me by the feeling that I was not a part of the story, but rather was, in a sense, being preached to. Big Machine just might be everything that other reviewers have heralded it to be, but it left me bored and unfulfilled and thus I set it aside and reread American Gods by Neil Gaiman instead. Now there’s an epic tale of race and religion that I could sink my teeth into.
Review by Bob Freeman
Eibonvale Press, 2009
At first glance, the cover of Experiments at 3 Billion A.M. comes across as a science fiction story collection. For the most part it isn’t. Instead it is a bizarre, surreal collection of forty short stories. Each story has its own illustration by David Rix. Mr. Zelenyj has an eloquent style of writing that gives each story a unique dark flavor and his vivid imagination bring the characters to life for the reader and takes them places they would never expect to go. Some of the stories pull on the heartstrings as they bring the reader close to the characters, but each story has its own dark place - some with brutal toothy malevolence while others are shadows full of emotional pain. The only complaint that the reader may have is that the eloquent wording at times slows some of the stories down. Experiments at 3 Billion A.M. is recommended for libraries looking for a story collection that is unique, dark and at times surreal.
Contains: Violence, Sex, Rape, Bestiality
Review by Bret Jordan
Vanguard Press, 2009
Available: Pre-Order (July)
Bestselling author David Morrell is most well known for his debut and often misunderstood novel First Blood. Over the years he has written in a variety of genres, including action thrillers (Testament), horror (The Totem) and spy novels (Brotherhood of the Rose) to name a few. His latest novel combines elements of many genres that Morrell has touched on in the past. The Shimmer starts as a dark mystery that reminded me early on of Morrell’s early horror novel The Totem, but the tone changes many times as the pages fly by. At times the book has an action feel, and at times it feels like a mystery or a techno thriller. In the end it is seamlessly blended into an eerie science fiction adventure novel.
The story is about Dan Page, a Santa Fe police officer and pilot whose wife disappears. When he follows her trail, he ends up in the town of Rostov, Texas. Rostov is home to an odd tourist attraction, a series of lights that behave strangely on the horizon. According to legend they have been seen for hundreds of years. Morrell's settings can be very convincing. His 2004 novel Creepers used known legends as a basis for the storyline. While the military and techno conspiracy seem to be his invention, readers will still find themselves wondering what is real.
Morrell usually keeps his books fast-paced by writing very short chapters, but in The Shimmer, he seems to be spreading his wings a bit, using a non-linear structure that includes flashbacks and a perfectly timed back story. What is most impressive is that the mystery is not easy to guess and keeps The Shimmer interesting right up till the last time you close the book.
Review by David Agranoff
Sloppy Seconds by Wrath
Skullvines Press, 2008
This book has to be the most disgusting thing I have ever laid my hands on. I wish I had never agreed to review it, it was that bad. If you want to throw up a little in your mouth, then this book is for you. I had to force myself to get through each and every story. It is definitely not a book for children or anyone under the age of 18. I understand that the whole purpose of the book is to skeeve you out but it was way too much for me to handle. You'll need an iron stomach to be able to press through these pages. You have stories ranging from morbid obesity to a gigolo crack whore. There is extremely foul language and sexual situations that you don't want to even process and picture in your mind because it will scar you for life!
Review by The Angry Princess
Bloody Books, 2009
Shreve is a city with a nasty side. Not only do its people have dirty little secrets that they wish to keep, but it sits next to a huge landfill. They try and keep the place from becoming an eyesore, but they can't hide the smell. After a terrible lightning storm passes the landfill is altered. Creatures made of computer parts, discarded containers, decayed food, toys, feces, plastic bags and hospital waste rise from the ground and begin looking for living prey to maintain themselves. They do more than feast on the living. They dismember their prey, salvaging parts to merge with their own twisted bodies, becoming smarter and faster with each new victim. Mason Brand, a famed photographer turned naturalist-recluse, understands these creatures and sympathizes with them. He sees the future rising from the trash and seeks to help it out.
The idea of 'garbage monsters' sounds preposterous, but Joseph D’Lacey is a master of story telling. He takes an idea that seems unworkable and makes it believable and entertaining. His characters aren't heroes or villains. They are people readers can relate to, sympathize with, and in which they can even recognize little bits of themselves. At times the gore and filth will make the reader cringe, but it doesn’t seem gratuitous or added just for the sake gore alone - it brings the filth home and immerses the reader in it. The story builds in intensity, keeping the reader locked in until its apocalyptic climax. Highly recommended for both public and private libraries and collections.
Contains: Violence, Gore, Sex
Review by Bret Jordan
Severed Nose by Jeff Strand
Strand's latest novella starts off with his main character, Josh White, getting a bit of a shock... he finds a severed nose sitting on a plate on his dining room table. After contemplating his options, Josh decides on the most logical choice, placing it in a baggie in his freezer to "keep it fresh". (I'm sure that's what any of us would do, right?) Josh's initial decision is followed by a string of events that forces him to make more quick decisions, sometimes life threatening, and many of which include a couple of thugs working for the guy behind the severed nose. Is Josh strong enough to take the thugs down and solve the mystery of the severed nose or will he get killed while trying?
It may only be a novella, but there is a lot packed into this "Nose" (pun fully intended). The Severed Nose is filled with action, torture, and laughs. Strand has yet to disappoint me with one of his books. He is the king of comic horror. I read his books when I want a good gross-out, horror novel, yet I also need a good laugh. His books are always laugh out loud funny, and this one is no different. Adding this title to a collection will put a smile on the face of many horror fans. Highly recommended for public libraries.
Contains: Violence, Torture, Mild Gore
Review By: Rhonda Wilson
Bad Moon Books, 2008
Brilliant. Amazing. Astonishing. We bandy these words around a lot when it comes to fiction, but how often are they genuine? And how often can we use them in regard to the small press? Not very, in my opinion.
Happily, I can use those terms about John Little's Miranda. I am in awe of this novella. It kicked my ass and left me feeling disoriented and more than a bit lost. It's rare that a piece of fiction can do this to me.
Miranda has a deceptively simple premise: A man named Michael Johnson begins his consciousness upon his death and lives his life backward from there. So what, huh? Well, read this story and you'll see what I'm talking about.
Think of it. The implications of living your life backwards. How would you communicate with others? How would you survive? We know that we are heading to our eventual demise, and we hope that it ends in blissful oblivion. Imagine leading your life toward your birth.
It's no spoiler that Michael Johnson meets a girl and falls in love in the story. It takes its name after her. Consider this as well: A relationship begins and when it's true love, we hope that it endures until we die. But in Miranda, the lovers meet at the end of their relationship and travel toward their initial meeting. And then?
I have trouble imagining the things I've asked of you, and I've read Miranda.
The most likely comparison that comes to mind is Daniel Keyes' classic story, Flowers For Algernon. It's similar in that Miranda also tells the story of a man in such extraordinary circumstances that our minds are boggled in trying to put ourselves in the first person narrator's place.
Between The Memory Tree, Placeholders and now Miranda, John Little has become one of the best writers in the horror genre. Even if the stories really can't be strictly considered horror. They could just as easily be called science fiction and just as calling them horror, it would be belittling to the stories. They literally transcend genre.
I've done a fair amount of complaining about expensive small press books and their content. Not the illustrations and not the porduction designs, which are merely distractions. I'm talking about the story. Far too often I don't think a particular story is worth the asking price for a limited edition. But John Little is one author that I will gladly pay $40.00 or more for his story. I'll even pay that or perhaps more for one than is less than novel length. Happily though, Miranda will not stretch your budget too badly. The Bad Moon Books trade paperback edition only costs $15.00 and this story is easily worth three times that.
This "Halloween Horror Review Project" review is brought to you by:
Wizards of the Coast Discoveries, March 2008
Available: Pre-order (Spring,2008)
This is not a typical horror novel. In fact, its connection to horror is a delicate one. This is the semi-memoir of a family, built out of the common background of abuse and the methods they use to deal with their pasts together and individually. Told in a flowing, beautiful style, with nonlinear plots, the story is woven from small moments, small realizations and individual perceptions, into a great whole. The Man on the Ceiling is a must read for those who have survived any of the many forms of abuse or those who seek to help them. The monsters in this book are not vampires or werewolves or zombies. These monsters are the ones that abandon, the ones who can't love, the ones who leave their children to lives of hoping in vain that if they just love enough they will be loved back. This book would be a fantastic addition to any library's collection, but whether it should be in the horror section or not is a debatable matter.
Review by Michele Lee
Note: The review is part of the "Spring into Terror" project, check out other reviews of horror titles available for reading for this Spring at our Spring into Terror project page.
Lauren Groff’s literary debut, The Monsters of Templeton, is ambitious. It’s also almost brilliant. Almost. At its heart, The Monsters of Templeton is a coming of age story, if that’s possible considering the tale’s heroine is 28. With an homage to the work of James Fennimore Cooper throughout, Groff paints a surrealistic landscape of a seemingly idyllic rural New York, but festering underneath are monsters, both literally and figuratively. Groff’s heroine, Willie Upton, is on a journey of rediscovery, as she not only learns about the truth of her own twisted family tree, but about the monsters behind the façade, and her own inner strength. She begins the story as a lost and immature child (at 28 I remind you), but in the end, we see some wonderful character development. The final chapter alone is worth the price of admission for this excellent debut by a new and exciting voice in fiction. Readers advisory note: Fans of literary fiction and mainstream readers may enjoy this title.
Contains: Adult language and themes.
Review by Bob Freeman
Note: The review is part of the "Spring into Terror" project, check out other reviews of horror titles available for reading for this Spring at our Spring into Terror project page.
Wizards of the Coast, 2008
Zhan and her Uncle Seth are searching for her grandfather, who killed his family, including the village shaman, and fled their village. Their search brings them to the city of Proliux, where Seth strays from their mission, falling in love with a gypsy. When Zhan and Seth finally locate her grandfather, they discover that he is involved in something much larger than murder, which will change the rest of their lives. Last Dragon is a uniquely written fantasy story, almost dreamlike in its telling. The book is written in first person, and the scenes are short, as are most of the sentences. However, although it is briefly written, the story can be difficult to follow, since it jumps back and forth in time and the different parts of the story do not clearly establish where in time events are taking place. Last Dragon is a very poignant and character driven tale. With action, romance, magic, and horror, this book should appeal to a variety of readers in the horror and fantasy genres. Recommended for both public and private libraries.
Review by Bret Jordan
Wizards of the Coast, 2007
Gaven is troubled by visions of prophecy that have driven him insane. For twenty six years he has sat in a prison cell in the most secure prison in the kingdom, Dreadhold. Only one man has listened to Gaven’s babbling about the prophecy that haunts him. They escape Dreadhold accompanied by a fierce dragon that wants to become a god, a metal-clad man known as a warforged, a mage, and an elven fighter, and begin pursuing the visions and his destiny. Gaven soon learns that his companions are more interested in his knowledge of the prophecy than his welfare and decides to meet his destiny on his own. Pursued by Sentinel Marshals, as well as his old companions, with no one to turn to, Gaven travels across the land in a mad search for the truth of the visions. Storm Dragon is set in a colorful and well-rounded world where magic is used to control elementals who power air ships and railways, and family names control the outcome of a person’s life. Innovative twists, like the cyborg-like warforged and the tattoos that determined the character’s house and how powerful they were with magic, gave the book an upbeat edge. Storm Dragon falls more in the genre of fantasy than of horror, and is recommended for lovers of fantasy fiction.
Wizards of the Coast Discovery, 2008
In a world of superhumans, both heroes and villains, Devil’s Cape is a violent and corrupt city, founded by a pirate, that eats superheroes alive. That doesn't stop Argonaut, Bedlam and (the fourth) Doctor Camelot from coming together to save those they love and forming their plans to stop the evil of the city. In their way is the malicious Cirque d' Obscurité, a troupe of sideshow freaks turned supervillains, Their ruthless assassination of the much beloved superhero team, the Storm Raiders, is the last straw for the quiet budding heroes of Devil's Cape, driving them into action against the modern pirates of New Orleans' sister city. A dark but not overly gory tale, Devil's Cape is an intriguing attempt at bringing superheroes, usually presented in a highly visual medium, alive in the words of prose. Devil’s Cape presents an opportunity to encourage regular readers of comics and graphic novels incentive to check out novels as well. Recommended for public library collections. Contains: comic-book style superhuman violence and “off-screen” violence against humans.
Review by Michele Lee
Penguin Group, 1994
Available: Used Only
Matheson is one of a few authors whose name alone is all I need to know before committing the time to a novel. A legend in the horror field, he also distinguished himself in the genres of science fiction and westerns. Matheson even won the Spur award, the Western genre’s highest honor. The last of his three Western novels is a horror/western crossover. Shadow on the Sun is a great horror novel as well as a great western. .
Matheson is the master at the short and swift novel, and Shadow on the Sun is a roller coaster of fine tuned moments of suspense written by a master at building fear and tension. The book is set in Picture City, an Old West town on pins and needles, where the local Indian agent has just signed a treaty after nine years of bloodshed. The ink isn’t even dry when two whites are found shredded to pieces. The townspeople want blood, and the Apaches claim to be innocent. Tensions rise when a stranger comes into town making strange demands, and the violence continues as members of both communities seem to be frightened to death.
Shadow on the Sun was released in 1994, but it has the energy of a younger, rawer, Matheson and I suspect it had been in his drawer for a few years. Thank goodness this cross genre masterpiece found a home. Strongly recommended for readers of horror westerns and of Richard Matheson, and for public libraries able to find it.
Contains: mild violence, a little harsh language.
Review by David Agranoff
Lachesis Publishing, 2008
ISBN: not available
Tara, a recovering alcoholic, drives to Canada to help get things in order after her father's death. When she gets to her father's home, in a very well-to-do neighborhood, she must deal with the hatred and animosity of her twin sister and the guilt surrounding the death of her niece. If the funeral arrangements and her sister's hatred were the only things Tara had to face things would be just peachy, but she is also haunted by the image of her dead father, who instructs her and pushes her to do things that she really doesn't care to do. On top of the other catastrophes that are happening in Tara's life at this time, an ice storm traps everyone in the house. It's an ice storm to end all ice storms, and as the end approaches, Tara must face her demons or die trying. Frozen Blood is a well-written story that keeps building and building up until the climactic end. There are no heroes in this book, and really no villains; just a few people trying to get through an unbearable moment in their lives. The horror of this tale also presents itself on many different levels. There is tension between all of the characters throughout the entire story, horrifying ghosts, ghastly deaths, and apocalypses unlike any others I've ever read about. At the halfway point, the story really begins to build momentum and becomes hard to put down. This story is certainly a keeper and I would recommend it to any library, both public and private. Contains: Review by Bret Jordan
Short Scary Tales Publications, 2002
In 2246 a plague nearly wiped out all of the men on the planet, making women the dominant gender. Men are treated as possessions to be used and discarded at their wife’s leisure. Drennin is a man who is literally kept by his wife, like an exotic snake in an aquarium; a wife who has grown to hate him almost as much as he has grown to hate her. In total disregard and disrespect for him she has given him over to her sister as a plaything, but he has grown to love the sister and she to love him. It’s this love that helps him formulate a plan of escape, and vengeance against his wife. Sometimes Women Are So Cold is a disturbing look into an unbalanced future where robotic guards lurk around every corner and circumstances create a prison. It is also a twisted story of love and vengeance. The concept behind the book was unusual and the characters were thoroughly believable and well written. Public libraries with horror or science fiction sections would do well to pick this little book up.
Contains: Violence. Review by Bret Jordan
White Noise Press, 2007
Divorced, unemployed, and maimed in an accident, Alan's life is falling apart. With nowhere else to go, he seeks solace in his childhood tree house, built by schoolyard friends, on a night where something magical happens. Braunbeck’s story is short and bittersweet. He does an excellent job of showing readers the depth of Alan’s pain and despair. White Noise Press once again has produced a beautiful, quality chapbook with a well written story by a popular author, and a gorgeous cover and illustrations. Smiling Faces Sometimes is available only in a limited print run of 150 copies. Highly recommended for large public libraries, if they can acquire it. Contains: suicide
Blackest Heart by Vince Churchill
Publish America, 2004
Thane Bishop is a retired Marshall, and in his prime he was the fastest gun alive. When Yardon Wrath arrives in town, he brutally kills Bishop, giving his band of mutant thugs license to enjoy a raping and killing spree. Just when it seems that all hope is lost, an alien entity merges with Bishop, making a deal with the dead man. It will bring him back to life, giving him powers beyond his wildest dreams so that he can have vengeance on Yardon Wrath. The only catch is that he must kill one thousand dark souls to feed the entity's symbiotes before they will leave his body. With hatred and rage in his heart he agrees to the dark deal, and begins his quest to hunt down and destroy Wrath. The Blackest Heart combined elements from several genres to make it a truly unique story. First, of coarse there is the science fiction elements of the story; lasers, spaceships, and alien life forms. Next are the horror aspects of the story; gore, violence, and suspense. Finally, and perhaps the most surprising of all, is the western theme; dusters, space marshals, the fastest gun. The story satisfies because it does more than document the events of violence, also dealing with how the characters cope with the violence and humiliation they experience at the hands of Yardon Wrath. This adds some interesting depth to the action packed story. A thoroughly enjoyable read. Recommended for public libraries.
Contains: Gore, Violence, Rape, Sex Review by Bret Jordan
End Times by Rio Youers
Scott is a man who has lived a hard, sad life. He suffers from an addiction to heroin. He is missing all of the fingers on both ands and has to make do with only his thumbs, a fact that is disturbingly presented throughout the book. He is working as a journalist with peers who he doesn't really like and who don't like him. The only thing good in his life seems to be his friend Sebby, a quadriplegic that Scott met at a drug rehab program. Mia, a mysterious Indian girl, steps into his life and changes everything. She sees him as he is and still seems to love him. Mia becomes like a drug to his troubled mind, an addiction that he just can't quit thinking about. Everything seems to be going his way until he finds out who Mia is - a dangerous mystery from his past that has come to the present with the purpose of making him pay for what he did to her. The story follows him from his life as a bum, trying to eke out an existence on the hard city streets, to his joining a dangerous and twisted cult that required horrible sacrifices for their god, Voice, and then to his life as a writer and his journey into self-discovery and destiny. The story is written in first person and is filled with pain and longing. At first I couldn't stand the main character, his world and views being a far cry from my own, but as the novel progresses he seems to change, becoming a character that I began to relate to and sympathize with. All of the characters are created with the utmost depth, dark and believable. This book touches on all the emotions. As I read Scott's tale I felt his pain, love, hatred, longing, fear and humor. End Times is a brutally unique work that surely deserves a place in any library, whether public or private.
Contains: Violence, Sex, Self Mutilation
Review by Bret Jordan
(Note: End Times is now in print available at Amazon.com)
The Last Stand of the Great Texas Packrat by Steve Vernon and Illustrations by Keith Minnion
White Noise Press, February, 2007
Steve Vernon pays homage to horror authors and bibliophiles in this tale of Texas Jack Page, a collector of books including horror books. Texas Jack’s obsession with his books, starting from an early age, continues to dominate his life and ultimately leads to some very strange developments. The book is beautifully illustrated, and the illustrations foreshadow the story’s conclusion, but Vernon storytelling doesn’t give up the goods until the end, and when he does, readers will appreciate Minnion’s illustrations, and the chapbook as a whole, even more. The Last Stand of the Great Texas Packrat is perfect for book lovers and collectors, and those who are interested in the horror genre will enjoy seeing favorite authors and titles referenced in the story. If the horror book collector or librarian in your life hasn’t found this book it will make for a great gift. Recommended Contains: nothing objectionable.
Raw Dog Screaming Press, January, 2005
Available: New and Used
Jeffery Thomas sets his story in Punktown, a city of the future, where humans and aliens live together. The story revolves around Punktown's carnival, run by Sophi Kahn, and backed financially by her husband, a former popular rock star. With their security man, Mitch Garnet, the Kahns deal with drug dealers, a pack of killer dogs, and an invasion of extra-dimensional creatures, all on the last day of the carnival. Thomas introduces a variety of interesting and well- developed characters whose lives collide at the carnival for a night of murder and mayhem. What makes Everybody Screams! interesting is that the characters fully developed, with both strengths and moments of weakness Punktown feels like Frank Miller's Sin City, with a good dose of science fiction thrown in. The Punktown setting was introduced by Thomas in a collection of short stories titled Punktown. Recommended acquisition for libraries. Contains: Violence and sexual passages.
White Noise Press, October, 2006
Werewolf Porno/Sex Potion #147 is a two story chapbook by Jeff Strand, with the tag line of "Funny Stories of Scary Sex". I am pleased to say that the book lives up to the tag. One story is Werewolf Porno, a story about an adult flim producer who meets up with an unemployed werewolf in a bar and wants him to be the star of his next movie. It is a great story that blends horror, sex, and humor , and any time you have a story where the fluffer steals the scene you know it's worth a look. The other story is Sex Potion #147. Strand tells the tale of Melissa, a frustrated single gal seeking help from a gypsy fortune teller. Melissa is given a test drop of Sex Potion #147 and becomes the object of lust of the men that she meets. Unfortunately, Melissa attracts the wrong man-- a sexually repressed serial killer. Then, amazingly enough, hilarity ensues. Strand's stories are a joy to read, and Keith Minnion's illustrations complete a fantastic chap book. I would recommend Werewolf Porno/Sex Potion #147 to both readers of horror fiction and libraries. While librarians might balk at the titles, the sexual content in the books is actually fairly tame and most libraries probably have other books with more graphic material. Contains: sexual situations, violence, and a little gore.
Leisure Books, September 30, 2005
Available: New and Used
Keepers is a little something different. It starts with Gil Stewart as his life and grip on reality spins out of control when he witnesses an old man being chased down into traffic by two dogs. With his dying words being “The keepers are coming..” the old man throws Gil’s world into a strange world. It is hard to summarize the book without giving too much away. The Keepers challenges the reader to keep up with the plot, but rewards at the end. Contains violence.
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