Tales of the Undead-Hell Whore is the first in a series of anthologies, with this one specifically having as its theme devilish women. The overall title “Tales of the Undead” is perhaps a bit inaccurate, since many of these stories have nothing to do with the undead, but the subtitle is certainly more of a description of what is included within its pages. In some stories, this association is obvious, while in others that association to evil women is a lot more subtle.
It is often difficult to provide a review of an anthology because almost without fail, they are a mixed bag. A consistent theme often allows for a more comprehensive overview-each author provides a story to the mix that sticks to a sometimes loose, but understood guideline. TotU-HW does have a theme, but it runs the gambit with stories of vampires, ghosts, demons, witches, Satan, human-animal hybrids, werewolves, ancient gods, sexually voracious women, and even more of a mix of swirling horrors. And that isn’t even mentioning the poems, which are as diverse a lot as the short stories.
There were some gems in this book from my perspective, including “Entre of the Damned” and “Girls are Icky”, both appreciated for entirely different reasons, and of course some stories that did not click, which I will admit is more due to personal preference rather than the quality of the work, at least in most cases. The writing styles here are quite diverse, with everything from the delicately subtle to in your face. I enjoyed “Who F&*ked Up Kelly Yesterday?” because I have a taste for bizarro horror, while I know that there will be plenty of folks who would be repulsed by this story’s audacity. There were a few stories that I felt that the writing was a bit rough, with both the story itself and the way the author telling it making it feel forced and hard to get through, but there those were only a select few out of this bunch. There were some sagas that felt incomplete to me-either telling instead of showing and letting the tale reveal itself, or in one case where the writing style seemed a bit forced and awkward- like the author was providing a summary rather than providing the reader with the story itself.
Anthologies are journeys where the road is both smooth and bumpy at different times. Rarely do you find a short story compendium where every story hits the mark. But finding a short story or poem you really enjoy and that will stick with you makes the journey through the good, the great, and the bad worthwhile. Tales of the Undead-Hell Whore is such an anthology.
Tales of the Undead: Hello Whore can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00BLR40A2/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Downfall starts out fast and rarely lets its foot up off the gas pedal throughout. There is plenty of action, blood, guts, and mayhem to keep the zombie fan’s adrenaline pumping. The story introduces us to Matt, the main character, and Cole, his best friend, who have managed to make it through the first few weeks of the zombie apocalypse with a small group of other survivors, including Cole’s girlfriend, in a suburban area of Virginia.
We are also introduced to a wide variety of undead. There is danger not just from the shambling, slow rotters that surround them, but from mutations that cause them to elicit attributes that range from speed, greater predatory instincts, to having unnatural strength and size. Included in this mix are undead dubbed titans. Rarely seen, but virtually unstoppable giants, they hint at an ongoing cycle of mutations among the undead.
Matt and Cole are making due as best they can out in the wastelands, saving who they can while realizing that survival means that they sometimes have to be ruthless, not only with the undead but even with the bitten that have yet to die and turn. Naturally, there are human predators as well who pose a threat to others who wish to survive. The world, as it has always been, is filled with dangers both inhuman and human alike.
Among the survivors they come across is a scientist who claims to know where there is a safe haven-a research facility turned military base down in North Carolina. Though skeptical, the survivors continue to work at protecting themselves out in the wilds while the lure of this promised sanctuary weighs on each of them, especially as the loss of life piles up.
The relationship between Matt and Cole drives this story. While they have suffered at points they seem to be enjoying the apocalypse with their penchant for weapons and weed going hand in hand. We often see characters that are endlessly distraught or seem to be near-superheroes in the face of a zombie onslaught. Rarely have I read a story where the characters seem to be more like the fans of zombie fiction, or least how many of us who are fans of the genre picture ourselves. There is a bit of a devilish delight in being able to let loose and lash out at the world at large with no moral repercussions. Don’t get me wrong, the boys aren’t impervious to the despair this new world causes them and the tough decisions it forces them to make, but they seem to appreciate finding new ways to kill the creatures that destroyed their lives. In a world getting flushed down the toilet, they’ve found a way to gain some enjoyment on the trip down.
I read a version of this tale a couple of years ago, after the author’s first draft was completed. He did modify it somewhat, with some new and interesting elements. As this is his first novel, he also did some polishing to the tale that gives his characters some added emotional heft. The fun Matt and Cole have in crafting plans to keep their people safe and to gather supplies in a dangerous, dead world remains, while the depth of their emotions has grown. Still, it avoids getting bogged down in the melancholia that can often plague apocalyptic tales. The pacing is solid, and while the story tends to meander a bit, with minimal direction for the characters to take, the action remains fast and furious, with a lot of entertaining splatter and action for the zombie fan to sink their teeth into.
Downfall can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CS94UL6/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Necropolis Now: Zombie Ascension Book One starts out introducing us to Bob, a mercenary for hire who is looking for a serial killer named Traverse, a former Special Forces operative. Traverse is wanted alive despite the gruesome crimes he’s committed over many years of being on the run. When he finds Traverse, the madman speaks of a gate being open that will cause the end of the world. Captured, he is committed to an insane asylum in Detroit.
Three years later, Bob is called upon again, this time with two of his best mercenaries-Miles and Vega- in tow. He has to capture Traverse again, pulling him out of the same insane asylum he was put in for his crimes. The only problem: Detroit is in the throws of a brutal riot, with the city tearing itself apart piece by piece. It is fast becoming clear that this is not your normal riot because the rioters are eating one another.
The story follows Bob’s mission, but also introduces the reader to several other citizens of Detroit who are coming to grips with the situation they’ve found themselves in, including a lawyer, his drug-addled brother, a gang banger, an ex-cop pornographer and his former girlfriend, and a porn starlet currently residing in the same insane asylum as Traverse because she has a penchant for cannibalism.
While Necropolis Now: Zombie Ascension does share similarities with many other tales focused on the initial hours and days that the dead rise, with plenty of panic, gore, and horrific frights, it is how the dead rise and the characters that inhabit this story that make it unique. Detroit has a reputation for being a rough city and it makes for a gritty urban setting for this story. The ensemble cast is headed up by Vega, the female mercenary, Traverse, an insane prophet and murderous madman, and Griggs, the ex-cop who wants to keep on making porn movies while the world unravels around him. This is a very interesting story with Traverse and Mina meeting up at the asylum on the day the undead rise taking center stage. Mina is Griggs former girlfriend and star of his porn movies, at least until she ate the last actor she worked with. Traverse has plans for Mina, and knows that she is more than just another run of the mill psychopath.
The pacing is fast and the action steady in this tale, while the characters are a mixed bag of oddities. They definitely kept me guessing from start to finish, with some of the deaths being rather surprising, and their actions even being more surprising. It’s hard to argue about realism when the characters are so strange and different than the norm.
There is a bigger picture here. The rise of the dead is not through the traditional means readers of zombie fiction are used to, and it is clear by the title that the author intends to reveal all that is kept secret in this book over the course of a likely trilogy.
The author took on a sizable cast of characters and did an admirable job of allowing the reader to see the world through many of their eyes. The characters of Traverse, Vega, and Griggs were intriguing to me. Some of the other characters, such as the lawyer and junkie who were brothers, didn’t resonate. The author makes a game effort to give their story emotional heft, but their story felt hollow to me. And while I didn’t necessarily like most of the characters in this book, I don’t consider that a negative. They kept me intrigued, even if I wasn’t necessarily rooting for any of them. Some of them grew on me in small amounts, and it will be interesting to see how the characters that remain at the end of the book grow and transform through the rest of this series.
Overall, Necropolis Now: Zombie Ascension Book One, has way too long of a title, but is a very interesting contribution to the zombie genre. This isn’t your workaday saga about average people trying to make due in a world gone mad, but is about a bunch of mad people living in the eye of the undead storm. Mr. Bilof has me intrigued enough that I feel compelled to check out the next book in this series when it becomes available.
Necropolis Now: Zombie Ascension Book One can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/098747653X/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Murphy’s Law, the sequel to Dulaney’s first book in the Roads Less Traveled trilogy, “The Plan” takes place after the winter at the end of the first year the world had to come to grips with Z-Day. The survivors of the first book are prepared to set out on their quest to find the prisoners who caused them so much grief and destroyed their home a few months back. Kasey and company are hungry for revenge.
The story shifts directions somewhat when the crew comes across a larger group of survivors who have staked their claim to a prison on the West Virginia-Ohio border. Things also change when it becomes clear that the zombies are transforming-at least some of them. Newer undead are moving faster and are more cunning than the slow moving zeds of the first book. A mutation, Kasey and company suspect, but they have no way of knowing why this challenge to them surviving has occurred. What they do know is that these fast movers will be creating all sorts of troubles for Kasey, Jake, Mia, Zack, and Nancy, the core group that made it out alive of the first book, along with the survivors at the prison. The two groups form an allegiance, despite a few troublesome members of the new community that aren’t particular fond of Kasey and her group.
Often, the second book in a trilogy doesn’t really have as much of a chance to stand out as much as the first or third book. Its job is to transition us to the final act in the saga-often it isn’t as intriguing as its counterparts. I do have to admit that Murphy’s Law was, for me, was a better book than the first in the trilogy. While I enjoyed “The Plan”, I think the author has gained a stronger voice here for her characters. My pet peeve about changing perspectives back and forth from first person to third person remains from the first novel, but it felt much smoother in this book-far less of a distraction. Perhaps it is because Kasey, as a character, has grown on me. There is more to her, as well as the friends surrounding her. Michael, the leader of the community at the prison, is also fairly well fleshed out as a new main character that is likable. The story also seems to move at a faster clip, or so it felt and the advent of the fast zombies has definitely given the story some new intriguing elements to contend with.
As far as issues I had with this story, they were somewhat limited and going into detail on the main one would perhaps present a spoiler. I guess the best way to put it without giving anything significant away is that I was somewhat surprised at the level of tolerance the people living in the prison had to a particularly deadly choice Kasey makes in the story. I doubt that I would have been as understanding as most of them were. That decision does drive the story forward, so it is necessary, but still left me frustrated with both her actions and their reactions.
The characters are a mixed bag. I stated that I wasn’t a big fan of Jake in the first book, though he goes through some interesting transitions in this book that make him grow on me a bit more. He’s still a bit annoying. Kasey is still a take charge leader who is both likeable and confounding at different times, while Mia seems to be present, but I don’t feel that she necessarily gets fleshed out any further in this book than she already was in the first novel. Nancy remains a background character who is solid and likable. In general, the group retains a family-like bond with one another that feels comfortable and natural to the story.
Muprhy’s Law is a solid entry into the zombie genre. Perhaps not ground-breaking in its delivery-there are now a mix of fast and slow zombies, but they retain most of their Romero-esque qualities, but it is exciting, filled with action and compelling characters. I look forward to what is in store for Kasey and company and the final act in this saga.
Murphy’s Law can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/161868034X/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Killer Koala Bears From Another Dimension is a throwback to the days of classic monster movies. When teenagers Tim and Joana do a little experimenting with a few strange rocks in a farmer’s field, the results are far from what they expected.
Tim just wants to escape his small, backwoods town and go someplace, anyplace, else. Joana, along for the ride but not very thrilled with her goth boyfriend and his timewasting experiment, is just as surprised as he is when dimensional rifts start showing up around town and strange humanoid shapes step out, loaded for bear (pardon the pun) and armed to the teeth with spears and knives. But whatever illusions they have that this is all just some bad dream changes when everyone around them ends up getting gutted and dined upon by the fury interlopers from another dimension.
Yep, the author went there. I have to believe he sat down one night and thought about what creature on earth is probably the most cuddly, cute, and adorable and dared himself to turned them into human flesh craving lunatics. Next thing you know, he’ll be writing about zombie-Teletubbies or vampire puppies.
Don’t get me wrong. As outrageous the idea that the nemesis of the Tim, Joana, and Frank (another desperate survivor) being humanoid shaped, spear-wielding koala bears, the author does a good job of filling these ravenous creatures with plenty of menace. These bears have teeth. Sure, the whole concept seems a bit silly, and most of the characters in the book are a bit taken aback by the idea of giant fuzzy bears coming through dimensional rifts ready to maim everything in sight, but the story is a fun, interesting race against time for the survivors. All they can do is to try and figure out a way out of this hell scape filled with deadly ursine enemies before the whole town is massacred.
Overall the story goes down pretty smooth. I perhaps grew a little weary of Joana’s repeated interludes of idle lines of thought that seemed to distract from the story a bit, and the ending seemed to shift gears a little bit surprisingly with the final reveal, but nothing was too out of phase with the rest of this blood-saturated adventure into teddy bear nightmares.
This is a fun one. Goofy and gruesome at the same time…I doubt I’ll ever look at a koala bears the same again.
Killer Koala Bears From Another Dimension can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0987476556/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
The Becoming: Ground Zero is the sequel to The Becoming, which is an apocalyptic zombie novel set in the American south, and introduces us to Ethan, a Memphis cop, Cade, a former sniper for the Israeli military, and Brandt, a marine who was stationed at the CDC, where the initial viral outbreak occurred after an experiment goes wrong, before he managed to escape while the plague is tearing apart the city.
The first novel explores the relationship between these three characters and some other survivors as they cope with the virus, the loss of friends and family members, and the total devastation of the human race. By the end of that book they have settled into a house with a small group of other survivors and have somewhat accepted this new existence of hiding out and doing their best to stay alive.
The second book reintroduces us to these characters about a year later, living in the same house, when Avi, a girl who had been seeking them out after hearing about their successes in saving survivors in the area, comes to them with a request. She would like them to go to Atlanta and get to the CDC, where she believes there is information hidden about the Michaluk virus-the plague that has killed the majority of the human race-that may help craft a cure.
The group is resistant to going to ground zero-where the plague originated-especially Ethan and Brandt, who both have their reasons for not wanting to go on what amounts to a suicide mission. In many ways, making the trip makes little sense-they are safe, alive, and while plagued by zombies, they have been able to make due. But after some tortured debate, with Remy, one of the minor characters from the first book (who comes into her own in this story), adamant about going, they decide to make the trip, and set out from their hiding place and head east to Georgia.
The Becoming: Ground Zero continues to build up the characters we met in the first book as well as some of the lesser characters who came along toward the end of the first tale-Remy is one and Gray and his brother Theo are the others. The dynamics of the survivor’s relationships with one another play a major role here, with some of the same frustrations I had with the first book shining through-in particular with Ethan, who is the leader of this band but is the person who seems to let his emotions get the worst of him more than anyone else in the group.
I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit that I liked the first novel better, but it is often unfair to judge a sequel harshly because, simply put, it has a lot to live up to-especially when it is the middle book of a trilogy. The author faces the challenge of crafting the ‘glue’ that makes the first book and third stick together instead of crafting a beginning and an end. It starts off where the prior chapter concludes and must typically end with a dramatic flourish that promises a much greater reveal in the final chapter. The audience must be kept interested while they know that the biggest shocks and surprises won’t be occurring in this books pages, more than likely. The Becoming: Ground Zero has its moments of adrenaline fueled excitement, but it also has its lulls where the character’s interpersonal relationships overshadow the big picture. Not a particularly major issue, as the author does a solid job of keeping the characters interesting, even if some of them are rather annoying. With that said, whatever state of complacency the reader may fall into, they will get snapped out of it in the last portion of this book, when some very significant action takes place and some surprising things are revealed. It definitely gives me ample reason to want to see how the story ends up in the final chapter of the trilogy.
Jessica Meigs has a talent for creating interesting characters. While I may not be overly fond of how some of her characters act and react all the time, they are definitely human, with human failings (that tend to drive you nuts as you read about them). The Becoming: Ground Zero does the job in bridging the gap between the first book and the last in this trilogy. While it lacks the energy and overall excitement of the first book, it left me anxious to find out what is to become of the surviving characters in the third book.
The Becoming: Ground Zero can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1618680382/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
If God Doesn’t Show is a modern take on Cthulhu mythos by H.P. Lovecraft and the efforts of a cult to bring about his return. We are introduced to Thaddeus Archer, a secret service agent who is dealing with a wife who is struggling with mental illness and a teenage daughter who resents him for having her mother locked away in a mental institution. Things change when Casey, his daughter, is abducted by the same mysterious cult which desires the Old Ones return. Time passes and Thaddeus gets close but cannot find his daughter, and his obsession causes him to get demoted after several agents die in a bloody raid on the cult.
Then in an instant, everything changes, and the world shifts as the cult prepares to open the way for Cthulhu to return. But before he can come, the rift into the void brings with it shadows-dark creatures that makes puppets of the dead and sometimes even the living, with their only goal of destruction of humanity. But these creatures, or even the doomsday cult who accidentally let them into our dimension, are not the only forces at work trying to destroy humanity. Thaddeus will have to work not only with the few other survivors at his side who have escaped the initial onslaught of the shadows, but a man who has lived through many lives and has struggled with darkness and evil in every one of them if the former secret service agent wants to save his daughter and prevent the Old Ones from rising up from the mysterious island that now floats in the pacific ocean.
If God Doesn’t Show is an interesting take on the Cthulhu mythos, filled with action from start to finish and topped off with plenty of darkness and intrigue. What starts out as a personal tale of one man on a hunt to find his daughter abruptly changes into something far more earthshattering in a grand and dramatic fashion. We are introduced to Blount, the character who has been reincarnated time and time again, about halfway through the book. He is positioned as a possible savior of humanity, destined to struggle with all forms of evil in each of his lifetimes. When we are introduced to him, he is on a mission with a group of government operatives heading to the strange island in the pacific that has a dark, impossible city buried within its jungles.
The two main characters spent most of this tale rushing toward the same objective and the pacing is fast and intense. While I found myself rooting for Thaddeus, Blount is the far more interesting character, surrounded by the supernatural and flashing back to past lives filled with battles against darkness. Their separate treks are both filled with mystery and energy, though that energy dissipates somewhat toward the end of the story, with what I could best describe as an extended epilogue. Giving away more details would be providing spoilers, which I like to avoid, but I felt as if the story lost a bit of its momentum going into the home stretch.
The authors provide excellent details surrounding the mixture of Lovecraft and Christian elements, though there were some questions I had that were left unanswered about the cult and their choices of sacrifice, though those quibbles were fairly minor. Overall, this was a fun read-a nice spin on the Cthulhu mythos with a few twisty elements tossed in for good measure. Of the two main characters, Blount was by far the more intriguing and the brief flashbacks to his past lives were intriguing tidbits that I would have liked to have seen more of. Perhaps this story doesn’t call for a sequel, but it might be interesting visiting some of Blount’s past lives.
If God Doesn’t Show can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1618680560/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Among the Dead is the sequel of Tim Long’s zombie apocalypse novel Among the Living, which takes place in Seattle in the initial hours and days after patient zero is infected with an experimental cancer vaccine. The first book followed four separate story lines, telling the individual tales of Mike, a reporter, which is in first person, and a trio of other characters told in third person: Lester, a drug dealer, Kate, a budding serial killer who tortures and kills men in hotel rooms, and Grinder, the lead singer of a heavy metal band playing a gig in Seattle. Much of AtL takes place before and during each character’s realization that the zombie apocalypse is upon them. It provided the reader with insights into their normal, everyday lives before they kick into survival mode and witness firsthand how both their lives and the city is falling apart all around them. The zombies in this story are a mixture of fast and slow movers, with those initially infected retaining most of their normal physical abilities and then slowing down as they begin the process of rotting away.
The first book ended with the quartet coming together-their stories intersect as they are rescued and put into the football stadium by the military, along with the rest of the huddled masses who have managed to escape turning into the undead. Among the Dead, being the second book of a trilogy, serves up a different type of tale, with what amounts to a single day for the quartet-a day that each of them attempts to survive from moment to moment as the undead overwhelm the city around them and threaten to overwhelm the stadium as well. The characters are once again separate for the most part. They now know one another, but Kate tags along on a rescue mission with some soldiers while Mike interacts with Nelson, one of the soldiers who helped him survive in the first book. Lester, coming down off his permabuzz, is trying to cope with the loss of his girlfriend from the first book and perhaps sneak out and find a safe haven in the city so he can keep the party going. Grinder is MIA for part of the book, but reconnects with one of the other characters more than halfway through.
The author also introduces some side characters that interact at one point or another with the main characters to a certain extent, even if it is as the undead in some cases. Some, like the bum LeBeau, are more interesting than others and added some good texture to the tale. The author spends a lot of the time with Kate, who I am guessing was a favorite of many readers of the first novel. Kate is in her element in the apocalypse, or so it seems, having the excuse to let the “other” out to play. The “other” is the dark part of her that takes over and craves murder and violence and makes her the serial killer she has become. The temptation to slaughter not only the undead, but other survivors and even the soldiers Kate is with is a constant reminder of dark nature for the audience.
Among the Dead, being the second book of a planned trilogy, is clearly the second act in a three act play. We move forward with the story with the presumption that you know what has come to pass for Mike and the others from the prior book. The author does make a solid attempt to let this book stand on its own in many ways, though we are, of course, left hanging somewhat by the ending, which lures us down the path to its completion when Among the Ashes is published and completes things. I would, however, not recommend picking this book up without reading AtL first.
This is a solid follow up by the author, though a different type of novel just for the fact that things move here rather quickly, and there is little room for subtlety given the circumstances the characters find themselves in. Death and mayhem are all around them from start to finish, and the death of the city is well under way. The reader is granted some new insights and some of the characters are transformed by the events of this book (Kate in particular), but Among the Dead is focused primarily on action more than character development.
Overall, this book does solid duty in keeping the reader aware of what is going on with each character. Though Grinder wasn’t my favorite of the quartet, I would have liked to have had him share more of the spotlight in the early part of this book. He felt almost like a secondary character this time around. As mentioned, Kate steps forward as more of a main character and is allowed to develop in much greater detail than the other three. Unfortunately, her inner monologue, at certain points, felt a bit repetitive with her thoughts on killing virtually everyone around her overwhelming almost everything else inside her head. Despite this, Kate remains fascinating, especially with some of the vulnerabilities we discover about her and the new depths that her darkness seems to be taking her as she lets the “other” run amuck.
Again, this is a solid sequel to Among the Living that keeps the adrenaline flowing and gives fans of Kate in particular something to really sink their teeth into. Tim Long definitely keeps you on the hook with Among the Dead, intrigued to find out how things end up for the survivors in the final book in the trilogy.
Among the Dead can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00AXOR1HS/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Spooky Showcase offers the reader a return to Alan Draven’s world of the supernatural and surreal. Bitternest is a city in Louisiana where ghosts, vampires, and other creatures exist and terrorize the inhabitants in pretty much all of the author’s novels and short stories. All but one of the tales in this book take place in Bitternest, including a novella entitled “The Paradigm” which is noir-ish detective tale that takes place back in the 80s and starts out like all the classic detective tales you’ve ever seen with the gruff private eye and the sultry dame in trouble, but dives into the deeply supernatural from there. Three short stories follow, two of which involve children and the real terrors that haunt them in Bitternest, before the reader is treated to a re-imagining of the classic Jack the Ripper saga with “Vengeance is Mine”.
I’ve been impressed with Alan’s ability to craft a real, vibrant city filled with all kinds of spooky and scary monsters since I read his first book about the strange place near New Orleans. While he does hint at future tales with Jim Coffin, the detective in his first story here, I felt that there was something missing from this particular story-a more fleshed explanation of what was happening to him was desired, though I’m sure more will be divulged in the future. Despite the desire for more, I thoroughly enjoyed the flavor of the piece. Future installments should be interesting, and I could see something along the lines of Glenn Cook’s “The Garrett Files” or Simon Green’s John Taylor series if Alan puts a bit more spit and polish on his next few Jim Coffin stories.
The short stories are all enjoyable, each with a surprise attached-that quick rabbit punch that often makes a short piece all the more enjoyable. I especially liked “The Rattling Man” with its Halloween ambiance.
While “Vengeance is Mine” is perhaps more of a homage than anything-a variation the Jack the Ripper mystery with the author’s embellishments, I did enjoy his take on what might have been with good ol’ Jack. Plenty of gore for those hungry for it, and the author used the historical elements so that they fit around the story he created quite nicely.
Overall, this was a fun read that went by fast. I look forward to more of the author’s Bitternest sagas, and will be curious to see where he takes Jim Coffin from here.
Spooky Showcase can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0981021336/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Nightmare of the Dead introduces us to a young woman who wakes up on a train during the civil war, her memory lost, but her sense of what she is capable of with a gun still intact. As a strange green mist appears in another one of the train cars and seeps into hers, she discovers that some sort of horrific transformation is taking place among the men that surround her. Not all are affected by the gas. At least one other boy-a soldier for the confederacy-does not transform into a creature that dead yet still living like the others, and neither does she. These creatures are violent, deadly monsters that lust for flesh and must be killed with a bullet through the head. For all intents and purposes, they are zombies, and their introduction comes as quite a shock to her.
While seeking to discover her identity as faint traces of her past seep into her mind, the woman is pursued by a group of outlaws who know about her past and have plans for her. At the same time, we are introduced to a mad scientist who is the creator of the toxic gas she was exposed to on the train. He has been employed by Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, in an effort to turn the tide of the war with his new invention, but the scientist’s main goal is to gain membership into a dark, underworld organization that is intrigued by what he has wrought. The story slowly reveals his relationship with the amnesiac woman and how she is valuable to both him and the “Nightmare Collective.”
Nightmare of the Dead is a zombie tale, though the zombies here are more mutations than anything-it does not appear that they infect you through their bites, but by the exposure to the gas, or other variations of the ingredients the scientist has mixed to cause the zombification.
The story has a different take on the zombie genre in some ways, and the undead play a very secondary role to the main characters and their quests to both understand more themselves and gain revenge upon one another for a very complicated past. I’ve read historical zombie tales-those of the old west included-but this one foregoes many of the traditional elements found in most and carves out its own path. Fans of the genre will get their fair share of zombie gore and action, and both the main character and villain are well developed, especially when the story dives deeper and deeper into their shared history, but don’t go in expecting a traditional tale of the apocalypse. Both the main characters are vile in different ways, but the author is able to give us at least a reason or two to feel sympathy not only for the obvious one of the two, but the other as well.
I think it only fair to share concerns that come to mind with any book I review, and with Nightmare of the Dead it came down to some overly descriptive verse and stiff dialog. This wasn’t something that was pervasive throughout, but came up enough to serve as a distraction. By no means did it wreck the story for me, but it did make some characters feel a bit more forced and awkward than others. The flow isn’t always natural with how they speak. Again, this served as more of a distraction than a major issue, but it was noticeable and I feel compelled to point it out.
Outside of this issue, the story is solid, enjoyable, and I liked discovering and learning about these characters. It is clear that a sequel must be forthcoming, and I look forward to checking that out as well.
Nightmare of the Dead can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1479129496/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
The Reanimation of Edward Shuett is a zombie tale for folks who are looking something that injects something entirely new and different into the genre. Edward is an average guy from Wisconsin who wakes up one day in an abandoned WalMart dazed, dirty, and confused by the fact that he has maggots crawling out of rotten holes in his arm. He sees a couple of other people in the store who scare him. They are clearly not normal-shambling looking dead things that have no reason to still be upright. Despite his fears of them, they don’t seem very interested in him, and when a truck pulls up outside and a couple of men step out looking for some undead to capture, Edward begins to realize what he is…or at least what he used to be.
There have been, by my reckoning, a handful of novels that are told from the viewpoint of the zombie. We’re even going to be seeing a movie with this slant in early 2013 with “Warm Bodies”. Some just dance lightly around the subject of trying to grasp what is going on inside the brain of a zombie, while others plunge in head first, making their whole focus about the life and times of the undead. I would have to say that TRoES is the first story I’ve read that caused me to not only identify with a particular zombie but caused me to feel sympathy and empathy for their plight. But of course, Edward Shuett isn’t your average, garden variety zombie.
Edward is definitely a zombie-of that there is no doubt. While the realization comes as a shock to him, there is another more striking realization for both him and the living, breathing humans that surround him. Unlike the rest of the undead, he can reason, speak, and is even starting regenerate the fifty years of damage he suffered as a mindless eating machine. His memories as a full blown flesh eater are vague-stuck within his dreams and nightmares. Sadly, he has no idea what has happened to his wife and daughter, and to him it seems like time stood still since he was originally bitten and transformed. But now he is stuck in a world of survivors who have lived with the threat of the undead for half a century.
Like the author even says within the tale, this is sort of a zombie Rip Van Winkle, with a man searching for his past while trying to adjust to the new world around him. While zombies are still a threat, the human race has conquered them for the most part-at least those who live within the city limits and not out in the wastelands. In another way, this book and likely any follow-ups the author creates, remind me of the classic Planet of the Apes movies, as strange as that may sound. A creature different than all the rest of its kind is to be feared for the danger it may or may not represent and there will always be those who want to destroy it for that reason alone.
The Reanimation of Edward Shuett certainly serves up a unique zombie tale, but one that retains what makes stories in this genre worth reading: solid characters put into tremendously difficult situations that feature monsters both human and inhuman. As is the case with the best of the genre, it is pretty clear that the human monsters are by far the worst. This story is heartfelt and touching, but retains that blood-drenched razor sharp edge that should keep most zombie fans satisfied.
The Reanimation of Edward Shuett can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1618680617/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Infatuation: The Story of Snow Queen by Nathan J.D.L. Rowark is not a story that is all that easy to describe. In fact, for my period of reading at the beginning of this saga I wasn’t sure I quite understood what was going on in this fantastical tale of love, lust, and revolution, and wondered if I ever would.
The story begins with the introduction of Kay and Grace, a brother and sister who are in the Garden of Remembrance when a flight of snow bees separate them. This is a place where loved ones return from death in London, and where Kay will find his destiny in the arms of the icy Snow Queen, who will cause his demise but also receive his undying devotion.
We are granted a very slim understanding of how all these elements come together at the beginning of this tale-why there are these snow bees, which are both necessary to this world but are also a great menace to it-and why the dead come back to life.
Infatuation takes place in the far future, in a world where implants have tied the living together and granted them a form of immortality. Bodies are stowed away and the essence of a person can be transplanted into a new body after death. All of this is controlled by a mysterious religious leader who keeps everyone within the city under his control through the use of a pervasive social network.
When Kay and Grace get separated in the garden, they go on their own journeys-Kay with his new found love, the Queen, and Grace, in her efforts to find her brother, even though he has sacrificed his body for a new, dead one so that he can endure the touch of his icy maiden.
The story gets more complicated from there, but as with any intriguing story, much is revealed in time, and in the case of this tale, that is both a literal and figurative statement. The adventurers travel back and forth in time, with the meaning as to why this is happening to them not quite clear at first, or even throughout much of this tale. This story is a maze of alternate existences and discoveries of one mystery after another that intertwine Kay, Grace, Eternity (the Snow Queen), Reneta, the strange scientist who seems to be at the heart of much of the main mystery within the saga, and both her husband and son, who have rebelled against her and the religion-fueled government.
Describing this storyline in clear, precise details would be next to impossible, but at its heart, this story is about two souls destined for one another, despite so many seemingly good reasons for them not to be together. Nothing is as it seems in this story, which each chapter revealing a new twist and new surprise, both from the past, the present, and on into the future of the characters. This is a complex and layered mystery, which can be daunting at certain points, but once certain aspects of the tale were revealed, it kept me intrigued and fascinated to the very end of its pages.
Pigeon holing this story in a particular genre would be impossible. It is an amalgam of science fiction, fantasy, romance, horror, and adventure, with a frosty haze layered over all of that. Admittedly, there is plenty here to confuse, and I more than likely missed a few key details in my initial reading that may require further review to understand all its elements, but I grasped more than enough to feel satisfied with its ending, though as with any tale where time travel plays a part, there is no real beginning or end, just different cycles in time and the hope that things can be changed, perhaps for the better, as they repeat themselves.
This is a tale for someone who is willing to stick with a story to the end-someone who likes it when an author doesn’t reveal more than is absolutely necessary at any given point. It is for someone willing to embrace the fantastical and magical mixed in with the technological while it has an almost a fairy tale-like sensibility.
Infatuation: The Story of Snow Queen can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00946F0L0/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Skin Trade takes place in the imagined old west where the dead have risen and made much of the country has been left uninhabitable, while the United States remains little more than a sliver of land along the east coast that is zombie-free. Beyond that are the Borderlands, where the government promises new growth and a life for those willing to risk it, though the fear of revenants keeps most people living in squalor out east rather than taking the risk. Beyond the Borderlands are the lands where revenants roam free. That is also where the trappers ply their trade, but it isn’t animals their after.
Samantha, a girl who has escaped a wretched life in a brothel down south, has made it to the borderlands where she has disguised herself as a boy so she can go to a workhouse with other boys desperate to find a way to make a living. There she is recruited by a trapper who needs apprentices to learn his trade. Sam realizes that there is great danger in going west, but knows this may be her best chance to put the past behind her and learn a trade that could set her free. But little does she know about all the dark secrets of the skin trade, though she’ll soon find out.
Skin Trade is quite an intriguing entry into the zombie pantheon of literature, with the undead see as animals to be slaughtered and skinned for the valuable leather they can offer up. They are dangerous and to be feared, but it is the men who ply this trade who represent the real darkness in this story. Sam is a tough, scrappy young lady who has escaped one horrible life to be potentially thrust right into another, but her adventures are fascinating ones, where she discovers a great deal about herself and her fellow man.
Tonia Brown knows how to craft a story, and her fertile imagination does not disappoint, whether it has to do with the undead or steampunk…or both. She is one of the most creative authors out there working her magic on traditional zombie lore, intermingling romance, adventure, horror, and intrigue with ease. Skin Trade is no exception. Her characters are vivid, fun, and compelling, her stories always entertaining. Definitely give this one a whirl if you are a fan of zombie lit-it’s a bit different than the traditional apocalyptic tale, and well worth checking out.
Skin Trade can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Skin-Trade-ebook/dp/B007PCVFDC/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1349637677&sr=8-4&keywords=skin+trade
Containment by David Gilbertson struck me as something halfway between a dystopian fairy tale and a grand psychological experiment.
We are introduced to Edward, the main character, who has lost his wife sometime back and is doing his best to take care of his young son on his own. When he finds out that a man with a very dark past has moved into his neighborhood, he becomes fearful for his son’s life and conveniently, it seems, stumbles upon an old army compatriot, Theodore, who has been tucked away from society and presumed dead for a very long time.
The two men begin swapping ideas with one another-Edward brings up the fact that it isn’t right that some dangerous person should be allowed to mix with decent folks. Thus begins these two men’s experiment into realigning the country (in theory, or so it seems) so that the undesirables live with one another and all the good people live together, safely removed from danger. They imagine rankings and qualifications based on a number of factors, including income, positive accomplishments, criminal record and other related factors. They disagree on some, such as health and race, with Theodore being the more extreme, but they are able to come up with a very detailed plan. The country will be split into fifty regions, with R1 being the nicest and R50 being where all the depraved criminals reside.
Little does Edward know that Theodore has taken this whole experimental process seriously and knows people in high places in the government who wish to implement this new plan. So over the course of the next year, R50 is built, an identification process is crafted for all citizens, and the government begins moving people into their appropriate places based on their ranking.
The story follows Edward in his journey of realization of what he has created, the fact that it is real, and the consequences based on his and Theodore’s actions.
This book is challenging for me to rate. It is a solid personal story of Edward, and the relationships he has with Theodore and his wife, Natasha, in particular. As a journey of self-discovery and realization it has some intriguing elements. As a dystopian story, it is more of a mixed bag, with it being interesting in theory and this is my reason for calling it a fairy tale at the beginning of this review. I grew up loving history, and later in life discovering alternate history, written mostly by historians who knew enough about real history to twist and bend it enough to make a different path an intriguing and plausible possibility. Containment dwells on our fears, especially in a post 9-11 world, of distancing ourselves from danger that it presents an interesting topic, but I felt there were far too many factors not considered and elements left by the wayside for this to ever be plausible. In theory or as a make believe story with a moral to it? It packs an emotional punch. And yet…the country in question is nameless and has a convenient round numbered population, giving it a more classroom element to it, rather than a reality. The discussions between Edward and Theodore and then later between Edward and Natasha have that classroom/theoretical element to them. Even with the efforts of the author to cover quite a few bases, there is much left to chance and some elements of society left off the table completely. To transition these theories into reality for this tale, several convenient coincidental meetings of people occur and drive the tale along. So once again, this story works in theory-the idea is terrifying. But put into practice, it became somewhat less than believable to me.
I did enjoy this story. I felt that it left off a little abruptly, which might mean that a sequel is in the works. It works as both a personal tale of discovery for Edward and as a fable of government control gone wrong. It just misses a step or two when it comes to transitioning this new world order into something that has a possibility of becoming a reality.
Loose Ends by Jay Wilburn is a bit different style zombie apocalypse tale for several reasons, the main being the characters that inhabit this particular world. We are introduced to our main character, Mutt, a fifteen year old boy who also happens to be mute. He is hiding from a zombie pounding on the door of the panic room he has been in for a couple of days when the story starts. The compound he’s lived in for most of the time since the dead rose up (about a decade) appears to be several buildings that have been connected and has been the dwelling place for a decent sized group of people. Over the years, it has suffered attacks from zombies and humans alike, but the tenants have always persevered. Not this time. The only survivors are Mutt and the three men he works with in the kitchens: Chef, Short Order, and Doc. Naturally, just like with Mutt, these are nicknames, but the reader isn’t provided real names of the characters until we are well into the story. After cooking a few last meals and competing with one another to see who can outdo the others in taste and extravagance, they decide that it is time to hit the road, and find a new home.
The wide world is a dangerous, depraved place, with not only the biker types that assaulted them (along with the undead) this last time out there, but numerous other tribes of survivors that range from the deadly to the demented. Mainly what our team of travelers finds at first is the undead. They set out with their modified truck filled with supplies with the hopes of discovering a new and safe home-but they go in the direction that some of the men know and remember, and might not be their safest bet. We get to know the characters better on their journey of attempting to one up one another in their cooking of meals they scrounge out in the wild. Details are revealed about each of them, including their real names and their past. Mutt too reveals more about himself and the brief childhood he had before it was torn apart by the undead. Some of what is revealed seems almost better off remaining buried, with tragedies from the past that are hard to deal with, even after ten years of living with the undead.
Loose Ends definitely takes a different approach to introducing and revealing its characters. These men are tightly bonded to one another, and the fact that Mutt is unable to speak allows their stories to be told with little interference from him, though it all through his eyes, including some very disturbing things. While these three men are friends who protect and take care of Mutt (Doc especially, who Mutt is apprenticed to) they also have conflicts that stem from the fact that they are out of the safe and neutral environment of the compound and back out on the road traveling through the places where they are given the chance to revisit their pasts.
This book is not just a character study, it is a zombie apocalypse actioner, with plenty of scenes filled with harrowing attacks and attempted assaults of the small crew of survivors. I am a fan of fully developed characters and human conflict that arises in apocalyptic tales-revealing the truth that is forced to come to the surface because of the harsh realities that surround the people trying to survive-and this tale definitely delivers that. But I also love action and the horror that comes from the unrelenting nature of the undead, and Loose Ends delivers in that respect as well.
As far as the negatives with this story, as there are with every tale, it was my reaction to the beginning and something that happens not too far in that I had issue with. I have a pet peeve about perspectives, and committing to the perspective chosen. The author tells this story in first person, through Mutt’s eyes, and true to that, we never see anything from someone else. But the author decides to bend the rules a bit and allows Mutt to imagine, in great detail, what is going on somewhere else. Imagining what is going on isn’t a big deal, unless it reads like a very detailed and factual part of the story. It felt forced here, but thankfully it is only a brief part of the story. It does, however, happen very early on, which made me a bit fearful that it would crop up on a regular basis. Thankfully this is not the case, and after another very minor dip into doing this again, the author leaves this behind and lets Mutts true perspective lead the way.
Overall, the storytelling here is solid. Mutt lacks a voice but his ability to see what is going on around him and relate it to the reader adds a distinct flavor to the tale. He both fears and relies on the men he is traveling with, in particular Doc, who he shares several harrowing adventures with and yet distrusts in many ways. Mutt is not passive-he is an active participant in choosing his own destiny, which makes the story all the more satisfying.
Loose Ends tells the story of three men and a boy who all have issues from their past and have different levels of desire to confront these issues under the guise of searching for a new place to call home. Some want to lay them to rest while others appear to be more interest in ripping open old wounds and remembering the darkness. It is an interesting journey that I’m glad I tagged along for.
The Dark Man is a good old fashion bogey man tale, with flavors of teen horror flicks that many of us grew up on sprinkled in for good measure. A group of teens decide that they’re going to party hearty one night with some illicit drugs while some want to see if a myth about a stranger coming to visit when other groups of teens have done the same thing in the past is real, or will be something that can be used to scare the pants off of the girls in their little group. And when they all start tripping and the Dark Man does pay them a visit, they’re forced to figure out what is real and what is hallucination as their unending nightmare begins.
This is a simple and effective horror novella that doesn’t try to create new worlds or new beasts for us to try and wrap our minds around. Instead of crafting outside worlds of doom and unspeakable horror, it reaches inside the mind, where our primitive fears of the dark and unknown lay tucked away but always within easy reach. The Dark Man is a fun tale in the sense that it doesn’t require the reader to suspend disbelief or accept the implausible. Instead, it uses what is inside us already to freak us out and send us to bed with nightmares about what is hiding underneath the bed or inside the darkened closet.
Shadows in the Mist was the first novel written by author Brian Moreland, written several years ago but that has been re-released this month by Samhain Publishing. I’m not sure what modifications were made to the original tale, if any, with this new version.
While most of this story takes place in the Hurtgen Forest in Germany in late World War II, part of it is told through the eyes of Sean Chambers in the present day. He is the grandson of Jack Chambers, the main character. Jack was a Lieutenant during the war and led his men into battle from Northern Africa all the way into Germany. His last mission in the Hurgten still torments him to this day. When Jack gives Sean his war diary and asks him to hand it over to his friend, General Briggs, who is stationed in Germany, a Rabbi who served with Jack on that last mission catches up with Sean and urges him to forget his grandfather’s request and let sleeping dogs lie. The mission was top secret and it would be better for everyone if it stayed that way. Compelled by his grandfather’s request and ignoring the ominous threats of the Rabbi, Sean and the General return to Hurtgen and to a church Jack referenced were the real mystery lies buried. This is also where Sean begins to read his grandfather’s war diary so he can better understand what happened all those years ago.
The rest of this tale returns us to the battles in Hurtgen that Jack and his platoon suffered through. Jack had been dubbed the Grim Reaper by some, since so many of his men died under his command, though it is clear that he has been given some of the most dangerous assignments in the war and that he has done all that he can to protect the soldiers under his command. We are introduced to the six men in his platoon who, along with Chambers, dub themselves the Lucky Seven because they alone have survived through every battle together. Promises are made that they will be sent back home after years in the field, but the officer who makes that promise to Chambers dies before he can send that request to HQ and his new commanding officer insists they complete one last mission-a secret one with a group of commandos looking to push the Germans out of the Hurtgen for good. As the men reluctantly join this group of gung ho secret operatives, including a Lieutenant who shares an ugly past with Chambers, they discover that the mission has much darker goal than they’ve been told-uncovering how the Nazi’s are using supernatural means to create super soldiers.
This is the second novel I’ve read by Brian Moreland and much like his other effort, Dead of Winter, it provides the reader with a well researched and thought out story providing historically accurate and intriguing details, but doesn’t suffer from being over-stuffed with “technical” minutia that might distract from an otherwise intriguing supernatural adventure tale. Certainly, the idea of the Nazi’s discovering artifacts and texts of a religious nature which provide them with an advantage in their quest to become the master race is not a new one, but the author has drawn from historical events to craft his story, which gave it the right touch of authenticity and made it feel all the more plausible and entertaining.
I enjoyed this novel-my overriding appreciation for it comes from Jack’s tale as divulged in his war diary. The characters-in particular the Lucky Seven and Jack’s hated lieutenant rival-were all entertaining and solidly developed individuals. But as I like to do with each book that I review, I like to point out where the story might have missed the mark for me. With Shadows In the Mist, it was with the present day portion of the tale. It just felt like it was missing something. Early in, Sean is warned about the dire consequences of digging into the past and discovering what Jack and the Rabbi who was with him during his mission worked so hard to cover up in the Hurgten, and then Sean does continue digging, then Jack’s story is revealed, and then we return to present day and …well, I don’t like to divulge spoilers, so I’ll leave it at that, except to say that the rest of Sean and General Brigg’s story left me expecting more. My honest belief is that this book could have stuck to Jack’s tale from World War II exclusively and it would have been a great stand alone tale.
Even with this issue of mine, this is a fun, entertaining supernatural adventure novel that was well done and a lot of fun to read. Definitely worth checking out.
Shadows in the Mist can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Shadows-Mist-Brian-Moreland/dp/1619210665/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1347167908&sr=1-1&keywords=shadows+in+the+mist
Peter Clines is fast becoming one of my favorite new writing talents out there. He has written two of the best cross genre zombie tales and his Junkie Quatrain is the zombie story Quentin Tarantino should direct if he ever wants to take a swipe at the undead. 14 takes a different turn, leaving the undead behind and providing the reader with a mystery-thriller that is like a gift wrapped in countless layers of paper that you have to dig through with relentless determination to reveal the truth underneath.
Nate is a working class stiff living near Hollywood who is getting by on data processing temp work that barely pays the bills when his roommates decide to head off in different directions, leaving him searching for a new home with barely the funds necessary to get an apartment. A minor acquaintance suggests a place near Hollywood that has dirt cheap rent and covers the utilities. It seems almost too good to be true, but as Nate settles in and meets several of his neighbors, he begins to notice several strange things about the place. Certain light fixtures don’t work the way they should, apartments are locked up tight with no one living in them for ages, there is an elevator that has never worked, and a storeroom in the basement that is sealed up tight as a drum. Strange cockroaches scrabble across the floor, each apartment has a different floor plan, and it doesn’t appear as if any power lines are coming into the building. On top of it all is a building manager who urges everyone to avoid asking questions and just be grateful for the cheap place to live, which adds even more fuel to the fire and causes Nate and his new found friends to begin investigating everything strange about the place.
Finding out everything he can about the Kavach building becomes Nate’s overriding obsession and he leads what amounts to a Scooby Doo mystery squad of other neighbors on the hunt for the truth. And the truth, slowly revealed in bits and pieces until the whole mystery begins to unravel in faster and faster chunks kept me intrigued throughout. I liked how the story ties in alternative literature, supernatural elements and historical tidbits that gave the story plenty of heft. It is a grand, wide-spanning tale that makes Nate’s obsession make sense and kept me guessing every step of the way, especially as more and more is uncovered about the strange old place. There were plenty of twists and turns and the reveals as the story goes along that were quite satisfying.
Peter Clines has stepped away from the undead and superheroes to provide his audience with something new and fun that I enjoyed a great deal. The characters all had depth that made them feel genuine and real, Nate was a likeable lead and the way he connects with everyone else in the apartment complex was natural and their relationships believable. The creepy elements of the story were well thought out each one is approached with style and wit. A good read for anyone who likes mysteries with a supernatural bent to them. 14 is a blast.
Dead Tropics starts out on a typical morning in Cairns, Australia, except for the fact that several miners have been reported with cases of encephalitis and are being sent to local hospital. They had been given consent to mine in the area of the Cape Tribulation Rain Forest, to the north of Cairns. Lori Nelson is a nurse and mother of three who has to report to her job at the hospital after dropping her kids off for the day.
We soon discover that whatever infection these miners suffered from is something that has been likely buried in this previously untouched rainforest and it brings the dead back to life. Suddenly the world is turned upside down as Lori must join forces with several other members of the hospital staff to fight their way out of the ever increasing circle of danger and death that engulfs the hospital and the downtown area of the city. Within a few brief hours of infection, the miners have died, risen up, and infected everyone around them. Lori’s small crew race ahead of the growing outbreak and try to safely collect those they can save, including Lori’s kids and her sister’s family as well, with the hopes of escaping the city before it’s too late.
This is a zombie tale that definitely speeds along at a rapid pace. Many undead stories that focus on the outbreak itself try to keep the energy level up throughout the story but tend to slow the tempo down at one point or another. Such is not the case here, where the energy level remains high throughout, with barely any time for the reader to breath. Of course, the somewhat unique angle played here is that Lori is a mother, and a fairly normal one at that. She isn’t a superhero or has any special skills outside of the fact that she is a nurse, which does come in handy when an attempt is made to stop infection from spreading from a bite suffered by a loved one. Other than that, the only thing that Lori seems to possess out of the ordinary is a stubborn determination to protect her family and to be a leader who takes charge of every situation they confront. All in all, she is a realistic character that does her best, failing and succeeding in making good choices along the way, like most of us would do under the same circumstances.
It appears that an editing error pointed out by some other reviewers has been taken care of in this electronic version of the book. The only glitch in the story that I noticed was the death and repeat death of a minor character within a couple of pages fairly early in the story. The character is so minor he doesn’t even have a name, just a designation: B2. Even with this, the writing is crisp and keeps things moving along, with little in the way of editing complaints to nag about.
There is a bit of romance in this story, though it doesn’t necessarily distract from the story as it can in some zompoc tales. Lori’s blossoming relationship with Mike is front and center at a few select points in the story, but it remains subtle and in the background the rest of the time as they race from one danger to the next. The important thing, in my mind, is that it didn’t feel forced or overdone. Instead, it was a done with a deft hand and made sense based on the intensity of the experiences the characters were coping with.
As I always try to do, I point out issues that I have with a story. Overall, Dead Tropics is a solid work with a voice not often heard in zombie fiction: that of a mother protecting her family. I did take issue with the fact that while the spread of the virus from the hospital seems to be a uniform process of it going street by street, and inch by inch, it jumps well past its outer range at one point to create a convenient situation for the main character, forcing her to deal with ‘taking care’ of a couple of infected people she knows and who are very important to another key character. The area where this takes place is otherwise still clear of infection-so much so that the next door neighbors seem oblivious to anything impending doom. It is possible and I’m sure there would be an explanation, but it still seemed like a convenient plot development. Still it, like the dual deaths of the insignificant character I mentioned earlier, are minor things, but worth pointing out.
While Dead Tropics is a fairly traditional zombie tale, with Romero type zombies and plenty of gore, mayhem, and bloody action, what makes it really stand out is its main character. There certainly have been other female leads in this genre, but not many (or any that I can think of at the moment) whose focus was on protecting her young children and doing everything she could to keep them alive. There have been those who have lost their children and those who are not the main focus of the tale, but this story zeroes in on her particular experiences and does a good job with it. The author gives us a strong, appealing character with emotional depth and passion without sacrificing anything that the gore hounds and action fans want, which makes this a fun, solid zombie apocalypse read.
Dead Tropics can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Tropics-Sue-Edge/dp/1618680366/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1343572750&sr=1-1&keywords=dead+tropics
Last Stand On Zombie Island briefly provides the reader with an understanding of the virus that causes the zombie apocalypse when it touches down in Los Angeles and rapidly spreads from there, in the first chapter, though this is just a very brief introduction to the inevitable tale any fan of apocalyptic fiction knows extremely well. The author shifts gears in chapter two and from there on out we are focused on Gulf Shores, Alabama, where we are introduced to Billy, a fishing boat captain, as well as the rest of the residents of this popular tourist destination.
The island setting is thrust into the zombie apocalypse with the arrival of the virus through several different sources, including several children who were infected elsewhere and have returned to their schools on the island. In the meantime, there is rumor that the world is either at war or on the brink of it, with nuclear weapons supposedly being launched across the globe while infection rages everywhere. Things break down rapidly on the island too, with Billy desperately scrambling to find his teenage daughter and younger son at their schools while the small army presence and police force try to hold things together, though they face a daunting, uphill battle against a growing number of the infected revealing themselves on the island as well as those looking to charge cross the one still standing bridge from the mainland. At the same time, the reader is also introduced to the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Fishhawk, which joins in the effort to save the island as the world around it crumbles.
Last Stand On Zombie Island does not bring anything new to the table with the undead, which is, as I have said in my past reviews, fine by me. These are traditional Romero zombies for the most part, though it is of note that in addition to their lust for flesh, there are hints at other basic lusts on their part as well, though this is only minimally detailed here and isn’t a factor in the story. We are treated to an ensemble cast, with Billy loosely playing the role of the main character, though the spotlight is shared by several others as well, predominantly military personnel. They are leaders from the army, coast guard, and air force who have come together in their efforts to keep the undead across the bridge and to find other survivor outposts in the surrounding communities and elsewhere. The characters are well detailed and it was easy for me to accept them as genuine. And while there is plenty of action and zombie gore, the characters and their stories are the primary focus here.
What sets this story apart from most other zombie apocalypse sagas is the depth of technical detail with which the author provides us with in regards to the military and virtually every other aspect of survival and experimentation done by the island dwellers in their efforts to not only to stay alive but to thrive under duress. Most importantly, the author did this without bogging the reader down in the minutia that some writers seem quite fond of when they describe weapons, tactics, and combat scenarios in particular. The author never resorts to providing us with laundry list of weapons or regales us with microscopic details that distract from the human element of the saga.
Overall, this book is a solid entry into the zombie subgenre, in particular because of its depth of detail that enhanced, rather than distracted from main story. Things do drag in the middle section of the book, when the initial shock and awe of the zombie onslaught has passed and everyone is doing their best to make due on an island cut off from the mainland while small expeditions are mounted to see if there are other survivors elsewhere. The tale is looser and slower moving at this point, building toward the inevitable storm that is coming, and allows for more character development. It also reveals what is perhaps my only area of significant criticism with this tale, and that is that there is little in the way of human antagonists to be found on its pages. There are a couple of shady characters, but they play a minor role at best in the overall story and add little in the way of conflict into the plot. I guess I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for human weakness and frailties causing even more mayhem than a zombie could possibly dream of creating.
While I would have liked to have seen the pot stirred up a bit with more human machinations, this is a very solid entry into the zombie subgenre that gives us a realistic scenario and tactics that might be used under such dire circumstances. It seems clear from how things end and the fact that there were a few loose ends not tied up by the story’s completion that a sequel is likely in the works, though this book most assuredly can stand on its own. Well thought out with solid action and believable characters, Last Stand on Zombie Island is definitely worth checking out.
Last Stand on Zombie Island can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Last-Stand-Zombie-Island-Christopher/dp/1475210531/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1342973474&sr=8-1&keywords=last+stand+on+zombie+island
Mad Mannequins From Hell tells the story of Burton Vilmos, an former movie special effects makeup artist who makes his living these day murdering people for his website. They pay him to do it, and of course, it isn’t them actually getting killed, it is all just gory fun. But when he runs through one of the scripts he came up with for his son, and takes a book his close friend got from a mysterious shop owner to do a séance-like ritual for the scene, all hell breaks loose. In particular, Beelzebub rises up along with a slew of mannequin-possessing demons that terrorize Portland at Christmas time. Max, Burton’s son, disappears and Burton makes it his mission to find him and put a stop to the mess he’s created. Along the way he finds three unlikely allies in a trio of battle nuns, has to avoid a couple of odd-ball cops (one of which is a midget in a Mexican wrestling mask), and of course, a ton of mad mannequins, who are skewering and draining the essence of everyone they come into contact with.
This is a bizarro tale, with plenty of wild, otherworldly elements and it works quite well as a snarky, humorous horror story with some unlikely heroes and villains instead of the more traditional stereotypical character types. The pace is brisk and it was a breeze to get through, with a lot of twisted and devious forms of mayhem being perpetrated by the demon-possessed mannequins, which had me smiling. A great deal of the story reads like a laundry-list of scenes of mayhem not directly attached to the main character. For a time, after the mannequins rise, we get scene after scene of destruction. Some of them work, some don’t, but my real complaint is that it leaves less room for the battle nuns in the book, who were by far my favorite characters. Perhaps that comes from my Catholic upbringing and schooling. I knew plenty of nuns in my youth and while most of them scared me (and intrigued me), very few had the allure of these three demon-slayers. Their weapons and … assets were quite impressive. I would have liked to see more of them in action, and perhaps there is another story the author might share that reveals their saga in greater detail.
Despite these minor grumps, this was a fun, entertaining read. It brought both smiles and grimaces to my face in equal measure, which is always a good thing.
Mad Mannequins From Hell can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Mannequins-Uncanny-Valley-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B0089RDMY2/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1342363717&sr=1-1&keywords=mad+mannequins+from+hell
The Reawakening begins with the narrator, Thom Swiftley, a famous novelist, taking his seventeen year old daughter, Dar, up from their Boston home to his brother’s farm in northern Maine. Rick, his brother, was a highly respected geneticist who decided to leave his prestigious career behind to get away from the rat race to grow crops and milk cows, or so it seems. Dar has suffered from numerous mental issues in her life, and has been suicidal throughout much of her teenage years. Thom thinks it would be a good idea for her to see her uncle and favorite aunt before she goes off to college.
Almost immediately things start going wrong on the farm. The cows are acting strange, and so are the birds. Fearing Mad Cow Disease, Rick puts the cows down with his rifle, only to find them back up and trying to kick their way out of their stalls. Rick’s dog has gone mad as well, and so have the pigs. When Rick’s wife gets bitten by one of the cows, she gets a fever, dies, and transforms into some sort of hybrid creature. But before she does that, right after she dies, she speaks of an afterlife and the goal of finding the chosen ones.
More mayhem ensues and when Thom and Dar try to leave the farm, things go even worse for them when she is assaulted at a general store ten minutes from the farm and they have to return. By now, they realize that people are turning into flesh eating monsters (those that are bitten by animals take on some genetic characteristics of the animals that bit them, while those who die in a ‘normal’ fashion become the more traditional slow moving zombies). Rick dives into the mystery of how this happens with scientific zeal as they stay tucked away, safe on the barricaded farm. They are joined by others: one of Rick’s neighbor’s family and a passing biker named Thorn.
The sudden and abrupt changes happening to everything around them transforms Dar dramatically. In particular, the assault she is forced to endure at the general store is the seeming catalyst to a total mutation in personality. It almost seemed as if everyone who has been bitten or dies has reawakened into something different, but even though she hasn’t been bitten, she has been altered as well: into a hate machine. She not only hates the reawakened monsters, but everyone and everything, including her father, who she blames for her life up to this point.
This tale is an intriguing variation on the traditional zombie apocalypse storyline, with the transformed becoming something significantly different than the zombies we have come to know and fear. I am always up for a different approach to the formula, and this one certainly veers in a different direction than you might expect. The mystery here is whether this transformation is genetic, which Rick adheres to or if the transformation is more of a supernatural process, given how the undead initially react before becoming ravenous flesh eaters, as Thom suspects. The brother’s clash on this subject endlessly, as well as on other topics.
Fair warning: this book does not provide the reader with much in the way of characters to identify with or root for. I found it difficult to have much sympathy for anyone but a couple of secondary characters given how everyone seems to transform into loathsome people as things got worse around them. This applies in particular to Dar, whose transformation into a kick-butt undead slayer brought with it a lot of hate, spite, and anger. Essentially, a suicidal teenager unleashes the hatred she had for herself onto the entire world. Not just on those who have been reawakened, but everyone who is still alive. And somehow everyone seems to willingly accept her abuse without question and meekly follow her lead. That her father falls in line with how she acts and Rick, his brother, seems to encourage her ravenous lust for destruction of the undead, are only part of the reasons why I found both of those characters repugnant. Thom is a wimp and Rick has plenty of even more despicable traits.
While this commentary may seem like harsh criticism of the book, it isn’t. Loathsome characters are often some of the most interesting ones in literature. I did feel that Dar’s transformation seemed a bit over the top, thought it becomes more plausible given the environment she resides in throughout the book: with a bunch of people unwilling to say or do anything to stop her-especially her father. Given how much of a spineless cur he was, it made what she became a bit more believable. Still, her transformation seemed extreme, especially given the fact that everyone seemed more than willing to follow this eighteen-year-old’s lead into danger.
Overall, this was an intriguing tale, with a wild new slant on the undead apocalypse. There are some interesting twists and turns and since this is only the first of a planned trilogy, there are naturally quite a few loose ends left unraveled. It will be interesting to see where things go from here for Thom, Dar, and the survivors.
Ravenous: Through the Eyes of Bigfoot is a short story that gives us a brief insight into what the life of a Bigfoot creature may be like. Terrill goes by that name only because it is the sound his mother made before abandoning him. He is a lone hunter, wandering the wilderness facing off again bears and smaller prey, but has crossed paths with men before. He does not fear them-he does not fear anything. They appear to be weak and like him, are not animals. Terrill has created his own goes in lieu of having any guidance from any other Bigfoots, and sacrifices to them.
The story covers his experience with mankind, learning that while they are weaker in many ways, being much smaller and soft, but have weapons and don’t act like the animals, who flee and never return when one of them gets attacked. Humans are willing to hunt him and try to destroy him before he wipes them all out.
Again, this is a short story, but it still provides the reader with a good understanding of both the violent and somewhat sad existence of this solitary hunter. The best story I’ve read from Keith so far, and this certainly has the potential to be expanding into a larger tale.
Raveous: Through The Eyes of Bigfoot can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Ravenous-Through-Keith-Adam-Luethke/dp/1475221681/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1342284182&sr=1-1&keywords=ravenous%3A+through
Rotter World starts out in the post apocalyptic environs of Maine, where a group of survivors that have set up a safe haven and are asked to go after a small group trapped and surrounded by zombies out in the wastelands by their leader, which is a far more dangerous undertaking than normal. But they soon discover why they’ve been asked to take such a risk when they conduct the rescue and recover a doctor who claims to have created a vaccination for the undead virus. This virus was created by the government but was never intended to be used as a weapon…at least not until vampires stole it and unleashed it upon the human world with the hopes of preventing the living from wiping them out for good.
Among these survivors is a small band of vampires who have made a truce with the humans. Their race did unleashed the virus, not realizing that the zombies created with the plague would crave vampire flesh as much as human and proceed to find root out the vamps when they were at their most vulnerable-during daylight hours while they sleep. Now the few that remain must work side by side with those they once considered to be cattle to avoid going extinct.
The rescued doctor proposes a mission for the survivors. He needs to get to his government lab in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to retrieve his research and craft the initial doses of the vaccine. They survivors will serve as his escort through rotter infested lands. They agree but insist that most of the vamps go along with them despite the fact that the doctor, along with his military escort, despise the vampire race and would like nothing more than to see them all wiped out for the curse they unleashed on humanity.
Rotter World starts out at a slow pace, with plenty of flashbacks to get the reader up to speed with most of the characters, then picks up speed as the mission to Gettysburg gets underway. The action is intense and the gore graphic enough to satisfy most zompoc fans. The conflicts between the humans and vamps are interesting, but I wished they had been explored in great depth. The vamps in this story are, for lack of a better word, honorable. They avoid causing conflicts with the humans and tend to avoid getting near anyone who don’t trust them or even hates them. It would have been interesting to see more of the dark side of the blood suckers, even though there is plenty of human drama to deal with in this tale. As is the case with most quality zombie tales, the flesh eaters are a nightmarish menace but they are nothing compared to the few devious humans who tend to cause far more trouble than the undead ever could for the rest of the survivors.
I enjoyed this story, especially toward the end when things got quite intense and the danger everyone was facing felt tangible and made my heart race. The author offers up a creative new twist on the traditional zombie tale with the introduction of another undead race. Plenty of the human and vampire characters were well developed and gave me someone to root for (and to root against). The story can certainly stand on its own though I suspect the author will be crafting a sequel, which won’t elicit any complaints from me-I’m looking forward to finding out what happens next with those who made it through to the last page of Rotter World.