The Harvest Cycle is an Apocalyptic tale which takes place fifty years since the first harvesters appeared, boiling up from the sea to claim as many human lives as they possibly can for a far distant god who wishes to consume the dreams of mankind. The creatures-fast, silent monsters with claws that can slice through anything, including the skulls of its victims, have come many times since then, driving the remains of humanity into hiding far beneath the surface of the earth. Those that survive have chosen to either surgically remove the part of their brains that the harvesters are compelled to devour, or they decide to remain uncut retaining their ability to think creatively and to dream by those who have lost so much with the mutilation of their brains (and souls as well). In addition to the horrors of the harvesters, humanity must also avoid the ‘synths’ or robots that were once loyal servants to humanity that realized during the first harvest the endless nightmarish hell that awaits those humans in the afterlife whose brains are devoured by harvesters. They are on a mission of mercy to kill all of humanity to save them from this horrible fate.
The story begins when a group of dreamers, led by a hopeful visionary along with a woman who is psychically linked to the nightmare god who created the harvesters and craves humanity’s dreams, go on a quest with the hope of somehow destroying the harvesters. Pursued by a police officer named Jack DiVinci, one of the soulless survivors who has a secret that allows him to still be creative and dream, as well as a squad of robots on a search and destroy mission.
David Dunwoody’s latest novel mixes elements of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, Asimov’s robots (with the authors unique twist on the Laws of Robotics…or more specifically, the zeroth law that Asimov added last: A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm), and a slight hint of noir with Jack DiVinci, a man who believes what he is doing is saving the human race, despite his own doubts on what it means to be saved.
This is one of the more unique visions of the apocalypse that I’ve ever read, with plenty of madness and mayhem to go around, plus plenty of gore and a high body count to boot. Dunwoody has this knack for making a story gruesome, horrifying, and yet totally accessible. He has no fear when it comes to pushing the reader’s buttons-not just with who he is willing to torture and maim, but with how the universe he creates works. It isn’t always pretty, and sometimes it feels like I was being beaten senseless by the brutality of what happens in this tale, but there is beauty here too-hope that humanity can somehow overcome its own vile failings and perhaps persevere against impossible odds.
I haven’t been disappointed by anything I’ve read by David Dunwoody as of yet, and The Harvest Cycle is no exception. This is potent tale that mixes supernatural horror and science fiction with a fluid grace that few authors can pull off with such skill.
The Harvest Cycle can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1934861324/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
Okay, so I wrote this science fiction comedy story quite some time back for an anthology that never came out. It was, without a doubt, a strange piece of fiction. Perhaps not as strange as the piece I wrote for Houdini Gut Punch, a bizarro anthology, which is called “Consumer’s Paradise”, but then again, I wasn’t writing this piece in an attempt at something bizarro, just something wild, fun, and perhaps a bit…off. Which is what I came up with. And now it will be available via a new bizarro anthology that has been released entitled Tall Tales with Short Cocks, Volume 2 from Bizarro Press.
Okay, I get it. I read the first volume of this anthology series and the comments in many of the reviews said that there were very few…um, er, well, you know…naughty male bits…in any of the stories. And I was thinking that my particular story, which is entitled “The Interstellar Quest for Snack Cakes” has none of them in it either. But perhaps I shouldn’t speak so fast. There is a bit of untamed lasciviousness in my tale, primarily with a wide assortment of alien creatures. Nothing described in too much graphic detail, mind you, but it is there. Of course, if I thought I could sell a few more books by making it a bit more racy, I might have considered doing so. But hey, mixing comedy, science fiction, and erotica might just make a few folks heads explode, so I’ll keep things just where they are, with just the comedy and science fiction. Otherwise I might have been forced to call my story Barbarella.
Suffice it to say, this anthology will have some pretty weird tales in it. I read the first volume and there was plenty of horror, comedy, and some stuff that was just plane surreal, so my guess is that if you check this one out, you’ll get a nice assortment of whacked out crazy stuff mixed with some chills, thrills, and head scratches. And including in this bevy of the odd is my story, which the editor said was ‘not strictly not bizarro, but pretty f$%king bizarre’ which I take as a tremendous compliment and makes for a great tag line.
Click on the cover below to head to Amazon to purchase the kindle version of this book. Stay tuned for updates on the paperback version, coming soon!
Another project I worked on and am very excited about has come to fruition and is now available over on Amazon. Read The End First has the unique premise of showcasing 24 different tales of the end of the world, each based in a different time zone. Because of the nature of the project, this was an invite only anthology, and each author had to pick a particular time zone and write a story that would make sense given their location on the globe. My particular story takes place in Bethlehem and is entitled “What Rough Beast.” You’ll just have to guess at what the story is all about.
So check this one out, there is a great list of authors involved, including Stephen North, Suzanne Robb (who edited it), Michael S. Gardner, Rebecca Snow, A.J. French, Craig Saunders, John McCuaig, David Dunwoody, Wayne Goodchild, Adrian Chamberlain, D.A. Chaney, Hollie Snider, William Todd Rose, and many more that I apologize I can’t remember right off the top of my head.
So click on the cover and head on over to Amazon to check out your very own copy of Read The End First.
I’m proud to announce that Before Plan 9: Plans 1-8 From Outer Space has been released and is available over on Amazon. This book details those first plans where the aliens tried to prevent humanity from destroying the universe before their infamous raising of the dead experiment documented in the movie from Ed Wood Jr., Plan 9 From Outer Space. Tony Schaab has brought together a bunch of fantastic authors to tell the tales that record our interactions with the alien beings who are fearful we will invent the substance that has the power to ignite the sun and destroy us all. Certainly, their efforts with Plan 9 were a miserable failure, but what came before? What attempts did they make in our past to try and curb our lust for violence and destruction?
Check out Before Plan 9, which includes my retelling of the Odyssey, aka Plan 1. Just click on the book cover to be directed over to Amazon to get your copy today. Oh, and make sure you keep watching the skies, because the aliens are sure to return!
Here is the table of contents of this very fun and exciting new book:
Plan Zero from the Mesozoic Era by Tony Schaab
Plan 1 from the Lesser-Heralded Parts of The Odyssey by Patrick D’Orazio
Plan 2 from Ancient Egypt by D.A. Chaney
Plan 3 from the Middle Ages of Hamelin by Greg Carter
Plan 4 from the Clockwork Country by Tonia Brown
Plan 5 from the Depressing Depression by David Dunwoody
Plan 6 from the Nazi Regime by Rob Silvera
Plan 7 from Sin City by Jonathan Maberry
Plan 8 from the Fantastic Fifties, Phase 1 by Craig DiLouie
Plan 8 from the Fantastic Fifties, Phase 2 by Joe McKinney and Michael McCarty
Alien Apocalypse-The Storm is a short story that takes place just as a comet is cutting a close path near the earth. Something has been hanging out on the comet, and comes down to earth, covering everything with a green mold like growth that devours everything living in its path. The story splits perspectives between Leon, a father imprisoned for manslaughter and just about to fulfill his term, and his son, Elliot, who is living with his aunt and uncle, waiting for his dad to be released. Leon is stuck in solitary confinement during the initial landing of the green growth that carves a swath of destruction through the prison. Only the prison guard who comes into his cell and a woman who is a clerk at the prison who hid in locker manage to avoid the mayhem. Elliot, living on a remote farm, also escapes the first wave of destruction, and the hunt is on for Leon, now freed from prison, to get to his son in time before everything is destroyed.
This is a fast paced, nicely done apocalyptic short story, with a promise for more to come from the author. For a brief tale, Leon, the father, is developed nicely as a character you can appreciate and the author tosses some nice twists into a tale whose main villain is a moss-like substance. Overall, plenty of fun, and I will be interested to see where Dean Giles takes things from here.
Alien Apocalypse-The Storm can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Alien-Apocalypse-The-Storm-ebook/dp/B005JE2W7Q/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1331961140&sr=1-1
Hissers starts out giving the reader a hint as to what to expect with the rest of the story when we are introduced in the prologue to a General and a scientist in a government financed lab. They are working on ways to help soldiers in war with healing and regeneration of limbs and have come across some significant success, though there is still work to be done. But they need to sell what they’re doing to the higher ups to get more of the financing they need. So they plan on flying across country and demonstrating what they have so far. Fast forward to the start the actual story and we are introduced to a quartet of soon to be high school students-Connor, Seth, Nicole, and Amanita-who are preparing for the last weekend before school starts and their lives change dramatically as they move closer to adulthood in their little town. There is a huge party that night, and some of them plan on attending. But any plans they have come to a screeching to a halt when a plane crashes, plowing down the very street they were headed to for the party. Rushing to see if they can help any survivors, they quickly discover that those that were killed in the crash are getting back up and have turned into ravenous undead monsters. And these aren’t just your typical sprinter zombies, these are ones that have gained the ability to absorb replacement limbs that they themselves might end up tearing off their victims. Not only replacements, but additional limbs. This new race of the undead make an eerie hissing noise as they move and attack that gives the book its name.
The rest of the tale takes place over the course of the night and next day, with our four main characters racing for their lives and coping with tons of teenage angst and drama that comes with them normally. They get to witness the demise of loved ones and just about everyone in their town. No one is safe from these crazed monsters or the author’s willingness to hand over victims to the cause. Parents are struck down, but so are children and even babies. There is plenty of gore, action, and fast paced adrenaline drenched terror to go around for all. Hissers was a lot of fun in that regard-the action is intense and the monsters are creative and scary-they aren’t quite zombies, but still have some of the same qualities we all know with the undead-you have to hit them in the head, their bites turn others into what they are, and they can be tricked and fooled because they aren’t too bright.
For the most part, the four main characters are fairly believable, though the author stretched that believe-ability for me on occasion with some of their dialog and inner-monologues. It seemed somewhat forced on occasion, and a little overwrought. I get that these kids are dealing with incredibly harrowing situations, but it seemed that they were becoming a bit too profound with their analysis of not only what was going on, but life in general and their beliefs (or lack of belief) in God. This wasn’t something that distracted too much from my overall enjoyment of the tale, but something that definitely merits being brought up in this review.
Overall, Hissers is a fast paced, adrenaline charged zombie variation with some new and intriguing twists that occasionally bogs down with a few bits of overwrought dialog from its young cast, but nothing that should take away too much of your overall enjoyment of this creative, fun horror tale.
Hissers can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Hissers-Ryan-C-Thomas/dp/193486160X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1328673114&sr=1-1
A while back, I had the opportunity to write a story for a new anthology based on an old movie. Let me correct myself. It was an old, bad movie. Not just any bad movie, but THE bad movie. The one that is so bad it has gotten awards for being the worst movie ever made, and because of that, has become a cult classic in the minds of people everywhere. Heck, they made a movie about the guy who made this movie because this movie was so bad, and this guy was so good at making bad movies and THAT movie even won an academy award. Strange, huh? A movie about a movie that is bad winning an academy award. Go figure.
Well, I’m not trying to keep any secrets here, since everyone can guess based on the title of this post what movie I’m talking about. It is Ed Wood Jr.’s classic Plan 9 from Outer Space. Tony Schaab, who runs Twinstar Media, as a huge fan of the movie and someone who is involved in the novelization of the script as well as a remake of the movie, came up with an intriguing question: if the movie shows what Plan 9 was from the aliens, which failed so miserably, what were their first 8 plans to conquer earth? Well, maybe not to conquer earth, but to prevent us from making a solarnite bomb. And if you don’t know what a solarnite bomb is, go look for Plan 9 on Youtube-you can watch the entire movie in all its wretched glory free of charge.
Thus was born the idea behind Before Plan 9: Plans 1-8 From Outer Space. I’m proud to be a part of this project and to have the chance to pay homage to one of the worst movies of all time with what I hope isn’t one of the worst short stories of all time, heh. My little story has the honor of being Plan 1, if you can believe it! It is entitled: Plan 1 from the Lesser-Heralded Parts of The Odyssey. Yep, these aliens have been bugging us humans since the days of Greek heroes like Odysseus.
Here is the full table of contents:
- Plan Zero from the Mesozoic Era by Tony Schaab
- Plan 1 from the Lesser-Heralded Parts of The Odyssey by Patrick D’Orazio
- Plan 2 from Ancient Egypt by D.A. Chaney
- Plan 3 from the Middle Ages of Hamelin by Greg Carter
- Plan 4 from the Clockwork Country by Tonia Brown
- Plan 5 from the Depressing Depression by David Dunwoody
- Plan 6 from the Nazi Regime by Rob Silvera
- Plan 7 from Sin City by Jonathan Maberry
- Plan 8 from the Fantastic Fifties, Phase 1 by Craig DiLouie
- Plan 8 from the Fantastic Fifties, Phase 2 by Joe McKinney and Michael McCarty
DARC12 is a deep space research vessel that is located as close to a black hole as it can without being sucked into it. Its mission is to do research that is illegal back home (genetic studies, animal experimentation, etc.) as well exploration of distant space. The DARC vessels have been looking for, and have not found alien life, so when DARC12 finds a strange asteroid nearby that seems to be alive, it is a monumental discovery. Despite the fact that this living thing appears to be nothing more than some sort of plant life, or so it seems at first, it is brought on board for examination. Not long after it arrives, the people exposed to it-the scientists and the head of security, Wilson, as well as others among the crew, are hearing voices inside their heads-voices the promise peace and happiness or ignite fears and nightmares insides their skulls. Soon one of the members of the team that handled the alien is murdering at the command of those voices, and Wilson, who is starting to fear that the perhaps the alien presence has something to do with that shocking event, has to figure out what is going on. But the worst is yet to come, as those killed are coming back to life as they too are called by the alien presence to do its bidding. They are ravenous, fast moving killers, tearing into anything that crosses their path.
Containment Room 7, which is named for the room where the alien is kept to be studied, is a combination alien and zombie tale of horror that moves at a breakneck pace, giving the reader little to no time to breath as things happen on board this massive research vessel. I believe the entire story takes place in a little over 24 hours, with madness and the undead spreading through the DARC12 in no time. Like most horror tales that take place inside a space faring vessel, the cramped conditions and remoteness of their location give the tale a claustrophobic sense to it.
There are four main characters in this story: Wilson, the head of security, Rodney and Colette, two security officers, and Lisa, a biologist. Of those that survive the onslaught of the murderous fanatics and undead, they appear able to resist the call of the alien in their midst, or so it seems. They have meager weaponry meant to maintain peace with; a crew of 144 that typically does no worse than have the occasional argument or suicide attempt to keep security busy. They have repeaters, which amount to b-b gun tazers, and a few batons. More than enough to stop a human being, but that do little to stop ravenous zombies.
The book is a wild ride, with desperate efforts to try and discover what is going on and then putting a stop to it with enemies coming at the main characters in all directions-the living, the dead, and alien who are all trying to destroy them. The author leaves plenty of unanswered questions, which is not surprising, though it may be unsatisfying to some readers. We never really understand much about the alien, including how it can control some minds so effectively while others seem able to resist, what it is transforming into, what its purpose is, or how it can control the dead…but as with the case with both alien and zombie sagas, sometimes those questions are best left unanswered, since this is a tale of unknown terror and trying to flee from it when you are stuck on board ship that offers no real escape at all. This is a fun, nightmare inducing book-a scary tale worth checking out for both fans of sci fi and zombie horror both.
Containment Room 7 can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Containment-Room-7-Bryan-Hall/dp/193486191X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1326052611&sr=1-1
Captain Nate Leathers of the U.S. Army is in Iraq on a routine patrol in a small town outside of Basra when his Humvee convoy gets ambushed by insurgents. As the only survivor, he is taken prisoner and dumped in an underground dungeon by the insurgents. Not long after that, there are explosions and other chaos from up above, and a strange green mist starts floating through his prison cell. Concerned that it’s a chemical weapon, he tries to avoid it, but after a while comes to accept that it seems to have no effect on him. He manages to escape the abandoned dungeon and makes it to the streets of Basra, where he discovers that it seems as if the dead are walking and there are very few people still left alive. Hiding and escaping on foot from trouble with an Iraqi named Muhammad, he discovers there are far worse creatures than zombies roaming the streets-creatures that seem to have crawled (and flown) up from the depths of hell. But even with all of that, the real trouble starts for Leathers when he comes across a group of survivors who create even more of a hell on earth for him.
Archeron starts out strong as a tale told in first person. The author does a solid job of explaining military terminology and other aspects of life in the field without going overboard with it. He also does a good job of keeping the reader in the dark as to what is happening outside of the narrow perspective of the main character early on. This gives a sense of claustrophobia which increases the story’s intensity level a few notches for the first third of the book. Even as Leathers makes his escape from the insurgent’s dungeon, the mystery surrounding the green mist and the strange, zombie-like creatures that bewilder him at first kept the story moving at a rapid, entertaining clip. He starts to get his bearings and discovers there are more than just zombies involved in this strange new world he is a part of, which makes the story even more interesting. I liked it when Muhammad, the Iraqi who saves Leathers early in the story, does his best to explain that the shambling figures out on the street are indeed zombies, despite a language barrier. I thought he put the message across in a very creative way. I do regret that Muhammad didn’t play a bigger role in this tale. I would have liked to see more of him.
I enjoyed the fact that this story does take place in Iraq, which is not the typical locale for a zombie story. But as I read through this book, I realized that this is not a zombie story, but a story of demons and ancient mythology. The author has a strong knowledge of how the military operates and the ancient mythology he chooses to develop his horror creations. The action moves at a steady clip early on and in the latter stages of the book, with quite a bit of time in the middle dealing with interpersonal conflicts and the characters pondering what is actually happening.
Unfortunately, I did have a couple of issues with the story that took away from my enjoyment of it.
The first is what I will call ‘asides’ that distract from the main tale. These take place when, for example, the main character spends a chapter discussing the benefits of wearing your combat boots while you sleep, or when the main character starts contemplating the meaning of life-an example of this is when Captain Leathers states that one man’s religion does not make him any more or less moral than another man. These asides bog down the story for me, slowing the tempo and detracting, rather than adding to the texture and complexity of the tale.
My second issue was with Leathers himself. He struck me as a contradictory character. One the one hand, he is a combat vet and an officer who has the guts and confidence to make life and death decisions every day. On the other hand, he fails to take aggressive stance that would diffuse a dangerous situation again and again. I won’t elaborate on this further to avoid revealing spoilers. I will say that I do like a character that is human in their failings, and make mistakes, but the mistakes Leathers makes seemed redundant to me.
While I had some issues with this book, I think the author is a talented writer who has come up with a very interesting universe inhabited by not only zombies, but mysterious netherworld creatures. I will be curious to see what happens in the inevitable sequel to Acheron.
Acheron can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Acheron-Bryon-Morrigan/dp/1934861677/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1
Those who have read Ex-Heroes know the scoop from that first book. Peter Clines has created a world with his own flavor of superheroes, led by The Dragon (St. George), Zzzap, Stealth, and Cerberus, who reside in “The Mount”, a barricaded movie studio in L.A. They live there protecting the bulk of survivors in the city from Ex’s, aka zombies that have taken over the world. I felt that the author created a wonderful and highly detailed group of heroes and villains, using the writing technique of going back and forth in time, from ‘now’ to ‘then’ and back again, revealing only what the reader needs to know about each character-their origins, what brought them to where they are now, their motivations, etc.-until absolutely necessary to the plot. I loved the twists in the first book, which gave us a surprise ending I thought was quite a zinger. The heroes are unique, complex, and entertaining-there are no cookie-cutter duplicates of other heroes we already know and love.
Ex-Patriots introduces the military to the equation here in the second book. But not just the regular military, a group of super-soldiers created by a government scientist named Dr. Sorenson, who has turned them into physical specimens capable of great feats strength and speed. They are led by Captain Freedom (his actual real last name), though he isn’t draped in the American flag throughout the book. He is a physically massive soldier who is the strongest of the super-soldiers and also the most moral of the military men the reader is introduced to here. The military, huddled at a secret base in Arizona, makes the trek to the Mount after discovering the barricaded safe haven. Despite an introduction filled with missteps, the heroes agree to make the trip back to Arizona to discuss mutual survival plans with Colonel Shelly, the top army officer still alive, and Agent Smith, the only representative on hand representing the U.S. Government. Naturally, more conflict between the military and heroes occurs, with the military wanting the large, robotic Cerberus machine and official control over the Mount, claiming that Marshall Law is still in play. This despite serious questions as to whether the U.S. government even still exists, given that the ex’s seem to control most of the world.
New villains are revealed here, as well as new heroes, and the author does not disappoint with his efforts to provide fresh twists and turns to the plot, both with new characters and old. He uses the same format of ‘now’ and ‘then’ to divulge choice details, which leaves the reader guessing on particular details until the moment is just right. The action is on par with the first book, and the relationships between the different superheroes and the soldiers are solid. I particularly like the slow burn that is going on between St. George and Stealth-the two hero leaders who can’t seem to figure out what type of relationship they’re supposed to have.
Like the preceding book, this was a well written tale and it leaves plenty of room for more twists and mysteries in the final book in the trilogy. Villains that are complex and despicable, heroes that may seem indestructible yet are very much human in how they react and respond to the people and challenges they face…Mr. Clines has created a compelling world filled with fascinating characters. I look forward to seeing where it all leads.
Ex-Patriots can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Ex-Patriots-Peter-Clines/dp/1934861871/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1321937132&sr=8-1
The Drifter takes place less than a century in the future, and is a story about a hired gun who begins the tale taking us through his latest job, while memories of a past that was more sane and more appealing (both to him and to the reader) floats through his head. Mace is the man’s name, and he is obligated to a crime boss by the name of Cap Leto, who has put him on what amounts to a suicide mission. Not that the anti-hero main character seems to care much, because his soul feels as if it has rotted away inside of him. Bitter and dispassionate, he goes forward with his job with little remorse, though with many regrets that began long before this story takes place, and are only compounded by what he is forced to do.
As our killer manages to make it through his mission still breathing, though bloodied and bruised, he decides that the opportunity to start over with a program offered by one of the mega-corporations that have off world colonies is his best bet. They offer a memory wipe and a chance to scrub the dirt off your hands and your soul. Unfortunately, Mace doesn’t appear to get the full treatment, and on top of that, the colony he ends up somewhere uptime is in a state of disarray. Bombs have been dropped, mutants are running wild, and gangs of marauders are running the place. On top of that, it seems that plenty of people know who Mace is, and are very interested in taking advantage of his unique talents as a hardened killer. But Mace has other ideas in mind, especially when he meets up with a woman on the run who he decides is worth protecting and fighting for, no matter how difficult it may be to keep her safe and alive.
The Drifter is a faced paced, present tense tale about a man who is part futuristic cowboy and part knight errant. Mace lives by his own code, even in a universe that seems determined that he get sucked back into the dark world he used to inhabit time and time again. The story is hard to pin down, since it has a noir-ish flavor to it, with a touch of Blade Runner thrown in. In addition to that, it has an apocalyptic edge as well. Mace travels a world that has been turned upside down by massive destruction and it has an almost wild west feel to it. It almost seems that there is always something more, something hidden from his vision, just around the corner, and it is hard to guess at who he can and should trust at any given moment. The character is fun, ballsy, and brash, and it was easy for me to grow attached to him as he tries to come to grips with memories that have faded alongside those that haven’t, which include most of the ones related to his dark past.
A fun, rock ‘em, sock ‘em tale, North has created a character that I hope to see again…and again. Mace is a hard case on a mission, and God help anyone who stands in his way.
The Drifter can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Drifter-Stephen-North/dp/1466312807/ref=sr_1_59?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1317608443&sr=1-59
Sergeant Alex Cray is dealing with a viral outbreak in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. He is wearing his MOPP suit, which is the self-contained, sealed suit we always see in the movies when there is an airborne virus or infection going around. The suit is hot, uncomfortable, but he is not supposed to take it off for fear of contracting whatever virus is out there. He and his fellow soldiers are not sure what is really going on, and if this outbreak has expanded beyond the borders of Tampa, or if it even started there in the first place. Soon, he decides that if he is forced to stay in the suit, life beneath that mask wouldn’t be worth living. But when he slips off that mask, he soon is forced to strip away other masks…the masks that allow him to remain civilized and normal in the regular world, but masks that are harder (or even impossible) to maintain in this new world, where a virus is only the beginning of the troubles he will face. The virus reveals a great many things about the survivors, and what they’re willing to do to stay alive and thrive in a new, barbaric environment. Time slips by and Alex discovers that he wants to remain human, and remain someone who can still look in the mirror at himself, but he will be forced to do ugly things to somehow pull that off.
Again, the virus is only the beginning, and I don’t think it is much of a spoiler to indicate that there is something far more diabolical at work in this story, something alien and yet strangely human. New doors are opened for Alex, and as he slips from one effort at saving those around him to another he finds himself more and more tormented. Tormented by beliefs that the human race is done for and that despite his best efforts, he is slipping away as well, even as he continues to live.
This is a story told in first person, present tense. It is a style used infrequently, and is rather challenging for someone to pull off. Stephen North, in this, his first novel, pulls it off just as he does in his later efforts with relative ease. Not everyone enjoys this style, and I will admit that in some ways it leaves me wanting as a reader. Not because of the quality of the writing, but because of the lack of information granted me as a reader. There are a lot of mysteries not revealed in the pages of this book because we only see the world that Alex sees, and in a world that is as clouded and dim as this one, one man’s vision doesn’t extend too far. The action is in your face and it is very easy to climb into the skin of Alex, as it were, but the character spends a great deal of his time getting knocked out of action and fading to black, only to wake up with everything changed around him, with his efforts to figure out what is going on only partially successful. This is a grand adventure with a few mysterious gaps in the tale that left me curious. I don’t like spoiling things for other readers, so suffice to to say, if you read this book carefully, you will have questions that Alex has that will go unanswered before the end of the tale. The author has indicated that since this was his first work, he wants to revisit it, and may explain some of the parts that were never detailed in a rewrite. If that is the case, I will be one of the first in line to check it out. Despite these few “gaps”, this is a good adventure tale, with an interesting sci fi slant on the traditional apocalyptic thriller. Stephen North writes virtually everything in first person, and is one of those rare people who also uses the present tense with ease…while the rest of us find it an incredibly difficult challenge to pull off.
Beneath the Mask can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Beneath-Mask-Stephen-North/dp/142592588X/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1317092890&sr=1-6
Sheri Gambino has put together an assortment of tales that spring from her dark and vivid imagination for Twisted Tales of Terror. This anthology has several zombie apocalypse tales, but the author mixes things up with an assortment of other stories to stir the pot. Included in this book are a few twisty, surprise entries that were unexpected, including one about a mad scientist, a vampire waging a war against evil, a truly killer clown, and the author’s own slant on “Kiss of the Spider Woman”. She includes a dash of voodoo and a couple of tales of menace from space along with her zombie stories, most of which are traditional survival tales, but with an assortment of demonic invaders thrown in for good measure.
The author creates some solid characters along with a few throw away ones that come with the typical short story. I grew attached to a few of the characters that I felt like could have been delved into deeper, with grander tales crafted around them. They drew me in and kept me intrigued. As for the “throw away” characters, I don’t mean that in a negative way-but when you are dealing with the apocalypse, you tend to need a lot of grist for the mill, and Sheri carves up the bodies here quite nicely.
Overall, this was a brisk, easy read that entertained me and was done far more quickly than expected. The editing is sharp and I could see making a commitment to a full sized novel by this author with one, or several of her more intriguing characters that she has to offer.
Twisted Tales of Terror can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Twisted-Tales-of-Terror-ebook/dp/B004YQVOXS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1308014835&sr=8-1
The Traveling Tyrant tells the tale of what amounts to corporate espionage disguised as dark science fiction comedy. Or is it a science fiction tale disguised as a corporate thriller? Not quite sure, since it handles the influence of more than one genre with relative ease. The basic overview of this tale is that a representative of Galactic Hotels has presented to the board of directors the discovery of a pristine, paradise world relatively untouched by human hands, named, conveniently enough, Paradisa. It will make the perfect vacation hot spot for the ultra-wealthy, except for one minor, niggling detail: a group of religious zealots claimed the world as their own years before. So, to cleanse the place of these annoying pests, the Traveling Tyrant is called in to do what he and his fleet of mercenaries do best, which is to make niggling details disappear. The only problem is that there is trouble afoot, with more than one member of the Tyrant’s command staff attempting to work their way into the Tyrant’s position of power through a variety of twisted machinations. So with religious zealots below and the danger of mutiny in the fleet above, you can rest assured that everyone involved is in for a bumpy ride and a mission that more than likely isn’t going to go all that smoothly.
This is definitely a dark comedy at its heartless best. Death and deception go hand and hand here, with virtually every character having more than one agenda, though their desires and goals for advancement and power seem to be quite clear, even if their routes to achieving those goals are often cloudy. This story could easily pave the way for a series of books about the Tyrant and his fleet, plus a client base that has a tendency to be fairly amoral in their desire for conquest and dominance. The writing is solid and the wit sharp, with plenty of deception to entertain and amuse those of us who like a little hemlock with our wine every now and then. While the Tyrant is not a likable fellow, with his lecherous ways and Napoleonic complex, he is only one member of a cast of equally twisted characters, each with their own twisted perspectives and peccadilloes that enhance the story and keep you guessing as to what might happen next and who might deceive who. For some, the darkness of this tale might be a bit much, given that it is fairly relentless, with no apologies offered for the vicious, almost offhand casual way lives are destroyed, but that is also a part of the story’s devious allure. For those who can handle such diabolical tactics in the stories they read, this one should be quite an entertaining addition to their collection.
The Traveling Tyrant can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Traveling-Tyrant-Richard-Marsden/dp/1456401254/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1307932753&sr=1-1
I am pretty excited about this one. I wrote a time travel story a while back entitled “Intervention”, which Wayne Goodchild was gracious enough to accept into his time travel anthology. But this isn’t just stories about time travel, but stories about when time travel goes wonky and things get screwed up, both now and then, or is that then and now? I’m not quite sure, but it was certainly fun thinking up the consequences behind manipulating the time streams. I was pretty proud of my little story and was thrilled to find out that it would appear in the book, and first in the table of contents no less. The cover has just been revealed and the book should probably be released later this summer. It is a bit of a departure from my traditional horror story M.O., I know, but I was excited to stretch myself a bit with a twisty little tale of the present and future colliding.
Without further ado, here is the wrap around cover!
More details to follow. I hope plenty of you will be interested in checking this one out.
Robopocalypse tells the story of the war between mankind and robots fought in the near future, when a super-intelligent AI goes live and realizes that humanity has served its purpose and is no longer needed in the big scheme of things, and as such is a threat to the rest of creation. The story is told in flashback, with the war already being won by humanity when we read the briefing at the beginning of the book. The story is narrated by Cormac “Bright Boy” Wallace, one of the humans at the final victory of the human race against the AI that tried to do humanity in. The story unfolds in brief vignettes, leading us from the point where Archos, the AI, goes live, takes control of various robots that are a part of our every day lives, and then declares all out war against us. Steven Spielberg will be making a movie of the book in 2013.
This was a fun, easy read that seems like the ideal fit for a Spielberg big budget action movie, and I mean that both in the best and worst ways. Despite being the story of a war-likely the most important war that humanity has ever faced, the cast of characters is extremely limited. Other reviewers have commented that this story reminds them of World War Z from Max Brooks and I see the similarities. That book interviews dozens of survivors of the war against zombies as they tell their tales of the war from start to finish. Robopocalypse shares in that we are given a recounting of the robot war, though the scope here is much more narrow, with perhaps only a handful of characters stepping into the spotlight. In fact, there are some amazing coincidences that keep the cast smaller than it could have been, with a hero of the war in Oklahoma being the father of another major hero of the war who is in Afghanistan. A senator that is a key character just so happens to be the mother of yet another hero in the story. So this story is one that has a very narrow, limited perspective on this particular war. I would have loved to seen a book that was willing to take more of the war and more of the people who experienced it. In addition, I thought there was a lost opportunity when Archos, the diabolical AI we are introduced to at the beginning of the story seems to disappear, for the most part, until the very end of the tale. It was the most intriguing and fun character of them all, a worthy and interesting villain that is woefully underutilized here.
Still, this was a fun, rock ‘em, sock ‘em tale of humans doing battle with robots that was a quick, easy read. No new ground was broken here, even though the author is a robotics expert. His knowledge added to the quality of the tale, but he challenged none of my expectations when it comes to robots. Instead, this story reminded me of the back story to the Terminator (super military AI wakes up and decides to destroy the human race) or The Matrix (humanity is enslaved by the same machines who they had treated like slaves). Nothing too taxing mentally, but still an entertaining tale.
Robopocalypse can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Robopocalypse-Novel-Daniel-H-Wilson/dp/0385533853/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1302919659&sr=1-1
The Eagle Has Reanimated is a short story that takes a look at the world Romero created with Night of the Living Dead and takes one of history’s most famous moments from that time period and puts them on a crash course. What if zombies had been real back in the late sixties? What if the world was just beginning to fall into the grips of the undead as NASA planned its launch of Apollo 11, putting the first man on the moon?
This is a short story, so I won’t elaborate on the plot too much. I will say that the author did some research here and gives us some interesting tidbits about each of the astronauts and other details surrounding the real elements of Apollo 11, while embellishing things with zombies in a fun and creative way that had me entertained from start to finish of this brief tale. I particularly liked some of added touches, which includes references to two characters from the movie Day of the Dead, as well as how a zombie and a breathing human would actually react to the vacuum of space.
If you are a fan of the classic Romero zombie, and especially his first trilogy of movies, this story fits in perfectly with that world…and beyond!
The Eagle Has Reanimated can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Eagle-Has-Reanimated-Zombie-ebook/dp/B004KSPX00/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=digital-text&qid=1296487842&sr=1-1
Shades of Green tells the story of a small town in England, Holburn, where the world has been turned upside down. A flashback to an experience two brothers had in the woods with more than one mysterious creature before the main story begins introduces us to this tale. After that, the sense of normality we see on the page lasts only a short while before we are exposed to people within the town becoming irrationally violent and several seemingly hallucinogenic trips or dreams intervening in the normal experiences of a few of the different key characters. Soon, it becomes clear that these trippy visions are actually the new state of affairs in Holburn, with a strange mix of science and magic boiling out of the ground and causing the populous to change, to morph into new biological creations. They are changing genetically, with strange creatures and demons being the results of the transitions. A few select people, including Damien and his girlfriend Jen, appear to be immune to these changes, or at least transitioning at a slower rate than everyone else, who are either being sacrificed to the evil forces at work or are working for them. The few survivors are the ones that must get to the bottom of this mystery, which unravels rapidly as the story surges toward its conclusion.
I liked the idea behind this story. It was a strange series of events that often left me puzzled, but intrigued enough to forge ahead to see what might happen next and what might happen at the end of the tale. In all honesty, I’m not sure I quite understood the explanations near the end, or what all happened along the way and the reasons behind them, but once again, this is a hallucinogenic, trippy tale that really would defy a simple explanation no matter how well I tried. The story is gore laced, gooey (a word I use because of the biological emphasis put on the reformation of both the human and animal elements of this town), and eerie, to say the least. I don’t want to spoil things for the readers, but I will say that this story shared elements of some of King’s works laced with a healthy dose of Lovecraftian flavor thrown in for good measure.
The issue I had with Shades of Green was with the editing. Now I will state very clearly that I am not a person who gets upset at typos and even a few contextual errors that show up. I expect that to occur with a self-published work. My belief is that if I can understand what the author was trying to say for the most part, I am good with that. With that said, I feel strongly that Shades of Green could have done with another editing run, because some of the errors left me confused as to the intention of the author at certain points in the book. The errors made this a more challenging read for me. Now this isn’t to say that I didn’t figure things out in the end, or throughout the story, but it slowed things down a bit. I will cite one example of the confusion I faced with the story, and it comes from the very first chapter: Damien and his brother Paul appear to be swapped in the first chapter. If this was the author’s intention as part of a dream sequence, it still left me puzzled and believing that after I had read the next few chapters that it was an error on his part: it was Paul who was having the vision from his past, or a dream, and not Damien. Then again, perhaps that was the author’s intention: to confuse the issue, because that would go along with the rest of the trippy nature of the story. Even so, another editing run through this book would serve it tremendously.
Overall, I enjoyed the concept of this book and I think the author has some wild and disturbing ideas. The editing was where it stumbled for me, but given that this is Ian Woodhead’s first book, I think he has a promising future in writing ahead of him.
Shades of Green can be found at: http://www.amazon.com/Shades-of-Green-ebook/dp/B004E10WCC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1296155046&sr=8-1
My interview with Sonar 4 tonight, for those who didn’t get the chance to check it out live.
Lori Titus and Tonia Brown did a great job and it was a lot of fun talking about Comes The Dark, some of my short stories, and the absolutely horrendous book I wrote back in high school that remains locked away forever.
Check it out!
Eric S. Brown and Jessy Marie Roberts have created a faced paced and slick little tale of war, aliens, and mayhem that is packed tightly into 80 pages that go by even quicker than you would think. This novella starts out fast, with the Kinberra, a human warship, getting assaulted immediately after coming out of void space into a war zone. Humans and Darians, a cat-like race, are fighting in the system, and before the Kinberra can get annihilated like the rest of their fleet, the ship takes a blind jump into void space…which sends them to a mysterious ice planet with some very dangerous indigenous life forms, where they are forced to crash land and make a desperate attempt to repair their vessel before they get annihilated by the giant ants that swarm the snow drenched planet.
This book barely gives you barely enough time to breath, as we get space battles, hand to hand combat, gruesome ant like enemies, mutiny, and even a bit of a love story jam packed into this very quick read. I devoured this one in one quick sitting and enjoyed it a great deal. This could easily be part of a much bigger saga of the war between the Humans and Darians, and we even get to meet a Darian that is a prisoner aboard the Kinberra, so the reader gets a taste of these enemies and how the fight.
My only real complaint has to be that this book is so brief that we don’t get too much of a chance to really get to know the people involved in this tale in any depth. This is true in particular of Jordon, Rebecca, and Xar, the Darian prisoner who is forced to fight alongside the humans against the menacing ants. I would have liked to seen more of them. This is a brief jaunt into space that gives you action that is fast paced with absolutely no filler, though, which marks it as a blast in my book.
Kinberra Down can be found on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/161706016X/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Zombonauts goes where no anthology has gone before. Okay, so I am not 100% sure of that, but I personally haven’t see an entire anthology dedicated to stories about the undead in space. Vince Churchill’s “The Dead Shall Inherit the Earth” was my first exposure to zombies in space, and “Barren Earth” by Eric Brown and Stephen North is a more recent offering, but this jams 30 stories into one book about the undead buggers doing it in zero G.
We get a wide assortment of the undead here and while many are of the traditional Romero variety, there are some very interesting slants on what you would expect when it comes to a zombie story, with voodoo zombies, non-zombies that have zombie-like characteristics, and a few mysteries tossed in that simply make you wonder. The novelty here is not only that all of these stories occur in space, but that we get some very unique tales of apocalypse and even a few bitingly satirical stories as well(pardon the pun).
Given the volume of stories here, there was bound to be a bit of overlap as far as plot and progression with some of them, but there are ample tales that stand up as unique and intriguing in this volume. A true test, in my mind, of a short story is that it leaves me craving for more from that author and more of the particular story I just read. There are several of those here, which makes this anthology not only a unique read but also a very entertaining one.
Zombonauts can be found on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Zombonauts-Undead-Universe-Dr-Pus/dp/1449916147/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1274810857&sr=1-1
Derek J. Goodman has crafted four very different and very intriguing fantastical stories about machines that seem to spring straight from his imagination onto the page.
The first, Dea Ex Machina, mixes the grim metallic future of a world filled with humans that are essentially factory slaves, working on machines as if they too are machines, but it also has magic in it as well that goes beyond the simple metal and zombie slave mentality that shackles the workers in place.
The second, a novella, Twister Sisters, was the story I enjoyed the most, more than likely because I have not been exposed to much steam punk and this was a rousing introduction to the genre. The depth of the society the author developed was exceptional. Here we are thrust not only into a world where steam and machines allow humans to take flight in massive contraptions, but also is a place where women, for the most part, rule and men play a secondary role due to their penchant towards violence and machismo. I enjoyed this swashbuckling tale of high adventure and would not mind re-entering that world once again.
Those Were The Days, the third story, was something I, as a kid who grew up on 80s teen and sci fi stories could appreciate. The author’s notes confirmed that he shares similar sentiments with me about movies such as War Games, amongst others. Revisiting and updating a lost tale from the 80s allowed me to grow nostalgic for a story that never actually existed, though it seemed quite familiar to me.
As Wide As The Sky, And Twice as Explosive was the shortest and in some ways, the most interesting of the four stories found in this book. A boy who finds the sky dwelling and warring giant robots far more fascinating and intoxicating than his earth-bound human counterparts is not all that different than things we have seen before, but the extent to which he takes that fascination definitely new. We are given a taste of something that perhaps might leave you wondering where a story like this could lead to if it was expanded, and wondering whether you would be interested in taking such a journey.
Overall, I enjoyed the diversity of machine related stories the author has lined up in this book. I could really get into a larger volume of steam punk either in the world of Twister Sisters or a brand new one from Derek Goodman. I also have a feeling the author has many other worlds he could show us with machines in them that are just as fascinating as the ones he has shown us here.
Machina can be found at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Machina-Derek-J-Goodman/dp/145155351X/ref=cm_cr-mr-title
Well, its been a while since I posted something. I’m not really sure I am feeling guilty about that, because I have been spending a great deal of my free time writing, which is really the point of all this, so at least I feel productive. I think this blog is an extension of that desire to write, but is also a way to help promote both what I have written as well as some other people out there whose books I’ve read and really enjoyed. So I need to do a better job of keeping up with things, but for now, I will report when there is something to report on.
But hey, I just ordered some book through the Amazon Vine’s program that is supposed to tell me five steps to becoming a better blogger. So watch out world! Patrick D’Orazio’s blog is going to knock yer socks off…once I get the chance to read that book. I think.
The challenge, at this time, is that nothing I’ve written is out there yet for you to pick up and buy. I have five short stories that have been accepted for different anthologies thus far, along with my trilogy of novels. I have several other stories out there going through the submission process and I will hopefully hear back on them over the next few months, but as I wait, I will continue to write. You just wait, in a few months, I will have plenty to talk about that is actually out on the market…and hopefully a lot more to come. Then again, I think this is a good and humbling experience. I am getting rejections along with acceptances, which makes me want to work harder at being a better writer. Every day, that is my goal.
I think I have made up my mind that writing my next novel is a process that will begin after the editing of my current novel begins, which is actually ongoing, but I am hoping for the first book of my trilogy to be completely edited before I begin to focus on writing the first draft of an entirely new story. I know this is a random thought, but I swear there is a method to my madness. Or at least I think there is. The madness does sometimes get in the way, but honestly, that is the fun part.
Up until that time, I have plenty to keep me busy with the various short story anthologies asking for submissions that are out there. I actually submitted something for the first non-Library of the Living Dead/Library of Horror/Library of Science Fiction and Fantasy anthology last night, so I am spreading my wings a bit. My next effort, the one I am working on right now, is a time traveling anthology for Permuted Press. Two non-Library submissions in a row is great. But two non-Library acceptances would be far better.
The majority of the stories I have written and submitted so far have had zombies in them. Some more traditional stories than others (when you start talking zombies and politics, zombies and cowboys, and zombies being used as a April Fools’ joke, you are not sticking to the beaten path, that is for sure). In the mix of what I’ve written have been a story about phobias, one about terrorism and spies, and one that is science fiction comedy. Some of the anthologies I am targeting past my current efforts involve horror comedy, super heros, and serial killers, thought not all at the same time. Although, that might be interesting. But no zombies in my short term future (just sent a zombie story off, so I got my fix). Beyond that, I am going to start searching beyond the anthology sources I am familiar withrequesting short stories and find some other ideas that may challenge me into writing beyond my comfort zone. I know of two anthos involving Steam Punk and Bizarro respectively, but I am not sure I am ready to dip my toes into either of those pools quite yet. I think I need to read more of those genres before I presume I can write in them.
I did do my first interview over Skype recently, which will hopefully be appearing on Tim Long’s blog (a great horror/comedy/bizarro/fantasy writer) very soon. It was a round table interview with some of the newer writers in the Library of Living Dead stable. It was a lot of fun and really gave me a chance to interact with some other folks who are just as excited about the writing process and the concept of seeing our words in print as I am. I probably blabbed way too much during the hour plus interview, but it was pretty loose and I was glad I wasn’t on my own. My first solo interview is definitely going to be a trippy experience.
Once a couple of my stories are actually in print, I will probably be able to start promoting myself more effectively. Getting a fan page on Facebook sounds like an plan (although it sounds weird…asking someone to be my fan, or more specifically, a fan of my books, just feels a bit surreal). Having an author’s page on Amazon would also be a step in the right direction to getting myself out there.
So there it is. I am at the starting gate, and have been preparing for my journey of pimping my wares, but have only just begun. Wish me luck. I might have spent most of my career in sales, and everyone in sales will tell you that selling yourself is the key to being successful, but it is still a bit strange to me that I actually will be selling myself during this process.
Crazy stuff. But a lot of fun as well.