Writer of Horror Fiction

Latest

Review of Kim Paffenroth’s Dying to Live: Last Rites

It has been several years since I read the two prior entries in this trilogy of zombie books, so Dying To Live: Last Rites gave me some vague recollections of the four main characters reintroduced here when I started reading this one, but fortunately, this book in many ways is a standalone novel, separate from the other two books with the story it tells.

Two characters, Will and Rachel, are living, while Truman and Lucy are zombies who have worked to retain and regain elements of who they were in life-they can speak and interact with humans.  Most importantly, they can refrain from giving in to their base urges to kill and devour the living.  Truman more so than Lucy, who still loves to kill and revels in its purity, believing that most humans are selfish, despicable creatures, although she more or less tolerates and even respects Will and Rachel, especially due to the relationship they have with Truman.

The four have been banished from the community they lived in and have been traveling by boat on rivers in the wilderness the world has become.  Rachel grows deathly ill and they find another community called New Sparta near the water that can help her, but only under certain conditions.  The zombies are to be sold off and Will and Rachel will have to pay for the care she receives and the housing and food they will need.  They’ve stumbled into a much more complicated, larger, and more “civilized” society than the one they are used to, with many of the perks of our modern world having returned including electricity, credit, regular jobs, etc.  Of course, their objective initially is to get their two undead friends back to safety, but a myriad of distractions and enticements create some challenges for the two of them, while things are far worse for Truman and Lucy.

Once again, the author has created some interesting dilemmas like those that ran through his first two books in this trilogy.  Dilemmas based on what it means to be human and also retaining what we call humanity, regardless of who, or what, you actually are-living or undead. It’s clear that the two sentient zombie main characters see humans as selfish and self-destructive beings, even those they care for.  Many are far worse than Rachel and Will, but it seems as if this internal focus is ingrained in the living, almost by necessity, to keep the fragile spark of life alight.  The undead, including the other zombies the two meet while enslaved in New Sparta, are not subject to this selfishness, or so they believe.  But with sentience comes certain needs and desires, even if biological urges have been almost all eliminated.  Love, connections to others, and an urge to understand their existence still remains, plus the desire to devour the living still remains…and in most there is no remorse for them either, especially since all memories of what the undead were before they passed on are gone.

Dying To Live: Last Rites may be the third book in Kim Paffenroth’s trilogy, but in many ways it stands on its own as its own examination of life, compassion, and self-sacrifice.  The author has expanded the amount of the sentient zombies from beyond the first two books substantially and that may be a turnoff for some readers who are looking for zombies to mostly remain dim cannibal monsters.  If this were a pure action/horror type trilogy the author could take things in some interesting, Planet of the Apes-type directions with the undead past this story, but these books have always been much more about the examination of the differences between being human and being humane.  Those who have enjoyed the first two novels will likely enjoy this one as well.

Dying To Live: Last Rites can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Dying-Live-Rites-Kim-Paffenroth-ebook/dp/B004T334A2/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1466867283&sr=8-3

Review of Craig DiLouie and Jonathan Moon’s “Children of God”

Children of God by Craig DiLouie and Jonathan Moon is an unexpected surprise from these two horror writers.  I can’t honestly say that I’ve ever read something quite like this, even though I’ve read quite a bit of poetry.  This is a book that shares the tales of tragedy lived through by ten survivors, most of who can only do so through the poems they craft years after the events that destroyed the lives of everyone they knew and with whom they shared a slavish faith.

Going in, we know that the Family of God cult, led by David Prince, came to a horrific end via a mass suicide and bloody massacre on August 17, 2008, when well over three hundred members holed up in their mountain compound died with barely thirty surviving.  Years later, as a form of therapy, a psychiatrist suggests the survivors write poetry as a way to express themselves.  This book shares what theses ten survivors who chose to offer up their words had to say.

How the two authors craft an overarching vision of what led up to that day of tragedy, through it, and beyond is haunting, vivid, and gut-wrenching.  This diverse group of poets includes children, a former prostitute, seminary student, an elderly woman abandoned by her biological family before joining the cult, a mentally impaired man, an organist, gangbanger, war veteran suffering from PTSD, and a young man who lost his immigrant parents in an accident years before joining the Children of God.  Their poetry speaks of sacrifice, devotion, desires for a better world, regret, and a heavenly reward beyond this realm promised but never realized.

A story takes shape through their words and despite being a fairly short book, it paints a vivid picture of what takes place, especially on THE day where the cult comes to its brutal and horrible end.  It’s easy to say that such slavish devotion to a charismatic leader is misplaced and to convince yourself that you could never fall for such lunacy, but all one has to do is to take a look at the world at large to see how desperate so many of us are, and how willing so many are to believe in false prophets and leaders who promise extreme and distorted visions of a better world.  Which makes this book of poetry all the more poignant.

Children of God can be found here:  https://www.amazon.com/Children-God-Dreams-Nightmares-Family-ebook/dp/B01ENXYWU8?ie=UTF8&qid=&ref_=tmm_kin_swatch_0&sr=

Reviews of “Breathe” and “Chameleon” by Layden Robinson

Instead of two separate posts, since I read these two books one after the other, I thought it would make more sense to combine their review into one post.

Breathe is a collection of short stories from Layden Robinson that are very difficult to pin down.  Surreal horror with a perhaps bizarre slant might describe some of this work, though even that perhaps doesn’t quite encapsulate what these twelve shorts are all about.  Free form poetry?  Perhaps.  The utterings of a madman?  Quite possibly.

There is a preponderance of adjectives and adverbs slathered freely throughout these tales of nightmare and perhaps waking dreams.  Perhaps there are too many-some jarring and disruptive, as is the flow and pacing in much of these tales.  These are not stories for the faint of heart or weak of stomach.  Vampires, assassins, mannequins, giant tarantulas, and serial killers abound in stories of failure and perhaps redemption, though there are as many uncontrolled laughs bursting forth as there are profound meanings, or so it seemed to me.

It’s fair to say that this probably isn’t a book that will be everyone’s cup of tea.  It is something you have focus on, glean and decipher as you can, and determine what meaning there is for you.  I won’t lie and say I was satisfied with every story-on the contrary, some left me frustrated and exasperated.  Perhaps that is the point.  I wasn’t quite sure where to go with some of these tales.  Certainly, there is meaning to be found, but whether it will resonate for you will be determined if you are receptive to letting your mind get bent a little, then a little more, with each written word.

Check it out for yourself here: https://www.amazon.com/Breathe-Layden-Robinson-ebook/dp/B00LD8JYLE?ie=UTF8&ref_=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top

 

Chameleon is a standalone short by Layden Robinson that is as surreal and trippy as his short story collection, Breathe, though it is more cohesive and compelling from my perspective.  It is a magical journey of discovery-a quest, if you will, that is perhaps partly dream and partly reality, or maybe entirely acid trip.  Regardless, it is an adventure that challenged the main character at every turn and did the same with me the reader.  Demons, the devil, loss, tragedy, hope, peace, and redemption are things that come to mind here, though interpretations will vary.  This isn’t an easy story to review or even describe, except perhaps as an enchanting fever dream that pokes and prods at you because as soon as you think you have a fix on where it is going, it jars you and changes course.  The pace is brisk but the taste of each section, or compartment of this short story, leaves a flavor on your mouth, whether it be bitter or a vague hint of sweetness.  And then the taste changes when you turn the page once more.

Chameleon can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Chameleon-Layden-Robinson-ebook/dp/B00KHB71QI?ie=UTF8&ref_=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top

Donations for the horror film “Scythe” end tomorrow morning!

Nearly a month ago, I posted the information below.  While some of the details (like the promotional incentives that were running at that time) are not the same, the fact that Jim and his team are looking for a last minute run to give them a chance to make their horror film remains the same.  So check out the 15 minute teaser movie he made and give a few bucks if you can.  If it doesn’t hit the goal, you are out nothing, but if it does, you get to say you played a small part in helping a movie maker’s dream come true!

Every once in a while I like to break out of my normal routine and do something a bit different.  I watch horror films-quite a few, in fact, but I have only posted a review of a couple of them on my blog.  I stick to reviewing horror novels, and primarily independent stuff from independent authors and smaller presses.  After all, the “big” stuff gets along just fine whether I review it or not, while the smaller, lesser known works get a boost from every review they receive-good, bad, or indifferent.  Recognition and awareness is key to gaining a wider audience.  Especially if you are trying to turn your ‘little’ project into something bigger.  So I thought I would do my part and check out a short film by a guy named Jim Rothman (twitter handle: @ScytheJim), who is working hard on getting the crowdfunding to turn a fifteen minute short into a full length horror feature.  Jim shared his film with me for the promise of a fair and honest review.  And unlike so many other reviews I do, where I can only give you the link to go purchase your own copy, I am sharing the link so you can watch the film, in all its glory, for free, right now, without spending another dime!  Ain’t that somethin’?

Naturally, Jim is looking for donors to help fund this project, so while you don’t have to pay to watch the short, you might consider a contribution if you like what you see and would like to see more.  And Jim tossed in a bit of an extra for anyone who decides to donate $50 at supportscythe.com if they do so on Monday.  Whoever pledges $50 for the Baseball Cap and Blu-Ray package (again,ON Monday) will also get an autographed copy of the script.  Not too shabby a deal.   So, what’s all the hubbub about?  Well, you can watch the movie here: Scythe Short Film.

Okay, so we’ve gotten all the promotional stuff out of the way!  On to the review:

The setup with Scythe is fairly traditional slasher fare.  Two college aged girls are sitting in an apartment, one, Amy, lamenting what kind of impact she’ll manage to have on the world at large while she studies for exams.  She fears no one will remember her-that she will leave no impression on anyone else including future generations.  The other girl, offering up another hit off the joint they’ve been smoking, gives Amy a pep talk about how she will end up doing great things, just before our main character decides it’s time to walk home.  Next, we see the second girl turn on the television to watch a news report that a imprisoned killer has escaped and is on the loose in the local area.

Pretty routine set up, and in some ways, what follows is also pretty routine.  Where this film ended up resonating for me, in its brief time on my computer screen, was in the build up of tension that takes place after Amy begins her walk home and is warned, via cellphone by her friend, of the escaped maniac on the loose.  The filmmakers allow the energy to build, through the music, the surrounding environment, and through the main character’s expressions and body language.   Amy’s fear ebbs and flows based on what is going on around her, and that was what yanked me along with her through her harrowing journey.

In a film like this, even in short form, its as much what you know as you don’t know, and playing the guessing game about what will happen next.  We all do it-when will the slasher appear, and when will they administer the coup de grace?  If it’s predictable, it’s usually forgettable.  But when you guess wrong and you get that adrenaline rush because you’re startled, taken off guard, or even pee yourself a bit…that’s the payoff.  And for a short film that was produced in an effort to show the capabilities of these filmmakers and the promise of something greater, the payoff was there for me.  Much of it was in the promise of something greater rather than just what happens on the screen.  In other words, I took the bait right off the hook (or off the Scythe, in this case, har har).

The production values (I have a friend who always looooved to use that term when describing a film-it made him feel all refined and movie savvy, I suppose) were solid.  The acting was decent and the music, as I already mentioned, blends well with what is happening on screen.  Whatever the budget they had to make this promotional piece, it didn’t feel cheap, shabby, or hastily constructed.

The bottom line for me is not that this little film was mind altering or in and of itself a great standalone film.  It’s fun and entertaining, certainly, but more importantly, serves its purpose.  That purpose is to draw you in enough to want to see what the creators could do with the budget necessary to make a full length version of Scythe.

But don’t take my word for it.  Check it out yourself.  If you like it, promote it.  If you really like it, consider tossing a few coppers in the direction of the filmmakers so you can see even more of Scythe.  And if you don’t like it…well, it was just 15 minutes out of your life, now wasn’t it?

Review of the short film “Scythe”

Every once in a while I like to break out of my normal routine and do something a bit different.  I watch horror films-quite a few, in fact, but I have only posted a review of a couple of them on my blog.  I stick to reviewing horror novels, and primarily independent stuff from independent authors and smaller presses.  After all, the “big” stuff gets along just fine whether I review it or not, while the smaller, lesser known works get a boost from every review they receive-good, bad, or indifferent.  Recognition and awareness is key to gaining a wider audience.  Especially if you are trying to turn your ‘little’ project into something bigger.  So I thought I would do my part and check out a short film by a guy named Jim Rothman (twitter handle: @ScytheJim), who is working hard on getting the crowdfunding to turn a fifteen minute short into a full length horror feature.  Jim shared his film with me for the promise of a fair and honest review.  And unlike so many other reviews I do, where I can only give you the link to go purchase your own copy, I am sharing the link so you can watch the film, in all its glory, for free, right now, without spending another dime!  Ain’t that somethin’?

Naturally, Jim is looking for donors to help fund this project, so while you don’t have to pay to watch the short, you might consider a contribution if you like what you see and would like to see more.  And Jim tossed in a bit of an extra for anyone who decides to donate $50 at supportscythe.com if they do so on Monday.  Whoever pledges $50 for the Baseball Cap and Blu-Ray package (again, ON Monday) will also get an autographed copy of the script.  Not too shabby a deal.   So, what’s all the hubbub about?  Well, you can watch the movie here: Scythe Short Film.

Okay, so we’ve gotten all the promotional stuff out of the way!  On to the review:

The setup with Scythe is fairly traditional slasher fare.  Two college aged girls are sitting in an apartment, one, Amy, lamenting what kind of impact she’ll manage to have on the world at large while she studies for exams.  She fears no one will remember her-that she will leave no impression on anyone else including future generations.  The other girl, offering up another hit off the joint they’ve been smoking, gives Amy a pep talk about how she will end up doing great things, just before our main character decides it’s time to walk home.  Next, we see the second girl turn on the television to watch a news report that a imprisoned killer has escaped and is on the loose in the local area.

Pretty routine set up, and in some ways, what follows is also pretty routine.  Where this film ended up resonating for me, in its brief time on my computer screen, was in the build up of tension that takes place after Amy begins her walk home and is warned, via cellphone by her friend, of the escaped maniac on the loose.  The filmmakers allow the energy to build, through the music, the surrounding environment, and through the main character’s expressions and body language.   Amy’s fear ebbs and flows based on what is going on around her, and that was what yanked me along with her through her harrowing journey.

In a film like this, even in short form, its as much what you know as you don’t know, and playing the guessing game about what will happen next.  We all do it-when will the slasher appear, and when will they administer the coup de grace?  If it’s predictable, it’s usually forgettable.  But when you guess wrong and you get that adrenaline rush because you’re startled, taken off guard, or even pee yourself a bit…that’s the payoff.  And for a short film that was produced in an effort to show the capabilities of these filmmakers and the promise of something greater, the payoff was there for me.  Much of it was in the promise of something greater rather than just what happens on the screen.  In other words, I took the bait right off the hook (or off the Scythe, in this case, har har).

The production values (I have a friend who always looooved to use that term when describing a film-it made him feel all refined and movie savvy, I suppose) were solid.  The acting was decent and the music, as I already mentioned, blends well with what is happening on screen.  Whatever the budget they had to make this promotional piece, it didn’t feel cheap, shabby, or hastily constructed.

The bottom line for me is not that this little film was mind altering or in and of itself a great standalone film.  It’s fun and entertaining, certainly, but more importantly, serves its purpose.  That purpose is to draw you in enough to want to see what the creators could do with the budget necessary to make a full length version of Scythe.

But don’t take my word for it.  Check it out yourself.  If you like it, promote it.  If you really like it, consider tossing a few coppers in the direction of the filmmakers so you can see even more of Scythe.  And if you don’t like it…well, it was just 15 minutes out of your life, now wasn’t it?

Review of Tonia Brown’s “Badass Zombie Road Trip”

From the title of this book, Badass Zombie Road Trip, I had a vision of an apocalyptic ride across undead highways in a classic car (maybe a convertible Caddy or a hot rod like an old Road Runner).  Even the picture used on the cover reinforced that vision.  Alas, it was not meant to be.  What I got instead was a tale of Jonah and Dale, best buddies, on the run to chase down a lost soul before the devil does them in.  Not a bad trade off, especially when Candy, a beautiful hitchhiker, is added to the mix.  She adds a bit of spice to the testosterone mix, especially since Dale, the Lothario of the duo, has his sights set on her as his next conquest, while Jonah, the meek and mild member of the pair, is falling hard for her in his own modest way.

The threesome has to make it cross country after a poorly thought out (and devilishly influenced) detour into California, where Dale soul is taken from him by Lucifer himself, collecting on a debt incurred during his childhood.  To save his friend, Jonah ups the stakes and tosses his soul into the mix if Satan will give them a chance to reclaim Dale’s soul.  Unfortunately for both of them, the Devil doesn’t play fair, so Dale is not only soulless, he’s lifeless too-though he can move around and talk…and he’s hungry for a bit more than junk food.

Jonah and Dale’s relationship is an interesting dynamic.  Dale is overwhelming, loud, obnoxious, and a letch, while Jonah is quiet, intelligent, sincere, and innocent.  They seem to fit together well, though Dale’s bullying tended to rub me the wrong way and I wanted Jonah to stand up for himself a bit more.  And that is where Candy, the intriguing hitchhiker who gets the boys into even more trouble, comes in.  She is beautiful, somewhat mysterious, and triggers strong interest from both of them.  Plus, she adds her own brand of trouble to the story that keeps things hopping.

Overall, the journey is an entertaining one, though it grinds through a few scenes.  Dragging a zombie across country that needs to feed on something…substantial…every now and then is definitely a cause for concern and plenty of misfortune.  The Devil is cunning and likes to cause as much woe for our road warriors as possible, which keeps things popping.  The dark humor here works and so does the relationship between the three main characters, who seem to mesh well, even when they’re causing each other major grief.  This is a quick read, and a fun one.

Badass Zombie Road Trip can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Badass-Zombie-Road-Tonia-Brown-ebook/dp/B006ZAJ4M4/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

Review of David Dunwoody’s “The Three Egos”

The Three Egos starts out by introducing the reader to ‘Talent’, a man who has avoided his past entanglements with the Devil for centuries, but slips up at the wrong time and is thrust into hell to meet the Fallen Angel he made a deal with centuries earlier.  While he is punished and tortured beyond death many times on his way to meet God’s former favorite, nothing is permanent in hell and so Satan has a proposition for him.  If he and one of the other ‘Egos’, Chith, find the third Ego, the two of them can negotiate new deals with the Devil.

Dunwoody assembles a diverse cast of characters, including a werewolf named Lace, Sue, a woman who has been cursed to be the last of the Escariot family line (and the Devil’s unwanted amorous attention), an array of angels, both fallen and those still loyal to an absentee God, plus Hell’s Chief Inspector, Hallows, who gets to play chaperone to this mixed up band of anti-heroes in their journey to find Sephus, the third Ego.  It is a journey that will take them from hell to purgatory, to the outer reaches of creation, and on to heaven itself.

This story is packed with the surreal and fantastic, the strange and the compelling, with characters that range from purely evil to blessed, though it is hard to tell which is which at any given moment.  David Dunwoody has provided the reader something unexpected here, with a touch of the epic (flavorful hints of Dante’s Divine Comedy abound), though the characters are believable and approachable, with human frailties and foibles.  He’s rolling the dice that readers will make the leap of faith with him on a journey some will see as profane, especially with God being more or less AWOL as a Supreme Being that is perhaps not so supreme after all.  Despite this, or perhaps because of it, The Three Egos is a wild ride well worth taking.

For the most part, the pacing is fast-so fast that the reader may need to stop and re-read a few passages here and there to keep pace and not miss a key detail.  It does slow a bit more than I would have preferred during the second act but that only serves to be a respite before moving on to the tale’s shocking and somewhat abrupt conclusion.  My guess is your mileage may vary on how things wrap up with this saga, but that is perhaps another reason to appreciate what the author has attempted.  Some questions the story generates are answered, while others that encompass far greater matters remain to be pondered after the final words are read.

The Three Egos can be found here:  http://www.amazon.com/3-Egos-David-Dunwoody-ebook/dp/B010J0VSTW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1457301977&sr=8-1&keywords=the+three+egos

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,436 other followers