Writer of Horror Fiction

Archive for February, 2012

Review of “Candy” by Gerald Dean Rice

Candy is actually the title of the first of two short stories in this Kindle download, with the second entitled “Mr. Cumberland’s Last Magic Show.” Since they are short stories, it’s difficult to do more than give a brief description of both stories without giving too much away. Candy is about a man who has always been faithful to his wife, despite a lack of a love life between them. When a beautiful girl walks into the diner he’s sitting in and aggressively propositions him, he has no choice but to follow her up to her hotel room. Last Magic Shows tells the tale of Floyd, a magician who has a knack for making things disappear and reappear. But the real trick is that his magic is real, what he is capable of doing with that magic terrifies him.
Both stories have a bit of madness to them-twisty darkness with endings that stick with you after you’ve finished reading them. Candy starts out as a pretty straight-laced adultery story with a disturbing completion that might give potential cheaters pause. Magic was my favorite of the two tales, with a surreal quality to it that remains throughout, growing more intriguingly wicked as it comes to a conclusion.
For the price, it’s a bargain to check out these two well written stories by an up and coming independent writer.

Candy can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Candy-ebook/dp/B006JT5U1K/ref=sr_1_8?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1330304403&sr=1-8

Review of the movie: “The Dead”

The Dead is a zombie movie made with the traditional fan of George A. Romero’s work in mind.  This story offers nothing new to the zombie genre from the standpoint of the undead.  In fact, it goes old school, with slow moving ghouls that require damage to the brain to put them down.  For those fans who prefer their zombies fast moving, like you find in movies like Resident Evil, 28 Days Later, and the remake of Dawn of the Dead, this tale might seem agonizingly slow.  For those who love the older Romero flicks or who consider themselves equal opportunity zombie fans who love all rotters no matter what speed they move at, this one is worth checking out.

The premise is almost painfully simple.  Air Force Lieutenant Brian Murphy is a survivor of an airplane crash that was supposed to be the last plane out of undead-plagued Africa.  After a narrow escape on the beach where the crash occurred from numerous zombies closing in, he makes his way inland in an effort to find safety and perhaps an airfield with a plane that he might be able to fix up to escape.  His journey is filled with an endless supply of the undead-for the most part they are spread apart enough that there are no hoards to deal with.  Individually, these slow moving monsters are easy to handle or avoid, but when Brian is forced to stop for any reason, they begin to methodically swarm his position and rapidly become a major menace.  After he manages to get an old, beat up truck running, it becomes clear that the dead are popping up everywhere, which makes it virtually impossible to stay in one place for very long.  It’s at one of these times when Brian is forced to stop and almost gets torn to pieces by a steadily growing pack of the undead that he is saved by Daniel, a soldier who is looking for his son who managed to escape the massacre of their village by the undead.  The two men agree to join forces to find Brian a plane and to get Daniel closer to where he believes his son might be-with other soldiers in an encampment to the north.

The Dead is a moody, atmospheric piece that uses the rural African environment to full advantage.  For what seemed like a relatively low budget film the cinematography was well done and the special effects were more than adequate.  There is no complicated plot or massive character development here, but for the most part, less is more in this tale.  Except for a couple of scenes filled with hordes of the undead destroying everything in their path, even the zombies were sparse, showing up as they do in dribs and drabs, until there are more of them closing in than someone can handle, when just seconds before they thought everything was under control.  This is one of the most low-keyed, subtle zombie flicks I’ve seen; definitely worth checking out for most zombie fans out there.

The Dead can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Rob-Freeman/dp/B006BZ8NXY/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1330155218&sr=8-3

Review of Peter Clines’ “The Junkie Quatrain”

The Junkie Quatrain consists of four short stories that are intermingled much like Quentin Tarantino did when he crafted Pulp Fiction, and even Resevoir Dogs. Each story has characters that pop up in the other stories, and reading all four brings them all together nicely. Of course, it is important to note that you can read them in any order, and in fact, while they naturally appear in a certain order in the ebook format, the author encourages you to roll the dice when you decide which story to read first, second, third, and fourth and I tend to agree with that recommendation.
To give a brief synopsis, these stories take place about six months after the start of a viral plague that turns its victims into jittering, verbally mush mouthed monsters that twitch and move around like their drug addicts-thus the nickname “junkies”. Since this is in the vein of ‘infected’ or ‘zombie’ tales, they are also ravenous and go nuts when they see the uninfected. It should be noted that they also attack each other on occasion-they travel in packs, and some seem to be set upon by members of these packs. This includes the injured and the weak.
The four stories found here were used separately as additional audio tales for the author’s novels when they were transformed into their audio versions. Together, they amount to a novella, and one that reads fast and with an incredible amount of energy to them all. In my humble opinion they fit together perfectly, with each additional tale adding layers to one complete and complex story that takes place over the course of a couple of days in an apocalypse torn LA. One story deals with a woman who is a loner trying to find a place off the streets and away from the junkies, though she has a certain amount of admiration for the creatures and their ability to work together in packs. Another story deals with ‘Outsiders’ who are willing to go out into the world to gather supplies for those who hide away in barricaded fortresses to protect themselves from the junkies. The third tale is of a young doctor and top virologist who is called to LA by the government to help find a cure for this plague, though things aren’t quite that simple. The final story tells of a man who once made his living as an assassin, but now just has a bone to pick with some folks who decided to steal a prized possession of his from one of his hideouts in LA.
Peter Clines has done a bang up job with both his Zombie/superhero novels and appears to have outdone himself here, with each of these tasty apocalyptic tidbits.

You can find The Junkie Quatrain here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Junkie-Quatrain-ebook/dp/B006XJW1AE/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1330142571&sr=1-1

A slight divergence from horror into fantasy

Most folks don’t know it, but I am just as much a science fiction and fantasy fan as I am a horror aficionado.  Up to this point, my attempts at writing most fantasy were well in my past, and while I plan on giving it a genuine shot down the road, I am dedicated to writing mostly horror stuff for the moment.

With that said, a friend of mine who has more of a talent for writing fantasy, and in particular, YA fantasy, is having her first book released through Knightwatch Press.  But it is definitely worth noting that this YA Fantasy has horror elements as well, with vampires and werewolves playing a role in this tale.  So for you horror fans who are looking for something that might be something you and your kids can read, I would check this out.  I know I will be, and will hopefully have the chance to review it here soon.

Who is this friend, you ask?  It is none other than Monique Snyman.  Monique is a South African writer and reviewer of books, movies, and games, who runs her own website over at http://www.killeraphrodite.com/.  The book, the first in a series, is entitled Charming Incantations: Enticed.  Here is a description of the story:

When Lisa Richards’ parents die in a horrible accident, she never thought her life would change as drastically as it did. Not only does she have to take over the family business as being the Human Representative in a supernatural council, bound to protect the world from the common threat, but she also has to deal with falling in love with a werewolf that has a vampire best friend and try to keep herself alive long enough to defeat the goblin army.

Not sure about you, but to me that sounds like the start of a pretty wild ride!  And I know that plenty of horror fans out there dig all sorts of speculative tales, so keep your eyes open for this one.  Monique was kind enough to get me a copy of the cover for your viewing pleasure below.  I’m sure it’ll be popping up on Amazon quite soon, among other locales, so check it out!

Review of Jacqueline Druga-Johnson’s “The Flu”

The Flu tells the tale of a pandemic flu attack on the world, tracing its origin at a remote Alaskan scientific outpost to where it rapidly spreads across the globe, though the story more specifically zeroes in on the United States, and even more particularly on a small town in northeast Ohio, Lodi, which is not tremendously far from Cleveland.  The story focuses on Mick, the Sheriff in town and his surrogate family, which consists of the woman he is secretly dating, Dylan, and her three sons.  Sam, Dylan’s husband, who she is divorcing, is attempting to reconcile with her at the same time.  The lives of this family come into focus as Lodi goes under the magnifying glass because of the return of one of the world’s most renowned virologists, Lars Rayburn, who lives in Lodi one month out of the year, spending the rest of his time studying strains of the flu and other plagues in Madagascar.  As this flu, which has a death rate up around 90%, plows across the country and the globe, Lars decides that with the help of the government that he will shut off Lodi and attempt to create a safe haven away from the flu, one where he will be prepared to deal with it when it comes, and will do his best to block it off from ever hitting the town.

The book devotes a goodly amount of early pages on the spread of the flu, and as is the case throughout this tale, we are given the personal stories of those who are exposed to it and are dealing with the pain and anguish it brings.  The Flu seems like a tidal wave, smashing into everything, giving it a sense of inevitability.  Some survive, though most do not-at least not until it surrounds Lodi.  The harsh reality is that the best that seems can be done is to wait until this plague dies out on its own-it spreads, it infects, it kills, and then the flu dissipates, leaving behind approximately 5%  of the former population.  The author does do a good job of crafting characters that you grow attached to, and can appreciate-the normal, everyday people of the town of Lodi, including the main characters who are just trying to survive and keep the town safe.  I think the strongest, most potent parts of this story were when these people were interacting with each other and trying to go on with their lives despite everything happening around them.  These two main components of this tale-the inevitability of the flu and the development of characters we care about-bring things to a head in the homestretch of the book.

I enjoyed this tale, and feel that the author did a bang up job crafting a plausible pandemic scenario and also created characters that you care about and are hoping manage to survive, though you suspect from the beginning that it is unlikely that all of them will survive, and there will be plenty of heartbreak.  As far as issues I had with the story, I would say a minor one was some of the typos and editing issues, though they were ones I could certainly live with.  If I were to state that I had a real issue with things, it wouldn’t be something that I could exactly pinpoint in the story itself.  I think it would be more along the lines of the pacing.  As I said, the flu moves with a certain amount of inevitability-which means that it seemed that the surprises in this story were few and far between for me-things happen because the flu is going to bulldoze everything in its pathway, and it does so at a relatively slow pace.  The story, in turn, moves at that pace as well, taking about half its pages to really move it along to where it started to get really interesting for me.  I can understand and appreciate all that came in the first half of the book, but again, I would have been happier with a faster pace up to that point.  Even with that said, I give credit where credit is due, and the author deserves a lot for crafting a realistic and intriguing pandemic tale that had characters inhabiting the story that felt real and compelling, which, in the end, made the build up well worth it.

The Flu can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Flu-Jacqueline-Druga-Johnston/dp/1885093489/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1329959697&sr=8-1

Review of “MonsterMatt’s Bad Monster Jokes, Volume 1”

What can I really say about this book? It is well over a hundred pages of some of the most groan-inducing jokes about monsters and monster related topics I have ever seen. Not just jokes, but rhymes, raps, and song parodies. MonsterMatt does his best to make you want to stick a fork in your eye, and then, after you’ve gotten over the pain from such an agonizing injury, use your remaining good eye to read more of his jokes. I’m not really sure what kept dragging me back in for more, but I suppose part of it has to be the fact that there is no deception used here-no attempt to convince you, the reader, that any of these jokes will do any more or less than make you cringe at how pun-ishingly bad they are. Of course, if you are like me, and don’t try to take the world we live in too seriously all the time, there is a place for a book like this one. One that you can share with your kids and get them to moan and roll their eyes at you for telling them such bad jokes…ones that they might just tell their friends and not let you know that they did so.
You get everything from the classics: jokes about Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, Wolfman…and jokes about some of the newer stuff out there, like True Blood, The Walking Dead, and movies like Dead Snow. Given that this book is entitled Volume 1, I fear that MonsterMatt is not finished, so be warned. The bad jokes apparently shall return to induce even more headaches and heartburn!

MonsterMatt’s Bad Monster Jokes, Volume 1 can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/MonsterMatts-Bad-Monster-Jokes-1/dp/1617060941/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1329709231&sr=1-1

Review of Craig Jones’ “Outbreak: The Zombie Apocalypse”

Outbreak is a zombie outbreak tale told from the first person perspective of Matt, a young man living on a gated estate with his younger brother, Danny.  Their parents died a few years earlier, leaving them independently wealthy and living close to a fairly small, remote village in south Whales.  They don’t have jobs and no other reason to venture out from behind their walls-especially with the government telling everyone to remain hidden while the undead roam the land.  But there are other people begging for help in their little village like Nick, his wife, and three children.  So the two brothers, watching as the undead slowly creep into their lives, try to do what they can to help those around them.

Outbreak is, in many ways, a pretty routine tale of an undead uprising.  The zombies here are slow, stupid, and until they see blood they tend to be fairly limited in their reactions to humans (at least from a distance- the living who get near them are brutalized, naturally).  This is a story of two brothers’ relationship and how they cope, and in ways, grow into something more than the leisurely slackers they’ve been most of their lives before this crisis consumes them and everyone around them.  They find it hard to react to what is happening at first, as does everyone else, but before long it changes them from carefree lay bouts into desperate souls willing to risk their lives for people they barely know.

In other ways, this story is different than the majority of zombie tales out there.  The outbreak is contained to Great Britain, which is sealed off from the rest of the world while the inhabitants either eradicate the undead or humanity is wiped off the island completely.  Another aspect of the tale that is different is that living actually manage to turn the tide here, but not before the brothers and their new found friends face tremendous perils, witness the gruesome demise of several people they are trying to save, and are forced to cope with heart wrenching loss.

But the story does not stop when the undead are defeated…

The story carries forward from there, and this simple story of the zombie apocalypse takes a couple of interesting turns.  Without revealing too much (or any spoilers), I can say that this book has three very different parts to it, and what I have described above only encompasses the first of the three.

I’m not sure how to react to the book in its entirety.  It is written well, and I did grow somewhat attached to Matt, despite his self-absorption and inability, at times, to see things beyond his own misery.  He grows and changes through the tale, but not necessarily matures, and not all of his changes are positive or smart.  This leads to the intriguing, if somewhat slow moving second part of the book, and the shocking third and final act.

At times, I was wondering why the story was continuing on long past the putting down of the undead, and in retrospect, I think the author could have condensed things a bit in part two of the tale, just to move things along and get us to the adrenaline-drenched conclusion of the story.

Suspension of disbelief is always a key part of enjoying a good zombie tale.  There are a couple of instances in this story that might stretch that suspension of disbelief for some folks out there who like their zombies to be of the traditional variety.  I am not talking about the slow vs. fast debate, but what capabilities zombies have beyond being mindless eating machines.  For me, this wasn’t an issue, because I believe the creative liberties the author took here with the undead were intriguing, but it is fair to point out that if you tend to dislike seeing zombies doing more than acting like thoughtless predators, you might take issue with this story as it progresses.

Overall, this was an interesting and fun undead story.  The characters felt genuine and real to me, even if Matt and Danny were foolish, arrogant, and rash at times.  They were also likable and in their own way, quite noble.  Again, there are really three distinct acts here, and each one moves at a different pace.  While the first act could stand alone, the second, more plodding act allows the story to move to the final portion of this tale, which flies by at a blistering pace and had my heart racing before all was said and done.

Outbreak: The Zombie Apocalypse can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Outbreak-the-zombie-apocalypse-ebook/dp/B006T3IRD4/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1329434397&sr=1-1

Review of Craig Jones’ “What Happened to Rhodri”

Rhodri is a young man living with his girlfriend, and they have dreams of getting married and moving into their “forever house,” an expensive home next to a lake that has come on the market. They can afford the down payment with the amount of money they’ve saved as well as the monthly payments, by Rhodri’s calculations. The house represents everything that the couple could ever hope for. Alas, Rhodri’s girlfriend has been suckered into ‘loaning’ the money to her no-good brother, who is an intimidating gangster. Rhodri is advised by her as well as his closest friend not to make waves and give up on the dream of owning the house, rather than messing with the thuggish brother that is likely to squash him into oblivion if he stands up to him. But at some point in life, you have to make a stand, and do what’s right, despite the odds being stacked against you.
Of course, as you can probably surmise, things don’t go well for Rhodri, and the bulk of this tale deals with things…after they take a horrible turn for the worse.
This short story is a mix of a creepy zombie scares and a classic revenge story. The pacing is solid and I really was able to empathize with Rhodri, rooting for him even as he turns into more of a monster than the enemy he is facing (at least more of a monster on the outside). The story was fun and reminded me of an old episode of Tales From the Crypt, with just the right amount of twists and turns and splashed with plenty of gory fun to boot. The ending caused an devious grin to spread across my face. It, like the rest of story, was eminently satisfying.

What Happened to Rhodri can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/What-Happened-to-Rhodri-ebook/dp/B004UB3GY2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1328747973&sr=8-1

Review of Ryan C. Thomas’s “Hissers”

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

Review of the movie “Zombie Apocalypse: Redemption”

Zombie Apocalypse: Redemption is a bare bones, low budget movie made by folks who appear to be having fun with what was clearly a labor of love.  The basic synopsis of the plot is that John Knox, the main character, is condemned to death by the group of Apocalyptic Raiders he fell in with after the dead have risen and the world is overrun by zombies.  The reason for his sentence is that he no longer wants to follow the leader Rome, who like Knox is ex-military, but is a psychopath that slaughters for fun and for no other discernible reason.  Knox is allowed to escape by one of the other members of the group who apparently also doesn’t like Rome much either (and gets executed for his troubles).  The escape isn’t without hardships, since Knox is left handcuffed and is sent out into the desert.  He manages to avoid getting devoured by a zombie and gets rescued by a band that roams the wastelands doing their best to fend for themselves.  They are led by a man named Moses (Fred Williamson) who is likely the only member of the cast that the vast majority of the audience might know.  Knox does his best to help his new found friends, even though trust is hard to come by given the fact that they know of his raider past.  At the same time, his old nemesis, Rome, wants Knox found and executed, and so the hunt is on.  Of course, the two groups end up clashing and in the end this tale becomes a battle between good and evil, with a horde of the undead smack dab in the middle of it all.

I was provided this movie for review because I am essentially a zombie-fiend.  I review mainly zombie and other horror-type novels, but now and then I will review a movie.  Yes, this is a very low budget movie and is very much a b-grade flick.  Some of the dialog was a bit rough and every now and then unintentionally amusing.  Jerry Lynch, who plays the head bad guy, appears to be fond enough of chewing scenery that he probably got indigestion after he was done here.  Nope, this one won’t win any major awards, but for me, it was a fun post apocalyptic zombie flick.  You sort of have to just go with it-accept the limitations of having minimal budget, no real known actors, and a simple apocalyptic premise.  If you can do that, this movie is fun to watch.  The concept is workable, with a bit of a Road Warrior type feel to the bad guys with their mishmash of armor and a deluded leader who craves power.  Fred Williamson might be a bit too old to be doing fight scenes (he is over 70, after all), but even watching him do that after having seen him in plenty of classic B-Grade action flicks of the past brought a smile to my face.  This is a simple, rock ’em, sock ’em zombie flick with a high body count and no hidden meanings.  Pick your side, grab a weapon, and kill both the undead as well as the living that would kill you first if they had the chance.  Go in knowing what to expect here and you will probably have some fun with this one.

Zombie Apocalypse: Redemption can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Zombie-Apocalypse-Redemption-Johnny-Gel/dp/B0055CP9S6/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1328389092&sr=1-1