Writer of Horror Fiction

Archive for April, 2012

Review of Sean Schubert’s “Infection: Alaskan Undead Apocalypse”

Infection: Alaskan Undead Apocalypse takes place mainly in Anchorage, and begins with a family of tourists from Minnesota who are traveling to Alaska on vacation.  The younger boy, Martin, has brought along a friend, Danny, and the family plans on spending time out in the woods at a cabin near a glacier.  Almost immediately upon arrival at the cabin, Martin, his sister Jules, and Danny discover what appears to be a dead body stuck in the melting glacier.  Thinking it is a caveman, they pose next to it, taking pictures.  When the caveman turns out to be a thawed zombie, and Martin gets bitten, the family races back to Anchorage to a hospital as Martin’s health rapidly deteriorates.  All hell breaks loose when the boy ends up dying in the hospital, gets back up, and attacks everyone around him.

Things rapidly spin out of control from there, with a plague of undead spilling outside the walls of the hospital and onto the streets of Anchorage.  Within a matter of hours, the entire city is under siege by a horde of fast moving undead devouring and infecting everyone in their path.

Throughout the course of this book, the first in a planned trilogy, we are introduced to the people that make up two main groups of survivors.  One group is led by Dr. Caldwell, who was treating Martin at the hospital, and the other lead by Neil, an office worker who witnesses one of the first zombie attacks outside of the hospital (and the two surviving children-Jules and Danny-end up with him as well).  The pages telling the story of these characters are intermingled with various graphic scenes of carnage as Anchorage is ripped to shreds and the police and military are unable to do much to stop the tide of death rushing over them.

Infection: Alaskan Undead Apocalypse is a fun, fast-paced tale of zombie mayhem that barely gives you time to breath, and zombie fans who crave plenty of gore and undead action should enjoy it.  The main characters are well developed and give the reader a few folks to root for as well as one in particular to loathe, which keeps things interesting from start to finish.

As I always try to do, I point out areas of concern with a story, and I have a couple of them with Infection.

The first is a minor point, but one that I feel deserves mentioning.  Alaska appears in the title of the book, and as such, I expected this story to bring some unique elements to the table based on the locale.  Unfortunately, while the author knows Anchorage like the back of his hand, the city felt no different than any other place on the map.  Perhaps the sequels will insert more of the distinctive ‘flavor’ of Alaska in them that will make this story stand out more.

My second issue has to do with one particular character, a police officer.  I felt that he would have been far more intriguing character if he wasn’t a cop, but I found it hard to buy into him being an officer of the law.  From the beginning, he makes no effort to take a leadership role in a crisis situation, letting Dr. Caldwell handle that role in a non-medical crisis.  All I know is that if I were trying to flee from the impending apocalypse and I was in a group with a police officer, I would be looking to him for direction, not a doctor (even as you are racing down the halls of a hospital).  But strangely enough, no one calls him on this until well into the book, and by then, I was wondering how this guy ever passed whatever psychological test is required to become an Anchorage cop in the first place.  Again, he would have been a far more interesting character were he not a cop.

Overall, I felt that this story has the potential to be a solid zombie trilogy.  Infection doesn’t really bring anything new to the table-there are no big surprises to be had for zombie fans here-but my hope is that the author turns things up a notch in the sequels to give this story a flavor of the northlands that leaves a lasting impression.

Infection: Alaskan Undead Apocalypse can be found here:  http://www.amazon.com/Infection-Alaskan-Apocalypse-Sean-Schubert/dp/1618680161/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335667874&sr=1-1

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Review of Matthew Warner’s “Blood Born”

Blood Born starts out as a horror mystery, where victims of rape in the Washington D.C. area are all impregnated and the gestation period is accelerated to the point where it is forty times faster than normal.  In other words, these women will produce a full term baby within one week.  The case is being handled by Detective Christina Randall and we are introduced to her and Margaret Connolly, the mother of one of the rape victims, who also happens to be a fertility specialist working for a local fertility clinic that also does genetic research.

As with any mystery, we are given hints and details as to the M.O. of the rapist as the due date on the first few victims draws near and it becomes clear fairly quickly that the rapist is not quite human.  The pieces of the puzzle begin to fit together, but then the book took a dramatic change.

This tale becomes an entirely different type of horror novel somewhere between a third and halfway through, where monsters run rampant, annihilating everything in their path.  The transition was jarring, to say the least, though I don’t necessarily mean that as a negative.  But be forewarned that while the mystery continues to unravel all the way up until the end of this tale, it takes a backseat to the violent and graphic action that dominates the second half of this book.

This story has a flavor of a patient zero type apocalyptic tale, with a significant build-up to the point where all hell breaks loose.  When it does break lose, the story turns on the afterburners and blasts ahead at a hundred miles an hour.  The author does a solid job working to explain the science behind the beasts in the story, though I was left with plenty more questions about them and how they would co-exist with the rest of the world.  That is the challenge with diving into the science of something like this-there are often a lot of questions that are difficult to answer vs. making the creatures in question a complete mystery.

Overall, this is a fast paced book with a lot of surprising deaths and plenty of gruesome action.  With rape being a key part of the story, it probably won’t appeal to certain chunk of audience out there, but it is a well written scientific tale of horror.  While I was expecting it to be a more subtle mystery throughout, when the gears shifted and story changed from that to an adrenaline fueled nightmare, I was able to adapt my expectations.  The author keeps things moving at a good clip throughout and this was an easy and entertaining novel to read.  I do sense that there is a distinct possibility of a sequel based on the ending, though this book can definitely be considered a stand-alone tale.

Blood Born can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Born-Matthew-Warner/dp/0979234638/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335452721&sr=1-3


Review of the movie “The Divide”

The Divide is a bare bones apocalyptic tale that starts moments after the world dies.  Nuclear bombs have been dropped on Manhattan and several people living in an apartment complex rush to the fallout shelter the super has created in the basement.  The Super’s intention was to go it alone, but his tenant’s force their way in as everyone above is dying from the blasts.  Almost the entire movie takes place in this shelter with the survivors initially planning on waiting until the radiation has died down before they check things out on the surface.  They have food, water, and power, so things seem to be okay at first-the best they can be based on the circumstances-but things begin to erode and there are various struggles for power and control among the characters.

There is a nudge from the outside world as soldiers invade the shelter and disrupt the relative calm early on in the movie.  The audience is given little information on these soldiers, what is going on up above, or why they end up doing what they do to the group.  The movie’s focus is on the dynamics of the nine people in the shelter and injects external influence only in two small, somewhat confusing doses.

The name of the movie is apropos on several levels.  There is the obvious divide between the world above and world within the shelter, the multiple divides that occur with the group as it changes and morphs over the course of the movie, and the divide among viewers of this film on whether it is a realistic portrayal of people trying to survive under nearly unthinkable circumstances or is gratuitous and over the top in many ways.

This movie is a grim, dark, and dank experiment where the characters are put in a box and the audience gets to watch their humanity dissolve.  There are power struggles to control resources, trust issues, alliances formed and broken, and the continuous erosion of any sense of civility from start to finish of this film.  This story revolves around choices-how far are you willing to go, what depths are you willing to sink to…what will you do not only to survive, but to maintain control over yourself and those around you?  It pulls no punches, showing the dark, ugly side of what we all have the potential of becoming under nightmarish conditions.

The Divide is a mixed bag.  I can’t say that I bought into the Roseanna Arquette character and her rapid transformation from loving mother to willing rape victim, and some of the other characters were a stretch as far as believability, especially as the tale progressed.  I was somewhat confused by the soldiers and why it was necessary to bring them into the story-the influence they had could have been handled by the group, for the most part.  I also felt that at two hours run time, the movie could have sliced out about twenty minutes or so and still presented the same tale-it seemed to drag in places.  Even with these complaints, the movie drew me in and kept me interested as the characters warped from being normal people to survivors buried deep in a hole and knowing they will never break free of the prison they’re in.  It’s not a film that I think I will ever have the urge to watch again, but I will remember it for a long time come.

The Divide can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Divide-Lauren-German/dp/B007549W62/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1335307402&sr=8-3


Review of Tonia Brown’s “Railroad!: The Three Volume Omnibus”

Railroad! is a hard book to categorize.  Certainly, it would be easy to say that it is a steampunk tale of the old west, but that seems like a limiting description.  I am the first to admit that I haven’t read a tremendous amount of steampunk literature, but I would venture to say that this book has elements that make it somewhat unique in that genre, combining fantastical elements along with the technological, turning this story into something utterly unique.

Tonia Brown, the author, wrote this tale as a serialized adventure, releasing a chapter at a time online, and then releasing each of the three different volumes separately.  This book has all three volumes thus far: Rodger Dodger, The Dogs of War, and The Trouble with Waxford.  The story is told from the viewpoint of Rodger Dodger, a man curious about an ad posted that is looking for a hired gun to work aboard a steam locomotive.  The setting is the old west of the 1870s, and while Rodger has a mysterious past as a gunman, everything else about him seems rather normal.  So when he meets up with Professor Dittmeyer, Ched, and the rest of the crew of the Sleipnir, a steam powered locomotive that requires no tracks to run on, he is as baffled as we are.  And things just get stranger from there for the man with a mysterious past but a far more intriguing future as the hired gun for an wild band of adventurers.

Of course, the wondrous technology that the author describes with great delight is quite fascinating, and gave me pleasant reminders of my youth, when I used to watch repeats of ‘The Wild, Wild West.’ I do, of course, mean the classic television show starring Robert Conrad and not the atrocious movie starring Will Smith.  You will find gadgets galore here, including guns that fire multiple rounds at the same time, horseless carriages that allow one to travel at speeds near a hundred miles per hour across the desert, and trains that need no tracks to make their way from place to place.  But that is only the beginning.  The author allows us, alongside Rodger Dodger, to enter a world filled with the fantastic-with ghosts, vampires, and genetic mutants filling its pages.  As it is described within this tale, the strange, cursed, and fantastic seems to follow Professor Dittmeyer, owner and inventor of the Sleipnir Steam Locomotive, everywhere he goes.  After all, he hasn’t been banned from 90 different countries for nothing.

The characters are colorful, detailed, and fun getting to know.  And when it comes down to it, this story may be best described as a weird western steampunk story, but it is the characters that keep things interesting, and kept me glued to each page.  A well-crafted, entertaining story that is a lot of fun, Railroad! is a trippy ride.

You can find Railroad! here: http://www.amazon.com/Railroad-The-Three-Volume-Omnibus/dp/1468185543/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335136282&sr=1-9


“Read The End First” now available over at Amazon!

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.

 


Fellow author Suzanne Robb interviews me on her blog.

I got the chance to answer a few questions (in my normally snarky way) that fellow author, and editor, Suzanne Robb came up with for me.  You may know Suzanne from her fantastic book, “Z-Boat”, or because of her numerous other short story projects.  She is in the process of editing an anthology that I have a privilege of being a part of entitled “Read The End First”, which is about 24 different tales about the end of the world…one specific to each time zone.  That should be coming out soon, and more details on that later.  But enough about Suzanne!  Check out her interview of yours truly over on her blog:  http://suzannerobb.blogspot.ca/2012/04/paatrick-dorazio-his-thoughts-on.html, and check out some of Suzanne’s stories as well!