Writer of Horror Fiction

Archive for September, 2012

Review of David Gilbertson’s “Containment”

Containment by David Gilbertson struck me as something halfway between a dystopian fairy tale and a grand psychological experiment.

We are introduced to Edward, the main character, who has lost his wife sometime back and is doing his best to take care of his young son on his own.  When he finds out that a man with a very dark past has moved into his neighborhood, he becomes fearful for his son’s life and conveniently, it seems, stumbles upon an old army compatriot, Theodore, who has been tucked away from society and presumed dead for a very long time.

The two men begin swapping ideas with one another-Edward brings up the fact that it isn’t right that some dangerous person should be allowed to mix with decent folks.  Thus begins these two men’s experiment into realigning the country (in theory, or so it seems) so that the undesirables live with one another and all the good people live together, safely removed from danger.  They imagine rankings and qualifications based on a number of factors, including income, positive accomplishments, criminal record and other related factors.  They disagree on some, such as health and race, with Theodore being the more extreme, but they are able to come up with a very detailed plan.  The country will be split into fifty regions, with R1 being the nicest and R50 being where all the depraved criminals reside.

Little does Edward know that Theodore has taken this whole experimental process seriously and knows people in high places in the government who wish to implement this new plan.  So over the course of the next year, R50 is built, an identification process is crafted for all citizens, and the government begins moving people into their appropriate places based on their ranking.

The story follows Edward in his journey of realization of what he has created, the fact that it is real, and the consequences based on his and Theodore’s actions.

This book is challenging for me to rate.  It is a solid personal story of Edward, and the relationships he has with Theodore and his wife, Natasha, in particular.  As a journey of self-discovery and realization it has some intriguing elements.  As a dystopian story, it is more of a mixed bag, with it being interesting in theory and this is my reason for calling it a fairy tale at the beginning of this review.  I grew up loving history, and later in life discovering alternate history, written mostly by historians who knew enough about real history to twist and bend it enough to make a different path an intriguing and plausible possibility.  Containment dwells on our fears, especially in a post 9-11 world, of distancing ourselves from danger that it presents an interesting topic, but I felt there were far too many factors not considered and elements left by the wayside for this to ever be plausible.  In theory or as a make believe story with a moral to it?  It packs an emotional punch.  And yet…the country in question is nameless and has a convenient round numbered population, giving it a more classroom element to it, rather than a reality.  The discussions between Edward and Theodore and then later between Edward and Natasha have that classroom/theoretical element to them.  Even with the efforts of the author to cover quite a few bases, there is much left to chance and some elements of society left off the table completely.  To transition these theories into reality for this tale, several convenient coincidental meetings of people occur and drive the tale along.  So once again, this story works in theory-the idea is terrifying.  But put into practice, it became somewhat less than believable to me.

I did enjoy this story.  I felt that it left off a little abruptly, which might mean that a sequel is in the works.  It works as both a personal tale of discovery for Edward and as a fable of government control gone wrong.  It just misses a step or two when it comes to transitioning this new world order into something that has a possibility of becoming a reality.

Containment can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Containment-ebook/dp/B008LQ9BY6/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1349025696&sr=1-2&keywords=containment

Review of “Loose Ends” by Jay Wilburn

Loose Ends by Jay Wilburn is a bit different style zombie apocalypse tale for several reasons, the main being the characters that inhabit this particular world.  We are introduced to our main character, Mutt, a fifteen year old boy who also happens to be mute.  He is hiding from a zombie pounding on the door of the panic room he has been in for a couple of days when the story starts.  The compound he’s lived in for most of the time since the dead rose up (about a decade) appears to be several buildings that have been connected and has been the dwelling place for a decent sized group of people.  Over the years, it has suffered attacks from zombies and humans alike, but the tenants have always persevered.  Not this time.  The only survivors are Mutt and the three men he works with in the kitchens: Chef, Short Order, and Doc.  Naturally, just like with Mutt, these are nicknames, but the reader isn’t provided real names of the characters until we are well into the story.  After cooking a few last meals and competing with one another to see who can outdo the others in taste and extravagance, they decide that it is time to hit the road, and find a new home.

The wide world is a dangerous, depraved place, with not only the biker types that assaulted them (along with the undead) this last time out there, but numerous other tribes of survivors that range from the deadly to the demented.  Mainly what our team of travelers finds at first is the undead.  They set out with their modified truck filled with supplies with the hopes of discovering a new and safe home-but they go in the direction that some of the men know and remember, and might not be their safest bet.  We get to know the characters better on their journey of attempting to one up one another in their cooking of meals they scrounge out in the wild.  Details are revealed about each of them, including their real names and their past.  Mutt too reveals more about himself and the brief childhood he had before it was torn apart by the undead.  Some of what is revealed seems almost better off remaining buried, with tragedies from the past that are hard to deal with, even after ten years of living with the undead.

Loose Ends definitely takes a different approach to introducing and revealing its characters.  These men are tightly bonded to one another, and the fact that Mutt is unable to speak allows their stories to be told with little interference from him, though it all through his eyes, including some very disturbing things.  While these three men are friends who protect and take care of Mutt (Doc especially, who Mutt is apprenticed to) they also have conflicts that stem from the fact that they are out of the safe and neutral environment of the compound and back out on the road traveling through the places where they are given the chance to revisit their pasts.

This book is not just a character study, it is a zombie apocalypse actioner, with plenty of scenes filled with harrowing attacks and attempted assaults of the small crew of survivors.  I am a fan of fully developed characters and human conflict that arises in apocalyptic tales-revealing the truth that is forced to come to the surface because of the harsh realities that surround the people trying to survive-and this tale definitely delivers that.  But I also love action and the horror that comes from the unrelenting nature of the undead, and Loose Ends delivers in that respect as well.

As far as the negatives with this story, as there are with every tale, it was my reaction to the beginning and something that happens not too far in that I had issue with.  I have a pet peeve about perspectives, and committing to the perspective chosen.  The author tells this story in first person, through Mutt’s eyes, and true to that, we never see anything from someone else.  But the author decides to bend the rules a bit and allows Mutt to imagine, in great detail, what is going on somewhere else.  Imagining what is going on isn’t a big deal, unless it reads like a very detailed and factual part of the story.  It felt forced here, but thankfully it is only a brief part of the story.  It does, however, happen very early on, which made me a bit fearful that it would crop up on a regular basis.  Thankfully this is not the case, and after another very minor dip into doing this again, the author leaves this behind and lets Mutts true perspective lead the way.

Overall, the storytelling here is solid.  Mutt lacks a voice but his ability to see what is going on around him and relate it to the reader adds a distinct flavor to the tale.  He both fears and relies on the men he is traveling with, in particular Doc, who he shares several harrowing adventures with and yet distrusts in many ways.  Mutt is not passive-he is an active participant in choosing his own destiny, which makes the story all the more satisfying.

Loose Ends tells the story of three men and a boy who all have issues from their past and have different levels of desire to confront these issues under the guise of searching for a new place to call home.  Some want to lay them to rest while others appear to be more interest in ripping open old wounds and remembering the darkness.  It is an interesting journey that I’m glad I tagged along for.

Loose Ends can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Loose-Ends-Zombie-Novel-ebook/dp/B008ISXOYU/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1348935151&sr=8-3&keywords=jay+wilburn

“Tough As Nails” has been released!

I’m pleased to announce that Tough As Nails, the swords and sorcery fantasy anthology that my novella, “The Sunken Lands” has been released over on Amazon.  Fantasy was my first genre and I love it today as much as I ever have.  The opportunity to write what was supposed to be a short story but still have it accepted as a much more sizable novella was a great treat for me.  This anthology is all about the classic slash and hack throwback to Conan the Barbarian type tales.  Epic fantasy with the tagline: Murder! Madness! Mayhem!

And a further description: Murder! Madness! Mayhem!  These are just a few of the delicious things you can hope to enjoy in this tome full of savage barbarians, long-forgotten magic, and vicious monsters.  Strap on your battleaxe and broadsword and enjoy!

You’ve got to love it!  Pick up your copy today-hit the link by clicking on the cover art below. 

Review of P.A. Douglas’ “The Dark Man”

The Dark Man is a good old fashion bogey man tale, with flavors of teen horror flicks that many of us grew up on sprinkled in for good measure.  A group of teens decide that they’re going to party hearty one night with some illicit drugs while some want to see if a myth about a stranger coming to visit when other groups of teens have done the same thing in the past is real, or will be something that can be used to scare the pants off of the girls in their little group.  And when they all start tripping and the Dark Man does pay them a visit, they’re forced to figure out what is real and what is hallucination as their unending nightmare begins.

This is a simple and effective horror novella that doesn’t try to create new worlds or new beasts for us to try and wrap our minds around.  Instead of crafting outside worlds of doom and unspeakable horror, it reaches inside the mind, where our primitive fears of the dark and unknown lay tucked away but always within easy reach.  The Dark Man is a fun tale in the sense that it doesn’t require the reader to suspend disbelief or accept the implausible.  Instead, it uses what is inside us already to freak us out and send us to bed with nightmares about what is hiding underneath the bed or inside the darkened closet.

The Dark Man can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Dark-Man-ebook/dp/B009DKCGAK/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1348320489&sr=1-1&keywords=the+dark+man+p.+a.+douglas

Review of Brian Moreland’s “Shadows In The Mist”

Shadows in the Mist was the first novel written by author Brian Moreland, written several years ago but that has been re-released this month by Samhain Publishing.  I’m not sure what modifications were made to the original tale, if any, with this new version.

While most of this story takes place in the Hurtgen Forest in Germany in late World War II, part of it is told through the eyes of Sean Chambers in the present day.  He is the grandson of Jack Chambers, the main character.  Jack was a Lieutenant during the war and led his men into battle from Northern Africa all the way into Germany.  His last mission in the Hurgten still torments him to this day.  When Jack gives Sean his war diary and asks him to hand it over to his friend, General Briggs, who is stationed in Germany, a Rabbi who served with Jack on that last mission catches up with Sean and urges him to forget his grandfather’s request and let sleeping dogs lie.  The mission was top secret and it would be better for everyone if it stayed that way.  Compelled by his grandfather’s request and ignoring the ominous threats of the Rabbi, Sean and the General return to Hurtgen and to a church Jack referenced were the real mystery lies buried.  This is also where Sean begins to read his grandfather’s war diary so he can better understand what happened all those years ago.

The rest of this tale returns us to the battles in Hurtgen that Jack and his platoon suffered through.  Jack had been dubbed the Grim Reaper by some, since so many of his men died under his command, though it is clear that he has been given some of the most dangerous assignments in the war and that he has done all that he can to protect the soldiers under his command.  We are introduced to the six men in his platoon who, along with Chambers, dub themselves the Lucky Seven because they alone have survived through every battle together.  Promises are made that they will be sent back home after years in the field, but the officer who makes that promise to Chambers dies before he can send that request to HQ and his new commanding officer insists they complete one last mission-a secret one with a group of commandos looking to push the Germans out of the Hurtgen for good.  As the men reluctantly join this group of gung ho secret operatives, including a Lieutenant who shares an ugly past with Chambers, they discover that the mission has much darker goal than they’ve been told-uncovering how the Nazi’s are using supernatural means to create super soldiers.

This is the second novel I’ve read by Brian Moreland and much like his other effort, Dead of Winter, it provides the reader with a well researched and thought out story providing historically accurate and intriguing details, but doesn’t suffer from being over-stuffed with “technical” minutia that might distract from an otherwise intriguing supernatural adventure tale.  Certainly, the idea of the Nazi’s discovering artifacts and texts of a religious nature which provide them with an advantage in their quest to become the master race is not a new one, but the author has drawn from historical events to craft his story, which gave it the right touch of authenticity and made it feel all the more plausible and entertaining.

I enjoyed this novel-my overriding appreciation for it comes from Jack’s tale as divulged in his war diary.  The characters-in particular the Lucky Seven and Jack’s hated lieutenant rival-were all entertaining and solidly developed individuals.  But as I like to do with each book that I review, I like to point out where the story might have missed the mark for me.  With Shadows In the Mist, it was with the present day portion of the tale.  It just felt like it was missing something.  Early in, Sean is warned about the dire consequences of digging into the past and discovering what Jack and the Rabbi who was with him during his mission worked so hard to cover up in the Hurgten, and then Sean does continue digging, then Jack’s story is revealed, and then we return to present day and …well, I don’t like to divulge spoilers, so I’ll leave it at that, except to say that the rest of Sean and General Brigg’s story left me expecting more.  My honest belief is that this book could have stuck to Jack’s tale from World War II exclusively and it would have been a great stand alone tale.

Even with this issue of mine, this is a fun, entertaining supernatural adventure novel that was well done and a lot of fun to read.  Definitely worth checking out.

Shadows in the Mist  can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Shadows-Mist-Brian-Moreland/dp/1619210665/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1347167908&sr=1-1&keywords=shadows+in+the+mist