Writer of Horror Fiction

Archive for November, 2013

Review of Vincenzo Bilof’s “The Queen of the Dead: Zombie Ascension Book 2”

The Queen of the Dead: Zombie Ascension picks up where Necropolis Now, the first book in the series, left off.  The various surviving characters are trapped in Detroit and are mostly making their way to a local military air base after the events that unfolded at the mental institution at the end of the last book.  The core players remain in the tale, but the author, much like he did in the first book, adds a few secondary characters who play a variety of roles that intertwine with the main cast.  Vega, the female mercenary whose job in the first book was to capture Jim Traverse, a serial killer with a plan to end the world, remains focused on her task, though it seems that her reasoning is less about finishing the job and more about doing what both comes naturally to her and is all she knows: being a soldier for hire.  Especially since there is little else to do in a world that is dead or dying all around her.  Vincent, the gang banger from the first book, gives her a reason to carry on.  They share similarities as characters-both are professionals who do what it takes to survive and to get the job done in their own ways.  They both have regrets and far too many scars to mention.  Griggs, the ex-cop and pornographer, seems to be enjoying the apocalypse and much like Traverse, has plans for Mina, his girlfriend who is likely the cause for the zombie apocalypse due to her cannibalistic tendencies and mysterious, supernatural past.

Several new characters enter the fray to varying extents.  Father Joe is a priest trying to save who he can while strangely being capable of not raising the interest of the undead around him.  Rose is an assassin who has been sent in after Traverse, even though her talents lean more toward seduction versus combat.  Jack is a poor schlep who plays in a band with his brother, who wants to see the world burn and has commanded Jack to join him in slaughtering as many people and zombies as possible before they both get torn to pieces.  There are a few other secondary characters, each with their own unique story to tell.  The author develops each of them enough to give us something to latch on to, though some fade into non-existence with little to show for having existed in the first place.

This is a supernatural thriller, or as close to that as possible without being obvious.  It isn’t your traditional zombie apocalypse tale though there are elements it shares with those stories.  The motivation of many, if not most of these characters, is not survival.  It is annihilation for some-the destruction of the human race as a goal.  For others, it seems that perpetual motion is their only goal-moving forward because it is all they can do while the world around them spins out of control.  Through the power Mina has as some sort of herald of doom makes her a monster, she is also as innocent as a child, manipulated by the men in her life.  Both Traverse and Griggs see her as a way to obliterate everything in their paths, though they have very different designs on why they would do that.

Vincenzo Bilof has a lyrical way of writing about gore and his characters.  Certainly, there is no doubt that not everyone will like his penchant for simile and metaphor at most every turn, but there is a fluidity to his writing that makes this dark, dim, gruesome world he has crafted poetic.  His story, though it will come to a conclusion (more than likely) with the third and final book, isn’t about a beginning or an end.  It is definitely about the journey.  The zombies are there, in the background, entering the fray as needed, but it is the characters, with their internal and external struggles, that always remain top of mind here.  This could be a journey through hell, like Dante’s Inferno-one test after another for the main characters to face and either overcome or to fail at…though it is hard at times (many times) to decipher whether they have failed or succeeded at any of them.  Perhaps Father Joe could be defined as a hero, though one with as many dark spots on his soul as many others in the book.  Beyond him, there are heroic elements in several of the characters but villainous ones as well.  I remarked in my review of the first book that I didn’t like most of the characters-not as a criticism but an assessment of who they were as human beings.  I have grown more attached to a couple of the original characters and dislike some with an even more fervent passion.  At the same time, I welcomed most of the new characters with an appreciation for what they have added to this story.  Except perhaps for the insane general, who was, overall, a nuisance in my humble opinion.  The rest have given the story new flavor and balance to offset the grim motivations of some of the others.

The Zombie Ascension series qualifies as a fairly unique entry into the zompoc subgenre despite not meddling too much with the undead themselves.  Its supernatural slant will not appeal to all zombie purists though it is, thus far, a well thought out mythology that has me intrigued for more answers as to the ‘why’s and how’s’ of Mina’s power and what happened to Traverse on his mission to Egypt.  This is the third book of the author’s that I have read and his voice has grown stronger with each book.  He has me hooked with both his writing style and the story he is telling here and I look forward to checking out the third book in the trilogy.

The Queen of the Dead: Zombie Ascension can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Queen-Dead-ZOMBIE-ASCENSION-ebook/dp/B00ET0EJJK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1385424667&sr=8-1&keywords=vincenzo+bilof

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Review of Jessica Meigs’ “The Becoming: Brothers In Arms”

The Becoming: Brothers In Arms is a prequel novella to The Becoming series of zombie apocalypse books by Jessica Meigs.  It introduces us to the brothers, Theo and Gray, who were introduced to the main characters in the first book of trilogy.  It provides another perspective on the beginnings-the initial days of the virus and provides a more detailed understanding on these two peripheral characters to the main storyline found in the trilogy.

Theo, the older brother, is a paramedic who is on call the night that the infected come back to life.  Not the best profession to be in when the accident victims who appear to be dead are trying to tear into your flesh.  Gray is the younger brother who Theo feels more than just a brotherly obligation to.  Ever since their parents died, he has been taking care of him.  Especially since Gray has severe asthma attacks.  Gray is working as a mechanic but is shooting pool at a local bar with a friend when things go haywire.

Most of this quick read takes place on the first night, where the two brothers face off against several harrowing experiences against the undead, while they do their best to survive long enough to reconnect with one another.  The pacing is solid and the story could serve as a standalone first night of the apocalypse tale, thought it bridges the brother’s experiences from their initial experiences up until they meet with the rest of the characters from the trilogy.

For those who have read some or all of Jessica’s Meigs’ trilogy, reading this tale is a nice way to learn more about a couple of interesting characters.  For those who haven’t ready any of her work, it is a nice brief introduction to her take on the zombie apocalypse.

The Becoming: Brothers In Arms can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007K1KO26/ref=cm_cr_thx_view


Review of Jaime Johnesee’s “Bob The Zombie”

Bob The Zombie is a short story that reads more like the first chapter of a much larger tale, and given the fact that the author has already produced a sequel, it is clear that this is destined to become something of a serialized saga of this Griswoldian zombie.

Bob is a hapless zombie who was killed in a tragically comedic way and was brought back to life at the request of his mother, who didn’t realize he would come back as a rotting version of himself that needs to staple various body parts back on when they fall off, which they do with great frequency.  Bob has made new friends-others like himself who lives on the edges of society.  Zombies aren’t like the slobbering Romero monsters here.  They do need meat to continue their undead existence, but they tend to refrain from chowing down on humans.

There is a flavor of urban fantasy to this tale.  Zombies aren’t the only supernatural characters.  Though mostly just hinted at, there are plenty of other beasties out there, including vamps, mermaids, and ghouls.  What is the difference between ghouls and zombies you ask?  Well, zombies have free will, whereas ghouls are controlled by the witch who brought them back to life.  And if they don’t rein them in every now and then, they tend to go all Night of the Living Dead on humans.  That particular nugget plays a part in this brief tale, but again, this short reads more like the introduction to a longer story, including hints of what is to come.

So the main thing to keep in mind if you choose to take the plunge and give Bob The Zombie a try is that there is much more to the story, and unless I missed my guess, we will be getting it in single short story installments for some time to come.  Bob is a likable character and it’s clear there is more to learn about him as well as the rest of his not-so-menacing horde of buddies.

Bob The Zombie can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00D0VPURO/ref=cm_cr_ryp_prd_img_sol_0


Review of SP Durnin’s “Keep Your Crowbar Handy”

Keep Your Crowbar Handy introduces the reader to Jake, a free-lance journalist who has traveled the world and has been exposed to many war-torn countries in his journeys abroad.  He was also embedded with the British SAS for a time, getting intense military training during one stint as a reporter.  He has returned home to Ohio, working on tamer projects including editing a cook book to pay the bills.  He has just met Kat, a Pharmacy Tech who thinks he would be a perfect match for her roommate, Laurel, a part-time singer who runs her own health food store.  He agrees to meet up with them at a local bar along with his friend Allen, and Jake and Laurel hit it off, despite his initial (and ongoing) interest in Kat as more than just a friend.  Unfortunately for them, it is the same night that the world is going to hell and the dead are coming back to life. 

The story tells of Jake’s efforts to save his new found friends along with some of his old ones, including his landlord, a former military man, from their deaths at the hands of the undead as well as the living.  This was an independent novel from SP Durnin, but has been picked up by Permuted Press to be re-released as a series of books (this novel plus several sequels). 

Keep Your Crowbar Handy isn’t another tale of a bunch of regular folks barricading themselves in an apartment building with the hopes of being saved by the military.  Instead, it is a tale of a group of well-armed and well trained individuals who plot how they can make it through 2,000 miles of deadly territory to what they hope is an area out west that has been cleared of the undead.  It is also a tale of romance-the love triangle of Jake, Laurel, and Kat. 

Jake has military training and Kat, who is half-Japanese, has extensive training in martial arts and weaponry, which makes her even more deadly than Jake against the undead and the living.  Naturally, they face off against more than just zombies, as the world falls apart and desperate men and women fight to take the resources that Jake and his friends have at their disposal, along with the survivors they have rescued. 

The story moves at a fast pace and the action is gripping.  Jake is a strong, though reluctant leader/hero, and his character, along with Laurel and Kat, are well developed.  They along with Allen, Rae (another military survivor they meet up with) and George (Jake’s landlord-the man with the plan for survival) were the most compelling characters in the book.  There is quite a bit of traditional zombie survival storytelling going on here, though once again, it is clear that this isn’t your run of the mill apocalyptic survivor’s saga. 

Credit to the author for putting the romantic elements of this story up front and center, making it complicated for the characters-not just because of the fear of death around every corner, but because of the feelings they have for one another.  Jake has fallen for Laurel but has feelings for Kat as well, which she reciprocates.  Jake is perhaps written too much as a ‘every man fears him and every woman wants him’ type guy who seems to far too perfect-he is strong, handsome, intelligent, and an all-around boy-scout, but as much as he proclaims his devotion to his gorgeous newfound girlfriend, he isn’t above tempting himself with Kat’s constant advances; this despite both of them knowing that what they are doing is wrong.  That they both seemed to feel little guilt about their actions seemed out of character given their loyalty to Laurel and the fact that they are clearly presented as heroes and saviors.  It would seem that their tantalizing and teasing of one another would weigh more heavily on them than it did.   

As is the case with many independently written novels, this could use another solid round of edits-misplaced commas, over use of certain descriptive terms, etc. occur throughout the book.  Despite this, the storytelling is solid and keeps you intrigued from start to finish.  SP Durnin’s writing style is compelling and he clearly enjoys creating vivid characters and story sequences.  With this book (along with its sequels) being re-released by Permuted Press, more editing will sharpen things up a bit and I would guess the story might get tweaked a bit as well.  I look forward to seeing the entire series when it is completed.  Keep Your Crowbar Handy has a memorable title and an entertaining storyline that I look forward to seeing through to the end of the road for Jake and his friends. 

Keep Your Crowbar Handy can be found here:     http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1481096222/ref=cm_cr_ryp_prd_img_sol_0


Well that didn’t take long-Roms, Bombs, and Zoms is out on Kindle!

I guess if I had waited a day I would have seen the link for the new anthology from Evil Girlfriend Media, Roms, Bombs, and Zoms.  But I was excited and had to share the cover art.  Well, I’m going to do that again, but this time if you click on that cover art, you will be directed to Amazon where you can purchase this wonderful new anthology (complete with my short story “Until The End”) for the low, low price of $3.99.  21 authors writing about stories with those three little words driving the tale.

Check it out:

Dedicated to all those clueless in romance,
dropping bombs without intent,
and for those brave zombies of heartache,
who love and rise again.

When hearts rot, fuses ignite.

Super geek gets the girl, a righteous preacher and his undead wife, fantastical zombies, the tantric art of zubbing, mindless hive workers, and traditional flesh eating walkers, this anthology has a bit of everything. Our twisted tales pull you into the darkest of darks, where hope is lost, and sustaining life is no simple feat.

Twenty-one authors congealed romance, bombs, and zombies into stories that are diverse, witty, and occasionally gut-wrenching. Travel through time to walk in alternate histories, visit magical realms, and face down pestilence that will literally rot your insides. This collection is sure to warm your cold, dead, heart.

romsbombszombs