Writer of Horror Fiction

Archive for December, 2013

Review of Brian Moreland’s “The Devil’s Woods”

The Devil’s Woods is Brian Moreland’s second foray into the mysteries of the Canadian wilderness and Native American mythology.  His first book, Dead of Winter explored darkness in Ontario from the 19th Century, while The Devil’s Woods explores deviltry in the 21st century out west, in an abandoned Cree Indian Reservation and the nearby town of Hagen’s Cove, which has been a place where people, especially young girls, have been disappearing for over a century without a trace.

Kyle Elkheart, a half-Cree horror novelist living in Seattle who grew up on the reservation, is called home by his uncle and grandfather.  His brother Eric and his sister Shawna are the last surviving members of their tribe and their estranged professor father went missing weeks earlier after having spent time exploring the Cree lands-deep into the forbidden woodlands that surround the reservation.  Kyle is reluctant at first, but needs a vacation from the nightmares that haunt him every night and the visions of his deceased wife, who passed away two years prior.  The lands surrounding their homeland are beautiful though, and Kyle is pleased he is able to make the trip and hopefully get out of the funk surrounding his writing.  He is bothered by the fact that he is attracted to Eric’s pretty girlfriend, who has joined them on the trip, and that he seems to be the only person concerned about the disappearance of their father.  He sees walking visions of the dead on the reservation and is warned in no uncertain terms by his uncle about the evil that lurks in the woodlands, but suspects that his father may still be out there, uncovering some of the oddities that have caused this region of the country to be dubbed the Canadian Bermuda Triangle.

Every day and every hour seems to reveal bits and pieces of the mystery, especially when a family that has come searching for another member of Kyle’s father’s missing expedition goes missing themselves.  There are perhaps monstrous creatures that live within the woods which haunts Cree folklore, but that is not the only evil that Kyle and his family must confront if they are to survive their trip into the Canadian Wilderness.

The Devil’s Woods is another solidly written horror yarn by Brian Moreland, who does an excellent job of crafting believable tales of the supernatural.  My favorite of his was his first book, Dead of Winter, and this novel follows in its murky, grim footsteps with demonic glee.  The author isn’t afraid to spill some blood and craft horribly wicked creatures that feel like they stepped right out of ancient myth and legend.  The evil in this book is quite malevolent while the character development is also solid.  The characters, for the most part, are believable and their actions are very plausible.  I was perhaps not sold on some elements of the burgeoning romance that Kyle is starting to have with his brother’s girlfriend, but while it felt somewhat predictable it still fit in well with the telling of tale.

The story offers up a few good twists that will keep most readers on their feet and a solid, well-paced supernatural story that is both fun and satisfyingly gruesome.  The author’s storytelling abilities always make it a pleasure to return to the sick passages of his twisted mind and this tale was no exception.  I look forward to what Brian dreams up next.

The Devil’s Woods can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Devils-Woods-Brian-Moreland/dp/1619215659/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1388021906&sr=1-1

Review of Peter Clines’ “Ex-Communication”

Ex-Communication is the third book in Peter Clines’ Ex-saga of zombies battling with the survivors and the superheroes who protect them in Los Angeles in the years after the zombocalypse. The heroes, along with a new group of super soldier allies, have returned to The Mount (Paramount Studios) after contending with their most recent menace out in the desert.  They have built high walls that surround a larger chunk of the city to give the thousands of survivors living with them more space to spread out and to feel safe.   

Their latest superhuman nemesis is a being that calls itself Legion.  It is a former LA gang member who has gained the ability to control countless hordes of the undead and likes tormenting those who live in the Mount by sending an endless brigade of the undead at them.  Legion can speak through the undead and make them handle weapons, climb, and do all sorts of things the sluggish ghouls couldn’t do on their own.  In addition to Legion, there are a couple of other new challenges for St. George, Stealth, and the rest of the supers to contend with.  Zzzap, the superhero who can transform himself into pure energy, has been seeing ghosts…well, specifically one ghost who happens to be a former superhero that wants to return to the land of the living and needs help…including the body of someone who is recently deceased.  They are also dealing with a young girl who has come to Los Angeles who shares similarities to the ex’s (zombies) in that she is dead and moving around, but is unlike all the others in that she can think, speak, and is an otherwise normal teenage girl. 

Things only get more complicated from there when an angry, vengeful demon enters the picture, intent on consuming the souls of the remaining humans still alive in the Los Angeles area, including the superheroes at the mount.   

The Ex series continues to provide an interesting twist on the zombie genre with its mix of complex superheroes and challenging villains.  The main heroes are well fleshed out and the author continues to use flashbacks to great success to provide a slow reveal as new good and evil elements are introduced to the storyline.  While for the most part the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad, there is plenty of gray area to keep the reader guessing on what to expect.

Ex-Communication can be found here:   http://www.amazon.com/Ex-Communication-A-Novel-Peter-Clines/dp/0385346824/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1386871552&sr=8-1

Review of Peter Clines’ “Ex-Purgatory”

Ex-Purgatory is the fourth book in Peter Clines’ Ex series.  For those who haven’t read at least the first and second books in the series, Ex-Heroes and Ex-Patriots, I would strongly suggest you read those books first.  In some ways, this book will still make sense even if you haven’t because the author does an excellent job of introducing and developing his characters.  So even if you don’t know them already they will stick with you.  With that said the payoff with this tale will not resonate as well without the background provided in the first two books.  I would note that I actually have not read Ex-Communication, the third book in the series, but am rectifying that now.

We are introduced to George Bailey, who in the past books was the lead superhero keeping humanity safe at ‘The Mount’ in Los Angeles after the zombocalypse had begun.  The Mount is Paramount studios, and George, along with several other superheroes including Stealth, Captain Freedom, and zzZap have created a safe haven for those still alive in the city by building walls around many of the buildings to keep the Ex-Humans (aka zombies) outside.

That, however, is not how this story begins.  A reader familiar with this series may believe that this is somehow a prequel, re-introducing us to George in his normal life before he realized he had his superpowers.  It becomes clear very soon that this is not the case.  He is a maintenance man on the UCLA campus grinding his way through life one day at a time-trying to keep his car from stalling out on the way to work and to make enough money to keep a roof over his head.  But it becomes clear rather quickly that things are not as they seem-to George and to the reader.  There are little peeks behind the hazy curtain that the world seems to thrown around him that George has to puzzle over-the world shifts and people around him appear as if they are moving corpses-ones that attack and crave flesh.  The world looks decimated-like a nuclear bomb has been dropped on L.A.  But not long after these images appear they fade, replaced by typical people doing ordinary things and with everything around George going back to normal.  But it isn’t only the visions that are causing him confusion-it’s the dreams he has every night of him as a superhero fighting off hordes of the undead while people behind a giant wall cheer him on.  If that wasn’t enough, George keeps getting confronted by a young girl in a wheelchair named Madelyn.  She insists he has superpowers and that neither of them belong in this place.  Her memories, unlike his, are still intact.  Where they are, she doesn’t know, except that they appear to be trapped in some alternate universe that they need to break out of before they are lost forever.

Ex-Purgatory takes a slight detour from the storytelling route readers of this series are used to.  There are no flashbacks providing the reader with a backstory of the main characters.  By now the reader, if they have followed along with the trilogy, understand who the superheroes are and where they came from, which makes this tale that much more interesting as we are reintroduced to them one by one with George’s efforts to unravel the mystery that his life has become-some of whom have dreamt of him while others have no clue who he is, though he is certain he knows them from somewhere.  This adds new flavor to characters we already know, especially Stealth, adding new details to their existence that will be appreciated by fans of this series.

The Ex-series continues to entertain.  While this perhaps isn’t the best book in the saga, it is a fun read definitely worth checking out.

Ex-Purgatory will be available January 14th here:  http://www.amazon.com/Ex-Purgatory-Novel-Ex-Heroes-Peter-Clines-ebook/dp/B00E2RZHI2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386557100&sr=8-1&keywords=ex-purgatory