Writer of Horror Fiction

Archive for June, 2014

Review of Shana Festa’s “Time of Death: Induction”

Time of Death: Induction introduces the reader to Emma Rossi, a nursing student living in southwest Florida when the zombie apocalypse begins.  While the prologue is told in third person and gives a hint as to who patient zero might be, the rest of the tale is told in first person from Emma’s perspective.  She works at the hospital that is first hit by the advent of the dead rising, but her shift ends before things get crazy.  Still, through the combination of a violent storm and the fast spread of the virus things crash down all around her at home, with her husband Jake and their little dog Daphne fleeing for their lives as their home is overwhelmed by the walking dead.

After a series of narrow escapes, Emma and Jake manage to hook up with a group of soldiers who have claimed a Target superstore as their barricaded base of operations.  But it is clear that while the location appears to be secure they are far from safe as the world around them crumbles in the blink of an eye.  When Jake disappears on a supply mission and things start to fall apart at the store, Emma is forced to race through one harrowing and tragic event after another.

While Time of Death: Induction doesn’t introduce any new elements to the zombie genre-the zeds here are slow moving, traditional Romero zombies and not the ‘infected’ or have any differing abilities, the author has created a solid, fast moving story of personal survival.  There is plenty of gore and death, and the addition of the little dog the main character wants to keep sheltered and protected will add a sense of impending dread for anyone who is an animal lover, since Daphne seems to get herself into more sticky situations than the main character.

The pacing of the story is fast, with the main character and various other survivors she is with dealing with one traumatic event after another as the body count continues to rise and hope becomes fleeting.  The writing is smooth with no significant editing concerns.  The author provides Emma with a strong voice-she is easy to identify with and appreciate as a regular person thrown into an untenable situation where she is forced to make one difficult decision time after time.  The story is heavy on the undead being the main challenge for the survivors rather than human confrontations, with the exception of a rather brief but intense interaction with some desperate outsiders to Emma’s group.  Beyond this, there are some arguments but they take a back seat to basic day to day and minute by minute survival against the undead.  While Emma and Jake are fleshed out characters, the secondary players were less detailed, which is often a challenge faced when a story is told in first person.  We don’t get to know many of the other characters too well before many are obliterated in the apocalypse.  This isn’t a stiff criticism but more of an acknowledgement that this is Emma’s tale and the story sticks closely with her worldview and perspective throughout.

This is the author’s first novel and this appears to be the first of a series or trilogy.  Shanna Festa has created an exciting, enjoyable tale of desperation and survival, and I look forward to checking out the second book when it becomes available.

Time of Death: Induction can be found here:      http://www.amazon.com/Time-Death-Induction-Volume-1/dp/1618682725/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

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Review of Patrick Rutigliano’s “Surviving The Crash”

Surviving the Crash is a series of three novellas set in an alternate universe where the stock market crash of 1929 adds the additional horrific feature of the world also crashing into darkness.  Strange, alien creatures out of nightmare have come to earth and rule the night, devouring those who are foolish or unfortunate enough to be caught out after the sun goes down.  Hiding in the bowels of the buildings that have survived the destruction of these monsters isn’t enough to keep them at bay-they hunt by night and set traps to lure the living into darkness by day.

George is a man ready to end it all.  He’s barely hanging on, and about to jump off the ledge of a building he wanders into when he meets up with Francis.  Tough and defying all feminine stereotypes, Francis is a woman who is called upon by the local mobsters, who now rule New York City, when they need a dirty job done.  Francis calls George’s bluff on killing himself and gives him a place to crash while he sorts himself out.  George, who is a World War I vet, knows how to handle himself but he’s never met anyone quite like Francis.  And when she is called upon by the biggest crime boss in town to do another job, George decides to partner up with her.  Their assigned task is to begin the process of killing the monsters that rule the city with a little help from some of the mobster’s goons.  It’s an impossible job-a suicide mission-but is right up Francis’s alley.  Especially since she has no reason to trust the man she’s working for and suspects he has reasons beyond the desire to protect the city and those who still live in it.

Surviving the Crash is essentially one novel broken into three distinct, chronological chapters.  Francis is the tough as nails heroine-tougher than any of her male counterparts by far, which could have come off as contrived if it weren’t for the fact that the author does such a good job of making her a both believable and thoroughly likable badass character.  She is human and shows occasional vulnerability that George can see, though no one else does.  He is her confidant. To everyone else, including the creatures which hunt and terrorize the human race, she is something to be feared.

Each tale takes things up a notch, transforming this story from becoming a run of the mill apocalyptic tale with some unique monsters to fear to something far more exciting and suspenseful.  There is a bigger picture, and Francis and George will find out what part they play in the last stand humanity may ever make.  The author does a good job of developing his characters, allowing Francis and George to grow and change thanks in part to their relationship and their interactions with the people and creatures of the dark world in which they live.  I believe the author could have crafted multiple tales that somewhat mirrored the first novella-a series of serialized adventure tales-giving us more of the same.  That might have been fun.  Instead, he chose to increase the tension and the profound significance of Francis’s journey, which culminates in a very dark and enjoyable ride straight into the depths of hell.

Surviving the Crash is both an entertaining adventure tale and a chilling horror saga.  I loved the characters and feared for them.  The world they live in is dark, dank place filled with plenty of reasons to give up hope and despair.  But with a heroine like Francis on our side, it seems clear that there is always reason to hope.

Surviving The Crash can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Surviving-Crash-Patrick-Rutigliano-ebook/dp/B00KWPO5CC/ref=la_B006WSAVUS_1_13?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403213430&sr=1-13


Review of Brian Moreland’s “The Vagrants”

The Vagrants is the latest work from Brian Moreland, an author who I have come to rely on to create tales of creeping horror and gore that also has intelligence about them.  His work is well researched for a taste of authenticity and despite the supernatural phenomena that occurs on the pages, there is a sense of believability to his characters.  The Vagrants has a similar flavor to it and the author has once again chosen to introduce us to a new geographical environment-this time the urban sprawl of Boston, where the crosshairs are on the homeless.

Daniel Finley is a journalist who has decided to spend several months living amongst the homeless population of the city, behaving as one of them to see what it is really like and to craft a novel that will expose the hidden plight they suffer through.  At first, his experiences are normal, as far as being homeless goes-he lives under an overpass among a group of people with a variety of tragic tales-some of which are junkies and dangerous, though most are simply down on their luck people who still have hope that they can turn things around.  But then a traveling self-proclaimed ‘prophet’ comes to the underpass with his zombie-like followers and starts converting the homeless to his cause.  He speaks of the end of days and the destruction of those who do not serve his dark gods.  Daniel is almost pulled into the hypnotic tribe of his followers but manages to escape Mordecai’s clutches.

The novel he writes is a success but it seems that everything Daniel looks as he resumes his normal life off the streets, he sees Mordecai’s followers, calling for him to join them.  That, along with the disappearance of a professor who is as intrigued by the homeless as Daniel and several other strange events occurring in his life lead to a confrontation with Mordecai, with gruesome results.

This is a shorter work than the rest of the tales the author has produced (except for a short story that introduced The Witching House) and perhaps that was why I was left wishing for something more.  The supernatural element here is creepy, as the author tends to do extremely well, though it is a bit more clipped and mysterious-there is little in the way of a the ‘big reveal’ we’ve been treated to in the past.  Still, the story has the same dark, gritty, razors edge flavor that Mr. Moreland’s larger works have, and leaves room for a more detailed tale down the road.  For fans of his work, it will entertain like all the rest.

The Vagrants can be found here:   http://www.amazon.com/Vagrants-Brian-Moreland-ebook/dp/B00K1WUCIC/ref=la_B002BM3020_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403149249&sr=1-5


Review of Nathan Robinson’s “Ketchup on Everything”

Ketchup on Everything is a bit of a surprise of a novella.  I went into it not knowing anything about the story except for the brief blurb of a description, and came out of it with some mixed emotions.  It begins innocently enough, with a man traveling the countryside in his RV stopping at a roadside diner to grab a cup of coffee.  He seems to be talking to his wife in the vehicle before he steps inside, but it is a one-sided conversation that leaves the reader puzzled as to whether she is there or not.  Elliott seems like an affable, pleasant man, though there is a sadness about him that is only hinted at during the introduction to this tale.

Through flashback, we discover that Elliott’s young son disappeared years before.  He was playing in the family’s garden and all the sudden was gone.  The author makes the process of facing first the horror and dread of this experience quite vivid and real-especially for someone who has children and cannot escape the fear that your child could go missing.  From there it becomes a helpless, mind-numbing agony of frustration the more time passes without knowing what has happened.   The idea of an innocent child that you love more than life itself vanishing without a trace is something hard, if not impossible, for most of us to fathom.  Nathan Robinson allows the reader to ride along with both Elliott and his wife, who take too different roads in coping with the loss of their son, for the years of torture they suffer through.

By the time we return to the present, past the flashbacks, the sense of having lived in Elliott’s shoes makes what happens next all the more intriguing, though perhaps not as intense as the first part of the story where there is both pain and an undeniable hope that somehow, their lost boy will be found.  This is not a criticism of how the story comes to completion, just a tribute to the writing that leads up to that part of the story, which adds an interesting twist on Elliott’s sad and tragic tale.

Ketchup on Everything can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Ketchup-Everything-Nathan-Robinson-ebook/dp/B00JANUJXQ/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1403144275