Writer of Horror Fiction

Archive for September, 2015

Review of Steven Pajak’s “Mad Swine: Regeneration”

Mad Swine: Regeneration completes the trilogy with the aftermath of the journey of the surviving members of the Randall Oaks subdivision near Chicaog who chose to head to Finnegan Farms in the dead of winter.  Lead by the narrator, Matt Danzig, those that make it to the farm work hard to establish a new life for themselves with the hope of going back to their suburban haven they left behind to retrieve those who stayed behind.  But with one of the worst winters on record and the ‘crazies’ still out there, it isn’t a journey they will be able to make for some time to come.

My reviews of the two previous books categorized them as such: the first book was predominantly action-man vs. zombie and man vs. man.  The second book focused more on character development, with Matt becoming less of a Rambo and more of an everyman doing his best to keep it together so those who are counting on him can do so as well.  This final act blends both action and character development together better than the other two books managed to do, with a quick paced, action-filled completion to the story that also continues to provide the reader with more reasons to grow attached to Matt, his older brother, and the group of people he is responsible for both at the farm and back at Randall Oaks.

The infected/zombies in this book take more of a back seat than in the prior books, with the focus being more on the living menace that has been creeping around the periphery of the barricaded and sheltered places Matt and his group have called home.  They are beginning to discover that they are far better organized and dangerous that anyone had assumed when those make a brazen assault on the farm.  While I would say that once again, the author has not brought a lot to the table that makes this story different or unique compared to the rest of the zombie subgenre, he has continued to refine his writing skills and given the reader a sharper, more well defined and compelling set of characters with each book.

Of course, there are a few pieces of criticism to share as it relates to Regeneration.  One in particular has to do with timing of Matt’s return to Randall Oaks.  It is tremendously coincidental that he arrives mere hours (though it seems like minutes) before a surprise attack rocks the gated community.  It seemed a bit rushed and a convenience to move the story forward at a quicker pace.  Another frustration I had is with the lack of development of the main bad guy, who had potential to be much further fleshed out, especially based on the limited details shared about him.  He seemed to be a rather twisted individual.  The book could have afforded him a few more pages to shape him into more of a worthy opponent to Matt and his team and to move him away from a more generalized baddy.

Overall, Mad Swine: Regeneration is the most satisfying of the three books in the trilogy.  It does a solid job of continuing the character development that made Matt more human and relatable in the second book, while at the same time sharing traits with the first book and its love of action.  The author (or perhaps the publisher or his editor…) seems to like taking a few shortcuts when it comes to certain story elements.  The battle between the neighborhoods never showed up except in synopsis in the second book and the main villain seems somewhat under developed here in the final book.  It isn’t a major criticism, but worth pointing out.  I believe that adding those components could only serve to enhance the story.

This was a satisfying zombie trilogy, in particular to watch and see how the author continued to grow and refine his ability to pull the reader in and give them a reason to grow attached to certain characters.  The action and story is solid, and the pace is fast.

Mad Swine: Regeneration can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Regeneration-Mad-Swine-Book-3-ebook/dp/B011SJQ31Q/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

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Review of “Darlings of Decay”

Darlings of Decay is an anthology of zombie shorts and novellas written by female authors.  Often, the standard point made in a review of an anthology is that it is a mixed bag; good, bad, and so-so tales populate a book filled with a wide assortment of authors, whether the theme is specific or open ended.  Such is the case with this book, though not entirely for the standard reasons.  This isn’t a book filled with short stories that are all within a certain size range or even stories that are all complete.  Instead, it is a mix of shorts, novellas, and primers, for lack of a better term, from an assortment of authors offering up their take on the zombie apocalypse.

It wouldn’t be altogether fair to be critical of an author whose contribution is more of a primer rather than a whole story.  Unfortunately, stunted tales like those do leave something to be desired.  Granted, it is an attempt to lure the reader to the author’s completed work outside of the anthology, but they left me a bit frustrated at the sudden start and abrupt endings.  There were also a small group of novellas that felt rather expansive for such a book.  They were not necessarily primers, but were parts of larger works with bigger tales to tell, thus once again leaving things open ended unless the reader chooses to seek out the rest of the author’s work.

Darlings of Decay did offer up quite a few short stories that were not hints at bigger tales and some were noteworthy.  Chantal Boudreau, Tonia Brown, Catt Dahman, Lori R. Lopez, and Suzanne Robb all contributed some very entertaining short stories to this work.  As to whetting my appetite for something beyond the pages of this book, Jackie Druga’s “Zombie Battle” had a world building, epic quality to it that made me curious to see where the story would be heading after it cut off here.

Focusing on the quality of the stories, it was indeed a mix of well written, sharply creative tales and dull plodders that were predictable from start to finish.  It was clear that each author had to be responsible for their own editing, as there was no uniformity to each story on that score.  Some were clean while quite a few were clogged with obvious typos and awkward phrasing that could have been addressed with a uniform editorial sweep.

Treat this book as a sample platter and you will likely not be disappointed in what it has to offer.  Nibble here and there-try the short stories and perhaps take a peek at the longer tales and decide whether what they have to offer are worth some bigger bites.  Keep that in mind and you should come away satisfied that you have discovered a few new talented voices in the zombie genre that are worth seeking out further works from.

Darlings of Decay can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Darlings-Of-Decay-Shannon-Mayer-ebook/dp/B00DQ1P3S4/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8


Great Review of At Hell’s Gates 3!

I thought I would share a review by a great friend of both the zombie horror and horror genre in general.  If you haven’t grabbed a copy of At Hell’s Gates 3 yet, take a look at Ursula K. Raphael’s review, which gives a concise synopsis of each tale included in this tome.  And of course, the fact that the proceeds from this book go to a very worthy charity should be some additional incentive for you to pick up a copy of your own.  So check out the review and then check out the book!

https://www.amazon.com/review/R13GO9GLZHCMX6/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm


Review of Brian Moreland’s “Darkness Rising”

Darkness Rising is the latest novella from author Brian Moreland, who has written a diverse slate of supernatural horror stories over the course of the past few years.  I believe I have read most of his works and my reason for coming back is because his tales are vivid with a healthy dose of gore and grimness that splash across the pages in bright, primary colors.

Darkness Rising starts out as a somewhat traditional revenge tale, or so it seems to lead in that direction initially.  Naturally, it takes its fair share of dark turns that lead the reader far astray from its original intent.  It is clear that our main character, Marty Weaver, who is a janitor at a local college, is a sensitive soul who has been trodden upon one too many times and is ready to take out his anger on three sadists who catch him reading poetry next to a lonely, quiet part of a local lake while he pines for the woman he loves.

Of course, the author has something else up his sleeve and the story takes several wicked twists and turns.  The sadists in the story are real pieces of work, reminding me briefly of the villains in the movie “You’re Next” thanks to their use of animal masks and their lust for pain and anguish that they heap on their victims.

Marty is a likeable character, someone who is easy to root for.  While the author pulls no punches when it comes to what he must face (as well as memories of a tragic past that won’t let go), he is provided with the opportunity to release the darkness that resides inside him, as the description of this story alludes to.  This leads us to an even darker tale, one where revenge is still wafting through the air, but in ways that even Marty cannot fathom.

All in all, this is an entertaining, quick read, though I had a desire to see certain elements expanded upon-including the ‘dark artist’ aspect of the horror that is revealed to Marty.  His backstory is an interesting one, and Moreland has a deft touch when it comes to crafting creatures built out of nightmares.  The love story aspect of the tale is perhaps a bit fluffy, for lack of a better term, though not too cloying or maudlin given what horrors the reader and Marty have to come to grips with throughout the rest of this tale.  This is a fun, horrific story of revenge and regret by an up and coming author.

Darkness Rising can be found here:  http://www.amazon.com/Darkness-Rising-Brian-Moreland-ebook/dp/B00Y05TVUG/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8