Beneath The Mask is a recreation of a prior Stephen North story, a re-envisioning of his first book with the same title. Sergeant Alex Cray of the Florida National Guard is dealing with what appears to be a biological attack on the Tampa Bay area. He and the rest of the soldiers facing the situation have seen people dying from some sort of plague that leaves them with sores on their faces and a homicidal streak that borders on madness. It is clear that this situation is spreading to other parts of the country and globe and even more shocking, it is perhaps coming from something beyond our world.
Strange events unfold with little explanation around Alex. While the citizens in the area are desperate to survive, there are others who appear in the area that look human, though they seem transformed and almost alien in their physical perfection. Sergeant Cray is forced to kill to defend himself and the various people he comes into contact with that he feels are worth saving as things continue to deteriorate around him. At first he fears the plague that has permeated the area and like the rest of the soldiers, is supposed to continue wearing his MOPP suit-the protective bio-containment outfit that prevents airborne viruses from infecting you. But it doesn’t take him long to realize that life behind the mask is no longer worth living. After stripping his containment suit, Alex is forced to continue stripping away other masks that civilization has put in place for him. He puzzles over the deterioration of his and others humanity while seeking answers as to what the truth is behind the strange people and strange vessels that have arrived in the area that look like nothing anyone on earth could have created.
Beneath The Mask has been transformed from a traditional first day apocalyptic tale of survival into a story that combines elements of this and that of a futuristic thriller. The author wrote another story, The Drifter, which had a noir/Blade Runner type flavor to it, though it mostly takes place elsewhere and else when and there are hints here that these two sagas will be tied together in a series of adventures, as elements from the second book have bled through here, in Beneath The Mask.
Stephen North’s writing preference is typically first person, present tense, and this story is written in this format. While there are some challenges with this style, because the reader can only see what Alex sees and hears in each instance, it steeps you in the moment, dealing with everything the main character faces with no additional time to react. There is no time to debate whether to pull the trigger or to leave someone for dead when things are constantly shifting and moving all around you. The story is not driven by one particular objective, although Alex’s instant to instant reactions are shaped by the strange realities he has discovered and must come to grips with, which drives him to focus on certain objectives-most of which have to do with staying alive. His alliances are also driven by gut instinct and the desire to retain a kernel of humanity within him, even while he is forced to do mostly unspeakable things to keep himself and those he cares for alive.
The author has created the start of a rollicking adventure tale that has the potential to transcend timelines and realities. Alex does seem almost too reactionary in this story-pulled by outside forces in different directions on a constant basis, rather than focusing on anything beyond moment to moment survival. Of course, the author puts a steady flow of roadblocks in front of him to provide him with all sorts of adventures, but he is almost philosophically detached from one of the only overriding objectives he returns to throughout the book-the desire to see if his parents are still alive. Of course, there are far greater missions for Sergeant Cray to involve himself in, but I would have liked to see him push a little harder in an effort to achieve this objective. Despite this minor concern, the author has created an all-to-human hero that fails as much as he succeeds, still tries to do what is right even when nothing he does seems to matter, and still is able to fight to retain a grip on what makes him human even if at times there seems to be no good reason to do so anymore.
Beneath The Mask can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Beneath-Mask-Drifter-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00QL64P8A/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1421418407&sr=8-3&keywords=beneath+the+mask
Ammon’s Horn sounds like some kind of a mythological creation and while it a term derived from Egyptian mythology, it refers to part of the hippocampus for the purposes of this tale. It is an area of the brain that is impacted as someone is affected by the ‘noids, or a form of extreme paranoia.
The story introduces us to Danny, a police profiler in Chicago and Gemma, his star reporter fiancé as they start suspecting all is not well in the world. Multiple reports start filing in of otherwise normal people committing sudden brutal acts of violence and then remembering little to none of them, often shortly before they commit suicide. Digging deeper leads to a suspicion that these events aren’t just happenstance-a full moon or temporary madness, but something that is getting worse and spreading across the country, creeping from the east coast west toward California, where the President has retreated. When Gemma reports on it, plenty of people deny its reality, thinking it more groupthink paranoia rather than some sort of brain ailment having an external cause. She dubs the term ‘noids after a taxi driver, gripped by madness, almost runs over a pregnant woman and said he did it because he was all ‘noided out.
The story follows the initial run ins with the ‘noids that Danny and Gemma suffer through before they travel west at the urging of a mysterious government agent who knows a great deal about what is really happening and what dark secrets are behind this strange plague that has gripped the population.
Ammon’s Horn takes a very different slant on the end of the world, apocalyptic scenario, with its monsters and anyone around them not really knowing what they are; if they are infected or knowing if or when they might snap. Someone infected with the ‘noids can wreak tremendous havoc and then not remember what happened, leading to even more mayhem when it grips them again. This story has the flavor of a Stephen King thriller, with deeply drawn main characters that come to life on the page in vivid detail. The acts of violence are brutal and sudden, perpetrated by people who are, to a great extent, innocent as the brain inside their heads begin to deteriorate and play vile tricks on them. Danny and Gemma are interesting, well thought out characters, with Danny’s own paranoia at what is happening all around him keeping him guessing as to his own state of mind throughout the story.
This was a well written, intriguing tale with some very compelling twists and turns including a jaw dropping ending that forced me to re-read it more than once to make sure I understood what had just happened. There are hints and clues throughout that will likely lead to a variant of reader’s paranoia about what is truly happening and who is to blame for the sickness that seems to have gripped everyone in its path.
Ammon’s Horn can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Ammons-Horn-Stan-Timmons/dp/161868096X/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1411316061&sr=8-1
Dead Living by Glenn Bullion starts out as a traditional Day Zero tale with several survivors narrowly escaping a hospital being overrun by the undead. The story skips forward several years a couple of times to re-introduce us to the baby born on that fateful day who has grown into a young man with a special gift. The undead, for some reason, do not realize that he is alive…or at least they have no interest in attacking or eating him. Aaron has survived in the midst of the undead, in Baltimore, which is crawling with them, for many years after everyone he knew was lost to him. As an adult he manages to cross paths with Samantha, another survivor who was abandoned on a supply run into the city by the rest of her team when she got separated from them. Samantha is aloof, cold, and distrusts just about everyone, but after Aaron saves her she feels compelled to do the same for him and invites him back to the small community she resides in a good distance from the city.
As the two new-worlders of the zombie apocalypse get to know one another they grow attached, though Aaron feels the need to maintain his secret talent from Samantha, for fear that she and the others in her community will think of him as a freak. But his ability grants him the capability to wander freely amongst the dead, and that is a talent that his newfound group of friends are going to need to survive both the undead and the living, who, as always, are the real threat to survival.
Dead Living was an easy read and took an interesting idea of the undead being indifferent to someone and ran with it. Aaron’s gift gives him a tremendous advantage and his burgeoning relationship with Samantha has given him a reason to use it for more than just a way to hide away from the rest of the living, but to also help others. The author adds another undead tidbit with the ‘thinkers’, who are the rare but very dangerous undead that can figure out simple things, like how to maneuver objects or turn doorknobs to get access to the living. Naturally, the undead are an overriding threat (and when a thinker is around, they are doubly dangerous), but it is the living, including slavers who roam the wastelands looking for weak survivors to capture, that are the most dangerous element of Aaron and Sam’s world.
The story does require a good deal of suspension of disbelief, especially when it comes to certain technologies that still work over two decades after the world has collapsed. While it might be plausible that someone, somewhere is making bullets and producing gasoline, it seemed a bit of a stretch that there are still stores of such commodities still being found on scavenging runs. It felt at times that the world was more like two to three years down the road from the first undead attacks rather than twenty three with what has come to pass for everyone still around.
The relationship between the main characters is well developed and their newfound relationship is well paced, though Aaron’s fascination and thoughts about how beautiful Samantha was got a bit repetitive after a while. For the most part, their growing affection for one another didn’t feel forced or uncomfortable though-it had a very natural appeal.
The zombie gore is kept to a minimum in the story and instead the focus is on the challenges Aaron and Sam have in both relating to each other and to the world around them. Aaron’s secret keeps things interesting, but Sam’s slow willingness to become more vulnerable around Aaron also keeps the story moving in the right direction. Overall, a fast, entertaining read that will appeal to those who enjoy the human dynamic more than a heavy dose of zombie gore in their apocalyptic fiction.
We With Daisies Lie is a short story/novella about one man’s journey during the first few days and months of the zombie apocalypse. Told in first person, it sticks with tradition, bringing nothing new to the table as far as the undead are concerned. Whether you get bit or not, when you die you turn and the undead are slow moving. The main character meets up almost immediately after the dead start to turn with a group of three younger kids led by a bully. They search for places to survive and they overcome several incidents with the dead while dealing with turmoil within the group. The living continue to be a major threat later in the story as the character grows stronger and more equipped to handle himself with the undead. With new friends in tow, he tries to lead them to his grandparent’s farm and the fallout shelter they had made during the cold war, which is filled with enough supplies to last them several months.
The author makes a solid attempt at developing his small group of characters, though the length of this tale does limit most of them from being more than archetypes. The main character and Emily, the girl he grows attached to, are the most fleshed out. There were some good components to this tale, including the brief conversation the main character has with an ex-girlfriend on the phone after things go haywire. She is surrounded by the undead in her sky rise apartment in New York City with no way to escape. The blunt suggestion the main character makes was startling but at the same time made all the sense in the world. Emily’s work on a poem was a nice touch as well. There was also something that stretched believability related to an incident surrounding a stab wound to the gut. I won’t provide further details, but suffice it to say it was a stretch buying what happens. Otherwise, the story is a pretty straightforward analysis of how people cope with unbelievably horrible circumstances and what they must become to survive. There were some typos and missed words here and there-the story could have done with another editing run through, but overall, it is a quick read with definite entertainment value. The author shows solid promise here and I look forward to checking out his other works.
We With Daisies Lie can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/We-Daisies-Lie-Matheus-Macedo-ebook/dp/B00M4M32IY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408377720&sr=8-1&keywords=we+with+daisies+lie
Billy and the Clonesaurus tells the tale of William 790-6, a clone who lives in a town filled with other William clones, in a world filled with even more William clones. As with every other William clone, he is to be slurried, or decommissioned, on his first birthday, and replaced by the next iteration. When an accident happens at the slurrying plant with William 789 and 790 is given another day to live, he spends it with his replacement and starts to resent the idea of his imminent departure. Happenstance allows him to once again escape being decommissioned when his new iteration is tossed into the ‘whirling blades of death’ that are used to slurry clones instead of him and he is free to live for another year. But Will, as he and every other clone call each other, finds himself a bit more curious than the average Will about the world surrounding him and the reasons every other Will does what they do for the corporation that controls everything. 790 sells dental insurance, and every other Will does everything necessary to make life possible for everyone else in town. There are Wills who pick up the trash, there are Wills who run the gas stations, etc. They hang out in their off hours drinking the same beer in the same pubs, watching the same Rugby games every weekend. They are all the same level of docile worker doing whatever needs to be done to make the company profitable, and they have no reason to question why there are no animals and no one else left on the planet but other Wills, like themselves. But 790 is starting to get curious, and after hearing another Will talk about a delivery run to another town and spotting something off in the distance on the side of the road that looks like a windmill, he feels the urge to check out this anomaly and see what is going on beyond his guarded, safe existence. This leads 790 on a journey of self-discovery-learning why clones exist, why it appears that the exact same events are reported on at the same time every year, and what might have come before they came into existence.
Billy and the Clonesaurus is a dark comedy that tasted a bit like the movie Brazil in its own demented way. It is grim future that 790 lives in, and as William 790 starts to call himself Billy as a form of minor rebellion against the status quo, he begins to realize the depths of the mystery surrounding him and the rest of the Wills of the world, or so he believes. Escaping the town he lives in is only the beginning. Beyond that, he has several shocking revelations and dreams of something better…something approaching freedom, not only for himself, but for every other William.
While it may be hard not to laugh at the idea of such an obscene world, the thoughts of something like this occurring are also cringe-worthy and provide for good nightmare fuel. As more layers of the deceit that have been heaped on 790 and the rest of the clones are peeled back, there are plenty of reasons to feel both revulsion and depression, because while the world that Billy lives in is filled with clones, the depths of the depravity he faces is very much a human characteristic.
I’ve read the authors other works, both of which dealt with the undead. While this story shares little with those other books, it has the same razor sharp edges to it that don’t show very much remorse when you get cut by them. This is a trip into the Twilight Zone with a nod to the Simpsons with the story’s title. It’s probably not a tale easily digested by everyone, but one worth checking out if you like your futures grim, dark, and yet surreal and just a tad bit looney.
Billy and the Clonesaurus can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Billy-And-Cloneasaurus-Stephen-Kozeniewski/dp/192504789X/ref=tmm_pap_title_0
Hollow Mountain Dead is not Jonathan Moon’s first foray into the cross-genre mix of western and undead fiction, though I believe it is his first full-fledged novel on the subject. He had a book filled with varied short stories along with a novella that took place in the old west that was a rollicking good horror story, but I can’t quite recall what the name of that book was, though I am certain I reviewed it somewhere back in the mists of time.
Mr. Moon has created quite a few different horror tales as well as dipping into bizzarro and other speculative genres. This story, along with his past story that takes place in the mythical American old west, have a taste of harsh reality to them. The darkness isn’t just within the monsters that pour forth from the gaping hole in the side of a mountain, it is embedded in most of the characters we are exposed to-even in the ones who do their best to become heroic when hell comes for a visit. Only a select few seem redeemable here, though it is clear that most are as human as their harsh environment allows them to be.
A greedy, powerful mining magnate has cracked open a mountain with his crew of toughs and army of Chinese immigrant workers who are treated like slaves. When he digs too deep, an old Indian warns him to stop and turn back, but greed casts a powerful spell on him and that is when, literally, all hell breaks loose. A seeping gas bellowing out from seams within the earth turn those who are exposed to it into flesh eating monsters. But this is not the only menace, because there is something further beneath the earth that is reaching out to those on the mountain, corrupting and luring them into evil.
The undead spread, wiping out a homestead and heading toward one of the two towns that sit on the mountainside while the few who managed to escape wave after wave of undead flee the mining camp. Members of the Madoosk tribe have been tasked with stopping the evil have been preparing for it for ages and are ready for it, but they never expected hundreds of miners would get infected or that the plague with spread so fast.
The story moves at a fast pace and there are a multitude of characters. While there are some flashbacks, much of the story is told with the urgency of present tense. The undead are somewhat traditional in their tactics and how they spread, though the supernatural bent here brings some new elements to the table, including new ways to kill the undead that the Madoosk reveal.
As I mentioned, there are a great many characters on display, though that narrows to the select few who are tasked with defeating the undead after the first few waves of carnage pass. There is plenty of gore for those who love that aspect of the zombie genre. The feel of the old west is palpable on each page. Many characters die, both throwaway and those more central to the plot, most in very brutal ways. Again, there probably only a select few characters that most people will like or identify with because of who they were prior to the undead invasion, though a small few will grow on you. Historically, Mr. Moon has been pretty relentless with his horror fiction, with no apologies for the slaughter and sprays of blood and gristle that oozes and spills forth from his pages. This book is no exception to that rule. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
In the end, a door is left open for more Hollow Mountain Dead with the ending of this tale. This book was brutal, relentless, and vicious, and I am looking forward to checking out what comes next.
Hollow Mountain Dead can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Hollow-Mountain-Dead-Jonathan-Moon-ebook/dp/B00LLPU8YG/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1407427523
Oil To Ashes 1: Picnic is a short story that I picked up free for the kindle. Set in the not-so-distant future, we are introduced to Linc Freemore, who works for a company dedicated to the war effort. A war that appears to be occurring between the United States (or perhaps, more generically, the “West”) and the oil rich countries of the Middle East. The U.S. is actually being bombed in this war and gas has reached around $10 a gallon. Linc is just trying to finish a project so he can get a day off, but his day starts off dealing with some gang violence and saving some school children who are almost ran over by a runaway car that was shot up. Gangs have grown more courageous and willing to assault just about anyone, and later that same day Linc discovers that first hand when he comes to the rescue of a girl on a rural road who is being chased on foot by another biker gang. Linc’s cowardly coworker flees, forcing him to take action and improvise ways to keep the girl safe and to stay alive.
The story is short, sweet, and to the point. Better yet, it was a free introduction to the Linc Freemore saga and it appears that the second short story is also available via the kindle.
This short tale was a fun introduction that can somewhat stand on its own, though the author made sure to give you reason to want to check out what is next. Linc is probably more than what he appears to be given his willingness to jump into a fight and become the hero. A simple corporate schmo he is not. The bits and pieces of the near-apocalyptic world the author has created is interesting and fairly plausible, which in some ways makes this story somewhat tantalizing. A precursor to the world of Mad Max and company, where fuel is rapidly disappearing along with civility, law, and order? Perhaps.
Oil To Ashes 1: Picnic can still be (at this time) picked up for free at http://www.amazon.com/Oil-Ashes-Freemore-Apocalyptic-Science-ebook/dp/B00F6KB7I8/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1406757781&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=oilt+to+ashes
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
Deadland’s Harvest starts off where 100 Days In Deadland left off, with Cash and company doing their best to survive in the wooded park where they have taken up residence. This after the mayhem that closed out the first book and wiped out Camp Fox, the National Guard base where most survivors in the area had migrated to after the dead rose. Clutch is still alive, but working on learning how to walk again after the injuries he suffered in the mayhem at the end of 100DiD. The survivors are fewer, but the human dangers from the first book are no more, making the undead once again their main concern.
On a mission to save a group of refugees stuck in a building surrounded by zeds, Cash and Clutch discover that there are hordes of the undead roaming the countryside, moving south toward their current safe haven. After flying a surveillance mission it becomes clear to Cash that these hordes are massive, with tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of the undead in them and they are wiping out everything in their path. Nothing remains except rubble and desolation. And soon they will trample the park and anyone who remains there.
The survivors make a decision to seek the assistance of a riverboat captain, who has taken on other survivors on his boat that floats on the Mississippi river, out of clutching grasp of the zeds. This leads to new complications and more human conflicts as the two groups struggle to coexist with one another while at the same time the hordes continue to advance on their position.
Deadland’s Harvest maintains the fast pace of its predecessor and the narration has a natural flow and feel to it. While Cash has become a seasoned survivor who has been hardened by the trauma she faced in the first book, she has formed a family bond with Clutch and Jace, and will do anything to keep them safe. While this story is told in first person, the author manages to continue to let the secondary characters tell their own tale and grow as the story progresses. Avoiding many of the pitfalls that challenge the middle book in a trilogy, Deadland’s Harvest does a solid job of standing on its own, though with an intriguing promise of what is to come in the final act in this three part saga.
Kudos to the author for using the idea of massive hordes of the undead moving and migrating together, like other creatures who are avoiding the cold of winter. I do wish there was greater detail on the hordes shared, as the concept was an intriguing one. Also intriguing is the theme the author has carried over from the first book, which is to use Dante Aligheri’s works to set the stage for her story. 100DiD traversed the nine circles of hell while DH examines the seven deadly sins. The final book promised to explore the seven virtues. The reader need not know anything further about Dante to appreciate the story, just the fact that this is a solid zombie action tale.
Deadland’s Harvest can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Deadlands-Harvest-Deadland-Saga-Volume/dp/0989901815/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1400809307&sr=8-1
Mad Swine: Dead Winter does not pick up where Mad Swine: The Beginning left off. In fact, this sequel provides a review of the events that happen directly after the abrupt ending of the first book with a relatively quick synopsis by the main character more than a couple of months later. I stated in my review of the first book that it cut off abruptly with a cliff hanger ending that left me very curious as to what would happen next. Unfortunately, the focal point on this story does not start out with, or even focus on, the war between the neighborhoods, only its aftermath, which makes me puzzle over whether the author wrote about the battles that occurred and either he or someone in his circle of advisors suggested he cut it and focus on the long term survival of the community that the main character, Matt Danzig, is leading through the apocalypse. I would have liked to have read the story of the actual battle for Randall Oaks.
This criticism does not mean that the actual story that the author wrote here doesn’t have its own positive qualities. In and of itself, the tale told here is solid, and in fact some elements of this book work better than the first. The lack of ammunition and the desire to stay quiet and not draw the attention of the infected leave the survivors with more challenges and less ability to utilize the arsenal that the main character and narrator had at his disposal in MS:TB. This makes for a more pure and raw survival story of average suburban folks vs. more of an armed military camp scenario that there was a taste of in book one. Matt’s personal relationships are explored with more depth and there is a bit of romance thrown in as well for him after the trauma of losing his wife and children in the first book. He is, understandably, reluctant, but the sense that everything could fall apart at any minutes does pervade his and everyone else’s reality in Randall Oaks. The struggles with the bitter cold of winter and diminishing supplies are the main nemesis for the citizens of the community, with the infected playing a close second. The competing neighborhoods are no longer a factor in this tale, but the urgency to figure out how to make it to spring without freezing or starving is crucial. The infected, which were explained to not be the undead in the first book, continue to have all the traits of the undead in this one. Where they slept in the first book like regular humans, they seemed to have moved past that stage here, where the virus or plague has further transformed them. Another interesting and threatening aspect of their existence is revealed that seemed quite creative. The theory that the undead will freeze in bitter cold comes somewhat into play, with the undead going dormant in the cold, but even more interestingly, when they get buried under snow they will still become alert when a living human presence is nearby, which makes for some very interesting ambush scenarios.
Overall, I think the author’s story telling skills have grown with this sequel, though I can’t deny my disappointment that I was not treated to the battle of the neighborhoods that the first book appeared to promise was on the horizon. As a standalone, this tale definitely has its merits, and its focus on Matt more as a man struggling to lead people against nature and inhuman monsters is compelling, though it serves, like so many second books in a trilogy, as a transition between the sudden and abrupt actions of the first book and the potential threats that promise to inhabit the third book. The hope is that both the personal struggles that Matt suffers through in the second book and the heated action and excitement of the first book will join forces in book three for a very compelling conclusion.
Mad Swine: Dead Winter can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Mad-Swine-Dead-Winter-Volume/dp/1618680463/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1399223763&sr=8-1-fkmr0
The Ghoul Archipelago is a story that jumps around a bit at first, giving the reader the impression that the story is speeding ahead through time with each new batch of characters introduced. It does take a bit of reading before we get to see how all these loose strands the author is introducing weave together. The vast majority of the story takes place in the South Pacific in the first few weeks and months after the rise of the undead. We are introduced to an assortment of characters whose stories will intersect in time, and who are coming to grips with the end of the world in their own various ways.
Reverend Sonntag, leader of a group of missionaries, sees the rising of the dead as a sort of second coming-the transition to the next world, with the undead as something we should either worship or have the desire to become. Rand Bergeron, a billionaire behind an extremely successful virtual reality sex device, sees business opportunities to be developed with the few select societies in the South Pacific that haven’t been annihilated by the undead. “Howling Mad” Martigan and his crew of smugglers are simply trying to survive the pirates who’ve found a way to use the undead to their own advantage while at the same time getting their cargo to the ruthless gangster who they are sure has survived the end of the world and who will destroy them if he doesn’t get what he is promised. Surviving members of the U.S. Navy and Marines, led by a power hungry politician who claims he is now the President of what remains of the United States, have their own designs on taking over the region where the story takes place.
The reader is given bits and pieces of the various character’s tales at first until their paths begin to intersect. There is no main character here. Instead, it is a rather large ensemble with a few key players who the author does a strong job of developing into anti-heroes and villains. Sonntag’s zealotry, Bergeron’s greed, and the military’s quest for control and order clash significantly with Martigan and his crew of quarrelsome crewmembers and a stowaway with an intriguing side story. Outside of a few members of Martigan’s crew and a hard luck survivor who goes by the name of Tuan Jim, many of the characters here aren’t very likable and it is hard to say that anyone is a real hero, though the crew of smugglers, who go from one living or undead mishap to the next, grow on the reader as they suffer through one unbearable travail after another. In particular, Butch, the stowaway, and Hannibal Mo, the chief engineer, are the characters who I found myself rooting for the most.
This is a well told tale despite its slow start, with some unique game changers for the zombie sub-genre. Bergeron’s experimental approach when it comes to utilizing his virtual reality technology with the undead is something that everyone seems to want to take advantage of, in ways both repulsive and terrifying. The undead are, on the surface, fairly traditional, though with the advent of this new technology, they are taken in some very new and disconcerting directions by the author.
Overall, a very solid entry into the zombie genre, with enough twists and new ideas to keep those who are looking for a new perspective on the classics to have fun with the story. The characters drive this one, and there are some good ones with some crackling dialog. A standalone novel, The Ghoul Archipelago is worth checking out for fans of adventure, horror, and of course, the undead.
The Ghoul Archipelago can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/THE-GHOUL-ARCHIPELAGO-Zombie-Novel-ebook/dp/B00FTP5URO/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top
Containment (Alaskan Undead Apocalypse Book 2) is the sequel to Infection, the first book in this trilogy, which will be completed with Mitigation, which has already been released. The author returns to where he left off, with the two bands of survivors who were racing against death through the first few days and weeks after the first zombie rose up combining forces and doing whatever they can to find and to maintain a safe haven. We are also introduced briefly to a military leader and the failed efforts to prevent the undead from crossing a bridge north of Anchorage, granting the monsters access to the rest of the vast state.
Neil, who led one of the groups in the first book, takes on the mantle of leadership in this book, while Dr. Caldwell, who was the leader of the other group, stepping aside and becoming more of a consultant, or moral guide for Neil. As this new entity travels in and around Anchorage, their numbers grow and diminish thanks to other survivors they happen across and the hordes of undead they must face off against. Of course, the newcomers and old members of the team alike add conflict and provide new challenges for Neil and the others. Officer Malachi Ivanoff, the loose cannon police officer in the first book, finds a new friend in one of the newcomers the group comes across, and ample reasons to continue down his path of destruction and mayhem. Other relationships hinted at being formed in the first book continue to grow and face challenges. In general, Neil’s group, like a living organism, adapts and modifies itself to suit its challenging environment.
While the objective, as is the case in most apocalyptic tales, is survival, the story meanders for the most part, with no specific objective outside of finding food, water, and a safe haven. The author, to his credit, makes Alaska-both Anchorage and the surrounding natural beauty, play a far more prominent role here than in the first book. In Infection, the city of Anchorage had the feel of Any Town, USA. There was nothing unique about this environment the undead had invaded. Containment shares more of the unique flavor of the largest and northern-most state in the U.S., especially when the survivors step outside the confines of Anchorage and are forced to wander a bit into the wilderness. The isolation of Alaska is both a blessing and a curse. While the military has failed to contain the undead in the Anchorage area, there is no hint at outside intervention, either from Canada or the rest of the United States, despite the fact that the story takes place several weeks after Anchorage has been annihilated by the undead. The characters conjecture about where the military might have made a stand and where potential larger bands of refugees might be located, but there are few tangible hints as to what is happening in the wider world around them. It would be safe to guess that the third book in the trilogy should provide greater insight into the global picture though it seems there should have been more here.
The characters in Containment, as was the case in Infection, are well developed. We get to know the original characters even better and the same treatment occurs with some of the new people with whom they cross paths. Unfortunately, the level of introspection each character goes through slows this novel down a great deal in multiple places. The action often comes to a screeching halt while either a character ponders the meaning of what is happening, a bit of their history is revealed, or in the case of a few devious characters, what they are plotting. Still, this is a classic tale of survival in the undead apocalypse and the reader is given the opportunity to get to know these characters in depth and detail that has strong appeal.
Containment, though slow at points and with a plot that meanders a bit, provides the reader with a set of characters that are well-rounded and have a great deal of depth. Neil and the rest of the group are easy to identify with-they are not heroes or skilled survivalists but ordinary folk trying to find their place in a world filled with the undead. It will be interesting to see what happens to them in the conclusion of this trilogy.
Containment (Alaskan Undead Apocalypse Book 2) can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Containment-Alaskan-Undead-Apocalypse-Book/dp/161868048X/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1395493625&sr=8-2
Collapse: A Survival Thriller is a novella that tells the story of Matt Avery, a regular guy working in a downtown office building who gets caught up in the middle of a blackout and the riots that follow. With the roads jammed and roaming bands of looters and others who are looking for a reason to get violent, Matt is forced to take to the road on foot to get back home. With him is his hotheaded co-worker who feels that the rules of society no longer apply. Matt is a prepper and is prepared with survival items in his office, in his car he must abandon at work, and is focused on getting home to wife and child, where he has more supplies to ride out the storm. This short tale tells of the perils he faces and the preparations he has made so that he and his family could survive when things go bad.
I was provided a copy of this novella by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. The story is easy to read and I was able to finish it within a couple hours. The premise behind the tale is more generic than anything. The city is anonymous, the cause for the blackouts is limited, outside of hints at a failing power grid, and the riots are caused initially by a woman being accidentally shot by the police when they were trying to maintain order in the city. My interest in apocalyptic fiction mostly leans toward those with a fictional bent. Zombies, alien invasions, and nuclear holocausts populate many if not most of the apocalyptic tales I read. This is a far more straight forward and generically plausible meltdown of society scenario. While the author made an effort to give Matt and his co-worker some depth, both characters are, unfortunately, as generic as the background on the story itself. Outside of his knowledge of Matt as prepper, there is very little detail about him that made me interested in what was happening with him. His co-worker, a thinly veiled sociopath from the get go, acts as an obvious foil to the character, with his urges to throw off the shackles of the rules of civilization barely restrained from almost the beginning of this tale. Unfortunately, the story felt far more like an educational pamphlet on prepping than it did a story about real people. There are hints within its pages of an author with some potential to create something with more gravitas and emotion than this piece and I hope to see something like that in the future.
Collapse would be most interesting to someone who is looking for a beginners guide on being prepared for disasters, both man-made and natural. For a fan of apocalyptic fiction though, the story is a bit forced and fits too easily into the format of a guidebook on prepping rather than a story of people desperate to survive the rapid breakdown of society.
Collapse: A Survival Thriller can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Collapse-Survival-Thriller-Scott-Carleton/dp/1624090206/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1389659728&sr=1-3
Braineater Jones introduces the reader to the eponymous character while he floats face down in a swimming pool with the dawning realization that he has been shot and worse yet, has died from his injury. Not having a clue what happened to him, he realizes that he is in a mansion and does a quick search, finding a few clues to his possible existence.
Fleeing from a couple of men who he believes have returned to the scene of their crime, this newly created zombie finds himself in the Welcome Mat part of the town of Ganesh, or The Mat as everyone calls it. It is the hangout of deadheads and deadbeats alike-a place where the trolley cars don’t go and where the police don’t show up when a crime has been committed. With no memory, Braineater stumbles across a few other deadheads who are willing to help him, or at least set him up with alcohol, which is the only thing that keeps the sriffs from becoming true brain eaters. If they pickle their brains in booze, they don’t turn into the monsters we all know and love. With the help of a ‘sponsor’ who goes by the name of Lazar, the narrator dubs himself Braineater Jones and offers up his services as a Private Investigator. And if he does a few jobs here and there for Lazar, he’ll have enough booze to keep his brain moving and his unlife going forward and at the same time he can try and figure out who the hell he once was, before he was plugged and dumped in the pool.
Braineater has plenty of questions, and the fact that his memories aren’t coming back to him like the eventually do with the rest of the undead is pretty suspicious. With the help of a partner who is nothing more than a dead head with no body and despite plenty of other stiffs trying to stop him, including a hot (or rather cold) dame who spells trouble from the get go, he’ll get to the bottom of the mystery, even if he does end up double-dog dead for his troubles.
Braineater Jones is a pulpy noir mystery novel set in the back alleys of a strange city a few years prior to World War II, with all the slang and classic detective set ups you could ever want…with the added tidbit that the main character is dead. Braineater is a wise guy through and through, and while many of the other characters are also dead, they could fit perfectly into a classic mold of a Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett hard-boiled novel.
This is an interesting cross-genre tale that gives zombies some interesting slants. The author makes the main character as clueless as we are as to why he is up and walking around and makes him explore the reasons for that through his detective work, which allows us to learn as we go. There are hints to voodoo being the culprit, though Braineater’s fixation is on why he has come back and less on why there is a community of the undead as a whole. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep things interesting and a setup for a potential series of books. The zombie purist may not appreciate the liberties the author took with his depiction of the undead, though fans looking for a creative take on the classic zombie setup should appreciate how different the world of Braineater is and how entertaining both he and the rogues gallery of characters are in this story. This was a fun, easy read that made me smile and also had me rooting for a zombie, which isn’t something I do very often.
Braineater Jones can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Braineater-Jones-Stephen-Kozeniewski/dp/1940215188/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1389578672&sr=8-1
Plagued: The Midamerica Zombie Half-Breed Experiment is a mouthful of a name for a novella written by Evan Ramspott. The story introduces us to Tom and Gary, brothers who have come to the town of Biter Hill, one of the few locations within the Plagued States where the zombie slave trade occurs, to search out records on their lost sister, Larissa, who was infected ten years earlier and who may have come through the town as a slave at one point. Thorough records are kept on the zombies who pass through and they have been ordered by their father, a powerful senator, to find her. They return to this same place, year in and year out, in an effort to fulfill their father’s wishes.
Tom feels guilt for what happened to Larissa, since she was in his care when she was bitten. But Tom was twelve at the time, and had no experience with dealing with zombies. He struggles with the idea that he shouldn’t be held responsible, but feels guilty nonetheless. It doesn’t help that his father and brother both blame him, in their own particular ways, for what happened.
Tom comes across a half-breed zombie in a slaver’s cage while in Biter’s Hill. She looks like a normal uninfected human. There are claims that half-breeds are creatures born of a human who is infected while pregnant, some other, unknown reason for their existence seems more likely. Though she is savage, there is a connection between the creature and Tom. She also seems rather interested in the picture of his sister when she sees it.
Tom is separated from his brother when the prison in Biter Hill maintaining most of the zombies who are being held for the slave trade has a breakout. Tom has to flee with several zombie hunters and slave traders at that point; including the one who has the half-breed who Tom has discovered is named Penelope. Together, they must enter into the wastelands in an effort to find their way to another place of safety. Tom suspects that Penelope knows something about his missing sister and uses his clout as a senator’s son to get the ragged band of survivors to head to a place where he believes Larissa have migrated to in the decade since she’d turned with the promise of rescue and wealth if they do. And he is going to need Penelope’s help to find her.
Plagued is definitely a different type of zombie apocalypse tale. It is focused on Tom’s personal journey and the relationship he forms with Penelope along the way. The craggy old slave trader Peske was probably my favorite character though, as someone who is gruff and seemingly uncaring about anyone else, he does what it takes to keep everyone alive and seems to have a soft spot for his half-breed who he insists isn’t for sale. Tom is well developed as a character and Penelope, as a confused creature of two worlds generates both intrigue and sympathy.
It’s clear that this will be the first of perhaps a series of zombie stories set in this world, and this is a positive start. The zombies themselves are fairly Romero-esque and traditional, but the introduction of half-breeds other factors like potential cures and being able to eliminate a zombie’s ability to spread infection once they are captured adds some unique elements to this saga. This is a quick read and the world the author created, long past the initial terrifying days of the zompcalypse, had an air of believability to it as the survivors adapt and cope with the fact that the undead are most likely a permanent fixture in their universe.
Plagued: The Midamerica Zombie Half-Breed Experiment can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Plagued-Midamerica-Half-Breed-Experiment-America-ebook/dp/B00DTCT26O/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Phineas Cavanaugh is a hack Necromancer living near Seattle who scrapes by tracking down lost souls or by occasionally helping the police out with a murder investigation. He left his guild pretty much in shame a few years back and has had a hard knock life ever since. Things start to get interesting when he is hired to seek out the lost soul of an elderly woman’s dead husband and a demon tries to devour him in a park while on the job. At the same time the police call upon his services to track down a vicious shape shifter who seems to know Phineas and might just be hunting him as well.
Things get worse from there as Phineas’s old mentor is attacked and brutally murdered at his guild and he is called upon to return to his old stomping grounds to figure out what has happened by attempting to speak to his departed friend’s soul. That is when all hell breaks loose, literally. Phineas is thrust into a mystery where old enemies and friends are drawn into the fray with him smack dab in the middle. He has to figure out what is going on and what part he is supposed to play before demons and the dead alike tear their way into our plane of existence and destroy everything that Phineas cares about.
At The Behest Of The Dead is told in first person and one can’t help but be reminded of noir detective potboilers with its urban sensibilities and snarky attitude. Phineas is a self-effacing schlub with a good heart even if he does work with the dead and rubs elbows with demons and other questionable sorts. It has a bit of Simon Green’s Nightside going for it, as well as Glenn Cook’s Garrett Files. Urban fantasy with as much irreverence as mystery, with a bit of romance tossed in for good measure. And Phineas, like other hard luck P.I-types, seems to attract the attention of the ladies despite perhaps looking and acting like he has been ridden hard and put away wet most of the time. Even though he has rough edges (or maybe because he does), Phineas is a likable sort, making his tale easy to read and entertaining.
Tim Long stretches himself beyond the zombie apocalyptic genre he normally haunts with this one, although he gives a winking nod to his roots with a few zombies showing up, though they are not anywhere near being a critical part of the telling of this tale. He has crafted an interesting world with the magical elements fantasy fans will appreciate while putting his own slant on things, making this world his and his alone. The characters are interesting and diverse enough to make them stand out and I can imagine some pretty intriguing adventures in their future. A fun read that has excellent potential as the start of an enjoyable series of books.
At The Behest Of The Dead can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EZCXA9M/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Well it is Friday the 13th and while many folks consider that bad luck, I think it is a great day…and the start of a great weekend. Especially for fans of great apocalyptic fiction. Permuted Press, my publisher, has decided that this would be a great weekend to promote the heck out of virtually every one of the books they offer on Kindle by having a sale that runs through Sunday. So go on over to Amazon to check things out. Just click on the picture below and you’ll be sent to the list of books for sale, including all three books in my trilogy: Comes The Dark, Into The Dark, and Beyond The Dark. Plenty of other fantastic books can be found on sale, including plenty of ones that I’ve reviewed here. So here is your chance to pick them up for either 99 cents or $2.99 when they’re regularly around $7.99. So check it out, and as they say over at Permuted, Enjoy the Apocalypse!
100 Days in Deadland introduces the reader to a young woman living in Des Moines, Iowa who is thrust into the start of the zombie apocalypse within the very first paragraph. The story starts out with a bang, with Cash (a nickname she is given early on in the story) getting attacked by a woman who has gotten infected in her office. She narrowly escapes the assault and flees with another co-worker as everyone around them goes mad-either with infection or panic. While the duo race from the office they realize that the entire world is rapidly being consumed by the living dead and there is little hope that they will find anyplace safe. Narrowly escaping from another harrowing assault on the highway, Cash manages to hook up with an over-the-road truck driver nicknamed Clutch, who reluctantly takes her out of the city to the farm in the Iowa countryside where he lives.
Despite her efforts to appeal to his sympathetic side, Clutch isn’t too interested in lending long term shelter to Cash, who he believes, like many city dwellers, has very few real survival skills. She is just another mouth he will have to feed and protect when his main focus should be doing his best to survive on his own. But Cash is determined to prove to Clutch that she can stand on her own two feet and deal with both the undead and every other hardship that comes her way.
100 Days in Deadland tells the story of Cash’s journey through the nine circles of hell and her efforts to keep her mind and her body intact, no matter how many nightmares this new world throws at her. The author makes it clear that this tale is her translation of the first poem in Dante’s Divine comedy, as seen through the eyes of a zombie apocalypse survivor. Though she details the story’s comparable elements in the forward and afterward, and entitles each section of the book with a new circle of hell, the story requires no experience of having read any of Dante’s works to appreciate what is happening to Cash on the book’s pages.
This is not the first zompoc tale that has referenced Dante’s Inferno. Kim Paffenroth wrote an even more closely aligned tale with the main character being Dante himself in “Valley of the Dead.” That story tells the tale of how Dante survived a zombie apocalypse in a remote area of Europe which in turn influenced his writing of his master work. Rachel Aukes takes very different approach, giving the reader a modern bent on her main character’s journey through hell.
This is a fast paced, fly by the seat of your pants type story, with plenty of action to go around for the avid zombie fan. Cash is a solid main character, and since this story is told in first person, we get to see the world through her eyes as it transforms around her and how it transforms her as well-from someone who has lived a sheltered life to someone bound and determined to build the much needed callouses on her body and soul that will allow her to survive while at the same time doing her best not forgetting what it means to be human.
The zombies here are fairly traditional, with the increasingly popular slant of having them faster the more recent their infection and dependent on the level of damage they’ve absorbed. The older undead are the more well-known slow and slouching variety. Despite the tie-in to Dante, the story here is fairly traditional zombie apocalypse centered stuff, with the human menace being more fearsome and terrifying than the undead. There were some intriguing and devious combat techniques used by the villains that I will not spoil by sharing, but thought was quite creative.
Cash is an underdog character who is admittedly weak and timid at first but comes to accept that the only way she won’t be a burden and will be able to survive and thrive in this new world is to adapt and grow tougher and wiser at the same time. She learns how to fight and defend herself from Clutch, who is ex-military, and improvises given the fact that she isn’t a burly warrior with a great deal of combat experience. She also teaches Clutch to have a reason to care for someone else after having resigned himself to a solitary existence filled with nothing more than staving off the living dead.
Overall, this is a solid and entertaining zombie apocalypse book. Though the author has written this as a variation of Dante’s Inferno, it is not dramatically different than many other zombie apocalypse tales in its delivery or overall storyline. Still, the characters are accessible and appealing, the action smooth, and the journey of Cash is worth taking with her, even if the ending is a bit abrupt. I am not one to complain about cliff hanger endings, or endings that sew everything else up nicely, but this ending left me a bit frustrated, puzzled over whether the author has plans on writing her versions of Dante’s Purgatory and Paradise next or if Cash’s story is finished. Regardless of this minor criticism, this is an entertaining zombie apocalypse read worth checking out.
100 Days in Deadland can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1470188058/ref=cm_cr_thx_view