The Old One takes place in the sleepy little town of Top Sail Beach on an island off the coast of North Carolina. Like most little towns, it has its share of secrets and skeletons in the closet. Unfortunately, one particular bit of darkness from its past has chosen to rise up out of the sea to wreak unholy havoc on the little burg.
We are first introduced to one elderly resident of the town who is out fishing one night while lamenting the passing of his wife when he gets a nibble on his line and either falls into the ocean or perhaps is yanked in and nearly drowns. Miraculously saved by his neighbor who was passing by the pier his small boat was tied to, he awakens the next day not quite himself. Something evil is inside him and it isn’t satisfied with possessing just him-it wants much more.
The Old One is a Lovecraft inspired tale that mixes Cthulhu mythology with a new take on the living dead, with interesting results. The main character is Max, a transplant to Topsail Beach who has become content living in the isolated little community despite knowing he’ll never be considered a local by many of the residents. He lives with Hanna, his wife, and has a job as a mechanic at one of the local shops. Shortly after we are introduced to Max his world is turned upside down when he and Hanna are attacked by his neighbors who are maimed and appear to be dead. As unbelievable as that seems, it isn’t the worst of it. When he is forced to destroy one of his attackers, vile squid-like creatures burst forth from the ghoul’s stomach and begin the hunt for new flesh to latch on to.
This story is a whirlwind of blood, guts, and nightmarish creatures that get worse at every turn. At first, Max can’t comprehend what is happening, but as the night wears on and the lashing storm that has engulfed the island grows stronger, more hints as to what is really happening reveal themselves. There is something far worse at work here than a plague of foul leaches turning humans into cannibalistic puppets. Because there is something those creatures call mother and it has also risen from the dark depths of the ocean, a true horror to behold.
The Old One is fun and interesting take on the Cthulhu mythos-sort of a side-story to the mythology about a single dark and almost forgotten god whose true purpose is cloaked in mystery. The author’s enthusiasm for Lovecraftian horror shines through on each page and while this story is not perfect, his exuberance makes up for the fact that it felt like there were a few gaps in the story, or more specifically, the back story. The yearning to learn more about what came before and what causes the Old One to rise up from the sea remains in me well after reading this tale, but perhaps is how it is meant to be. The story could use another pass to clean up some of the typos left behind, but overall the writing is sharp and Mr. Douglas continues to impress with the creativity in each of his new tales. Despite the length of this book, it has the feel of a short story that reads like a surprising slap across the face that leaves you a bit stunned and disconcerted about what just happened…which isn’t a bad thing when it comes to horror.
The Old One can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00E3LZY44/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Cthulhu Unbound 3 consists of four novellas, each with their own slant on Lovecraft’s mythos. Overall, the writing and storytelling is solid and the stories are what you both desire and expect of tales told about the realm of dark gods and menacing monsters.
Unseen Empire by Cody Goodfellow is a western that takes place primarily on and beneath an abandoned Indian reservation in Oklahoma, where a half-Indian tracker must go beneath the earth to find out what happened to the people who suddenly disappeared from the reservation. As he and the detachment of U.S. soldiers go deeper into the underground lair where they suspect the Indians have fled to, the reader is treated to several flashbacks of the main character’s past life and it slowly becomes clear what dark forces he is being compelled to face within the dark depths.
Mirrorrorrim by D.L. Snell focuses on an odd therapy group and its even odder therapist. The main character has blank spots in his memory and another member of the group, a woman who he is drawn to, shares a very strange connection with him. They fit with one another like pieces of a puzzle, or like the title suggests, mirror image parallels.
Nemesis Theory by Tim Curran introduces the reader to a maximum security prison and a select group of inmates who are beginning to realize that they are on a crash course with a gruesome nightmare that none of them will be able to avoid. Death and far worse is creeping closer and closer to them all every night, from far out in the galaxy. If you are familiar with Tim Curran’s work, you know he is a maestro when it comes to describing gore in loving detail and this story is no exception.
The R’lyeh Singularity by David Conyers & Brian M. Sammons is a tale of espionage and the efforts of two spies to stop greedy governments and corporations from tampering with inter-dimensional ‘goodies’ they have discovered on earth, as well as preventing the end of all humanity when darkness tears through a rift at the bottom of the pacific ocean where a mega-corporation is drilling…not for oil, but for something far more menacing and alien.
I enjoyed each story for their unique spin on the Cthulhu mythos, with my favorite being the last member of the quartet. The story was high energy spy thriller that integrates the horror of the Cthulhu mythos effortlessly. My one critique of this story is that there were a noticeable amount of typos that weren’t as prevalent in the other three stories. It was a minor distraction but worth mentioning. The other three stories were equally entertaining, for different reasons. Tim Curran does an excellent job in his tale building the dread levels to an almost unbearable level for the inmates in his doomed prison, with both mysterious events and visions riddling them with newfound terrors on a daily basis. D.L. Snell has created an intimate tale of technology gone amuck and strange interpersonal relationships, while Cody Goodfellow’s plunge into the old west and an underground city of the damned felt like a diabolical quest that I was cursed to complete alongside the main character.
For fans of Cthulhu and Lovecraft, this is a solid contribution to the mythology and one worth checking out.
Cthulhu Unbound 3 can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B009O3XFBA/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
If God Doesn’t Show is a modern take on Cthulhu mythos by H.P. Lovecraft and the efforts of a cult to bring about his return. We are introduced to Thaddeus Archer, a secret service agent who is dealing with a wife who is struggling with mental illness and a teenage daughter who resents him for having her mother locked away in a mental institution. Things change when Casey, his daughter, is abducted by the same mysterious cult which desires the Old Ones return. Time passes and Thaddeus gets close but cannot find his daughter, and his obsession causes him to get demoted after several agents die in a bloody raid on the cult.
Then in an instant, everything changes, and the world shifts as the cult prepares to open the way for Cthulhu to return. But before he can come, the rift into the void brings with it shadows-dark creatures that makes puppets of the dead and sometimes even the living, with their only goal of destruction of humanity. But these creatures, or even the doomsday cult who accidentally let them into our dimension, are not the only forces at work trying to destroy humanity. Thaddeus will have to work not only with the few other survivors at his side who have escaped the initial onslaught of the shadows, but a man who has lived through many lives and has struggled with darkness and evil in every one of them if the former secret service agent wants to save his daughter and prevent the Old Ones from rising up from the mysterious island that now floats in the pacific ocean.
If God Doesn’t Show is an interesting take on the Cthulhu mythos, filled with action from start to finish and topped off with plenty of darkness and intrigue. What starts out as a personal tale of one man on a hunt to find his daughter abruptly changes into something far more earthshattering in a grand and dramatic fashion. We are introduced to Blount, the character who has been reincarnated time and time again, about halfway through the book. He is positioned as a possible savior of humanity, destined to struggle with all forms of evil in each of his lifetimes. When we are introduced to him, he is on a mission with a group of government operatives heading to the strange island in the pacific that has a dark, impossible city buried within its jungles.
The two main characters spent most of this tale rushing toward the same objective and the pacing is fast and intense. While I found myself rooting for Thaddeus, Blount is the far more interesting character, surrounded by the supernatural and flashing back to past lives filled with battles against darkness. Their separate treks are both filled with mystery and energy, though that energy dissipates somewhat toward the end of the story, with what I could best describe as an extended epilogue. Giving away more details would be providing spoilers, which I like to avoid, but I felt as if the story lost a bit of its momentum going into the home stretch.
The authors provide excellent details surrounding the mixture of Lovecraft and Christian elements, though there were some questions I had that were left unanswered about the cult and their choices of sacrifice, though those quibbles were fairly minor. Overall, this was a fun read-a nice spin on the Cthulhu mythos with a few twisty elements tossed in for good measure. Of the two main characters, Blount was by far the more intriguing and the brief flashbacks to his past lives were intriguing tidbits that I would have liked to have seen more of. Perhaps this story doesn’t call for a sequel, but it might be interesting visiting some of Blount’s past lives.
If God Doesn’t Show can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1618680560/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Peter Clines is fast becoming one of my favorite new writing talents out there. He has written two of the best cross genre zombie tales and his Junkie Quatrain is the zombie story Quentin Tarantino should direct if he ever wants to take a swipe at the undead. 14 takes a different turn, leaving the undead behind and providing the reader with a mystery-thriller that is like a gift wrapped in countless layers of paper that you have to dig through with relentless determination to reveal the truth underneath.
Nate is a working class stiff living near Hollywood who is getting by on data processing temp work that barely pays the bills when his roommates decide to head off in different directions, leaving him searching for a new home with barely the funds necessary to get an apartment. A minor acquaintance suggests a place near Hollywood that has dirt cheap rent and covers the utilities. It seems almost too good to be true, but as Nate settles in and meets several of his neighbors, he begins to notice several strange things about the place. Certain light fixtures don’t work the way they should, apartments are locked up tight with no one living in them for ages, there is an elevator that has never worked, and a storeroom in the basement that is sealed up tight as a drum. Strange cockroaches scrabble across the floor, each apartment has a different floor plan, and it doesn’t appear as if any power lines are coming into the building. On top of it all is a building manager who urges everyone to avoid asking questions and just be grateful for the cheap place to live, which adds even more fuel to the fire and causes Nate and his new found friends to begin investigating everything strange about the place.
Finding out everything he can about the Kavach building becomes Nate’s overriding obsession and he leads what amounts to a Scooby Doo mystery squad of other neighbors on the hunt for the truth. And the truth, slowly revealed in bits and pieces until the whole mystery begins to unravel in faster and faster chunks kept me intrigued throughout. I liked how the story ties in alternative literature, supernatural elements and historical tidbits that gave the story plenty of heft. It is a grand, wide-spanning tale that makes Nate’s obsession make sense and kept me guessing every step of the way, especially as more and more is uncovered about the strange old place. There were plenty of twists and turns and the reveals as the story goes along that were quite satisfying.
Peter Clines has stepped away from the undead and superheroes to provide his audience with something new and fun that I enjoyed a great deal. The characters all had depth that made them feel genuine and real, Nate was a likeable lead and the way he connects with everyone else in the apartment complex was natural and their relationships believable. The creepy elements of the story were well thought out each one is approached with style and wit. A good read for anyone who likes mysteries with a supernatural bent to them. 14 is a blast.