Hunter of the Dead does its best to shed new light into vampire mythology with a story spanning the ages from the early days of vampires and the inquisitors who wage a constant war with them to today, when a strange monster, shrouded in mystery, has come forth, slaying both vampires and inquisitors alike.
The story passes through multiple time periods, flashing back into the history of characters both significant and petty, while the main story focuses on events occuring in present day Las Vegas. Cicatrice, the strongest immortal in the world and leader of the most powerful house of vampires, is locked in a war with all other rival houses, including house Signari, led by Father Otto, Cicatrice’s greatest rival. Cicatrice has just found his true heir, Idi Han, a freshly turned but incredibly powerful young vampire who shows remarkable skills and control over her powers. We are also introduced to Nico Salazar, night manager of a convenience store who is thrust into the world of night dwellers when his store gets attacked by a strange, vampire-like creature and only by luck and the assistance of an employee does he manage to survive. It turns out that his ragged compatriot is Carter Price, an inquisitor who looks like he’s been run through mill a few too many times to be classified as much of a vampire slayer.
There is a lot going on in this story, with the authors own unique take on the world of vampires and immortality being shared on its pages. Kozeniewski does bring some fresh takes to the genre, with his own brand of dark humor steeped in heavy doses of gore drenched horror. The main characters are solidly developed-in particular Idi Han-the young vampire whose powers are growing at a far more rapid rate than normal, along with her resentment toward being seen as some sort of savior of her kind. Also intriguing is Carter Price, the washed out, rough and tumble inquisitor that likes to go it alone in a profession that typically requires massive teamwork to survive given how much power immortals wield.
This story is jam packed with characters and flashbacks that lend a healthy appreciation for the history of the immortal bloodlines and the wars they’ve waged with one another and humankind. The advantage with that is that the story moves at a very fast clip-there is very little downtime in its pages. Unfortunately, this also means that some of the flesh on its bones I would have liked to have seen within the pages is hard to find. This is a tale that could have been further developed with a much larger work, or perhaps sliced into multiple novels about the diverse characters populating its pages. The Hunter, a malignant and yet fascinating monster, could have garnered for more pages and storyline here, but so to could have Idi Han, Cicatrice, and Carter Price. It is clear that there is more to tell with each of them and given that the author has left the door open for a sequel (or a series of books), perhaps we will see a great deal more of each of them in later works.
Overall, the writing here, as is typically the case with Kozeniewski, is rock solid. He knows how to weave a creative, darkly funny, and diabolical tale. Perhaps it isn’t much of a criticism that his story could have been more fleshed out-after all, leaving the audience wanting more isn’t the worst sin in the world.
Hunter of the Dead can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Hunter-Dead-Stephen-Kozeniewski/dp/1944044310/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491760206&sr=8-1&keywords=hunter+of+the+dead
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