Writer of Horror Fiction

Posts tagged “kindle

Review of Steven Pajak’s “Mad Swine: The Beginning”

Mad Swine: The Beginning is a first person zombie apocalypse tale that takes place during the initial days of infection and the downfall of civilization.  It begins in the city of Chicago and the moves out into the suburbs where the main character, a University Administrator and former military man, takes charge of the people in his neighborhood to defend against both the infected and the living.  The zombies in this tale are actually not the living dead, but more accurately infected/still living, though the author essentially turns them into zombies by applying the same rule as you have with undead: you can shoot them repeatedly, but unless you get them in the head, they won’t go down.  There is an interesting slant in that they still sleep, which makes for some interesting situations when the characters come across a few snoozing undead.

The story moves at a fast clip, with very little build up before the introduction of panic and mayhem enters the main character’s life after he has reported to work one morning.  The infected are fast movers, so the infection, which seems to come out of nowhere, spreads like wildfire and makes the first few chapters an adrenaline soaked nightmare for Matt, our main character.  It doesn’t take long for the reality of this uprising to hit home with personal loss which carries over for him as he manages to make it back home to the suburbs.  He discovers that several communities have banded together to protect one another from the “crazies”, as Matt has dubbed them, and given his military background he is called upon to take the lead in his own gated community.  Matt comes prepared, with a veritable arsenal and a brother who lives with him who also has military experience.  Together they take charge and plan for the well being and safety of their people.  Mad Swine: The Beginning takes place within the first few days after the apocalypse.  It reads fast and easy and while much of the zombie action takes place prior to Matt’s transition to suburban leader from urban refugee, the focus on human confrontations is a priority from then on.  I enjoyed some of the confrontations that offer up hints as to what is to be expected in the next book of the saga, including the clashes between the different neighborhoods and how they are forced to deal with one another.

Overall, this was a fun, entertaining zombie read.  It doesn’t necessarily bring much new to the table with the zombies or the setting, but the main character is solidly developed and his story made for an interesting ride.  While the book cuts off abruptly, the closing chapters set the stage for some potentially interesting developments in the second book of this saga.

I do my best to point out any concerns I have with each story I read and as is the case with every book, there were things I took exception to with Mad Swine.  My main concern here has to do with what I would dub the chaos and the calm.  By the chaos, I mean that the infection happens so quickly and spreads with such vigor that the world falls apart entirely around Matt in what seems like minutes.  Things are such a blur at first that there is virtually no appearance by either the police or military in this story.  The city falls to pieces almost immediately and the crazies rule the streets within hours.  And by the calm, I mean how dramatically different it is within the suburban conclaves where Matt and most of the other characters in this book live.  Everyone there seems to be on the same page, willing to fall in line with the new regime that Matt creates without questioning it or anything for that matter.  Certainly, there is conflict between different neighborhoods, but it is limited and (at least in this book) fairly civil, all things considered.  The transition from the chaos of the first part of the book to the calm of the latter portion is abrupt and would have made more sense had the chaos Matt sees in the city bled over into the ‘burbs a bit more.  While Matt, would seem like a natural choice as a leader for his neighborhood with his military experience and rather excessive arsenal, the fact that everyone within his gated community goes along with that decision without question or any who appears to be reluctant about such an idea seemed a stretch to me.

Despite this concern that I had with the story, it remains a solid, action filled apocalyptic saga with interesting characters and a storyline that has me intrigued and curious about what happens next.  I look forward to checking out the next book in the series when it becomes available.

Mad Swine: The Beginning can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Mad-Swine-Beginning-Steven-Pajak/dp/1618680013/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1338266426&sr=1-1

Review of Jim LaVigne’s “Plaguesville, USA”

Plaguesville, USA tells a tale set in a world several years after much of the human population has been wiped out by a lethal virus.  The timeframe is in the late 2070’s, and much of the United States has turned into a desecrated land filled with survies, as they are called: gangs, small fiefdoms, cannibals, mutants, and a few people trying to maintain some sense of civilization.  We are introduced to Dr. Justin Kaes, an epidemiologist from the CDC in New Atlanta who has found himself in charge of a mission to prevent the “Sick,” as the plague has been dubbed, from reinventing itself and destroying what is left of the meager human population.  He has been sent to collect the one man who has survived the original iteration of the plague and whose blood might help them create a vaccine for whatever new iterations may come about.  He is Howard Lampert, a crusty, cranky old man of 102 who lives in Minnesota.  The story picks up after Justin and his team have picked up Mr. Lampert and are on their way to San Francisco, where there are doctors waiting who have the resources to craft the potential vaccine.  The doctor and his team’s massive RV has run out of fuel down in Oklahoma, where they are surrounded by gangs and religious zealots who also happen to be cannibals.  We are introduced to Teresa, a member of one of the local gangs, who’s interested in hitting the bricks because she has grown weary of the Blood Claws (not to mention that more than one member of the gang has tried to rape her).  She crosses paths with Justin as he and the others are trying to figure out what to do to keep moving west and the duo form an unlikely partnership.  The story tells of their adventures, which include an onslaught of virtually every post-apocalyptic danger imaginable, except perhaps for zombies, as they try to complete an almost impossible mission.

Plaguesville gives the reader a thoroughly realized post-apocalyptic world that isn’t set in our time, but over a half a century in the future.  Each chapter provides a nice little beginning blurb giving the reader a small taste of the world before the fall, with advertisements about the food, entertainment, and culture that adds additional flavor to the story.  As readers will note, this tale has an interesting arrangement with the characters.  Justin is the main character and we see the world through his eyes in many ways, but as Mr. Lampert comes from our day and age (he would be around 38 right now), it is easy to identify with him and his perspective on a bombed out, shell shocked world of plague and Mad Max sensibilities.  Justin is a doctor on a mission who finds himself attracted to the barbaric and yet incredibly enticing Teresa, and Mr. Lampert brings an old fashion sensibility to the story that is entertaining and somewhat humorous in spots, while getting dark and gruesome in others.  While Justin the voice of ethics and morality in a world with very little of such things, Lampert is the grumpy voice of reason and sanity in a world gone mad.

The story runs its cast through several different adventures-they meet the good, the bad, and the ugly that remain in the world, and there are quite a few secondary characters’ stories told that intertwine with the main cast as the tale runs toward its completion.  Again, the author has done a good job of laying out a detailed post-apocalyptic world and gives us a saga with plenty of action and adventure.  Time and again, Justin’s mission is on the brink of oblivion, but he continues to maintain hope and believe that as long as Lampert remains alive they can resolve things.  In some ways, it felt like there were almost too many near misses in the story, but it kept things moving at a fast clip.  Overall, this was a fun read, with a few gentle messages that weren’t too heavy-handed about corruption, craving for power, and man’s undeniable lust to cause his own destruction.  The growing attraction between Justin and Teresa is handled with a deft hand that made it feel believable and touching, despite the fact that these two people were worlds apart in so many ways.  If I have a criticism of this book, it would perhaps be that the story does not feel complete.  We are only introduced to the CDC team once they’ve broken down in Oklahoma and not when they set out from Atlanta, pick up Mr. Lampert, and make their way through so many other adventures leading up to that point.  Granted, the book is already a healthy 350 pages, but I felt as if there were more stories to be told.  Even with this minor complaint, this is an entertaining and robust post-apocalyptic tale with entertaining characters and a setting that was quite compelling.

Plaguesville, USA can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Plaguesville-USA-ebook/dp/B0078FN0RA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1336273247&sr=8-1

Review of Sean Schubert’s “Infection: Alaskan Undead Apocalypse”

Infection: Alaskan Undead Apocalypse takes place mainly in Anchorage, and begins with a family of tourists from Minnesota who are traveling to Alaska on vacation.  The younger boy, Martin, has brought along a friend, Danny, and the family plans on spending time out in the woods at a cabin near a glacier.  Almost immediately upon arrival at the cabin, Martin, his sister Jules, and Danny discover what appears to be a dead body stuck in the melting glacier.  Thinking it is a caveman, they pose next to it, taking pictures.  When the caveman turns out to be a thawed zombie, and Martin gets bitten, the family races back to Anchorage to a hospital as Martin’s health rapidly deteriorates.  All hell breaks loose when the boy ends up dying in the hospital, gets back up, and attacks everyone around him.

Things rapidly spin out of control from there, with a plague of undead spilling outside the walls of the hospital and onto the streets of Anchorage.  Within a matter of hours, the entire city is under siege by a horde of fast moving undead devouring and infecting everyone in their path.

Throughout the course of this book, the first in a planned trilogy, we are introduced to the people that make up two main groups of survivors.  One group is led by Dr. Caldwell, who was treating Martin at the hospital, and the other lead by Neil, an office worker who witnesses one of the first zombie attacks outside of the hospital (and the two surviving children-Jules and Danny-end up with him as well).  The pages telling the story of these characters are intermingled with various graphic scenes of carnage as Anchorage is ripped to shreds and the police and military are unable to do much to stop the tide of death rushing over them.

Infection: Alaskan Undead Apocalypse is a fun, fast-paced tale of zombie mayhem that barely gives you time to breath, and zombie fans who crave plenty of gore and undead action should enjoy it.  The main characters are well developed and give the reader a few folks to root for as well as one in particular to loathe, which keeps things interesting from start to finish.

As I always try to do, I point out areas of concern with a story, and I have a couple of them with Infection.

The first is a minor point, but one that I feel deserves mentioning.  Alaska appears in the title of the book, and as such, I expected this story to bring some unique elements to the table based on the locale.  Unfortunately, while the author knows Anchorage like the back of his hand, the city felt no different than any other place on the map.  Perhaps the sequels will insert more of the distinctive ‘flavor’ of Alaska in them that will make this story stand out more.

My second issue has to do with one particular character, a police officer.  I felt that he would have been far more intriguing character if he wasn’t a cop, but I found it hard to buy into him being an officer of the law.  From the beginning, he makes no effort to take a leadership role in a crisis situation, letting Dr. Caldwell handle that role in a non-medical crisis.  All I know is that if I were trying to flee from the impending apocalypse and I was in a group with a police officer, I would be looking to him for direction, not a doctor (even as you are racing down the halls of a hospital).  But strangely enough, no one calls him on this until well into the book, and by then, I was wondering how this guy ever passed whatever psychological test is required to become an Anchorage cop in the first place.  Again, he would have been a far more interesting character were he not a cop.

Overall, I felt that this story has the potential to be a solid zombie trilogy.  Infection doesn’t really bring anything new to the table-there are no big surprises to be had for zombie fans here-but my hope is that the author turns things up a notch in the sequels to give this story a flavor of the northlands that leaves a lasting impression.

Infection: Alaskan Undead Apocalypse can be found here:  http://www.amazon.com/Infection-Alaskan-Apocalypse-Sean-Schubert/dp/1618680161/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335667874&sr=1-1

Review of Matthew Warner’s “Blood Born”

Blood Born starts out as a horror mystery, where victims of rape in the Washington D.C. area are all impregnated and the gestation period is accelerated to the point where it is forty times faster than normal.  In other words, these women will produce a full term baby within one week.  The case is being handled by Detective Christina Randall and we are introduced to her and Margaret Connolly, the mother of one of the rape victims, who also happens to be a fertility specialist working for a local fertility clinic that also does genetic research.

As with any mystery, we are given hints and details as to the M.O. of the rapist as the due date on the first few victims draws near and it becomes clear fairly quickly that the rapist is not quite human.  The pieces of the puzzle begin to fit together, but then the book took a dramatic change.

This tale becomes an entirely different type of horror novel somewhere between a third and halfway through, where monsters run rampant, annihilating everything in their path.  The transition was jarring, to say the least, though I don’t necessarily mean that as a negative.  But be forewarned that while the mystery continues to unravel all the way up until the end of this tale, it takes a backseat to the violent and graphic action that dominates the second half of this book.

This story has a flavor of a patient zero type apocalyptic tale, with a significant build-up to the point where all hell breaks loose.  When it does break lose, the story turns on the afterburners and blasts ahead at a hundred miles an hour.  The author does a solid job working to explain the science behind the beasts in the story, though I was left with plenty more questions about them and how they would co-exist with the rest of the world.  That is the challenge with diving into the science of something like this-there are often a lot of questions that are difficult to answer vs. making the creatures in question a complete mystery.

Overall, this is a fast paced book with a lot of surprising deaths and plenty of gruesome action.  With rape being a key part of the story, it probably won’t appeal to certain chunk of audience out there, but it is a well written scientific tale of horror.  While I was expecting it to be a more subtle mystery throughout, when the gears shifted and story changed from that to an adrenaline fueled nightmare, I was able to adapt my expectations.  The author keeps things moving at a good clip throughout and this was an easy and entertaining novel to read.  I do sense that there is a distinct possibility of a sequel based on the ending, though this book can definitely be considered a stand-alone tale.

Blood Born can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Born-Matthew-Warner/dp/0979234638/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335452721&sr=1-3

Review of “Rise” by Gareth Wood

Rise was written as a blog online originally and as the author mentions in the prolog, he wrote it as the days passed in 2004-2005 when the story takes place. He paid attention to the weather patterns, studied the environments he was leading his characters through, etc. So essentially, this book was fairly early to the zombie writing party-before the onslaught of books started showing up in places like Amazon and on bookshelves at bookstores. Of course, with its introduction via Permuted Press to a wider audience in 2012, it comes during the thick of things-when journal type tales of the apocalypse have been done on a regular basis over the past six or so years, along with a wide array of other first person and third person zombie sagas. Credit to the author for crafting this piece before so many others had taken a swipe at the genre-I wish I had read it when it had originally come out because I am sure it would have felt truly fresh and new at that time.
Like other journal format tales, this story goes through the daily struggles of a survivor (this time a man named Brian who lives in western Canada) from just before until almost a year after the dead have risen. The journey we are treated to takes us on a wandering path where Brian and his sister meet up with other survivors, avoid the undead, try to gather supplies, avoid other desperate humans, interact with the military, go on rescue missions, and just try to cope with a world turned upside down. Journal writing gives an author an opportunity to detail out all the minor details that many other tales would leave out simply because they tend to focus on the elements that move the story forward at every step of the way. Journals do this too, but the whole idea seems to more or less be focused on giving you a real flavor of how people cope, which requires getting down to the nitty gritty.
Most of my criticisms of this tale would stem from the journal format and not the author’s writing, which is solid and keeps things moving. One of the things that seem almost impossible to do with this format is allowing the reader to get into the moment with the characters on the page. This happens because there is virtually no dialogue-nothing that anchors the action and relationships in the present moment. Almost always, the story is being written a day, or even several days, after the events being chronicled have occurred. This author, like others, tends to announce critical details in the first sentence of every new entry, which allows you to know, in vague terms, what is about to happen on the next few pages of the story, and in the next few days of the lives of the characters. Journal entries lack tension, though they provide you with a detailed picture of events. This is the blessing and the curse of this writing format.
If there was a genuine criticism that I have for this tale, unrelated to the journal format, is the fact that the story seems to carry on beyond its natural ending point through several more adventures of the main character. My guess is that in the original writing of the blog, the author was trying to determine a stopping point and picked one at a place where there is a relative lull in action and perhaps when he grew tired with relating the saga. With that said, the story could have stopped much earlier, or could have carried on for months and even years beyond the point where things are concluded-through the course of the apocalypse. I suppose that is another challenge related to journaling; the days of your life are not set up in neat, tidy condensed tales that will fit perfectly into a book-like story. Instead, it moves on, with different story lines always happening and intertwining at all times. In essence, this story could have gone on for another hundred pages or more, and could have ended fifty plus pages earlier, with the same result.
I don’t intend for my criticism of the journal format to speak as a negative about the authors writing capability-he has written an entertaining story in a format that is challenging, to say the least. It kept me reading from start to finish and I was definitely entertained. Rise is a solid entry into the zombie genre, and I hope to see more (perhaps in another format) from this author.

Rise can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Rise-Gareth-Wood/dp/1618680102/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1332714817&sr=1-2

Review of Alien Apocalypse-The Storm by Dean Giles

Alien Apocalypse-The Storm is a short story that takes place just as a comet is cutting a close path near the earth. Something has been hanging out on the comet, and comes down to earth, covering everything with a green mold like growth that devours everything living in its path. The story splits perspectives between Leon, a father imprisoned for manslaughter and just about to fulfill his term, and his son, Elliot, who is living with his aunt and uncle, waiting for his dad to be released. Leon is stuck in solitary confinement during the initial landing of the green growth that carves a swath of destruction through the prison. Only the prison guard who comes into his cell and a woman who is a clerk at the prison who hid in locker manage to avoid the mayhem. Elliot, living on a remote farm, also escapes the first wave of destruction, and the hunt is on for Leon, now freed from prison, to get to his son in time before everything is destroyed.
This is a fast paced, nicely done apocalyptic short story, with a promise for more to come from the author. For a brief tale, Leon, the father, is developed nicely as a character you can appreciate and the author tosses some nice twists into a tale whose main villain is a moss-like substance. Overall, plenty of fun, and I will be interested to see where Dean Giles takes things from here.

Alien Apocalypse-The Storm can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Alien-Apocalypse-The-Storm-ebook/dp/B005JE2W7Q/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1331961140&sr=1-1 

Review of “Candy” by Gerald Dean Rice

Candy is actually the title of the first of two short stories in this Kindle download, with the second entitled “Mr. Cumberland’s Last Magic Show.” Since they are short stories, it’s difficult to do more than give a brief description of both stories without giving too much away. Candy is about a man who has always been faithful to his wife, despite a lack of a love life between them. When a beautiful girl walks into the diner he’s sitting in and aggressively propositions him, he has no choice but to follow her up to her hotel room. Last Magic Shows tells the tale of Floyd, a magician who has a knack for making things disappear and reappear. But the real trick is that his magic is real, what he is capable of doing with that magic terrifies him.
Both stories have a bit of madness to them-twisty darkness with endings that stick with you after you’ve finished reading them. Candy starts out as a pretty straight-laced adultery story with a disturbing completion that might give potential cheaters pause. Magic was my favorite of the two tales, with a surreal quality to it that remains throughout, growing more intriguingly wicked as it comes to a conclusion.
For the price, it’s a bargain to check out these two well written stories by an up and coming independent writer.

Candy can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Candy-ebook/dp/B006JT5U1K/ref=sr_1_8?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1330304403&sr=1-8

Review of Craig Jones’ “Outbreak: The Zombie Apocalypse”

Outbreak is a zombie outbreak tale told from the first person perspective of Matt, a young man living on a gated estate with his younger brother, Danny.  Their parents died a few years earlier, leaving them independently wealthy and living close to a fairly small, remote village in south Whales.  They don’t have jobs and no other reason to venture out from behind their walls-especially with the government telling everyone to remain hidden while the undead roam the land.  But there are other people begging for help in their little village like Nick, his wife, and three children.  So the two brothers, watching as the undead slowly creep into their lives, try to do what they can to help those around them.

Outbreak is, in many ways, a pretty routine tale of an undead uprising.  The zombies here are slow, stupid, and until they see blood they tend to be fairly limited in their reactions to humans (at least from a distance- the living who get near them are brutalized, naturally).  This is a story of two brothers’ relationship and how they cope, and in ways, grow into something more than the leisurely slackers they’ve been most of their lives before this crisis consumes them and everyone around them.  They find it hard to react to what is happening at first, as does everyone else, but before long it changes them from carefree lay bouts into desperate souls willing to risk their lives for people they barely know.

In other ways, this story is different than the majority of zombie tales out there.  The outbreak is contained to Great Britain, which is sealed off from the rest of the world while the inhabitants either eradicate the undead or humanity is wiped off the island completely.  Another aspect of the tale that is different is that living actually manage to turn the tide here, but not before the brothers and their new found friends face tremendous perils, witness the gruesome demise of several people they are trying to save, and are forced to cope with heart wrenching loss.

But the story does not stop when the undead are defeated…

The story carries forward from there, and this simple story of the zombie apocalypse takes a couple of interesting turns.  Without revealing too much (or any spoilers), I can say that this book has three very different parts to it, and what I have described above only encompasses the first of the three.

I’m not sure how to react to the book in its entirety.  It is written well, and I did grow somewhat attached to Matt, despite his self-absorption and inability, at times, to see things beyond his own misery.  He grows and changes through the tale, but not necessarily matures, and not all of his changes are positive or smart.  This leads to the intriguing, if somewhat slow moving second part of the book, and the shocking third and final act.

At times, I was wondering why the story was continuing on long past the putting down of the undead, and in retrospect, I think the author could have condensed things a bit in part two of the tale, just to move things along and get us to the adrenaline-drenched conclusion of the story.

Suspension of disbelief is always a key part of enjoying a good zombie tale.  There are a couple of instances in this story that might stretch that suspension of disbelief for some folks out there who like their zombies to be of the traditional variety.  I am not talking about the slow vs. fast debate, but what capabilities zombies have beyond being mindless eating machines.  For me, this wasn’t an issue, because I believe the creative liberties the author took here with the undead were intriguing, but it is fair to point out that if you tend to dislike seeing zombies doing more than acting like thoughtless predators, you might take issue with this story as it progresses.

Overall, this was an interesting and fun undead story.  The characters felt genuine and real to me, even if Matt and Danny were foolish, arrogant, and rash at times.  They were also likable and in their own way, quite noble.  Again, there are really three distinct acts here, and each one moves at a different pace.  While the first act could stand alone, the second, more plodding act allows the story to move to the final portion of this tale, which flies by at a blistering pace and had my heart racing before all was said and done.

Outbreak: The Zombie Apocalypse can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Outbreak-the-zombie-apocalypse-ebook/dp/B006T3IRD4/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1329434397&sr=1-1

Review of Craig Jones’ “What Happened to Rhodri”

Rhodri is a young man living with his girlfriend, and they have dreams of getting married and moving into their “forever house,” an expensive home next to a lake that has come on the market. They can afford the down payment with the amount of money they’ve saved as well as the monthly payments, by Rhodri’s calculations. The house represents everything that the couple could ever hope for. Alas, Rhodri’s girlfriend has been suckered into ‘loaning’ the money to her no-good brother, who is an intimidating gangster. Rhodri is advised by her as well as his closest friend not to make waves and give up on the dream of owning the house, rather than messing with the thuggish brother that is likely to squash him into oblivion if he stands up to him. But at some point in life, you have to make a stand, and do what’s right, despite the odds being stacked against you.
Of course, as you can probably surmise, things don’t go well for Rhodri, and the bulk of this tale deals with things…after they take a horrible turn for the worse.
This short story is a mix of a creepy zombie scares and a classic revenge story. The pacing is solid and I really was able to empathize with Rhodri, rooting for him even as he turns into more of a monster than the enemy he is facing (at least more of a monster on the outside). The story was fun and reminded me of an old episode of Tales From the Crypt, with just the right amount of twists and turns and splashed with plenty of gory fun to boot. The ending caused an devious grin to spread across my face. It, like the rest of story, was eminently satisfying.

What Happened to Rhodri can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/What-Happened-to-Rhodri-ebook/dp/B004UB3GY2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1328747973&sr=8-1

Review of Ryan C. Thomas’s “Hissers”

Hissers starts out giving the reader a hint as to what to expect with the rest of the story when we are introduced in the prologue to a General and a scientist in a government financed lab.  They are working on ways to help soldiers in war with healing and regeneration of limbs and have come across some significant success, though there is still work to be done.  But they need to sell what they’re doing to the higher ups to get more of the financing they need.  So they plan on flying across country and demonstrating what they have so far.  Fast forward to the start the actual story and we are introduced to a quartet of soon to be high school students-Connor, Seth, Nicole, and Amanita-who are preparing for the last weekend before school starts and their lives change dramatically as they move closer to adulthood in their little town.  There is a huge party that night, and some of them plan on attending.  But any plans they have come to a screeching to a halt when a plane crashes, plowing down the very street they were headed to for the party.  Rushing to see if they can help any survivors, they quickly discover that those that were killed in the crash are getting back up and have turned into ravenous undead monsters.  And these aren’t just your typical sprinter zombies, these are ones that have gained the ability to absorb replacement limbs that they themselves might end up tearing off their victims.  Not only replacements, but additional limbs.  This new race of the undead make an eerie hissing noise as they move and attack that gives the book its name.

The rest of the tale takes place over the course of the night and next day, with our four main characters racing for their lives and coping with tons of teenage angst and drama that comes with them normally.  They get to witness the demise of loved ones and just about everyone in their town.  No one is safe from these crazed monsters or the author’s willingness to hand over victims to the cause.  Parents are struck down, but so are children and even babies.  There is plenty of gore, action, and fast paced adrenaline drenched terror to go around for all.  Hissers was a lot of fun in that regard-the action is intense and the monsters are creative and scary-they aren’t quite zombies, but still have some of the same qualities we all know with the undead-you have to hit them in the head, their bites turn others into what they are, and they can be tricked and fooled because they aren’t too bright.

For the most part, the four main characters are fairly believable, though the author stretched that believe-ability for me on occasion with some of their dialog and inner-monologues.  It seemed somewhat forced on occasion, and a little overwrought.  I get that these kids are dealing with incredibly harrowing situations, but it seemed that they were becoming a bit too profound with their analysis of not only what was going on, but life in general and their beliefs (or lack of belief) in God.  This wasn’t something that distracted too much from my overall enjoyment of the tale, but something that definitely merits being brought up in this review.

Overall, Hissers is a fast paced, adrenaline charged zombie variation with some new and intriguing twists that occasionally bogs down with a few bits of overwrought dialog from its young cast, but nothing that should take away too much of your overall enjoyment of this creative, fun horror tale.

Hissers can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Hissers-Ryan-C-Thomas/dp/193486160X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1328673114&sr=1-1

Review of Carlos Sisi’s “The Wanderers”

The Wanderers is a translated version of a Spanish zombie novel brought over to the United States by Permuted Press.  This is a fairly traditional zombie tale that takes place in Malaga, Spain, a city on the Mediterranean coast.  It has an ensemble cast with several key characters that are focused on.  The tale covers the initial rise of the dead and carries through to when the city is controlled by the dead and very few of the living remain.  The zombies are a mix of slow and fast but I would say they are very traditional-they reaction to visual and audio stimulus and require that you do trauma to the brain to put them down.

While the zombies are the main obstacle for the living, as is the case with most quality zombie tales a human nemesis becomes the real problem.  In this case, it is a priest who has tortured himself while locked up in his church trying to find the meaning behind the dead rising and has naturally interpreted it as a clear sign of the Apocalypse.  Still, he doesn’t know why he has been spared, and in the madness that ensues, he submits himself to the zombie hordes outside the church, prepared to bring things to an end.  This is when he discovers that the undead have no interest in him.  They do not attack or try to eat him, but move past him, oblivious to his existence.  Taking this as the sign he has been waiting for from God, along with a note from some survivors pleading for help that blows by where he is standing, he sets out to become the Angel of Death.  He will use the undead to send the rest of the living straight to hell.

While the use of clergy who align themselves with the undead, or use them to defeat the living is nothing new in zombie storytelling, I think this is the first instance I have come across where a religious figure is given a genuine, if perhaps misguided, sign that they are special, and that God has granted them special powers.

The translation of this story from Spanish to English has a few hiccups, though none that really confused me.  There are perhaps a few words missing and some awkward translations, but overall it was good enough.  The story itself is solid enough, with a few characters that had a genuine feel to them that allowed me to grow attached and saddened by their loss, though there a decent amount of what I would call “cannon fodder” characters that were less interesting.  The priest is somewhat one dimensional, with a madness that I have seen before in other stories-they have been chosen to destroy the sinners.  This priest does so without question and with no doubts.  Don’t get me wrong, the result is a loathsome and vile character that you love to hate, and want to see perish.  The author does a good job making things interesting here, since this character you wish to see dead might also hold the key to survival because of his unique immunity to the undead.

Overall, this is an entertaining zombie tale.  That it takes place in Spain gives it a bit of a different flavor than what I’m used to, and everything about the priest character made him quite intriguing.  While there are murmurs of a possible sequel or trio of books in this saga, this story stands completely on its own, with no real loose ends that had me begging for more answers in the end.

The Wanderers can be found here:  http://www.amazon.com/Wanderers-Carlos-Sisi/dp/1618680145/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1328063284&sr=1-2

Review of Kevin Burke’s “The Last Mailman: Neither Rain nor Sleet nor Zombies…”

The Last Mailman is, as others have discovered, not a really accurate title for this book, given what actually happens in this tale, but it does introduce us to the main character and what his job essentially is, with some caveats.  DJ is the hero of his world, which is four years past the onset of the zombie apocalypse.  He lives in a walled in, protected city that is a stand-in for New York.  Other stand-ins are out there for other cities-the real cities fell to the undead and the survivors that managed to get to the barricaded bases nearby named them in honor of the fallen.  So new-New York has a population of a little over 800 people.  DJ has been nicknamed the mailman, though he doesn’t deliver packages between cities, as you might suspect.  Instead, he is the guy who goes out into the wilderness (which is everything beyond the walls) and searches for people that were left behind, as well any mementos for the survivors who made it to New York and left those others behind.  He brings closure, because the majority of the time he finds no survivors, just their corpses or the zombie versions of them, and gives them their final rest.  The story leaps from this concept, which would have been an interesting one on its own, to a mission the President of New York has called DJ in to be involved with: Atlanta has indicated that they have discovered a cure for the plague, and they are willing to swap several women for doses of the cure.  That is another key element of this story: women are asked to volunteer to breed so the human race can continue to grow.  They are not forced to; it seems that most women are willing to do so, at least in New York, and apparently in Atlanta as well, though not everyone is happy with the concept.  Despite his better judgment about trading women for a cure, DJ is willing to hop the flight to oversee the trade.  The plane ends up crashing, and the survivors land out in the wilderness, which is DJ is at his best.  Together, those that survive the crash decide that they’ll try to make the trip to Atlanta instead of heading back to New York, with the hope of somehow completing the mission.  The book tells the tale of DJ and the other survivors and their adventures out in the wild, facing both zombie and living perils along the way.

Overall, this was an entertaining zombie read, with ample gore and action.  DJ is a man’s man, but he makes plenty of mistakes along the way, which lends a human quality to him, along with the fact that he always seems willing to do what he can for his friends and other survivors.  It was hard not to like him as a character.  This story is told in first person from DJ’s perspective, and for the most part, that works in this tale.  Overall, the story was fun, though I felt that some scenes were sped through that could have been drawn out with more detail and more nuance, but that is a minor complaint.  As to other concerns I had with the story, there were a few I feel it only fair to point out.  One is that the author swaps perspectives briefly-for about the length of a chapter or two, to two characters besides DJ.  It is a bit disorienting in a first person tale, and I don’t think it was necessary here (the author could have figured out another way to share that same information we get from these other people).  I also felt that one particular character changed their personality late in the game in a way that didn’t really make sense to me.  It felt forced-an attempt to make things more interesting, I suppose.

Even with these quibbles, this was a fun, enjoyable zombie tale with an interesting take on what the future might hold for the long term survivors of the zombie apocalypse.

The Last Mailman can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Last-Mailman-Neither-Sleet-Zombies/dp/1934861979/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1327281351&sr=8-1

Review of Kody Boye’s “Sunrise”

Back in October of ’09, I wrote a review of Kody Boye’s Sunrise.  Kody, who was under the age of eighteen when he wrote his book of the zombie apocalypse, clearly had talent, but his story was somewhat raw, which was something I expected from such a young man still learning his way in the world.

At that time, I stated that the criticism I would have of the story would go hand in hand with what I find appealing about his writing style: his youthful idealism and exuberance.  He wrote of romance in the time of the world ending with a great deal of zeal and perhaps with what some might call immaturity, although when seen through the perspective of someone who was not yet an adult, the perceptions he had should be understandable.

Kody Boye has changed since then.  Now, as an adult, he has taken the time to revisit his first novel and revise it in ways that are more in keeping with his increase in adult experiences and relationships.  In its earlier version, I would have been very comfortable stating that the story was all about gay characters and their experiences during the zombie apocalypse.  Now, with the revisions that Kody has made, I would say that this story is about the experiences a group of people have during the zombie apocalypse.  Some of the characters are gay, and it remains a theme in this book, but while it remains a key part of Dakota and Jamie’s experiences and their existence as main characters, it doesn’t detract from a story of the apocalypse, of human relationships, and how people manage to not only survive, but to thrive during times of great peril and tragedy.

Essentially, this story starts out with Dakota, a boy who has just turned eighteen, hiding out with his friend Steve, an Iraqi war veteran, in Steve’s apartment in the weeks following the start of the zombie apocalypse.  With their supplies running out, they are forced to find a way out of their town with hopes of finding a safe haven.  They end up at a modified apartment complex with several members of the military and several civilians there, including Jamie, a corporal who forms an almost immediate bond with Dakota.

Several key characters are introduced and developed within the pages of this book, and much is revealed about them as they fight and struggle to survive the undead…and the unique, intriguing new creatures that appear later in the book that may or may not be a new hybrid creation.

Kody’s writing has matured, and while some of his youthful abandon and exuberance has perhaps disappeared on these pages, it has been replaced by a sure hand that understands more about how adult relationships work, grow, and evolve.  No, how some of them evolve is perhaps not perfect, but nothing ever is.  Some of the imagery Kody creates seems a bit extravagant here and there, though he does paint a vivid picture that allows you to feel that you are a part of the landscape he is creating.

Sunrise is a tale of the apocalypse, of relationships, and of the struggles we all face to find love, understanding, and a place to call home in a world filled with death and destruction.  Kody Boye has matured as a writer and is someone to keep an eye on.  I see great things in his future.

Sunrise  can be found here:  http://www.amazon.com/Sunrise-Kody-Boye/dp/1468149652/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1326921549&sr=8-1&tag=vig-20

Review of Jessica Meigs’ “The Becoming”

The Becoming tells the tale of three people in the early days of the zombie apocalypse. Brandt is a military man who flees Atlanta not long after the start of the Michaluk virus.  He was at the epicenter, having volunteered to be one of the guards at the CDC when the plague first broke free from one of the labs.  As the city crumbles and the dead begin to rise, he heads west to Alabama while the virus spreads further out from the city at the same time.  Ethan and Cade, two friends living in Memphis, are swept up in the story not long after as the virus plows through the entire southeastern United States.  Ethan is a Memphis police officer who just got promoted while Cade is his next door neighbor and a former member of the Israeli Defense Force, or IDF, who has immigrated to the United States.  Things hit the fan pretty fast in this tale, with the bulk of the early story dealing with Ethan and Cade coping with their first horrific exposure to the virus and then hitting the road, trying to figure out how to survive as everyone around them turns into flesh eating monsters.  They hook up with Brandt while trying to see if Ethan’s mother is still alive in her small Alabama town, and together the three decide to head back west, toward Mississippi and with the hope of outrunning the fast moving virus.  Naturally, there are interpersonal conflicts between the three, and they also end up meeting a few other survivors that add to the intense interpersonal relationships.  This tale is the first of what I believe is a trilogy, and focuses quite well on the key things that tend to work well in zombie apocalypse novels: strong characters, lots of action, and a healthy dose of gore.  It doesn’t break new ground in the zombie genre, but while stories like that are always welcome, it isn’t necessary when a story is filled with compelling characters and a solid plot.

This story has both of those, and its focus on the three main characters serves it well.  They are well drawn and fit well into the survivor roles with their skills and training in the military and police force.  But despite those talents, they are just as human as anyone else and coping with such incredible tragedy is quite difficult for them.  The good, the bad, and the ugly of their personalities rear their heads when they are dealing with one another, the undead, and the other survivors that appear in this story.  While the characters each ticked me off in turn and made me want to slap each one of them for acting the way they do, they were all also trying to do their best to remain human and doing what they can to help each other out, giving me reason to like them at the same time.  Their reactions to the tragedies that unfold around them were real for the most part, though a couple of instances bothered me: Cade’s overall reaction to what happens to her niece and Ethan’s lack of urgency in getting to his wife-when they are first separated and later on in the story, when he wants to return to Memphis.  Even with those minor complaints, the characters have a realness to them that helped me feel comfortable rooting for them to survive.

Overall, the writing in The Becoming is solid and the editing is excellent.  The author tended to use eye color a bit much to reference particular characters and also used the word ‘smirk’ a lot, but even with those quibbles, it was clear that she is a talented writer who should continue to get better the more she puts pen to paper.  I look forward to seeing what Ms. Meigs comes up with next for the compelling characters she’s created in this story.

You can find The Becoming here: http://www.amazon.com/Becoming-Jessica-Meigs/dp/1934861855/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1326433053&sr=8-2

Review of Brandy De Cusack’s “Incurable”

Incurable is a short story that takes place in the somewhat near future and tells the tale of Jesse, a young woman living in London who abruptly announces in the first sentence that she has murdered her husband. Sure, he was hungry and looking to eat her, but it was still homicide, nonetheless. Craig, her deceased spouse, does not go down easily, either. The author provides us with a fairly graphic depiction of what Jesse is forced to do to put Craig to rest, and what she is forced to do with his body after he finally stops twitching. From there, this tale only gets bloodier, more gruesome, and more fun…at least if you are in to things like that.
Incurable, as I’ve mentioned, is set in the near future, which gives it an almost surreal vibe with hints of new technologies and a world in turmoil (much like our own, but distinctly different). The main character sits in her house watching 3D virtual reality television shows that depict the world falling apart and she is immersed in the images-they surround her and permeate her, in more ways than one. She is, after all, transforming into something else, due to her very physical battle with Craig. And what a transformation it is. This story does fall into the category of an undead tale, though what Jesse is becoming is not quite a zombie, instead more of a mutation that is quite fascinating. She does hunger for fresh meat, but remains cognizant of who she is what she is doing. In many ways, the author has created a new monster far more sinister and powerful than any zombie could ever be.
The story moves at a rapid clip-again, this is a short story, so there is very little filler here, and we get to watch as Jesse understands not only what she is becoming, but what she must do to survive…and that is where things get even more bloodier, and more gruesome. This was a compelling little romp that could easily be expanded into something much larger than a short story, but at its length had an impact that felt like a swift punch to the gut as I read it. A good zombie/infected tale definitely worth checking out.

Incurable can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Incurable-ebook/dp/B0064OGOY2/ref=sr_1_13?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1325723993&sr=1-13

Review of Suzanne Robb’s “Z-Boat”

Z-Boat tells the tale of the Betty Loo, an ancient heap of a submarine contracted out for search and rescue missions several decades in the future.  The world has changed since the early part of the twenty first century, with massive pollution, tremendous political turmoil, deteriorating food and water supplies, and in general, a pretty messed up world.  People do live longer and food is genetically enhanced, but large corporations run things along with the new superpowers: North Korea, Russia, and Israel.  There is little in the way of freedom anymore, and the human race is starting to die out because food is losing its nutritional value and clean water is scarce.  Missions to explore the depths of the ocean to find new solutions to the world’s energy and bio related problems are believed to be one of the few remaining hopes to the long term survival of the human race.

We are introduced to a decent sized cast of characters in this story: the members of the Betty Loo’s crew that have been with her for the long haul and the new members of the team who have signed on to join them for a search and rescue of a sub that is at a depth the Betty Loo has never gone to and perhaps can’t handle in her semi-decrepit state.  It is clear almost immediately that virtually everyone who has been hired on for this mission has ulterior motives, and no one has any idea who to trust.  No one really knows who has hired them for the operation, as that information is kept secret, even from the captain, though several grim facts have been shared with him that make him realize that this might be the last mission the Betty Loo ever undertakes.

The cast of characters is colorful, with several ranking high on the intrigue scale.  Ally, the ship’s pilot with the cloudy past, is the captain’s right hand and is probably as close to a main character as this ensemble piece gets.  Ivan, the newcomer who appears to be in charge of divulging information to the crew on a need to know basis, is an ominous presence along with the doctor and research scientist who have found their way onto this mission with him.  Each has their own agenda, which the author doles out in bits and pieces as the story unfolds.  The author also shares with the reader the perspective of virtually every character as key things happen, often switching from one to another rapidly to make us aware of some of the motivations that drive the different members of the crew, both new and old.

Oh yes, there are zombies in this tale, but this book is more of a thriller than a zombie story, with the gruesome gut-munchers not showing up until more than two-thirds through the book.  When they do, they provide the level of gory entertainment that zombie fans crave.  I didn’t see the build up to their reveal as a negative here-there was plenty to keep the plot rolling along in advance of their involvement, and even after they make their appearance, the elements that made the book a dark thriller remain in place.

Z-Boat was an ambitious undertaking.  It blends elements of both horror and thriller effortlessly, and also gives the reader a solid perspective of life aboard a submarine without letting the technical details of such an experience become overwhelming (or boring!).   We are given just the right amount of detail on the Betty Loo so we understand how she operates when things are working and when they are falling apart without feeling like we’ve read a technical manual.  The twists and turns of the plot challenged me to keep up, but didn’t leave me scratching my head, which in some ways can be both a good and a bad thing.  As I mentioned, the author reveals a great deal about each of the characters and what they’re thinking, so how they act and react doesn’t generate surprise or shock as we dig deeper into the story, which makes this one more of a thriller than a true mystery in my mind.  Of course, the zombies themselves are always unpredictable and insert plenty of surprise into the story, giving us a pretty decent body count in cramped quarters-both on the mysterious vessel sitting on the bottom of the ocean waiting for rescue as well as the Betty Loo herself.

This was a fun read that kept me wondering how things would turn out from moment to moment, especially when the undead showed up and threw another wrench into the works for the crew just trying to survive each other as well as the constant array of mechanical problems the Betty Loo keeps having as she dives deeper and deeper into the dark depths of the ocean.

Z-Boat can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Z-Boat-Suzanne-Robb/dp/1467945749/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1325460500&sr=1-1

Review of Rebecca Besser’s “Undead Drive-Thru”

Undead Drive-Thru is a novella that tells the tale of Betty Jones, whose husband Sam comes stumbling home one night after having apparently been abducted and experimented on, or so it seems.  Before she can even help him, he is dead on the floor.  Moments later, he is back on his feet, lunging at her, possessed by the desire to feed on her flesh.  Betty understands immediately what must be done…and no, it’s not what you think.

A year later and Betty, now known as Aunt-B, is opening up an old diner with the help of her nephew, John, two hired teenage girls, Ky and Colleen, and Jose, another young man.   At the same time, Aunt-B and John are trying to keep a dark little secret from the hired help and the rest of the world.  Because you see, Aunt-B couldn’t imagine being without Sam, even though he is dead, and she has plans of moving him from the basement of her house over to the basement of the diner before it’s up and running, so she can keep an eye on him during working hours.  The problem is that Sam occasionally gets out of his prison, and his yearning for flesh tends to become a serious issue.

This was a fun little zombie story that I was able to read in a little over an hour.  While brief, we get enough background on the characters that none of them felt wooden or artificial and the author even manages to give Sam a bit of a personality; a zombie that looks like it is smiling at you, which is a pretty disturbing proposition.  I enjoyed this one, though I think John rubbed me the wrong way in more than one instance.  While I get that he is trying to stay out of jail (he is on probation for theft, I believe) and as such blindly obeys his Aunt to keep in her good graces, I felt he was perhaps a bit spineless, which made it hard for me to feel any sympathy or empathy for him.  But he, like the teenage girls and especially Aunt-B were quite vivid characters for such a short amount of “screen time” as it were.  Overall, a creepy, entertaining tale that I could imagine translating into a movie or even an episode from Tales from the Crypt.

Undead Drive-Thru can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Undead-Drive-Thru-Rebecca-Besser/dp/1611990092/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1324756066&sr=1-1

Review of Eloise Knapp’s “The Undead Situation”

Cyrus V. Sinclair thinks he is a sociopath.  And perhaps he is, though it is hard to be certain.  What is for certain is that he is an overly confident loner who seems ideally built for the end of the world, at least in a situation where the dead rise and the living become fodder for them.  He lives alone in his soundproofed and reinforced apartment in Seattle, and given his lack of interest in anyone except for his pet ferret Pickles and mentor, Frank, he is okay watching the world fall apart outside his window.  He is not the man with the plan; he is the man with a lack of concern about his fate, or the fate of anyone else.

This story starts with him doing nothing for the most part except sitting back collecting rainwater and reading old copies of guns and ammo, though he does venture out to a corner store to grab, of all things, candy.  Cyrus has a sweet tooth, and while he works hard to stay in shape, has stocked up on MREs, and has a small arsenal in his apartment, he has a penchant for sugary snacks that is extreme, and we are reminded of that on a regular basis in this story.

Things get shaken up in Cyrus’s world when Gabriella, or Gabe as he dubs her, shows up underneath his window, fleeing from a pack of the undead on the street below.  Young and tough, she fascinates him enough with her false bravado that he lets her into his apartment, though it becomes clear quickly that he is none too fond of her or her attitude toward the world.  Soon, after a few misadventures, the two of them decide to leave the apartment on a hunt to find Frank, Cyrus’s only human friend in the world.  Through several more adventures with both the dead and living, the trio happen upon Blaze, a tough as nails ex-marine that fascinates Cyrus for her ruthless nature, which is also why she is also despised by Gabe, who still believes that the world, and the human race, is worth saving.

The story progresses with the objective of getting to Frank’s cabin in the woods-a hideaway built for survivalists that is far removed from the undead world that surrounds the quartet at every turn.  Naturally, along the way they find numerous others trying their best to survive-from the desperate, to the crazed, to the innocent and weak.  Through these experiences we get to know Cyrus and his compatriots, and what is revealed is often repellant-especially with Cyrus and Blaze.  We are not dealing with heroes here, but people willing to do what it takes to survive, often by dismissing others who plead for their help.

I know that this story has gone through some changes since it was originally written as a self-published work and then became a Permuted offering, though I can’t say for sure what all the changes are-I had a chance to check this story out in its infancy (approximately the first third of it) and even offered up some feedback to the author.  I have always felt that she had a compelling character in Cyrus V. Sinclair, though I questioned then, as I question now, as to what extent he is a sociopath.  Granted, he seems to kill with ease during the apocalypse and does relate an early experience where he killed as a child, though in the telling of the tale it seems that Cyrus has convinced himself more of his homicidal nature than perhaps what actually occurred-we as readers of this first person chronicle have to take his word on how things went down.  Or so it seems to me.  Cyrus is rather boastful of his ability to remain impassive and lacking in any sort of human compassion and yet he can’t deny the bonds that form between him and the other members of his small company, including his pet, Pickles.

I think the author has done a excellent job in creating a despicable and yet very much human character that despises weakness and vulnerability while displaying it himself quite regularly.  And when he contrasts himself with Blaze even he realizes that he is not nearly as tough and callous as this woman with a scar and a nasty streak a mile wide.  Cyrus plays at being superior to all around him (except perhaps for Frank), but time after time he makes mistakes, nearly getting himself killed over and over again by the undead and the living.  In these instances he typically requires someone else to save him, but brushes over it like it isn’t a big deal.  I think it would have been fascinating to read this same story in third person, without the biased viewpoint of Cyrus clouding the picture of him.  We see this dead world through his eyes, which is fascinating, but I also think it would be fascinating to see it from an outside perspective.  I think much would be revealed about his true nature, and not just what he wants us to believe.

This is a unique story in the zombie genre.  My tendency is to prefer works that are character driven like this one.  The author has created a very intriguing character to examine and wonder about.  On that level, the story is a winner.  With that said, I feel it only fair to point out a couple of issues that I had with the telling of this tale.  I really don’t feel the change in perspective to another character for a single chapter was necessary.  It was like a hurdle that slowed down the tempo of the story and served as an unneeded disruption in my opinion.  I feel that what was revealed could have remained a mystery that was slowly unveiled through Cyrus’s suspicious eyes, as needed.  I also feel that what occurs in that particular chapter needed to be further elaborated upon (once again, through Cyrus’s eyes).  It changes the course of the novel profoundly, and while more may be revealed in a sequel, I think more needed to be devoted to that storyline within this book.

Overall, this is a great first effort from Eloise Knapp.  It takes guts to craft a main character that is, for the most part, a despicable human being and then craft another character that is, on many levels, even more despicable.  It takes a certain level of skill to make readers grow fascinated with these two, as I did, while I am sure there will be some folks who just despise them and will leave it at that.  I’m not sure that I could say I ever grew attached to Cyrus or Blaze and like them all that much, but I have to admit they are a pair of very interesting survivors that will likely draw me in for the sequel.

The Undead Situation can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Undead-Situation-Eloise-J-Knapp/dp/1934861588/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1324743397&sr=1-1

Review of Gerald Dean Rice’s “Fleshbags”

Fleshbags takes place over the course of the initial hours on the what might be the first day of the zombie apocalypse, though the creatures involved are enough of a variation on traditional zombies to be considered their own subspecies. Of course, they would fall into the zombie category, but have some different characteristics, that’s for sure. The author has taken time to create a man-made virus that is fascinating in its assault on its victims. The story itself goes from hour to hour of the growing infection, with the elements of confusion and hysteria that come along with it. We get to see where the virus is being developed (and still tweaked), with hints as to why it’s been created. We see how far it has spread, or so we think, though once again, there are hints at a larger story at play, with the military getting involved pretty rapidly. There is plenty of confusion and no clear understanding of what is going on by virtually anyone running through the pages of this story, including the victims themselves. Each is focused on their own desire to survive with a lot of the plot taking place in and around a daycare that is close to the epicenter of the virus’s release.
As I mentioned, it would be tough to call the victims of this virus zombies. They certainly share enough traits with that category of monster, but they still live, or at least retain a level of cognition for a time, that allows the reader to see what is going on inside their minds. The author hints at more hidden beneath the depths of their gory exterior, with expressions on some of these creatures faces that show they seem reluctant to carry out the violence they are prone to perpetrating on the innocent. As the author (and one of the characters in the story) has dubbed them, they are fleshbags. Parts of their anatomy seem to go runny around their midsection, and their skin appears to be more like a transparent bag showing their insides rather than skin. Again, these zombies are different…they act different in many ways, they look different, and on some level, retain the ability to think, if only for a short time.
The story itself follows several different characters maneuvering through the northern suburbs of Detroit. I recognized many of the streets mentioned due to my travels in that city. This is a novella-length story, and there are quite a few characters, so we move from place to place and person at a quick pace. There are loose ends at the end, which lead me to believe that this might be the start of a larger project by the author. As a stand alone, it is an entertaining bit of gore splashed apocalyptic fiction that moves at a quick, and sometimes blurred pace. I liked how the author delved into the minds of some of the fleshbags as they transition-they seemed as confused and bewildered as the living surrounding them. I would be curious to see more of this tale, if indeed this develops into something larger from the author. Especially with the so many questions left unanswered at the end.
As an added bonus, the author includes two more zombie-centric short stories and excerpts from two of his other long form works as well. The short stories were both non-traditional tales of the undead that were interesting and thought provoking reads for me. Overall, a fun zombie-centric read that make me interested in seeing more from this author.

Fleshbags  can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Fleshbags-ebook/dp/B005IDGQNY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1323548281&sr=8-1

Review of Iain McKinnon’s “Remains of the Dead”

Remains of the Dead is the sequel to Iain McKinnon’s “Domain of the Dead” but in a way, it is its own stand alone story.  I guess the term sequel doesn’t accurately describe this tale, since this story runs parallel to the first book.  Both books start out the same way, with a group of survivors trapped years after the start of the zombie apocalypse inside a large warehouse that is filled with all the supplies they would need to survive.  Unfortunately, they have burned through most of those supplies and only have a few months left before they will end up starving to death.  A helicopter, stationed out at sea on one of the few surviving military ships, has come to the area where the warehouse is to collect an undead “sample” for the scientist on the ship to study.  The people from the warehouse, upon hearing the helicopter, decide to make a run to the bird in an effort at escaping the hell they have lived through for several years and the reality that their time is running out.

The first book focuses on the survivors who climb aboard the helicopter as they return to the ship.  Their story is one that examines the science behind the outbreak of the plague and the attempts to find a cure or inoculation against it.  It also deals with a fresh outbreak of infection onboard the ship.  This novel details the plight of those left behind: the people who couldn’t fit on the small helicopter and must figure out a way to survive until the chopper can return to rescue them.  As the readers who have checked out the first book know, the estimated eight hour turnaround time they were hoping for is not quite what happens and the survivors will be forced to somehow make due for much longer than that.

The book is broken up into two storylines.  The main story is of Cahz, the leader of the soldiers on the ground, Cannon, another soldier, Ryan, one of the survivors from the warehouse, Elspeth, an elderly survivor, and Ryan’s infant daughter, who happens to be Elspeth’s granddaughter.  As we discovered in the first book, Elspeth has been bitten and the baby has been scratched, so it appears as if both will be dead from infection soon enough, which is why they chose to stay behind.  The other storyline is that of Ali, another warehouse survivor who gets separated from the others in the throngs of undead trying to tear them to pieces on the race to the chopper, and is presumed dead.  He manages to find his own route to escape and fights tooth and nail to survive and somehow figure out a way to reconnect with the others as the helicopter abandons them all with the hordes of undead nipping at their heels.

This was the story I wanted to read in tandem with the first story presented in book one of this presumed trilogy.  I had been hoping to see the story rotate back and forth between the survivors on the ship and the survivors on the ground, but the author chose to split the stories up.  I have to say that McKinnon turns the intensity up a notch in this, the second book in his series.  The constant race against the undead, the desperate measures taken to survive at every turn, and the solid character development make this tale both a fun and invigorating read in the zombie genre.

I am looking forward to the third installment in this series, where I will presume the two sets of characters will be reunited and their saga will go forward as one story.  While I suppose I still wish that the two stories would have rotated back and forth through the first and second books instead of being told separately, I have no complaints about the characters and the intense action the author delivers with his two books.

Remains of the Dead can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Remains-Dead-Iain-McKinnon/dp/1618680048/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1321572504&sr=1-2

The Aussie Zombie reviews “The Dark Trilogy”

Good things come to those that wait.  Or at least that is the cliche.  Apparently that is true in the case of a review of The Dark Trilogy for The Aussie Zombie, who doesn’t like Cliffhangers.  Of course, the first two of my books end on a cliffhanger note, so given that they had the chance to read the entire trilogy, plus the background stories that appear here on my blog, all at once, was a good thing.  The review is quite detailed and I’m thrilled they enjoyed my little tale of zombie mayhem.  Check it out here:  http://theaussiezombie.blogspot.com/2011/11/dark-trilogy-by-patrick-dorazio-full.html

Oh and one more thing…my favorite line from the review:  Are these books perfect? No – there’s no such thing (unless you are a Twilight fanatic *runs and hides*) That made me chuckle.





Review of Bryan Hall’s “Whispers from the Dark”

Whispers from the Dark is a compilation of author Bryan Hall’s short horror fiction. He is releasing his first novel length story, “Containment Room Seven” fairly soon, and so compiled this list of tales, several of which have appeared in other publications, as something of a pre-release. It is a good way to get to know the author’s style of writing before plunging into his novel. Most of these stories are bite-sized morsels of horror that are a just a few brief pages in length. They run the gamut from monstrous horror to more subtlety nuanced darkness, with each having at least a bit of flavoring from Mr. Hall’s roots in the mountains of North Carolina. Some of these stories, such as “Dirt Don’t Hurt” are like a rabbit punch to the gut, giving you a quick scare, while others are more fully fleshed out with characters that are well-defined despite the short amount of space on the page they take up. The author knows how to spin a yarn, and regardless of length, there was a nice building of tension with almost all of them. Mr. Hall doesn’t waste time trying to explain the supernatural horrors his characters are facing; they are just there, and it is a credit to his writing ability that I accepted them as such, and for the most part didn’t need more detail. Because that is the allure here: I was taken into these dark spaces and given just enough understanding to have the feeling of discomfort and ominous foreboding that we horror fans love.

The only story in this anthology that I had seen before, and what drew me to checking this out, was the longest tale of them all, and the one that perhaps had the least amount of supernatural potency to it. All the same, “The Swim” was the most frightening story in this book, leaving me shattered when I first read it. It is one of the finest horror short stories I’ve ever read. Bryan hits all the right notes in that one, and pulls the emotions out of its readers like a maestro.

There is a bonus excerpt of Bryan’s novel at the end of the book of his upcoming novel, which I look forward to checking out based on the what I have seen of his short story work. Check this out, and give his novel a shot as well, once it’s released.

Whispers from the Dark can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Whispers-From-The-Dark-ebook/dp/B005Q339DQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1320360457&sr=8-1

Review of Brian Moreland’s “Dead of Winter”

Dead of Winter takes place in a fort in the Ontario wilderness in 1878.  Inspector Tom Hatcher has been called in to solve a mystery surrounding strange murders involving cannibalism and a plague that seems to be turning its victims into ravenous creatures that both look and act inhuman.  Tom has come from Montreal, where he dealt with a cannibal of a different sort-a serial killer who murdered street walkers and devoured their flesh.  He managed to capture that madman, and tossed him into prison.  Now it seems a new killer is following in that maniac’s footsteps out in the backwoods.  At the same time, back in Montreal, Father Xavier, an exorcist, has been called upon to cast out the demon possessing the serial killer that Tom Hatcher caught while the man rots in prison.   These two men’s paths intertwine as the mystery at the fort grows deeper and more people end up dead or worse, transformed into savage monsters, both in mind and in body.  It is up to these two men to discover what is behind the plague and stop it before everyone else ends up dead.

Dead of Winter is a horror-mystery that intertwines both of these elements with ease.  The author also intermingles Catholic beliefs in demonic possession and exorcism with the traditional native tribal beliefs of evil and good spirits, and does so quite deftly.  The interesting thing is that the way the story is told, the two elements don’t clash or conflict with one another, but seem to make sense as a natural blend.  Evil is evil, whatever it is called, and you need whatever resources you can collect to combat it. The culture, religious faiths, and historical elements of the story are well researched, and my first guess was that the author must live in the region, since he knows so much about its tribes and history.  So I was surprised to find out that Mr. Moreland lives in Dallas according to his bio (though I suppose that doesn’t mean he isn’t originally from Canada).

I enjoyed the detail to which the characters were developed and the depth they were given.  They are revealed inch by inch, divulging enough details that they kept me intrigued without revealing too much, too soon.  The reveals are intriguing at each turn and the author was willing to give the reader a surprise with a startling turn of events fairly early on in the story.  Elements like that are unexpected, but welcomed despite the sense that an author has zigged when you might expect him to zag.  At least for me.  Characters like Tom Hatcher and Father Xavier are definitely not cookie cutter-there are plenty of reasons to both like and dislike both men, and to really feel what they are going through as they face this nightmare both on their own and with the rest of the cast of characters.

I have not read anything else by Brian Moreland, but if his other works are this well researched and well crafted, I look forward to checking them out as well.  Dead of Winter is a great story that I thoroughly enjoyed.

You can find Dead of Winter here:     http://www.amazon.com/Dead-of-Winter-ebook/dp/B005LYIDUY/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1319692214&sr=1-2

Living Dead Corner Reviews “Comes The Dark”

Mike Gardner, an up and coming zombie novelist in his own right, spent some time giving Comes The Dark a thorough, and honest review.  I value reviews like this, because they find the good and the bad and speak genuinely about both, in a constructive fashion.  I can always appreciate that, knowing that my books are far from perfect.  So check out Mike’s great review here:  http://livingdeadcorner.blogspot.com/p/living-dead-corner-reviews.html.  Also, be on the look out for his reviews of the other two books in the trilogy, coming soon!