Writer of Horror Fiction

Posts tagged “novella

Review of Craig DiLouie and Jonathan Moon’s “Children of God”

Children of God by Craig DiLouie and Jonathan Moon is an unexpected surprise from these two horror writers.  I can’t honestly say that I’ve ever read something quite like this, even though I’ve read quite a bit of poetry.  This is a book that shares the tales of tragedy lived through by ten survivors, most of who can only do so through the poems they craft years after the events that destroyed the lives of everyone they knew and with whom they shared a slavish faith.

Going in, we know that the Family of God cult, led by David Prince, came to a horrific end via a mass suicide and bloody massacre on August 17, 2008, when well over three hundred members holed up in their mountain compound died with barely thirty surviving.  Years later, as a form of therapy, a psychiatrist suggests the survivors write poetry as a way to express themselves.  This book shares what theses ten survivors who chose to offer up their words had to say.

How the two authors craft an overarching vision of what led up to that day of tragedy, through it, and beyond is haunting, vivid, and gut-wrenching.  This diverse group of poets includes children, a former prostitute, seminary student, an elderly woman abandoned by her biological family before joining the cult, a mentally impaired man, an organist, gangbanger, war veteran suffering from PTSD, and a young man who lost his immigrant parents in an accident years before joining the Children of God.  Their poetry speaks of sacrifice, devotion, desires for a better world, regret, and a heavenly reward beyond this realm promised but never realized.

A story takes shape through their words and despite being a fairly short book, it paints a vivid picture of what takes place, especially on THE day where the cult comes to its brutal and horrible end.  It’s easy to say that such slavish devotion to a charismatic leader is misplaced and to convince yourself that you could never fall for such lunacy, but all one has to do is to take a look at the world at large to see how desperate so many of us are, and how willing so many are to believe in false prophets and leaders who promise extreme and distorted visions of a better world.  Which makes this book of poetry all the more poignant.

Children of God can be found here:  https://www.amazon.com/Children-God-Dreams-Nightmares-Family-ebook/dp/B01ENXYWU8?ie=UTF8&qid=&ref_=tmm_kin_swatch_0&sr=


Review of Brian Moreland’s “Darkness Rising”

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

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

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

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

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

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


Review of “Oil To Ashes Part 2 and Part 3” by Lee Brait

Oil To Ashes continues with part two of this three novella story about Linc Freemore, a man living in a shattered society where the United States is at war with the Middle East.  It doesn’t matter if it is a single country or a coalition, all the reader needs to know is that Linc has worked tirelessly for a company providing supplies to the soldiers overseas while things have deteriorated back home.  Biker gangs are plentiful and the police are scarce.  There are terror attacks and bombings, while oil has diminished and everyone is desperate.  Part 1 took Linc out on a road outside the city where he attempts to save a woman who has been attacked by a biker gang.  He manages to escape, only to discover that the gang now knows who he is and wants to get revenge on him and his family.  Part 1 ended abruptly and Linc’s efforts to save his family are spotlighted here in Part 2, Oil To Ashes: Truce.  With a backdrop of a potential truce between the West and the Middle East, Linc is forced to do battle with more biker gang members who want to tear his family apart.

For such a short tale, there are ample twists and turns in this story, with a much larger backstory being revealed bit by bit, including how the biker gangs are associated with corrupt corporate officials who are interested in war profiteering more than anything.  Unfortunately for Linc, wherever he turns, he ends up getting buried deeper in the trouble he kicked off in part one.  A biker with a brother who wants revenge turns into a larger family looking for a way to either use or kill Linc.  Linc gets himself and those he loves into nearly impossible situations and manages to find a way out of them.  While it isn’t revealed what his background is, it is once again clear that he has some military experience dealing with life and death situations.

Part 2 ends as abruptly as Part 1 did, but fortunately Part 3 was immediately available for free on the kindle.

Oil To Ashes: Truce can be found here:  http://www.amazon.com/Oil-Ashes-Truce-ebook/dp/B00M5LSUMM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1431386149&sr=8-1&keywords=lee+brait

Oil To Ashes: Warehouse wraps up this trilogy of novellas about Linc Freemore, a man who, on the surface, appears to be a working class everyday Joe caught up in a very bad situation.  It became pretty clear in Part 1 of the trilogy that he has to be ex-military with, as they say, ‘a very particular set of skills’.  Up to this point, he has gotten in and out of more trouble than even James Bond, and the threat of danger to his family is far greater than it has been.  The story has also come full circle, making much clearer who is behind the plot to destroy Linc and what forces are diametrically opposed to those who want him dead, though they have little interest in keeping Linc’s family safe, either.  Instead, they choose to use him to advance their cause against the corrupt corporate leaders who continue to profit off the war with the Middle East that appears to be coming to an end.

Much of this novella takes place in and around the warehouse that Linc must gain access to so he can fulfill his part of a dangerous bargain he made with people holding his wife and son hostage.  Yet again, he goes through perils that would kill most men, and yet does not reveal how he is capable of enduring such trials.  A desperate urge to protect ones family can only take you so far if you have no training to deal with combat situations and torture.  Still, this is an entertaining final chapter in this tale.  While this story is complete, there is a promise of more from the author with hints on how a new story about Linc might unfold.

Oil To Ashes: Warehouse can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Oil-Ashes-Warehouse-Freemore-Apocalyptic-ebook/dp/B00UY66YOG/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1431386149&sr=8-3&keywords=lee+brait


Review of Matheus Macedo’s “We With Daisies Lie”

We With Daisies Lie is a short story/novella about one man’s journey during the first few days and months of the zombie apocalypse.  Told in first person, it sticks with tradition, bringing nothing new to the table as far as the undead are concerned.  Whether you get bit or not, when you die you turn and the undead are slow moving.  The main character meets up almost immediately after the dead start to turn with a group of three younger kids led by a bully.  They search for places to survive and they overcome several incidents with the dead while dealing with turmoil within the group.  The living continue to be a major threat later in the story as the character grows stronger and more equipped to handle himself with the undead.  With new friends in tow, he tries to lead them to his grandparent’s farm and the fallout shelter they had made during the cold war, which is filled with enough supplies to last them several months.

The author makes a solid attempt at developing his small group of characters, though the length of this tale does limit most of them from being more than archetypes.  The main character and Emily, the girl he grows attached to, are the most fleshed out.  There were some good components to this tale, including the brief conversation the main character has with an ex-girlfriend on the phone after things go haywire.  She is surrounded by the undead in her sky rise apartment in New York City with no way to escape.  The blunt suggestion the main character makes was startling but at the same time made all the sense in the world.  Emily’s work on a poem was a nice touch as well.  There was also something that stretched believability related to an incident surrounding a stab wound to the gut.  I won’t provide further details, but suffice it to say it was a stretch buying what happens.  Otherwise, the story is a pretty straightforward analysis of how people cope with unbelievably horrible circumstances and what they must become to survive.  There were some typos and missed words here and there-the story could have done with another editing run through, but overall, it is a quick read with definite entertainment value.  The author shows solid promise here and I look forward to checking out his other works.

We With Daisies Lie can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/We-Daisies-Lie-Matheus-Macedo-ebook/dp/B00M4M32IY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408377720&sr=8-1&keywords=we+with+daisies+lie


Review of Patrick Rutigliano’s “Surviving The Crash”

Surviving the Crash is a series of three novellas set in an alternate universe where the stock market crash of 1929 adds the additional horrific feature of the world also crashing into darkness.  Strange, alien creatures out of nightmare have come to earth and rule the night, devouring those who are foolish or unfortunate enough to be caught out after the sun goes down.  Hiding in the bowels of the buildings that have survived the destruction of these monsters isn’t enough to keep them at bay-they hunt by night and set traps to lure the living into darkness by day.

George is a man ready to end it all.  He’s barely hanging on, and about to jump off the ledge of a building he wanders into when he meets up with Francis.  Tough and defying all feminine stereotypes, Francis is a woman who is called upon by the local mobsters, who now rule New York City, when they need a dirty job done.  Francis calls George’s bluff on killing himself and gives him a place to crash while he sorts himself out.  George, who is a World War I vet, knows how to handle himself but he’s never met anyone quite like Francis.  And when she is called upon by the biggest crime boss in town to do another job, George decides to partner up with her.  Their assigned task is to begin the process of killing the monsters that rule the city with a little help from some of the mobster’s goons.  It’s an impossible job-a suicide mission-but is right up Francis’s alley.  Especially since she has no reason to trust the man she’s working for and suspects he has reasons beyond the desire to protect the city and those who still live in it.

Surviving the Crash is essentially one novel broken into three distinct, chronological chapters.  Francis is the tough as nails heroine-tougher than any of her male counterparts by far, which could have come off as contrived if it weren’t for the fact that the author does such a good job of making her a both believable and thoroughly likable badass character.  She is human and shows occasional vulnerability that George can see, though no one else does.  He is her confidant. To everyone else, including the creatures which hunt and terrorize the human race, she is something to be feared.

Each tale takes things up a notch, transforming this story from becoming a run of the mill apocalyptic tale with some unique monsters to fear to something far more exciting and suspenseful.  There is a bigger picture, and Francis and George will find out what part they play in the last stand humanity may ever make.  The author does a good job of developing his characters, allowing Francis and George to grow and change thanks in part to their relationship and their interactions with the people and creatures of the dark world in which they live.  I believe the author could have crafted multiple tales that somewhat mirrored the first novella-a series of serialized adventure tales-giving us more of the same.  That might have been fun.  Instead, he chose to increase the tension and the profound significance of Francis’s journey, which culminates in a very dark and enjoyable ride straight into the depths of hell.

Surviving the Crash is both an entertaining adventure tale and a chilling horror saga.  I loved the characters and feared for them.  The world they live in is dark, dank place filled with plenty of reasons to give up hope and despair.  But with a heroine like Francis on our side, it seems clear that there is always reason to hope.

Surviving The Crash can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Surviving-Crash-Patrick-Rutigliano-ebook/dp/B00KWPO5CC/ref=la_B006WSAVUS_1_13?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403213430&sr=1-13


Review of Nathan Robinson’s “Ketchup on Everything”

Ketchup on Everything is a bit of a surprise of a novella.  I went into it not knowing anything about the story except for the brief blurb of a description, and came out of it with some mixed emotions.  It begins innocently enough, with a man traveling the countryside in his RV stopping at a roadside diner to grab a cup of coffee.  He seems to be talking to his wife in the vehicle before he steps inside, but it is a one-sided conversation that leaves the reader puzzled as to whether she is there or not.  Elliott seems like an affable, pleasant man, though there is a sadness about him that is only hinted at during the introduction to this tale.

Through flashback, we discover that Elliott’s young son disappeared years before.  He was playing in the family’s garden and all the sudden was gone.  The author makes the process of facing first the horror and dread of this experience quite vivid and real-especially for someone who has children and cannot escape the fear that your child could go missing.  From there it becomes a helpless, mind-numbing agony of frustration the more time passes without knowing what has happened.   The idea of an innocent child that you love more than life itself vanishing without a trace is something hard, if not impossible, for most of us to fathom.  Nathan Robinson allows the reader to ride along with both Elliott and his wife, who take too different roads in coping with the loss of their son, for the years of torture they suffer through.

By the time we return to the present, past the flashbacks, the sense of having lived in Elliott’s shoes makes what happens next all the more intriguing, though perhaps not as intense as the first part of the story where there is both pain and an undeniable hope that somehow, their lost boy will be found.  This is not a criticism of how the story comes to completion, just a tribute to the writing that leads up to that part of the story, which adds an interesting twist on Elliott’s sad and tragic tale.

Ketchup on Everything can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Ketchup-Everything-Nathan-Robinson-ebook/dp/B00JANUJXQ/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1403144275


Review of Scott Carleton’s “Collapse: A Survival Thriller”

Collapse: A Survival Thriller is a novella that tells the story of Matt Avery, a regular guy working in a downtown office building who gets caught up in the middle of a blackout and the riots that follow.  With the roads jammed and roaming bands of looters and others who are looking for a reason to get violent, Matt is forced to take to the road on foot to get back home.  With him is his hotheaded co-worker who feels that the rules of society no longer apply.  Matt is a prepper and is prepared with survival items in his office, in his car he must abandon at work, and is focused on getting home to wife and child, where he has more supplies to ride out the storm.  This short tale tells of the perils he faces and the preparations he has made so that he and his family could survive when things go bad.

I was provided a copy of this novella by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  The story is easy to read and I was able to finish it within a couple hours.  The premise behind the tale is more generic than anything.  The city is anonymous, the cause for the blackouts is limited, outside of hints at a failing power grid, and the riots are caused initially by a woman being accidentally shot by the police when they were trying to maintain order in the city.  My interest in apocalyptic fiction mostly leans toward those with a fictional bent.  Zombies, alien invasions, and nuclear holocausts populate many if not most of the apocalyptic tales I read.  This is a far more straight forward and generically plausible meltdown of society scenario.  While the author made an effort to give Matt and his co-worker some depth, both characters are, unfortunately, as generic as the background on the story itself.  Outside of his knowledge of Matt as prepper, there is very little detail about him that made me interested in what was happening with him.  His co-worker, a thinly veiled sociopath from the get go, acts as an obvious foil to the character, with his urges to throw off the shackles of the rules of civilization barely restrained from almost the beginning of this tale.  Unfortunately, the story felt far more like an educational pamphlet on prepping than it did a story about real people.  There are hints within its pages of an author with some potential to create something with more gravitas and emotion than this piece and I hope to see something like that in the future.

Collapse would be most interesting to someone who is looking for a beginners guide on being prepared for disasters, both man-made and natural.  For a fan of apocalyptic fiction though, the story is a bit forced and fits too easily into the format of a guidebook on prepping rather than a story of people desperate to survive the rapid breakdown of society.

Collapse: A Survival Thriller can be found here:   http://www.amazon.com/Collapse-Survival-Thriller-Scott-Carleton/dp/1624090206/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1389659728&sr=1-3