I’ve read several novels by Stephen Kozeniewski and I can always rely on a different flavor of horror being explored in each. I know he has written some non-horror stuff, and I’d be curious if they have the same…edge to them, if that is the proper word. The author is fairly clinical with his precision in presenting a horrific idea and not being timid about seeing it through to its conclusion. All in all, The Hematophages fulfills that commitment, and should leave the reader disturbed and uncomfortable for quite some time after reading the last page.
I was able to read the prequel short story, Skinwrappers, before checking out this novel. While it gives a taste of the universe where The Hematophages takes place, it, for the most part, serves as a background piece, though the main character in the short earns a key role in the novel.
A few centuries down the line, the human race has expanded its reach to far distant planets. Paige Ambroziak is a grad student given the opportunity to go on a corporate funded expedition to explore an ancient seed ship humanity sent out in the early years of space exploration. Until recently, it was believed it was lost forever. It is outside charted space, hovering above what is called a flesh world, which is covered in an ocean of blood filled with strange monsters. This is a chance of a lifetime for Paige-promotions and prestige will follow this expedition, if she can manage to survive.
I don’t get exposed to a lot of space horror tales. Horror, yes. Science Fiction, yes. The combination doesn’t always come together in print for me, so the comparisons (done by other reviewers already) is mainly to Event Horizon, a movie that shares certain levels of intensity and some commonalities with this novel. Alien, or perhaps even Aliens, might share a tiny bit of DNA with this one as well, though in a more generic way. While I don’t get exposed to a lot of sci fi horror, I certainly enjoy the concept and this book does a pretty solid job of universe building to help set up the story. There are questions left unanswered about what has led the human race to its current status, though they aren’t necessarily critical to the story at hand. Getting to the meat of the story is what the author does, and we are presented with quite a few rather interesting characters besides the main one and get to understand their motivations fairly quickly. The horror elements are unpacked in pieces, though reading the description of the book provides some pretty strong hints as to what direction things are headed.
The author does a solid job, as he has done with other stories he’s written, in ratcheting up the tension and dropping the occasional shock bomb on the audience. It’s always good when an author manages to zig when you expect a zag. There were, unfortunately, a couple of zigs where I expected them, that didn’t necessarily lead to disappointment as much as a knowing nod. The end result is a fairly satisfying tale with a few minor frustrations as to where the story led.
The author does not scrimp on gore and horrific visual imagery, giving us some disturbing things to think about and digest. With a starting point of a world with oceans of blood, it should be clear to the reader that we are in for some pretty twisted things that I would guess came straight from one of Mr. Kozeniewski’s nightmares. The author does not disappoint in escalating the grotesqueries and terror from there.
While others have used the Event Horizon comparison, and it is an apt one, one I will use, but only partially, is Greg Bear’s Blood Music. I won’t play the spoiler by sharing details of that tale, but would encourage a look at it for anyone who enjoyed this story. The short story Mr. Bear wrote that was expanded into a full novel shares a few elements of fear and horror with this tale (alien creatures and the potential for body manipulation), though only toward the end of The Hematophages. Still, I couldn’t help wonder what Kozeniewski might do if he chose to carry things beyond this story and how he would approach it vs. what Mr. Bear did when he expanded his short story into a full novel. I would guess Kozeniewski’s would be end up being a bit more on the dark side…
The Hematophages can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Hematophages-Stephen-Kozeniewski/dp/1944044558/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
I am happy to announce that I have contributed to another charity anthology that will be released on February 1st with all proceeds going to hurricane relief. Houston and Florida were hit with massive deadly hurricanes in late 2017 and Felicia Sullivan, who edited my revised versions of my Dark trilogy for Permuted Press, put together this project and got a ton of authors together to contribute to the project along with the artist who created the impressive cover you see below. My short, “The Collective”, appears within its pages and it is a story I have worked hard to find it a good home for several years after it was to be published in another anthology that didn’t come to fruition. The Collective is one of my ‘babies’ as it were-a story that is near and dear to my heart in many ways. This story has no zombies in it (it is more science fiction with perhaps a slight horror bent to it) and is a personal journey for one man faced with making an almost unbearable decision. It is one I could never imagine having to make myself, which is what made writing this story so challenging and yet compelling for me.
So please consider making an investment in this book-the kindle or paperback version when they are available. You will be helping a couple of wonderful charities and you will get a lot of bang for your buck with 22 different stories from some very impressive authors. Please check out the amazon page here: The Will To Survive.
When normal life collapses, peril waits around every corner, and one small slip could mean certain death. In THE WILL TO SURVIVE, twenty-two unique and brilliant voices bring to life stories of post-apocalyptic danger sure to make the heart race, the flesh creep.
It’s the end of the world. Do you have the will to survive?
NOTE: THE WILL TO SURVIVE is a collective effort by a great group of authors, born from the desire to help their fellow citizens suffering the devastating effects of multiple hurricanes. 100% of proceeds are being donated to two charities, One America Appeal and Global Giving Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.
Twenty-two stories of tragedy, hope, and survival in one volume.
Complete list of authors:
Sean T. Smith
Like a Man and Purchase Order #2113-21A are a couple of quick, tightly written shorts by Stephen A. North, who has bounced back and forth between apocalyptic fiction and science fiction with his prior novels and shorter works. These two tales fit in well with his other stories, both with rough and tumble main characters coping with nightmarish circumstances and impending end of the world doom.
Like A Man takes place in Rio De Janeiro set in the present, and appeared in an apocalyptic anthology the author contributed to several years ago. I’d read the story then and enjoyed it for it’s surprising, startling transition from a sun drenched flirtation between a body guard and his boss’s girl to the sudden, abrupt, and brutal end of the world sequence it proposes with the alien creatures burrowing up from the depths of the earth.
Purchase Order #2113-21A could be an addendum to the universe Stephen created with his Drifter novel. A future filled with enslaved soldiers doing the bidding of others, it has a flavor of Blade Runner/techno near future gloom, though with an even darker glimpse of how ugly humanity can potentially become then either of the Blade Runner movies.
These are two quick shorts that definitely speak of larger worlds and potentially more involved stories if the author chose to expand them. As they are, they are good, quick bite-sized bits of apocalyptic goodness for those looking for a quick fix.
Like a Man and Purchase Order #2113-21A can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Like-Man-Purchase-Order-2113-21A-ebook/dp/B0756W8NXG/ref=la_B002K8VVMG_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1507757852&sr=1-1
The Three Egos starts out by introducing the reader to ‘Talent’, a man who has avoided his past entanglements with the Devil for centuries, but slips up at the wrong time and is thrust into hell to meet the Fallen Angel he made a deal with centuries earlier. While he is punished and tortured beyond death many times on his way to meet God’s former favorite, nothing is permanent in hell and so Satan has a proposition for him. If he and one of the other ‘Egos’, Chith, find the third Ego, the two of them can negotiate new deals with the Devil.
Dunwoody assembles a diverse cast of characters, including a werewolf named Lace, Sue, a woman who has been cursed to be the last of the Escariot family line (and the Devil’s unwanted amorous attention), an array of angels, both fallen and those still loyal to an absentee God, plus Hell’s Chief Inspector, Hallows, who gets to play chaperone to this mixed up band of anti-heroes in their journey to find Sephus, the third Ego. It is a journey that will take them from hell to purgatory, to the outer reaches of creation, and on to heaven itself.
This story is packed with the surreal and fantastic, the strange and the compelling, with characters that range from purely evil to blessed, though it is hard to tell which is which at any given moment. David Dunwoody has provided the reader something unexpected here, with a touch of the epic (flavorful hints of Dante’s Divine Comedy abound), though the characters are believable and approachable, with human frailties and foibles. He’s rolling the dice that readers will make the leap of faith with him on a journey some will see as profane, especially with God being more or less AWOL as a Supreme Being that is perhaps not so supreme after all. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, The Three Egos is a wild ride well worth taking.
For the most part, the pacing is fast-so fast that the reader may need to stop and re-read a few passages here and there to keep pace and not miss a key detail. It does slow a bit more than I would have preferred during the second act but that only serves to be a respite before moving on to the tale’s shocking and somewhat abrupt conclusion. My guess is your mileage may vary on how things wrap up with this saga, but that is perhaps another reason to appreciate what the author has attempted. Some questions the story generates are answered, while others that encompass far greater matters remain to be pondered after the final words are read.
The Three Egos can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/3-Egos-David-Dunwoody-ebook/dp/B010J0VSTW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1457301977&sr=8-1&keywords=the+three+egos
Beneath The Mask is a recreation of a prior Stephen North story, a re-envisioning of his first book with the same title. Sergeant Alex Cray of the Florida National Guard is dealing with what appears to be a biological attack on the Tampa Bay area. He and the rest of the soldiers facing the situation have seen people dying from some sort of plague that leaves them with sores on their faces and a homicidal streak that borders on madness. It is clear that this situation is spreading to other parts of the country and globe and even more shocking, it is perhaps coming from something beyond our world.
Strange events unfold with little explanation around Alex. While the citizens in the area are desperate to survive, there are others who appear in the area that look human, though they seem transformed and almost alien in their physical perfection. Sergeant Cray is forced to kill to defend himself and the various people he comes into contact with that he feels are worth saving as things continue to deteriorate around him. At first he fears the plague that has permeated the area and like the rest of the soldiers, is supposed to continue wearing his MOPP suit-the protective bio-containment outfit that prevents airborne viruses from infecting you. But it doesn’t take him long to realize that life behind the mask is no longer worth living. After stripping his containment suit, Alex is forced to continue stripping away other masks that civilization has put in place for him. He puzzles over the deterioration of his and others humanity while seeking answers as to what the truth is behind the strange people and strange vessels that have arrived in the area that look like nothing anyone on earth could have created.
Beneath The Mask has been transformed from a traditional first day apocalyptic tale of survival into a story that combines elements of this and that of a futuristic thriller. The author wrote another story, The Drifter, which had a noir/Blade Runner type flavor to it, though it mostly takes place elsewhere and else when and there are hints here that these two sagas will be tied together in a series of adventures, as elements from the second book have bled through here, in Beneath The Mask.
Stephen North’s writing preference is typically first person, present tense, and this story is written in this format. While there are some challenges with this style, because the reader can only see what Alex sees and hears in each instance, it steeps you in the moment, dealing with everything the main character faces with no additional time to react. There is no time to debate whether to pull the trigger or to leave someone for dead when things are constantly shifting and moving all around you. The story is not driven by one particular objective, although Alex’s instant to instant reactions are shaped by the strange realities he has discovered and must come to grips with, which drives him to focus on certain objectives-most of which have to do with staying alive. His alliances are also driven by gut instinct and the desire to retain a kernel of humanity within him, even while he is forced to do mostly unspeakable things to keep himself and those he cares for alive.
The author has created the start of a rollicking adventure tale that has the potential to transcend timelines and realities. Alex does seem almost too reactionary in this story-pulled by outside forces in different directions on a constant basis, rather than focusing on anything beyond moment to moment survival. Of course, the author puts a steady flow of roadblocks in front of him to provide him with all sorts of adventures, but he is almost philosophically detached from one of the only overriding objectives he returns to throughout the book-the desire to see if his parents are still alive. Of course, there are far greater missions for Sergeant Cray to involve himself in, but I would have liked to see him push a little harder in an effort to achieve this objective. Despite this minor concern, the author has created an all-to-human hero that fails as much as he succeeds, still tries to do what is right even when nothing he does seems to matter, and still is able to fight to retain a grip on what makes him human even if at times there seems to be no good reason to do so anymore.
Beneath The Mask can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Beneath-Mask-Drifter-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00QL64P8A/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1421418407&sr=8-3&keywords=beneath+the+mask
Twisted Pathways of Murder & Death is a compendium of grim short stories, each with their own interpretation of the title of this work. No one is safe here, with a rogue’s gallery of villains that range from the tragic to the demonic that all lust for blood, flesh, and the demise of all who cross their paths.
I read the paperback version of the book, which note that there are 4 bonus tales vs. the electronic version. I will provide a brief synopsis of each tale without providing any spoilers.
Deadly Mistakes tells the tragic tale of a man out for revenge after a clerical error at a law office that lets a murdering monster free to slaughter his wife.
Turn of Events turns the tables on the traditional sad tale of domestic violence.
Stalkers Beware provides some new ideas of how to deal with all those pesky groupies if you are a rock star.
Hope of a Future takes a look at a bleak apocalyptic future where hoping for even the most simple things can make things even more grim.
Game Gone Wrong mixes science fiction with the very prevalent fear of the government watching your every move, and doing whatever it takes to find out what you know.
Mystery Meat is a simple tale of a meat packing facility trying to find out where several bins of prime cuts of meat came from that no one knows about…with morbid results.
Father’s Revenge is a succinct, blunt tale of a father’s revenge when his wife betrays him, as seen through the eyes of his daughter.
Innocent Blood starts out much like the previous tale, but with the desire for revenge going dreadfully wrong.
On Account of Bacon speaks of how unspeakable tragedies can occur for the most innocuous reasons…or in this case, thanks to a delicious breakfast meat.
Evil Mountain asks the question ‘what do you get when a werewolf, vampire, witch, zombie, and dragon walk into a poor, innocent villager’s hut?’ Nothing pleasant, I can tell you that much.
The Heart of Heroism tells the tragic tale of Billy Jack, a mentally handicapped man-child who simply wants to be a superhero and gets his chance when the zombie apocalypse starts up in the tenement he lives in with his overbearing father.
Historical Significance is a traditional ghost tale with a demonic twist.
Memories starts out asking the question ‘Have you ever heard a rabbit scream?’ and goes deeper down the rabbit hole from there.
Overall, this set of macabre tales are solidly written, though some are stronger and more compelling than others. Each share a very fatalistic perspective, though they range from the gore splattered to the sinister. Hope of a Future, Innocent Blood, Evil Mountain, and The Heart of Heroism were my favorites of the lot, while a couple of the very short tales didn’t do it for me, like Turn of Events and Father’s Revenge. When the author works with more than a page or two, she is able to craft characters that are real, vivid, and accessible.
Twisted Pathways of Murder & Death can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Twisted-Pathways-Murder-Rebecca-Besser/dp/0615858163/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1401418967&sr=8-2&keywords=twisted+pathways+of+murder+%26+death (paperback) and here: http://www.amazon.com/Twisted-Pathways-Murder-Rebecca-Besser-ebook/dp/B00E1LPQZS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1401418967&sr=8-1&keywords=twisted+pathways+of+murder+%26+death (kindle).
The Remnant: Into The Collision thrusts the reader right into the madness of what the universe has become for Byron Russo, a working class grunt who, like everyone else, is waiting for the world to end. When a man comes crashing through his living room window and wants to kill him for no better reason than to see what it feels like, it is the wakeup call Byron needs after spending a couple of weeks sitting on the couch, watching and waiting for the meteors to come that may spell the end of the all life on earth.
At first, the concept here seemed similar to that of the movie “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.” Byron is a down on his luck slob who lost his wife and his little daughter and needs to snap out of the funk that has wrapped itself around him, not only for the past two dazed weeks of his existence, but for most of it long before the world threatened to put an end to his miserable existence. Of course, this being an apocalyptic novel with a far darker bent than the Steve Carrell movie, Byron’s shortened existence isn’t likely to be filled with romance and pleasant moments spent contemplating the sweetness of life. That is made clear from the opening paragraph, when Byron is forced to defend himself and kill another human being so he can stay alive. Thus begins his awakening into his stunning new reality. It is one in which he realizes that he still wants to make a go of it and survive for as long as possible. With this in mind, he makes his way to the local grocery store, where he witnesses more acts of human savagery as well as the same complacency he was guilty of just a few hours earlier. He also stumbles across another like-minded survivor named C.J., a young man who looks and talks like a thug but is pretty normal, all things considered. C.J. introduces Byron to the group he is with, who are looking for a place to escape the madness on the streets. Byron, who had no more of a plan than to hunker down at the factory where he works, is joined by this group who seem pretty normal. Of course, normal under life-threatening duress can get warped fairly quickly. They make it to the factory, which makes scuba breathing gear and has been abandoned, like most work places, since the impending destruction of the planet was revealed. It is the ideal place to set up shop and wait to see if the world will end when the meteors come.
It isn’t a spoiler to reveal that the meteors don’t destroy the world, but wreak havoc on the atmosphere when they crash into the moon instead, altering its orbit. One of the side effects of its new trajectory is thinner oxygen. While not immediately lethal, it does have some horrible side effects for those forced to breathe this new air. This makes Byron and friend’s new factory home, with its amble scuba breathing devices, a very good place to hole up.
The Remnant: Into The Collision deals with the very human struggles the band of survivors must face, including coping with outsiders who will annihilate anyone who is capable (or incapable) of standing in their way.
While the background apocalypse in this story treads new ground, the saga of humans in conflict is very traditional and shares similarities to other novels in the genre. The air they breathe becomes the monster at their doorstep rather than some slouching beast threatening to tear them limb from limb. Its treachery is much more insidious and devious, slowly robbing those who have no breathing devices of their faculties and turning them into drooling automatons with sluggish minds and muted reactions to the world around them. When the trap door that is civilization swings open and those who remain alive fall into what lies beneath, the truth of their nature is revealed. For a few survivors, like Byron, whose past life is filled with regrets, this new world is ripe with opportunities for redemption. For others, like Richard Perry, a National Guardsman, it is an opportunity to become as depraved and vile as his withered heart desires.
This is where this tale will divide its readership. While Richard’s abhorrent behavior may be quite plausible given his circumstances and willingness to follow his most primitive urges, having them laid out on the page will not agree with everyone. The abrasive nature of his and his men’s actions speak to the true depth of depravity humanity is capable of, while Byron’s efforts to become a better man demonstrates what we are all capable of, regardless of how harrowing the circumstances we find ourselves facing.
The Remnant: Into The Collision can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Remnant-Collision-P-A-Douglas-ebook/dp/B00IKMLEPA/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top
Iain McKinnon, known for his apocalyptic zombie novels Domain of The Dead and Remains of The Dead moves into the realm of science fiction with From The Torment of Dreams, which has absolutely nothing to do with zombies. In deep space, a war is being waged between the Terrain Alliance and one of their subjugated colonies, Neotra. The author doesn’t provide the reader with an in depth political explanation of why the Neotrans have fought to separate themselves from Earth and its allies at the start of this tale, instead choosing to thrust us right in the middle of a battle in space, or to be more exact, a rebellion ambush of a ship filled with ground troops being brought in to fortify the Alliance’s positions. The only survivor of a devastating attack on the ship is Lan, a young man who joined the military to get away from a lost love. Unfortunately for Lan, his cryogenically induced deep space dreams are filled with visions of Nicola, his former love, playing in his head like a broken record. Even as he awakens to make his way to an escape pod as the ship is breaking up, visions of the woman he loved and who dumped him plague him relentlessly.
We are also introduced to Captain Jackson, one of the rebel leaders of the assault on Lan’s ship, who crosses paths with the injured soldier as the battle rages on aboard ship. Mistaken for another rebel when Terrain reinforcements arrive, Lan is imprisoned along with Jackson and his crew.
At the same time, we are introduced to Zinner, who is a Bavashee, a part of the Terrain military Special Forces who are genetically grown to be the perfect warriors. Only a few remain in the galaxy (they were plentiful during the Apocalypse Wars in the ancient past), and Zinner is one of the best still around. In his efforts to infiltrate Neotran on a secret mission, he comes across and wipes out a small, somewhat primitive village far away from the main civilized outposts of the colony, in an effort to maintain secrecy. He kills them all out except for Nasim, who was away from the village at the time, returning to discover the horror Zinner and his team have left behind. Nasim, who has some intriguing talents of his own, chooses to pursue the Special Forces leader in an effort to get revenge.
The author pulls together a great many ‘smaller’ and ‘bigger’ subplots while the threads of the main story get weaved together with the others at a steady pace. The author leaves the main path a time or two, but always returns to it in time. With these diversions we get to see the war in a bigger picture format-from the Terrain General discussing strategy with his right hand man to one of the men plotting to assassinate a key political figure. The plot does meander a bit, but the stories kept my interest throughout.
The writing here is solid, and Iain has a strong concept of military tactics and makes the science fiction plausible-allowing the tale to not get gummed up with over the top details that would have been a distraction. The characters make sense and fit well into their environments-with enough background details to enlighten but not smother. Zimmer is understandably brutal and vicious, while Lan is tortured but transformed by both his military training and the torture of his body while imprisoned and by the dreams that endlessly haunt him.
I thought it interesting that the author was able to deftly steer me away from rooting for either side in this war (or so it seemed). Sure, there were reasons for believing that the Neotrans deserved their freedom, but it was the characters major and minor, including the Terrain General who plots and plans both the attacks and defense of his forces, that really mattered here. Iain McKinnon has a knack for crafting characters that you feel an emotional attachment to-whether you love them or hate them, they get under your skin and stay there for a while.
Overall, this is a fun sci fi tale of rollicking space battles and the soldiers who fight in them. But this story told could take place in space, on earth, in the future or in the far flung past and it would still make sense. It is a saga of men and the wars they wage, which is a timeless concept, and one that is endlessly intriguing.
From The Torment of Dreams can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00D4DVCHU/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
The Harvest Cycle is an Apocalyptic tale which takes place fifty years since the first harvesters appeared, boiling up from the sea to claim as many human lives as they possibly can for a far distant god who wishes to consume the dreams of mankind. The creatures-fast, silent monsters with claws that can slice through anything, including the skulls of its victims, have come many times since then, driving the remains of humanity into hiding far beneath the surface of the earth. Those that survive have chosen to either surgically remove the part of their brains that the harvesters are compelled to devour, or they decide to remain uncut retaining their ability to think creatively and to dream by those who have lost so much with the mutilation of their brains (and souls as well). In addition to the horrors of the harvesters, humanity must also avoid the ‘synths’ or robots that were once loyal servants to humanity that realized during the first harvest the endless nightmarish hell that awaits those humans in the afterlife whose brains are devoured by harvesters. They are on a mission of mercy to kill all of humanity to save them from this horrible fate.
The story begins when a group of dreamers, led by a hopeful visionary along with a woman who is psychically linked to the nightmare god who created the harvesters and craves humanity’s dreams, go on a quest with the hope of somehow destroying the harvesters. Pursued by a police officer named Jack DiVinci, one of the soulless survivors who has a secret that allows him to still be creative and dream, as well as a squad of robots on a search and destroy mission.
David Dunwoody’s latest novel mixes elements of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, Asimov’s robots (with the authors unique twist on the Laws of Robotics…or more specifically, the zeroth law that Asimov added last: A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm), and a slight hint of noir with Jack DiVinci, a man who believes what he is doing is saving the human race, despite his own doubts on what it means to be saved.
This is one of the more unique visions of the apocalypse that I’ve ever read, with plenty of madness and mayhem to go around, plus plenty of gore and a high body count to boot. Dunwoody has this knack for making a story gruesome, horrifying, and yet totally accessible. He has no fear when it comes to pushing the reader’s buttons-not just with who he is willing to torture and maim, but with how the universe he creates works. It isn’t always pretty, and sometimes it feels like I was being beaten senseless by the brutality of what happens in this tale, but there is beauty here too-hope that humanity can somehow overcome its own vile failings and perhaps persevere against impossible odds.
I haven’t been disappointed by anything I’ve read by David Dunwoody as of yet, and The Harvest Cycle is no exception. This is potent tale that mixes supernatural horror and science fiction with a fluid grace that few authors can pull off with such skill.
The Harvest Cycle can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1934861324/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Infatuation: The Story of Snow Queen by Nathan J.D.L. Rowark is not a story that is all that easy to describe. In fact, for my period of reading at the beginning of this saga I wasn’t sure I quite understood what was going on in this fantastical tale of love, lust, and revolution, and wondered if I ever would.
The story begins with the introduction of Kay and Grace, a brother and sister who are in the Garden of Remembrance when a flight of snow bees separate them. This is a place where loved ones return from death in London, and where Kay will find his destiny in the arms of the icy Snow Queen, who will cause his demise but also receive his undying devotion.
We are granted a very slim understanding of how all these elements come together at the beginning of this tale-why there are these snow bees, which are both necessary to this world but are also a great menace to it-and why the dead come back to life.
Infatuation takes place in the far future, in a world where implants have tied the living together and granted them a form of immortality. Bodies are stowed away and the essence of a person can be transplanted into a new body after death. All of this is controlled by a mysterious religious leader who keeps everyone within the city under his control through the use of a pervasive social network.
When Kay and Grace get separated in the garden, they go on their own journeys-Kay with his new found love, the Queen, and Grace, in her efforts to find her brother, even though he has sacrificed his body for a new, dead one so that he can endure the touch of his icy maiden.
The story gets more complicated from there, but as with any intriguing story, much is revealed in time, and in the case of this tale, that is both a literal and figurative statement. The adventurers travel back and forth in time, with the meaning as to why this is happening to them not quite clear at first, or even throughout much of this tale. This story is a maze of alternate existences and discoveries of one mystery after another that intertwine Kay, Grace, Eternity (the Snow Queen), Reneta, the strange scientist who seems to be at the heart of much of the main mystery within the saga, and both her husband and son, who have rebelled against her and the religion-fueled government.
Describing this storyline in clear, precise details would be next to impossible, but at its heart, this story is about two souls destined for one another, despite so many seemingly good reasons for them not to be together. Nothing is as it seems in this story, which each chapter revealing a new twist and new surprise, both from the past, the present, and on into the future of the characters. This is a complex and layered mystery, which can be daunting at certain points, but once certain aspects of the tale were revealed, it kept me intrigued and fascinated to the very end of its pages.
Pigeon holing this story in a particular genre would be impossible. It is an amalgam of science fiction, fantasy, romance, horror, and adventure, with a frosty haze layered over all of that. Admittedly, there is plenty here to confuse, and I more than likely missed a few key details in my initial reading that may require further review to understand all its elements, but I grasped more than enough to feel satisfied with its ending, though as with any tale where time travel plays a part, there is no real beginning or end, just different cycles in time and the hope that things can be changed, perhaps for the better, as they repeat themselves.
This is a tale for someone who is willing to stick with a story to the end-someone who likes it when an author doesn’t reveal more than is absolutely necessary at any given point. It is for someone willing to embrace the fantastical and magical mixed in with the technological while it has an almost a fairy tale-like sensibility.
Infatuation: The Story of Snow Queen can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00946F0L0/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Okay, so I wrote this science fiction comedy story quite some time back for an anthology that never came out. It was, without a doubt, a strange piece of fiction. Perhaps not as strange as the piece I wrote for Houdini Gut Punch, a bizarro anthology, which is called “Consumer’s Paradise”, but then again, I wasn’t writing this piece in an attempt at something bizarro, just something wild, fun, and perhaps a bit…off. Which is what I came up with. And now it will be available via a new bizarro anthology that has been released entitled Tall Tales with Short Cocks, Volume 2 from Bizarro Press.
Okay, I get it. I read the first volume of this anthology series and the comments in many of the reviews said that there were very few…um, er, well, you know…naughty male bits…in any of the stories. And I was thinking that my particular story, which is entitled “The Interstellar Quest for Snack Cakes” has none of them in it either. But perhaps I shouldn’t speak so fast. There is a bit of untamed lasciviousness in my tale, primarily with a wide assortment of alien creatures. Nothing described in too much graphic detail, mind you, but it is there. Of course, if I thought I could sell a few more books by making it a bit more racy, I might have considered doing so. But hey, mixing comedy, science fiction, and erotica might just make a few folks heads explode, so I’ll keep things just where they are, with just the comedy and science fiction. Otherwise I might have been forced to call my story Barbarella.
Suffice it to say, this anthology will have some pretty weird tales in it. I read the first volume and there was plenty of horror, comedy, and some stuff that was just plane surreal, so my guess is that if you check this one out, you’ll get a nice assortment of whacked out crazy stuff mixed with some chills, thrills, and head scratches. And including in this bevy of the odd is my story, which the editor said was ‘not strictly not bizarro, but pretty f$%king bizarre’ which I take as a tremendous compliment and makes for a great tag line.
Click on the cover below to head to Amazon to purchase the kindle version of this book. Stay tuned for updates on the paperback version, coming soon!
Another project I worked on and am very excited about has come to fruition and is now available over on Amazon. Read The End First has the unique premise of showcasing 24 different tales of the end of the world, each based in a different time zone. Because of the nature of the project, this was an invite only anthology, and each author had to pick a particular time zone and write a story that would make sense given their location on the globe. My particular story takes place in Bethlehem and is entitled “What Rough Beast.” You’ll just have to guess at what the story is all about.
So check this one out, there is a great list of authors involved, including Stephen North, Suzanne Robb (who edited it), Michael S. Gardner, Rebecca Snow, A.J. French, Craig Saunders, John McCuaig, David Dunwoody, Wayne Goodchild, Adrian Chamberlain, D.A. Chaney, Hollie Snider, William Todd Rose, and many more that I apologize I can’t remember right off the top of my head.
So click on the cover and head on over to Amazon to check out your very own copy of Read The End First.
I’m proud to announce that Before Plan 9: Plans 1-8 From Outer Space has been released and is available over on Amazon. This book details those first plans where the aliens tried to prevent humanity from destroying the universe before their infamous raising of the dead experiment documented in the movie from Ed Wood Jr., Plan 9 From Outer Space. Tony Schaab has brought together a bunch of fantastic authors to tell the tales that record our interactions with the alien beings who are fearful we will invent the substance that has the power to ignite the sun and destroy us all. Certainly, their efforts with Plan 9 were a miserable failure, but what came before? What attempts did they make in our past to try and curb our lust for violence and destruction?
Check out Before Plan 9, which includes my retelling of the Odyssey, aka Plan 1. Just click on the book cover to be directed over to Amazon to get your copy today. Oh, and make sure you keep watching the skies, because the aliens are sure to return!
Here is the table of contents of this very fun and exciting new book:
Plan Zero from the Mesozoic Era by Tony Schaab
Plan 1 from the Lesser-Heralded Parts of The Odyssey by Patrick D’Orazio
Plan 2 from Ancient Egypt by D.A. Chaney
Plan 3 from the Middle Ages of Hamelin by Greg Carter
Plan 4 from the Clockwork Country by Tonia Brown
Plan 5 from the Depressing Depression by David Dunwoody
Plan 6 from the Nazi Regime by Rob Silvera
Plan 7 from Sin City by Jonathan Maberry
Plan 8 from the Fantastic Fifties, Phase 1 by Craig DiLouie
Plan 8 from the Fantastic Fifties, Phase 2 by Joe McKinney and Michael McCarty
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
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
A while back, I had the opportunity to write a story for a new anthology based on an old movie. Let me correct myself. It was an old, bad movie. Not just any bad movie, but THE bad movie. The one that is so bad it has gotten awards for being the worst movie ever made, and because of that, has become a cult classic in the minds of people everywhere. Heck, they made a movie about the guy who made this movie because this movie was so bad, and this guy was so good at making bad movies and THAT movie even won an academy award. Strange, huh? A movie about a movie that is bad winning an academy award. Go figure.
Well, I’m not trying to keep any secrets here, since everyone can guess based on the title of this post what movie I’m talking about. It is Ed Wood Jr.’s classic Plan 9 from Outer Space. Tony Schaab, who runs Twinstar Media, as a huge fan of the movie and someone who is involved in the novelization of the script as well as a remake of the movie, came up with an intriguing question: if the movie shows what Plan 9 was from the aliens, which failed so miserably, what were their first 8 plans to conquer earth? Well, maybe not to conquer earth, but to prevent us from making a solarnite bomb. And if you don’t know what a solarnite bomb is, go look for Plan 9 on Youtube-you can watch the entire movie in all its wretched glory free of charge.
Thus was born the idea behind Before Plan 9: Plans 1-8 From Outer Space. I’m proud to be a part of this project and to have the chance to pay homage to one of the worst movies of all time with what I hope isn’t one of the worst short stories of all time, heh. My little story has the honor of being Plan 1, if you can believe it! It is entitled: Plan 1 from the Lesser-Heralded Parts of The Odyssey. Yep, these aliens have been bugging us humans since the days of Greek heroes like Odysseus.
Here is the full table of contents:
- Plan Zero from the Mesozoic Era by Tony Schaab
- Plan 1 from the Lesser-Heralded Parts of The Odyssey by Patrick D’Orazio
- Plan 2 from Ancient Egypt by D.A. Chaney
- Plan 3 from the Middle Ages of Hamelin by Greg Carter
- Plan 4 from the Clockwork Country by Tonia Brown
- Plan 5 from the Depressing Depression by David Dunwoody
- Plan 6 from the Nazi Regime by Rob Silvera
- Plan 7 from Sin City by Jonathan Maberry
- Plan 8 from the Fantastic Fifties, Phase 1 by Craig DiLouie
- Plan 8 from the Fantastic Fifties, Phase 2 by Joe McKinney and Michael McCarty
DARC12 is a deep space research vessel that is located as close to a black hole as it can without being sucked into it. Its mission is to do research that is illegal back home (genetic studies, animal experimentation, etc.) as well exploration of distant space. The DARC vessels have been looking for, and have not found alien life, so when DARC12 finds a strange asteroid nearby that seems to be alive, it is a monumental discovery. Despite the fact that this living thing appears to be nothing more than some sort of plant life, or so it seems at first, it is brought on board for examination. Not long after it arrives, the people exposed to it-the scientists and the head of security, Wilson, as well as others among the crew, are hearing voices inside their heads-voices the promise peace and happiness or ignite fears and nightmares insides their skulls. Soon one of the members of the team that handled the alien is murdering at the command of those voices, and Wilson, who is starting to fear that the perhaps the alien presence has something to do with that shocking event, has to figure out what is going on. But the worst is yet to come, as those killed are coming back to life as they too are called by the alien presence to do its bidding. They are ravenous, fast moving killers, tearing into anything that crosses their path.
Containment Room 7, which is named for the room where the alien is kept to be studied, is a combination alien and zombie tale of horror that moves at a breakneck pace, giving the reader little to no time to breath as things happen on board this massive research vessel. I believe the entire story takes place in a little over 24 hours, with madness and the undead spreading through the DARC12 in no time. Like most horror tales that take place inside a space faring vessel, the cramped conditions and remoteness of their location give the tale a claustrophobic sense to it.
There are four main characters in this story: Wilson, the head of security, Rodney and Colette, two security officers, and Lisa, a biologist. Of those that survive the onslaught of the murderous fanatics and undead, they appear able to resist the call of the alien in their midst, or so it seems. They have meager weaponry meant to maintain peace with; a crew of 144 that typically does no worse than have the occasional argument or suicide attempt to keep security busy. They have repeaters, which amount to b-b gun tazers, and a few batons. More than enough to stop a human being, but that do little to stop ravenous zombies.
The book is a wild ride, with desperate efforts to try and discover what is going on and then putting a stop to it with enemies coming at the main characters in all directions-the living, the dead, and alien who are all trying to destroy them. The author leaves plenty of unanswered questions, which is not surprising, though it may be unsatisfying to some readers. We never really understand much about the alien, including how it can control some minds so effectively while others seem able to resist, what it is transforming into, what its purpose is, or how it can control the dead…but as with the case with both alien and zombie sagas, sometimes those questions are best left unanswered, since this is a tale of unknown terror and trying to flee from it when you are stuck on board ship that offers no real escape at all. This is a fun, nightmare inducing book-a scary tale worth checking out for both fans of sci fi and zombie horror both.
Containment Room 7 can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Containment-Room-7-Bryan-Hall/dp/193486191X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1326052611&sr=1-1
Captain Nate Leathers of the U.S. Army is in Iraq on a routine patrol in a small town outside of Basra when his Humvee convoy gets ambushed by insurgents. As the only survivor, he is taken prisoner and dumped in an underground dungeon by the insurgents. Not long after that, there are explosions and other chaos from up above, and a strange green mist starts floating through his prison cell. Concerned that it’s a chemical weapon, he tries to avoid it, but after a while comes to accept that it seems to have no effect on him. He manages to escape the abandoned dungeon and makes it to the streets of Basra, where he discovers that it seems as if the dead are walking and there are very few people still left alive. Hiding and escaping on foot from trouble with an Iraqi named Muhammad, he discovers there are far worse creatures than zombies roaming the streets-creatures that seem to have crawled (and flown) up from the depths of hell. But even with all of that, the real trouble starts for Leathers when he comes across a group of survivors who create even more of a hell on earth for him.
Archeron starts out strong as a tale told in first person. The author does a solid job of explaining military terminology and other aspects of life in the field without going overboard with it. He also does a good job of keeping the reader in the dark as to what is happening outside of the narrow perspective of the main character early on. This gives a sense of claustrophobia which increases the story’s intensity level a few notches for the first third of the book. Even as Leathers makes his escape from the insurgent’s dungeon, the mystery surrounding the green mist and the strange, zombie-like creatures that bewilder him at first kept the story moving at a rapid, entertaining clip. He starts to get his bearings and discovers there are more than just zombies involved in this strange new world he is a part of, which makes the story even more interesting. I liked it when Muhammad, the Iraqi who saves Leathers early in the story, does his best to explain that the shambling figures out on the street are indeed zombies, despite a language barrier. I thought he put the message across in a very creative way. I do regret that Muhammad didn’t play a bigger role in this tale. I would have liked to see more of him.
I enjoyed the fact that this story does take place in Iraq, which is not the typical locale for a zombie story. But as I read through this book, I realized that this is not a zombie story, but a story of demons and ancient mythology. The author has a strong knowledge of how the military operates and the ancient mythology he chooses to develop his horror creations. The action moves at a steady clip early on and in the latter stages of the book, with quite a bit of time in the middle dealing with interpersonal conflicts and the characters pondering what is actually happening.
Unfortunately, I did have a couple of issues with the story that took away from my enjoyment of it.
The first is what I will call ‘asides’ that distract from the main tale. These take place when, for example, the main character spends a chapter discussing the benefits of wearing your combat boots while you sleep, or when the main character starts contemplating the meaning of life-an example of this is when Captain Leathers states that one man’s religion does not make him any more or less moral than another man. These asides bog down the story for me, slowing the tempo and detracting, rather than adding to the texture and complexity of the tale.
My second issue was with Leathers himself. He struck me as a contradictory character. One the one hand, he is a combat vet and an officer who has the guts and confidence to make life and death decisions every day. On the other hand, he fails to take aggressive stance that would diffuse a dangerous situation again and again. I won’t elaborate on this further to avoid revealing spoilers. I will say that I do like a character that is human in their failings, and make mistakes, but the mistakes Leathers makes seemed redundant to me.
While I had some issues with this book, I think the author is a talented writer who has come up with a very interesting universe inhabited by not only zombies, but mysterious netherworld creatures. I will be curious to see what happens in the inevitable sequel to Acheron.
Acheron can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Acheron-Bryon-Morrigan/dp/1934861677/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1
Those who have read Ex-Heroes know the scoop from that first book. Peter Clines has created a world with his own flavor of superheroes, led by The Dragon (St. George), Zzzap, Stealth, and Cerberus, who reside in “The Mount”, a barricaded movie studio in L.A. They live there protecting the bulk of survivors in the city from Ex’s, aka zombies that have taken over the world. I felt that the author created a wonderful and highly detailed group of heroes and villains, using the writing technique of going back and forth in time, from ‘now’ to ‘then’ and back again, revealing only what the reader needs to know about each character-their origins, what brought them to where they are now, their motivations, etc.-until absolutely necessary to the plot. I loved the twists in the first book, which gave us a surprise ending I thought was quite a zinger. The heroes are unique, complex, and entertaining-there are no cookie-cutter duplicates of other heroes we already know and love.
Ex-Patriots introduces the military to the equation here in the second book. But not just the regular military, a group of super-soldiers created by a government scientist named Dr. Sorenson, who has turned them into physical specimens capable of great feats strength and speed. They are led by Captain Freedom (his actual real last name), though he isn’t draped in the American flag throughout the book. He is a physically massive soldier who is the strongest of the super-soldiers and also the most moral of the military men the reader is introduced to here. The military, huddled at a secret base in Arizona, makes the trek to the Mount after discovering the barricaded safe haven. Despite an introduction filled with missteps, the heroes agree to make the trip back to Arizona to discuss mutual survival plans with Colonel Shelly, the top army officer still alive, and Agent Smith, the only representative on hand representing the U.S. Government. Naturally, more conflict between the military and heroes occurs, with the military wanting the large, robotic Cerberus machine and official control over the Mount, claiming that Marshall Law is still in play. This despite serious questions as to whether the U.S. government even still exists, given that the ex’s seem to control most of the world.
New villains are revealed here, as well as new heroes, and the author does not disappoint with his efforts to provide fresh twists and turns to the plot, both with new characters and old. He uses the same format of ‘now’ and ‘then’ to divulge choice details, which leaves the reader guessing on particular details until the moment is just right. The action is on par with the first book, and the relationships between the different superheroes and the soldiers are solid. I particularly like the slow burn that is going on between St. George and Stealth-the two hero leaders who can’t seem to figure out what type of relationship they’re supposed to have.
Like the preceding book, this was a well written tale and it leaves plenty of room for more twists and mysteries in the final book in the trilogy. Villains that are complex and despicable, heroes that may seem indestructible yet are very much human in how they react and respond to the people and challenges they face…Mr. Clines has created a compelling world filled with fascinating characters. I look forward to seeing where it all leads.
Ex-Patriots can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Ex-Patriots-Peter-Clines/dp/1934861871/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1321937132&sr=8-1
The Drifter takes place less than a century in the future, and is a story about a hired gun who begins the tale taking us through his latest job, while memories of a past that was more sane and more appealing (both to him and to the reader) floats through his head. Mace is the man’s name, and he is obligated to a crime boss by the name of Cap Leto, who has put him on what amounts to a suicide mission. Not that the anti-hero main character seems to care much, because his soul feels as if it has rotted away inside of him. Bitter and dispassionate, he goes forward with his job with little remorse, though with many regrets that began long before this story takes place, and are only compounded by what he is forced to do.
As our killer manages to make it through his mission still breathing, though bloodied and bruised, he decides that the opportunity to start over with a program offered by one of the mega-corporations that have off world colonies is his best bet. They offer a memory wipe and a chance to scrub the dirt off your hands and your soul. Unfortunately, Mace doesn’t appear to get the full treatment, and on top of that, the colony he ends up somewhere uptime is in a state of disarray. Bombs have been dropped, mutants are running wild, and gangs of marauders are running the place. On top of that, it seems that plenty of people know who Mace is, and are very interested in taking advantage of his unique talents as a hardened killer. But Mace has other ideas in mind, especially when he meets up with a woman on the run who he decides is worth protecting and fighting for, no matter how difficult it may be to keep her safe and alive.
The Drifter is a faced paced, present tense tale about a man who is part futuristic cowboy and part knight errant. Mace lives by his own code, even in a universe that seems determined that he get sucked back into the dark world he used to inhabit time and time again. The story is hard to pin down, since it has a noir-ish flavor to it, with a touch of Blade Runner thrown in. In addition to that, it has an apocalyptic edge as well. Mace travels a world that has been turned upside down by massive destruction and it has an almost wild west feel to it. It almost seems that there is always something more, something hidden from his vision, just around the corner, and it is hard to guess at who he can and should trust at any given moment. The character is fun, ballsy, and brash, and it was easy for me to grow attached to him as he tries to come to grips with memories that have faded alongside those that haven’t, which include most of the ones related to his dark past.
A fun, rock ‘em, sock ‘em tale, North has created a character that I hope to see again…and again. Mace is a hard case on a mission, and God help anyone who stands in his way.
The Drifter can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Drifter-Stephen-North/dp/1466312807/ref=sr_1_59?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1317608443&sr=1-59
Sergeant Alex Cray is dealing with a viral outbreak in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. He is wearing his MOPP suit, which is the self-contained, sealed suit we always see in the movies when there is an airborne virus or infection going around. The suit is hot, uncomfortable, but he is not supposed to take it off for fear of contracting whatever virus is out there. He and his fellow soldiers are not sure what is really going on, and if this outbreak has expanded beyond the borders of Tampa, or if it even started there in the first place. Soon, he decides that if he is forced to stay in the suit, life beneath that mask wouldn’t be worth living. But when he slips off that mask, he soon is forced to strip away other masks…the masks that allow him to remain civilized and normal in the regular world, but masks that are harder (or even impossible) to maintain in this new world, where a virus is only the beginning of the troubles he will face. The virus reveals a great many things about the survivors, and what they’re willing to do to stay alive and thrive in a new, barbaric environment. Time slips by and Alex discovers that he wants to remain human, and remain someone who can still look in the mirror at himself, but he will be forced to do ugly things to somehow pull that off.
Again, the virus is only the beginning, and I don’t think it is much of a spoiler to indicate that there is something far more diabolical at work in this story, something alien and yet strangely human. New doors are opened for Alex, and as he slips from one effort at saving those around him to another he finds himself more and more tormented. Tormented by beliefs that the human race is done for and that despite his best efforts, he is slipping away as well, even as he continues to live.
This is a story told in first person, present tense. It is a style used infrequently, and is rather challenging for someone to pull off. Stephen North, in this, his first novel, pulls it off just as he does in his later efforts with relative ease. Not everyone enjoys this style, and I will admit that in some ways it leaves me wanting as a reader. Not because of the quality of the writing, but because of the lack of information granted me as a reader. There are a lot of mysteries not revealed in the pages of this book because we only see the world that Alex sees, and in a world that is as clouded and dim as this one, one man’s vision doesn’t extend too far. The action is in your face and it is very easy to climb into the skin of Alex, as it were, but the character spends a great deal of his time getting knocked out of action and fading to black, only to wake up with everything changed around him, with his efforts to figure out what is going on only partially successful. This is a grand adventure with a few mysterious gaps in the tale that left me curious. I don’t like spoiling things for other readers, so suffice to to say, if you read this book carefully, you will have questions that Alex has that will go unanswered before the end of the tale. The author has indicated that since this was his first work, he wants to revisit it, and may explain some of the parts that were never detailed in a rewrite. If that is the case, I will be one of the first in line to check it out. Despite these few “gaps”, this is a good adventure tale, with an interesting sci fi slant on the traditional apocalyptic thriller. Stephen North writes virtually everything in first person, and is one of those rare people who also uses the present tense with ease…while the rest of us find it an incredibly difficult challenge to pull off.
Beneath the Mask can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Beneath-Mask-Stephen-North/dp/142592588X/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1317092890&sr=1-6
Sheri Gambino has put together an assortment of tales that spring from her dark and vivid imagination for Twisted Tales of Terror. This anthology has several zombie apocalypse tales, but the author mixes things up with an assortment of other stories to stir the pot. Included in this book are a few twisty, surprise entries that were unexpected, including one about a mad scientist, a vampire waging a war against evil, a truly killer clown, and the author’s own slant on “Kiss of the Spider Woman”. She includes a dash of voodoo and a couple of tales of menace from space along with her zombie stories, most of which are traditional survival tales, but with an assortment of demonic invaders thrown in for good measure.
The author creates some solid characters along with a few throw away ones that come with the typical short story. I grew attached to a few of the characters that I felt like could have been delved into deeper, with grander tales crafted around them. They drew me in and kept me intrigued. As for the “throw away” characters, I don’t mean that in a negative way-but when you are dealing with the apocalypse, you tend to need a lot of grist for the mill, and Sheri carves up the bodies here quite nicely.
Overall, this was a brisk, easy read that entertained me and was done far more quickly than expected. The editing is sharp and I could see making a commitment to a full sized novel by this author with one, or several of her more intriguing characters that she has to offer.
Twisted Tales of Terror can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Twisted-Tales-of-Terror-ebook/dp/B004YQVOXS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1308014835&sr=8-1
The Traveling Tyrant tells the tale of what amounts to corporate espionage disguised as dark science fiction comedy. Or is it a science fiction tale disguised as a corporate thriller? Not quite sure, since it handles the influence of more than one genre with relative ease. The basic overview of this tale is that a representative of Galactic Hotels has presented to the board of directors the discovery of a pristine, paradise world relatively untouched by human hands, named, conveniently enough, Paradisa. It will make the perfect vacation hot spot for the ultra-wealthy, except for one minor, niggling detail: a group of religious zealots claimed the world as their own years before. So, to cleanse the place of these annoying pests, the Traveling Tyrant is called in to do what he and his fleet of mercenaries do best, which is to make niggling details disappear. The only problem is that there is trouble afoot, with more than one member of the Tyrant’s command staff attempting to work their way into the Tyrant’s position of power through a variety of twisted machinations. So with religious zealots below and the danger of mutiny in the fleet above, you can rest assured that everyone involved is in for a bumpy ride and a mission that more than likely isn’t going to go all that smoothly.
This is definitely a dark comedy at its heartless best. Death and deception go hand and hand here, with virtually every character having more than one agenda, though their desires and goals for advancement and power seem to be quite clear, even if their routes to achieving those goals are often cloudy. This story could easily pave the way for a series of books about the Tyrant and his fleet, plus a client base that has a tendency to be fairly amoral in their desire for conquest and dominance. The writing is solid and the wit sharp, with plenty of deception to entertain and amuse those of us who like a little hemlock with our wine every now and then. While the Tyrant is not a likable fellow, with his lecherous ways and Napoleonic complex, he is only one member of a cast of equally twisted characters, each with their own twisted perspectives and peccadilloes that enhance the story and keep you guessing as to what might happen next and who might deceive who. For some, the darkness of this tale might be a bit much, given that it is fairly relentless, with no apologies offered for the vicious, almost offhand casual way lives are destroyed, but that is also a part of the story’s devious allure. For those who can handle such diabolical tactics in the stories they read, this one should be quite an entertaining addition to their collection.
The Traveling Tyrant can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Traveling-Tyrant-Richard-Marsden/dp/1456401254/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1307932753&sr=1-1
I am pretty excited about this one. I wrote a time travel story a while back entitled “Intervention”, which Wayne Goodchild was gracious enough to accept into his time travel anthology. But this isn’t just stories about time travel, but stories about when time travel goes wonky and things get screwed up, both now and then, or is that then and now? I’m not quite sure, but it was certainly fun thinking up the consequences behind manipulating the time streams. I was pretty proud of my little story and was thrilled to find out that it would appear in the book, and first in the table of contents no less. The cover has just been revealed and the book should probably be released later this summer. It is a bit of a departure from my traditional horror story M.O., I know, but I was excited to stretch myself a bit with a twisty little tale of the present and future colliding.
Without further ado, here is the wrap around cover!
More details to follow. I hope plenty of you will be interested in checking this one out.