Writer of Horror Fiction

Posts tagged “survival

Review of Martin Berman-Gorvine’s “Judgement Day”

Judgment Day is the fourth and final installment in the Days of Atonement series by Martin Berman-Gorvine.  The book separates itself from the three previous books by a substantial distance in years and geography.  The main characters: Amos, Suzie, and Vicky, are now in their forties and living far to the south of their old hometown of Chatham’s Forge, on an island in Maryland, where they are somewhat removed from the newest god to take over up north, Ba’al, and his High Priestess, Cindy, who seeks revenge against the Israel clan, which Amos’s band is now called.  While Amos is the Headman, or leader, of this band that lives peacefully except for the occasional assaults by the punks that have followed them south, it is Vicky who has taken on the role of Rabbi and devoted follower of the Jewish God Amos’s family secretly believed in back in Chatham’s Forge when Moloch was the god in charge.  The trio have formed a somewhat awkward family unit, with Amos married to both women and producing a large blended family.  While he is admired and respected by the small community of more than a hundred refugees that have joined them over the years, Amos still retains the wishy washy and indecisive nature that has not only frustrated the women in his life, but this reviewer as well.  He is a good man, but he struggles to make decisions and be an assertive leader, allowing one of his wives and a son to dominate their community with less violent, but similar rigid ritualistic expectations put upon the followers of the barbaric gods of the north.

While the group has been at peace for years, Cindy and Ba’al are prepared to get their vengeance against the Israel clan.  At the same time, Vicky has become convinced that the Jewish God has taken physical form and their much smaller group is destined to go to war with the demonic gods, like Ba’al and Mote, the god of death.  Amos struggles to keep his two families and two wives, who have been at odds with one another all these years, at peace and their community whole.  It’s clear that is a failing effort, and war is coming.

This is a fitting, and somewhat surprising, ending to this series.  I had my doubts as to how the author could effectively end this tale, given the direction it has been heading and with the world filled with so many dark and demonic gods, ghosts, and only hints of the benevolent, if somewhat absent deity of the Jewish faith.  I felt satisfied in the end-that the author didn’t use a (pardon the use of the term) deus ex machina to bring things to a conclusion, as it were.  The ending fits and while this alternate universe can seem somewhat baffling at times, it has its own logic to it, and the characters who survive are not left with easy answers or solutions to their lifelong problems.

While the big picture story of this series deals with a hell-wrapped apocalyptic world, the real story is more personal, dealing with the conflicts that face the challenging love triangle Amos, Suzie, and Vicky been a part of since their high school days came to an end.  It is hard to say that any one of them is a hero or a villain in this piece.  Instead, they are just three humans that have tried, and often failed, to do the right things for themselves and those they care about.  This is not a tale of redemption or vindication for any one of them.  It is a tale of realization-understanding who you are (for better or worse) and that while this particular story may end, the greater story continues to unfold endlessly into the future.  Whether that is frustrating, or satisfying, is perhaps all in how you look at it.  For me, this series was both frustrating and satisfying, like the characters, and like life itself.  It is the same whether you live in the ‘normal’ world or (apparently) in a demon and ghost-infested post nuclear apocalyptic world.

Judgment Day can be found here:    https://www.amazon.com/Judgment-Days-Ascension-Martin-Berman-Gorvine/dp/1609752430/

Review of Stephen Kozeniewski’s “Skinwrapper”

I haven’t read Stephen Kozeniewski’s The Hematophages, but this novella serves as a prequel. Based on what I have read, Kozeniekski has created yet another darkly creative universe where the horror is fresh, fantastical, and yet quite real and very disconcerting.

The main character is a teenage girl living on board a space freighter called the Blue Whale. She lives with her two mothers, and corresponds with a friend who is on another ship far off in another shipping lane in the galaxy. She is at an age where she is not yet ready to move into a career role on the ship, which is the only home she has ever known. While it is clear the corporation that owns the ship controls all aspects of its inhabitant’s lives, she seems pretty happy with her existence.

That’s when the ship gets attacked. In the space of a few words on the page, our main character’s life is irrevocably changed and we understand the grave danger she is in as she races through the ship and the scattered zero g carcasses of her crew mates, victims of the Skinwrappers, pirates whose methods and motives are ghastly. Relying on a voice inside her head to force her to remain calm while doing her best to hide from the interlopers, she struggles to survive this abrupt and grisly nightmare in deep space.

I’ve read several works from Kozeniewski and despite the fantastical nature of the environments he creates, there is a realness to them, a sense of place and time that puts you in the story. This tale is no different. While this is a novella, I would say it has the jarring feel of a short story that moves at a breakneck speed.  You don’t know every detail of the world the characters inhabit and you don’t need to know them all to get a sense of their reality. The telling of the tale is precise, with little to no fat left on the bone. You’re moving forward, racing to a conclusion that is nearly impossible to guess at, and holding on to the ride the entire time.

While this tale takes place in deep space, it is as real and down to earth as a horror tale can get. Nothing but good old fashion humans doing ill to other humans, in so very many creative and unspeakable ways. Definitely worth a read, and an excellent appetizer to what I suspect is a pretty darkly detailed horror novel in The Hematophages.

Skinwrapper can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Skinwrapper-Stephen-Kozeniewski-ebook/dp/B07TNPP4NZ/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1S5ZWZ6IU6UWJ&keywords=skinwrapper&qid=1572196944&sprefix=skinwrapper%2Caps%2C168&sr=8-1

Review of Martin Berman-Gorvine’s “Day of Vengeance (Days of Ascension Book 2)

We return to the world of Chatham’s Forge in the second book of The Day of Ascension series, Day of Vengeance, where Amos, Suzie, and Vicky appear to be the only survivors of their efforts to annihilate Moloch and free the town from the demon’s influence. They soon discover this isn’t quite the case, although many of those who apparently came away unscathed physically have suffered in other, much more terrible ways. Others who weren’t living in the town, including the ‘muties’, have also survived, and are ready to exact revenge against those who made them suffer under the rule of Moloch.

Our trio of main characters discover a bigger and even more dangerous world than the one where they lived behind the walled protection of Moloch, with hints of other beings of great supernatural power roaming the world and one in particular which is hungry to fill the vacuum of power left by the departure of the patron demon of Chatham’s Forge.

Overall, the characters have grown and gotten tougher as well as more mature-at least this is the case with Amos, though Suzie has seemingly inherited some of his whininess from the first book. Vicky takes an interesting and far different path, and we are introduced to several new characters, both good and evil, whose personal sagas add to the overall flavor of this tale.

There are plenty of new developments and again the world has grown much bigger, though the story continues to focus mainly on Chatham’s Forge and the surrounding woodlands. There are indications that other demons, like Moloch, have sheltered other towns in the region and forced the members of those communities to follow their evil rituals to remain alive. The demon world becomes less hidden as well, with the introduction of a new and compelling potential replacement for Moloch. The author has set the table for an intriguing third act.

Overall, a solid second addition to this series. While the main characters depth have expanded, I felt that Vicky, in particular, seemed a bit too easily manipulated and Suzie a bit scattered with her jealousies, but those are more or less minor quibbles. Amos has grown-still immersed in self-doubt but stronger and more determined to be the hero people are starting to expect him to be. The writing is crisp and the story is quite unique. I was ready to gripe about women not having Adam’s Apples because the author refers to a woman with one here, but then I discovered they do, just not as prominent as the ones men have. One other minor distraction (yes, being nitpicky) is when an older character reflects back on when they got to cruise around town in their Mustang before the world went kerplooie, which wouldn’t be possible since the first Mustangs came out in 1964 and the old world ended in nuclear fire in 1962. Still, a minor distraction only.

I’m very interested to see what happens in the third installment in the series (trilogy?) and look forward to diving into it. This is the most sincere form of flattery there is for the second book in a series that I can think of.

Day of Vengeance (The Days of Ascension Book 2) can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Day-Vengeance-Days-Ascension-Book-ebook/dp/B0756S656T/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1527865747&sr=8-2

The Will To Survive, available now!

Not too long ago, I shared that I had the privilege to be a part of a writing project where the proceeds would be going to support hurricane relief. The Will To Survive is a labor of love for editor Felicia A. Sullivan, who brought together the talents of everyone who contributed to this project: those who write, those who format, and the artist who created the awesome cover.
The book is available both in kindle and paperback format. I have a paperback version of the book and with 22 different short stories, it weighs in at a pretty hefty 345 pages.
The two charities being supported with this work are: One America Appeal: www.oneamericaappeal.org and Global Giving-Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund: www.globalgiving.org/projects/hurricane-harvey-relief-fund/. Please consider picking up a copy of the book, but also consider directly donating to these worthy causes. You can find the book here: The Will To Survive.

The description on the back reads as follows:

When normal life collapses, peril waits around every corner, and one small slip could mean certain death. In THE WILL TO SURVIVE, unique and brilliant voices bring to life stories of post-apocalyptic danger sure to make the heart race, the flesh creep. 

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. Every short story has a survival element, and 100% of the 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. It’s the end of the world. Do you have the will to survive?

Another way you can help us continue to build awareness and generate more interest in this book is to read it and write an honest review on Amazon and anywhere else you can post a review. My story, “The Collective” is nestled within the pages of the book and its a story that I have always felt was one of my more compelling. Nope, no zombies to be seen, but one that really focuses on the value of life, the value of living, and choosing whether it is worth going on when everyone else that you love is gone.

Please check this book out. It’s a great cause and if you enjoy TEOTWAWKI fiction, you’ll love it.
The Will to Survive

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

Review of David Houchins and Scot Thomas’ Zombie Apocalypse Preparation: How to Survive in an Undead World and Have Fun Doing It!

Zombie Apocalypse Preparation: How to Survive in an Undead World and Have Fun Doing It! is sort of the goofy alter ego of Max Brook’s Zombie Survival Guide, which kept a straight face throughout its overview of weaponry, tactics, location scouting, and other related areas of interest when dealing with the inevitable outbreak of zombie mayhem.  These days, with people getting their faces eaten off, children rising up out of their coffins, and a veritable cornucopia of other events happening that hint at a possible zombie apocalypse, checking out a guide or two on undead preparedness is not a bad idea.  ZAP, as this guide is called for short, provides an amusing approach to taking the steps necessary to insure you survive the end of the world not only with the goal of making it through alive, but making it through alive in style and with a smile on your face.

Parts of this book are fairly routine survivors fare, covering the topics of weapons, shelters, locations, vehicles, etc.  But the author’s snappy commentary adds entertainment value to the routine evaluations of different options you have available.  Pop culture references abound and while not all of them will resonate with everyone in their audience, many of them brought a smile to my face.

One of the key elements of this book that does stand out as different is the final section, where the authors have come up with a wide array of zombie-related games to pass the time for those bored with the everyday routine of survival during the undead apocalypse.  The detailed drawings add punch to the outrageous descriptions given.  I won’t spoil the fun by listing out these different pastimes, but suffice it to say that they take traditional games and some new and unique ideas for games and make versions that will keep you on your toes…with risk to that part of your anatomy as well as many others if you decide to play them with actual zombies.

Overall, this is an entertaining survival guide.  I thought the comedy was a little light in certain sections, and the use of some references got a little redundant after a while, but overall, a well done, fun read for the dedicated and not-so-dedicated zombie fan alike.

Zombie Apocalypse Preparation: How to Survive in an Undead World and Have Fun Doing It!  can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Zombie-Apocalypse-Preparation-Survive-Undead/dp/1618680269/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1339221769&sr=1-1

Review of Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga’s “The Walking Dead Rise of the Governor”

The Walking Dead, Rise of the Governor, should be more aptly titled (as mentioned by several other reviewers): The Birth of the Governor. If this book has a sequel, it would tell of the actual rise of the Governor. In fact, I feel that given what this particular book is lacking, there would need to be a sequel to bridge the gap between what we have been introduced to with this story and what we see when Rick, Glenn, and Michonne stumble across Woodbury in the comic books.

While this story wasn’t quite what I expected, I had no issue with it as a stand alone tale in TWD universe. It is the story of a normal human being, doing his best to survive the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse. In that regard, this story parallels TWD. We are introduced to a group of survivors: brothers Philip and Brian Blake, two of Philip’s friends-Bobby and Nick, and Philip’s young daughter, Penny. Philip is the leader of this small bad of survivors trying hard to cope in this new world. Bobby and Nick follow Philip’s lead, as they have always done in life before the apocalypse, which is usually a good thing, since he is willing to do what it takes to remain alive. The story covers their saga of survival as they travel across Georgia, from a wealthy subdivision outside Atlanta where they hide out for a time, to a barricaded apartment building inside the city that they share with other survivors, to their grim journeys out into the sticks, where they finally arrive at Woodbury, the town that the Governor rules with an iron fist in TWD comic books.

As I mentioned, I would be willing to read a sequel to this story; one that would further explain how the man who enters Woodbury near the end of this tale transforms into the man who can do such unthinkable and horrible things to other survivors in the comic books-especially to Michonne and Rick. But if this book, and the psychological transformation that occurs within its pages, is the only justification offered up as to why the Governor is the way he is by the writers of this novel, I just can’t buy it. There has to be more trauma put upon him to allow him to become such a casually evil and demonic creature. I firmly believe this. To elaborate further would reveal spoilers, which I’m unwilling to do. So again, my hope is that there is a plan to scribe another book…part 2, if you will, though I doubt that is the case.

Again, this book, as a standalone tale of survival during the zombie apocalypse, is entertaining. Present tense writing is not the norm, but it does speak of the immediacy of everything going on around the characters and keeps the energy level high, for the most part. I didn’t have a real issue with that. I did feel that the author could have toned down the descriptive verse a bit. He creates vivid images, but I often felt a bit overwhelmed by the details he would elaborate on, when simpler descriptives would have sufficed. That is a minor niggling detail though. My main concern with this story is that it only shares the beginning of the metamorphosis the man who turns into the Governor. There is a big chunk missing in the tale that goes from this story and ends when we come across the full blown Governor in TWD comic books. It is THAT tale, the middle portion of the man’s saga, that I really want to read.

The Walking Dead Rise of the Governor can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Walking-Dead-Rise-Governor/dp/0312547730/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1322941209&sr=8-1

Review of C. Dulaney’s “Roads Less Traveled: The Plan”

Roads Less Traveled: The Plan tells the story of Kasey, a young woman living in the mountains of West Virginia, and a group of students from Pennsylvania coping with the initial days of the zombie apocalypse.  Kasey and Ben, one of the students, have been corresponding over the internet for years, though they’ve never met face to face.  While there are no real details as to how they stumbled onto one another, it isn’t difficult to surmise that they connected via one message board or another that was discussing the best ways to survive a zombie apocalypse.  This story is built for the zombie fan who has been prepared for the apocalypse, or at least talked about being prepared for it, for years.  You see, Kasey and Ben had a plan set up for when things fell apart and the zombies rose up.  Of course, it was all talk until the undead became a reality.  Now they have to put their plan into action, which entails Ben making his way down to West Virginia to Kasey while she prepares her very remote home as a holdout against a world filled with the undead.  Ben has some friends coming along with him-other students at the college he’s at, foremost among them being Jake, who is another zombie fan who apparently has a plan of his own.  Begrudgingly, Kasey agrees to let them morph their plans together, and make the journey to Kasey’s home, fighting through minefields of the staggering undead shambling rampant through Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  A large chunk of the story is taken up with the tale of Ben’s journey south, along with a side story of another friend of Kasey’s who lives in Washington DC…Mia and Kasey speak early on in the book over the phone, and they both assume Mia is as good as dead given the massive population where she lives.  But the story of her attempt at survival was one of the more interesting parts of the book for me-exciting and heartbreaking at the same time.

As a zombie fan, I need to make it clear that this story does not break new ground.  The zombies are traditional Romero zombies.  As a zombie author, I have no problem with there being no new ground broken as far as the undead are concerned.  There is plenty of un-life still left in a tale filled with the slow, dragging, moaning undead.  The key is telling a story that has characters that are compelling and make you want to root for them…or hate them,.  Either way, they have to keep you intrigued.

I felt that Kasey was a well fleshed out character.  She is strong, prepared, and takes on a leadership role among this newly formed group of survivors with relative ease.  My second favorite character had to be Nancy, who while playing a minor role just seemed appealing-she is Jake’s grandmother, and the strength she exhibits in this story is not all on the surface.  Kasey may be the leader, but Nancy is the glue keeping the group together.  I wasn’t as fond of Ben, who didn’t seem nearly as fully developed given his key role in the story.  He and his new found girlfriend become background noise for the bulk of the story, with a few points where they stand out for short periods of time, at most.  Jake is far more complex a character, and outshines Ben from the very beginning.  He was sort of an anomaly in a lot of ways, making him a unique.  He is diminutive in stature, but plays the role of a bad ass, a leader, but he defers with no complaint to Kasey, and he is a psycho, though only when necessary.  I am not sure I particularly like Jake, though he grew on me as the story progressed.

The writing is solid in this book and I had no issues with it, though I do have to admit switching from first person (with Kasey) to third person, with everyone else, isn’t my favorite way to go.  It isn’t a major complaint, though at one point in the story, the two styles were intermingled.  Kasey is in a scene, and speaking in first person, and yet she is not right next to some of the other characters, but somehow, she is still narrating about them. Again, this is just a quibble.  I just tend to prefer it when an author keep the perspective consistent throughout a story.

Roads Less Traveled: The Plan once again does not break new ground, and the plan, though mentioned early on, really has no elements to it that are different than most of the other survivor’s plans I have seen in other zompoc tales.  It just is something that moves the story along, giving the characters a purpose for doing what they need to do.  For me, the real key to this story is that the characters, in particular Kasey and Jake, are interesting, and emotionally they seemed real.  There are no superheroes here, just normal people struggling to stay alive in the face of both the undead hordes and the very dangerous living that tend to create even worse problems for the main characters.

I look forward to checking out the next book in this trilogy-the author has me intrigued.

You can find Roads Less Traveled: The Plan here: http://www.amazon.com/Roads-Less-Traveled-Plan-1/dp/1934861995/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1321116527&sr=8-2