Tall Tales With Small Cocks is an anthology from Bizarro Press. It is a series of short stories (along with one poem) that range from bizarro to straight up horror tales. A brief overview of the tales in this compendium:
In The Flesh by John McNee is a mix of steampunk and bizarro, with a mechanical detective on the hunt for a flesh covered woman hiding out at a living, breathing flesh hotel.
Help! My Ass Has Rabies! By Adam Millard tells the story of a fast food employee and an attack of a virus with some teeth to it that rampages through the restaurant where he works.
Zeitgeist by Arthur Graham gives us a parody of the trials and tribulations that come along with trying to get a new TV show produced.
The Zombies of Killimanjaro by Jon Konrath is about a man waiting for the zombie infection to take hold of him after he’s scratch while he sits on Killimanjaro reflecting on his past.
I am a Whale by Robin Wyatt Dunn is a brash poem about the grandeur of a whale and how humans suck by comparison.
Yappy the Happy Squirrel by Dominic O’Reilly regales us with a battle between man and squirrel kind and the god-like melon that would save us all.
MouseTrap by Wol-vriey reads like a bizarro fairy tale with a wind up mouse, an obese house wife and the ungrateful men in her life.
Regressive by Nathan J.D.L. Rowark is a horror story about the elderly taking a miracle drug that ends up turning them into monsters.
The Night of the Walrus by Gabino Inglesias dives into a seedy underworld filled with desperate Walruses, midget gangsters and toasters possessed by the elder gods.
Someone who enjoys both horror and bizarro should find something to enjoy among these tales, though as is the case with every anthology, not all tales resonate equally. Special mention go to In The Flesh, Zeitgeist, and MouseTrap, all three of these stories had their own distinct bizarro flare that brought a twisted smile to my face as I read them. A couple of stories didn’t have any bizarro elements to them and were more pure horror, but that was okay for me as a fan of both genres. There weren’t any duds here, though a couple of the stories didn’t leave me with any lasting memory of them. A few others did leave an aftertaste…and that to me is what is best about short stories-if they have the power to stick with you long after you read them. You’ll get a few of those here.
Tall Tales with Small Cocks can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Tall-Tales-Short-Cocks-Anthology/dp/0615635474/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1341170946&sr=1-1&keywords=tall+tales+and+short+cocks
Plaguesville, USA tells a tale set in a world several years after much of the human population has been wiped out by a lethal virus. The timeframe is in the late 2070’s, and much of the United States has turned into a desecrated land filled with survies, as they are called: gangs, small fiefdoms, cannibals, mutants, and a few people trying to maintain some sense of civilization. We are introduced to Dr. Justin Kaes, an epidemiologist from the CDC in New Atlanta who has found himself in charge of a mission to prevent the “Sick,” as the plague has been dubbed, from reinventing itself and destroying what is left of the meager human population. He has been sent to collect the one man who has survived the original iteration of the plague and whose blood might help them create a vaccine for whatever new iterations may come about. He is Howard Lampert, a crusty, cranky old man of 102 who lives in Minnesota. The story picks up after Justin and his team have picked up Mr. Lampert and are on their way to San Francisco, where there are doctors waiting who have the resources to craft the potential vaccine. The doctor and his team’s massive RV has run out of fuel down in Oklahoma, where they are surrounded by gangs and religious zealots who also happen to be cannibals. We are introduced to Teresa, a member of one of the local gangs, who’s interested in hitting the bricks because she has grown weary of the Blood Claws (not to mention that more than one member of the gang has tried to rape her). She crosses paths with Justin as he and the others are trying to figure out what to do to keep moving west and the duo form an unlikely partnership. The story tells of their adventures, which include an onslaught of virtually every post-apocalyptic danger imaginable, except perhaps for zombies, as they try to complete an almost impossible mission.
Plaguesville gives the reader a thoroughly realized post-apocalyptic world that isn’t set in our time, but over a half a century in the future. Each chapter provides a nice little beginning blurb giving the reader a small taste of the world before the fall, with advertisements about the food, entertainment, and culture that adds additional flavor to the story. As readers will note, this tale has an interesting arrangement with the characters. Justin is the main character and we see the world through his eyes in many ways, but as Mr. Lampert comes from our day and age (he would be around 38 right now), it is easy to identify with him and his perspective on a bombed out, shell shocked world of plague and Mad Max sensibilities. Justin is a doctor on a mission who finds himself attracted to the barbaric and yet incredibly enticing Teresa, and Mr. Lampert brings an old fashion sensibility to the story that is entertaining and somewhat humorous in spots, while getting dark and gruesome in others. While Justin the voice of ethics and morality in a world with very little of such things, Lampert is the grumpy voice of reason and sanity in a world gone mad.
The story runs its cast through several different adventures-they meet the good, the bad, and the ugly that remain in the world, and there are quite a few secondary characters’ stories told that intertwine with the main cast as the tale runs toward its completion. Again, the author has done a good job of laying out a detailed post-apocalyptic world and gives us a saga with plenty of action and adventure. Time and again, Justin’s mission is on the brink of oblivion, but he continues to maintain hope and believe that as long as Lampert remains alive they can resolve things. In some ways, it felt like there were almost too many near misses in the story, but it kept things moving at a fast clip. Overall, this was a fun read, with a few gentle messages that weren’t too heavy-handed about corruption, craving for power, and man’s undeniable lust to cause his own destruction. The growing attraction between Justin and Teresa is handled with a deft hand that made it feel believable and touching, despite the fact that these two people were worlds apart in so many ways. If I have a criticism of this book, it would perhaps be that the story does not feel complete. We are only introduced to the CDC team once they’ve broken down in Oklahoma and not when they set out from Atlanta, pick up Mr. Lampert, and make their way through so many other adventures leading up to that point. Granted, the book is already a healthy 350 pages, but I felt as if there were more stories to be told. Even with this minor complaint, this is an entertaining and robust post-apocalyptic tale with entertaining characters and a setting that was quite compelling.
Plaguesville, USA can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Plaguesville-USA-ebook/dp/B0078FN0RA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1336273247&sr=8-1
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