Writer of Horror Fiction

Posts tagged “zombies

Review of Jonathan Moon’s “Hollow Mountain Dead”

Hollow Mountain Dead is not Jonathan Moon’s first foray into the cross-genre mix of western and undead fiction, though I believe it is his first full-fledged novel on the subject.  He had a book filled with varied short stories along with a novella that took place in the old west that was a rollicking good horror story, but I can’t quite recall what the name of that book was, though I am certain I reviewed it somewhere back in the mists of time.

Mr. Moon has created quite a few different horror tales as well as dipping into bizzarro and other speculative genres.  This story, along with his past story that takes place in the mythical American old west, have a taste of harsh reality to them.  The darkness isn’t just within the monsters that pour forth from the gaping hole in the side of a mountain, it is embedded in most of the characters we are exposed to-even in the ones who do their best to become heroic when hell comes for a visit.  Only a select few seem redeemable here, though it is clear that most are as human as their harsh environment allows them to be.

A greedy, powerful mining magnate has cracked open a mountain with his crew of toughs and army of Chinese immigrant workers who are treated like slaves.  When he digs too deep, an old Indian warns him to stop and turn back, but greed casts a powerful spell on him and that is when, literally, all hell breaks loose.  A seeping gas bellowing out from seams within the earth turn those who are exposed to it into flesh eating monsters.  But this is not the only menace, because there is something further beneath the earth that is reaching out to those on the mountain, corrupting and luring them into evil.

The undead spread, wiping out a homestead and heading toward one of the two towns that sit on the mountainside while the few who managed to escape wave after wave of undead flee the mining camp.  Members of the Madoosk tribe have been tasked with stopping the evil have been preparing for it for ages and are ready for it, but they never expected hundreds of miners would get infected or that the plague with spread so fast.

The story moves at a fast pace and there are a multitude of characters.  While there are some flashbacks, much of the story is told with the urgency of present tense.  The undead are somewhat traditional in their tactics and how they spread, though the supernatural bent here brings some new elements to the table, including new ways to kill the undead that the Madoosk reveal.

As I mentioned, there are a great many characters on display, though that narrows to the select few who are tasked with defeating the undead after the first few waves of carnage pass.  There is plenty of gore for those who love that aspect of the zombie genre.  The feel of the old west is palpable on each page.  Many characters die, both throwaway and those more central to the plot, most in very brutal ways.  Again, there probably only a select few characters that most people will like or identify with because of who they were prior to the undead invasion, though a small few will grow on you.  Historically, Mr. Moon has been pretty relentless with his horror fiction, with no apologies for the slaughter and sprays of blood and gristle that oozes and spills forth from his pages.  This book is no exception to that rule.  Not that there is anything wrong with that.

In the end, a door is left open for more Hollow Mountain Dead with the ending of this tale.  This book was brutal, relentless, and vicious, and I am looking forward to checking out what comes next.

Hollow Mountain Dead can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Hollow-Mountain-Dead-Jonathan-Moon-ebook/dp/B00LLPU8YG/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1407427523


Review of Stephen North’s “Dead Tide Surge”

Dead Tide Surge is the third book in Stephen North’s Dead Tide Series, and I have previously reviewed the other two installments, Dead Tide, and Dead Tide Rising.  I read both prior to their re-release by Permuted Press and so I do not know for certain if there were significant changes, specifically a transition from present to past tense being used by the author.  This is the first of this series that I have read that was not in present tense.  While the transition didn’t change the story or impact the characters or dialog, the immediacy felt with present tense falls away a bit here.  That isn’t meant as a criticism.  The majority of stories are written in past tense for a reason and there is value to crafting a tale in that format.  Most people find it less jarring and more aesthetically pleasing.  While this may be true, I can say that the present tense versions of the first two books in this series were more than satisfactory for me-the pacing was fast and the short chapters that shuffle the reader from one character to the next was abrupt, but in a good way for someone who enjoys a bit of disruptive force being used in the stories they read.  Despite the tense change, the short, sharp chapters remain.  Reading the Dead Tide series is like getting shot at by an automatic weapon, with perhaps a dozen different story lines crashing against one another and keeps the reader on their toes.  Certainly not a style that everyone enjoys, but it has allowed the author to manage the experiences of an ensemble cast scattered around the Tampa Bay area who are all dealing with the onslaught of the undead and it keeps them all top of mind as they appear on the pages with great frequency.

Dead Tide Surge starts up as abruptly as its predecessor left off, so if it has been a while since you read Dead Tide Rising, it may take a few chapters to catch on to where each character, or groups of characters, ended up by the end of book two.  But it has been nearly four years since I read the prior installment in this series and was still able to recall the bulk of what the characters who have survived to this point have been through.  My only hope is that I don’t have to wait several more years for the next installment.  Originally, I presumed this would be a trilogy, and at some points in this book it appeared as though some of the many story lines were drawing to a conclusion.  The author did a good job of adding enough surprises so that while some characters meet their demise, others have plenty of reason to go on fighting to survive through at least one more book.  Some of the many strands of this very complex web do cross paths and I could believe that the fourth book could be the final stand of this series, though who is to say?  Plenty of the characters have not interacted with one another as of yet.  The author will have to determine if everyone will be together on the same page before all is said and done.  My gut tells me Mr. North isn’t quite sure himself how things will end up-will there be hope or will it all end in blood and despair?

With all the tightly interwoven plot elements here, reading the first two books is pretty much mandatory to understand what is going on here in book 3.  And if you enjoy tales of zombie gore and violence that is character driven (driven by a large cast of characters, that is) then it is worth picking up the trilogy.

Dead Tide Surge can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Tide-Surge-Book-3-ebook/dp/B00KPKGCFC/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1406668944


I’m the featured author over at Zombie Authors Blog!

I was notified with the pleasant news that I am the featured author over at the Zombie Authors Blog for the next couple of weeks.  So while you may have found me here on my own slice of the blogosphere, please go check out what they have to say about me over at Zombie Authors:  http://zombie-authors.blogspot.com/

Thanks to Jule Romans for giving me the heads up on this nice bit of news.


Review of Shana Festa’s “Time of Death: Induction”

Time of Death: Induction introduces the reader to Emma Rossi, a nursing student living in southwest Florida when the zombie apocalypse begins.  While the prologue is told in third person and gives a hint as to who patient zero might be, the rest of the tale is told in first person from Emma’s perspective.  She works at the hospital that is first hit by the advent of the dead rising, but her shift ends before things get crazy.  Still, through the combination of a violent storm and the fast spread of the virus things crash down all around her at home, with her husband Jake and their little dog Daphne fleeing for their lives as their home is overwhelmed by the walking dead.

After a series of narrow escapes, Emma and Jake manage to hook up with a group of soldiers who have claimed a Target superstore as their barricaded base of operations.  But it is clear that while the location appears to be secure they are far from safe as the world around them crumbles in the blink of an eye.  When Jake disappears on a supply mission and things start to fall apart at the store, Emma is forced to race through one harrowing and tragic event after another.

While Time of Death: Induction doesn’t introduce any new elements to the zombie genre-the zeds here are slow moving, traditional Romero zombies and not the ‘infected’ or have any differing abilities, the author has created a solid, fast moving story of personal survival.  There is plenty of gore and death, and the addition of the little dog the main character wants to keep sheltered and protected will add a sense of impending dread for anyone who is an animal lover, since Daphne seems to get herself into more sticky situations than the main character.

The pacing of the story is fast, with the main character and various other survivors she is with dealing with one traumatic event after another as the body count continues to rise and hope becomes fleeting.  The writing is smooth with no significant editing concerns.  The author provides Emma with a strong voice-she is easy to identify with and appreciate as a regular person thrown into an untenable situation where she is forced to make one difficult decision time after time.  The story is heavy on the undead being the main challenge for the survivors rather than human confrontations, with the exception of a rather brief but intense interaction with some desperate outsiders to Emma’s group.  Beyond this, there are some arguments but they take a back seat to basic day to day and minute by minute survival against the undead.  While Emma and Jake are fleshed out characters, the secondary players were less detailed, which is often a challenge faced when a story is told in first person.  We don’t get to know many of the other characters too well before many are obliterated in the apocalypse.  This isn’t a stiff criticism but more of an acknowledgement that this is Emma’s tale and the story sticks closely with her worldview and perspective throughout.

This is the author’s first novel and this appears to be the first of a series or trilogy.  Shanna Festa has created an exciting, enjoyable tale of desperation and survival, and I look forward to checking out the second book when it becomes available.

Time of Death: Induction can be found here:      http://www.amazon.com/Time-Death-Induction-Volume-1/dp/1618682725/ref=tmm_pap_title_0


Review of Rebecca Besser’s “Twisted Pathways of Murder & Death”

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).


Review of Rachel Aukes’ “Deadland’s Harvest”

Deadland’s Harvest starts off where 100 Days In Deadland left off, with Cash and company doing their best to survive in the wooded park where they have taken up residence.  This after the mayhem that closed out the first book and wiped out Camp Fox, the National Guard base where most survivors in the area had migrated to after the dead rose.  Clutch is still alive, but working on learning how to walk again after the injuries he suffered in the mayhem at the end of 100DiD.  The survivors are fewer, but the human dangers from the first book are no more, making the undead once again their main concern.

On a mission to save a group of refugees stuck in a building surrounded by zeds, Cash and Clutch discover that there are hordes of the undead roaming the countryside, moving south toward their current safe haven.  After flying a surveillance mission it becomes clear to Cash that these hordes are massive, with tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of the undead in them and they are wiping out everything in their path.  Nothing remains except rubble and desolation.  And soon they will trample the park and anyone who remains there.

The survivors make a decision to seek the assistance of a riverboat captain, who has taken on other survivors on his boat that floats on the Mississippi river, out of clutching grasp of the zeds.  This leads to new complications and more human conflicts as the two groups struggle to coexist with one another while at the same time the hordes continue to advance on their position.

Deadland’s Harvest maintains the fast pace of its predecessor and the narration has a natural flow and feel to it.  While Cash has become a seasoned survivor who has been hardened by the trauma she faced in the first book, she has formed a family bond with Clutch and Jace, and will do anything to keep them safe.  While this story is told in first person, the author manages to continue to let the secondary characters tell their own tale and grow as the story progresses.  Avoiding many of the pitfalls that challenge the middle book in a trilogy, Deadland’s Harvest does a solid job of standing on its own, though with an intriguing promise of what is to come in the final act in this three part saga.

Kudos to the author for using the idea of massive hordes of the undead moving and migrating together, like other creatures who are avoiding the cold of winter.  I do wish there was greater detail on the hordes shared, as the concept was an intriguing one.  Also intriguing is the theme the author has carried over from the first book, which is to use Dante Aligheri’s works to set the stage for her story.  100DiD traversed the nine circles of hell while DH examines the seven deadly sins.  The final book promised to explore the seven virtues.  The reader need not know anything further about Dante to appreciate the story, just the fact that this is a solid zombie action tale.

Deadland’s Harvest can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Deadlands-Harvest-Deadland-Saga-Volume/dp/0989901815/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1400809307&sr=8-1


Review of Steven Pajak’s “Mad Swine: Dead Winter”

Mad Swine: Dead Winter does not pick up where Mad Swine: The Beginning left off.  In fact, this sequel provides a review of the events that happen directly after the abrupt ending of the first book with a relatively quick synopsis by the main character more than a couple of months later.  I stated in my review of the first book that it cut off abruptly with a cliff hanger ending that left me very curious as to what would happen next.  Unfortunately, the focal point on this story does not start out with, or even focus on, the war between the neighborhoods, only its aftermath, which makes me puzzle over whether the author wrote about the battles that occurred and either he or someone in his circle of advisors suggested he cut it and focus on the long term survival of the community that the main character, Matt Danzig, is leading through the apocalypse.  I would have liked to have read the story of the actual battle for Randall Oaks.

This criticism does not mean that the actual story that the author wrote here doesn’t have its own positive qualities.  In and of itself, the tale told here is solid, and in fact some elements of this book work better than the first.  The lack of ammunition and the desire to stay quiet and not draw the attention of the infected leave the survivors with more challenges and less ability to utilize the arsenal that the main character and narrator had at his disposal in MS:TB.  This makes for a more pure and raw survival story of average suburban folks vs. more of an armed military camp scenario that there was a taste of in book one.  Matt’s personal relationships are explored with more depth and there is a bit of romance thrown in as well for him after the trauma of losing his wife and children in the first book.  He is, understandably, reluctant, but the sense that everything could fall apart at any minutes does pervade his and everyone else’s reality in Randall Oaks.  The struggles with the bitter cold of winter and diminishing supplies are the main nemesis for the citizens of the community, with the infected playing a close second.  The competing neighborhoods are no longer a factor in this tale, but the urgency to figure out how to make it to spring without freezing or starving is crucial.  The infected, which were explained to not be the undead in the first book, continue to have all the traits of the undead in this one.  Where they slept in the first book like regular humans, they seemed to have moved past that stage here, where the virus or plague has further transformed them.  Another interesting and threatening aspect of their existence is revealed that seemed quite creative.  The theory that the undead will freeze in bitter cold comes somewhat into play, with the undead going dormant in the cold, but even more interestingly, when they get buried under snow they will still become alert when a living human presence is nearby, which makes for some very interesting ambush scenarios.

Overall, I think the author’s story telling skills have grown with this sequel, though I can’t deny my disappointment that I was not treated to the battle of the neighborhoods that the first book appeared to promise was on the horizon.  As a standalone, this tale definitely has its merits, and its focus on Matt more as a man struggling to lead people against nature and inhuman monsters is compelling, though it serves, like so many second books in a trilogy, as a transition between the sudden and abrupt actions of the first book and the potential threats that promise to inhabit the third book.  The hope is that both the personal struggles that Matt suffers through in the second book and the heated action and excitement of the first book will join forces in book three for a very compelling conclusion.

Mad Swine: Dead Winter can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Mad-Swine-Dead-Winter-Volume/dp/1618680463/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1399223763&sr=8-1-fkmr0


Review of Jason Bovberg’s “Blood Red”

Blood Red introduces us to Rachel, a 19 year old college student living with her father and step mom. Waking up one morning, she finds her step mother passed out on her bed with some sort of red glow emanating from inside her skull. For all intents and purposes, she appears to be dead, though her skin feels strange and when Rachel gets near the source of the red glow, it burns her. Racing across the street, she discovers much the same thing has happened to her boyfriend and his mother. There are other corpses out on the street-it is as if their lives were all snuffed out in the same instant, replaced by the strange red glow. Realizing her father is not home, Rachel takes off on a hunt for him, hoping and praying that he is somehow still alive. Her journey leads her to other survivors like herself-confused, frightened, and many gruesomely injured after trying to revive their loved ones and coming into contact with the red glow. The local hospital is filling up with the ‘dead’ and dying, along with the few bewildered survivors who remain behind. Planes are dropping out of the sky and out of control fires are destroying much of Rachel’s Colorado town. But even worse, as the day goes on, it appears that something is happening to the corpses. They appear to be slowly waking up…but they are also being transformed. Not into zombies, or even remotely close to the people they were before. They are becoming something far stranger, and far more horrible than anyone could ever imagine.

Blood Red is possibly one of the most unique zombie novels I have ever read, if it even can be categorized as such. The creatures that inhabit the pages of this first of a trilogy are far different than the traditional dead walkers who crave human flesh. The author has introduced something new and incredibly creepy to the mix that needs to be read about to fully comprehend. Providing details may be deemed a spoiler, but since he has created something entirely new, I will leave it in his hands (and words) to describe his creation, spoilers or not.  

Despite the uniqueness of this tale, the driving force behind what will compel most readers to check out this story remains much the same as with other apocalyptic fiction tales, which is the quest to survive and to comprehend what is happening in a world that has fallen into chaos. Rachel’s journey is both heartbreaking and disturbing. Like many characters that inhabit the pages of novels where the impossible becomes reality, she finds a way to not only cope with her situation, but strives to understand it. With a level head on her shoulders, she becomes somewhat of a leader-discovering things about the strange new threats that surround the meager pool of survivors still inhabiting her town. She is vulnerable yet strong-a character who feels real and genuine. The key characters that surround her felt much the same-solid, using whatever coping mechanisms they have to deal with the situation, for better or for worse.

While some readers may be turned off by the present tense format of this story-it is a style rarely used, I found it to be of minimal to no distraction. The author was able to put you in the action and keep the pace and tone aggressive, to match the immediacy and intimacy of Rachel’s situation. Blood Red was different, intriguing, and I was left very curious as to what will happen next.

Blood Red can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Red-Jason-Bovberg-ebook/dp/B00JK1UW4E/ref=la_B00JJ36NNW_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1398292709&sr=1-2


Review of Stephen Kozeniewski’s “The Ghoul Archipelago”

The Ghoul Archipelago is a story that jumps around a bit at first, giving the reader the impression that the story is speeding ahead through time with each new batch of characters introduced.  It does take a bit of reading before we get to see how all these loose strands the author is introducing weave together.  The vast majority of the story takes place in the South Pacific in the first few weeks and months after the rise of the undead.  We are introduced to an assortment of characters whose stories will intersect in time, and who are coming to grips with the end of the world in their own various ways.

Reverend Sonntag, leader of a group of missionaries, sees the rising of the dead as a sort of second coming-the transition to the next world, with the undead as something we should either worship or have the desire to become.  Rand Bergeron, a billionaire behind an extremely successful virtual reality sex device, sees business opportunities to be developed with the few select societies in the South Pacific that haven’t been annihilated by the undead.  “Howling Mad” Martigan and his crew of smugglers are simply trying to survive the pirates who’ve found a way to use the undead to their own advantage while at the same time getting their cargo to the ruthless gangster who they are sure has survived the end of the world and who will destroy them if he doesn’t get what he is promised.  Surviving members of the U.S. Navy and Marines, led by a power hungry politician who claims he is now the President of what remains of the United States, have their own designs on taking over the region where the story takes place.

The reader is given bits and pieces of the various character’s tales at first until their paths begin to intersect.  There is no main character here.  Instead, it is a rather large ensemble with a few key players who the author does a strong job of developing into anti-heroes and villains.  Sonntag’s zealotry, Bergeron’s greed, and the military’s quest for control and order clash significantly with Martigan and his crew of quarrelsome crewmembers and a stowaway with an intriguing side story.  Outside of a few members of Martigan’s crew and a hard luck survivor who goes by the name of Tuan Jim, many of the characters here aren’t very likable and it is hard to say that anyone is a real hero, though the crew of smugglers, who go from one living or undead mishap to the next, grow on the reader as they suffer through one unbearable travail after another.  In particular, Butch, the stowaway, and Hannibal Mo, the chief engineer, are the characters who I found myself rooting for the most.

This is a well told tale despite its slow start, with some unique game changers for the zombie sub-genre.  Bergeron’s experimental approach when it comes to utilizing his virtual reality technology with the undead is something that everyone seems to want to take advantage of, in ways both repulsive and terrifying.  The undead are, on the surface, fairly traditional, though with the advent of this new technology, they are taken in some very new and disconcerting directions by the author.

Overall, a very solid entry into the zombie genre, with enough twists and new ideas to keep those who are looking for a new perspective on the classics to have fun with the story.  The characters drive this one, and there are some good ones with some crackling dialog.  A standalone novel, The Ghoul Archipelago is worth checking out for fans of adventure, horror, and of course, the undead.

The Ghoul Archipelago can be found here:    http://www.amazon.com/THE-GHOUL-ARCHIPELAGO-Zombie-Novel-ebook/dp/B00FTP5URO/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top


Review of Sean Schubert’s “Containment (Alaskan Undead Apocalypse Book 2)

Containment (Alaskan Undead Apocalypse Book 2) is the sequel to Infection, the first book in this trilogy, which will be completed with Mitigation, which has already been released.  The author returns to where he left off, with the two bands of survivors who were racing against death through the first few days and weeks after the first zombie rose up combining forces and doing whatever they can to find and to maintain a safe haven.  We are also introduced briefly to a military leader and the failed efforts to prevent the undead from crossing a bridge north of Anchorage, granting the monsters access to the rest of the vast state.

Neil, who led one of the groups in the first book, takes on the mantle of leadership in this book, while Dr. Caldwell, who was the leader of the other group, stepping aside and becoming more of a consultant, or moral guide for Neil.  As this new entity travels in and around Anchorage, their numbers grow and diminish thanks to other survivors they happen across and the hordes of undead they must face off against.  Of course, the newcomers and old members of the team alike add conflict and provide new challenges for Neil and the others.  Officer Malachi Ivanoff, the loose cannon police officer in the first book, finds a new friend in one of the newcomers the group comes across, and ample reasons to continue down his path of destruction and mayhem.  Other relationships hinted at being formed in the first book continue to grow and face challenges.  In general, Neil’s group, like a living organism, adapts and modifies itself to suit its challenging environment.

While the objective, as is the case in most apocalyptic tales, is survival, the story meanders for the most part, with no specific objective outside of finding food, water, and a safe haven.  The author, to his credit, makes Alaska-both Anchorage and the surrounding natural beauty, play a far more prominent role here than in the first book.  In Infection, the city of Anchorage had the feel of Any Town, USA.  There was nothing unique about this environment the undead had invaded.  Containment shares more of the unique flavor of the largest and northern-most state in the U.S., especially when the survivors step outside the confines of Anchorage and are forced to wander a bit into the wilderness.  The isolation of Alaska is both a blessing and a curse.  While the military has failed to contain the undead in the Anchorage area, there is no hint at outside intervention, either from Canada or the rest of the United States, despite the fact that the story takes place several weeks after Anchorage has been annihilated by the undead.  The characters conjecture about where the military might have made a stand and where potential larger bands of refugees might be located, but there are few tangible hints as to what is happening in the wider world around them.  It would be safe to guess that the third book in the trilogy should provide greater insight into the global picture though it seems there should have been more here.

The characters in Containment, as was the case in Infection, are well developed.  We get to know the original characters even better and the same treatment occurs with some of the new people with whom they cross paths.  Unfortunately, the level of introspection each character goes through slows this novel down a great deal in multiple places.  The action often comes to a screeching halt while either a character ponders the meaning of what is happening, a bit of their history is revealed, or in the case of a few devious characters, what they are plotting.  Still, this is a classic tale of survival in the undead apocalypse and the reader is given the opportunity to get to know these characters in depth and detail that has strong appeal.

Containment, though slow at points and with a plot that meanders a bit, provides the reader with a set of characters that are well-rounded and have a great deal of depth.  Neil and the rest of the group are easy to identify with-they are not heroes or skilled survivalists but ordinary folk trying to find their place in a world filled with the undead. It will be interesting to see what happens to them in the conclusion of this trilogy.   

Containment (Alaskan Undead Apocalypse Book 2) can be found here:  http://www.amazon.com/Containment-Alaskan-Undead-Apocalypse-Book/dp/161868048X/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1395493625&sr=8-2


Review of Thom Brannan’s “Lords of Night”

Lords of Night gets right to the heart of the story by introducing us to the main character Jack and his band of protectors, with their assortment of colorful nicknames, smack dab in the middle of their journey into the barren wastelands of what was once the eastern seaboard of the United States.   They are somewhere between New York City and Washington D.C. when the story starts off, on mission to save the human race.  Besides Jack, there is Five Oh, Dusty, Sandman, Rook, Zero, and the Ranger, who are all highly skilled ex-military men (except for the Ranger, who has his own unique set of skills).  Much of the story is told in flashbacks, giving us a history of each of the secondary characters in their own words and how they dealt with the day the dead rose up and the world changed forever.  Jack’s story, on the other hand, is told through the journal entries he makes during their trip, giving the reader both his back story and an understanding of why he is so special and critical to the survival of the human race.

While this book could be categorized as zombie apocalyptic fiction, the zombies here are very much secondary-little more than a nuisance controlled by far more powerful creatures.  The author introduces the reader to the locust people-humans transformed into malicious monsters who serve their masters, the aforementioned Lords of Night.  There are seven of these powerful fiends who serve the ancient enemy which came to earth from the stars long ago.  They have re-awoken their master and Jack was a witness to its rebirth.  The teenager has special talents that seemingly escaped the notice of the ancient enemy’s minions at first, but have since grown and have drawn them to him.  While he doesn’t understand much of his role in things, he knows that within him is the potential key to stopping an enemy to mankind that is older than time itself which has plans for humanity that are far worse than complete annihilation. 

Lords of Night moves at a rapid clip through the mission Jack needs to accomplish and the assortment of characters surrounding him are an interesting bunch, especially the Ranger and Zero.  Zero is a cocky, lazy, talented marine recon sniper who (as the author aptly points out) is reminiscent of Hudson from the movie Aliens with his snarky ways and can’t-do attitude, as well as his ability to come through when absolutely necessary.  The Ranger, another larger than life character, might be insane but in the best way possible given the perils Jack and the rest of the team face.  His talented shooting ability and fearless loyalty in the face of all odds make him perhaps the most appealing character in the book.  While these two steal the show, all six of Jack’s guardians are interesting, in fact far more so than Jack.  The teen is likable and his story is compelling, but he is far less fun to read about than his companions. 

The story is, turn by turn, more creative than most and gives the reader a unique spin on the typical apocalyptic horror novel.  Again, the zombies found on these pages are secondary-the true menaces are the locust people and their masters, who have an evil intelligence and maliciousness that challenge Jack and his crew every step of the way.  The history and ongoing saga of the ancient enemy gets almost a bit too complicated at times, including the nuances of the part Jack is to play, though it all becomes clear in the end.  Twisty as it is, the story is sewn up quite effectively before the last page is turned. 

Fans of apocalyptic fiction that are receptive to authors taking creative license on the traditional should enjoy Lords of Night.  The main characters are well developed and the backstory is complex.  The author perhaps is a bit over-protective of his characters-it takes quite a bit to send them to their demise, though that is in some ways a forgivable offense considering how entertaining they are as a team.  That and the sometime slow pace found earlier in the story are my two main (and minor complaints) in what is otherwise a rollicking adventure tale.     

Lords of Night can be found here:  http://www.amazon.com/Lords-Night-Thom-Brannan/dp/1618680307/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1393486184&sr=8-1


Review of D.S. Sager’s “Evil Vein: Dark Beginnings”

Evil Vein: Dark Beginnings is an apocalyptic origin tale that introduces the reader to a scientist bent on trying to give his terminally ill wife a new lease on life.  When the lab he works for threatens to shut down and ruin his work, he decides that he will share his ‘Blue Gem Serum’ with his home town in Northern California.  The serum allows for the genetic mutation of any life form it comes into contact with, making it stronger, more adaptable, and more intelligent and vicious.  When the scientists dumps it into the local water supply, the crab population immediately undergoes a dramatic genetic transformation, turning them into a hybrid that looks like a cross between its predecessor and a scorpion, complete with a lethal sting that transforms its human victims into the living dead.  The monsters become land dominant and start attacking the people in the town of Tylerton soon after.

The duel threat of the scrabions (as they are later dubbed) and the undead unleash an assault that is viewed through the eyes of multiple characters, some of which meet a very unfortunate end rather gruesomely and others who manage to survive the first waves of assault.  This story takes place over a period of a day or so, with the town caught in the crossfire of an army of constantly adapting and cunning genetic mutations and its own transformed population of the living dead.

While the tale of how patient zero is exposed to whatever the cause of its own un-death is one that has been done before, it is far rarer to include another threat that is ends up being far greater danger to humanity than the undead.  In fact, I would be hard pressed to describe this novel as a zombie apocalypse story, since it is in fact more of a genetic horror/sci-fi tale that happens to have zombies in it.  The scrabions take over as the primary danger-the one that the military personnel trying to quarantine Tylerton struggle to deal with and that the CDC is hard pressed to find a way to stop or destroy.  That this is the driving force behind this story might irritate any zombie purists out there, but the mixture of the two monsters is well done.

The ensemble cast caught inside Tylerton as it is torn apart is a mixed bunch, as is usually the case when an author introduces the reader to a platoon of characters.  It was hard to keep track of all of them at first, at least until they started grouping up.  With nearly five hundred pages to work with, the author doesn’t shirk at character development, though it slowed the pacing a bit at first.  It took a bit for the momentum to build, but by the time I was a third of the way into the novel it had become one of those hard to put down thrill rides.  The reader is provided with ample background on both those characters facing the threat of the undead and scrabions as well as the military leaders and members of the CDC trying to understand and contain the menace that has conquered Tylerton.  Some characters were naturally more compelling than others, while a select few were downright annoying.  It is tough to juggle so many different actors crossing the stage with their stories being interwoven in bits and pieces until they join forces and their stories coalesce.  In the end, the author does a relatively solid job of herding them all in the right direction.

The depth of detail (on the genetic mutations, the town, and the characters) the author provides in this novel is both its blessing and its curse.  While it may seem like a stretch that a genetically mutated crab’s bite causes zombism, the science and the scrabions ability to adapt to its environment and perceived threats are intriguing and the implications terrifying; not only for this story, but for our innate fear of such dabbling by modern science.  What sort of horrors will geneticists create in the name of progress?  Unfortunately, the zombies are left to suffer in many ways-they seem only a moderate threat when compared to the scrabions, who continue to adapt to any form of attack unleashed on them-making themselves stronger and resistant to things like fire and other forms of assault.  They are cunning, work like a colony of ants to go after their objectives, and seem for all intents and purposes unstoppable.  Never would I have thought that a cross between a crab and scorpion could be this scary.

The story is solid with some entertaining twists and turns.  The characters, for the most part, are believable and diverse.  Providing the viewpoint of the General in charge of maintaining the battle lines around Tylerton was an added bonus that gave a unique perspective.  In many ways, his story was more intriguing and impactful than that of the survivors, and will lead to some compelling storylines in the sequel.  The duel threat of genetic mutations and the undead gives this book its own flavor that sets it apart from the pack.

Evil Vein: Dark Beginnings can be found here:      http://www.amazon.com/Evil-Vein-Dark-Beginnings-Volume/dp/1618681869/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1391730659&sr=8-1


Review of Stephen Kozeniewski’s “Braineater Jones”

Braineater Jones introduces the reader to the eponymous character while he floats face down in a swimming pool with the dawning realization that he has been shot and worse yet, has died from his injury.  Not having a clue what happened to him, he realizes that he is in a mansion and does a quick search, finding a few clues to his possible existence. 

Fleeing from a couple of men who he believes have returned to the scene of their crime, this newly created zombie finds himself in the Welcome Mat part of the town of Ganesh, or The Mat as everyone calls it.  It is the hangout of deadheads and deadbeats alike-a place where the trolley cars don’t go and where the police don’t show up when a crime has been committed.  With no memory, Braineater stumbles across a few other deadheads who are willing to help him, or at least set him up with alcohol, which is the only thing that keeps the sriffs from becoming true brain eaters.  If they pickle their brains in booze, they don’t turn into the monsters we all know and love.  With the help of a ‘sponsor’ who goes by the name of Lazar, the narrator dubs himself Braineater Jones and offers up his services as a Private Investigator.  And if he does a few jobs here and there for Lazar, he’ll have enough booze to keep his brain moving and his unlife going forward and at the same time he can try and figure out who the hell he once was, before he was plugged and dumped in the pool. 

Braineater has plenty of questions, and the fact that his memories aren’t coming back to him like the eventually do with the rest of the undead is pretty suspicious.  With the help of a partner who is nothing more than a dead head with no body and despite plenty of other stiffs trying to stop him, including a hot (or rather cold) dame who spells trouble from the get go, he’ll get to the bottom of the mystery, even if he does end up double-dog dead for his troubles.

Braineater Jones is a pulpy noir mystery novel set in the back alleys of a strange city a few years prior to World War II, with all the slang and classic detective set ups you could ever want…with the added tidbit that the main character is dead.  Braineater is a wise guy through and through, and while many of the other characters are also dead, they could fit perfectly into a classic mold of a Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett hard-boiled novel. 

This is an interesting cross-genre tale that gives zombies some interesting slants.  The author makes the main character as clueless as we are as to why he is up and walking around and makes him explore the reasons for that through his detective work, which allows us to learn as we go.  There are hints to voodoo being the culprit, though Braineater’s fixation is on why he has come back and less on why there is a community of the undead as a whole.  There are plenty of twists and turns to keep things interesting and a setup for a potential series of books.  The zombie purist may not appreciate the liberties the author took with his depiction of the undead, though fans looking for a creative take on the classic zombie setup should appreciate how different the world of Braineater is and how entertaining both he and the rogues gallery of characters are in this story.  This was a fun, easy read that made me smile and also had me rooting for a zombie, which isn’t something I do very often. 

Braineater Jones can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Braineater-Jones-Stephen-Kozeniewski/dp/1940215188/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1389578672&sr=8-1


Review of Evan Ramspott’s “Plagued: The Midamerica Zombie Half-Breed Experiment”

Plagued: The Midamerica Zombie Half-Breed Experiment is a mouthful of a name for a novella written by Evan Ramspott.  The story introduces us to Tom and Gary, brothers who have come to the town of Biter Hill, one of the few locations within the Plagued States where the zombie slave trade occurs, to search out records on their lost sister, Larissa, who was infected ten years earlier and who may have come through the town as a slave at one point.  Thorough records are kept on the zombies who pass through and they have been ordered by their father, a powerful senator, to find her.  They return to this same place, year in and year out, in an effort to fulfill their father’s wishes.

Tom feels guilt for what happened to Larissa, since she was in his care when she was bitten.  But Tom was twelve at the time, and had no experience with dealing with zombies.  He struggles with the idea that he shouldn’t be held responsible, but feels guilty nonetheless.  It doesn’t help that his father and brother both blame him, in their own particular ways, for what happened.

Tom comes across a half-breed zombie in a slaver’s cage while in Biter’s Hill.  She looks like a normal uninfected human.  There are claims that half-breeds are creatures born of a human who is infected while pregnant, some other, unknown reason for their existence seems more likely.  Though she is savage, there is a connection between the creature and Tom.  She also seems rather interested in the picture of his sister when she sees it.

Tom is separated from his brother when the prison in Biter Hill maintaining most of the zombies who are being held for the slave trade has a breakout.  Tom has to flee with several zombie hunters and slave traders at that point; including the one who has the half-breed who Tom has discovered is named Penelope.  Together, they must enter into the wastelands in an effort to find their way to another place of safety.  Tom suspects that Penelope knows something about his missing sister and uses his clout as a senator’s son to get the ragged band of survivors to head to a place where he believes Larissa have migrated to in the decade since she’d turned with the promise of rescue and wealth if they do.  And he is going to need Penelope’s help to find her.

Plagued is definitely a different type of zombie apocalypse tale.  It is focused on Tom’s personal journey and the relationship he forms with Penelope along the way.  The craggy old slave trader Peske was probably my favorite character though, as someone who is gruff and seemingly uncaring about anyone else, he does what it takes to keep everyone alive and seems to have a soft spot for his half-breed who he insists isn’t for sale.  Tom is well developed as a character and Penelope, as a confused creature of two worlds generates both intrigue and sympathy.

It’s clear that this will be the first of perhaps a series of zombie stories set in this world, and this is a positive start.  The zombies themselves are fairly Romero-esque and traditional, but the introduction of half-breeds other factors like potential cures and being able to eliminate a zombie’s ability to spread infection once they are captured adds some unique elements to this saga.  This is a quick read and the world the author created, long past the initial terrifying days of the zompcalypse, had an air of believability to it as the survivors adapt and cope with the fact that the undead are most likely a permanent fixture in their universe.

Plagued: The Midamerica Zombie Half-Breed Experiment can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Plagued-Midamerica-Half-Breed-Experiment-America-ebook/dp/B00DTCT26O/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top


Review of Peter Clines’ “Ex-Communication”

Ex-Communication is the third book in Peter Clines’ Ex-saga of zombies battling with the survivors and the superheroes who protect them in Los Angeles in the years after the zombocalypse. The heroes, along with a new group of super soldier allies, have returned to The Mount (Paramount Studios) after contending with their most recent menace out in the desert.  They have built high walls that surround a larger chunk of the city to give the thousands of survivors living with them more space to spread out and to feel safe.   

Their latest superhuman nemesis is a being that calls itself Legion.  It is a former LA gang member who has gained the ability to control countless hordes of the undead and likes tormenting those who live in the Mount by sending an endless brigade of the undead at them.  Legion can speak through the undead and make them handle weapons, climb, and do all sorts of things the sluggish ghouls couldn’t do on their own.  In addition to Legion, there are a couple of other new challenges for St. George, Stealth, and the rest of the supers to contend with.  Zzzap, the superhero who can transform himself into pure energy, has been seeing ghosts…well, specifically one ghost who happens to be a former superhero that wants to return to the land of the living and needs help…including the body of someone who is recently deceased.  They are also dealing with a young girl who has come to Los Angeles who shares similarities to the ex’s (zombies) in that she is dead and moving around, but is unlike all the others in that she can think, speak, and is an otherwise normal teenage girl. 

Things only get more complicated from there when an angry, vengeful demon enters the picture, intent on consuming the souls of the remaining humans still alive in the Los Angeles area, including the superheroes at the mount.   

The Ex series continues to provide an interesting twist on the zombie genre with its mix of complex superheroes and challenging villains.  The main heroes are well fleshed out and the author continues to use flashbacks to great success to provide a slow reveal as new good and evil elements are introduced to the storyline.  While for the most part the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad, there is plenty of gray area to keep the reader guessing on what to expect.

Ex-Communication can be found here:   http://www.amazon.com/Ex-Communication-A-Novel-Peter-Clines/dp/0385346824/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1386871552&sr=8-1


Review of Peter Clines’ “Ex-Purgatory”

Ex-Purgatory is the fourth book in Peter Clines’ Ex series.  For those who haven’t read at least the first and second books in the series, Ex-Heroes and Ex-Patriots, I would strongly suggest you read those books first.  In some ways, this book will still make sense even if you haven’t because the author does an excellent job of introducing and developing his characters.  So even if you don’t know them already they will stick with you.  With that said the payoff with this tale will not resonate as well without the background provided in the first two books.  I would note that I actually have not read Ex-Communication, the third book in the series, but am rectifying that now.

We are introduced to George Bailey, who in the past books was the lead superhero keeping humanity safe at ‘The Mount’ in Los Angeles after the zombocalypse had begun.  The Mount is Paramount studios, and George, along with several other superheroes including Stealth, Captain Freedom, and zzZap have created a safe haven for those still alive in the city by building walls around many of the buildings to keep the Ex-Humans (aka zombies) outside.

That, however, is not how this story begins.  A reader familiar with this series may believe that this is somehow a prequel, re-introducing us to George in his normal life before he realized he had his superpowers.  It becomes clear very soon that this is not the case.  He is a maintenance man on the UCLA campus grinding his way through life one day at a time-trying to keep his car from stalling out on the way to work and to make enough money to keep a roof over his head.  But it becomes clear rather quickly that things are not as they seem-to George and to the reader.  There are little peeks behind the hazy curtain that the world seems to thrown around him that George has to puzzle over-the world shifts and people around him appear as if they are moving corpses-ones that attack and crave flesh.  The world looks decimated-like a nuclear bomb has been dropped on L.A.  But not long after these images appear they fade, replaced by typical people doing ordinary things and with everything around George going back to normal.  But it isn’t only the visions that are causing him confusion-it’s the dreams he has every night of him as a superhero fighting off hordes of the undead while people behind a giant wall cheer him on.  If that wasn’t enough, George keeps getting confronted by a young girl in a wheelchair named Madelyn.  She insists he has superpowers and that neither of them belong in this place.  Her memories, unlike his, are still intact.  Where they are, she doesn’t know, except that they appear to be trapped in some alternate universe that they need to break out of before they are lost forever.

Ex-Purgatory takes a slight detour from the storytelling route readers of this series are used to.  There are no flashbacks providing the reader with a backstory of the main characters.  By now the reader, if they have followed along with the trilogy, understand who the superheroes are and where they came from, which makes this tale that much more interesting as we are reintroduced to them one by one with George’s efforts to unravel the mystery that his life has become-some of whom have dreamt of him while others have no clue who he is, though he is certain he knows them from somewhere.  This adds new flavor to characters we already know, especially Stealth, adding new details to their existence that will be appreciated by fans of this series.

The Ex-series continues to entertain.  While this perhaps isn’t the best book in the saga, it is a fun read definitely worth checking out.

Ex-Purgatory will be available January 14th here:  http://www.amazon.com/Ex-Purgatory-Novel-Ex-Heroes-Peter-Clines-ebook/dp/B00E2RZHI2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386557100&sr=8-1&keywords=ex-purgatory


Review of Vincenzo Bilof’s “The Queen of the Dead: Zombie Ascension Book 2”

The Queen of the Dead: Zombie Ascension picks up where Necropolis Now, the first book in the series, left off.  The various surviving characters are trapped in Detroit and are mostly making their way to a local military air base after the events that unfolded at the mental institution at the end of the last book.  The core players remain in the tale, but the author, much like he did in the first book, adds a few secondary characters who play a variety of roles that intertwine with the main cast.  Vega, the female mercenary whose job in the first book was to capture Jim Traverse, a serial killer with a plan to end the world, remains focused on her task, though it seems that her reasoning is less about finishing the job and more about doing what both comes naturally to her and is all she knows: being a soldier for hire.  Especially since there is little else to do in a world that is dead or dying all around her.  Vincent, the gang banger from the first book, gives her a reason to carry on.  They share similarities as characters-both are professionals who do what it takes to survive and to get the job done in their own ways.  They both have regrets and far too many scars to mention.  Griggs, the ex-cop and pornographer, seems to be enjoying the apocalypse and much like Traverse, has plans for Mina, his girlfriend who is likely the cause for the zombie apocalypse due to her cannibalistic tendencies and mysterious, supernatural past.

Several new characters enter the fray to varying extents.  Father Joe is a priest trying to save who he can while strangely being capable of not raising the interest of the undead around him.  Rose is an assassin who has been sent in after Traverse, even though her talents lean more toward seduction versus combat.  Jack is a poor schlep who plays in a band with his brother, who wants to see the world burn and has commanded Jack to join him in slaughtering as many people and zombies as possible before they both get torn to pieces.  There are a few other secondary characters, each with their own unique story to tell.  The author develops each of them enough to give us something to latch on to, though some fade into non-existence with little to show for having existed in the first place.

This is a supernatural thriller, or as close to that as possible without being obvious.  It isn’t your traditional zombie apocalypse tale though there are elements it shares with those stories.  The motivation of many, if not most of these characters, is not survival.  It is annihilation for some-the destruction of the human race as a goal.  For others, it seems that perpetual motion is their only goal-moving forward because it is all they can do while the world around them spins out of control.  Through the power Mina has as some sort of herald of doom makes her a monster, she is also as innocent as a child, manipulated by the men in her life.  Both Traverse and Griggs see her as a way to obliterate everything in their paths, though they have very different designs on why they would do that.

Vincenzo Bilof has a lyrical way of writing about gore and his characters.  Certainly, there is no doubt that not everyone will like his penchant for simile and metaphor at most every turn, but there is a fluidity to his writing that makes this dark, dim, gruesome world he has crafted poetic.  His story, though it will come to a conclusion (more than likely) with the third and final book, isn’t about a beginning or an end.  It is definitely about the journey.  The zombies are there, in the background, entering the fray as needed, but it is the characters, with their internal and external struggles, that always remain top of mind here.  This could be a journey through hell, like Dante’s Inferno-one test after another for the main characters to face and either overcome or to fail at…though it is hard at times (many times) to decipher whether they have failed or succeeded at any of them.  Perhaps Father Joe could be defined as a hero, though one with as many dark spots on his soul as many others in the book.  Beyond him, there are heroic elements in several of the characters but villainous ones as well.  I remarked in my review of the first book that I didn’t like most of the characters-not as a criticism but an assessment of who they were as human beings.  I have grown more attached to a couple of the original characters and dislike some with an even more fervent passion.  At the same time, I welcomed most of the new characters with an appreciation for what they have added to this story.  Except perhaps for the insane general, who was, overall, a nuisance in my humble opinion.  The rest have given the story new flavor and balance to offset the grim motivations of some of the others.

The Zombie Ascension series qualifies as a fairly unique entry into the zompoc subgenre despite not meddling too much with the undead themselves.  Its supernatural slant will not appeal to all zombie purists though it is, thus far, a well thought out mythology that has me intrigued for more answers as to the ‘why’s and how’s’ of Mina’s power and what happened to Traverse on his mission to Egypt.  This is the third book of the author’s that I have read and his voice has grown stronger with each book.  He has me hooked with both his writing style and the story he is telling here and I look forward to checking out the third book in the trilogy.

The Queen of the Dead: Zombie Ascension can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Queen-Dead-ZOMBIE-ASCENSION-ebook/dp/B00ET0EJJK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1385424667&sr=8-1&keywords=vincenzo+bilof


Review of Jessica Meigs’ “The Becoming: Brothers In Arms”

The Becoming: Brothers In Arms is a prequel novella to The Becoming series of zombie apocalypse books by Jessica Meigs.  It introduces us to the brothers, Theo and Gray, who were introduced to the main characters in the first book of trilogy.  It provides another perspective on the beginnings-the initial days of the virus and provides a more detailed understanding on these two peripheral characters to the main storyline found in the trilogy.

Theo, the older brother, is a paramedic who is on call the night that the infected come back to life.  Not the best profession to be in when the accident victims who appear to be dead are trying to tear into your flesh.  Gray is the younger brother who Theo feels more than just a brotherly obligation to.  Ever since their parents died, he has been taking care of him.  Especially since Gray has severe asthma attacks.  Gray is working as a mechanic but is shooting pool at a local bar with a friend when things go haywire.

Most of this quick read takes place on the first night, where the two brothers face off against several harrowing experiences against the undead, while they do their best to survive long enough to reconnect with one another.  The pacing is solid and the story could serve as a standalone first night of the apocalypse tale, thought it bridges the brother’s experiences from their initial experiences up until they meet with the rest of the characters from the trilogy.

For those who have read some or all of Jessica’s Meigs’ trilogy, reading this tale is a nice way to learn more about a couple of interesting characters.  For those who haven’t ready any of her work, it is a nice brief introduction to her take on the zombie apocalypse.

The Becoming: Brothers In Arms can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007K1KO26/ref=cm_cr_thx_view


Review of Jaime Johnesee’s “Bob The Zombie”

Bob The Zombie is a short story that reads more like the first chapter of a much larger tale, and given the fact that the author has already produced a sequel, it is clear that this is destined to become something of a serialized saga of this Griswoldian zombie.

Bob is a hapless zombie who was killed in a tragically comedic way and was brought back to life at the request of his mother, who didn’t realize he would come back as a rotting version of himself that needs to staple various body parts back on when they fall off, which they do with great frequency.  Bob has made new friends-others like himself who lives on the edges of society.  Zombies aren’t like the slobbering Romero monsters here.  They do need meat to continue their undead existence, but they tend to refrain from chowing down on humans.

There is a flavor of urban fantasy to this tale.  Zombies aren’t the only supernatural characters.  Though mostly just hinted at, there are plenty of other beasties out there, including vamps, mermaids, and ghouls.  What is the difference between ghouls and zombies you ask?  Well, zombies have free will, whereas ghouls are controlled by the witch who brought them back to life.  And if they don’t rein them in every now and then, they tend to go all Night of the Living Dead on humans.  That particular nugget plays a part in this brief tale, but again, this short reads more like the introduction to a longer story, including hints of what is to come.

So the main thing to keep in mind if you choose to take the plunge and give Bob The Zombie a try is that there is much more to the story, and unless I missed my guess, we will be getting it in single short story installments for some time to come.  Bob is a likable character and it’s clear there is more to learn about him as well as the rest of his not-so-menacing horde of buddies.

Bob The Zombie can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00D0VPURO/ref=cm_cr_ryp_prd_img_sol_0


Review of SP Durnin’s “Keep Your Crowbar Handy”

Keep Your Crowbar Handy introduces the reader to Jake, a free-lance journalist who has traveled the world and has been exposed to many war-torn countries in his journeys abroad.  He was also embedded with the British SAS for a time, getting intense military training during one stint as a reporter.  He has returned home to Ohio, working on tamer projects including editing a cook book to pay the bills.  He has just met Kat, a Pharmacy Tech who thinks he would be a perfect match for her roommate, Laurel, a part-time singer who runs her own health food store.  He agrees to meet up with them at a local bar along with his friend Allen, and Jake and Laurel hit it off, despite his initial (and ongoing) interest in Kat as more than just a friend.  Unfortunately for them, it is the same night that the world is going to hell and the dead are coming back to life. 

The story tells of Jake’s efforts to save his new found friends along with some of his old ones, including his landlord, a former military man, from their deaths at the hands of the undead as well as the living.  This was an independent novel from SP Durnin, but has been picked up by Permuted Press to be re-released as a series of books (this novel plus several sequels). 

Keep Your Crowbar Handy isn’t another tale of a bunch of regular folks barricading themselves in an apartment building with the hopes of being saved by the military.  Instead, it is a tale of a group of well-armed and well trained individuals who plot how they can make it through 2,000 miles of deadly territory to what they hope is an area out west that has been cleared of the undead.  It is also a tale of romance-the love triangle of Jake, Laurel, and Kat. 

Jake has military training and Kat, who is half-Japanese, has extensive training in martial arts and weaponry, which makes her even more deadly than Jake against the undead and the living.  Naturally, they face off against more than just zombies, as the world falls apart and desperate men and women fight to take the resources that Jake and his friends have at their disposal, along with the survivors they have rescued. 

The story moves at a fast pace and the action is gripping.  Jake is a strong, though reluctant leader/hero, and his character, along with Laurel and Kat, are well developed.  They along with Allen, Rae (another military survivor they meet up with) and George (Jake’s landlord-the man with the plan for survival) were the most compelling characters in the book.  There is quite a bit of traditional zombie survival storytelling going on here, though once again, it is clear that this isn’t your run of the mill apocalyptic survivor’s saga. 

Credit to the author for putting the romantic elements of this story up front and center, making it complicated for the characters-not just because of the fear of death around every corner, but because of the feelings they have for one another.  Jake has fallen for Laurel but has feelings for Kat as well, which she reciprocates.  Jake is perhaps written too much as a ‘every man fears him and every woman wants him’ type guy who seems to far too perfect-he is strong, handsome, intelligent, and an all-around boy-scout, but as much as he proclaims his devotion to his gorgeous newfound girlfriend, he isn’t above tempting himself with Kat’s constant advances; this despite both of them knowing that what they are doing is wrong.  That they both seemed to feel little guilt about their actions seemed out of character given their loyalty to Laurel and the fact that they are clearly presented as heroes and saviors.  It would seem that their tantalizing and teasing of one another would weigh more heavily on them than it did.   

As is the case with many independently written novels, this could use another solid round of edits-misplaced commas, over use of certain descriptive terms, etc. occur throughout the book.  Despite this, the storytelling is solid and keeps you intrigued from start to finish.  SP Durnin’s writing style is compelling and he clearly enjoys creating vivid characters and story sequences.  With this book (along with its sequels) being re-released by Permuted Press, more editing will sharpen things up a bit and I would guess the story might get tweaked a bit as well.  I look forward to seeing the entire series when it is completed.  Keep Your Crowbar Handy has a memorable title and an entertaining storyline that I look forward to seeing through to the end of the road for Jake and his friends. 

Keep Your Crowbar Handy can be found here:     http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1481096222/ref=cm_cr_ryp_prd_img_sol_0


Well that didn’t take long-Roms, Bombs, and Zoms is out on Kindle!

I guess if I had waited a day I would have seen the link for the new anthology from Evil Girlfriend Media, Roms, Bombs, and Zoms.  But I was excited and had to share the cover art.  Well, I’m going to do that again, but this time if you click on that cover art, you will be directed to Amazon where you can purchase this wonderful new anthology (complete with my short story “Until The End”) for the low, low price of $3.99.  21 authors writing about stories with those three little words driving the tale.

Check it out:

Dedicated to all those clueless in romance,
dropping bombs without intent,
and for those brave zombies of heartache,
who love and rise again.

When hearts rot, fuses ignite.

Super geek gets the girl, a righteous preacher and his undead wife, fantastical zombies, the tantric art of zubbing, mindless hive workers, and traditional flesh eating walkers, this anthology has a bit of everything. Our twisted tales pull you into the darkest of darks, where hope is lost, and sustaining life is no simple feat.

Twenty-one authors congealed romance, bombs, and zombies into stories that are diverse, witty, and occasionally gut-wrenching. Travel through time to walk in alternate histories, visit magical realms, and face down pestilence that will literally rot your insides. This collection is sure to warm your cold, dead, heart.

romsbombszombs


Coming Soon from Evil Girlfriend Media: “Roms, Bombs, and Zoms” including one of my short stories

Earlier this year, a friend requested that I take a look at a new publisher and the anthologies they were looking to publish.  She was going to be editing one of these tomes and thought I might want to try my hand at the writing a story for it.  Evil Girlfriend Media is a new publisher of novels and anthologies and the book my friend thought I might be interested in submitting a short for was intriguingly entitled “Roms, Bombs, and Zoms.”  In fact, it was clear that EGM likes titles with three rhyming words.  Other anthologies they have coming out:  “Stamps, Vamps, and Tramps” and “Witches, Stitches, and Bitches.”

The criteria for writing a story for Roms, Bombs, and Zoms was simple.  It had to include those three concepts: Romance, a bomb of some sort (literal or figurative), and of course, my favorite slouching dead things, zombies.  Simple, huh?  Well, not when you aren’t used to writing romance.  Sure, I’ve written about relationships in my stories and even have a story written that has a bit of an erotic slant to it, but romance?  This was a new genre for me to tackle.  So of course, because I am always up for a challenge, I proceeded to come up with an idea and write a story….but not until about two weeks before the deadline for submitting a story occurred.  I was able to squeak in under the wire with my submission, which was a bit longer than what the publisher would have liked (thank God for editing!), but there you have it.  I had written my first romance.  I guess the fact that the story also had zombies in it was like a security blanket for me…because, you know, I have this thing for zombies.  No, my story does not have zombies falling in love, but they serve as a very traumatic backdrop to the love story I created.  More shocking than the fact that I had written a romance was that my story was accepted.  Honestly, I didn’t know I had it in me, but you are a better judge of that than me if I truly did with this effort.  My story is called “Until The End” and I am quite happy with the results.  I hope you are too.

Today, EGM released the cover for Roms, Boms, and Zoms.  It is very sharp and has wet my appetite for the book itself.  I am looking forward to the book’s release, which will be next month.  I will share the links to where you can check this book out via Amazon and elsewhere once it is released.  But for now, check out the cover and stay tuned for more details!

romsbombszombs


Review of Craig Jones’ “Meat Coma”

Meat Coma is a short story that takes place in the aftermath of a zombie uprising. More technically, these are the infected-not undead, but with all the same symptoms. These ‘zombies’ don’t eat endlessly. Instead, they eat until sated then switch off, more or less, going into a ‘meat coma’ for time, until they get the urge to hunt once again. Of course, scratches and bites infect others, but with such limited predatory instincts, the infected are rounded up with comparative ease and efforts are made to find a cure for them.
This story takes place in remote farmland where two families live. One neighbor has lost his wife to the infected while the other family has lost their daughter. They get together one night to discuss the grieving process and how they can cope with such horrible losses. But it’s clear from the beginning that there are ulterior motives at play and everyone has their secrets. This short story uses the backdrop of a zombie invasion to tell a tale of base human needs and desires that uses its backdrop well. A quick read, it brought a twisted smile to my face.

Meat Coma can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00ENLO9MW/ref=cm_cr_thx_view


Review of Timothy Long’s “At the Behest of the Dead”

Phineas Cavanaugh is a hack Necromancer living near Seattle who scrapes by tracking down lost souls or by occasionally helping the police out with a murder investigation.  He left his guild pretty much in shame a few years back and has had a hard knock life ever since.  Things start to get interesting when he is hired to seek out the lost soul of an elderly woman’s dead husband and a demon tries to devour him in a park while on the job.  At the same time the police call upon his services to track down a vicious shape shifter who seems to know Phineas and might just be hunting him as well.

Things get worse from there as Phineas’s old mentor is attacked and brutally murdered at his guild and he is called upon to return to his old stomping grounds to figure out what has happened by attempting to speak to his departed friend’s soul.  That is when all hell breaks loose, literally.  Phineas is thrust into a mystery where old enemies and friends are drawn into the fray with him smack dab in the middle.  He has to figure out what is going on and what part he is supposed to play before demons and the dead alike tear their way into our plane of existence and destroy everything that Phineas cares about.

At The Behest Of The Dead is told in first person and one can’t help but be reminded of noir detective potboilers with its urban sensibilities and snarky attitude.  Phineas is a self-effacing schlub with a good heart even if he does work with the dead and rubs elbows with demons and other questionable sorts.  It has a bit of Simon Green’s Nightside going for it, as well as Glenn Cook’s Garrett Files.  Urban fantasy with as much irreverence as mystery, with a bit of romance tossed in for good measure.  And Phineas, like other hard luck P.I-types, seems to attract the attention of the ladies despite perhaps looking and acting like he has been ridden hard and put away wet most of the time.  Even though he has rough edges (or maybe because he does), Phineas is a likable sort, making his tale easy to read and entertaining.

Tim Long stretches himself beyond the zombie apocalyptic genre he normally haunts with this one, although he gives a winking nod to his roots with a few zombies showing up, though they are not anywhere near being a critical part of the telling of this tale.  He has crafted an interesting world with the magical elements fantasy fans will appreciate while putting his own slant on things, making this world his and his alone.  The characters are interesting and diverse enough to make them stand out and I can imagine some pretty intriguing adventures in their future.  A fun read that has excellent potential as the start of an enjoyable series of books.

At The Behest Of The Dead can be found here:   http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EZCXA9M/ref=cm_cr_thx_view