It's funny how our literary tastes change as we get older. I remember trying to read Dracula when I was young and finding the style boring, and then t...moreIt's funny how our literary tastes change as we get older. I remember trying to read Dracula when I was young and finding the style boring, and then trying again as a teenager and finding it far too literary, and then reading it a third time as an adult and being delighted by it. The epistolary format is an unusual one, and I think Vicy Cross takes some liberties with it here, but it's absolutely perfect for the tale she tells.
Personal, intimate, and full of atmosphere, Tuesday Apocalypse is a magnificent story that works on so many levels (or perhaps layers) - romance, drama, erotica, and horror. This is not a story that bounces around between those genres, but which embraces them all, and blends them together, often within the same scene.
Reading this reminded me very much of enjoying Stoker's masterpiece for the first time. I was unsettled by my reactions, uncomfortable with my own thoughts, and often unable to reconcile my heart with my head. I fell in love with Sister Barbara. I wanted to reach into the book, cradle her softly in my hands, and carry her to safety. At the same time, I wanted to drop into the book, hide behind the bombed out ruins, and watch her being violated by Tuesday's alien tentacles. It's not easy to titillate and terrorize within the same scene, but Cross does a lovely job of forcing us to see both sides of the encounter.
The slow, creeping madness . . . the insistent, wanton seduction . . . the gleeful violation of vows . . . the tortured desire to succumb to temptation . . . the desperate pleas for salvation . . . the anguished attempts to hold onto something of one's true self . . . Cross offers us all of that and more. I loved the many layers beneath which she allowed her evil to creep, robbing Barbara of her sexuality on so many levels. Here we have a young woman already tempted by betray her vows by a handsome young man, who suddenly finds herself lusting after - gasp! - another woman, and who ultimately finds herself fighting the urge to surrender to tongues and tentacles. Wow . . . and oh, my.
I don't imagine Stoker ever dreamed of writing something this explicit, but there's no denying that the two tales share a lot in common. For him it was teeth that pushed the edge of taboo, while for Cross it's tentacles that do the same thing. His seductive sense of evil may have come the grave, rather than from beyond the stars, but they both have the same horrifying impact. This was just a gorgeous story, and one that is bound to give you the chills - and I mean that in every sense of the word.(less)
For such a short tale, D. Dye manages to cover an amazing amount of ground. Tightly plotted and fast-paced, with nary a wasted paragraph in sight, Zap...moreFor such a short tale, D. Dye manages to cover an amazing amount of ground. Tightly plotted and fast-paced, with nary a wasted paragraph in sight, Zapocalypse - The Midnight Special (Lesbians Vs. Zombies) offers up equal parts horror, erotica, and satire, all in a mix that works so well, you won't want it to end.
Let's start with the horror. The zombies here are fast and ferocious, terrifying monstrosities that just won't stay dead. Brutal and bloody, they aren't exactly mindless, but are certainly single-minded in their lust for human flesh. More importantly, they're scary bastards, representing a legitimate threat to the characters.
As for the erotica, Ginger and Gina are an absolutely delicious pair of lesbians. Strong, independent, and deeply in love with one another, these are two women who for whom gloves, raincoats, rain-pants, bulletproof vests, and Benelli shotguns are no threat to their exquisite femininity. Whether it's stealing a kiss at the diner, caressing one another on the balcony, or getting hot and heavy in the bedroom, there is a definite passion to their every interaction. Similarly, whether it's defending one another from groping redneck paws or from grasping zombie claws, there is a sincerity to their love that really endears them to the reader.
Finally, in terms of satire, this is a very funny book - morbidly so, of course. Dye lays it on thick, having fun with a redneck theme that extends well beyond death. Spiteful and worthy of disgust in life, her bloated, balding, drunken louts are pitifully amusing in death. Rather than just playing up the stereotypes, she plays against them, using the sharply feminist wits of Ginger and Gina to make the most impact.
All-in-all, this is a fun, sexy, exhilarating read that will definitely leave you hungry for more!
The Butterfly and the Flame is a book I’ve been anxiously awaiting for over a year now, ever since Dana began teasing it under the title of Emily. Equ...moreThe Butterfly and the Flame is a book I’ve been anxiously awaiting for over a year now, ever since Dana began teasing it under the title of Emily. Equal parts dystopian fantasy, social commentary, and transgender drama, it’s the kind of novel that both enlightens and entertains.
The story is set in a future America where the devastation following an act of Divine Retribution (a series of asteroid impacts) has prompted a return to Puritanical ways. With democracy deemed a sin, and Christianity recognized as the only true faith (although Mormon rebels and Mexican guerrillas might have something to say about that), America suffers under religious tyranny of the Seven Pillars of Faith of the Dominion. The concepts of sexism and homophobia are not only alive and well, but they are mandated by the Dominion, just as works of imagination and scientific progress are prohibited.
If it sounds a little too heavy-handed for comfort, understand that the story itself is not a commentary on faith, but does deal with the abuses of religion. Some of the most wonderful people in Emily’s world are those whose faith is strong enough to survive, and even thwart, the prejudices of the Dominion.
Our window into this world is Emily, a fifteen year-old girl who just happens to have been born a boy. Questioned, challenged, and forcibly denied the expression of her true self by both family and society, Emily is not out to cause trouble, to change the world, or to right the injustices of society. Instead, all she wants is the freedom to be who she is – a young woman, with the same hopes and dreams as any other girl her age.
Emily’s story is an emotional one, a tragic tale that contains just enough hope to make the heartache and the sorrow palatable. She’s a wonderfully well-rounded character, but one who is plagued by the dual angst of being a teenager and being transgender. Only a transgender author could so accurately portray the depths of Emily’s emotion, whether it’s her suicidal despair as she fashions her own noose, or her blissfully innocent joy as she is gifted with her first dress. Throw an arranged marriage into the mix, with the intended's family wholly ignorant of Emily's secret, and you have the makings for a complex take of human relationships.
Dana pulls no punches in exposing us to the depths of human depravity, but doesn’t neglect the heights of human goodness either. Love comes from the most barren of places, accepting Emily without question, while it struggles to take root in what should be the most nurturing of environments. There are definitely some surprises along the way, but I daresay the pleasant ones - especially those connected to motherhood - carry a far greater impact, even if they are outnumbered by the unpleasant ones.
Although largely a tragedy, fuelled by human prejudices and religious justification, there are also moments of triumph to be found in Emily’s story. As the story shifts from Period drama to something more akin to Wild West action in the final act, we get to experience just enough of the wider world to provide context to the Emily’s struggles. The further we get from Emily's Puritanical homestead, the more we realise the world may change, but human nature stays the same. A barren field of 20th century industrial ruins provide a subtle reminder of the past, while the poverty and lawlessness of Lewis Bend serves as a blatant reminder of just how powerless the Dominion is to enact the kind of change that matters.
Delicately balancing heroism and tragedy, hope and despair, Dana takes the novel to a satisfying – if somewhat sombre – conclusion that lingers in your imagination long after you’re done reading, and which ultimately provides the hope for a better tomorrow.(less)
When I think of post-apocalyptic horror, it’s always the final scenes of ‘Time Enough at Last’ (from The Twilight Zone) that haunt my dreams. I sympat...moreWhen I think of post-apocalyptic horror, it’s always the final scenes of ‘Time Enough at Last’ (from The Twilight Zone) that haunt my dreams. I sympathise with poor Henry Bemis never having enough time read; I share his delight at discovering the still-readable ruins of the public library; and I so totally feel his utter despair in that moment when his glasses shatter upon the ground.
All the books in the world to read, and all the time in the world to read them . . . if only he could see the words upon the page. It sends chills up my spine even as I type this.
Although there’s a definite sense of sorrow and melancholy attached to the end of the world, there’s also a strange sense of freedom in being the last person left alive – depending, of course, on what else is left alive around you. Unfortunately for the survivors in Predators of Darkness, what’s around them is a pack of the genetically mutated beasts, robbing them of that sense of freedom. What’s more, in a moment of cruel irony that only Henry Bemis could completely appreciate, they eventually come across what seems to be a beacon of hope north of the city, only to find that the military is far more interested in containment than they are in rescue.
Toss a government conspiracy angle and a shady corporation into the mix, seed a little suspicion and dissent among the survivors, and you’ve got one hell of a story to tell.
The humans are an interesting bunch (even if a few of them are a bit too stereotypical), and it’s interesting to see how quickly and easily they devolve into a primitive kind of society. There’s a strong sense of hierarchy among them, based largely on survival of the fittest, with the women fighting each other to ‘win’ their man. I can see how that might put some readers off, but I found it oddly exciting, and it made sense to me in the context of what they’re living through. The background characters are just that – roughly sketched faces in a crowd – but the core characters are interesting, relatable, and (for the most part) likeable.
It’s the shifters, however, who I found the most fascinating – both as monsters and as characters themselves. I’ll admit I was initially annoyed by the revelation of a ‘good’ shifter (why does there always have to be a good monster in the bunch?), but Morton eventually won me over. Even as a talking cat, he’s not nearly as interesting as his vicious, sexually deviant brethren, but the contrast is valuable . . . and he does provide some much-needed comic relief. As for the rest of the shifters, they’re an intelligent bunch, and the fact that they are at odds with one another is both a cause for hope, and a cause for despair.
On that note, one thing I have to call attention to here is the very strange level of eroticism in the book. I can completely understand how it might make some people squeamish, or turn some readers off, but I found it extremely exciting – in a very taboo sort of way. Sex in this post-apocalyptic microcosm of society is dangerous and rough, and the way in which the shifters seduce/persuade/compel/ their victims isn’t nearly as gross as watching those humans give in to the animalist lust. It shouldn’t work as well as it does, but somehow Hilley pushes all the right buttons to elicit the right emotions.
Complaints? Not many, to be honest. Yes, some of the dialogue was corny, the romance was a bit cheesy, and some of the characters were much too thin for my liking, but what works, works very well. This is a story that was exciting, from start to finish, and full of enough creepy thrills and gloriously inappropriate horrors to keep me reading. There’s a point halfway through where the book changes pace a bit, becoming less of a horror story and more of a science-fiction thriller, but that’s what keeps it interesting. Even the best post-apocalyptic stories can become repetitive after a time, especially once the monsters have been revealed, but there are enough surprises and revelations here to continuously rekindle the reader’s interest.
If you’re a fan of post-apocalyptic horror and science fiction conspiracies, and don’t mind an author who never plays it safe, this is a book that’s definitely worth a read.(less)