Bob Ford's prose and voice are deceptively simple, but he always makes sure to slip in a reminder or two that there’s a real smart feller in there. It...moreBob Ford's prose and voice are deceptively simple, but he always makes sure to slip in a reminder or two that there’s a real smart feller in there. It’s a rare gift in a genre often filled with sculpted, poetic phrasings and raw, brutal depictions; not that there’s anything wrong with either, but Bob’s smooth style definitely sets him apart from the crowd, and that can only be a good thing. This slim, brief taste of a novella is absolutely worth any horror fan’s time, and is a rarity in that it’s a complete, satisfying story in such a short amount of space. Bob’s tale of magic, murder and missing-persons mystery sure would go down a lot smoother, however, if I knew there was a full-length Bob Ford novel coming down the pipes in the near future(less)
It isn’t hard to figure out what a Wrath James White book is all about, especially with the brutal covers Deadite, his new main publisher, puts on the...moreIt isn’t hard to figure out what a Wrath James White book is all about, especially with the brutal covers Deadite, his new main publisher, puts on their books. This one, a collection of his short fiction, serves a different function than his novels, in my humble opinion. While I personally feel Wrath is at his best when he has a novel’s worth of space in which to develop his ideas, the fifteen stories in this collection are a great, and fun, diversion for those who enjoy the most graphic violence and sexuality you’re likely to find in a horror book. My favorites include ‘Don’tScream,’ about a woman who comes back to life far hornier than she’d left it; ‘A Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man,’ about the vicious interrogation of a war criminal; and ‘Fly,’ about sex and balconies. The titular novelette near the end is a veritable tour de force of BDSM set against the backdrop of the raunchiest Satanic ritual one can possibly perform. (less)
The third novel in his Dead World series. Like the first novel, Dead City, it features a cop as the main protagonist and several other officers in sup...moreThe third novel in his Dead World series. Like the first novel, Dead City, it features a cop as the main protagonist and several other officers in supporting roles. McKinney’s not retracing his steps, though; this cop is a female, and not all the cops are necessarily heroes. Best of all, Flesh Eaters is a prequel of sorts; where the first two books are set in the heart of the zombie apocalypse, this details the events and decisions contributing to the initial outbreak, as well as the escapades of a few bad guys who decide to divest an underwater bank of several million dollars that’s been recorded as being destroyed by a flood.(less)
For Emmy is a short novella that tells the story of a young girl’s disappearance and, more importantly, what happens when she comes back. This story s...moreFor Emmy is a short novella that tells the story of a young girl’s disappearance and, more importantly, what happens when she comes back. This story smacks ever so slightly of Stephen King’s From a Buick Eight, and I mean that in a good way. SanGiovanni once again puts her flair for the otherworldly on display and even throws a tiny tidbit out there for fans of her Hollower novels. (less)
Yaccub’s Curse blends Nation of Islam and Christian theologies with a coming-of-age story set in the ghetto. Unlike most coming-of-age stories, howeve...moreYaccub’s Curse blends Nation of Islam and Christian theologies with a coming-of-age story set in the ghetto. Unlike most coming-of-age stories, however, the protagonist is damn-near as immoral as the corruption he eventually ends up facing down. Wrath nevertheless paints Malik Black in a sympathetic light, and you’ll most likely find yourself hoping he finds redemption in what is definitely the most sentimental of Wrath’s work to date. (less)
I’ve been a Turtles fan since forever, grew up watching the cartoon and have read the bulk of the original Mirage and later Archie comics turtles seri...moreI’ve been a Turtles fan since forever, grew up watching the cartoon and have read the bulk of the original Mirage and later Archie comics turtles series’. I was stoked beyond words when I heard IDW was going to be doing the Turtles; even moreso when I learned that original creator, Kevin Eastman, was going to be on board. I’ve read the first three issues and I’m loving it. The first trade, which I’d imagine will collect the first four-issue arc, will be on sale in February, but I’m sure you can track down the individual issues at your local comic shop. Any concerns about the comic being cartoony, or for kids, or that the writers will just be rehashing what’s already been done..? Lay them aside. Already, we’ve had an entirely different Turtles origin and not a Shredder in sight, though even I’d be disappointed if we didn’t see the ol’ Shred-head eventually. (less)
King, even at the top of his game, has a habit of being a bit long-winded. His last novel, UNDER THE DOME, was a thousand-page brick and also, in my o...moreKing, even at the top of his game, has a habit of being a bit long-winded. His last novel, UNDER THE DOME, was a thousand-page brick and also, in my opinion, disappointing as Hell. I really wanted to like this epic-length story of a guy going back in time to stop the Kennedy assassination–and I did. Alot. As much as an unnecessarily padded book can aggravate me, nothing satisfies me like a long book done well, that I can lose myself in for a big chunk of time. This book did that, admirably well. King didn’t beat the mechanics of time travel to death, which I greatly appreciate, and Jake’s relationship with Sadie is at least as poignant, and somewhat reminiscent of, BAG OF BONES, another favorite King of mine. The bonus visit to Derry during the first quarter of the book is the cherry on top. (less)
WAITING OUT WINTER, a small, slender volume from Thunderstorm Books' Elemental chapbook series is Kelli Owen's newest release. It packs a huge punch t...moreWAITING OUT WINTER, a small, slender volume from Thunderstorm Books' Elemental chapbook series is Kelli Owen's newest release. It packs a huge punch that belies its size, however, and is more deserving of your time than some books three times its size and two-thirds the price.
Nick and his hunting buddies come home from a couple weeks in the woods to find themselves immediately neck-deep in an apocalyptic situation created by the local government's inept and little-too-late response to a pest problem. The result is a town, and possibly greater surrounding area, under siege from a most-unexpected front. A fun read you should snap up if you get the chance, and a story I’d expect to see in a collection of Kelli’s short fiction. It’s an apocalyptic story without zombies, as impossible as that may sound these days, and more importantly, it’s a human story, with a fun and ironic twist at the end. (less)
Multiplex Fandango is a sixteen-story, 283-page collection of fiction spanning over a decade of Weston Ochse's career. The stories, six of which were...moreMultiplex Fandango is a sixteen-story, 283-page collection of fiction spanning over a decade of Weston Ochse's career. The stories, six of which were written specifically for this book, are each preceded by a movie-style introduction of the main characters (or elements of the story) and a quote, generally from a movie or book.
Weston Ochse is the real deal: a military veteran and former intelligence officer whose resume is no doubt peppered with events he can't talk about, who travels to exotic locales on government business to this day and lives with his wife in the American desert Southwest. So when he writes about places like China, Japan, the Mexican desert, the streets of Los Angeles and New Orleans during Mardi Gras, there's a sense of authenticity that you'd typically only find in an anthology featuring several authors from different walks of life. Ochse's work has received high praise from genre stalwarts like Joe Lansdale, Ed Lee, Brian Keene and the late Richard Laymon, and Ochse himself cites Cormac McCarthy as an influence. In fact, Ochse's short stories channel McCarthy's enviable skill at painting pictures and setting scenes with mere human language.
“Tarzan Doesn't Live Here Anymore,” Fandango's opening story; “High Desert Come to Jesus,” about a man involuntarily seeking penance from his victims; “Hiroshma Falling,” about a melted man's struggle to find his family in the aftermath of America's nuclear strike on Japan and “City of Joy,” a heart-wrenching science-fiction story, are personal favorites and are all worth the cover price individually, but only comprise a quarter of the book's material. Even the one story that missed the mark in this humble reviewer's opinion, “The Crossing of Aldo Rey,” was unique and tense and didn't quite resonate simply because it was written from a perspective that is sometimes hard to digest. The short notes from Ochse at the end of each story, detailing their origins and inspirations, are a welcome addition and all part of the Multiplex Fandango experience.
Engines of Desire is comprised of ten stories, including two novellas and two novelettes. It’s stunning enough even without the knowledge that it is L...moreEngines of Desire is comprised of ten stories, including two novellas and two novelettes. It’s stunning enough even without the knowledge that it is Livia Llewellyn’s debut book. Llewellyn, whose catalog of published work stretches back to 2005, has clearly demonstrated more dedication and patience than many of her peers, this reviewer included, and it shows through in every page of Engines.
Several pieces stand out from the pack. The collection leads off with ‘Horses,’ one of the novelettes, which begins as an end-of-the-world tale and finishes as something else entirely. ‘At the Edge of Ellensburg,’ a novella, tells the story of a college girl wrapped up in her addiction to a mysterious, drug-dealing stranger. ‘The Engine of Desire,’ from which the book gets its title, is about a woman’s decades-spanning association with a girl named Kelly who is definitely more than a girl. ‘Take Your Daughters to Work’ can’t really be described in-depth without ruining it, but further demonstrates Llewellyn’s flair for the apocalyptic and otherworldly. ‘The Four-Hundred Thousand’ is a dystopian piece centered around sacrifice and the supposed greater good, as manipulated by the powers that be. ‘Omphalos,’ the other novelette, is an incestuous round-robin affair that’s main character is at least slightly reminiscent of Jack Sawyer from Stephen King’s Talisman.
As a whole, Engines of Desire can be characterized by two overarching themes. The first is the strong erotic overtones (and the occasional subtle undertone) woven through many of the stories. Llewellyn writes hotter and more graphic scenes than the average horror reader is likely to encounter, almost always to the benefit of whichever story such scenes occur in. The second is the sense of otherworldliness present in several pieces; some of it is outright (the chimera in ‘Her Deepness,’ the book’s other novella, for instance), while much of it is more subtle (elements of both ‘The Engine of Desire’ and ‘Omphalos,’ and Kelly in ‘Engines of Desire,’ for instance, will certainly raise some questions).
Engines of Desire is an excellent introduction to a fine, relatively new, author who is sure to develop a rabid following in years to come.
After the Burn is a collection of six short stories and two novellas based on the premise of a nuclear apocalypse and its aftermath, ranging in time p...moreAfter the Burn is a collection of six short stories and two novellas based on the premise of a nuclear apocalypse and its aftermath, ranging in time period from right before the bombs (the “Burn”) to well after radiation sickness and various mutations have become commonplace.
“A Shiny Can of Whup-ass,” the lead story, tells of an elderly shopkeeper’s stand against a group of violent escaped convicts in the hours and days immediately following the Burn. The convicts are led by an evil man named Rott with a connection to the town, and Kelly spares nothing in his efforts to yank at the reader’s gut with the graphic, but entirely conceivable, depravity depicted. Sam, the protagonist, is a wily opponent and does a significant amount of damage to the bad guys even before the piece’s dramatic climax, which was foreshadowed enough for most people to see it coming. There’s a slightly less-telegraphed surprise at the very end. Being able to figure out the twists ahead of time doesn’t ruin the story at all, though. “Whup-ass” certainly sets the tone for the book. No one is safe, and it’s every man and woman for themselves.
Burn continues with “Meat is Life,” a story about the symbiotic relationship between a television chef and a stray dog who saves her life. It begins shortly enough after the Burn for Phyllis to still be wearing her tailored clothes, and advances us several weeks, possibly even a couple of months, along the timeline. Again, Kelly’s vision is perfectly reasonable and in keeping with our worst fears should an apocalyptic disaster actually strike, and the ending may surprise readers, though they’re certain to smack themselves upside the head, saying, ‘Of Course!’ once they actually get there. “The Happiest Place in Hell,” follows a group of survivors who’ve been holed up in Disneyworld (though it’s not called that, of course), and their struggle against the mental-hospital escapees who also live there, and do annoying things like shut off their water and eat people, all the while dressed in the park’s character suits.
“The Popsicle Man,” concerning the rescue of two children from a pair of sexual predators, showcases the closest thing to a hero a post-apocalyptic world is likely to ever spawn. While its happy ending is a refreshing change from the book’s previous three stories, there’s still plenty of disturbing things going on. “Evolution Ridge,” the story of a family dealing with radiation-inspired mutation, is a bit of a stretch in ways that can’t be detailed without ruining the piece, but is a fun read nonetheless. “Taking Care of Business” is a bit of a lark; the tale of an Elvis impersonator and a housewife rescued from a mob of mutant cows by none other than the King of Rock and Roll.
While the first three pieces introduce the Burn and describe the immediate collapse of society and the following three contain vestiges of the world we once knew, the last two stories take place so long after the Burn so as to be completely unrecognizable as taking place on our world. “Flesh Welder” pits a surgeon whose brain was joined with that of a welder against a sadistic military commander, with disastrous result. “The Paradise Pill,” is about compromise more than anything else, and involves a woman who’ll do anything to give her daughter the tiniest bit of happiness, offered by a drug that accommodates blissful, shared dreams.
Overall, After the Burn is a highly-readable mix of graphic horror and fanciful storytelling. (less)