Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dead of Night by Jonathan Maberry

I got an advance copy of Dead of Night: A Zombie Novel through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. I've been a fan of zombies ever since I was a kid and saw Night of the Living Dead on latenight TV.  These days though, it seems like everybody is writing a zombie novel or making a zombie movie. This makes it hard to tell a good zombie story, because it's all been done before.

Maberry has managed to tell a good story. The key to doing this is having an interesting plot and interesting characters. The plot doesn't have to be original. There's only so many ways a zombie story can go, just like with a love story, or a mystery, or an alien invasion, or any other kind of story. The key is to take the story and make it your own.

The plot isn't  what I would call original, but Maberry makes it his own, and that's what makes it good. It's basically a standard zombie outbreak; a corpse wakes up and attacks someone, who becomes a zombie. Then that person becomes a zombie, and pretty soon things spiral out of control. The few people who are aware of what's going on aren't believed until it's too late. There's a lot of blood and gore and violence.

It's the characters that really make the story. You've got a seriously messed up police officer and her partner and her ex. I felt enough for these people to be rooting for them the whole time, even when I knew their actions were putting the whole world at risk.

The only thing that I found at all annoying about the book is that the word zombie wasn't even used until halfway through the book. Even when characters saw dead people walking and feasting on the living, they never called them zombies and it took them way too long to figure out they needed to aim for the head. The only thing I can figure is that this story must be set in some alternate reality where George Romero never picked up a camera, and consequently the modern flesh-eating zombie genre never existed. Even so, this is a book all zombie fans will enjoy.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Houdini Gut Punch: An Anthology of Bizarro Horror ed. by Jonathan Moon

Houdini Gut Punch is an anthology of bizarro short stories.If you don't know what bizarro, is you should probably click on the link, which goes to the Wikipedia entry for bizarro fiction. If you want a quick summary, it is really f'ed up, bizarre stuff.

This book features stories with lots of f'ed up, bizarre subjects:a man who keeps his soul inside a duck, a woman who adopts an insect angel the crawls out of her drain,the eternal conflict between a moth and some kind of monster thing, a guy whose head starts absorbing animals causing him to give birth to monster things, etc.

Not all of the stories were winners, though. A couple were kind of boring. One kept switching between the first, second, and third person viewpoints and changed which character had which viewpoint, which was confusing, but sort of made sense at the end. Some of the stories mad no sense, but were usually still enjoyable. If you like the weird like I do, then you will probably enjoy this book.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Classics Mutilated ed. by Jeff Conner

Classics Mutilated is a collection of short fiction in the genre of what is apparently called Monster Lit, which is when authors take classic works and add in zombies or whatnot or famous historical people and put them in some kind of supernatural situation. At least according to the introduction anyway; I've been avoiding that stuff.

Technically speaking only one of the stories in the collection is the "take a classic and add stuff to make it weird" type. That's Rick Hautala's "Little Women in Black," which combines a scene from Little Women with some men in black type action. Basically, I found that story to be weird and confusing, though still entertaining.

The rest of the stories are more or less evenly divided between weird tales featuring historical personages and weird literary (or other media) mashups. Overall, I preferred the mashups. The historical ones weren't bad, but mostly featured people I don't particularly care about.

"Fairest of Them All" by Sean Taylor is a very strange mashup of Snow White and Alice in Wonderland.  This story was just cool.

"Anne-droid of Green Gables" by Lezli Robyn is a steam punk version of Anne of Green Gables. It's a very heart-warming story.

"Death stopped for Miss Dickinson" by Kristine Katherine Rusch tells the story of Emily Dickinson's love affair with Death. It was interesting,but as I'm not particularly a fan of poetry, I wasn't as entranced as I was with some of the stories.

"Twilight of the Gods" by Chris Ryall is the story of Loki told in the style of Twilight. This was funny.

"Pokky Man" by Marc Laidlaw is basically a non copyright infringing Pokemon story told in the style of a documentary film. Definately my least favorite of the mashups, but still not a bad story.

"Vicious" by Mark Morris is the tale of how Sid Vicious got put under a Voodoo curse. I'm not really that much of a fan of punk or 70s rock in general,  but I actually liked this story and felt kind of bad for Sid.

"From Hell's Heart" by Nancy Collins is the story of what happened to Ahab after he died in Moby Dick. This was a cool story with one of my favorite monsters in it.

"Frankenbilly" by John Shirley is a story about Billy the Kid meeting up with Victor Frankenstein. As you might guess, it was inspired by Billy the Kid Versus Dracula and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter., which means it's cool (at least if your like me).

"The Green Menace" by Thomas Tessier is about Joe McCarthy fighting killer frogs. The only downside to this story is that since MCarthy is a real person, you know the frogs aren't going to kill the bastard even though you wish they would.

"Quoth the Rock Star" by Rio Youers is about Jim Morrison meeting the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe. The Doors aren't really my kind of music any more than The Sex Pistols are, but I still enjoyed this one.

"The Happiest Hell on Earth" by John Skipp & Cody Goodfellow is the tale of what would have happened if the animal people from The Island of Dr. Moreau had gone on to work for a company that is very much like Disney, but not called that since no one wants to get sued. This was a very cool story.

"Dread Island" by Joe Lansdale is Huck Finn meets Uncle Remus meets Cthulu. I think it's the best story in the book.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Living Dead Boy and the Zombie Hunters by Rhiannon Frater

The Living Dead Boy and the Zombie Hunters is a pretty cool book. It's about Josh Rondell,  a boy who thinks zombies are cool and spends his time preparing for the zombie apocalypse. This being a horror novel, the zombie apocalypse actually happens, and he soon discovers that a zombie attack isn't as cool as he thought it would be.

He sees people he knows, and even a few people he loves, die and come back as flesh-eating zombies. He uses his knowledge to try and lead a small group of children to safety. He learns what it means to be a hero.

This book has a great story. It's full of action and emotion. It also has a fair amount of gore and violence, so some people might not feel it's appropriate for their children. Personally, if I had kids, I'd let them read this. I'd even recommend it to adults, because this is a really good book.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Floating Staircase by Ronald Malfi

Floating Staircase is a very creepy ghost story. It's about a writer named Travis Glasgow who moves into a house in a small town called Westlake. He starts to notice strange things happening in his house, and soon discovers that the previous owner's drowned in the lake behind his house. There is a mystery though as to weather it was an accident or a murder. Travis feels compelled to investigate the case because of his unresolved guilt from his role in the drowning death of his younger brother. From there, he begins a slow decent into madness and obsession.

This was one of the best horror novels I've read this year. If you're a fan of horror, or just good stories, you should read this book.

Friday, September 09, 2011

The Zombist: Undead Western Tales ed. by William R. Tucker

The Zombist: Undead Western Tales is, as the title suggests, a short story collection full of zombie westerns. On the plus side, it does have a reasonably diverse collection of zombie types: old fashioned voodoo , Romero-style, modern fast, and quite a few supernatural.  The supernaturals seem to dominate as a large portion of the stories involve Indian curses.

I would rate the quality of the stories as mostly good. I wouldn't call any of them super great stories that should have been nominated for a Stoker Award , but they are generally we written and entertaining. A few of the longer stories tended to drag a bit, especially near the end of the book. The only story that I absolutely hated was John P. Wilson's "A Wonderful Man," because about halfway through the story,  the protagonist goes from being a wonderful man to being a murdering psychopath for no apparent reason. This is very poor character development.

There are two other downsides to this book. The first, as seems to be increasingly common in small press trade paperbacks, is that the books seems to have had a distinct lack of copy editing. The second is that, as could probably be expected in an anthology with such a narrow focus, the stories start to seem a little repetitive after a while.

Even so, this book is still good, zombie fun for those of us who like the genre.


Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Cemetery Dance "Will Tweet For Books" Promotional Offer

 One of my favorite small presses is Cemetery Dance. They publish nice, high quality horror books. They are currently having a giveaway. They want people to Tweet about it, spread the word on Facebook, and blog about it. If you do, you can win one of ten $100 gift certificates, and I know I'd like to get one. Check it out at

Monday, September 05, 2011

The Wall by Ardath Mayhar

The Wall is another book I managed to get cheaply from local used bookstore. It's a pretty damn good book.

The Wall is a horror novel about a woman called Alice Critten, who inherits her Great-Aunt Elanor's rural house, which is surrounded by the titular wall. On her first night in the house, she hears a strange wail coming from the forest outside her wall.  Soon, she starts seeing a ghost, and finds odd fires. She begins to suspect that there is an evil cult in the nearby town.

This is a nice little atmospheric horror story. The main character is a very interesting person. Well worth reading.


Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Spy Who Drank Blood by Gordon Linzer

The Spy Who Drank Blood is an interesting fantasy/horror/mystery type book from the mid-80s. As you can probably guess from the title, it's about a secret agent who is also a vampire. Since the book is from the 80s, it isn't one of those lame sparkly vampires, or a tragic, brooding antihero, or the love interest of some woman who secretly battles the forces of darkness. Being the protagonist means he isn't a crazed monster either, but he is more interesting than these pathetic vampires that infest the genre today.

Blood, as the hero is called, is a vampire mostly in the traditional mold; he drinks blood, casts no reflection, can turn into mist or a bat or a wolf, can control certain animals, has hypnotic eyes, and can't cross running water.  He works for a secret government agency called the Office.

His boss's daughter is a reporter for a supermarket tabloid and is in Florida investigating skunk ape sightings. She gets kidnapped by some domestic terrorists, and then kidnapped from them by the skunk ape. Blood gets sent in to sort the whole thing out.

This book combines action, humor, horror, and a little science fiction very well.  If you can dis up a copy of this out-of-print book, you should do so.


Friday, September 02, 2011

Fell Beasts ed. by Ty Schwamberger

Fell Beasts is an anthology of horror stories with monsters in them. It's a pretty good collection with a wide variety of monsters: a Bigfoot, a werewolf,a devil, a crazy killer, a flock of crows, a lake monster, a demonic hotel, manticores, a woodwose, evil banished Christmas dwarf things, and some kind of frog monster. The stories themselves range from good to great. My favorite had to be the decidedly Bizarre "There Goes the Neighborhood: (Holiday Version/Extended Cutting)," by Brady Allen,which was the one with the Christmas dwarfs. My least favorite was the final story, "Yellow," by John Everson, which wasn't bad, but I just didn't find particularly exciting.

The only real problem I had with the book was its poor copy editing. I'm not usually one to even notice that sort of thing, but this book had so many mistakes, I couldn't help but notice. I hope that will be fixed in future reprintings, because if it wasn't for that, I would have rated it higher.


The Naturre of Balance by Tim Lebbon

I picked up the (now unavailable) Leisure edition of The Nature of Balance in a discount bin a few years ago. For some reason, I read the first couple of chapters,  got distracted by some other book, and never finished it, until now. Mostly I decided to finish it because I'm going to Horrorfind Weekend tomorrow, and Tim Lebbon is a guest there.

It's easy for me to see why I let myself get distracted from finishing this book; while it's not a bad book, it's also not exactly what I'd call gripping. Sure  it does have an interesting premise, but  the characters tended to be kind of stupid.

The story is that one day almost everyone dies in their sleep. I'm not talking about passing peacefully either; it's more of a Freddy Krueger kind of thing. there's an evil being called Fay and group of six survivors, half of who are very odd people. One is a man with no memory who seems to have a history with Fay. Another is a young woman who Fay wants to kill for reasons that are unexplained until nearly the end. Then there's the psycho who is really working for Fay.

 Really it's not a bad book. I just prefer my horror with  more monsters.