Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Ballad of a Slow Poisoner

After taking a few weeks off from reviewing  bizarro fiction, due to a bit of burn out from all the reviews in April, it's time for a new bizarro review. This time it's The Ballad of a Slow Poisoner by Andre Goldfarb.

This was a cool book. The plot was strange and meandering. It's about a man named Millford Mutterwurst, whose elbows are flattening as a result of poisoning. He teams up with a blue blobby creature called Slub Glub and a transparent green monkey. They have some adventures.

This is the sort of book where I can't really explain the plot because the story is all over the place with all kinds of absurd things happening. I will say that it is a great, entertaining story with really cool illustrations. The only thing I don't like--and this may be because I've read too much low-quality, Tolkien-inspired fantasy--is the songs people break into. I just found them distracting. If it wasn't for them, I'd have given this five stars.

Friday, June 15, 2012


The first time I read one of James Rollins' Sigma Force stories was way back in 2007 when I read the Thriller anthology. Despite the fact that I didn't actually mention that story in the review, I really enjoyed it. A few years later, I received unrequested review copies of The Doomsday Key and The Devil Colony, and despite reading them, I never got around to writing reviews for them. They did inspire me to buy the rest of the series, though. Last week, I received a review copy of the latest Sigma Force novel, Bloodline: A Sigma Force Novel, and this time I'm going to review it.

For anyone who may not be familiar with the series, Sigma Force is a secret government organization that's part of  DARPA. It's a team of former soldiers, mostly ex-special forces, who also hold advanced scientific degrees. They battle against scientific threats to the world, mostly in the form of a criminal organization called the Guild. Most of the stories are tied to the historical record and cutting edge science. It's better than I make it sound.

In this story, the Guild has kidnapped the president's daughter, and agent Gray Pierce and former assassin Seichan, along with non-team members Tucker Wayne and his dog Kane, are sent to rescue her. The whole series of events is part of a centuries long plot by the Guild--which includes members of the president's family--to unlock the secrets of immortality.

This is a great adventure story. You should get it and the rest of the series.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Dark Ones

The Dark Ones by Bryan Smith was one of the more disturbing supernatural horror novels I've read. It's about a group of teens who are essentially outsiders. They are the titular Dark Ones. One night they mess around in an old, abandoned house and accidentally unleash a demon. The demon possesses one of them and starts to turn the townspeople into sex-crazed killing machines.

Besides all this, there's the generally crappy lives of some of these kids. One of them has a mother who is quite literally insane. Another was a victim of sexual abuse as a child. A third get bullied by the jocks. In its way, that was even more disturbing than the demon stuff.

This is a gory and disturbing book that really isn't for the faint of heart. For the rest of us, it's a worth reading.

Monday, June 11, 2012

21st Century Dead

When you're putting together a zombie anthology, there are really two choices you can make. The first option is to have the anthology be full of Romero-inspired flesh eaters, which pleases the hard-core zombie fans, but can make for a boring and repetitive anthology. The other option is to include stories with zombie-like undead creatures , which generally annoys the hard-core zombie fans, but usually makes for a better anthology.

21st Century Dead: A Zombie Anthology, edited by Christopher Golden, goes for the second option, which I think was the right choice. There are about three (or maybe four) stories in the anthology that I wouldn't classify as having actual zombies in them. The rest do have zombies in them, though they aren't all flesh eaters and they aren't always central to the story. I generally enjoyed the stories in the collection. To break things down, there was one story I hated, one story I loved, one story I kind of disliked, and sixteen stories that I liked to one degree or another.

The story I hated was "The Dead of Dromore," by Ken Bruen. I actively disliked the characters in this one, who are a band of mercenaries paid to go into a zombie-infested town to rescue a survivor, and who would rather murder all of the other survivors than rescue them for free. Disliking the characters isn't usually enough to get me to dislike the story itself, but the style was. It has way to many sentence fragments and  short sentences for my taste. Plus there's a lot of weird formatting where single sentences are broken up to be spread across several paragraphs, looking something like this:
Helped there by a combination of



And the Chinese

Spreading a single sentence over four paragraphs is just annoying. If I thought it was just a product of my copy being an ARC, I could overlook it, but I suspect that it is intentional.

The story I loved was "Ghost Dog & Pup," by Thomas E Sniegoski, which was one of the less zombie-centric stories. There are zombies in it, but they don't really show up until nearly the end and aren't the focus. At its heart, I would call this one a boy and his dog/ghost story.  I suspect the reason I enjoyed it so much is because, being a dog lover,  I've always been a sucker for boy and his dog stories.

The story I kind of disliked was "Tic Boom, A Love Story," by Kurt Sutter. In this case, the story was interesting, but as with the story I hated, the  style annoyed me. Kurt Sutter is the creator of Sons of Anarchy, and this is his first piece of published prose. As such, it isn't surprising that his story reads more like a screenplay than a short story. It doesn't make the story bad, but it did distract me a bit too much.

Since this review is getting a bit long, I'll just briefly go over the other stories that stood out to me. I really enjoyed Brian Keene's "Couch Potato" and Jonathan Maberry's "Jack And Jill," which isn't surprising as those are two writers I really enjoy. Despite finding his politics abhorrent, and his tale not being an actual zombie story, Orson Scott Card's ""Carousel" was a good story. Chelsea Cain's "Why Mothers Let Their Babies Watch Television" was pretty funny. "Tender As Teeth," by Stephanie Crawford and Diane Swierczynski, was interesting because it was about a person who'd been cured of zombieism.

Despite having a couple of stories I didn't like, this was a good anthology that I recommend for the zombie lover.

Friday, June 08, 2012

All You Can Eat

I was lucky enough to be added to Deadite Press's reviewers list, and received a review copy of Shane McKenzie's All You Can Eat from them. It was a cool book.

You can look at it as a sort of zombie novel. They aren't the shambling, undead sort of zombies. These are waddling, grotesquely obese living zombies.  This is caused by a Chinese restaurant whose owner added a secret ingredient to the buffet to make people like his food. The problem is, he added too much, and now anyone who eats his food becomes obsessed with it to the exclusion of all else. If they can't get at his buffet, his patrons will eat anything else they can get their hands on, including other people.

This was a great, fun, gory story that horror fans will enjoy. The only thing that I expect to see complaints about--and I always see somebody complaining about this stuff on Amazon--is the length. As with much of what Deadite publishes, this is a novella. At least that's what I assume it would be classified at as the actual story only runs for about 110 pages.  As far as I'm concerned, anyone who would complain about that is a moron.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

The Killing Moon

I love fantasy novels, but these days I don't really read that many of them any more. This is because most epic fantasy has been taken over by these large ever expanding series where you have to read a dozen books (and wait a decade or so if it's an ongoing series) before you finally get he whole story.

You don't have to worry about that with The Killing Moon. This is essentially a stand-alone epic fantasy. Yeah, it's part of the series, but this doesn't have one of those annoying cliff-hanger ending where you need to pick up book two to find out what happens next.

The story is interesting. It's set in a city with a priesthood that can siphon power from dreams to use in magic. In the process they often kill people, but that's usually reserved for the dying or those deemed corrupt.

The problem is that there is corruption in the leader of the priesthood and in the city's Prince. This leads to a nasty monster called a Reaper killing people.

I really liked this book. Even though I've been trying to avoid getting into any new series, I expect I'll pick up the sequel at some point.