Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Dead World Resurrection

It's odd, but despite how many zombie stories I've read over the years, the only Joe McKinney zombie story I'd read was the one in The Living Dead 2, until I got a review copy of Dead World Resurrection.This is obviously going to have to change, as I enjoyed the collection and will now have to get the novels in his Dead World series.

There are some really good stories in this anthology, but there were also some things I didn't care for all that much. There were a couple of short essay-ish pieces, namely "Zombies and Their Haunts" and "Suburbia of the Dead," which would have been better off excluded as they were kind of boring and were reused in the lengthy "A Reader's Guide to Dead World" at the end of the book.

The actual short stories were pretty good, and reasonably diverse for zombie stories. Many of the stories feature the viral zombies of the Dead World series, but despite the title, not all of the stories are do. "Sabbatical in the Ohio Methlands" has zombies that are zombies in a more metaphorical sense.The zombies of "Starvation Army" seem to be more like hungry ghosts. "Jimmy Finder" has zombie-fighting robots. There are even stories where people become zombies from ODing on psychedelic mushrooms or from cuts caused by strange clams.

This is a really good collection of zombies stories  that's far better than the formulaic crap that seems to have flooded the market in recent years.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Dark Screams

I was lucky enough to get a copy of the forthcoming horror anthology Dark Screams: Volume One. It's a really good (short) collection. It's only got five stories, but they're all from fairly well known authors, and they're all good.

The book starts off with its only reprint, "Weeds," by Stephen King. Even if, like me, you haven't read this story before, you still probably know it, because it was used in Creepshow as "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill."  Even if you're familiar with the story from the film, it's still a great read.

The second story is "The Price You Pay" by Kelley Armstrong. It seems to start off as a standard horror trope about two women who get kidnapped and tortured by a psychopath, but it quickly moves into a different direction. I think it might have been my favorite story in the collection.

Story number three is "Magic Eyes," by Bill Pronzini. It's about a man in a mental hospital who claims he's not insane, he didn't murder his wife, and some sort of magic eyes are really responsible. Once again this story starts off seeming like a standard horror trope, but eventually proves to be something different.

The fourth story is Simon Clark's "Murder in Chains," which is about a man who wakes up to find himself chained to a murderous lunatic. Wackiness ensues (and by wackiness, I mean lots of blood and gore).

The final story is Ramsey Campbell's "The Watched," which is about a policeman who seeks revenge against the drug dealers he holds responsible for his daughter's death. Not surprisingly, there is a supernatural twist.

This is a really good anthology, and since it's only available in ebook form, it's cheap, too.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Falcoln Throne

It's rare that I read a book and don't really know what to think about it, but that's the case with The Falcon Throne. I've enjoyed other books by Karen Miller, and I certainly didn't dislike this book. It just seems like this book was written to cash in on the popularity of Game of Thrones.

Both works have Throne in the title. Both books are fantasies set in pseudo-medieval kingdoms. Both works are about politics with lots of treachery and backstabbing and power-hungry lunatics who want to seize a throne at all costs. Both works have large numbers of major characters. Both works keep magic more or less in the background. Both works tell fairly dark stories.

I'm not saying that Falcon is a copy of Game, because it clearly isn't. It is, however, very much the same sort of story. If you enjoy Game of Thrones, the books or the TV show, you'll probably enjoy this. Unfortunately, its also long, fairly depressing, and you will see bad things happen to characters you like.

Personally, I will probably pick up the rest of the series when it's written.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

After the Funeral

Considering how many books I read, it's surprising that I'd never read an Agatha Christie novel until I read After the Funeral, and the only reason I read that is because the publisher sent me a review copy. Now, you might wonder why a publisher would send out review copies of a book that was originally published more than 50 years ago. Apparently, the Christie estate has authorized Sophie Hannah to write a new Poirot novel called The Monogram Murders, and the publisher had her choose her favorite Poirot novel and write an introduction for a new edition, She chose After the Funeral for its "nontransferable motive."

This book certainly had one of the most peculiar motives I've read. In fact this is one of the few mysteries I've read where I didn't have any idea who the killer was until the end of the book. Despite being a Poirot mystery, Poirot isn't in the book very much.  The book spends most of it time with the family of the victim(s).  They are a strange lot.

I really enjoyed the book and will have to add Agatha Christie to the ever growing list of authors whose books I really have to read.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Limbus Inc.: Book II

Limbus, Inc.: Book II has got a really great lineup of contributors. Joe Lansdale is one of my favorite writers. I've rnjoyed eyerything I've read by Jonathan Maberry. I've generally enjoyed Gary Braunbeck's Cedar Hill stories. I've only read a couple of Harry Shannon's books, but I thought they were pretty good. I haven't read anything else by Joe McKinney, but he seems to be reasonably popular.

With that lineup, this book must be good, right? Yes, it and no. As with the previous book, I really don't think it really hangs together very well as a shared world story collection. Limbus is supposed to be a sort of pandimensional employment agency. The problem I have is that in some of the stories Limbus seems to be fairly benevolent, but in others it is utterly malevolent. The stories themselves are mostly good though.

Maberry fan's will probably really enjoy his story, which is a crossover with Sam Hunter (from the previous Limbus book) going to Pine Deep (which Maberry wrote a trilogy about) and teaming up with Joe Ledger (who is the star of Maberry's most popular series).  Joe Lansdale tells a story about a shadow government, a dinosaur hunt, and the Hollow Earth, with Allan Quartermain making an appearance. Gary Braunbecks story, which I found disappointing, was about a librarian who is kidnapped by Limbus and turned into a slightly more psychotic version of James Bond. Harry Shannon's tale is about an alcoholic who gets a job involving time travel and a quest for redemption. Joe McKinney's story is also about an alcoholic on a quest for redemption, only with a ghost instead of time travel.

Realistically, I think most people would be less bothered by Limbus's ambiguous nature than I am, and the stories are really good, so I'd say that you should read this book.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Halfway House

I haven't read a lot of Weston Ochse's books, but I thought all the ones I've read are great, including Halfway House. An orphan who may be the son of the king of rock and roll is searching for his birthright. A local gang leader is fighting to save San Pedro, California from a violent invasion by MS-13. An elderly surf bum is reconnecting with his estranged daughter. There's also a dead bruja who is devouring the souls of anyone who dies in San Pedro so she can sustain the curse she cast on a group of Japanese soldiers who murdered her daughter.

I thought the characters were well done, except for the villains who were a bit two dimensional. The plot did, perhaps take a bit too long to get to the titular Halfway House, but the events leading up to that part were still interesting. This is a great book for any horror fan.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The 6th Extinction

Wow! I've been a fan of the Sigma Force series for a few years now, and I just loved The 6th Extinction. This is the 10th book in the series, and it's still going strong. As with all the previous books, there's a good mix of history and real-world science. Unlike in the previous books, the history isn't as central to the plot, though.

Very often in the previous books, Sigma Force would be perusing clues found in the historical record while being chased by bad guys. In this on, they're still being chased by bad guys, but the historical part only includes a few mentions of Darwin, Admiral Byrd, and a secret Nazi Antarctic submarine base.

There are gunfights, explosions, a threat (or three) to the safety of the world, and a trip through a truly alien world. It;s great fun, and it's scary to think how much of the science is real.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Ghost Bride

Yangsze Choo's The Ghost Bride is certainly not the sort of book I normally read. Yes, it is essentially a historical fantasy, but it's labelled as simply fiction to appeal to a wider audience. This is a good thing, since it is the sort of book that is likely to be enjoyed by non-fantasy fans, but it's also a bad thing, since that means fantasy fans are less likely to be aware of it, and I think they'd enjoy it too. I know I did.

The Ghost Bride is the story of Li Lan, a young,  19th century Malaysian woman. Her father tells her that a wealthy family has expressed interest in having her marry their recently deceased son. Naturally, she doesn't want to do it, especially after she encounters the ghost of said son, and he proves to be annoyingly self-centered. Soon Li Lan is traveling through the world of the spirits, investigating corruption in the court of Hell (and the alleged murder of her would-be groom).

There is some good adventure. There's romance. There are demons and hungry ghosts. There's a good bit of Chinese folklore. It all makes for a very entertaining read.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Biters/The Reborn

I like books like Biters - The Reborn, which have two stories with one on each end of the book. I don't like reviewing them so much, because when I like one story and not the other I have a hard time coming up with an overall rating. This was the case with this book, and unlike most of the other reviews I've seen for this book, the story I liked was "Biters."

"Biters," by Harry Shannon, is a zombie story. Normally this would be a strike against it, because, as much as I like zombie stories, the trope is pretty much played out. Unless there's some new twist to the story, we really don't need any more books or movies about small bands of survivors trying to get by in a zombie filled world.

Luckily, this isn't that sort of book. "Biters" is essentially a crime story which uses the post-apocalyptic,  zombie-filled world as a backdrop. It's a tale of love, betrayal, and revenge. It's not one of the great classics of world literature, but it was entertaining.

"The Reborn" by Brett J. Talley wasn't as good. I can see why other people enjoyed it. It had all the elements of a god post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller. Even the idea that reincarnation has been proven and the government is using that knowledge to weed out the reincarnations of murderers and rapists in utero is a pretty cool idea.

The first problem I have though is that the way this idea is presented sounds like so much technobabble BS (though I could be wrong on this as I am not a biologist). Apparently reincarnation was discovered after a murderer was convicted by hair strand from which only a single strand of junk DNA was recoverable. A scientist was found who testified that that single strand was as unique as a fingerprint (unless my I'm wrong that strand would have been present in one of the man's parents, so right off the bat this sounds like BS). Then decades after the guy was executed, another murderer is found with the same strand of junk DNA. instead of assuming that the scientist was lying or mistaken, the courts throw out every conviction based on DNA evidence (despite the fact that only cases in which conviction rested on a single strand of junk DNA would have been called into question by this). Then someone discovers that after a criminal dies another criminal is born with junk DNA that matches the strand of that criminal's DNA (which would seem to invalidate the whole "this strand is as unique as a fingerprint" theory). Somehow, instead of interpreting this as evidence that this theory is BS, this becomes proof of reincarnation.

On top of the fairly crappy sounding science, the protagonist goes through some fairly unbelievable personality changes for no apparent reason.  Also the story relies far too heavily on the backstory of the DNA business and the rise of a man called Khan, which effectively makes this feel like two stories mushed together.

If I could, I'd give "Biters" four yo-yos and "The Reborn" three, but since they're one book the thing gets an overall 3.5.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

City of Stairs

City of Stairs is definitely not your typical otherworldly fantasy. For one thing, it eschews the typical pseudo-medieval setting in favor of something closer to the late 19th/early20th century. The world has trains, guns, gas lighting, cameras, and telegraphs. It is not a steampunk novel though (if you were wondering).

Besides having a fairly distinctive setting, this book also draws a good bit from the mystery and spy thriller genres. The main character is a spy who goes to the city of Bulikov to investigate the murder of a professor who she greatly admired. Along the way she finds rebellion, political intrigue, and gods.

The gods are what makes this book a fantasy. Long ago, the gods led the people of the continent to conquer the world.  Two generation before this story began, a man called the Kaj led a rebellion against the continentals and killed their gods. Of course as you can guess, it turns out that some of the gods survived and their followers are causing trouble.

This was a really great book. Besides being a fantasy/mystery/thriller, it also deals with issues of colonialism, religious fanatacism, and the nature of divinity. This was a really great book.

Saturday, June 07, 2014


Have you ever seen the movie 28 Days Later? It's the one where an environmental group frees some chimps that are infected with a rage virus and soon everybody's turned into crazy killers. Ray Garton's Frankenstorm is kind of like that, but there are differences.

For one thing the book takes place during the release of the infected instead of 28 days later. For another thing, the test subjects are homeless people instead of chimps. On top of that, the story is set in California during a hurricane.

This means that instead of being a zombie-esque horror tale, Frankenstorm is more of a horror/sci-fi/thriller. It's a good story with a great deal of conflict involving infected people, a militia, a mad scientist, a secret government black-ops organization, drug dealers, and a sheriff's deputy who's insane before being exposed to the virus.

The book also includes a bonus short story called "The Guy Down the Street." It's a disturbing little tale that I didn't find as enjoyable as the novel.

This book is just good fun, if you idea of fun involves lots of gore and violence.

Friday, June 06, 2014


The title of this book is slightly misleading. Instead of being a collection of stories where the characters FaceOff,it most of the stories involve characters teaming up. Of course, TeamUp wouldn't really have been as cool of a title.

As this book was written to benefit the International Thriller Writers, the characters in question are from popular thriller series. At least I assume they're popular. I'm not really all that well read in the genre and mainly picked the book up for the Repairman Jack story and the story with Grayson Pierce of Sigma Force. While most of the stories weren't super great, I generally enjoyed them and will probably try to read the original series the various characters came from.

I might as  well give my thoughts on the individual stories:

"Red Eye" featuring Denis Lehane's Patrick Kenzie and Michael Connely's Harry Bosch - I definitely enjoyed this story of a detective and a cop teaming up to rescue a little girl from a pedophile. It was a good lead off for the book.

"In the Nick of Time" featuring Ian Rankin's John Rebus and Peter Jame's Roy Grace - This one was more of mystery than a thriller. It is about two British cops solving a 50 year old stabbing case after a man confesses on his deathbed. It wasn't as action-filled as I'd expect from a thriller, but it was still good.

"Gaslighted" featuring R. L. Stine's Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy and Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child's Aloysius Pendergast - I did enjoy this one, but I was rather disappointed by how little a part Slappy played in the story. Still, not having read the Goosebumps books, for all I know he could have just sat there and stared at people in them, too.

"The Laughing Buddha" featuring M. J. Rose's Malachai Samuels and Lisa Gardener's D. D. Warren - This is another one that's a bit more of a mystery than a thriller. It involves the murder of an antiques dealer and reincarnation, which does make for a good story. While I enjoyed it, I don't think the crossover aspect worked that well and almost felt tacked on.

"Surfing the Panther" featuring Steve Martini's Paul Madriani and Linda Fairstein's Alexandra Cooper - Legal thrillers aren't my cup of tea. I did still enjoy it, but not as much as the others.

"Rhymes with Prey" featuring Jeffery Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme and John Sandford's Lucas Davenport - This was definitely my least favorite story in the collection, which is unfortunate as it is also by far the longest story in the collection. I think the length might be part of the issue I had with this, as the story just seemed to drag.

"Infernal Night" featuring F. Paul Wilson's Repairman Jack and Heather Graham's Michael Quinn - This was the story I was most looking forward to, and while I enjoyed it, it didn't feel very Repairman Jack-ish. I think it might just be that Jack works best in New York, and this is set in New Orleans.

"Pit Stop" featuring Raymond Khoury's Sean Reilly and Linwood Barcaly's Glen Garber - This was one of the more fast-paced stories. It involves a car chase, a kidnapped girl, and a deadly bioweapon. It's a good story.

"Silent Hunt" featuring John Lescroart's Wyatt Hunt and T. Jefferson Parker's Joe Trona - While this story starts off slow, it has a lot of action involving Mexican drug traffickers and a gold mine. It's a cool story with an ending I liked a lot.

"The Devil's Bones" featuring Steve Berry's Cotton Malone and James Rollin's Gray Pierce - This is the story I was second most anxious to read, and I actually enjoyed in more than the Repairman Jack story. This is a team up that worked very well, and produced a story with lots of action.

"Good and Valuable Consideration" featuring Lee Child's Jack Reacher and Joseph Finder's Nick Heller - Two thriller heroes walk into a bar ... it sounds like some sort of joke, but it's the premise of this story. It's not a bad story but it's not as actiony as I'd like for the finale of a collection of thrillers.

While the book could have been better, it's still well worth reading, especially since it supports a worthy cause.

Monday, June 02, 2014


When you find out that your new apartment building was built on the site of an old mental hospital, you might be a bit worried. You'd be right to be worried if that mental hospital closed down when that patients and staff slaughtered each other after an administrator accidentally opened a portal to the realm of chaos, as  happened in Mary SanGiovanni's Chaos.

Mary SanGiovanni is a very talented writer, and I think this is one of her best works. It's fast paced. It's weird. It has creepy monsters. There's a fair amount of blood and gore, but not as much as you'd find in the works of many writers. Like many SanGiovanni's books, the plot reminds me of some of the more otherworldly horror of Lovecraft.

The only real problem I have with this book is that it (or my edition anyway) has quite a few formatting issues. The headers, which contain the title and author name, vanish after page 12. The footers, with the page numbers, only appear on pages 1-16, 56-128,  146-148, 160-23, and 249-255. On pages 16 and 147, the text suddenly switches from being double spaced to single spaced for no apparent reason. On one of the unnumbered pages, an entire paragraph is bolded when (as far as I can tell) only the (nonexistent) website HauntedAsylumsofAmerica.com is supposed to be bolded.

Even with those mistakes, which should be fairly easy to correct as this is a self-published, POD book, this is a good read for horror fans.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Serpent of Venice

I read my first Christopher Moore novel in the 90s when I picked up a remaindered copy of Coyote Blue for cheap. I loved it, but for some reason or another it was more than a decade until I picked up another one of his novels. Lately I've been slowly reading his other books, including his most recent work,  The Serpent of Venice, which I was lucky enough to get a review copy of.

Serpent of Venice is a sequel to the novel FoolFool was a parody of King Lear, starring Pocket, Lear's fool. This book also stars Pocket, and as the title suggests is (partly) a parody of The Merchant of Venice. It's also a parody of Othello with a dash of Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" thrown in.

Being a Shakespearean parody, the book is fairly bawdy and uses a good bit of  archaic language. Being a Christopher Moore novel, there is a lot of humor. There is also some fool on dragon sex, for the sort of people who get turned on by that sort of thing.

I don't think this is Moore's best book, but it's good, and it's funny enough that I laughed out loud at several points. It's well worth reading.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Savage Harvest

Michael Rockefeller disappeared, and was presumable killed, in  New Guinea in 1961. The official cause of death was drowning (or possibly being consumed by sharks or crocodiles). Unofficially, many people have speculated that he was actually killed and eaten by a  cannibalistic headhunting people called the Asmat. In Savage Harvest, Carl Hoffman travels to New Guinea to investigate the matter.

As this was an event that happened over 50 years ago in what is essentially a swamp among close-mouthed and (in the 60s) fairly primitive people, it should come as little surprise that Hoffman didn't manage to find any definitive proof. He does however dig up some fairly substantial circumstantial evidence. This includes documents from the Dutch government (who ruled the area at the time of the disappearance)  and a fair amount of information on the culture and religion of the Asmat.

For readers who are interested in odd history, the grotesque, and foreign people, this is a book that's well worth reading.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Simon Iff Stories & Other Works

Since I'm trying to do reviews more often, it's time for another one. This time, it's Simon Iff Stories and Other Works by Aleister Crowley. I found it surprisingly enjoyable.

The Simon Iff stories are mysteries, which to be honest reminded me of nothing so much as G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown stories.Don't get me wrong, Iff and Brown are to very different characters with very different worldviews. However, both of their methods of deduction revolve around am understanding of the darkness of the human soul more than any clue hunting.

There are some problems with the stories. "An Old Head on Young Shoulders" just left me confused. "Not Good Enough" was one of the most racist stories I've ever read. Despite this, I found the collection interesting.

The "and Other Works" from the title is a collection of stories called Golden Twigs based off of Frazer's Golden Bough. I probably would have enjoyed them more if I'd actually read Frazer's book. They aren't bad, but I didn't like them as much as the Iff stories. Still the book is worth getting just for the Simon Iff stories.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Fossil Lake: An Anthology of the Abberant

I really want to try to update this blog more often, so I'm going to do something I normally wouldn't--review a book that will probably get me into trouble. No, I don't think reviewing Fossil Lake: An Anthology of the Aberrant is going to cause NSA thugs to kick my door down, but there is a strong chance that it will lead to my being harassed.

I'm not going to mention this person by name, because he may be an odious, little troll, but he does know how to find mentions of his name on the Internet.  I will mention that he runs "Lake Fossil Press"--hence the title of this anthology.  You can find his name by googling his press, and you can find anything you want about him by googling his name.

If you've done that, you've probably discovered that this"writer" and "editor" can't write or edit worth shit. He also likes to harass people. In this anthology, a lot of the people he harasses have gotten together to show that they can write better than him, put together a better anthology than he can, and sell more copies of their book than he's sold of all his books put together.

In doing so, they have put together a pretty good anthology. There are quite a few stories with thinly veiled versions of the troll in them.  My absolute favorite of those stories, and probably the anthology in general, was “Apartment B,” by Stinky Cat, which had me laughing out loud the whole time I was reading it. Jerrod Balzer's “Nat Poopcone vs. the Beast of Fossil Lake” was also very funny and weird. “What’s Your Beef?” by Mark Orr was also a good story of this type, though less of a humor story and more a tale of a gruesome demise.

Besides the stories with parodies of the troll, there are also quite a few regular works as well. There are two extracts from longer Ramsey Campbell works, which I now want to read. There is a cool weird fiction piece called “The Ziggurat of Skulls” by Joshua Dobson. There's a good fantasy story called “The Dank” by Doug Blakeslee. There are quite a few horror stores--too many to mention, really.

Overall, this is a good, diverse collection. It's well worth shelling out $2.99 to get this on your ereader.