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 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.