Lords of Twilight – Greg Gifune

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Lane Boyce, racked with guilt and sorrow after a scandal causes him to lose his job as a teacher and then his marriage in the scandal’s aftermath, relocates to the remote small town of Edgar in northern Maine. There, Lane attempts to overcome his emotional grief and find a meaning and purpose in his life. What he finds in the middle of a Nor’easter snow storm is neither. Is he part of an extra-terrestrial experiment or is he losing his mind?

Gifune does what Gifune does best. He delivers a tale of madness seen from the inside out. But, which is real and which is imagined? As you try to decipher between the two, Greg sends a creepy shiver down your spine in a disturbing wave of dread and unease. The ending cuts it a bit short for me and that’s the only reason I don’t give Lords of Twilight a full 5 stars. But, it’s been quite a while since I’ve had that gripping knot of fear while reading and it was deliciously intoxicating. I thank you for that, Mr. Gifune.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

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Sow – Tim Curran

imageCurran is the master at describing a scene. By the time he’s done setting it up, you can not only see it in your mind, you can smell it, taste it, hear it, and feel it down in the marrow of your bones. Sow is no exception. My gag reflex was on autopilot as he made me experience all the nastiness of the sow and it’s living conditions. But Sow is not simply an exercise in grossing you out. The story is a clever take on pregnancy, haunted houses and witchcraft and Curran weaves them all together in an expertly crafted brew that will stay with you long after you’ve put it down. So sit down at your breakfast table with that delicious plate of crispy bacon and enjoy Sow. I dare ya.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Necroscope II: Vamphyri! – Brian Lumley

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Harry Keough saved the world with the help of the dead when he destroyed Boris Dragosani. Now the world is free from vampires…or is it? You see, vampires are a cunning lot. They don’t survive for over a thousand years by giving up their secrets freely and, even in death, Thibor Ferenczy still has a few tricks up his sleeve. It’s up to the British top-secret E-Branch and Necroscope Harry Keough to free the world once again.

Necroscope II: Vamphyri! begins where Necroscope left off and ratchets the tension up along the way. It also delves into the vampire legacy/mythology and explores the history of its vampire characters. While I’ve read some reviews that lament this or that it’s set in the world of Cold War espionage, I relish it. In fact, I give it an emphatic two thumbs up! I love that they explored the vampire history. It sets up Lumley’s parameters to his Necroscope mythos and is vital to the rest of the series. As for complaining about it being set in the Cold War world of espionage, did you not read the first Necroscope? That’s the setting they used and how someone could be upset that the second book in the series is a continuation of the same is beyond me. In fact, call me crazy, but I’m willing to bet a week’s salary that we’ll see more of that in the upcoming books in the series. So, if that bothers you, my suggestion is to stop now. For the rest of you, if you liked the first Necroscope, you’ll love the second. Great characters, more in depth history to the characters and answers to questions that were left open from the first. Just a great, great book. Can’t wait to see what Lumley has in store for me in Part III!

4 out of 5 stars

The Sorrows – Jonathan Janz

imageJanz’s first novel and it shows the potential that he’s capable of. The Sorrows is a unique take on the Shirley Jackson classic, The Haunting of Hill House and the movie House on Haunted Hill. I’ve always had a problem with the whole overused and tired premise of trying to drag a bunch of characters to a secluded house where bad things have happened and making it seem realistic. It has always come across as a bad B-movie with idiots for characters. Janz did a good job coming up with a reason to justify that and have it seem plausible. The characters are in the horror movie business and are looking for inspiration to score the music for the next blockbuster they are working on. And what better place to get an inspiration than a creepy castle located on a secluded island off of California where murders took place in the 1920s? OK. I can buy it. Janz offering does have the feel of a B-movie. In some places it works quite well. He takes inspiration from Brian Keene’s Dark Hollow and offers us up a very unique monster whose exploits will stay with you long after you’ve finished the book. In other places, there’s still some of that tired cliche-like characters that feel a little like wooden stereotypes and not realistic people. But, Janz produces a slow burn throughout The Sorrows and gives us some wonderful eerie moments that overcome any short comings it might have. All in all, an enjoyable read and insight on what’s to come from one of the new heavy hitters in horror.

4 out of 5 stars

The Jigsaw Man – Gord Rollo

imageA modern take on the classic Frankenstein story for the ages. This is my first novel by Rollo and simply put, it won’t be my last. I’ve read some amazing books in 2014. Jigsaw Man is now not only my favorite for this year, but many other years as well. The writing is crisp and the story is one twisting turn after another. Some you can see coming. Most of them you can’t. And boy does Rollo grab you by the throat with an iron-like vise of a grip. He had me believing the unbelievable every step of the way. At no point was I like “Oh that’s BS. I can’t buy that!”. No, Michael Fox was a sympathetic character you could relate to and you rooted for him, gasped with him, and experienced his dread as if you and him were one and the same. Dr Marshall and his henchman Drake were deliciously evil without being a cardboard cut out of the stereotype. You hated them with every fiber of your being. That’s impressive and hard to do. We’ve all read stories where the villains weren’t realistic. You couldn’t buy in and be completely invested. That’s not the case in Jigsaw Man. I couldn’t put it down. I had to see what was around the corner. And every corner I came to had something lurking that was even worse than the previous one. This story was a roller coaster ride that you didn’t want to ever end. This may have been my first read by Gord Rollo, but it won’t be my last. Before this review, I downloaded everything else of his I could get my hands on. If the rest of his work is only half as good as Jigsaw Man, I will consider it money well spent! Enough gushing on my part. The Jigsaw Man needs to be the next story you read. Period.

5 out of 5 stars

Berserk – Tim Lebbon

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I’ve always heard the saying you don’t judge a book by its cover and I can say that I haven’t picked out a book that way since I was a kid wandering around the adult fiction section for the first time at the local bookstore. Well that bookstore met it’s demise by the wrecking ball long ago. Since then, I’ve expanded my reading horizons in a more systematic way. First, it was through the recommendations of like-minded friends. In the last couple of years, it’s been through the recommendations of my like-minded Goodreads friends and Tim Lebbon was one of those recommended that I should check out. So, when looking through his work, I came across Berserk and it’s cover with the creepy girl with grayish-green skin and evil eyes peeking… No, leering out at you. What a great cover! I had to see what it was about. I’m pleased to tell you, the story behind that cover is just as creepy.

Lebbon introduces us to Tom, a husband who is still grieving with his wife over the loss of their only child, Steven, twenty years earlier. Steven had been in the army and was apparently killed in an accident at a military base. The details of which were kept secret by the government. Tom and his wife buried an empty casket. Steven’s body was supposedly never recovered. This has never set well with Tom. One night, he overhears two soldiers talking about that fateful accident in a local pub and learns that his his son was buried in a mass grave not far from there. If this sounds like an “uh oh” moment, you’re right. But the “uh oh” isn’t the fact that a distraught father took a shovel out to a deserted army base and broke in to do some digging. The “uh oh” is in what he dug up and the aftermath of it. Lebbon weaves a creepy and eerie (there are those two words again) tale dripping with atmosphere and good characterization. Although, watching what Tom does throughout the story is like witnessing a train wreck unfold and you can’t look away, you understand where he’s coming from. You feel his anguish and despair controlling his decisions. While I may have preferred a different ending, Berserk was a chillingly fun ride. A solid 4 stars.

4 out of 5 stars

Book of the Dead – edited by John Skipp & Craig Spector

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In the 1980s, the only person that was doing anything significant with zombies was the Godfather himself, George Romero. In horror fiction, zombie stories were as dead as the zombies themselves. Then, in 1989, this little gem of a collection came along and among it’s pages were some heavy hitters from the horror and sci-fi genre. If you’re looking for chills and scares, keep moving. You won’t find them here. But, if you’re looking for good, campy fun ala Tales from the Crypt types of zombie stories, by all means, sink your teeth into this perverted bag of goodies. And I mean perverted. Many of these stories have either zombie sex or the biting off of penises in there somewhere. Two stand out tales for me that left me crying laughing were On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert with Dead Folks by Joe Lansdale and Jerry’s Kids Meet Wormboy by David Schow. Those two alone were worth the price of admission. Here’s my take on each one.

Blossom – Chan McConnell

The dangers of hooking up with someone you don’t know and having an exotic fetish all while the zombie apocalypse is beginning. Enjoyed the irony of this one.

4 out of 5 stars

Mess Hall – Richard Laymon

It’s never good to be a serial killer and be around your victims when the zombie apocalypse happens. I’ve had issues with the two Laymon novels that I’ve read being extremely juvenile with unbelievable characters or story lines. But, this short story was the exact opposite. In fact, I loved this short story so much that I’m going to give his novels another try.

5 out of 5 stars

It Helps If You Sing – Ramsey Campbell

Door-to-door Jehovah’s Witness zombies + Haiti voodoo = a bad day. Just ok. Not my favorite.

2 out of 5 stars

Home Delivery – Stephen King

Maddie Pace is the most indecisive woman you’ll ever meet. Trying to determine what can of soup to buy out of all those choices on the shelf will send her running from the store without buying anything. But when the dead begin to rise on Genneseault Island, Maddie has already forced herself to cope. Good characters but felt incomplete. It seemed more like a snippet from a longer story.

3 out of 5 stars

Wet Work – Philip Nutman

Soldiers are clearing out a school during the zombie apocalypse. These soldiers aren’t doing what you think they are. Nice little twist.

4 out of 5 stars

A Sad Last Love at the Diner of the Damned – Edward Bryant

The small town of Fort Durham, Colorado is experiencing the days after the dead turned. Martha is a waitress at the local diner and the focus of many of the male residents lustful attention. But, pretty Martha only has eyes for the young deputy sheriff, Bobby Mack, and the other men don’t like this. They don’t like it at all. And when things go to hell, they come to take what they want.

5 out of 5 stars
Bodies and Heads – Steve Rasnic Tem

Either I completely missed the point of this story or it’s a mess. Elaine is the nurse in a hospital where they have patients that rapidly shake their heads back and forth (as if they’re saying no, no, no) and they have to restrain them from shaking as they try to feed them. But, they don’t eat or attack them and then the one rips his own head off at the end. Hey, if you “get” this story, please explain it to my dumb ass.

1 out of 5 stars
Choices – Glen Vasey

Dawson writes his thoughts down in a spiral notebook as he’s going through the trials and tribulations of the zombie apocalypse. It was little more than a boring set of philosophical ramblings. A slight twist at the end that was too little too late to turn this yawn-fest around. An absolute chore to get through.

1 out of 5 stars

The Good Parts – Les Daniels

Zombie sex. Who would’ve thought? Pretty ridiculous even for a zombie story. But it had an interesting hypothesis on what happened to the zombies over time.

2 out of 5 stars

Less Than Zombie – Douglas Winter

A twisted spoof of Less Than Zero, zombie style. Totally rad. Totally.

3 out of 5 stars

Like Pavlov’s Dog – Steven R. Boyett

An assault on an Ecosphere project in the Arizona desert with trained zombies. Nice writing style and character development.

4 out of 5 stars

Saxophone – Nicholas Royle

The zombie apocalypse was started as a result of a war breaking out between old communist block Europe and the Allies (you have to remember this book was written in the late 1980s) when the Allies retaliated with chemical weapons. The zombies can think and begin to wage their own war. Lots of interesting ideas in a story of irony about a zombie who was previously a jazz saxophonist. Good stuff.

5 out of 5 stars

On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert with Dead Folks – Joe R. Lansdale

A bounty hunter is bringing his fugitive across the desert when they run into a whacked out cult leader who also happened to have caused the zombie apocalypse. I Loved Lansdale’s writing and it actually made me LOL at least a half dozen times.

5 out of 5 stars
Dead Giveaway – Brian Hodge

Even zombies enjoy game shows, but it’s all about the ratings, baby.

4 out of 5 stars
Jerry’s Kids Meet Wormboy – David J. Schow

The morbidly obese kid that was the butt of all the jokes in high school squares off against a television evangelist and his army of disciple zombies. A piss-your-pants hilarious story.

5 out of 5 stars

Eat Me – Robert McCammon

Two zombies find love in a singles bar. Warped fun.

4 out of 5 stars
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