Subhuman by Michael McBride. Wow! Where to start with this one?? There is so much good stuff going on between the covers of McBride’s latest offering, and first in the Unit #51 series. You have various experts in their respective scientific fields anonymously brought together to a location in Antarctica that shows remnants of being at one time an old Nazi outpost. Mega-rich venture capitalist, Hollis Richards has brought them all here to help him unlock the mystery of misshapen humanoid skulls found in an underground lake deep below the ice. These types of remains have been discovered before at locations around the globe and thought to be a genetic mutation. But Richards knows better. He knows that the knowledge to build these ancient pyramids and temples didn’t come from man alone. It came from the sky. He knows this because he was visited many years ago when he was a child in the middle of the night, and he’s been searching for them ever since. He knows that underneath the Antarctic ice lies the clues to an ancient civilization that predates anything we’be ever discovered before and his assembled band of scientists are going to help him prove it.
Subhuman is an extremely intelligent tale told with heaps of atmosphere and great characters. McBride has really done his homework to create this one. The science is straight out of the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens, yet is hard to refute. Fringe? Yes, but completely believable in McBride’s expert direction. It has a textbook quality to it, without losing you by talking over your head. Any alien horror story set in Antarctica would be impossible to do without having comparisons to John Carpenter’s The Thing, and thats perfectly fine with me. The Thing is easily on my top three of horror movies ever and I welcome a story with some of those same shades that I love so well. McBride delivers. The hostile and lonely location. The fridgid weather that leaves you feeling like you’re ten minutes away from freezing to death. The allure of the discoveries waiting to be made underneath the ice. Such great stuff. And the characters don’t disappoint either. Richards comes across as the lovable combination of Bill Gates and Richard Attenborough’s Dr. Hammond in Jurassic Park. The scientists all feel realistic with their quirks, yet don’t come off as a cardboard stereotypes. if you can’t tell, I’m pretty geeked about this book. You should be too. It’s amazing and I’m excited that it’s the first of a series. I can’t wait until spring for the next one.
5 Misshaped Skulls out of 5
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The horror/sci-fi genre has experienced a huge boom in post-apocalyptic stories in the last decade. Many are thanks to Brian Keene and The Walking Dead making zombies the popular choice, these days, and it shows. The market is over saturated with zombie books – some good, but most are meh…seen it, done it, read it before – and it makes me shy away from the post-apocalyptic genre, and that’s really too bad. One of my favorite books of all time, Robert McCammon’s Swan Song, resides smack in the middle of this genre. Even so, I normally wouldn’t have picked up Hunter Shea’s Tortures of the Damned, due to the aforementioned reasons, if it weren’t for it being a NetGalley choice. Lucky for me, it was.
This is my first read of Shea’s and it’s a damn shame that I haven’t jumped onto his stuff before this. T.O.D. starts off with an unexplained phenomenon happening in Yonkers, NY. Explosions are heard in the distance and all electronic devices stop working including vehicles and communication devices. As the people begin to panic, a cloud of strange smoke begins to drift into the area. The Padilla family scramble to gather their children and discover that their neighbor has an underground fallout shelter under his home. As they hide out there, the unknown is happening above ground causing a sense of dread to percolate with the cabin fever that is already settling in. On top of that, two of the children in the shelter are experiencing flu-like symptom from breathing in the strange smoke before they reached safety. With the anxiety ratcheting up and unable to establish any communication with the outside world, they decide to send the men out in search of medical help for the kids. What they find, once they leave the shelter, is that the world looks the same, except the people are gone from the neighborhood. What they do find, while a sudden the thunderstorm erupts while they are out, is that the rats in the sewers are bonkers. They flood out, attack them, and infiltrate their shelter while the men we’re trying to get back in. This causes the families to vacate the shelter and take their chances topside as a group. What they find is that while most of the humans have been killed off, the animal world has become bloodthirsty and organized and danger is around every corner.
Shea takes a tired subject and gives it a great voice. You instantly become one of the Padillas as they journey into their neighborhood gone to hell. I know that the open ending of the book has left some disastisfied, I find it very appropriate. A world that has been turned upside down like this wouldn’t have tidy ending. It would keep on going and what we’ve witnessed in Tortures of the Damned is a a moment of time in this world. We don’t know what all happened before OR after and I like what he’s done with it. If you enjoy Post-Apocolyptic stories, I imagine you will too.
4 crazed alley cats out of 5
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