Review: ‘Goblin’ by Josh Malerman

Goblin by Josh Malerman
Earthling Publications (October 2017)
$50 signed & numbered hardcover (limited to 500)
Reviewed by Dave Simms

It’s that time of year again when horror is in the air, a celebrated author is called up, and Earthling Publications churns out another Halloween masterpiece. This year, the newest superstar in the genre, Josh Malerman, takes the helm and delivers one of the best offerings in the history of the series.

Goblin is Derry. It’s Oxrun Station. It’s Cedar Hill. It’s Green Town. It’s all of us in our home towns and yet, it’s something brand new where the greats would likely fear to live. Think of Goblin as Derry’s disturbed little brother.

This book, comprised of a sextet of short novellas, takes the small town motif and shreds it, molding it into something which fills the reader with uneasy pleasure from cover to cover. Malerman, fresh off the success of his second novel Black Mad Wheel and news that Bird Box will soon be a major motion picture, seems to display more skill, more darkness, with each story.

“A Man In Slices” shows how friendship can be a tricky concept. One boy does whatever he can to help his lonely friend, at any cost.

“Kamp” is a lighter tale about a man petrified of a seeing a ghost. Everyone in his family has, and he knows his time is coming. How Walter copes with the expectation will make many reader feel a bit better about their own issues with things that go bump in the night.

“Happy Birthday, Hunter” displays the heart and obsession of a man who cannot give up the hunt. Nash’s addiction comes to a boiling point during his 60th birthday party when he decides to kill Goblin’s most prized game in the north woods, a place from which no one ever returns.

“Presto” is a love affair with magic, the oldest and darkest kind where a young boy seeks to learn the secrets behind his favorite performer in a story which channels classic Bradbury.

“A Mix-Up At The Zoo” details the inner struggle of Dirk, a man who switches jobs to become a tour guide in a zoo, a far cry from his other employment in the slaughterhouse. He finds a talent for understanding the mighty beasts within the cages but feels a certain darkness brewing when he drifts off in thought.

“The Hedges.” Those mazes built in corn and the famed topiary in the film version of The Shining emerge here in the final story of the collection. Young Margot claims to have solved the unsolvable creation by Wayne Sherman. What she finds at the end causes her to alert the Goblin Police, a decision which might be worse than keeping the secret to herself.

The mythology about Goblin’s history is richly drawn within these stories and connects them with a style that keeps the pages turning. Malerman has created a town which may even be darker than King, Grant, and Bradbury’s nightmares. Goblin is all Malerman and should be listed on every horror reader’s itinerary of places to visit, with the lights turned low and the night breeze creeping into the room.

An incredible Halloween find for all.

Review: ‘Bloodstained Wonderland’ by Christopher Golden and James A. Moore

Bloodstained Wonderland by Christopher Golden and James A. Moore
Earthling Publications (June 2017)
136 pages; $35.00 signed, numbered hardback
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Down the rabbit hole she goes, only this time it’s wrapped in barbed wire and tinged with venom. Bloodstained Wonderland rambles through a nightmarish land which Lewis Carroll could only have imagined if his mind melded with Clive Barker on a weekend bender of LSD and Absinthe.Continue Reading

Review: ‘Meddling Kids’ by Edgar Cantero

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
Doubleday (July 2017)
336 pages; $18.32 hardback; $13.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

If you need to ask where the title of this book comes from, you’re probably too young to understand the references within (unless you enjoy classic reruns of the great cartoon), but not too young to enjoy this fun story, which is pure entertainment. Continue Reading

Review: ‘3 Minutes’ by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellström

3 Minutes by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellström
Quercus (July 2017)
432 pages; $18.35 hardback; $12.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Now for something quite different: a Nordic thriller set in South America. While several Scandinavian authors continue to invade the bookshelves of American readers, almost all of them are set in those countries, which isn’t a bad thing. Unknown settings make for exciting reads. Anders Roslund and Borge Hellström have exploded onto the scene, most recently with 3 Seconds, and here, with the sequel, 3 Minutes. Continue Reading

Review: ‘Black Mad Wheel’ by Josh Malerman

Black Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman
Ecco (May 2017)
304 pages; $17.29 hardback; $12.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

When Bird Box hit the horror scene three years ago, something special happened. Readers discovered a new voice, one which was lyrical and rhythmic but could also turn brutal on the next page. Josh Malerman wrote like a musician carving away at an album of great songs.The result was a true original which should have won the Bram Stoker award.Continue Reading

Review: ‘Blood Sacrifice’ by Barry Hoffman

Blood Sacrifice by Barry Hoffman
Next Century Publishing (March 2017)
408 pages; $12.95 paperback; $7.95 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Barry Hoffman is back with a kick-ass thriller that is also a horror novel, crime novel, supernatural novel and more, all wrapped up in a story which races by in what can easily be called his best effort since his “Eyes” series. Blood Sacrifice brings into the fold a set of new characters which hopefully will be returning in future entries. Continue Reading

Review: ‘Marathon’ by Brian Freeman

Marathon by Brian Freeman
Quercus (May 2017)
408 pages; $19.16 hardback; $12.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

This book will undoubtedly hit several nerves for fans of well-written, tight, timely thrillers. Brian Freeman (Editor’s Note: Not to be confused with Cemetery Dance staffer and author Brian James Freeman) has cemented himself as a strong contender for being one of the top writers in the genre today.  Marathon is a firecracker which doesn’t exploit the headlines as much as blows them apart and delves into the topics which really matter—all within a story that never lets up. It does, however, let the novel breathe.Continue Reading

Review: ‘The Tunnel’ by Carl-Johan Vallgren

The Tunnel by Carl-Johan Vallgren
Quercus (June 2017)
336 pages; $18.35 hardback; $12.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

For those who haven’t read any thrillers set in Scandinavian countries, please start here. This is pure horror even before the story kicks into gear. The setting contains more darkness found in most contemporary American or British horror and brings to mind the beautiful terror of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series, but it has its own personality, one which will make many readers a fan of the genre. Continue Reading

Review: ‘The Freedom Broker’ by K.J. Howe

The Freedom Broker by K.J. Howe
Quercus (February 2017)
400 pages; $17.79 hardback; $12.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Far too many times, a thriller fails to live up to its name. Formulaic, tired tropes, ripoffs of the same old “high concept” plots which circulate through the shelves as readers’ minds numb to the repetition. Thankfully, a few push beyond the herd with something new now and then. Newcomer K.J. Howe has definitely brought something special to the table.  Continue Reading

Review: ‘The Forgotten Girl’ by Rio Youers

The Forgotten Girl by Rio Youers
St. Martin’s Press (June 13, 2017)
352 pages; $19.03 hardback; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Many readers will consider this novel to be Youers’ first, but fans will be familiar with the author from strong efforts such as Westlake Soul, Mama Fish, and End Times. With a voice demanding greater exposure, Rio’s The Forgotten Girl just might be the breakout novel he’s needed to reach a well-deserved massive following.Continue Reading

Review: ‘Ruler of the Night’ by David Morrell

Ruler of the Night by David Morrell
Mulholland Books (November 2016)
352 pages; $17.70 hardcover; $13.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

What can one say about the conclusion of a terrific trilogy from one of the masters of horror and thrillers, besides wow? Many fans are still marveling that David Morrell, Rambo’s father and author of the classic dark novels The Totem, Creepers, and Testament, embarked on a ride back into the Victorian Age, giving birth to yet another enigmatic character in Thomas DeQuincey (the real life Opium Eater) who in real life penned several stories and essays which directly influenced Edgar Allan Poe.Continue Reading

Review: ‘The Halloween Children’ by Brian James Freeman and Norman Prentiss

The Halloween Children by Brian James Freeman and Norman Prentiss
Hydra/Random House (June 2017)
300 pages; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

A Halloween story is something no reader of horror fiction should ever miss. A broad statement, true, but The Hallowen Children is another Hallowen tale which has knocked it out of the park. This is a disturbing, claustrophobic, beyond enjoyable read which encompasses everything Halloween should be. Of course, parallels will be drawn to The Shining, but that would be extremely unfair to Brian Freeman and Norman Prentiss. The Halloween Children is utterly original and deserves to be given applause on its own merits. This is an everyman’s horror story—the best, most relatable kind—and holds family close to its dark heart.Continue Reading

Review: ‘Norse Mythology’ by Neil Gaiman

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
W. W. Norton & Company (February 2017)
304 pages; $13.66 hardback; $9.32 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Norse mythology has always been a strange beast. Its tenets reach around what most readers know from Greek, Roman, and Christian stories, delving into the darker but wackier side of the tales passed down through our Jungian collective. Whereas most other cultures took themselves a little too seriously for the most part, Norse mythology dances with the devil, tosses him in the air, tosses back a few, and laughs into the great beyond.Continue Reading

Review: ‘Ararat’ by Christopher Golden

Ararat by Christopher Golden
St. Martin’s Press (April 18, 2017)
320 pages; $24.99 hardcover; $12.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

It has been several years since a novel has truly unsettled this reviewer. This is one which produced nightmares, repeatedly, a read that will nestle under the skin like few others. Christopher Golden has penned some great tales in the past—most recently, the disturbing Dead Ringers—but Ararat just might be his best.Continue Reading

Review: ‘Hekla’s Children’ by James Brogden

Hekla’s Children by James Brogden
Titan Books (March 7, 2017)
400 pages; $8.79 paperback; $7.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Sometimes a book which comes out of left field can be a home run. Hekla’s Children landed on this reviewer’s desk with the invitation to give it a whirl. Whirl it did, and the wild ride became one of the best surprises in recent memory. James Brogden has published three other books but this hopefully will be his breakout effort. Some will call this urban fantasy, others weird, while most will simply enjoy a story which has a bit of everything. Continue Reading