Review: The Last Day and the First by Tim Lebbon

cover of The Last Day and the FirstThe Last Day and the First by Tim Lebbon
PS Publishing (July 2023)
72 pages; $24 hardcover
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

In Tim Lebbon’s novella The Last Day and the First, we miss the apocalypse. It’s already happened. We miss the confusion, the destruction, the panic, the bloodshed. We miss the desperate struggle for survival. We miss the loss of life and the downfall of society.

What we get instead is the last few, quiet breaths of humanity as we give way to the next inhabitants of this world.

Lebbon’s greatest gift as a writer is his ability to find the beauty and strength in otherwise horrific circumstances. Here we have a village with a handful of inhabitants, living out their lives deep in the safe green spaces between the crumbled remains of cities. As long as they stay off the roads they’re relatively safe; cross one of those ribbons of asphalt and they’re apt to be killed by something they call a scorer.

Soon they stumble across a strange new sight, something they come to call the bloom. Before long, it becomes apparent that this, and other blooms that crop up in the wild, are not a new danger; rather, they are a next step for a healing planet.

There’s a melancholy tone to this story, a peaceful sort of acceptance the main character, Rose (who may in fact be the last woman alive) adopts as she realizes she is witnessing humanity’s final days. There’s no anger, no last-ditch effort to turn the tide, no race for a cure or a weapon or an answer. There’s just understanding, and a strange kind of hope for a future none of us will be around to witness.

Tim Lebbon is an author we don’t talk about enough. The Last Day and the First is a reminder of how powerful his work is, and how lucky we are to have him out there, creating stories for our enjoyment.

Also, I’d be remiss not to give a quick shout-out to artist Tamislav Tikulin for the gorgeous cover art gracing this book.

The Last Day and the First is highly recommended.

Review: Songs in the Key of Death by JG Faherty

covers of Songs in the Key of DeathSongs in the Key of Death by JG Faherty
Lvp Publications (October 3, 2023)
148 pages; $16.99 hardcover; $9.99 paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

A life-long resident of New York’s haunted Hudson Valley, JG Faherty is the author of 19 books and more than 85 short stories, and he’s been a finalist for both the Bram Stoker Award (2x) and ITW Thriller Award. Songs in the Key of Death arrives ready to entertain horror poetry readers.Continue Reading

Review: Horror Unmasked: A History of Terror from Nosferatu to Nope edited by Brad Weismann

cover of Horror UnmaskedHorror Unmasked: A History of Terror from Nosferatu to Nope edited by Brad Weismann
becker&mayer! books (September 2023)
232 pages; $24.99 hardcover
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Brad Weismann is an award-winning writer and editor who returned to the place he grew up, in the shadow of the Colorado Rockies, after 15 years of performing standup, improvisational, and sketch comedy on stage, radio, and television. He has worked as a journalist, feature writer, and contributor to publications and websites worldwide such as Senses of Cinema, Film International, Backstage, Muso, Parterre, Movie Habit, 5280, EnCompass, Colorado Daily, and Boulder Magazine.  As a film writer, Brad Weismann has interviewed figures ranging from Roger Ebert to Monty Python’s Terry Jones to Blaxploitation superstar Pam Grier, and legendary director Alex Cox. Lost in the Dark: A World History of Horror was his first book, and Horror Unmasked: A History of Terror from Nosferatu to Nope is his second.Continue Reading

Review: Hannah and Other Stories by Rami Ungar

cover of Hannah and Other StoriesHannah and Other Stories by Rami Ungar
BSC Publishing (September 23, 2023)
120 pages; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Rami Ungar is a horror and dark fiction novelist who resides in Columbus, Ohio. He has self-published two books (The Quiet Game: Five Tales to Chill Your Bones and Snake), and has traditionally published two novels (Rose and The Pure World Comes). In addition, he has had several short stories and novelettes published, including “Blood & Paper Skin” in The Dark Sire and “Cressida” in the anthology Into the Deep. Rami is an Affiliate member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and the Coordinator for the Ohio HWA. His newest collection is Hannah and Other Stories.Continue Reading

Review: Midas by Tyler Jones

cover of Midas by Tyler JonesMidas by Tyler Jones
Earthling Publications (October 2023)
$60 hardcover
Reviewed by Dave Simms

It’s about that time of year again for the Earthling Halloween book series to wow horror readers. This year’s offering from Earthling Publications and Paul Miller keeps the streak alive with the eighteenth straight winner, this time from Tyler Jones, author of Burn the Plans, another fine read. This entry scrapes the bottom of the human soul and how far one is willing to go for the ones they love, even if it means losing the riches that build the foundation of who that individual is and how deep their conviction runs. Some might find a comparison to Pet Sematery or “The Monkey’s Paw” — yet this cautionary tale breaks off from the comparisons due to Tyler’s strong talent and grasp of natural storytelling.Continue Reading

Review: Schrader’s Chord by Scott Leeds

cover of Schrader's ChordSchrader’s Chord by Scott Leeds
Tor Nightfire (September 5, 2023)
448 pages; $28.99 hardcover; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Horror novels revolving around music almost never fails to excite. Two primal entities tap into humanity’s inner core, often bypassing most emotional defenses, leaving the reader or listener bare to the effects of the intended message. When combining both, the effect can be powerful.

The publisher touts this novels as a combination between Heart-Shaped Box and The Haunting of Hill House. It definitely hold elements of each, but Schrader’s Chord is its own beast and should be enjoyed as its own creation. To this reviewer’s ears, this novel is the literary equivalent of a great rock album.Continue Reading

Bev Vincent explores Holly by Stephen King

Stephen King News From the Dead Zone

“No one will believe it really happened”

Stephen King doesn’t hide the identity of the murderers at the center of Holly Gibney’s latest case in the novel that bears her name. In 2012, Emily and Rodney Harris, professors emeritus at Bell College, tricked a colleague named Jorge Castro into helping them resolve a roadside issue. They drugged him and took him to a dungeon in the basement of their presentable home in a respectable part of town.

Why did the elderly Harrises kidnap him, why do they force him to eat something unpalatable, and what are their plans? Since Castro knows the identity of his abductors, it doesn’t seem likely he’ll be released. The popular consensus is that he packed up and left town abruptly, although his lover doesn’t agree.

Continue Reading

Review: anOther Mythology by Maxwell I. Gold

cover of anOther MythologyanOther Mythology by Maxwell I. Gold
Interstellar Flights Press (September 4, 2023)
72 pages; $14.99 paperback; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Maxwell I. Gold, in his end author’s note, argues that his purpose in writing this book was that “it didn’t matter how we as queer people were seen, but it mattered how we saw ourselves…” and “These are myths that are meant for us.” It is understood that the target audience for this book is specifically the queer community, written almost as a triumphant reclaiming of thousands of years of heteronormative patriarchy. This energy permeates the poetry in this collection, and anyone reading it will thoroughly enjoy it.Continue Reading

Review: Can You Sign My Tentacle? by Brandon O’Brien

cover of Can You Sign My Tentacle? by Brandon O'BrienCan You Sign My Tentacle? by Brandon O’Brien
Interstellar Flight Press (August 2021)
89 pages; $11.99 paperback; $5.99 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Can You Sign My Tentacle? is a wild amalgam of Afro-futurism, Cthullu mythos, and social commentary with a finger on the pulse of hip-hop culture.Continue Reading

Review: Major Arcana edited by Steve J. Shaw

cover of Major Arcana 7Major Arcana edited by Steve J Shaw
Black Shuck Books (September 2022)
234 pages; $14.99 paperback
Reviewed by Daniel Braum

Major Arcana is the title of the seventh annual installment of the Great British Horror series published by UK Publisher Black Shuck Books. Each book in the series features ten British authors and one “international” (non-UK) author.

The 2022 edition features 11 stories, each having a title sharing the name with one of the Major Arcana cards of the Tarot deck.Continue Reading

Review: The Dead Shall Rise by Jay Wilburn, Armand Rosamilia and Erin Louis

cover of The Dead Shall RiseThe Dead Shall Rise by Jay Wilburn, Armand Rosamilia and Erin Louis
Crystal Lake Publishing (August 25, 2023)
202 pages; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by Henry Allison

Zombie fiction is just like its namesake — it never really dies. Just when you think you’ve seen the last zombie story or movie, when you think the trope isn’t popular anymore, it shambles back to life, ready for another go around. The zombies are shambling in Crystal Lake’s latest Dark Tide collection, and it’s definitely one you’re going to want to check out.Continue Reading

Review: The Unhallowed Horseman by Jude S. Walko

cover of Unhallowed HorsemanThe Unhallowed Horseman by Jude S. Walko 
Blue Falcon Productions LLC (Oct. 2021) 
319 pages; $25.67 hardcover; $14.99 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

“Villainy wears many masks, none so dangerous as the mask of virtue” – Washington Irving

Jude S. Walko’s The Unhallowed Horseman scrupulously reimagines the infamous tale of a silent secluded valley, a place laced with superstition and scandal, called Sleepy Hollow. Continue Reading

Review: Ghost Book by Remy Lai

banner that reads The Comic Vault

cover of Ghost BookGhost Book by Remy Lai
Henry Holt & Company (August 15, 2023)
320 pages; $22.99 hardcover; $14.99 paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Remy Lai studied fine arts, with a major in painting and drawing. She was born in Indonesia, grew up in Singapore, and currently lives in Brisbane, Australia, where she writes and draws stories for kids with her two dogs by her side. She is the author of the critically-acclaimed Pie in the Sky, Fly on the Wall, and Pawcasso. Her newest graphic novel is Ghost Book, a haunting tale based on Chinese mythology and a child fated to see ghosts.Continue Reading

Review: Mister Magic by Kiersten White

cover of Mister MagicMister Magic by Kiersten White
Del Rey (August 8, 2023)
304 pages; $25.20 hardcover; $13.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Reminiscing about the children’s shows many grew up with is a blurry experience. From The Magic Garden to Barney and Friends, there’s often a bit of weirdness, even some scariness, when the program is looked at without the innocence of youth to soften the edges. Revisiting those times can rip the scabs off some tough times, some repressed memories.

Kiersten White has crafted an entertaining and damn creepy romp through those shows in Mister Magic, which might just cause a therapy visit or two. For a Bram Stoker-winning author, she definitely lives up to the hype, surpassing her previous work, Hide, which was impressive.Continue Reading

Review: Whalefall by Daniel Kraus

cover of Whalefall by Daniel KrausWhalefall by Daniel Kraus
MTV Books (August 8, 2023)
336 pages; $27.99 hardcover; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

What is a whalefall? A spoiler would be cruel, so steer clear of any marine biology sites until the end. What Whalefall the book is cannot be contained in the definition of the word readers will discover late in the story. What can be said is that this is one of the most intense — and moving — stories that will grace the bookstores in 2023. It’s bound to make the year’s “best of” lists, which is quite the feat on its own, yet what Daniel Kraus has created here is something that can’t be quantified.Continue Reading