When reading a new work from Jeff Strand, I’m frequently reminded of the popular line from Forrest Gump: “My momma always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.'” Will I get something in the horror genre, something delightfully demented, strange, or even charmingly romantic like his Kumquat novel from a couple of years back? Or will I just get chocolate all over the pages of the book?
Echoes of Darkness is a baker’s dozen of high caliber horror shorts; some have been published elsewhere and several are new to this collection. I can’t say I’ve read a lot of Rob Smales’ writing, but this collection has propelled him to the top of my list of writers to keep an eye on. His stories are compelling, entertaining and, on occasion, horrific.
Reviews for Children of the Dark, the new novel from Jonathan Janz via Sinister Grin Press, have been flowing freely for the last couple of weeks, and if I’ve seen one reference to Stephen King’s “The Body” or Robert McCammon’s Boy’s Life, I’ve seen a dozen. Each time I’d think, if I was Jonathan Janz I might ask people to ease back on that, because…talk about setting expectations on “High.”
Then I dug into the book itself and, well, I can see where those other reviewers are coming from.
Until now, my only experience with Mark Morris’s work was the first two
excellent books in his Obsidian Heart series (The Wolves of London and The Society of Blood). Those books, coupled with this collection just released by ChiZine Publications, have motivated me to explore the rest of the author’s deep back catalog. After spending a few days wandering through the wastelands of Wrapped in Skin, I’m in awe of the sheer breadth of talent Morris brings to the table, and I can’t wait to read more of his work.
Top notch writing, enjoyable prose, a twisted and demented story… but I was a bit lost at times. Seems Good Girls is book 2 in the Motherless Children Trilogy, something the publisher failed to mention when promoting the book. Now that it’s for sale to the public, I see that it’s listed that way, but it’s also being touted as a stand-alone novel. I, personally, would have preferred reading Motherless Child first.
That being said, there is some wonderful story-telling going on here. From the opening line, there’s magic in the words…
I’ve been a huge fan of Lucy Snyder’s work for years. Her yarns are fun, gutsy and weird as all get out. While the Black Stars Burn, though, has caused me to realize how important it is in the pantheon of full out capital-L Literature.
“Mostly Monsters” makes this indisputably clear from the first page. On the surface, we have the destructive relationship between a father and his daughter and the damage it causes. A sharp, heartbreakingly personal tale of familial horror that kicked me right in the teeth. At the same time, it screams its manifesto to refuse to look away from the small terrors that shape us daily. The sense of causation here, the implications of what went wrong, where and what could be done to keep it from happening in the future are woven through every word without ever stopping the story itself or robbing it of emotional impact.
It’s been a year since the events in The Beast of Barcroft, and friends Ben McKelvie and Lindsay Clark are still trying to put their lives back together when they each get a call from the mysterious and very wealthy Richard Severance, asking them to drop everything and head to Minnesota.
Richard has a fascination with cryptozoology, a pseudoscience involving the search for animals whose existence has not been proven due to lack of evidence. This includes living examples of animals that are otherwise considered extinct, animals whose existence lacks physical evidence but which appear in folklore, such as Bigfoot and Chupacabra; and wild animals drastically outside their normal geographic ranges.
SNAFU: Hunters edited by Amanda J. Spedding and Geoff Brown
Cohesion Press (February 2016)
327 pages; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by Frank Michaels Errington
Admittedly, I’m a bit of a pessimist. I see an anthology series in its fifth incarnation and I fully expect it not to be as good as its predecessors. I’m overjoyed to say that is not the case with the SNAFU series from Cohesion Press. It’s hard to believe that a little over eighteen months ago the very first SNAFU anthology saw the light of day.
Here’s what I said about the first book…
My expectations were not that high for this anthology. Although I love horror in all its many forms, I’ve never been that big a fan of the military story. Well, I needn’t have worried at all. SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror delivers. Every story killed (pun intended).
Each book in the series has taken a slightly different approach to the military horror theme. This time it’s all about hunters, both the hunter and the hunted.
In a horribly tragic apartment fire, Allison is left disfigured and emotionally haunted by the inner ghosts of pain the trauma has caused. Her disfigurement is so overpowering, Allison confines herself to her home to escape the constant stares and whispers from the outside world. A nagging mother and routine visits with a therapist are her only connections to reality.
In her own personal confinement, Allison finds solace in collecting old photo albums and forgotten photos from sales and thrift stores. It’s through these photos of other people’s families and other people’s memories that Allison escapes. She transforms herself into their memories, their past…while leaving her sorrowful and somber self in another plane.
So, there’s this guy. Nick Graves. Nick is a bit of a jerk. He hates his wife, but when her surprise pregnancy derails his plan to divorce her, he decides to move them both far from friends, family and anything they know. That’ll show her. Too bad he didn’t look into the neighbors a bit closer as everyone he meets seems to act very strange and they have their own plans for him.
Let’s be straight here: this is not a book for most of you.
The limited edition hardcover treatment for a short story might seem like overkill, but some pieces deserve to be highlighted on their own. Such is the case with This Year’s Class Picture, a classic zombie tale by Dan Simmons that first appeared nearly 25 years ago in John Skipp and Craig Spector’s stellar anthology Still Dead: Book of the Dead 2.
Ms. Geiss is dealing with the aftermath of the zombie uprising as best she can – staying vigilant, fortifying her sanctuary, keeping a watchful eye out at all times. She’s also trying to maintain some sense of normalcy, albeit through some rather extreme measures. Ms. Geiss was a fourth grade teacher in another life and another world; a dedicated educator who chose the school she taught in for years as her safe place during the end of the world; a woman who now maintains and attempts to teach a small class of undead children in her former classroom.
There are so many talented writers working in the fields of horror and speculative fiction that I’m constantly discovering authors I’ve not read before who immediately leave me wanting to read more of their work. Case in point: Hank Schwaeble. Prior to being sent a copy of this new collection from Cohesion Press, I’d never even heard of him. Maybe I just need to get out more or stay in and read more.
Jonathan Maberry, an author I have read and greatly respect, has penned an excellent introduction to Hank Schwaeble in general and specifically to American Nocturne. In essence, he says Hank is the real deal, and that’s good enough for me.
Hell’s Bounty by Joe R. Lansdale and John L. Lansdale
Subterranean Press (February 2016)
190 pages; $40 hardcover
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand
I don’t know how the Lansdale brothers divvied up the writing duties on Hell’s Bounty, and, truth be told, it doesn’t matter. Storytelling runs deep in the Lansdale family, and Joe and John’s new novel is a seamless powder keg of a collaboration, packed tight with wild, weird western fun.
Something has emerged from an old mine shaft near the town of Falling Rock. Moving about as it does on bat wings, leaving a whiff of sulfur in its wake, chances are it’s nothing good. Typical for Falling Rock, which seems to attract bad things – and bad people. Take Trumbo Quill for example, a man bad enough to shoot another man dead just for accidentally sitting on his hat. Or Smith, a newly-arrived bounty hunter whose explosive confrontation with Quill lands him, literally, in Hell.
The Last Weekend: A Novel of Zombies, Booze, and Power Tools by Nick Mamatas
Night Shade Books (January 2016)
252 pages; $33 hardcover; $12.22 paperback; $9,99 e-book
Reviewed by Frank Michaels Errington
Despite having the word “Zombies” in the title, this novel is far from your typical zombie fare. If you’re looking for a brain munching gore-fest, you may want to look elsewhere.
On the other hand, if you’re familiar with the Billy Wilder directed film-noir, The Lost Weekend, based on Charles R. Jackson’s 1944 novel of the same name about an alcoholic writer, then you’re in for a real treat.
Oh God, another zombie book? Wait, before you jump to conclusions, sit a spell and give Dust of the Dead by first-time novelist John Palisano a chance, for what he offers is a fresh look at the zombie mythos.
The zombie apocalypse came, and then life returned to normal. Late night TV talk shows were back on the air, iPhones were re-charged, people returned to work, and life resumed, but not entirely as it once was. Zombies still existed but were contained and were few and far between.