Review: Necrotek by Jonathan Maberry

cover of NecrotekNecroteck by Jonathan Maberry
Blackstone Publishing (May 2024)
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Military science fiction crossed with Lovecraftian horror with a cast of offbeat characters in an adventure that begs for a film adaptation? Yes please!

Jonathan Maberry has conquered a bit of everything in his career, from the straight-up horror that won him a Bram Stoker award to the popular weird adventure series starring Joe Ledger to resurrecting the Weird Tales franchise in style. His style combines Matheson and Bradbury, a pair of giants he knew as a child, along with the fun adventure tales that filled drugstore spinner racks. This is all strong praise, especially for this new novel, which promises to be the start of another successful series.Continue Reading

Review: Hellweg’s Keep by Justin Holley

cover of Hellweg's KeepHellweg’s Keep by Justin Holley
Flame Tree Press (November 2023)
256 pages; $16.77 paperback; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Horror in space has always held a special place in many readers’ hearts. However, for the most part it’s been more prevalent on the screen than on the page. Thankfully, the subgenre has been making a comeback in the past few years, striking a fine balance between science fiction and dread.

Justin Holley has added an interesting entry into this canon with Hellweg’s Keep. a novel that brings to mind several elements of well-known and well-loved stories, including The Thing, the worlds of Philip K. Dick and H.P. Lovecraft — all while keeping it grounded, no pun intended.Continue Reading

Review: Ink Vine by Elizabeth Broadbent

cover of Ink VineInk Vine by Elizabeth Broadbent
(April 2024)
118 pages
Reviewed by Dave Simms

The horror novella can be a powerful entity. When handled properly, it’s a gut punch, a blade twist to the heart, and a mind screw all at the same time. Elizabeth Broadbent has penned one of those stories here in Ink Vine, a tale that is deeper and more dangerous than the swamp she created within. At 118 pages it hits hard, managing to build an effective setting in a South Carolina that reeks of the dank water, humidity, and scent of the trees which smother visitors who dare to enter. The story manages to be a strong character study with a taut element of horror, yet is so much more.
Labeled by many as a sapphic horror tale, which is true, it’s also an entertaining, quick read that begs to be savored slowly.

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Review: Where the Dead Wait by Allie Wilkes

cover of Where the Dead WaitWhere the Dead Wait by Allie Wilkes
Atria (December 2023)
400 pages; $20.49 hardcover; $11.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

What do you get when gothic horror goes to the arctic? Pure poetry with a fiendish dark heart.

For those who read the pitch-dark All The White Spaces from Allie Wilkes two years ago, this is a worthy follow-up. It’s not a true sequel, meaning readers can start with this novel and enjoy it, as Wilkes covers the backstory in a manner that isn’t overkill with infodumps. Instead, readers are treated to another great study in character building and setting.Continue Reading

Review: Extinction by Douglas Preston

cover of ExtinctionExtinction by Douglas Preston
Forge Books (April 23, 2024)
384 pages; $20.99 hardcover; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

For those who have read the thrilling Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, it’s apparent that Preston knows how to roll out a successful high-concept thriller that often borders on horror. This dark thriller might just have cemented itself in many top ten reads of the year, especially for those who enjoy some science and beasties in their reading.Continue Reading

Review: The Redemption of Morgan Bright by Chris Panatier

cover of The Redemption of Morgan BrightThe Redemption of Morgan Bright by Chris Panatier
Angry Robot (April 23, 2024)
400 pages; $18.99 paperback; $6.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

2024 is already looking to be a banner year for horror and dark thrillers. Chris Panatier is set to be one of those voices readers are not likely to forget.

Tales told in an asylum setting tend to be fascinating as a whole, especially through the fractured mystique of mental health. The Redemption of Morgan Bright is likely the best novel is this vein since Shutter Island, even though the two couldn’t be any more different. So much of Panatiers’ story relies on the layered plot and unfolding of who Morgan Bright truly is — and who she’s not.Continue Reading

Review: All the Fiends of Hell by Adam L.G. Nevill

cover of All the Fiends of HellAll the Fiends of Hell by Adam L.G. Nevill
Ritual Limited (April 2, 2024)
346 pages; $15.99 paperback
Reviewed by Dave Simms

With a title such as All the Fiends of Hell, a reader would likely suspect a broad, electric, and brutal story that goes for the throat with no remorse. Adam Nevill changes it up a bit here, harkening back to the tone of The Reddening and The Ritual, departing from the quieter horror of the past couple of entries, The Vessel and Cunning Folk. This might be his Swan Song or The Stand, at least in scope and story. It might also break him into a whole new stratosphere of readers — hopefully.Continue Reading

Review: Lost Man’s Lane by Scott Carson

cover of Lost Man's LaneLost Man’s Lane by Scott Carson
Atria (March 26, 2024)
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Coming-of-age novels have been done so often that it’s brutally tough to come up with something unique and experienced, as if the reader hasn’t traveled down that same old road a million times over. Yet, such as in the case of Boy’s Life or Stephen King’s “The Body,” sometimes something stands out. Scott Carson, who many now know is best-selling mystery/thriller author Michael Koryta, loves to blaze his own trail. Lost Man’s Lane, thankfully, is that great read that combines the smart characterization of Koryta with the darker feel of Carson, a smooth yet disturbing tale that lingers long after the final page.Continue Reading

Review: The Day Tripper by James Goodhand

cover of The Day TripperThe Day Tripper by James Goodhand
MIRA (March 19, 2024)
368 pages; $28.99 hardcover; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Who says a time traveling novel can’t be scary and also a feel-good story? To find a true comparison to this fun book is tough, but pieces of Ray Bradbury’s A Sound Of Thunder, plus Rewind and Groundhog Day as if written by Stephen King might give some ideas.Continue Reading

Review: The Haunting of Velkwood by Gwendolyn Kiste

cover of The Haunting of VelkwoodThe Haunting of Velkwood by Gwendolyn Kiste
S&S/Saga Press (March 5, 2024)
256 pages; $26.99 hardcover; e-book $12.99
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Sometimes a ghost story breaks through the confines of the tried and true and creates something different. Something unique. Something both beautiful and painful. 2024 is turning out to be an incredible year for dark fiction, and Gwendolyn Kiste just raised the bar for everyone with The Haunting of Velkwood, a novel that redefines the subgenre in the best way possible. It breaks and rewrites the rules that Stephen King, Richard Matheson and ,of course, Shirley Jackson, wrote. For those unfamiliar with Kiste’s work, this would be a fine place to begin.Continue Reading

Review: Among the Living by Tim Lebbon

cover of Among the LivingAmong the Living by Tim Lebbon
Titan Books (February 13, 2024)
304 pages; $16.99 paperback; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

When a novel marries the true terror inherent to humanity with the relevance of the world’s biggest issue (the death of the environment), it can resonate in a manner that most thriller and horror fans cannot escape. Imagine the The Thing crossed with The Terror — or any other high-quality isolated frozen story — and then transforming it into something even more frightening. That’s the gem that Tim Lebbon has created here with Among the Living.Continue Reading

Review: The House of Last Resort by Christopher Golden

cover of The House of Last ResortThe House of Last Resort by Christopher Golden
St. Martin’s Press (January 30, 2023)
304 pages; $24.65 hardcover; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Christopher Golden knows better than many writers how to turn a setting into a brutal, living, breathing character. His new, terrifying novel might be the perfect encapsulation of that statement. When a reader takes into consideration the body of work that includes Ararat (possible resting place of Noah’s Ark), Road of Bones (forbidden frozen land in Russia), and Strangeland (what might be the most inventive setting in horror fantasy in ages), the praise for this story is not taken lightly.Continue Reading

Review: Double Dose by F. Paul Wilson

cover of Double DoseDouble Dose by F. Paul Wilson
Gordian Knot Books (September 2023)
382 pages; $16.99 paperback; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

The world of legend F. Paul Wilson continues to grow in this second installment of the Duad series. Is it the finale or just another chapter? Read on to decide but if one is familiar with Wilson’s storytelling, the mystery is always afoot. One thing is sure, however. The man seems incapable of penning a bad — or boring — book.Continue Reading

Review: The Daughters of Block Island by Christa Carmen

cover of The Daughters of Block IslandThe Daughters of Block Island by Christa Carmen
Thomas & Mercer (December 1, 2023)
331 pages; $12.78 paperback; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

The gothic horror novel just received a massive shot of adrenaline to its bleak-but-beautiful-heart. Christa Carmen provides that jolt in The Daughters of Block Island, a stunning novel that arrives in the final month of the year, just in time for the calendar’s longest nights of darkness. In this debut novel, Carmen doesn’t attempt to top the classics; instead, she subverts them in a unique manner. She embraces the tropes that made the subgenre what it is and forges an enthralling tale of two sisters, a strange town, and a cast of characters that would make the masters proud.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