In 1982, director George Romero and author Stephen King—horror royalty then and now—unleashed Creepshow, an anthology film born out of their mutual appreciation of 1950s horror comics. Realizing that capturing the unique look of those comics was going to be crucial to the movie’s success, they brought special effects superstar Tom Savini on board to help realize their vision. The result was a modest hit that has seen its stature grow among horror fans over time—enough so that its making-of documentary, Just Desserts, has become one of the most anticipated horror Blu-Ray releases of the summer.
United States of Japan is Peter Tieryas’s third book. It began as “a story revolving around the tragic events on the Asian side of WWII.” The book is inspired by Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, as well as the author’s time at Electronic Arts and his experiences traveling in Asia.
For the most part, I’ve never been much of a fan of alternate history stories, but John Liberto’s cover art caught my attention and I did enjoy the Amazon Prime series The Man in the High Castle, so I decided to take a chance.
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Crown (July 26, 2016)
352 pages; $17.32 hardcover; $12.99 e-book
Reviewed by David Simms
Jason Dessen, Daniela, Charlie—“Are you happy with your life?” It’s a question humans lie about all the time. Some truly are content, but how many torment themselves with enough “what ifs” until anxiety rears its ugly head? When a choice is finally presented in this intense, mind-bending novel, readers might just forget about those roads not taken.
Blake Crouch has written several fine thrillers in the past decade, but it wasn’t until the breakout success of the Wayward Pines trilogy last year that the world was alerted to this talented author (and original drummer of the kick-ass Killer Thriller band). M. Night Shyamalan’s television series gave the writer the spotlight he has long deserved. Yet, it’s always, “what’s next?” for the author, and can you top this?
Panacea by F. Paul Wilson
Tor Books (July 5, 2016)
384 pages; $19.79 hardcover; $12.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms
What would the world do with a panacea, a drug which cured all, no matter how severe the illness? Would it bring peace and prosperity to all, or send humanity into chaos and war?
Also, would the drug be able to cure the longing readers have felt since F. Paul Wilson wrapped up the final tale in the Repairman Jack series, Fear City? Such withdrawal has been painful for the countless fans of one of the most iconic series in thriller history. Panacea might just be more than the new novel from Dr. Wilson; it might satiate his audiences with the tease of a brand new series that entices the reader with wonder, awe, and annoyance that another year or so might have to pass before the next installment materializes.
Quiet horror is the hardest kind to get right; but when it is done right, it’s a showcase of the best the genre has to offer. Stripped of gimmicks and gore, quiet horror takes people you’ve come to care about and makes you watch as something terrible slowly creeps in from the edges.
The “something terrible” happens early in Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, Paul Tremblay’s highly anticipated follow-up to his 2015 breakout, A Head Full of Ghosts. Elizabeth, a single mom raising two kids, gets the phone call every parent dreads when her son, Tommy, goes missing while fooling around with his friends in some nearby woods. But it’s the mystery surrounding Tommy’s disappearance—lost? abducted? running away? sacrificed?—that is the true “something terrible” here, as Tremblay lays out a number of possibilities, each more troubling than the last.
The first third of The Conveyance was about ordinary people leading mostly ordinary lives. Before you know it, Brian W. Mathews lulls the reader into a comfort zone brought on by his easy-going writing style.
Mathews has a gift for developing strong characters who interact with one another in the most genuine of ways. Therapist/patient, husband/wife, best friends. Every one of those relationships was one-hundred-percent believable. It’s a good thing, because a lot of what happens in The Conveyance requires readers to check their disbelief at the door.
Tales from the Lake Vol. 2 edited by Emma Audsley, R.J. Cavender and Joe Mynhardt
Crystal Lake Publishing (March 2016)
382 pages; $16.99 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by John Brhel
For many, a trip to the lake means relaxation, fresh air, the splendor of nature, barbecues, fishing with grandpa—a break from the worries and stress of everyday life. Tales from The Lake Vol. 2 offers no such escape or reverie. This anthology of dark fiction from Crystal Lake Publishing plumbs the depths, sure—those of human despair, debauchery and dread. Like a trip to the lake, however, this collection is fun, in its own twisted way.
Coming two years after the publication of Tales from The Lake Vol. 1, volume two in what Crystal Lake has said will be an annual anthology offers over a dozen tales, each exploring a different idea: infidelity, revenge, suicide, paranoia, mass violence, *cough* evil dolls.
Black Static #52
TTA Press (May 2016)
164 pages; $5.99 print; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by David Simms
Black Static is more than a British magazine of horror and dark fantasy. It IS the best magazine of dark fiction that is produced on a regular basis. While many have compared it to Cemetery Dance, including this reviewer, it transcends anything currently in production. Bimonthly, readers are treated to stories that are not of the norm in the genre and often evoke a cross between the Borderlands anthologies and Dangerous Visions. Yes, it’s that solid—and consistent.
The Matthew Corbett books have historically been hefty affairs—Speaks the Nightbird, the first in the series, clocked in at over 800 pages, and the others have gone 400 or more. The lone exception was the fifth book, 2014’s River of Souls, which was a lean 256 pages. It’s my personal favorite of the series, the perfect mix of Robert McCammon’s incredibly detailed world building and action/thriller pacing.
Freedom of the Mask has put some of the weight back on—my advance copy hit 530 pages—but maintains the breathless pace of its predecessor. There’s enough story packed in it for two books, but it’s filler-free, and for good reason: there’s a ticking clock hanging over McCammon’s head now. He’s announced that the series will go nine books and no further, which puts us deep in the overall Corbett story arc at this point. McCammon is very calculated in the way he handles each book’s immediate plot while moving all the pieces toward the series conclusion.
Shortly after the publication of Mr. Mercedes, Stephen King announced that the book was the first in a trilogy that would be connected by the City Center Massacre (in which a psycho named Brady Hartsfield stole a Mercedes and plowed into a crowd of people who were waiting in line at a job fair in a struggling Mid-western city).
Hartsfield got away with that crime but was—during the commission of an even more audacious and nefarious scheme—eventually brought to justice by a rag-tag group led by retired police detective Bill Hodges. Hartsfield was effectively taken off the playing board at the conclusion of Mr. Mercedes but, at the end of the second book, Finders Keepers, King hinted strongly that this villain would be back, front and center, for the finale. He also suggested that the third book would be closer to a traditional King novel, by which I mean it might have supernatural elements.
The phrase “End of Watch” will be familiar to anyone with more than a passing knowledge of police dramas. In one context, it refers to the day when a cop retires. On another, more ominous level, it refers to a cop killed in the line of duty. Bill Hodges has already experienced the first usage—the question the title of the third book poses is whether he will experience the other.
The Haunting of Lake Manor Hotel edited by Nathan Hystad and Samanda R. Primeau
WoodBridge Press (April 2016)
202 pages; $13.99 paperback; $0.99 e-book
Reviewed by Josh Black
It’s been over a hundred and fifty years since a plague ravaged the area around Lake Manor. With few left to bury them, the corpses were unceremoniously dumped into the lake by their surviving loved ones.
Years later, Lake Manor Hotel is alive with the shadows of the dead. Within the hotel’s 13 rooms, there are 13 tales to tell. Guests will face evil demons, ghosts, creatures from the lake, and the worst monsters of all: the ones within themselves.
13 will check in, but how many will check out?
I can’t say I always connect with a Greg F. Gifune story, but I always try to read his work. He challenges me as a reader and Babylon Terminal did just that. This is not a casual read, it’s not light material. I feel I had to work for every bit of enjoyment I got out of this book, but it was worth it.
There is some stunning wordcraft in this story. At times Gifune’s prose is close to breathtaking. There is powerful, rich dialogue, as well.
Borderlands 6 edited by Olivia F. Monteleone and Thomas F. Monteleone
Borderlands Press (June 2016)
258 pages; $50.00 limited edition hardcover; $15.99 paperback; $5.99 e-book
Reviewed by Josh Black
It’s been 26 years since Tom Monteleone brought us the inaugural volume of Borderlands. That volume and subsequent ones have been filled with stories that veer off the beaten path of genre tropes, journeying instead into the uncanny, the inexplicable, the unexpected. There’s a twelve year gap between this sixth volume and the fifth, but in this case the adage proves true: Good things come to those who wait.
The Moving Soul by Joshua Criss
Self-Published (October 2015)
262 pages; $9.95 paperback; $1.99 e-book
Reviewed by Josh Black
“Three hundred and thirty-five years ago, a settler in the Virginia colonies completed a sacrificial spell and buried a legendary occult book for the next one destined to find it. Now, that person has…”
The Moving Soul is a supernatural thriller that focuses on three main characters, all students at Jamestown University in Virginia. Louis is a meek, socially awkward kind of guy, Carolyn is the girl he longs for and eventually ends up in a relationship with, and Darin is his new roommate. Darin also happens to be a real piece of work, a sociopath who’s seeking everything he needs to complete a spell that will grant him immortality. When he makes a certain sacrifice and reaches that goal, he intends to taunt, torture, and kill for eternity.
“Earth. Four thousand years ago. Give or take.” When this is the opening line in your new novel, it better be epic. The verdict? Richard Kadrey delivers again.
It’s just after the great flood and the angel Qaphsiel is sent by God to finish off mankind, but he misplaces the Instrument of Destruction. Fast-forward to the present day where a number of individuals and groups are closing in on The Everything Box. Of course the usual Kadrey wit abounds. It’s a story filled with magic, where literally anything is possible.