Monday, May 6, 2013

Night of the Crabs by Guy N Smith

Do you have movies or books that everyone seems to find fault with but they have been a part of you for so long that is impossible for you to form an opinion on them?  For me, I rented Halloween III as a youngster and watched it 5 times over the course of 36 hours.  I can watch that film on a loop.  The same goes for Guy Smith’s Night of the Crabs .  I’ve read that thing more times than I care to count.  Between that and Interstellar Pig , its amazing that my mind is capable of reading any for of advanced prose.  When I read that Guy Smith had released his crab series as e-books, I had to give it a go.

From Amazon:
Holidaymakers on the Welsh coast bask peacefully in the summer sunshine, blissfully unaware of the huge and evil army of giant crustaceans that lurk in the dark, off-shore waters . . . watching, waiting . . . Then the drownings begin.

But it is not until the underwater army, driven by its need to kill and gorge on human flesh, crawls up on the beach that the authorities understand the massive threat they face.
And when the screaming stops, the crunching of bone and munching of flesh begins . . .

Night of the Crabs is as pulpy as pulp can get but the crab theme is actually handled very well.  As it usually goes with these types of stories, the audience knows that there are monsters ready to strike but the characters in the book have no idea.  Also keeping with tradition, there is one character who tries to warn everyone but is quickly shrugged off until some super-sized crustaceans emerge from the sea and start running amok.  Smith actually does a better job developing the crabs than he does the characters.  The crabs were a unique choice at the time and are a perfect pairing for summer reading.  I mean, who isn’t scared of crabs?  There is plenty of crab munching in this slim novel which is the main selling point of the story.  The characters only serve as a vehicle to further the plot (and provide dinner for the abominations from the sea) and tend to be a little annoying.  In fairness to Smith’s characters, I’m not sure if the actual characters were annoying or the dialogue they spewed out. 

The dialogue reads like a castoff script from an Ed Wood film.  It is littered with clichés, lacks emotion and suits the overall tone of the book perfectly.  The characters respond to these unimaginable events with such indifference that I found myself laughing out loud.  I’ve read that Smith never intended to make this book a campy affair but it is very tough to imagine him writing these scenes without his tongue planted firmly in his cheek.  At the end of the day that is the charm of the story. It never takes itself too seriously (at least I assume it doesn’t) and I can appreciate that.  Smith knows his weaknesses (all of which are apparent after about page 30) but he doesn’t seem to care.  No sir, there is a story to tell and he’s a gonna tell it.

To call Night of the Crabs pulp might actually be too generous.  The book is about as mindless as it comes but that is why I’ve read it over a dozen times since I first stumbled upon it so many years ago.  Much like those Stephen King short stories and Halloween sequels, it is tough for me to formulate an objective opinion because it is so ingrained in my personality.  As we approach the summer months, I urge you to give this cult classic a try as you lounge by the pool or spend an afternoon at the beach. Sure, it might be written at a third grade reading level but it is one wild ride!

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Bad Day For Voodoo by Jeff Strand

It is pretty obvious that my love for Jeff Strand is almost as frightening as the tales that occupy the pages of his fantastic books but even I, the devoted fanboy, was a little skeptical when I heard that the author of Wolf Hunt and Dweller was about to pen a Young Adult novel. Of course, (as with most things in life) I was completely off-base as Strand delivers and instant genre classic.

From Amazon :

When your best friend is just a tiny bit psychotic, you should never actually believe him when he says, "Trust me. This is gonna be awesome."

Of course, you probably wouldn't believe a voodoo doll could work either. Or that it could cause someone's leg to blow clean off with one quick prick.

But I've seen it. It can happen. And when there's suddenly a doll of YOU floating around out there—a doll that could be snatched by a Rottweiler and torn to shreds, or a gang of thugs ready to torch it, or any random family of cannibals (really, do you need the danger here spelled out for you?)—well, you know that's just gonna be a really bad day ...

The Young Adult genre suits Strand’s insane style perfectly. In A Bad Day For Voodoo , Strand uses the genre’s whimsical freedom to create a crazed tale of silliness gone wrong that will satisfy teens and horror-hounds alike. Strand balances the real life turmoil of being a 16-year-old boy with his signature flair for the gleefully macabre. Dismemberment and cannibals seem just as frightening as overbearing parents. Such is the teenage life in the wild world of Strand. The only reason all of this craziness is because the main characters are so grounded in reality. I felt like I had been transformed back to my teenage years and it was one heck of a ride. The story oozes with the authenticity usually reserved for a Stephen King story or a John Hughes film. It is that good, my friends.

Jeff Strand walks a very fine line in A Bad Day For Voodoo (and most of his stories, really). He keeps the tone extremely light without ever venturing in the dreaded world of camp, while providing massive amounts of unique (albeit gory) plot points that keep the reader interested and the pages turning. I have seen this blend attempted many times with cringe-worthy results but this never happens with Strand. I would say that Strand is the preeminent voice of literary horror-comedy but he may, in fact, be the only worthy author currently taking up residency in that particular subgenre. A Bad Day For Voodoo just goes to prove that Strand can extend his talents to any subgenre within the realm of Horror literature.

If you have or know someone with children in their teens, please make sure that those kids get a copy of this book in their hands. If you are looking for some finely crafted fiction that is so unique that it is sure to blow your mind, you should also make sure this finds its way into your library.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Lamplighters by Frazer Lee

It is rare to find a book that can combine so many different styles and attack you on every front.  That is what the Stoker nominated novel, The Lamplighters will do to you.  Prepare to get out your Hawaiian shirt, flip flops and sunscreen as we take a trip through Frazer Lee’s brilliant story.  Just don’t forget to keep checking your back because this paradise isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be.

From Samhain:

Marla Neuborn has found the best post-grad job in the world – as a ‘Lamplighter’ working on Meditrine Island, an exclusive idyllic paradise owned and operated by a consortium of billionaires. All Lamplighters have to do is tend to the mansions, cook and clean, and turn on lights to make it appear the owners are home. But the job comes with conditions. Marla will not know the exact location of the island, and she will have no contact with the outside world for the duration of her stay.

Once on the island, Marla quickly learns the billionaire lifestyle is not all it is made out to be. The chief of security rules Meditrine with an iron fist. His private police force patrols the shores night and day, and CCTV cameras watch The Lamplighters relentlessly. Soon Marla will also discover first-hand that the island hides a terrible secret. She’ll meet the resident known as the Skin Mechanic. And she’ll find out why so few Lamplighters ever leave the island alive.

Frazer Lee has crafted one wild story.  Everything about The Lamplighters is put in place to engage the reader and draw them into this strangely fascinating world.  The characters are all just flawed enough to make them realistic, yet retain enough nobility to keep us rooting for them.  They smoke, they drink and they encounter hardship- just like us.  The only difference is we have to face our problems while the characters in story have the option to escape to an island paradise although given the island’s secrets, I’m not sure that escape is much better. There is an ample dose of mystery to keep the pages turning at a breakneck speed as we are treated to a mysterious killer, a crazy old lighthouse keeper and a security team led by one of the most ruthless characters you’re liable to run into. The reader is never able to get a firm grasp on the goings on of the island until the insanely unexpected climax. Think the mystery of ‘Lost’ mixed with the bizarre beauty of Dario Argento and you might just be close to The Lamplighters .

The true success of THE LAMPILIGHTERS lies in Lee’s ability to birth beautiful imagery with his prose.  Meditrine Island is a lush tropical locale that is painted with painstakingly fine detail as it wisps the reader away into a land of lush greens, vibrant oranges and juicy reds.  This is the real deal people.  When reading the book, I could not help but draw comparisons to the Giallo genre.  Whenever I am jonesin’ for a vacation, I can put in a Bava or Martino and simply escape to faraway lands for 90 minutes.  These directors understood that vivid scenery played a vital role in the story, much like Lee does. The man does such a wonderful job that I would be willing to plan my next vacation to Meditrine Island, despite my knowledge of its dark underbelly.  That is the mark of a master wordsmith.

At its core, The Lamplighters is superb story that teases the readers with all the subtle nuances of the genre.  Lee has a great knowledge of the genre as he mixes elements of subtle psychological horror with the over-the-top gore and sex of those Leisure pioneers, Laymon and Ketchum.  This keeps the reader on their toes because Lee has the ability to gracefully torment your mind by working his way into your psyche or, if he so chooses, he can crack your skull open with violent blows from a splintered 4 x 4.

The Lamplighters is fast paced, unforgiving and flat-out fun.  Basically, the story is everything that one should expect from Samhain and genre fiction in general.  The Lamplighters marks the emergence of Frazer Lee as an elite voice in the genre.  I expect to hear more from him in years to come.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Cage by Brian Keene

Brian Keene has a knack for writing some of the most powerful novella length fiction in the genre.  His no-nonsense style is well suited for format.  Most authors introduce us to the characters and then allow the plot to unfold around them but Keene is a completely different animal.  One of the strongest aspects of Keene’s writing is his ability to mesh character development with plot to form a fast paced, suffocating story that gets right to the action and rarely relents.  This delightfully streamlined style allows Keene to tell a novel length story over the span of a hundred pages.  With that in mind, I was absolutely delighted when I learned that Deadite Press would be releasing a paperback version of the long out-of-print novella, The Cage


For the employees of Big Bill’s Home Electronics, it’s just the end of another workday – until a gunman bursts into the store and begins shooting. Now, with some of their co-workers dead, the hostages are being slaughtered one-by-one, and if they want to survive the night, they’ll have to escape… The Cage.

As described in the summary, the story follows a group of six electronics store employees who are at the mercy of a madman.  This man breaks into the store after-hours and locks the group up in the store room for very mysterious, yet surely sinister reasons.  The majority of the story takes place in the store room as we play voyeur to the interactions of the employees, all while the mysterious intruder is busy in the front of the store.  One-by-one the man brings the employees to the front of the store leaving the remaining hostages to wonder what exactly is happening on the other side of the warehouse doors.

The Cage is the perfect marriage of youthful hope, world-worn wisdom, nerve wracking tension and some gore soaked imagery that will leave your jaw hanging and your unmentionables soiled. What makes this story so damn engrossing is Keene’s ability to intertwine genuine supernatural terror with the everyday horrors that we all experience in our lives.  The villain in the story will get your blood pumping and your palms sweating but the reason this tale will resonate with readers is the trials and tribulations of the common man.  It is completely evident that Keene knows quite a bit about strife and pain.  The characters in The Cage discuss topics such as love lost, growing older and loneliness with such raw authenticity that the reader has no choice but to succumb to the story’s power. There is a certain power in prose that is born from a world of sweat and hardship. Keene wields that power with a reckless abandoned that only few in the genre can ever hope to harness.

It was also interesting to notice the subtle shift in style with the dichotomy between the real life fears and supernatural elements.  Keene wrote the conversations between the store employees with copious amounts pain and grit sprinkled in the interactions.  These are the conversations that we have had a thousand times yet they continue to be important because they are is the lifeblood of our daily routines and existence. Much like the author himself, there is no pretense with the characters and their interactions as the wear their hearts on their sleeves on every page. There is exchange that was particularly heart wrenching between Roy, the older warehouse employee and the younger store employees that I found to be especially heart wrenching :

“Your kids don’t know you, your wife barely tolerates you. You’re a stranger in your own house. And a stranger in the mirror, too. And when that happens, you look back on the last few decades and wonder where they went.”

These moments of gritty truth make the juxtaposition of the super natural so much more extreme. When Keene  isn’t describing the inner-turmoil of the Big Bill’s employees, his writing takes on a cinematic quality that would not be out of place in the world of Cronenberg or Lynch.  The main villain in The Cage is donned in black and sports an arsenal that would make Frank Castle giddy.  Keene creates one frightening villain who nonchalantly goes about his grisly business with the indifference of a T-1000.  I use the Teminator example because this dude is straight out of a late 80’s action film but still maintains a surreal presence that is common with Keene’s other works..  Keene himself seems to realize the cinematic leanings of his writing as the characters joke about the clichés of action films. There is a particularly humorous exchange when the trapped employees attempt to lighten the mood by discussing how their ideal action film would play out.

The Cage comes to a very satisfying finale with absolutely every element of the story getting heightened to extreme volumes (literally and figuratively). Blood flows, hearts break and evil is everywhere.  Much like some of my favorite Keene stories, everything ends as it should.  The ending is in keeping with the rest of the tale with no surprises.  It is always refreshing to read a story that does not stray from a previously established tone and plot in order to achieve a gimmicky twist.

This is a story that is perfect for those looking for a quick scare.  It is also a story that is MANDATORY reading for Keene fans that have an interest in his Labyrinth mythology.  Readers are treated to some added content as well. Included are three short stories that share the same themes and tone of The Cage , as well as accompanying ‘Author’s Notes’ which add a tremendous amount of insight.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In Laymon’s Terms Edited by Kelly Laymon, Steve Gerlach, and Richard Chizmar

From Cemetery Dance:

This massive, oversized tribute anthology for Richard Laymon features short fiction and personal remembrances from dozens and dozens of the biggest names in horror and Laymon’s biggest fans.

In addition, there are more than one hundred pages of “Rarities and Fan Favorites” from Richard Laymon’s personal files — stories, interviews, and more, including a 17 page photo album personally selected by Ann Laymon. Several of these rare pieces were scanned directly from Laymon’s original manuscripts and contain his handwritten corrections.

Featuring more than 600 pages of fiction and essays written in honor of the man, author, and friend, In Laymon’s Terms is personal, moving, and wildly entertaining. This is a unique hardcover that would have made Richard Laymon proud.

Richard Laymon is the most respected author in the genre.  This is a very simple and a very bold statement but it is also a statement that I believe to be completely accurate.  Listening to authors talk about Laymon is like listening to veterans talk about a sergeant who saved his entire platoon because of his selfless devotion to the cause.  The love they have for Richard Laymon is genuine and boundless.  I’ve even spoken to authors who may not necessarily care for his style but they are quick to add that, as a person, Dick was in a league of his own.  His love for the genre and his peers was unparelled and the man never took his success for granted.  Simply put, he was a class act.

Cemetery Dance did a fantastic job with this book.  The look and  feel of the book is absolutely breathtaking and it does the memory of Richard Laymon supreme justice.  The amount of material presented within the covers is staggering and every word of it drips with the love and adoration for a man who was criminally underrated by a few and insanely loved by many.

The beauty of this wonderful Cemetery Dance release is that it will appeal to Laymon devotees, as well as non-fans equally.  Sure there are stories here that could have easily come directly from Laymon’s pen (Keene’s Castaways and Smith’s Pizza Face) but there are a great abundance of tales that channel the spirit of Laymon without bearing much resemblance to his style (Ed Lee’s Chef).  A great deal of credit should be given to Kelly Laymon, Steve Gerlach and Richard Chizmar.  These are the editors who realized that there are genre fans out there that may not care for the Laymon style but are very curious about his impact on the genre and they did a wonderful job putting that on display in this collection. The stories range from despicable in the case of Torres’ Bestiality, to humorous in Piccirilli’s New York Comes to the Desert, to flat-out brilliant with Little’s Meeting Joanne. Every story really seems to take a theme present in Laymon’s work and exploit it to the fullest.  The quality of work in this collection is amazing, as every story is memorable and executed impeccably.  This is one of those rare collections where there really isn’t a weak spot to speak of.

Then there are the remembrances.  Ah yes, the remembrances. There is no way I can adequately explain the emotion evoked in these heartfelt essays.  For many of these writers, this was the opportunity to formally say goodbye to a friend that was taken from them too early. The magnitude of emotions displayed here will have your heart in your throat and tears streaming from your eyes.  There is no way around it. The recollections range in tone but all are a testament to the fact that Richard Laymon was a great mentor and friend to many. The reader will feel slightly voyeuristic as these authors lay their souls on the paper.  These essays are really that powerful.

As a complete Laymon nut, the real highlight for me was the inclusion of actual Laymon works that I had never read.  Reading Laymon’s dedication to pipe smoking in his short lived zine, ‘Smokers Blend’, was an absolute treat, while dissecting some poems from a college aged Laymon was more fun than I’ve had in awhile.  These are the real draw for the Laymon fan and make this collection well worth the price.  It adds a certain sense of validity to those years of clamoring about in used bookstores trying to find the Headline edition of In The Dark or selling various organs to afford that copy of A Writer’s Tale on eBay. This collection proves that we weren’t the only ones going crazy over the writings of Richard Laymon.

This is a most fitting farewell to a man who deserves to be appreciated in the same way that people appreciate names like King, Barker and Bloch.  His writing was mean and gritty with a subtle undercurrent of brutal humor which made his style so damn unique.  More than any other writer, Richard Laymon sucked me into the world of genre fiction and, based on the brilliant display of emotion in this gorgeous collection, I am not the only one.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Animosity by James Newman

James Newman has described Animosity as his, “love letter to the horror genre.”  I certainly think this is an apt description but I would take it a step further and argue that Animosity is James Newman’s big ol’ bear-hug to, not only the genre, but the fans that keep it alive and kicking.

This is the book that every horror fan needs to read because, lets face it,  it’s tough being a part of this community.  People assume we are all crazed maniacs looking to undermine the moral fiber of society.  I remember going into my local indie bookstore, asking where the horror section was and the clerk glared at me as if I had just asked for a step-by-step guide for committing every carnal depravity known to man (and some that may have been brand new.)  It doesn’t stop there, though.  The cautious glances from store clerks when you pick up that amazing new edition of Cannibal Ferox or the frightened look your co-worker gives when they find that beat-up Laymon paperback sitting in your office- yep, we deal with a ton of (completely unjustified) persecution.  Why are we the only real literary and cinematic genre that has dozens of conventions devoted to it? I’ll tell ya’ why- because we are so marginalized from society that most of us don’t even bother talking about the genre in mixed company.  We need these events so we can revel in our mutual love of the macabre. Well James Newman decided to step in and tell us that we are not alone. Nope, there are others just like us and a few that are little worse off.

From Necessary Evil Press:

Andrew Holland is a bestselling horror writer. While none of Andy’s neighbors has any interest in reading his macabre books, they’re pleased to have a celebrity author living among them.

 Then, one morning, Andy finds the body of a child several hundred feet from his front door. A little girl who has been raped and murdered.

 And everything changes on Poinsettia Lane.

 Andy’s neighbors turn on him. Their animosity is subtle at first: a dirty look from across the street, a friendly wave that is not reciprocated. The local media exacerbates the tension in the neighborhood by insinuating connections between the horror writer’s work and his role in the girl’s murder.

 The authorities clear Andy of any wrongdoing, but the stain has set.

 Before long, this once-quiet, peaceful neighborhood becomes a maelstrom of anxiety and chaos. Andy’s neighbors surround his home like a horde of zombies – but instead of a hunger for flesh, these monsters are driven by lies, fear, and hatred.

Andy Holland’s neighborhood is just like our neighborhoods and his neighbors are our neighbors.  They are the people who we interact with on a daily basis and we can easily see them reflected in Newman’s characters.  That is what makes this book so incredibly frightening.  We can easily see what animosity can do to a person.  It can bring out the hatred and ugliness in the people we know.  Newman’s vision of a picturesque community plays out like the classic Twilight Zone episode, ‘The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street’ as the true villains are those who claim to be “fighting the good fight”. Logic gets tossed to the wayside as mob mentality takes over and people begin looking for any reason to point the finger.  The interesting thing is that in a world that claims to embrace diversity, the person with the slightest idiosyncrasy is the most commonly persecuted.  This is the lesson that Newman is trying to get across to the reader.  He is telling us that just because our tastes lean toward the macabre, we are no different than those people who paint their chests for sporting events or the bible thumper who condemns all non-believers.  He is taking us in and telling us that we should celebrate our passion instead of hiding it.

Animosity is a story that begs to be read in one sitting.  This book starts off as a slow simmer and before you know what hit you, this thing is at a rolling boil.  Newman’s ability to create tension is reminiscent of Ketchum as he sucks the reader in with very commonplace events and escalates the whole affair until the reader and characters find themselves in a frenzied free-fall with no hope of escape.  The magic in Newman’s writing lies in his ability to keep the whole story planted firmly in reality as he presents these seemingly impossible scenarios.

Animosity solidifies Newman as a must-read author for me.  His unique voice and blue collar style really speak to me in a way that few authors can.  Animosity , much like his other work, doesn’t rely on supernatural monsters but, instead, explores the inner evil within humanity.  If you have yet to read anything by this extremely talented author I strongly urge you to head over to the Necessary Evil Press site and pick up your copy today.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Hero by Wrath James White and JF Gonzalez

There is something special that happens when an author defies expectations and creates something that seems to be totally out of their comfort zone. There is a certain thrill that a reader gets when we realize that we are witnessing the evolution of a writer as he explores his craft. This is exactly what happened when Wrath James White and JF Gonzalez pooled their talents and unleashed Hero on the genre.


Adelle Smith has lived her entire life for the betterment of mankind. A Civil Rights Activist in the Sixties and Seventies, she has spent most of her adult life attending marches, giving speeches, and lending a hand to anyone in need. But on the very evening she is to be acknowledged with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her humanitarian efforts, a stroke leaves her partially paralyzed and unable to speak. Now Adelle’s in the care of a ruthless hospice nurse, who sees not a hero before her, but the cause of her many hardships growing up as a child of interracial parents, someone who decides to give Adelle her very own brand of Physical Therapy; consisting of pain and suffering, mental cruelty and torture. And now, after a lifetime of helping others, Adelle needs help, quickly, before another round of brutal treatment snuffs out her life.

White and Gonzalez are two authors who really know how to bring the blood. In fact, these are two authors that I routinely hear people say that their books are “too much.” I guess that is why I was so surprised to see these two masters of gore rein it in a bit and deliver a story that explores the subtle nuances of racism and survival.

The writing is absolutely seamless, which is becoming rarer and rarer with collaborations. Many times, the difference in style is so discernible that it completely takes the reader away from the story- this isn’t the case with Hero . White and Gonzalez approach this story with an air of confidence as they deftly craft one of the most tightly wound tales of medical terror that one is likely to come across. They assault us with their command of the craft and leave us cowering with the protagonist as we await the next onslaught. Make no mistake, Hero puts the reader through some serious abuse. Sure, there are nasty bits of physical torture (it is a Wrath and JF collaboration, after all) but what really threw me for a loop was the emotional rollercoaster I found myself caught up in. The authors really engage the reader on an emotional level and this is where the story really shines.

The protagonist, Adelle, has been through quite a bit in her life and the authors take the time to explore her heart-breaking past. The reader is left to bear witness to the racial inequities that shaped Adelle into the strong civil leader that she is today. The authors do a sensational job of shaping her past which is why the present seems to be so much more unsettling. See, one gets the impression that Adelle has overcome all possible adversity and now she can ride off into the sunset and leave the younger generation to carry the torch. She deserves the time to herself and now she finally has it. Unfortunately, her new hospice nurse won’t let Adelle off the hook so easily. This particular nurse presents us with a very unique view of racism, as she combines elements of self-loathing with a balls-to-the-wall case of psychosis. Adelle is put in a hopeless situation as she finds herself at the mercy of the deranged nurse and the audience winces along for the ride which yields some very interesting and unexpected results.

The story plays out in reality. There are no sugarcoated characters with strong morals. Everyone in Hero has flaws and they act accordingly. This allows the writers to lend a sense of credibility as they explore the various issues that are present with inner-city life. No one is glorified but there are aspects of their personality that should be celebrated. There is the local drug pusher who, despite the violent life he leads, is willing to keep a watchful eye over Adelle after she is released from the hospital. Then we have Adelle’s daughter, who has left the city for the suburbs and is constantly trying to suppress her urban upbringing while putting on a white collar façade. These are the types of characters that make Hero an absolute delight to read. Anyone can write a gripping story about a crazed nurse tormenting her patient, but it takes special talent to add layers of social commentary and authenticity to the proceedings. This is the magic of Hero . If you have no prior experience with White or Gonzalez, you may see Hero as a well told exploration of tension but Hero is much more than that. Aside from being a great collaboration, Hero is the manifestation of two writers challenging themselves and their craft. It is something that will be enjoyed by all genre fans but will mean so much more to fans of both authors.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mine by Robert R McCammon

It is late and you are absolutely exhausted.  Another day struggling to make ends meet has taken its toll on you and you really just need to unwind.  Then it happens- the baby starts screaming.  Your paternal instincts kick in and you pick up the wailing infant in an attempt to soothe their pain.  Unfortunately, this is one of those times where nothing seems to work.  Now, at this point any normal parent would take additional measures to ease the child’s discomfort.  Well, normal parents are not the main character in Robert R, McCammon’s, Mine .  See, the main character in Mine is a woman known as Mary Terror and what she chooses to do is take the child and shove its face into a white hot oven range. Yep, you know that this is going to be an intense read from the get-go.


Laura Clayborne is a successful journalist with a successful stockbroker husband. But her marriage is foundering and her biological clock is winding down. David, her newborn son, is the only light of her life.
Mary Terrell, alias Mary Terror, is a scarred survivor of the Sixties. A former member of the terrorist group, Storm Front Brigade, she now festers in a world of warped memories and unrelenting rage. Quite simply, Mary Terror is mad. Murderously mad.

When Mary Terror steals Laura’s baby and heads west, killing anyone in her way, Laura realizes the only way to stop her is to hunt her down. But the closer she gets to Mary, the more she must think and act like her….

Mary Terror is a child of the sixties, a lover of peace, except that somewhere along her life’s path hate and evil began to replace the concepts of love and empathy.  These feelings have slowly devoured Mary over the years, to the point where she is just a shell of her former self. She is a pure ball of mangled insanity and misplaced madness.  Her distorted view of reality has led her to the belief that the only way to make things right is to get a child and take it to her ex-love in California.  Mary is simply trying to find her place in a world where her ideals are no longer the status quo.  Instead of adapting, as many of Mary’s friends from the 60s have, she still holds the same anger and hatred toward “the system” and attempts to fit them into modern society.  The result is one of the most frightening characters that you are likely to read.  Mary’s drive knows no bounds as she steals a child and takes off for the West Coast, leaving a trail of death in her wake.

McCammon writes Mary Terror with frightening realism.  The descriptions of her thoughts, drug use and habits make this character really jump off the page.  McCammon puts forth the present day Mary Terror without bias- allowing the reader to discover how far-reaching her madness truly is.  These descriptions are contrasted beautifully with flashbacks of Mary with the group known as The Storm Front Brigade.  The reader can begin to make the connections in their head between the two eras as we slowly begin to see how Mary’s mind has devolved.  Having these flashbacks add quite a bit of “fat” to the story and also help the reader catch their breath during one heart-pounding story.

Mine is one of the most intense reads you are likely to come across.  There are points in the novel where the story works up to a pace so frantic that your palms will sweat.  At its core, the book is about a mother’s love for her child and the lengths parents will go for the ones they love. This is the center of all the tension throughout the book.  The reader will cringe as Mary Terror attempts to care for poor baby David in her own unique way and they will certainly be on the edge of their seat as Laura realizes that the only person she can trust is herself in the pursuit of Mary.  It is a classic cat-and-mouse game that is written with sniper-like precision.

For me, Mine is McCammon stepping away from his normal style and writing something to have a bit of fun.  This book does not share anything in common with the deep emotional themes of Boy’s Life or the sweeping scope of Swan Song. Nope, this book is simply an action driven tale done to complete perfection.  McCammon is not reinventing the wheel here; he is simply making the most streamlined and ferociously fast wheel that we have ever seen.

If you are looking for a wonderful page-turner with some truly horrific elements sprinkled in with non-stop action than Mine may just be the book for you!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Can You Survive The Zombie Apocalypse? by Max Brallier

Do you remember those silly Choose Your Own Adventure books of your youth? For me, they played an integral role in my childhood.  I distinctly remember sitting on my front porch, trading Choose Your Own Adventure paperbacks as if they were baseball cards.  Man, I wish there was an adult version for genre fans so I could still enjoy these books.  Well, thanks to Max Brallier my prayers have been answered because he has unleashed an amazing Choose Your Own Adventure book aimed at the adults who grew up on them.

From Amazon :

Inside these pages lies unspeakable horror. Bloodsplattering, brain-impaling, flesh-devouring horror. You’ve probably read your fair share of zombie stories. But this time it’s different. No longer can you sit idle as a bunch of fools make all the wrong moves. All hell is about to break loose—and YOU have a say in humanity’s survival. 

You have choices to make.

Moral dilemmas.

 Strategic decisions.

 Weapons. Vehicles.

 Will you be a hero?

 Or will you cover your own ass at all costs?

 Can you withstand the coming hours, days, weeks, and months? Or will you die amidst the chaos and violence of a zombie uprising?

 Or, worst of all, will you become one of them?

 I have read a few books trying to capitalize on the nostalgia of the Choose Your Own Adventure and, frankly, they have all been awful.  They try to straddle the fine line between youth and adult and the result is a story that is haphazardly thrown together with the hope that the novelty alone will sell them some copies.  Luckily for us genre fans, Brallier breaks this mold and offers a refreshingly mature and thoughtful take on this well-worn format.

Can You Survive The Zombie Apocalypse? is a gut-munching success because Brallier identifies his target audience and he writes to them, and them only.  This is not a book for children or the young adult crowd. This is a book written for adult genre fans who are looking for a breath of fresh (or fetid) air within a zombie genre that has been run into the ground.  The subject matter plays upon the preconceived notions of what a zombie story should include, but then adds a hefty amount of action and humor to make it feel fresh and engaging.  Sure, it contains all of the staples that fans of the undead have come to expect, but there is a sense of first-person realism that will resonate with even the most hardened zombie fan.  The decisions that the reader is faced with are realistic ones.  I never caught myself becoming frustrated with the possible courses of action because they were the same decisions that I would make if put in this situation.  This really helps elevate Can You Survive The Zombie Apocalypse? beyond a gimmicky cash-in and puts it squarely in the potential classic category.

The best thing that Can You Survive The Zombie Apocalypse? has going for it is Brallier’s attention to the story.  Sure, this is a Choose Your Own Adventure but the story never gets lost in the gimmick.  In fact, the entire gimmick could be dropped and you would have a collection of short stories that would rival some of the best undead collection available.  The story is just flat-out fantastic.  The reader assumes  the role of protagonist as Brallier leads us around Manhattan after a massive zombie outbreak.  There are roving motorcycle gangs, infested sports complexes (Yankee Stadium overrun with the undead is pretty impressive) and, of course, military involvement- all while the reader is given choices along the way which will determine their fate.  It is nothing short of amazing!  I felt like I was playing the starring role in some of my all-time favorite zombie films as I attempted to hack, slash and reason my way to safety.

Can You Survive The Zombie Apocalypse? Is a very accessible genre entry.  The books of Max Brooks immediately come to mind when trying to describe this to others- it is a book firmly rooted in genre fiction that will be widely consumed and appreciated within the mainstream.  It’s like Brallier wrote the content for us genre die-hards and then included the gimmick to get everyone else to check out what  is lurking in the underground of modern fiction.  I strongly recommend that people who love the zombie genre check this out.  Heck, I recommend that people who are sick of the zombie genre check this out.  This should be required reading for those looking to see how versatile and inventive genre fiction truly is these days.
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