Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Darkened by Bryan Smith

Darkened is Bryan Smith’s truly unique look at the apocalypse. The fabric of reality is beginning to disintegrate. As black slits begin to form in our world’s existence hordes of winged beasts slip through creating complete chaos and unthinkable destruction. There are only a few lone survivors and just as these lucky souls think they have weathered the storm- they realize that there is an evil lurking that is far worse than anything any of them could have imagined.

Darkened is everything I want in a post-apocalyptic story and then some. Smith heaps on the carnage and terror while keeping the story moving with characters that are genuinely engaging. The thing really chugged along at a brisk pace- inviting you to keep reading until you’ve hit the last page. Darkened never got distracted from its main purpose which was to tell one wild story. We weren’t subjected to long winded descriptions of the destruction and there were no extraneous internal monologues that left the reader yawning. Smith started the action early, delivered some skull crushing blows and got out before the reader knew what hit them. It was a total blast!

Darkened only confirms what I have known for some time now which is Bryan Smith is a brilliant force to be reckoned with. I’ve heard this tossed around from time to time but Darkened really cemented it for me- Bryan Smith is the heir apparent to the thrown of Laymon.

Recommended for some good ol’ fashioned end of the world brutality!

Pick it up here ! Go enter the contest here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mondays With Richard: Beware

Every third Monday during 2011 I am going to review a novel written by Richard Laymon. I am a complete novice when it comes to this amazing writer so this will be a learning experience for me. For that reason I am going to take a more personal approach to my Mondays with Laymon reviews. Try and make it a bit more casual, ya’ know? Well without further ado…………………

Where exactly should I start with this one? Maybe with the invisible man running amuck in a small town? No. How about the crazy bizzarro cult that has infiltrated every facet of the normal world? I guess that might not be the appropriate launching point either. Well we always have the abused heroine who is willing to forego revenge on a man that repeatedly assaulted her in order to give some two-bit author a good story. No, not that either. I guess I’ll just start at the very beginning.

I had no idea what Beware was about when I opened the book. I was immediately hooked when it started to play out like a violent ghost story. There were unthinkable murders and assaults committed by an unseen assailant- all of which were masterfully told through a series of newspaper clippings. I was in heaven! This was shaping up to be one fine novel. Then everything got kinda……. well,weird. Yeah, I guess weird would be the word for it. It wasn’t necessarily bad but it certainly wasn’t what I had hoped for. Things just spiraled out of control in a completely unexpected way. The ghost turns out to be an invisible man who kidnaps a woman he has been lusting after for years. He intends to keep her as a prisoner in her own house. Of course she escapes and we are led on an insane adventure that leads to Las Vegas and the surrounding dessert where she is assisted by a novelist and some sort of super-human strong man private detective. All of this happens while a blood thirsty cult is closing in on the invisible man. Things got so out-of-control that I was fully expecting a UFO to swoop down and bring the story to an end.

Now I realize that I sounds like I didn’t care for Beware but that isn’t the case. Laymon had ample amounts violence and action which held my attention throughout. His writing was so tight and fluid that I had to keep reading. The problem was that I found myself being entranced by the writing and not the story. This makes for a very difficult read.

I voiced some of these concerns to the almighty Colum over at Paperback Horror and he wished that someone had warned me about Beware before diving in. Apparently it is known amongst Laymon fans that Beware is his completely insane over-the-top story that doesn’t jive with his normal style. I think with that in mind I may go back and give it a second chance. Until then I will continue to slowly shake my head every time I think of Beware.

Pick up the digital copy for .99 here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Johnny Gruesome by Greg Lamberson

Johnny Gruesome a novel that EVERY horror fan should read. Greg Lamberson has crafted a fast paced revenge tale that borrows from some of the genres most timeless conventions and creates a novel that is filled with tons of original adrenaline driven energy.

Johnny Grissom -Johnny Gruesome to most- is your typical heavy metal high school kid. He drives fast, parties hard and fights often. He likes to drink, get high and he adores Romero’s “Holy Trinity”. Basically, he is the cool kid that everyone loves to hate. All of that changes when Johnny’s car is discovered in Willow Creek with Johnny’s lifeless body inside. Then strange things start to happen- members of the quiet town of Red Hill are showing up dead and it appears that the town’s undead outcast may be involved.

Johnny Gruesome is the literary equivalent of an all-out air guitar session of unearthly proportions. It is pure rock and roll excess laced with the hardcore gore of 80’s horror. Johnny is violent, reckless and extremely funny. At his funniest he is reminiscent of Freddy Kruger and at his most brutal he seems more like the soulless Leatherface. In short, he is an amalgamation of all of those horror icons that haunted our youth while still retaining his own identity.

The book is an extremely easy read because it grabs you by the throat and throws you right into the action and keeps you pinned down until the final page. Lamberson knows how to keep the pacing tight without sacrificing the story. He can graphically describe the beheading of a young boy and then delicately delve into the inner emotional turmoil of teenagers. These two extremes take place in the span of about 20 pages with a very fluid and smooth style that really makes Lamberson’s style unique and approachable. Despite the length, Johnny Gruesome is easily “one sitting” material.

It comes as no surprise that Greg Lamberson is also an accomplished film director. His writing has a distinct cinematic quality to it- paying attention to the little details. Instead of simply mentioning a gym light, Lamberson describes the shape of the light fixture and the sound the halogen makes as it sparks to life. He doesn’t simply tell the story; he brings you into it by painting such a vivid picture. This makes the humor and the horror all the better!

Greg Lamberson has given us something truly special with Johnny Gruesome. He created an extremely likeable and funny villain in Johnny and told his story with a remarkable attention to detail. Lamberson is certainly an author to keep an eye out for.

Highly recommended!

Go pick it up here!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Resurrectionist by Wrath James White

The Resurrectionist is a truly original novel by Wrath James White. The story unfolds around Dale- a scrawny serial killer who has the uncanny ability to bring people back from the dead. In the process of resurrecting the dead he wipes out the moments leading up to their death. The plot plays out like a tightly woven super hero story- there is a well crafted origin story, some amazing super powers and a lowly schlub that no one would ever think of as extraordinary. The difference here is that the super hero also happens to be the villain who uses his God-given super powers to commit unspeakable acts of violence. This is where the whole moral dilemma lies. Who would give a despicable human being this miraculous power? White does a remarkable job exploring the implications of that question without ever coming across as preachy or condescending. He addresses religion with enough reverence that the reader is able explore the question within the confines of their own faith without feeling pressured into coming up with a concrete answer. It takes a truly unique writer to create these feelings within a reader.

Wrath James White is a talent unlike any other. I’ve read plenty of hardcore horror but rarely has it challenged me in the way that The Resurrectionist has. The story dissects the impulses and reasons for our own personal impulses and addictions. I think we can all see a bit of ourselves in Dale’s unsettling preoccupation with his “beloved”. We all have cast aside the concepts of responsibility and consequence when we become truly obsessed with something. Sure, it may pale in comparison to Dale’s obsessions but it is a mysterious human emotion we can all relate to and Wrath brings that to light in a very delicate and interesting way.

The Resurrectionist is not for everyone. It is graphic, bloody and ultra-violent but it is also challenging and graceful in its brutality. Wrath has successfully crafted an extreme tale of horror that should be accessible to most fans of the genre. He has done such a wonderful job with this title that there is little doubt in my mind that Wrath James White is the new king of hardcore horror!

Highly recommended!

Check out Wrath over at The Keenedom and Words of Wrath. Pick up The Resurrectionist

Free Fiction: Inazuma by Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is offering a wonderful short story on his site for free. “Inazuma” is a downright frightening tale focusing on the plight of Dan, a man who notices some peculiar changes in his wife after she is struck by lightning. The tension is masterfully built as Oliveri slowly reveals the reason for the change in Dan’s wife. The result is nothing short of bone chilling. It is amazing how well Oliveri is able to get your heart pounding in such a short amount of time.

Do yourself a favor and take ten minutes out of your day to check out the story here.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wild by Lincoln Crisler

Wild is some of the most fun you’re likely to have reading this year. Lincoln Crisler’s new novella is tough to classify. Wild varies its narration from first to third person as we follow the adventures of three men: a mysterious man named Matthias, a violent outlaw and a Mexican doctor. The three men embark on a rescue mission through Texas as they attempt to locate a local man and his son who have vanished. On their way they encounter zombie hordes, some vicious outlaws and a crazed witch doctor. Not your typical Western fare, huh? It is one part Sergio Leone and one part The Serpent and The Rainbow with a bit more magic and much more zombies. Crisler internalizes of these influences and brings us one heck of an original and entertaining story.

Crisler uses dialect and description to make the reader feel like they are riding through the untouched sands of 1886 Texas. I always love when I finish a story and have absolutely no comments about the writing. In a story like this you don’t want elegant prose getting in the way of the action and you certainly don’t need any clunkiness disrupting the proceedings either. Crisler does neither with Wild. He simply lets the story flow out of him and trusts his amazing descriptive abilities to draw the reader in.

At its core Wild is just a really well-told yarn that one would expect to hear sitting around a campfire. It is fun and engaging with just enough depth and mystery to be completely original. The ending really set the stage for future stories involving these characters and if Wild is any indication, I can only hope that Crisler gives us more.

Highly recommended!

Go ahead and preorder the book through Damnation and stop by Lincoln’s site to check out his books and his amazing reviews.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Deathwatch by Lisa Mannetti

Deathwatch is Lisa Mannetti’s beautiful new collection of two novellas - Dissolution and The Sheila Na Gig.

Dissolution explores an evil mother’s power over her house, even from beyond the grave. The inhabitants of the house include conjoined siblings, an alcoholic father and a pair of servants. Stuart Granville, a would-be medical student from the South who's been expelled for drinking is hired to tutor the two young girls. Once at the house he realizes the true reason for his employment and it is much more grisly than he could have ever anticipated.

Mannetti is able to incorporate the medical horrors of early America with the timeless fear of the unknown. It is the stuff nightmares are made of. Mannetti attacks the reader from all angles. The horror is not isolated to the supernatural- instead she chooses to bring real world atrocities to the story. This leaves the reader with no safe haven as we follow Stuart’s descent into darkness. Dissolution is a brilliantly crafted story that will haunt you for days after finishing.

In The Sheila Na Gig, Tom Smith is seeking refuge on a ship bound for the New World. In his native Ireland, he has dealt with too much loss and tragedy which included the loss of his only love, avoiding his evil witch of a grandmother, and trying to save his sister, Delia, from the abuse of his father. Tom gets wrapped up in a strange state of mental anguish as he looks to the occult to make things right in his increasingly horrific world.

The Sheila Na Gig may have been the stronger of the two stories simply because the loss that Tom experiences is so completely depressing. We watch as any semblance of love and support is slowly stripped away from him by the evil forces that exist within his life. It is enough to bring the reader to tears. Tom finally believes that he has one last chance to redeem his life and make it all normal again but the result is the most heartbreaking tragedy of all. Mannetti’s varying flow in The Sheila Na Gig reflects the constant turmoil within young Tom Smith. At times the writing is urgent and frantic but Mannetti is also able to reign it in and produce an almost dream like quality when necessary. This is truly a testament to mastery of the craft.

Never have I been so enchanted while experiencing all engrossing horror. Lisa Mannetti’s Deathwatch has the rare power to draw the reader in with beautiful composition and then crush you with unflinching horror. She can take the most taboo subject and make it seem heartbreaking and tragic with her elegant prose. This really is where the power in Mannetti’s lies. She has this ability to make a reader weep in a situation where they would normally find themselves being repulsed thus causing a unique emotions within the reader’s heart.

There is absolutely no reason why Lisa Mannetti shouldn’t be a powerhouse within the genre for years to come. I know that she has officially made the list of authors whose work I would label as “Can’t Miss.”

Please, please, please go pick up Deathwatch now!
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