Sunday, May 22, 2011

SUMMER SCARES!

art by Darlene Wanglund

SUMMER SCARES! is part of MONSTER LIBRARIAN's continuing effort to inform and educate librarians on the best new horror fiction available today.  See more SUMMER SCARES! reviews right here: Monster Librarian's SUMMER SCARES!




BLEED by Ed Kurtz (2011 / 390 pp / tp)

Walt's a young man with a promising future: he has just purchased a fix-er-up house out in the sticks, yet close enough to his new job as a high school English teacher.  He's also planning on proposing to his girlfriend Amanda.  He notices a spot on the ceiling one day, and after not being able to get rid of it, the spot begins to grow.  At first it becomes a bigger stain, then eventually, it turns into a pulsating lump.  And as it grows, Amanda notices Walt starting to act strange.  She ends up leaving when she witnesses the ceiling lump eat a cockroach one night; Walt refuses to leave the house or the strange thing that is rapidly taking control of him.

If David Cronenberg and Frank Hennenlotter decided to remake LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS and HELLRAISER, BLEED would be the result.  It reads like an 80s-styled horror novel with the gruesome feel of a classic splatter film--but where most gore-film inspired novels falter, BLEED finds its strength.  The reader cares for Walt, despite him becoming a murdering slave to the blood-thirsty creature, while at the same time we're cheering for Amanda as she attempts to escape the clutches of her now crazed boyfriend and his ever-growing monster.

For a first novel (self published, no less), Kurtz has done a fantastic job, seldom seen even among the best of professionally-released horror novels (i.e. there's NO filler here).  While there's a couple of typos and POV issues, the story is well told, the suspense and gore work side by side, and the touches of Henenlotter-like dark humor work like a charm.  It was also great to see a couple of characters introduced more than halfway through the novel actually work and add to the satisfying conclusion.

I had an absolute blast reading BLEED, and you can tell the author had a blast writing it.  I'm keeping my eye on Ed Kurtz, and hope to see another winner like this from him again soon.

-Nick Cato


ZOMBIE BITCHES FROM HELL by Zoot Campbell (2011 Grand Mal Press 2011 / 230 pp / tp)

The world has gone to Hell and the bitches are taking over.  While trying to create an AIDS vaccine, scientists have inadvertently unleashed a new “disease” on the world—one that only affects women and turns them into zombies.  Lock up your daughters, wives and granddaughters because the first chance they get they’ll chow down on the family jewels and anything else they can get their teeth and claws on.

ZOMBIE BITCHES follows Kent, a reporter from Denver and his friend Tim who decide to make their way to Boston so that Kent can find and hopefully save his girlfriend Jen.  Along for the ride in their hot-air balloon is Kent’s trusty mutt MG and the owner of said balloon Rick.  The story is told from Kent’s point of view and relates the trouble they run into—from a convent full of zombie women, a barn with nursing home refugees and an old armory full of white supremacists.
   
The disease is named the GaGa after Lady GaGa collapses on stage and turns into one of the first hungry harpies from Hell while the world watches on television.  As Kent and Tim make their way east the zombie hoards make their way west, but a change is going on.  The packs of screaming banshees are becoming organized.  The undead women are evolving and they are determined to take over.  When Kent finally makes it as far east as land will go he not only finds a sizeable stronghold of male survivors but he also discovers just how evolved and organized these bitches are.

Between the title, the author’s name and the awesome cover art by Michael Lindsey, ZOMBIE BITCHES FROM HELL reminded me of an old pulp novel—in a good way.  While I love my zombies, the whole “apocalyptic zombie” thing can get a bit repetitive….but not with ZOMBIE BITCHES.  Zoot Campbell adds a fresh narrative to the zombie sub-genre.  The story flows nicely and character development is  good.  The end of the novel totally works for me and there are a few nice surprises thrown in, including the question of Kent’s sanity.  Zoot Campbell left me wanting more…..and from what I understand, I’ll get it.  ZOMBIE BITCHES FROM HELL is a great addition to zombie lit and I can’t wait to read more!

-Colleen Wanglund


BLOOD BORN by Matthew Warner (2011 HW Press / 497 pp / tp)

When several girls go missing in the Washington, D.C. area, detective Christina Randall goes on the case; the girls who are found have been the victim of rape...but that's far from the worst part.  It seems each victim of this serial rapist has been impregnated--and are experiencing excelerated pregnancies.  Within one week, each victim gives birth to a primate-looking creature that immediately turns and devours its mother.

Margaret Connolly's daughter is now missing.  Margaret works at the CalPark Fertility Clinic, and has been trying to understand the outbreak of bizarre pregnancies.  She begins to loose her marbles when her daughter is abducted, but she eventually meets up with detective Randall and the two begin to piece things together.

BLOOD BORN features genetically-created bigfoot-like creatures who are on a sole mission to breed.  They rape without remorse, causing a quarantine of the D.C. area.  Among several nightmarish scenes is a highway packed with cars trying to escape the city being attacked by the creatures; the blood and guts fly, yet Warner keeps the chills on target without getting silly.  You'd think a novel with rampaging monsters raping women with over-sized penises would garner some laughs...but BLOOD BORN doesn't.  It's serious horror written at a break-neck pace, and despite a larger than usual roster of characters, the reader is never lost.

While BLOOD BORN is a fun monster mash, I wish Warner would've let us in a but more regarding what caused our Third Reich-worshipping genetics doctor to tick; his creatures were "born" from a mistake in an attempt to create the perfect human...but we learn so little of Dr. Nicolae Schaefer that he truly takes a backseat to the his unholy creations (it's suggested Schaefer may even be of supernatural origin, leaving things wide open for a sequel).  But regardless, Warner's 3rd novel is a serious scare-fest, blending police procedural thrillers with plenty of blood, guts, scares, and some of the horniest monsters to hit our nation's capital since the Clinton administration.  You've been warned...

-Nick Cato

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