Friday, December 30, 2011



(NOTE: The "smell ratings" at the end of some reviews rate the actual SMELL of the book and have nothing to do with the story.  Smell Ratings: 5 = excellent, 1 = odorless, 2-4 = you figure it out.  Book Key: hc = hardcover / tp = trade paperback / mmp - mass market paperback / rarer forms described.  Unless otherwise noted, all reviews are by Nick Cato)

MAL CONTENTS (v/a) (2011 Grand Mal Press / 189 pp / tp)

This collection of four novellas begins with Randy Chandler's HOWLER, about a hairy girl (nick-named Wolf Girl) who leaves a brothel to work as a circus side-show freak.  She becomes close with a pair of Jewish performers until a gang of redneck Nazis attack, all the while being mentally tormented by a strange, squid-like creature.  It's a violent, heart-breaking tale that gets things off to a great start.

Next up is THE MUSHROOMS by Gregory L. Norris, where TV cooking show host Sunny Weir is assaulted by a would-be chef who failed to make it onto a competition program.  When Sunny goes to an isolated house to relax and heal from her injuries, her assailant takes revenge in a supernatural way.  Norris gets the chills going and (amazingly) manages to make a mushroom-creature anything but campy.

My favorite of the bunch is Ryan C. Thomas' CHOOSE, about a computer store owner who is almost killed when someone enters his store and puts a gun to his temple, claiming he has made his life a living hell.  But instead of shooting, the mysterious gunmen gives him a choice: by midnight this night, he must shoot and kill either his wife or teenage daughter, or he'll kill all three of them.  A cop sent to protect the family is quickly dispatched, and despite hiding in another town there seems to be no escape from this otherwordly psycho.  Thomas' tale is tight, full of nail-biting suspense and is one of the darker short stories I've read this year.

Ending things is David T. Wilbanks' THE OUTSIDER TRIO.  After two years, a man returns to proclaim his love for his girlfriend only to find she has been missing for six months.  Malcom learns Violet (a professional violinist) has been kidnapped by some kind of cult-like musician, and with the help of an occult practicioner, manages to track her down, being held prisoner in another dimension.  TRIO features some dark humor and all kinds of weird monsters, making for a fun way to wrap up a satisfying collection.

Smell Rating: 2

A PACK OF WOLVES by Eric S. Brown (2011 Grand Mal Press / Kindle Edition 176 KB)

A family is reunited and on a mission.  Graham, Zed, Yule, Sarah and Shannon are looking for their brother Samuel who is trying to raise an army.  This is no ordinary family.  They are a pack of werewolves—pure blooded.  Samuel has a very deep hatred of humans since witnessing his parents’ murder when just a boy.  That hatred has led him to seek out dark magic and a very powerful spirit that will allow Samuel to enact his revenge. 

Samuel is making his way across America’s Western frontier, slaughtering most and creating his army out of the strongest humans he comes across.  They are called the Created and they are inferior to the pure werewolves.  Samuel also has the help of a mysterious man dressed in white with the voice of an angel.  The family is on his trail…but can they stop Samuel before his plans reach fruition?

Set in the American Old West, A PACK OF WOLVES is a fast-paced, action-packed novella full of memorable characters.  Eric S. Brown has differentiated between pure werewolves and those created by accident or happenstance, endowing each family/pack member with a different strength, besides the obvious.  Character development is excellent and the story contains a few surprises, some that will be recognizable to regular readers of Brown’s work.  The prose is tight and flows easily and Brown keeps things unpredictable, which is a huge plus in my book.

Having already helped redefine the zombie sub-genre, Eric S. Brown continues to push the boundaries of the horror genre.  Brown has revitalized zombies, Bigfoot and aliens, and now seems to be expanding on the phenomenon of Western horror.  A PACK OF WOLVES is a must-get for any horror fan’s collection.

-Colleen Wanglund

NORTHWOODS DEEP by Joel Arnold (2011 Studio City Media Endeavors / 374 pp / tp)

Books like this are a big part of why I’ll never be the outdoorsy type. 

Isn’t that enough, without also having to hike, camp, canoe, or otherwise endure the miseries of blisters, mosquitos and lack of indoor potties before you even GET to the REALLY bad parts? Like, hey, having a miserable time yet? Let’s make it WORSE!!!

Let’s bring on a spooky little cabin in the middle of nowhere, some creepy psychos, demonic dogs, mutilations, murders, unspeakable violations … 

Yep, NORTHWOODS DEEP is one of those books. This is the stuff a low-budget indie summer horror movie could be made of.

It even goes a step further, because one of the characters – Carol – is looking to escape an already miserable situation. She’s being stalked by her abusive jerk of an ex-husband, who’s got his buddies and even his mother helping in the harrassment. To Carol, a back-to-nature getaway with her sister seems like a reprieve, a real improvement. 

Except, of course, her ex finds out about her travel plans and decides to surprise her along the way … only, he’s in for a surprise himself … as are the sisters’ brother and dad, who go looking for them … and a friend they meet along the way … there’s surprises in store for everybody, and none of those surprises are very nice. 

The cover’s eye-catching, it’s a solid 360-ish pages of good-looking book with minor editorial/proofreading problems here and there. Some of its story threads seem to trail off at loose ends – there’s a moment where one of the characters thinks “It all makes sense now, it all makes sense” and as I read it I remember wishing it made sense to me. 

So, overall, I found NORTHWOODS DEEP to be an okay read, entertaining, with several flinch-inducing scenes and a general aftertaste of eew. No Richard Laymon, of course, but then what else is? 

-Christine Morgan

THE NOCTUARY by Greg Chapman (2011 Damnation Books / 56 pp / tp)

Chapman's latest novella is a sort-of homage to Clive Barker, but unlike other "homages" this one has its own voice and style.

Struggling writer Simon Ryan falls into the hands of creatures who are the incarnations of dark muse: they offer him a chance to re-write his abusive life story, but things don't turn out the way Simon had intended.

And just when Simon thinks he'll forever be a scribe for the underworld, a former captive of these creatures helps him escape...although his new-found reality could be darker than ever before.

THE NOCTUARY blends supernatural and real-life horrors quite well.  Kudos to Chapman for dealing with a side-plot of child abuse in a non-exploitative (but still chilling) manner.

SANTA STEPS OUT by Robert Devereaux (2011 Deadite Press / 294 pp / tp)

You know how people sometimes bemoan that this or that is “ruining” their childhoood? 

Maybe it’s some remake or sequel to something they cherished as a kid … the 2010 Clash of the Titans, for instance … or 2008’s A Miser Brothers Christmas. Maybe it’s any of the countless Rule 34 violations (for which there are no exceptions), presenting beloved iconic characters in a whole new light. Maybe it’s a Weird Al parody or an episode of South Park. 

Whatever it is, you know how when it tarnishes, despoils, drags down and utterly debases in unspeakable ways something held near and dear to the heart, people say that thing about it ruining their childhood?

From now on, whenever I hear that complaint, I will think of this book and I will just LAUGH. Because, honey, you think your childhood’s been ruined already? Oh, dear me, you haven’t seen anything yet. 

Robert Devereaux’s SANTA STEPS OUT Steps Out is a nonstop sex-romp slathered in gore. It takes the cherished, benign, commercially-sanitized, popular images of Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, and corrupts them in ways that have to be read to be believed. 

Check those fond memories at the door and get ready to be startled … shocked … horrified … maybe even offended and outraged … though really, if you think those latter two might apply, you may want to consider saving your sanity. 

At this most wonderful time of the year, when the news is full of histrionic war-on-holidays hoopla, there’s always eventually the mention of how much of current religion and tradition is taken from pagan roots anyway. That’s the underlying element in this book as well: the gods, myths, and mythic figures of old have been transformed. 

Santa Claus and his cheery band of elves used to be older, wilder powers, forces of nature … the lusty Pan and his faun-followers. The side of Santa that has been subsumed, buried, and blocked off is reawakened when he crosses paths with the Tooth Fairy, once a nymph, one Christmas Eve. 

To call it an affair is putting it mildly. The resulting relationship spans decades and leads to all kinds of troubles, not the least of which occurs when sweet Mrs. Claus finds out and demands he gives up his mistress. That thing about how hell hath no fury like a woman scorned gets kicked up a few notches when immortals are involved. The jilted Tooth Fairy recruits the already-teetering-towards-depravity Easter Bunny as an accomplice in her revenge plot, the hapless elves find themselves put to work in a far different capacity than toymaking, and to top it off, Santa falls in love with a mortal woman, a nice single mom. That’s when it really hits the fan. 

So, yeah. Nonstop sex-romp slathered in gore. It’s sickeningly fun, squickeningly hot, hilariously disturbing, childhood-ruining holiday porn. 

Worst of all, not only did I greatly enjoy this book, I have several friends for whom it’d make the ideal present! 

-Christine Morgan

(EDITOR'S NOTE: SANTA STEPS OUT was originally published in hardcover in 1998 and mass market paperback in 2000.  Next month, Christine takes a look at the long-awaited sequel, SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE HOMOPHOBES.  We kid you not.  -Nick)

BEYOND THE BARRIERS by Timothy W. Long (2011 Permuted Press / 221 pp / eBook)

Erik Tragger is ex-military, divorced and living in a small Oregon town when the dead start to rise.  Erik gathers up some supplies from his home and decides to ride out the end of the world in a secluded cabin in the mountains.  After months of isolation and hearing no news from the world Erik decides to try to make it back to his town and see about getting more supplies, which are beginning to run dangerously low.

What he finds upon his return is not what Erik expected.  It seems there are more than just your run of the mill zombies to contend with.  Saved from certain death by a group of survivors in an abandoned Walmart, Erik discovers that the ghouls he encountered were humans who fed on the flesh of zombies.  At first it was out of desperation but it has quickly become apparent that these ghouls want to make more of their kind—a freakish zombie/human hybrid.

After helping the group from the super store get away so they can head to Portland, Erik ends up back at the cabin with Katherine, another survivor.  After some months they are attacked and forced back to the town they originally fled from.  What ultimately awaits Erik in this new and dangerous world is beyond anything he could have imagined.
BEYOND THE BARRIERS is another book that attempts to take the zombie sub-genre in a new direction and Long succeeds in that effort.  BARRIERS sets up a very frightening scenario for the end of the world and it is a book that I could not put down.  Characters are well-developed and have a depth that enables the reader to connect to them.  The ending is rather unexpected and left intentionally vague….I’m hoping that means a sequel?  Anyway, having seen a glut of zombies in the horror genre, I am pleased to see writers like Timothy Long taking risks and their zombies into new directions.  Get this book.

-Colleen Wanglund

THE RED EMPIRE AND OTHER STORIES by Joe McKinney (2012 Redrum Horror / 356 pp / tp)

McKinney, best known for his Dead World zombie novels, here delivers a collection featuring a novella and seven shorts, most with a police-theme.

In the novella THE RED EMPIRE, a secret military bio-weapon is accidentally unleashed on a small town where a woman and her young daughter (who is recovering from having cornea implants) are trying to get home during a heavy rain storm.  Adding to the problem is an escaped cop killer, who seeks refuge in the woman's isolated home.  While the story is action-packed and will give you the willies, it's almost as if the killer-ant thing takes a back seat to the psycho/hostage drama.  Good, if a bit uneven.

'Blemish' is a love/ghost story dealing with a cop who ends up leaving the force, and while I didn't find it spooky, McKinney's take on ghosts and lost love is well done.  'Cold Case' deals with a rookie cop who becomes fascinated with the story of a cop who was slain during his second day on the force...back in 1900.  Why this short tale (which originally appeared on a true crime blog) was included in a horror fiction collection is anyone's guess.

My favorite piece here is titled 'The Old Man Under the Sea,' an addictive tale featuring Ernest Hemmingway in Cuba--fresh off a boxing match with Louis Lamour--who becomes enticed by a young girl, only to have her father threaten his life if he doesn't help him with a dangerous diving expedition.  The suspense and mystery here never lets up, and McKinney handles this classic literary figure in a slick way.

'The Millstone' is a pointless trailer-trash outing about two sisters, their wacky neighbor, a cheating boyfriend, and an axe.  Likewise, 'Empty Room' is a sort-of ghost tale about a suicidal would-be father.  And a pistol.  Both tales are forgettable.

The very-well done 'Burning Finger Man' pits a cop assigned to a housing project against an impossible-to-grab freak who molests women in the hallways then seemingly vanishes. Its cast of crackheads and hood rats gives it a genuine hood-film feel. The collection concludes with 'Eyes Open,' an apocalyptic/Lovecraftian yarn about a cop who becomes "enlightened" by a schziophrenic homeless man about a coming calamity.  I'm a sucker for cult-themed stories and this one's quite satisfying.

THE RED EMPIRE AND OTHER STORIES is all over the place, which is fine; but coming from a new small press dedicated to horror fiction, I was surprised to see so many non-genre stories in the mix.  The good tales heavily outweight the bad (and thankfully, the longer stories are the more memorable), so it's still worth your time.  This is the first I've read from McKinney and it's easy to see why he has so much material out there.

INHERENT DARK by Thomas James Brown (2011 Thomas Jane Brown / 94 pp / tp)

INHERENT DARK is a sort of fairy-tale retelling, with the Deadly Sins personified as entities not demon and not fae but reminiscent of both. The book contains one story for each of the seven, with the stories more or less interlinked. 

There’s nice use of description, and the language strives to be stylistic of the classic fairy tales. Some are more strongly written than others, with some clever twists. Overall, though, the writing is passive, a little stuffy, not as vibrant as the underlying idea seems to call for. 

The book opens with a series of authorial notes on the origins of each story, which probably should have been presented at the end rather that the beginning … partly for spoiler reasons, mainly because they’re on the pompous, self-congratulatory side. 

For a self-published book, it’s not bad. I’ve certainly seen worse. But I’ve also seen better. 

-Christine Morgan

RETURN TO DARKNESS by Michael Laimo (2011 Bad Moon Books / 337 pp / tp)

This sequel to the author's 2004 DEEP IN THE DARKNESS picks up right where things left off seven years ago.  The backstory: Dr. Michael Cayle--who has moved his family from Manhattan to a small town in New Hampshire--becomes a slave to a race of small creatures known as Isolates.  They hold his wife and daughter prisoner as they force Michael to heal their sick and mend their wounded in their underground lair.  The creatures have control of everyone in town, and five surrounding towns are also under their spell, making escape impossible.

RETURN TO DARKNESS finds Dr. Michael about to committ suicide, when the thought of his wife and daughter out there in the woods convinces him to go on with the hellish ordeal.  His wife--having been raped by an Isolate and given birth to a demon baby in the first novel--now has Isolate DNA running through her veins.  She appears to Michael as a half human/half monster...but his young daughter Jessica still seems to be all human.  The only way for Michael to get his family back is to have a different person sacrifice an animal to the creatures...a feat that was put on him by an alleged friend, a ritual that has been the town's dark tradition for centuries.

A family of four move in to the neighborhood, and before long Michael plans ways to get one of them to take his place.  But the father is a drunk lunatic, his wife and teenage son no better.  The eighteen-year-old daughter Shea, however, takes a liking to Michael, and before long helps him find his daughter while he helps her to get revenge on her father who has raped and abused her since she was a child.

What follows is a bloody horrific time as Michael--with increasingly poor health due to struggles with the Isolates--plots a way to escape the cursed town with his daughter, all the while wondering what to do about his possessed wife and his feelings for the young girl who risks life and limb to help him.

Like DEEP IN THE DARKNESS, RETURN is chock-full of suspense, plenty of scares and creepy atmosphere, and an impending sense of doom that'll leave readers breathless.  Laimo gives the "ancient evil in a small town" thing a fresh kick in the pants here, delivering a sequel that's every bit as frightening as its predecessor.  This is MUST reading for fans of DEEP, and while newbies will get a better effect if they read DEEP first, there's still enough background given to make it work as a stand alone novel.

The seven year wait for RETURN was well worth it, from its fast paced opening right up to the darker than dark finale.

Smell Rating: 2

DEAD HUNGER by Eric A. Shelman (2011 Dolphin Moon Publishing / 268 pp / tp)

When the zombie apocalypse happened Flex Sheridan was on the phone with his sister Jamie.  Flex knows something is very wrong so he makes his way to Jamie’s house only to find she is a zombie and her husband and daughter Jesse are dead.  Flex does find his niece Trina as well as his lost love Gem.

A virus has attacked the living and turned them into zombies by destroying the brain.  The main symptom is a migraine-like headache.  Flex and Gem decide to make their way to the CDC in Atlanta to look for other survivors and hopefully find a cure so they can save Jamie.  Along the way they pick up Hemp, a scientist who is determined to find the cause of the apocalypse.  What they ultimately discover about the zombies is truly frightening.

The first in a planned series of zombie apocalypse novels, DEAD HUNGER reminds me of a pulp novel.  Some of the scenarios were a little too-good-to-be-true as were the main characters, but it is very entertaining.  The novel is well-written and a fast-paced read.  Character development is very good as is Eric Shelman’s curve ball where the zombies are concerned.

DEAD HUNGER has some interesting twists and an unpredictable nail-biter of an ending, which is a great thing in my opinion.  Overall I enjoyed DEAD HUNGER and believe Shelman has penned a cool addition to zombie apocalypse lit.

-Colleen Wanglund


PURE by Julianna Baggott (to be released February 8, 2012 by Grand Central Publishing / 448 pp / hc & eBook)

Since this one came to me as a proof copy, I don’t know if the cover it had will be the final cover it ends up with on the shelves … if so, it’ll be a risky choice in terms of marketing. Because it’s a matte-white, with the title on the front and the author on the spine in lettering of shiny white, no images, no text at all. It does make a statement, I’ll give it that, but both of my test subjects (the husband and the teen) said they’d be disinclined to pick it up based on such a cover.   (EDITORS NOTE: We've FOUND the cover art!  -Nick)

That said, the story inside is fantastic! It lands somewhere in the territory between McCammon’s Swan Song and Collins’ The Hunger Games, a near-future post-holocaust setting meant for the YA set but entirely accessible and engrossing to the older reader. 

In Pure, society is divided into the haves and the have-nots, several years after a devastating event called the Detonations. 

The haves were those who reached the Dome in time, sheltered from the blasts and radiation inside its controlled environment. They live regimented, orderly lives where their resource-consumption / usefulness ratio is considered, where their fates are decided for them, where likely boys are “coded” for enhancements in intellect and athleticism, where girls are designated worthy of reproducing or not, all depending on aptitude and genetics. To them, the people outside are “wretches,” the savage and insane who refused sanctuary. 

Outside of the Dome, it’s all very different. They view the people of the Dome as “Pures,” the lucky untouched, because their world is a blasted hellscape where survivors exist as best they can, each sporting a different disfigurement or mutation as a result of the Detonations. That bit, I found, was the best, most haunting, most creatively imagined aspect of the whole book. The oh-wow-too-cool factor, which hearkens to the Wild Card novels and the entire spectrum of ace and joker abilities. 

Some wretches are “fused” with whatever they happened to be in contact with at the time, resulting in strange living amalgams of human and inanimate object, or animal, or other human. These range from mild (a speckling of glass fused with a person’s skin) to bizarre (one character has living birds embedded in his back, another’s lower leg is fused with the spine of a dog so he has a dog-foot) to severe (“Groupies” are masses of conjoined people stuck forever together, “Dusts” are scraps of sentience merged mostly with the ground, “Beasts” are so animalistic they’ve lost any semblance of humanity). 

Our main characters are Pressia and Partridge. Pressia, whose fist is fused with a doll’s head (the eyes still blink when she tips her hand back and forth, one of the creepiest touches ever!), lives in the wreckage with her grandfather and ekes out a living trading little sculptures she makes from debris. Partridge is a Pure, the son of a Dome leader who should be destined for a productive place but finds himself unfit for coding, and unsettled when he begins to realize that the histories he’s been told are far from the truth. 

So, Partridge finds a way to escape the Dome … he runs into Pressia … with her help as well as that of rebellious conspiracy freedom-fighter Bradwell, they seek to uncover the truth, expose the conspiracy, and find the facts. Which, as they soon discover, are a lot farther-reaching than they had ever imagined. 

Their adventures and a cast of engaging sub-plots with secondary characters (the Dome’s treatment of Partridge’s accidental accomplice, Lyda … the dysfunctional relationship of soldier el Capitan and his fused younger brother) make for a rich and engaging read. I will definitely be on the lookout for the sequel, and told the teen enough about it to win her over despite her initial reaction to the cover. 

I stand envious of Ms. Baggott’s vision as well as her ability to carry it off with such deft skill. Heck, I was 350 pages into it before it dawned on me that the whole thing was in present-tense, too, and that is a hard trick to pull off smoothly! 

Awesome stuff. Very recommended.

-Christine Morgan

BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE APOCALYPSE DONKEYS (2011 Copeland Valley Press / 174 pp / tp and limited edition hardcover)

While there's no squids, living sex dolls, or obscure foot fetishists in Krall's latest novella, it turned out to be one of the author's strangest (and best) offerings to if you're a bizarro lover pay attention:

Gary Lancaster reviews obscure films exclusively for print publications.  He's on a mission to find a rare film---one he had seen bits and pieces of at a young age.  He manages to track down a crude VHS copy of THE APOCALYPSE DONKEY, his journey taking him to a modern day nudist colony where he meets a sexy older woman in a donkey mask, who he hooks up with.  Trouble starts when her jealous husband (a professional daredevil) finds out and tries to kill him.  Things take a wicked turn when daredevil "Big" Bill Stapleton tries to run Gary over in a diner before he teams up with a flamboyant Mexican chef.

The rest is classic Krall, combining cult film camp with surreal situations and plenty of off key humor.  If you're a fan you'll want this...if you're new to bizarro you just might lose your mind.

There's also plenty of nifty extras here, especially in the limited hardcover edition (a preface, introduction, and foreword from three different authors, as well as a hysterical afterword by Matthew Revert and Krall's interesting notes on the text of each chapter PLUS another Krall short story).  BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE APOCALYPSE DONKEYS gives the feel of a 60s/70s H.G. Lewis/Russ Meyer nudie movie meshed with a classic underground midnight cult film.

You gotta love it...

Smell Rating: 4

HEART OF GLASS by David Winnick (2011 Bad Moon Books / tp)

This slim little volume contains a single story that, while well-written, only served to whet the appetite. The characters – Adam and his disaffected wife, Sonia – are vivid and sympathetic enough that you really want to get to know them better, you want to find out more about what brought their marriage to its empty, going-through-the-motions state. 

And, of course, you want to know lots more about the peculiar glass jigsaw puzzle Adam brings home one day from an antiquing outing (presumably the Heart of Glass of the title). 

But, just when all this is warming up in your mind, just when things are nicely spooky in a psychological and emotional sense, the story takes a sudden Twilight Zone turn and then it’s over. 

Kind of disappointing, really. A sample, a taste, and that’s it. Maybe if there’d been more stories to make a collection, I might’ve felt more satisfied. A forty page book of which the story takes up twenty-six pages … I read it in a matter of minutes and was left with a sense of “well, NOW what?”

-Christine Morgan

THE BRAINPAN CONCERTO by Kurt Newton (2011 Sideshow Press /  123 pp / tp)

A musical maniac is kidnapping those with extrodinary musical talent, removing their skull caps and tapping into their brains to record some of the most original music ever heard by human ears.  With the help of a computer hacker, a young music fan manages to track  the lunatic down, only to become another hostage.

On the case are detectives Saul and Gwen, both with their own jaded pasts, an annoying, sexist boss, and they currently happen to be falling for each other.  Along with the young boy, Saul eventually becomes hostage to the maniac's musical scalpel, leaving no other choice but for Gwen to come to the rescue.

THE BRAINPAN CONCERTO features a nifty idea for the killings and has some truly gruesome moments, and despite the standard police fare, I found Newton's quick novella a fine way to spend an hour or so.

Smell Rating: 1


ENORMITY by W.G. Marshall (to be released February, 2012 by Night Shade Books / 280 pp / tp)

Manny Lopes is an American working in Korea, is sort-of married and is sort-of having an affair with a co-worker.  One day an accidental (or is it?) quantum explosion occurs, turning Manny into the size of a of the BIGGEST characters ever to appear in a novel.

While Korea is dealing with him (every step he takes causes tsunamis and destroys entire towns), a second giant is spotted near Japan.  It turns out she's a North Korean assassin named Yoon-sook, who worships The Wizard of Oz, and as Manny goes to meet up with her, her government makes her change course for the United States.  Manny's allies manage to hook up to his ear drum and speak with him, guiding him on his cross-planet trek.

Manny and Yoon-sook met up in an odd confrontation at the Grand Canyon; Manny tries to convice her that since they're the only two giants on the planet, they should unite.  His sweet talking leads to one of the more bizarre sex scenes in recent memory, although Yoon-sook uses it to her advantage.

With another strange creature emerging from this unusual meeting, some great side characters, dark humor and plenty of social commentary, ENORMITY is a fun homage to the sci-fi creature features of the 50s.  The detail that Marshall gives in explaining what such a large person might be like (from the aforementioned walking effects down to the germs on his skin) makes this quite an imaginative read, and one you'll whiz through in no time.  KUDOS for a politically incorrect Muslim named Salim Ali, who rides inside Yook-sook's ear and does something that might have Islamic groups up in arms...yet I laughed my ass off.

Don't miss this.

SUBJECT SEVEN by James A. Moore (2011 Razorbill {an imprint of Penguin Group} / 328 pp / tp)

Some years ago a private company established a secret facility in order to create the perfect weapon for the military.  Initially the experiments proved a failure but one of the test subjects escaped.  Over the years Subject Seven has used his unique abilities to survive and track down the people responsible for his existence.  He has also discovered that there are others like him living in total ignorance of what they really are.  Subject Seven has sent out a command and awoken the other teens from their long slumber.  As Joe Bronx, Subject Seven has gathered the other teens in Boston and told them what they really are.  However, he has decided to keep his true motives a secret for the time being.  Now Evelyn Hope, one of the few survivors from the night of Seven’s escape, is determined to stop them and bring them back alive.

SUBJECT SEVEN is Moore’s first Young Adult novel but it is just as appealing for adults.  The story is compelling, and more violent than I would have expected from a YA title.  Character development is excellent and the teens’ personalities are diverse and relatable.  They are average kids from different backgrounds but once transformed become dangerous and almost indestructible monsters….for that is what they were created to be.  They are also sympathetic characters—they had no control or say in what was done to them by adults that were supposed to protect them.

SUBJECT SEVEN is a frightening page-turner that ends with quite the cliffhanger, as it is the first in a series…and I am greatly anticipating the next novel.  It is a fantastic read for older teens and adults alike.

-Colleen Wanglund

DAWN OF WAR (BLOOD WAR TRILOGY) by Tim Marquitz (2011 CreateSpace / 218 pp / tp)

On the planet Ahreele a devastating war has begun.  The savage and animalistic Grol have recently acquired powerful magic weapons from the land of the Sha’ree, a mystical people long thought to be dead.  Arrin, a man living in exile for the last fifteen years has seen the devastation first hand and has gone back to his home of Lathah to warn them of the approaching doom.  

Cael is a young boy whose home of Nurin has been overrun and destroyed by the Korme, who are loosely allied with the Grol using the same magic weapons.  While making a desperate run into the Dead Lands he meets two Sha’ree who are on a mission to warn civilization as well as gather together the bearers of far older magic to defeat the enemies of peace.  Cael carries one of these ancient devices.

Domor of the Vel attempts to make his way through the Dead Lands as well to find his family in Nurin.  He, along with his blood companion run into other enemies with magic weapons but are saved by the two Sha’ree and the Pathra, cat people who are allies of the human Lathans.

Can a small band of people from different lands join with their allies and defeat their enemies?  And who is Sultae of the Sha’ree and what of the plague that supposedly killed them all?  The band of hopeful heroes must also contend with the Tumult, a time when the two moons cross paths and wreak havoc on the planet.

DAWN OF WAR, book one of the trilogy is Tim Marquitz’s first foray into fantasy fiction and he has done an exceptional job.  There is a lot going on and there are many points of view to follow but Marquitz keeps it all tight and easy to follow.  Character development is very good, keeping each race of people easily identifiable.  This first book introduces the various points of view and ends on just the proper note, leaving the reader wanting to read more.  I’m not generally big on fantasy, but I enjoyed DAWN OF WAR immensely.  I think you will, too.

-Colleen Wanglund 

DEAD TIDE RISING by Stephen A. North (2010 CreateSpace / 270 pp / tp)

In DEAD TIDE, Stephen A. North introduced us to various people attempting to survive and escape the newly begun zombie apocalypse in Pinellas Park, Florida.  DEAD TIDE RISING continues with those chaotic first few hours and days of the collapse of civilization.  The president’s wife and children were in St. Petersburg when it all went to Hell.  A cruise ship was attacked by the military for violating the quarantine imposed on the city and surrounding suburbs.  Two groups of people, including public servants, attempt to make it out of the station and get to one of the supposed safe evacuation zones.  Another group who escaped the carnage at the harbor is assessing their situation in a boat on the bay.  And one soldier has gone completely off the deep end.  

Not everyone will survive.  The military initially issued a shoot to kill order for both infected and uninfected alike.  The government is in shambles and dealing with mutiny in the ranks.  Not even the president is safe in his hidden bunker.  People are dying at the hands of the zombies and each other.  Will anyone make it out alive?

I really liked North’s first book DEAD TIDE and now love its sequel DEAD TIDE RISING.  The book seamlessly continues the initial chaos from the first book and in the same tone.  There are no scenarios that would or could be considered too ridiculous even for apocalyptic fiction.  Character development is just right for the run and gun style of North’s writing.  The story’s pacing is quick and even and keeps the attention to the unpredictable events throughout the story.  No character is sacred.  Stephen A. North once again does a great job with the zombie sub-genre.

-Colleen Wanglund


Jeff Strand returns with the long awaited 4th novel in his ANDREW MAYHEM series...


  1. Nick, I missed the end of the month by two days. Is that unacceptable?
    Yep, this is a book review request. I love the site and thought I'd give it a shot. Forgive me if I missed the deadline. I do understand if you're swamped and don't have time for this, but the novel in question is Lustmord: Anatomy of a Serial Butcher Vol. 1 (of 6). Currently available on Goodreads as a FREE download for fans of horror.

    Volumes 1 - 3 can be picked up on Amazon at a reasonable price. Volumes 4 thru 6 should be out in June.

    Thanks for being there. And like I said, I apologize if I'm too late.

    Kirk Alex
    writer/director Lunch Meat

  2. Sorry Kirk...currently not taking submissions---we're beyond swamped. Keep your eye on the bottom of our main page here for updates. Thanks!