DECEMBER 2013 REVIEWS
(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.)
SNOWBLIND by Christopher Golden (to be released 1-21-14 by St. Martin's Press / 320 pp / hc, eBook, and audiobook)
Twelve years ago in the small New England town of Coventry, a wicked blizzard brought with it an unusual terror that took several lives and affected the entire populace, even those who haven't lost loved ones.
Now there's another storm heading to Coventry, one forecasters are saying could be as bad or worse as the one from 12 years earlier. Among the townsfolk we meet a photographer named Jake, who had lost his brother Isaac during that terrible night. But when he wakes one morning shortly before the next big storm approaches, he finds a young boy wandering around his home, sounding eerily like his late brother. There's detective Joe Keenan, who is still haunted by a young boy he wasn't able to save during the big storm; this time he's determined to locate a missing child no matter what it takes, even as the snow begins piling up at a rapid pace. And then there's Doug, who still has no idea how his wife Cherie died back then. He's now working with two crooks in an attempt to rob the richer homes in the area come the next storm, and is also in a new relationship with a promising future. But paranoia as well as unusual figures in the storm end up standing in his way.
SNOWBLIND takes these characters (and a few more) and throws them into a suspenseful tale that blends ghosts and possession into something fresh; and as if that wasn't enough, there are unusual supernatural creatures added to the mix to make sure no one is safe at any moment.
This one takes a bit to get going, but is never boring; the horror builds slowly but the payoff in the final act is well worth it. Golden brings each person of Coventry to life and makes the snow as much a character as the people. And best of all, he delivers a genuinely spooky ghost story that also happens to be one of the more original takes on ghosts since T.M. Wright's 1984 classic A MANHATTAN GHOST STORY. Save this one for a snowy day for maximum effect...
CANDY HOUSE by Kate Jonez (2013 Evil Jester Press / 256 pp / tp & eBook)
For a debut novel, this is quite good despite Jonez throwing an awful lot of "is it real or not" at the reader that at times can get a bit frustrating. If not for the colorful cast I might not have enjoyed this as much as I did, but Jonez is one author I'll definitely be keeping my eye on. Fans of strange fiction should eat this CANDY HOUSE up...
THE COLONY: DESCENT by Michaelbrent Collings (2013 Amazon Digital / 199 pp / tp & eBook)
The Fastest Keyboard in the West is back with the third installment of his full-bore, fast-paced zombie-mutant outbreak! I’m reluctantly forced to admit that, okay, maybe releasing them in serials like this is a good move … much as I tend to fall into the greedy GIMME NOW camp, the relentless intensity would have gotten overwhelming and exhausting.
The already-cranked stress levels increase as our small group of survivors continues their seemingly-doomed race to escape or at least stay ahead of the persistent throngs. Heck, they’re still trying to get out of the building from the second book.
Descent, as this one is called, lives up to its name. It makes the harrowing elevator shafts of Book II look almost pleasant by comparison … when your best route leads down the tilted, smoldering fuselage of an airliner that crash-landed sticking partway through the wall …
Things aren’t looking good for the group. They’ve already suffered some terrible losses, and some terrible near-misses. Worse yet, something’s happening to the kids, threatening to further tear apart the family that protagonist Ken has fought so hard to reunite. Are they contaminated? Changing? Possessed?
No time to try and find out. Must keep going. Must pick through the damaged airplane, which still has many of its unfortunate passengers strapped into their seats – GAH then they’re getting up too, it’s a cramped-quarters zombie chase with spilled luggage, and even if they can reach the bottom, that’s where it looks like the FIRE is …
Yeah. Whew. Relentless intensity, the wrenching torment of parents trying to protect their children from unknowable fates, the hideous helplessness of being stuck having to watch as those around you sacrifice themselves …
And then, for those who actually do reach the street, having to descend further yet … having to go underground … where even that turns out not to be much of a refuge …
Of course, then the book up and ENDS again and we gotta wait for the NEXT one and aaaaaaaaaaaagh!
BROKEN SIGIL by William Meikle (to be released January, 2014 by DarkFuse / 55 pp / eBook & limited edition hc)
Joe Connors is called to investigate a murder in a seedy building. He discovers the body belongs to his ex-partner, who was also a close childhood friend ... as well as the man who had an affair with his wife, Brenda. As Joe questions people in the building, he begins to uncover dark secrets about his late and his old friend, and finds himself drawn into a supernatural world that he simply can not deny.
Meikle's novella is a quick read that blends modern crime noir with occultic themes, and delivers a couple of solid chills in-between the hard-as-nails investigating. To reveal any more about this short tale would do it a diservice, but those into haunted houses (and The Maltese Falcon) will enjoy the author's take on the subgenre. Add a plus for the most chain-smoking I've ever seen a detective partake in...
BONE WHISPERS by Tim Waggoner (2013 Post Mortem Press / 269 pp / tp)
Waggoner's prose sucks you in in each story, and whether the tale is straight-forward or bizarre, there's not an entry here that can be ignored. If you like horror on the weird side, this is a must read, and even if you don't, give BONE WHISPERS a try anyway. It's a refreshing alternative to your by-the-numbers horror fiction.
Smell Rating: 2
NEPTUNE'S BROOD by Charles Stross (2013 Ace / 325 pp / hc)
Smell Rating: 4
THE SUMMER JOB by Adam Cesare (to be released 1-7-13 by Samhain Publishing / 245 pp / tp & eBook)
Smell Rating: 1
BLOOD BETRAYAL by Alison Beightol (2012 Charles River Press / 400 pp / tp)
THE HORROR FICTION REVIEW thanks all of our readers for the TEN YEARS of support! See you in 2014...