Monday, September 1, 2014

Reviews for the Week of September 1, 2014

NOTE: Please see bottom of main page for submission info. Thank you.

FRAGMENT by Warren Fahy (2010 Dell / 528 pp / hardcover, trade paperback, mass market paperback & eBook)

I was planning to have a more productive weekend. I spent most of Saturday reading this book instead. And, as the meme-cat says, I REGRET NUFFIN’. 

What with smaller presses and ebooks and all, it’d been a while since I sat down with a good ol’ traditional size mass market paperback. And a while further since I sat down and read a whole 500-pager in a day. 

I mean, people, c’mon, to make you understand how momentous this is, I walked away from the INTERNET. No multi-tasking, no television in the background. I just sat and read with my whole undivided attention. It captivated, it demanded, it would brook no less. 

“Okay, Christine,” maybe you’re saying. “We get it; get on with it, what’s it about, this amazing riveting read?” 

Well, basically, it takes every lost world / undiscovered species / final earthly frontier / extinction / evolution all that stuff and blows them away. Just blows them the [bleep] away. Blurb comparisons to Jurassic Park are practically laughable; this is the book Michael Crichton cries himself to sleep wishing he’d written. 

There’s this island, see? Henders Island, it’s called, after the captain of the only known vessel ever to set a man aground there (over 200 years ago, and by ‘a’ man I mean exactly that, one hapless sailor who met a grim fate before the rest of the crew was full sail the hell outta there and never mind searching for fresh water). 

It’s about as in the middle of nowhere as is possible on the planet, surrounded by over a thousand miles of open ocean on every side. Add in that it’s tiny, and that it consists of a ring of sheer cliffs around what appears to be a spent volcanic crater, and it’s no wonder hardly anyone’s heard of it. 

To the producers of the reality show SeaLife, however, picking up an old distress call from the vicinity might be the perfect opportunity to boost their flagging ratings. The hoped-for drama among their team of scientists could use a little spice, and a change of scenery would do them all good. 

Well, they’re right about the ratings and the drama, but the change in scenery does them anything but good. People thought the divergent evolution of Australia and the Galapagos was weird? Kiddie stuff compared to Henders Island. EVERYTHING we know about the natural world – invasive species, predator/prey relationships, plant and animal life, everything – is kiddie stuff compared to Henders Island. 

It might as well be a whole alien world. Which would be fine, and fascinating in and of itself, but humanity has a pretty terrible track record when it comes to keeping anything isolated. 

Warning: if you have a thing about bugs (as I do) or freaky crustacean bug-like critters (as I also do), or biohazard infestation contamination (guess what) … you could be made a smidge uncomfy. Where “smidge” = metric boatloads, and “uncomfy” = nightmares for a week at least. 

Right when you think you know where the story’s headed, every time you think so, along come new twists, curveballs, surprises, and gobsmack moments of sheer WHOA. Best, or perhaps worst and certainly creepiest of all, is the all-around believability. Of the science, the characters, the works. 

This may well be the best book I’ll read this year … except that I’ve also got the sequel standing by, and am just trying to make myself be disciplined enough to wait until I’ve made some progress on various deadlines.

-Christine Morgan

100 NIGHTMARES by K.Z. Morano (2014 Amazon Digital / 171 pp / eBook)

I am not a big fan of flash fiction or in this case Micro-Fiction (I never have been. Maybe a select few collections here and there but for the most part, not really.) But what we have here is quite the feat. Morano manages to put together a 100 story (yes, 100 story) collection of some of the most original and powerful Micro-Fiction that I’ve seen to date in the horror genre. But, that’s not all. She attempts (and gracefully succeeds) in writing these stories with 100 words, hence the Micro-fiction. The author further manages to do this with quick, witty, powerful, bizarre, and brutal one-liners that hit nothing short of hard. The imagery captured is brilliant, and, at the same time, horrific. It keeps you on the edge of your seat like a flopping fish. A cinder block to the back of the head so to speak, leaving the reader shocked, taunted, and, well, bloody.

Some of my personal favorites were “The Peephole,” a firsthand account of a family being watched through a peephole with some pretty creepy human characteristics found in perverts and serial killers alike. “The End,” a short bash to the face in a place where bones clog the streets. This one is just as creatively gruesome as a stone-cold murder. “Jubokko,” a quick read about valiance and memories, soil and fluids, and the smell of blossoms, some haunting imagery inside yet another horrific little horror tale. And, finally “The Diner” is a bizarre and terrifying mini-tale packed full of enough brain meat, slaughter, and fidgety worms to feed anybody and everybody that dares to enter the Diner of Doom.

Among some of the other titles that stood out were, The Statue, The Burning Question, His Cold in Hell, The Well by the Monastery, Detached, Witch’s Stew, and Cradle.  

100 NIGHTMARES is a real gem and a must have for any fan of Horror, Flash Fiction, and Micro-Fiction. Now, put your gas mask on and proceed with caution.

-Jon R. Meyers

SCREWED EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK AND TWICE ON SUNDAY by J.S. Reinhardt (2014 Blood Bound Books / 90 pp / trade paperback & eBook) 

One of the undisputed all-stars of the Gross Out competitions struts his oogy stuff in this slam-bang collection. I’d witnessed a few of the live performances, and they are unforgettable to say the least. Hilarious, disgusting, energetic, wild, laugh-until-you-puke, puke-until-you-laugh, both at the same time. 

“Baby Boo,” for instance. Nasty piece of work, just NASTY! “Baby Boo” reduced an entire hall full of the hardest of the hardcore horror writers and fans to helpless shudders of howling, dry-heaving revulsion. 

Reading the stories is an unforgettable experience all its own. NOT an experience for your lunch break, though, or to peruse over dinner. Or if you want to have a snack anytime in the foreseeable future. 

Every bodily fluid you can think of and several you wish you hadn’t play prominent roles … no orifice goes unviolated, and some new ones are created just for the occasion … 

“Cranial Rectosis” requires the strongest of intestinal fortitude in every possible sense. Took me three tries to get through that sickiepalooza and I still almost didn’t make it. 

“Openings” takes kinky masochism to uncomfortable levels even for such a subject. “One Mistake” is equally uncomfortable in a very different way, as a young friendship meets a bad end. 

As the collection title suggests, there’s eight stories, one for each day of the week and an extra … but wait, there’s more, because it includes the bonus stories “Stud Service” (which may do for the sex drive what “Cranial Rectosis” does for the appetite) and the disturbing psychological “By the Time I Get to Five.”

And, perhaps as the title suggests, these stories are best parceled out over the span of several days … perhaps attempting to tackle them all at once was an ambitious overreach on my part. But hey, if you’re up to a challenge of the nerves and gorge, go for it!

-Christine Morgan

GUNS by Josh Myers (2014 Copeland Valley Press / 214 pp / trade paperback)

A slick hitman/pilot for hire named "Organ" becomes involved in a kidnapping with Farley, another hired muscle who talks too much. Along with the mysterious Kate, they work for an underground organization known as AICE, ltd. It seems a journalist has received information about an astronaut that AICE doesn't want being released, so they go to work.

But both Organ and Kate have other things interfering with their mission, and Myers throws all kinds of twists and turns into this wonderful modern noir that despite its 214 pages, can easily be read in a single sitting.

GUNS is a dark ride, full of nasty villains and "good guys" who are just as bad. Myers gets an extra plus here for citing Gibbler from FULL HOUSE and still keeping this one as cool as ice ...

-Nick Cato

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