Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Reviews for the Week of May 23, 2016

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





HEADER 3 by Ryan Harding and Edward Lee (2016 Camelot Books / 252 pp / limited edition hardcover)

I cringe and flinch and squirm a lot when reading the extreme stuff. More than once, I’ve almost been physically ill. I’ve had to take a break from some books to let my nerves, stomach, and brain settle.

Shane McKenzie, Monica J. O’Rourke, Wrath James White, Danger Slater, they’ve each in their own ways pushed me toward that brink (they know it, too, and they chortle, the brats!)

And then there’s these guys.

Ryan Harding, author of GENITAL GRINDER, teaming up with the all-time champ of sexatrocities – I have to make up words here because nothing else is even close – Edward Lee. For the next installment in the HEADER epic.

Now, if you don’t know what a ‘header’ is … uh … well … familiar with the phrase “f*** your brains out”? Outside of these books, it’s not normally used in a literal sense. A drill is involved, with a hole-saw attachment. What follows isn’t pretty.

Most of what happens in here isn’t pretty. There are people getting skinned alive, things being done to testicles that should not in any sane world ever EVER be done, and more. Yet, what got me, what brought me the closest I’ve been to actually losing my groceries, was the Hock Party. Just mentioning it here has me queasy again.

So, obviously, all that said, everybody should rush right out and get this book. Because my scarred, abused, tormented psyche wants company. From dialect to description, it’s expertly done, and unforgettable without trepanation or lobotomy, which you need like a hole in the head, and AAAAAAUGH!!!

-Christine Morgan



DRUGULA by Michael Faun (2016 Dynatox Ministries / 30 pp / chapbook)

Inspired by a couple of songs from doom metal band Electric Wizard, Faun delivers this well written tale set in Transylavnia, 1803. Count Drugula not only survives on the blood of young women and livestock, but protects his castle with drug-infused smoke screens.

Yep, the 'ol Count here is a stoner and drug dealer, but DRUGULA is done seriously and comes off as cool as it is atmospheric. I can almost see this as a strip within the pages of an underground comic book.

Another solid tale from everyone's favorite Swede.

-Nick Cato



THINGS SLIP THROUGH by Kevin Lucia (2013 Crystal Lake Publishing / 325 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

Small towns have their secrets; I think I remember that adage best from Stephen King’s SALEM'S LOT. The gradual discoveries of deeper and deeper layers of weirdness by the newcomer, I remember best from TWIN PEAKS. Elements of both feature strongly in this clever collection, which has several individual stories encased in a nifty frame narrative.

The newcomer to town is widowed dad Chris, a local law enforcement officer who really wants to do right by the citizens he’s sworn to protect and serve. It gets frustrating, though, when there’s all this hidden mystery and behind the scenes stuff nobody will tell him about.

Finally, having had enough, he slaps down an ultimatum to his poker night pals – also prominent people in Clifton Heights: a teacher, a doctor, a priest. If he’s going to be able to do his job, he tells them, then he needs some answers. He needs to understand.

So, the writer among them presents him with a series of manuscripts, supposedly the truth behind several recent, peculiar, unsolved or unsatisfactorily-solved cases. The more Chris reads, the more he finds himself reluctantly drawn toward belief.

The stories may start out with more ordinary scandals of racism, harassment, murder, and revenge … but they swiftly take darker, stranger turns. Stories with inexplicable disappearances, supernatural overtones, entities, hauntings, and monstrous magic.

Each on its own works well; strung together this way, like weird but beautiful beads, the result is all the more fascinating. Really neatly done. And the first in an ongoing series, as the mysteries and mythology of Clifton Heights continue to unfold.

-Christine Morgan



THE BLACK DEATH by Jon R. Meyers (2016 Dunhams Manor Press / 30 pp / chapbook)

After visiting the town's doctor, a man learns he may be infected with more than the pandemic that's ravishing the countryside.

In Meyers' latest story, it's the summer of 1346 and we see the plague through the eyes of this mysterious narrator, who begins creating art from corpses as the disease consumes his mind. His strange affair with a local Madame also leads to his questioning life, death, and the reason for it all.

Meyers always skates on the dark side of the rink, and THE BLACK DEATH may be his darkest round to date. Read in direct sunshine or you may be swallowed by the blackness that spills from these pages...

-Nick Cato



DREAMS OF IVORY AND GOLD by Kirk Dougal (2014 Angelic Knight Press / 422 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

The title on this one may seem a bit misleading; it suggests something more along the lines of historic fantasy/romance, but it’s really more a paranormal police procedural thriller with strong historical interludes. I’m not quite sure where the ivory and gold were meant to come in.

Summary-wise, the cops are on the trail of a serial killer who leaves a string of mutilated women in his wake, while a young priest is assigned to assist a special operative from the Vatican who’s hunting a monster. Needless to say, their missions intersect. Maybe a smidge coincidentally, what with all the connections between characters, but we’ll let it slide.

On the side of the cops is Detective Morgan Kelly, back on the job with a new partner after some personal and professional difficulties. But, none of that easing back into work gently for her; she’s soon put in command of the task force to find the killer. On the church side is Father Roger Greene, tasked with handling the infuriating and mysterious Gregor Novara.

Novara has been doing this job a long time. A long, long time. He’s by no means any ordinary man himself, and his crusade against the creature now preying on New York is as much personal as professional. I do understand why for plot reasons there wasn’t more info disclosure, but it did lead to a bit much of the taunting “I know something you don’t know” … and to do that while also chiding others for what they don’t know when you won’t TELL them … seems kinda mean.

The writing is solid, the story good on both history and action. The flashback scenes were my favorite parts. Could have used some more emotion from the characters, little stilted and awkward on some of the shall we say feminine issues.

Overall, I found it an enjoyable and entertaining read … right up until the last couple chapters, which felt rushed, and a resolution that kind of annoyed the crap out of me for several reasons. Not so much, though, as to prevent me from giving the sequel a look!

-Christine Morgan



TOWERS by Karl Fischer (2015 Eraserhead Press / 84 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

Karl Fischer is one of those rare bizarros who, on sight, presents a deceptive normality. Simply looking at him, people might not suspect the labyrinthine layers and levels of complexity going on in his head.

When you see him do a reading, or you view one of his pants-wettingly intense short films, the reality reset your mind has to do can be really quite jarring. I’d experienced the first two, so I thought I was prepared. Then I read TOWERS, and found out how much more there was to the picture.

This is one weird, brilliantly done piece of work. It’s a love story, but in a post-apocalyptic world where the survivors live inside self-sufficient fortified monoliths (towers, obvs), defending them from the blighted landscape and monstrous threats outside. But, sweethearts Alti and Quatra have volunteered to give up their bodies to BECOME Towers, to do a long stint as sentient buildings in exchange for a promised afterlife together.

Suddenly, after a thousand years of doing his duty, Alti finds himself revived. Finds himself human again, not a Tower anymore, and with the doctors telling him he’s needed, they can’t send him to the afterlife, sorry, bummer, and who’s Quatra anyway?

He is, understandably, distraught to be shoved back into the teeming and strange social dystopia that used to scurry about its business inside his walls and corridors. He wants to be reunited with his lover, whom he believes must be out there somewhere, in some form or another.

He resists, he rebels, he learns some strange truths, and he finds himself beginning to physically change. To evolve into something capable of hurting the Tower, and even surviving outside. Which is when things get exponentially weirder, like, whole-genre-switch weirder.

I don’t even think I found any nits to quibble over. And the fact this is his first book? Yeah, keep an eye on this guy. Crazy talent and skills to match. Good, good stuff.

-Christine Morgan


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COMING IN TWO WEEKS:



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