Monday, August 7, 2017

Reviews for the Week of August 7, 2017

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

THIS TOWN NEEDS A MONSTER by Andersen Prunty (2017 Grindhouse Press / 336 pp / trade paperback, eBook, audiobook)

I’ve personally read a lot of the author’s prior work, and, I must say, this one may be one of my favorites to date. Andersen Prunty has an uncanny ability of being able to make the most simplistic everyday real-life scenarios transform into absurd, utterly gruesome, grotesque, terror, and perverted-filled chaos before your very eyes as you quickly turn the page to find out what happens next.

The book introduces us to our main character who miserably lives in a small town in Ohio. When he manages to leave the house to visit a friend who’s threatened to commit suicide, he runs into a little situation that ends up turning into a much bigger situation by the end of the book. What happens is literally the reason behind how he has always managed his daily social interactions; keep them limited, short, sweet, and straight to the point. Getting involved with others is sometimes a doomsday when having to care about more than just yourself, it’s a cold fact, but very true indeed. Had he just stayed at home and slept it off, nothing in this book would have ever happened, or at least he’d have not known or cared about it. So, after his car breaks down and he runs into an underage girl asking him to buy her booze in exchange for giving him a ride to avoid the long walk home, he slowly realizes everything in the town is connected and premeditated, including the strange inhabitants as everything spirals out of control and turns into mass sticky green chaos as he gets closer to seeking the truth behind the town monster.

Not everything is what it seems throughout the entirety of this book.

Highly recommended

-Jon R. Meyers

ANGLER IN DARKNESS by Ed Erdelac (2017 CreateSpace / 384 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

I have always been impressed by Ed Erdelac's knack for historical fiction. He's one of the few who makes it seem immersive and effortless, taking the reader on a visit to the olden days without info dumps or dry lectures.

In this collection, arranged chronologically by setting, he proves that he can do it just as well in shorter pieces as in his longer works. Each, moving through the timeline from Pre-Columbian to modernity (and occasionally alt-modernity or a bit beyond) is its own exhibit in an interactive museum experiential tour.

Most of the stories have a uniquely American note, the American West, the frontier spirit, native peoples. A few cross the Pacific to the isles of Japan, bring Chinese mythology to life in California, or venture into the northern wilds of Canada or south to Paraguay. But they share that sense of westernness, not bogged down by the weight of centuries like you'd find in Europe or England.

Though, there are some exceptions ... one with the weight of millennia behind it, when giant monsters stomp the crap out of the Holy Land; a ballsy and startling but very entertaining move indeed ... one set in a posh adventurer's club, relating the horrors of a journey into darkest Africa ... fun stuff like that.

And, tucked in here and there like extra surprises, you'll find a retold fairy tale, a response to the sparkly vampire epidemic, a toilet story definitely not for bathroom reading

You'll find railroad workers and Texas Rangers, monsters and monster-hunters, ancient legends and cowboy lore, suicide forests and ghosts, clergymen misusing their powers, renegade Nazis. You'll find history not sanitized and prettied up for modern sensibilities; this is the raw stuff, the gritty stuff, with the ugliness and racism right there alongside the bravery and beauty.

Sometimes, the tales focus on the small-scale, families or individuals, lonely journeys, confrontations with cruel mortality and truth. In others, the fates of nations are at stake. There's variety here, a display of ranges -- temporal, stylistic, genre -- and it all serves to reinforce my initial opinion. Whatever the era, Ed Erdelac does historical fiction RIGHT.

-Christine Morgan

NEVER NOW ALWAYS by Desirina Boskovich (2017 Broken Eye Books / trade paperback & eBook)

Okay, this one belongs right there on the shelf of eerily frightening beautiful unreality with QUICKSAND HOUSE and THE ORPHANARIUM ... sharing certain similarities of children living in inexplicable maybe-otherworldly / maybe-futuristic / maybe-pandimensional settings ...

It's as if, at some point in their pasts, these authors all read a Madeleine L'Engle book none of the rest of it saw, and it awakened something in their psyches or did something to their brains. And now, in the form of their own books, that something is emerging.

Summary-wise, there are these groups of kids being raised in a sort of cyber-age nursery, their needs provided for, supervised by robotic Caretakers, occasionally instructed or questioned by an unseen Voice, subjected to strange procedures.

The children have fragmented memories, barely any sense of self, past or future, the passage of time. They just accept whatever's now, look no further forward than their next meal or sleep. Only rarely, in whispers, do they share their nearly-mythic ideas of what was before, what was home.

But then one little girl, Lolo, begins trying to remember, trying to resist, trying to hang onto things from one cycle of time to the next. She knows she has a sister, and when she discovers there are other similar groups of kids beyond her own, she sets out to find her.

I read it in a perpetual state somewhere between admiring awe (I kept pausing to go, "wow" in that low sort of breath like you do) and a major skin-crawling case of the creeps. The way it's written is a mix of unsettling and delicious, capturing a childlike perspective but done with masterful adult skill.

-Christine Morgan

EXTINCTION BRIDGE by Geoff Brown and Amanda J. Spedding (2017 Kindle Worlds / 56 pp / eBook)

The top-notch team behind rising star Cohesion Press strike again, this time displaying their own writing chops in a slam-bang military adventure of wall-to-wall action.

And, as a bonus, they do what most of the usual big-budget disaster movies always seem to overlook ... we've seen the Empire State Building get destroyed HOW many times? The Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, other landmarks and monuments?

Well, it's long past time Australia got some of that love, and where better than the famous Sydney Opera House? A fitting backdrop for an all-out battle between big guns and rampaging monsters!

The premise is straightforward enough, like something right out of a special forces type video game. An outbreak, civilization in ruins, cities overrun by infected mutations, only a few strongholds left. Alpha Team was on a mission to extract a scientist and data from a top-secret facility in a compromised region, but base has lost contact with them ... so now Bravo Team gets to go in and see what's what.

As you might expect, what's what is decidedly not good news. Soon, the members of Bravo Team are in their own last-ditch fight for survival, and they're about to discover the situation -- as bad as they thought it was before -- is really a whole lot worse.

Loaded with high-tech hardware and gunplay galore, racking up rapid kill-tallies on all sides, it's a quick adrenaline-rush of a read.

-Christine Morgan

EYES OF DOOM by Raymond Little (2017 Blood Bound Books / 284 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

Any book which hops back and forth in timeline about a group of friends who must return to confront the buried/forgotten events of something terrible that happened when they were kids is going to draw inevitable comparisons to King's IT, but this one is very different, and very much its own cool and creepy thing.

For example, those time hops here are much more elaborate and complex, presenting the story in hidden jigsaw pieces ranging from when the characters were eleven all the way into their sixties, showing portions of their lives spanning several decades ... but, not in chronological order, so you have to fit it all together as you reveal each new element.

The group of friends are Matt, Jack, Vinnie, and Georgina. And then the new kid, Frankie, who moves into the old mansion that used to be a hospital back in wartime. Frankie seems a little weird, but then, each of them have their own quirks, secrets, or troubled home lives.

Skipping ahead and around, we learn more about them all -- family dramas, college romances, careers, broken hearts, broken marriages, indiscretions, fights. We also get tantalizing references to an accident all those years ago, a fire, a menacing doctor-figure, and Frankie's death.

Except, Vinnie keeps insisting Frankie is still around. Minor but unsettling things keep happening, following them through their lives. The story, for the reader, keeps unfolding like a clever origami picture-puzzle map, revealing new, connecting previous in unexpected ways.

I don't want to spoil any of the intricacies of the plot, but as a writer I was consistently impressed by just how well it was done, how skillfully handled, offering just enough to intrigue without falling into that annoying smug I-know-something-you-don't some books have. As a reader, I enjoyed the characters, found them well-realized and believable, even the minor ones showing lots of personality and depth.

Really good, really really good, with the seamless twisting turns of the ouroboros featured as its illustration. Fantastic work!

-Christine Morgan



ZOMBIE No. 5 (2017 Eibon Press / 38 pp/ written by Stephen Romano)

After devouring (full pun intended) the first 4 issues of Eibon Press' comic book adaptation of Lucio Fulci's grindhouse classic ZOMBIE, they begin a brand new sequel next month with the 5th issue (that will be available in different limited editions. See end of this review for details).

On the island: It turns out Doctor Menard has not died. Well, sort of. This issue starts with his creepy and dramatic resurrection. Although now one of the undead, and part of witch doctor Biacondo's growing legions, Menard has kept his mind and is more hell bent then ever to see the fruition of his experiments (which began long before the events of the classic film).

Switch to NYC: Peter and Ann have returned from the island and are (amazingly) able to almost enjoy their first official, long overdue date. Manhattan has become infested with zombies, but Peter and Ann quickly learn who is helping to control and end the problem: none other than Colonel Louis Fulci himself! Fulci fans won't get enough seeing their favorite Italian director (along with an entire army) contain and destroy countless zombies, who they've managed to corral on 42nd Street during its heyday! The artwork (courtesy of Pat Carbajal) had me drooling: zombies getting blown up and shot in front of classic theater marquees? This sucker's a grindhouse fan's dream come true.

But ZOMBIE no. 5 offers more than fanboy fantasy: there's a side plot concerning Peter's VERY pissed off brother returning from the dead. And with this brief segment (along with the revelation about Dr. Menard), it seems these zombies, while slow moving, may in fact be much more intelligent than we've believed all along...

Of course there are some great extras (differeing with version you get), but one that's included in each issue is a 5-page "Top Secret" file that chronicles the toxic background to the story. Loved it.

So much damn fun! Just wish we didn't have to wait until January, 2018 for the 6th issue. Pre-orders go live this Friday, 8/11 so don't delay before they're all gone:ZOMBIE no. 5 pre-order and back issues

-Nick Cato


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