Monday, January 22, 2018

Reviews for the Week of January 22, 2017

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





ZIPPERED FLESH 3: YET MORE TALES OF BODY ENHANCEMENTS GONE BAD! edited by Weldon Burge (2017 Smart Rhino Publications / 390 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

The popular series continues with another helping of body modification, medical procedures, and all types of situations in which people find their bodies (and minds) changing in unexpected ways. This installment's 19 tales include:

-HORNS, TEETH, AND KNOBS by Billy Sue Mosiman: Martin inherits a lot of money from his late parents and uses most of it on extreme body modification. His only friend is a woman online named Tina. A downbeat opener dealing with physical and mental manipulation.

-UPGRADED by Shaun Meeks: A high school student isn't able to get the latest cell phone, one that's grafted into your forearm. Her friend takes her to get a cheaper black market model, and the hidden security features turn out to be deadlier than anyone would believe. Creepy.

-GOING GREEN by Christine Morgan: A girl takes her love of the environment to the ultimate limit in this imaginative sci-fi tale. David Cronenberg would have a field day adapting this to film...

-WORM by Jeff Menapace: Upset with her weight, a woman travels to Mexico where someone suggests she swallow a tapeworm. She does and loses enough weight to attract all the guys she wants. But when her overweight friend meets with her one night things get way out of control. A fun (and disgusting!) creature feature.

-REDUCED TO TEARS by Adrian Ludens: In the future, people known as "Reducers" mark each birthday by removing a part of their body as part of a spiritual quest. Despite some humor, Ludens' religious take on body modification is genuinely disturbing.

-A NEW MAN by William F. Nolan: After a man dies in a horrible car accident, his mind is brought back in another body. But when his wife goes nuts and kills their two children, he learns she has undergone an even stranger technological process than himself.

-TRANSPOSITION by Jason V. Brock: Two shady brothers in the medical field run afoul of a brutal organ harvester. A bit predictable but good.

-THE ROSE by Jack Ketchum: After living for four years as a kidnapped sex slave, a girl gets revenge on her male captor in a vintage EC comics-type way. Some brutal Ketchum here...

-CONSUME by Daniel I. Russell: Technology and religion meet in this frightening look at mankind's laziness. One of the best of the bunch, it brings the cult film TETSUO to mind.

-ALL WILL TURN TO GRAY by Jezzy Wolfe: A man agrees to have experimental eye surgery. He begins to see colors for the first time, and quickly lusts for more. As he's going through this process, he discovers his girl is being unfaithful, and all hell breaks loose when he takes yet another risky surgery in an attempt to see things no one else has. Engaging with a terrifying finale.

-INVISIBLE by E. A. Black: Sick and tired of having to care for her obese sister and unconcerned mother, anorexic Blair creates her own destiny. A depressing yet gripping tale.

-AND THE SKY WAS FULL OF ANGELS by L.L. Soares: A man comes home from the war after being in a coma for months and reconnects with his old girlfriend. But both have undergone physical transformations...his at the expense of the military. A heartbreaker that reminded me of a story in the old WEIRD WAR TALES comics.

-SHOPPING SPREE by Meghan Acuri: A fashion photographer / computer graphics artist obtains a camera with magical powers. The models he works with become enhanced without surgery, but by his new camera and photoshop program...until things get out of hand. One of the best of the bunch.

-CLOSER by Charles Colyott: an implantable memory app helps a man come to terms with his long lost lover in this trippy, romantic sci-fi tale. Excellent.

-DOG DAYS by Graham Masterton: An oncologist falls in love with a beautiful girl from Australia. But his handsome friend Jack, a cosmetic surgeon, steals her away from him. What follows is a bizarre, absurd tale of love gone completely amuck. A standout of the anthology from one of the genre's finest writers.

-SWITCH by Jasper Bark: If you came to this book looking to be grossed out, look no further. A detective runs afoul of a wrongly accused college student. Surgery and Santeria meet in a tale not to be read while eating. It's oddly funny, too.

-HYPOCHONDRIA by Martin Ziegler: A nurse falls for a patient who uses an experimental implanted device to monitor health issues. Her doctor is more concerned with his career than in helping his patients. When said patient becomes ill due to said device, the nurse discovers her doctor is as heartless as she thought.

-GEHENNA DIVISION, CASE #609 by Sandra R. Campbell: A brother believes his sister was wrongly sent to hell. He's offered a way to get her out in this horror fantasy that, while familiar, features a couple of nifty surprises.

-GOLDEN AGE by James Dorr: In the future there are many health options available to extend one’s life. One woman looks back on her 200+ years (and five husbands) and wonders if all the work she had done was truly worth it. A melancholy anthology capper.

A solid third offering, ZIPPERED FLESH 3 has more hits than misses and provides a fine variety to suite all horror and dark sci-fi fans’ tastes.

-Nick Cato



HOLD FOR RELEASE UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD by C.V. Hunt (2018 ATLATL Press / 112 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

Being one of the first titles I’ve read that was released this year I was happy to see the author’s sarcasm and cynicism at an all-time high in this fast-paced piece of comical Doomsday Fiction.

We don’t know it until the last page, but it’s the end of the world in Daxton, a place where society has obviously given up on life and the white trash stigma has taken over all forms of normalcy and decency left lingering amongst the human race. Kids are willingly getting abducting and hopping into ice cream trucks, people are looting and fighting in the streets and local supermarkets. The main character’s roommate is a vape master and a bro, who is constantly looking for his next money-making business strategy—he actually purchases a freezing kit to turn their garage into a morgue because the bodies are piling up by the second and is hired by the city—he rents out the shed to a grim black figure who shelters his face with a black umbrella at all times—all while our main character experiences one terrible event after another, not mention their psychotic neighbor.

One of my favorite parts of the book aside from the last few lines is the main character’s line of work at her day job. She works for this firm that rich people hire to have somebody to lash out on and humiliate. And their clients pay good money to degrade, verbally abuse, and humiliate the employees there at the corporation.

This is the last thing you’ll ever see.


-Jon R. Meyers



TV DINNER FROM HELL by Amber Fallon (2017 Fresh Pulp Press / 140 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

Being of a certain age, as I am, this cover takes me back to some earliest memories ... kids today will never understand, or regard us with that mix of shock, scorn, and pity. Salisbury steak with that tangy hint of aluminum, anyone? With or without creepy-crawlies?

Actually, strike that last bit. You don't get a choice of with or without creepy-crawlies when you read these stories. Creepy-crawlies are not optional. Maybe in small and subtle doses, maybe right up there rubbed in your face; there's no escaping them.

Some of the best pieces in the book are the short, sweet little shivers. The cute woodland critter POV in "Pretty Pretty Shiny" is endearing and well-done, while the ever-challenging second-person is used to good effect in the lovely "The Glen" ... though both these charming pastoral tales do take decidedly non-Disneyesque turns.

Astute Fallon readers may spot something familiar in "Dawn of the Death-Beetles," and the book's heartfelt dedication is echoed with the inclusion of tribute tale "Clickers in Space." And can you really go wrong with zazzy titles like "The Shark That Ate Everything" and "The Dick-Measuring Contest at the End of the Universe"?

I found "The Donor" of particular personal resonance, the hospital setting one with which the author and I must both be all too familiar (and dang tired of) by now. However, as grueling as our experiences may have been, at least the state of healthcare hasn't reached THIS point ... yet ...

"Demolition Derby" is sheer fun chaos and carnage, while "Something Bit Me" is less than a page but sure to squick anybody out. Finishing things off, fittingly for this time of year, is "Ornamentation," in which a lonely man faces the holidays in a rather disturbing fashion.

All that and more are here to be read, a good introduction to an author on her way to becoming a strong, lasting voice in the genre, and each story comes with a cool bonus illustration to boot!


-Christine Morgan



COME TO DUST by Bracken MacLeod (2017 JournalStone Publishing / 276 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

I missed the small press run of this novel, so was thrilled to get my hands on the second edition. I guess technically you can call this a zombie novel, but it's unlike just about any I've read before.

Mitch has been looking after his five year-old niece Sophie ever since his troubled sister said she was going out for a while. It turns out she hasn't returned, and despite being on parole, Mitch has managed to do a great job raising Sophie with his poor paying job. One night he decides to leave his niece with a different babysitter so he can go on a much needed date, but it's a decision that ends with Sophie dead and two detectives on Mitch's back.

Things take a weird turn when young children around the world begin to return from the dead, Sophie among them. But these aren't blood sucking or cannibalistic ghouls, rather children who can still communicate, and at times, feed off of the living in a way that helps improve their undead state, and in the case of Mitch's girlfriend, even help the living.

After getting her life back on track by joining a religious group headed by a charismatic leader, Mitch's sister comes back, reunited with her ex, and demands to get Sophie back from him, unaware she is now one of the undead.

Kidnappings, brainwashed cultists, and a world not ready for kids returning from the dead now stand in Mitch's way as he attempts to save his niece from an isolated compound full of crazed zealots. MacLeod does a fantastic job making us feel for Mitch and Sophie's relationship, and at times you'll want to jump into the story and give him a hand. Some of the descriptions of Sophie (and other children) are more chilling than your standard zombie fare, and the whole story is arguably the most heart-wrenching child-centered horror novel since Gary Braunbeck's classic, IN SILENT GRAVES.

A smart, emotional, spooky offering.


-Nick Cato



MOTHER'S REVENGE edited by Cin Ferguson and Broos Campbell (2017 Scary Dairy Press / 474 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

The publisher/mastermind behind this project, Dr. Q, is an incredibly sweet and caring person who's also just a couple short steps from becoming the kind of supervillain bent on saving the world despite stupid stubborn humanity's best efforts. Someone's got to save us from ourselves. Or save the planet from us, and if it comes at a cost ... well, can't make omelets, etc.

But in the case of this wickedly clever anthology, no supervillain master plan is needed, because Earth itself has had enough. Mother Nature is done putting up with us and shows it by striking back in thirty-two unique doomsdays.

The editors had their hands full but rose marvelously to the occasion, sorting the stories into fittingly elemental categories -- Water, Air, Fire, Earth ... and then Hope, giving a surprising but apt Pandora-esque twist to things.

From cosmic eco-horror to the classic pulpy nature run amok ... when animals attack, when pollution hits the tipping point ... from individual terrors to nightmares on a global scale ... myths and legends and old gods ... weather and technology, flora and fauna and plague epidemics ... lessons from the distant past and struggles of a not-too-distant future ...

Among my personal favorites: "It Wants to be a Swamp" by C.S. Malerich, Jeff Dosser's "The Path", "A New Kind of Eden" by J.T. Seate, Goran Sedler's "Sleet Teeth", "Snickerdoodle Bunkum" by J.C. Raye, "A Cautionary Tale" by Tom Larsen, Chad Stroup's "Acquired Taste".

If these are the ways the world ends, you must admit, we kind of have it coming.


-Christine Morgan



DRAG QUEEN DINO FIGHTERS by M.P. Johnson (2014 Eraserhead Press / 150 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

This book is not a sequel to the Wonderland Award winning DUNGEOUNS AND DRAG QUEENS, nor is it precisely a follow-up, but it is definitely written in a similar dragtastic way. If anything, it's even weirder, even further out-there, a story that just struts onstage and kicks out the stiletto stops from the word go.

Up against a whole new rising crop of the cattiest of queens, Ivanna Deflower is beginning to think she's past her prime, past her chance at superstardom. She's reduced to running weekend bingo games at a bar instead of performing, and knows she can't blame all of it on her sagging elbow skin.

But everything takes a decidedly unusual turn when a baby triceratops bursts out of Ivanna's chest. A cute little orange baby triceratops with a natural knack for dance. Suddenly, Ivanna has a new act. From bingo queen to headliner at bigger and bigger name clubs, she is on her way.

If it seems too good to be true, well, that's how these things sometimes go ... family and friends resenting newfound success, jealous competitors and rivals ... and then of course an invasion of angry space dinosaurs.

No, really. Plus a whole lot of other weirdness -- skeletons, robo-elephants, disembodied eyeballs, so much more. It's hilariously messed-up, a crazy ride through drag culture by way of those Dinosaurs Attack cards, packed with outrageous action of every description. There's sex, there's gore, there's fashion and fierceness all over.

I confess, I snort-laughed out loud an embarrassing number of times while reading this. Which I did at a single sitting, because it's impossible to put down ... each chapter ends with a gotta-see-what-happens-next and before you know it, you've read the whole thing.


-Christine Morgan



PARASITE MILK by Carlton Mellick III (2017 Eraserhead Press / 130 pp / trade paperback)

Although this is not my favorite CM3 title to date for a couple of different reasons there is still a lot going on here that I enjoyed, and, overall, the book has a lot to offer and is definitely worth checking out. Quite possibly being one of the author’s more perverted concepts, which I’ve been personally been wanting to see for quite some time, it was a pleasant change of pace. This time, whilst getting more in touch with his Science Fiction roots, we’re teleported to another planet, Kynaria, a place where frog-eyed pigs, telepathic sex and taxi slugs, and beautifully radiant human-like vermin creatures referred to as Jelly Bugs are lingering amongst a Mushroom Kingdom.

The main character is the camera man for a new Bizarre Foods television show, so the group is traveling the galaxy searching for some of those memorable wine and dine and sixty-nine sort of places to eat. Although we don’t stumble across any boutique steakhouses, we do get introduced to a couple of very different types of restaurants and traditions amongst Kynarian culture. We’re taken to a restaurant that stabs you when you arrive and then clones your own meat right there on the spot, a traditional spot Kynarians like to go on first dates to taste each other, and it’s expensive.

When the main character and Mick Meyers visit a local brothel, one of them can’t stand the concept of sleeping with a sex slug (which is a giant telepathic sex worm) in a puddle of mud. One of them ventures back outside to where they saw a beautiful alien creature that resembles a more human-like figure. She is beautiful, pink, and glows in the dark the more she is turned on, but there’s a catch. There’s always a catch, isn’t there? A horrific catch, perhaps? I’d be willing to wager it’s a lot more than he’d bargained for when lingering out into the wild Mushroom Kingdom outside the establishment on another planet. A place where everything is different, and nothing is as it seems.

You never know what you’re going to get.


-Jon R. Meyers



THE DEMON SEEDS by Derek Muk (2017 Black Bed Sheet Books / 47 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

Being unfamiliar with this author, I didn’t know going into this one if it was part of a series or longer/larger work or interconnected series … now, having read it, I still don’t, but I can safely say it sure feels like it is … and if it isn’t, then it certainly should be. It’s definitely got that complex ongoing worldbuildy feel, of which this scratches the surface and leaves lots of tantalizing room for more.

Taylor is a professor, an academic, and a monster hunter traveling around with Jan, a spunky co-ed sidekick, to deal with paranormal menaces. Their current target is a bubog – a fertility-cultish kind of sex-vampire – but things start hitting a little too close to home when one of Jan’s closest friends gets involved.

Suddenly, it’s personal. And more than personal, when the bubog sets its sights on adding Jan to its conquests. Can she resist the demon’s powerful allure, or will she join the cult? Can Taylor stop the evil in time? What about all these nasty little bubog babies?

A quick read, fun and engaging, with interesting characters and that setup for many more adventures. Worth a look.

-Christine Morgan


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NOTE:

Please see the bottom of the main page for submission info. Also note that people often contact reviewers here on the side asking for reviews. Please also note that we still have a BULK of review material we're attempting to get through, some dating back almost two years, so please be patient and use common sense and courtesy if a reviewer tells you he or she is too busy at the moment to accept your materials.

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