Friday, June 1, 2012

JUNE, 2012 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.  Unless otherwise noted, all reviews are by Nick Cato)

THE ABYSS ABOVE US by Ryan Notch (2010 / 174 pp / eBook)

A bunch of astronomy students discover an area out in space that holds no galaxies.  It is a pitch-black void full of nothing (as far as they can tell), until it begins to transmit a strange sound.  The sound causes all who hear it to go crazy and committ suicide.  Over 500 students and people in the surroudning area of their university are killed, with only one survivor.

Said survivor, Shaw, is now in a mental institution with a 'One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest' array of characters.  He manages to get on the Internet and meet people who help him hack the Institution's system, and he learns about the massacre at his old university.  He manages to escape the asylum and is housed by a priest in a church he once did computer work for.  The priest also believes his story of an impending alien attack and allows Shaw to set up camp in a hidden room.

Meanwhile, another computer whiz, Collin, has become a slave of the Dark God, a name he gives to the mysterious entity responsible for the university massacre.  The brownstone he lives in becomes a portal where this thing intends to enter the world.  It's up to Englishman Jack and his friend Terra to stop things before they get too out of hand.  But standing in their way are once human-now alien creatures and a building with no way of escape.  Add to the mix Shaw, who winds up in the brownstone being chased by a spider-like creature he has inadvertently called down to his new church home.

This sci-fi/horror/monster hyrbid features a familiar although well paced plot.  And despite some stiff dialogue, THE ABYSS ABOVE US isn't a bad way to kill an afternoon.

HERO by J.F. Gonzalez and Wrath James White (2012 Deadite Press / 164 pp / tp and eBook)

I came to this book anticipating gore, violence, and soul-shattering brutality. Hey, it’s from Deadite, and look who the authors are! Wouldn’t you anticipate something along those lines? 

Gore, violence and soul-shattering brutality. And I got it … though not quite in the way I expected. This was worse. Much worse. Mostly because, instead of being wild and over-the-top, it was all too believable and all too real.

Adelle Smith, civil rights activist since the 1960s, has seen a lot of changes for better in the world. Not to perfection, and there’s still a long way to go, but a great deal’s been accomplished. These days, instead of being seen as a troublemaker or criminal, she’s hailed as a hero, and just received the NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award. 

That, of course, is when cruel fate steps in. First, in the form of a stroke that leaves Adelle semi-paralyzed. Second, in the form of the home-care nurse assigned to work with her. 

Natsinet Zenawi, daughter of a Caucasian mother and Eritrean father, most emphatically does NOT consider herself African-American. Or black. She has NOTHING in common with the contemporary culture and detests any implication or assumption otherwise. 

As a nurse, she makes Annie Wilkes look sweet and cuddly. Natsinet is no stranger to surgical sabotage, medication “mixups” and patient abuse. When she’s sent to look after Adelle, a now-helpless woman whose pride and accomplisment represent everything Natsinet can’t stand, it’s a short step from abuse to outright torture.

There’s such EMOTION captured in here! Anger, resentment, bitterness, callousness, venom and hate. But also nobility, devotion, compassion, love, and honor. 

I can’t help thinking that this would make excellent required reading for college courses in ethnic and women’s studies, psychology, sociology, and nursing. 

I also can’t help thinking that any male readers who pass this one by because the main characters are female deserve to have Natsinet provide their vasectomy after-care. 

And anyone who still thinks men can’t write convincing female perspectives or vice-versa? Just hold still. This won’t hurt a bit.

-Christine Morgan

THE DROPPER by  Ron McLarty (2012 Cemetery Dance Publications / 287 pp / hc and eBook)

When I was in high school (many years ago), we were given the assignment to read OF MICE AND MEN for an English Literature class.  Hating to be told what to read, I skipped it.  I got the Cliff’s Notes and passed the required tests, and that was pretty much that.  But then I was asked to read and review THE DROPPER, which has been compared to OF MICE AND MEN.  It’s supposed to be an instant classic.  I decided to give it a go to make up for blowing off Steinbeck’s novel, which really doesn’t sound like an awful book, admittedly.

But then again, maybe it is.  Because I just don’t get all the hype for THE DROPPER.  I thought it was disjointed, slow and altogether boring.

“Shoehorn” is a 17-year-old boy in 1922 England with a lot of burdens on his young shoulders.  Recently left motherless, he must deal with his abusive alcoholic father and care for his mentally-challenged younger brother. He is also a plumbing apprentice and a sometime boxer.  After landing a killing blow to an opponent, Shoe becomes haunted by what he’s done.  He no longer wants to go “under the lights,” but has no choice.

He also can’t choose among the girls who love him, which ends up hurting them all at one time or another.  On top of everything else going on, he realizes his brother needs care that he just can’t provide any longer, and must send him away.  And then there’s “The Dropper,” a midwife maybe-turned-child murderer who cryptically speaks to Shoe, making him wonder just what is going on.

And that’s what I was wondering, too.  There is so much going on, and it all runs together.  It’s hard to tell at times where the story is and where it’s going.  I just couldn’t enjoy this book, and ended up skipping to the end after I was about three-quarters of the way through.  Life’s too short to read boring books, and I felt like I was losing too many minutes on this one.

If you enjoyed OF MICE AND MEN, you’ll probably love THE DROPPER.  But if you skipped Steinbeck’s novel because it didn’t sound all that great, skip The Dropper as well.

-Sheri White

AMAZONAS by Alan Peter Ryan (2012 Cemetery Dance Publications / 124 pp / tp)

It is 1906 and Henrietta and her husband Edwin are travelling up the Amazon River seeking their fortune.  Edwin has struck a deal with the gruff Crown who has possession of a slave tree deep in the jungle.  Henrietta has her doubts and believes her husband has begun to go mad as they travel deeper and deeper into the deadly jungles of Brazil—further away from the civilized world.

When they reach their destination Henrietta and Edwin learn that Crown was not lying.  He has discovered a tree with giant pods containing human-like creatures inside.  The problem, as Crown sees it, is that he doesn’t know how to keep the “pod people” alive to profit from their sale as slaves.  Edwin’s mind cracks but Henrietta perseveres, trying to figure out just what the tree is birthing and why.

AMAZONAS is a quick but evenly paced novella about the true horrors of the human condition, even when faced with the supernatural and unexplainable.  Ryan is able to keep the tension flowing throughout the story, as well as keeping the reader on edge in anticipation of what might happen as the story unfolds.  What I really enjoyed was the story’s vague and violent ending.  AMAZONAS is eerie and unsettling and worth the read.

-Colleen Wanglund

MRS. GOD by Peter Straub (2012 Pegasus Crime / 185 pp / hc)

Originally released in 1990 as a limited edition novella and then in 1991 as part of Straub's HOUSES WITHOUT DOORS collection, MRS. GOD is now available as a trade hardcover from Pegasus Crime.  WHY Pegasus Crime?  I haven't the slightest idea...and unless you are a DIE HARD Straub fan, you'll have no idea why they felt the necessity to re-re-release this downbeat tale.  In fact, I AM a die hard Straub fan and couldn't tell you...

THAT said, MRS. GOD is an interesting if unclear tale dealing with American English professor William Standish, who is chosen over 600 other applicants to spend three weeks in England at Esswood House, which is the home of an incredible library of both published and non published works.  Standish is a major fan of obscure poet Isobel Standish, who's also a distant relative of his.  She only had one volume of her work published in the early 1900s, and Standish is amazed to find how many non-published pieces are at Esswood.

What I liked about MRS. GOD is the "Wicker Man"-type suspense building, which begins when Standish has a run-in with a strange pub owner, to his meeting with a mysterious woman who shows him to his room at Esswood House, to his dinner with Robert Wall, the Houses' generational caretaker.  Standish spends his days studying countless texts, and his nights eating alone in the vast dining room.  He continually hears laughter and sees things moving in the shadows, but is never sure if it's real or an after-effect of the wine and whiskey.

In the end, it's never clear if Straub was trying to tell an offbeat ghost story or give us a portrait of a father-to-be attempting to delay his future.  As a booklover, I liked the scenes of Standish standing in awe of the Esswood library and Straub's prose here is slick and addictive.  But even fans of "quiet" horror may have a hard time making it to the end of this one, despite it's short page count.  An unsatisfying conclusion doesn't help matters, either.

For Straub completists ONLY.

Smell Rating: 4 

RISING FEARS by Michaelbrent Collings (2011CreateSpace / 192 pp / tp and eBook)

As soon as I’d finished reading THE LOON, I chased down Michaelbrent Collings to rave about it, and he rewarded me with ANOTHER book! (I love this job!). 

RISING FEARS is his take on the one-mysterious-night-in-a-small-town story. The small town in this instance is Rising, Washington … where everyone is neighborly, everyone looks out for one another, and everyone is afraid of something. 

In fact, that’s why these people live in their nice small town: most of them are afraid of something, hiding out from or on the run from or avoiding facing the fears of the outside world. Even those who can’t wait to get out harbor their own inner dreads, secret terrors, awful memories and private phobias. 

Things aren’t about to work out so well for the good folks of Rising. They’re about to find out that some fears can’t be hidden from, run from or avoided. Not when the fears come from inside. Not when they’re becoming all too real. Real enough to kill. 

The writing is superb. The characters are believable and sympathetic (well, except for one, but she’s supposed to be a selfish little snot so it’s okay to not like her very much). Once again, the theme of a parent who’s lost a child figures strongly; it’s powerful stuff, and written from the perspective of experience that no one should ever have to suffer. 

The story’s reminiscent of Koontz’ PHANTOMS, streamlined to the essentials. Though I may sometimes get teasing flack for “clobbering” Koontz these days, back when PHANTOMS came out he was at the top of his game so I definitely intend it as a compliment!

-Christine Morgan

NOCTURNAL by Scott Sigler (2012 Hodder & Stoughton / 669 pp / tp)

Bryan and his partner Pookie, Homicide Detectives with the San Francisco Police Department are onto a possible serial killer case, but they have been ordered to stay away by the Chief of Police herself.  There’s something very strange about the case that pulls Bryan and Pookie in anyway.  Not long after visiting the first crime scene Bryan begins to feel sick, suffering debilitating pain and experiencing graphic and realistic nightmares.  When more bodies show up with similarities to the first case and Bryan can describe the crime scenes in detail, Pookie begins to suspect his partner may be a cold-blooded killer.  Pookie decides to give his partner, and friend, the benefit of the doubt when other connections are made with the help of Robin from the Medical Examiner’s Office and Pookie’s old partner John Smith.

As Bryan and Pookie get pulled deeper into the serial murders, thanks to Bryan’s nightmares, they discover a centuries’ old cult; a race of people living in the shadows and underground of San Francisco and the group of Saviors sworn to protect the city’s population.  The cult has recently gotten bolder in their actions because some of them think they have found their next king in an awkward and abused boy named Rex.  Bryan and his partner are shut out of the investigation, and even removed from the force, but when they persist in their investigation they discover, along with the Saviors, that Bryan may be the only person who can stop the murders and put an end to the freakish cult.

Well-written and expertly paced, NOCTURNAL is an imaginative story about what might lurk in the darkness when a city goes to sleep.  Character development is excellent, especially Bryan and Pookie.  There were times when I liked Bryan, times when I hated him and others when he would piss me off—like any three dimensional person would.  Pookie is probably the epitome of a goofy sidekick who turns out to be one damn good cop and friend.  He’s quick on his feet and ready to listen to Bryan; he also suffers from delusions that he’ll eventually write the best cop show on television.  Pookie’s comic relief is well-suited to Bryan’s more serious demeanor, and it is never overdone.  There were a few places in the story where I thought there was maybe a little too much detail or more writing than was necessary, but overall I think Scott Sigler’s novel is a fantastic read.  The book clocks in at almost 670 pages but still manages to be a quick read.  It’s got plenty of blood and gore and a fantastic story.  NOCTURNAL is definitely one to add to your horror collection.

-Colleen Wanglund

THE SHADOW OF THE UNKNOWN edited by AJ French (2011 Static Movement / 236 pp / tp)

While anthologies featuring Lovecraft-inspired stories are quite common, few (that I've read, anyway) are as satusfying as THE SHADOW OF THE UNKNOWN, a collection of 29 tales that range from good to great with only a couple of clunkers.

My favorite piece here is titled QUIETUS by A.A. Garrison.  While the "mirror world" theme of the story has been done many times, Garrison makes it his own and spins an epic yarn in a mere six pages.  The always reliable Gary A. Braunbeck strikes with THE MUSIC OF BLEAK ENTRAINMENT, where an incarcerated man tells of how he and his collegues summoned Cthulhu through a music program.  I always enjoy Braunbeck's first-person stories, this one enhanced with quite a dark conclusion.

Other memorable offerings come from Gene O'Neill (his GRAFFITI SONATA is arguably the most original piece here), AJ French (I found WHEN A CLOWN FACE SPEAKS to be the all-around scariest tale), Geoffrey H. Goodwin (AMENDS FOR AN EARLIER SUMMER is a nice blend of Lovecraft and a 70s occult horror film), and L.E. Badillo (whose claustrophobic IN THE VALLEY OF THE THINGS really gets the goosebumps going).

Some stories feature actual Lovecraft monsters and ideas, while others stray away from both and focus mainly on dark mysteries.  It's always good to see so many newer/unknown authors deliver quality material, and editor French has done a fine job collecting so many solid like-minded tales.  My only gripe is I'd like to have seen a more detailed list of where the reprints had first appeared, but that's only a small complaint.  THE SHADOW OF THE UNKNOWN is well worth your time.

Smell Rating: 2

HUNGRY FOR YOUR LOVE edited by Lori Perkins (2010 St. Martins Griffin / 384 pp / tp and eBook)

Poor zombies … they so rarely get to be sexy! Romance and erotica don’t lend themselves as well to rotting reanimated corpses as to the suave vampire or the animal-passioned werewolf. 

Even in this book, billed as “an anthology of zombie romance,” the majority of the romance focuses more on the living than the living dead. Hookups set during the outbreak and civilization-collapsing struggle for survival, that sort of thing. 

Oh, there is some zombie-on-zombie action, and some love returning from beyond the grave, some steamy pulse-pounding and some gooey blood-dripping … there’s poignant, and amusing, and gruesome … probably a bit of something for everyone. 

One of my personal favorites of the bunch would have to be Kilt Kilpatrick’s “Last Times At Ridgemont High” (and I say this not only because he persuaded me into picking up the anthology or because he DOES look damn cute in a kilt), which is like a teen summer comedy sex fantasy movie, in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. 

Other standouts, IMO, include: “I Heart Brains” by Jaime Saare, which explores an interesting twist on organ donation; Stacey Graham’s icky-fun “Eye of the Beholder;” the haunting “White Night, Black Horse” by Mercy Loomis; R.G. Hart’s noir detective tale “My Partner the Zombie;” and the quicky cooking-show spoof “Julia Brainchild” by Lois H. Gresh. 

The absolute-BEST bit was a priceless phrase, ‘mixed-mortality,’ as in, couples or relationships, from Elizabeth Coldwell’s “Everyone I Love is Dead.” So obvious in retrospect, such perfect wording that it hit me like a smack upside the head. 

-Christine Morgan

ROTTER WORLD by Scott M. Baker (2012 Permuted Press / 283 pp / tp)

When a zombie virus was created in a government lab, vampires stole the virus and released it into the population believing that humans would be so busy with the zombies they would stop hunting vampires.  What those vampires hadn’t counted on was that they would also become zombie food—and make more fearsome zombies when infected.  Eight months later six people are rescued and brought to a compound of survivors.  One of those rescued was Dr. Compton who created the virus in the first place.  Compton also created an antidote and now must make his way, with some help, to the military bunker where his research and equipment is kept to produce it.

Robson, a former Sheriff’s Deputy, will lead a group including Natalie, head of camp security and the Angels of Death, some camp muscle, and six vampires on a mission from Rhode Island to Pennsylvania in the hopes of producing enough of the anti-virus to get it to what’s left of the US government in hiding.  Not only do they have the zombies to deal with, but they also must contend with hatred and mistrust of the vampires and each other.

If you were looking for a twist on the usual zombie lit, well you’ve found it in ROTTER WORLD.  A zombie virus created by man but unleashed by vampires—that’s definitely original.  What’s very cool about the story is that the vampires are just as vulnerable—if not more so because they need to hide in daylight—as the humans.  Supernatural beings are on the same playing field as the humans they wanted to avoid, and now need, to help them survive.  Baker’s characters are nicely developed and not all of the monsters are the flesh-eating kind.  The setting and scenarios are believable (for a zombie story) and sufficiently bloody and violent.  Baker keeps a good pace throughout and manages a less-than-predictable ending.  I highly recommend ROTTER WORLD.

-Colleen Wanglund


THE CIRCLE by Bentley Little (to be released October, 2012 by Cemetery Dance Publications / 137 pp / hc)

Told in three sections, THE CIRCLE is the epitome of a classic Bentley Little story: it's strange, at times darkly funny, and best of all genuinely frightening.

A woman answers a frantic knock at her door.  A loin-clothed kid runs in and begins defecating in her bathroom.  But instead of a mess, the kid fills the toilet with diamonds.  When her husband arrives home, the kid is trapped in the garage, now dropping all kinds of precious stones from his ass.  And just when the couple think they'll be rich, the kid begins to spew an endless army of black beetles...

Meanwhile a few blocks away, Frank and his friends muster the nerve to visit the messy backyard of a reputed local witch, intending to ask favors from a sacred shrine they've heard is hidden among the trash...

And finally Gil Marotta, alerted by one of the kids about what just happened at the shrine, decides to investigate only to discover the "witch" is all too real and a petition the neighborhood had signed against her may be the cause of the growing communal chaos.

THE CIRCLE has been one of my favorite Little stories since I first read it back in 2003, where it appeared as part of a four-novella collection from Leisure Books titled FOUR DARK KNIGHTS. The stories' surreal edge and sexual horror have held up well, and is a good place to start if you've never read Little before.

THAT said, Little fans might be disappointed with the book itself: the novella is presented with no forward, introduction, afterword, or any kind of extras.  Die-hard collectors may want this, but otherwise it's just a reprint with a new (hard) cover.

(WARNING: This story does for cunnilingus what JAWS did to beach swimming.  Seriously...)

HORROR FOR GOOD edited by Mark C. Scioneaux, R.J. Cavender, Robert S. Wilson (2012 Cutting Block Press / 404 pp / tp and eBook)

HORROR FOR GOOD is a charitable anthology, all proceeds going to amfAR (the Foundation for AIDS Research, That means, by purchasing this book, your support will go toward an important cause … and you’ll get some awesome stories into the bargain. 

Some? There’s 32 stories in here, by new writers, rising stars, seasoned pros, and downright legends. 

They span the scary spectrum, from subtle to splat, from haunting to humorous. The whole emotional gamut. There’s supernatural, ghostly and mythic … there’s the even worse kinds of evil that people do to each other … there’s insanity, obsession, mania, fanaticism … there’s stories with a sci-fi edge and stories with religious angles … there really is a little of everything.

And rest assured that even with it being a charity anthology, hence writing by donation, nobody here was phoning it in. 

I mean, damn it, Jack Ketchum’s “Returns” made me CRY!!! Choked up, tearful, sniffly, the works. I don’t know if that qualifies it as my favorite, but it sure made an impact. 

Fortunately, Jeff Strand’s quirky “The Apocalypse Aint So Bad” leaned the other way into the brighter side of gruesome infectious pandemics. 

I went through the book meaning to mark down the ones that really struck me as being among the best of the best, and before you know it I had marked more than a third of them!

Admittedly, there were a couple that didn’t resonate with me for whatever reason, but even then it was nothing to do with the quality of the writing, just one of those personal ‘not my thing’ things. 

So, I’m just going to list off the other ten of my top twelve, and recommend that you snag this book to read them all and decide for yourself. 

“Mouth” by Nate Southard
“The Silent Ones” by Taylor Grant
“The Other Patrick” by Brad C. Hodson
“Baptism” by Tracie McBride
“The Monster in the Drawer” by Wrath James White
“Blood for the American People” by Lisa Morton
“Consanguinity” by Lorne Dixon
“To and Fro” by Richard Salter 
“The Depravity of Inanimate Things” by John F.D. Taff
“The Eyes Have It” by Rena Mason

-Christine Morgan

SYMPHONY OF BLOOD: A HANK MONDALE SUPERNATURAL CASE by Adam Pepper (2012 Amazon Digital Services / 408 KB / eBook)

Private detective Hank Mondale has been hired by one of the wealthiest men around, Thomas Blake to help his daughter Mackenzie.  Mackenzie is a spoiled trust fund kid who has had her problems with drugs and alcohol but now it seems a monster is trying to kill her.  As Hank’s investigation into Mackenzie and her friends lead back to a few murder cases with eerie similarities, He discovers the monster hunting Mackenzie is all too real.

SYMPHONY OF BLOOD is a fast paced story that moves from the point of view of the people involved to the point of view of the monster.  This change in perspective is what makes this story so interesting.  The character development is good if not a bit cliché.  Hank is a stereotypical private-dick-with-a-drinking/gambling problem but I like the noir-ish feel it adds to the book.  Thomas Blake is the typical rich guy used to getting his way and his daughter is a sufficiently spoiled brat.  Ultimately the trouble they get into is fairly predictable but it’s the monster and Pepper’s storytelling that are unique.  The monster itself is only trying to survive and it’s an accident that gets Mackenzie and her father involved.

When the story seems to reach its climax, perspective changes and we are then told the story from the monster’s side.  That’s when things get really interesting because you will begin to wonder just who the monster really is.  Hank is thrown into the middle of it all, but he takes his job very seriously and intends to protect Mackenzie at almost any cost.  The story finishes up back from the perspective of the people but the monster doesn’t become any less sympathetic.  Overall I enjoyed SYMPHONY OF BLOOD and look forward to more Hank Mondale tales.

-Colleen Wanglund

FAINT OF HEART by Jeff Strand (2012 Gallows Press / 156 pp / tp)

Jeff Strand may have a reputation for being somewhat wacky (I mean that in the best possible way), but, while there are some wacky moments in FAINT OF HEART, overall it is anything but. Overall, it is grim, scary, and anxiety-inducing intense. 

Rebecca isn’t phobic about EVERYTHING, but she has more than the average share of unease, apprehension, and fears. The biggie is being alone, which gives her tracherous mind plenty of time to come up with horrible possibilities and paranoia, listing off all the other things she could and should be worried about. 

Rebecca also doesn’t like being too clingy, or having her husband find out how much of a scaredy-cat she really is. So, when Gary and his pals want to take a weekend camping trip, she has to grit her teeth, smile, and let him go. Sure, she’ll be home by herself for a few days … their house is remote, but it’s got a security system … she’ll be fine.

Except Gary doesn’t return on schedule. Then a stranger shows up at her door. Suddenly Rebecca has REAL things to worry about, and it’s only going to get worse. 

She soon finds herself caught in a nightmarish scenario, when two gunmen inform her that they’ve abducted her husband. If she wants to see him alive, she has to agree to reliving everything Gary’s experienced on his camping trip weekend from hell. 

It means facing her greatest fears, overcoming terrors that put even her most paranoid imaginings to shame, to find out if love really can conquer all, and if anybody’s worth going through something like this. 

Creepy damn book. Yet another reason to never want to go outside!

-Christine Morgan

Z-BOAT by Suzanne Robb (2011 Twisted Library Press / 280 pp / tp)

In a world of changing political powers, over-population, unusable farmland and toxic water, research has moved to the deepest parts of the planet’s oceans for clean sources of drinking water and new medications.  On one such mission, the sub and its crew were lost.  Six months later a barely sea-worthy sub, the Betty Lou, is contracted to rescue survivors and retrieve any research they may have gathered.

Among Captain Iain’s ragtag crew are members going along that are hand-picked for their various expertise by the mission’s contractors.  What they find when they get to The Widowmaker, it is full of zombies--that could think enough to have sent the original distress call.  Unsure of the cause of the outbreak, Iain’s crew must contend with not just the zombies but spies, mistrust and possible sabotage.

Z-BOAT is a rather fun and original take on a sub-genre that can be overloaded with generic, identical and predictable stories.  The potential cause is a little different, but no less scary and the claustrophobic atmosphere of the entire novel will keep you on edge.  Character development is well-done (although a bit cliché here and there) and there is no lack of human enemies as well as zombies looking to feed.  Z-BOAT is chock full of gory goodness as well as violence verging on extreme.  The end is rather bleak, leaving the reader with the feeling that whatever happened below the waves may not be entirely over.  Suzanne Robb did a great job on this book and you should definitely give it a read.

-Colleen Wanglund

LOCKE & KEY by Joe Hill (2009-2012 IDW / tp)


Joe Hill’s expert writing, amazing art by Gabriel Rodriguez to go with? Dark fantasy / horror / Lovecraftian graphic novels? Spooky as hell, gorgeous, fantastic? 

Got them for my birthday, the four trade-sized books collecting the issues to date, and I’d had no idea they even existed!

On the plus side, if I HAD known about them, I would’ve had to endure the agony of waiting for each new installment instead of being able to devour them in a gulp. Of course, NOW I have to wait for the NEXT volume …

These are, it should hardly need be pointed out, decidedly NOT “comics,” and not for kids. The graphic here includes blood, guts, death, murder, gore, and other adult themes from sex and alcoholism to homohpbia to rape.

So. There’s this decrepit old mansion called Keyhouse. It’s got many doors, some of which are normal and others of which are most decidedly not. Many of those doors have hidden keys that open a variety of strange possibilities – doors to ghost worlds, animate shadows, innermost thoughts  … each more bizarre than the last. 

The Lockes have lived at Keyhouse for generations. Something else lives there too, something that had been trapped but is eager to escape, hungry for power, and in the mood for revenge. When a violent tragedy brings the Locke children back to their ancestral home, that malevolent spirit has its chance. 

Not since ELFQUEST have I been so captivated and blown away by anything so rich in both illustration and story. It’s intricate, complex, compelling, and just all-around fantastic stuff. 

-Christine Morgan


Yet more selections for your summer reading list as the HFR staff continues to make their way through one MASSIVE TO - BE - REVIEWED pile...