Friday, May 22, 2015

Book Review: Hissers by Ryan C. Thomas

Paperback, 256 pages

Published November 2011 by Permuted Press

I know at this point in the wave of zombie movies, novels comic books, video games and TV shows it is easy to dismiss another zombie tale. Even though mine was satire I still faced that promoting the Vegan Revolution...with Zombies. I know how hard it is to separate a zombie story from the crowd. Certainly reading another zombie novel is not high on my list. Something really has to scream out to me this is something special or different for me to break with my hesitation. In this case Hissers got bumped on to my TBR based on the strength of Ryan C. Thomas's debut novel "The Summer I Died."

I can't say enough about that novel. You can search for it here on my blog/ Goodreads and read the full review, and I think you'll find that you'll want to read it. One of the strengths of that novel was the strong characters throughout the story. Thomas clearly has a gift for writing young characters.

One thing that separates Hissers is how young the characters are. I don't remember a zombie story focused on middle school aged kids. RCT does bang-up job getting to the fears and hopes of kids this age and is expressed in a fantastic scene where the kids end hiding for a night in the high school they were dreading going to at the end of the summer.

The zombie aspect of the novel impacted me less, but that is not to say the RCT does not deliver. The zombie story line is suggested more than it is fully explained and several moments of suspense show off the skill the author is working with. It takes a weird-turn and lets just say without spoilers these are not typical zombies.

I enjoyed this novel, but if you are going to introduce yourself to this author start with the superior Summer I Died, then make your way here. there are few moments towards the end that were both sad and brutal a combination I see now is a part of the Ryan C. Thomas M.O.

Recommended for zombie fans and people who like character driven horror.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Katatonia unplugged live show!

One of my favorite bands ever!

Mad Max: Fury Road Tomorrow!!!!

Book Review: Strategies Against Nature by Cody Goodfellow

Strategies Against Nature by Cody Goodfellow
Paperback, 278 pages

Published March 2015 by King Shot Press

Cody Goodfellow is easily my favorite writer of our generation, he is one of the authors that as soon as something is released I make sure I get in my paws on it as soon as possible. Strategies Against Nature is Goodfellow's third collection (after Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars and All Monster Action) and like the previous entries it is fantastic. It was bound to happen as I started to follow Cody's entries in magazines and collections, but the funny thing is I read many of these stories before.

Many things make Cody Goodfellow such an excellent writer, it is best for me to sum them up than to just try an explain what happens in the book. Cody is both intelligent and in a storytelling sense totally insane. My two favorite pieces in the collection ones I had read/heard Cody perform before were Wasted on the Young and Nature's Mother. None the less I enjoyed re-reading those as much as the two stories that were new to the collection.

Wasted on the Young is great example of what makes Cody special. It is a short story but presents several powerful ideas. The story of a annual punk show that is populated by posers abducted and forced to see the real thing. This punk horror tale has to be be the product of modern writer, one who grew-up on the fringes but also is highly literate and accomplished writer. That is what Cody balances.

Goodfellow is a Lovecraft expert, and as such he has been falsely stereotyped as a purely Lovecraftian author. At times he is, but Nature's Mother is a great example of very different influences. It is a politically smart sci-fi freak out that shows heavy influence from Philip K. Dick and Cyberpunk math genius Rudy Rucker.

I will tell you to to buy just about anything with Goodfellow's name on it, but this collection is a great introduction. Wasted on Young is one of my favorite short stories of all time.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Book Review: Dark Hollow by Brian Keene

Dark Hollow (The Levi Stoltzfus Series #1)by Brian Keene

Paperback, 290 pages

Published June 2012 by Deadite Press (first published January 2006)

More than any author I can think of it is very hard to separate Brian Keene from his work. Everyone who has ever written a novel has their reflection on the pages, but Keene is such a part of his work. I read both The Rising (his first novel) and Terminal when they came out ages ago. I liked both alot but for whatever reason they didn't click with me in the sense that I felt the need to track down everything by the man.

Now that we share a publisher (in Deadite) and have hung out at a few cons, and I listen every week to his podcast, I feel I know the guy. I like Brian Keene the guy, I like Brian Keene the writer so I decided I needed to revisit his work.

I started with the short novel "The Darkness on the Edge of Town." I reviewed it here and found that to be a great tribute to Stephen King's the Mist, even surpassing that story in several ways. Next up obviously was the novel The Dark Hollow. I chose this book because of Keene's podcast the horror show. He devoted an episode to the origin of the novel and hinted before it aired that he went to really dark places. I chose to wait on listening to the podcast until I had finished the book. I suggest that route.

In many respects DH had many strikes against it for me. First off Keene tends to write in first person. I generally prefer third person for horror and often find that style distracting. DH also feels heavy with autobiographical elements. That was something I could tell just by reading it before Keene's podcast confirmed it. The third thing I normally don't like is novels about authors. I can't really complain because I have written one myself. The plot could have functioned without him being a writer, but it didn't end up hurting the novel for me.

All those things should have affected DH for me, but it didn't. I enjoyed it none the less. In fact I really enjoyed the read. Brian Keene is a grandmaster of horror, and earned it. He spent time in his speech telling us he didn't feel worthy but honestly when it comes to impact to the genre community alone he is a grandmaster. The novels are effective enough on their own. He is a grandmaster. No debate.

I am not going to say a lot about the plot because I went in cold, and it worked for me. Pow-wow Magic, haunted hollows in the woods and a marriage on the brink. Cool plot and great characters that all reflect Brian Keene’s talent and ability.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Magazine Review: Cemetery Dance #72

Cemetery Dance issue #72

I have certain traditions for my visits to my homestate of Indiana involving my trips back to the west coast. Certain foods I always pack in my bag, Dylan's magic tofu and seseme cashew noodles from the Bloomingfoods Deli for food. And reading wise I always stop by The Book Corner in Downtown Bloomington and pick up the latest issue of Cemetery Dance to read on the flight. I have done this since the 50th issue. Since it is four times year most of the time it works out. I have had to buy a few at powells in Portland.

#72 was great reading for the flight home. The regular columns I always zip through. Tom Monteleone's depressing column on all the deaths in the horror community probably the most important.

The two highlights were new short stories by Norman Partrdge and Stephen King. The King story was a short but excellent end of the world heart breaker.

Cemetery Dance is a fantastic horror magazine, that is a must read/support for those who believe in short horror fiction.

Book Review: Low Down Death Right Easy by J. David Osborne

Low Down Death Right Easy by J. David Osborne

Paperback, 188 pages

Published February 2013 by Swallowdown Press

Shooters in basketball never shoot 100%. Batters in baseball are considered amazing if they bat .300. What does it mean then that every single book that Swallowdown press the mutant literary children of Jeremy Robert Johnson has ruled. I mean 100% badass dark bizarro novels from the man himself, Cody Goodfellow, Forrest Armstrong and now two from J. David Osbourne.

The first one was bleak mind fucker about a Russian prison. Osbourne has chosen another Disney worthy local full of sunshine and rainbows in the meth infused rural Oklahoma backwaters. This novel to me feels a bit like Gummo crossed with Winter's Bone.

I mean the McGuffin in this novel is a random decapitated human head found by the characters during a hand fishing trip. Yikes this is not the kinda place I would ever like to hang out. What makes it a readable experience is Osbourne's ability with the written word.

The prose is the special effect here. The characters and descriptions are sparse at times leaving alot to the readers to fill in. Other times random sentences over achieve in character and world building. No one will accuse JDO of over writing.

This book is a must for word smiths with a fondness for dark tone. Big thumbs up.