Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Book Review: The Troop by Nick Cutter

The Troop By Nick Cutter

358 pages

Simon and Shuster

This is a pure horror novel that despite having a few modern feels to me like a classic 80’s horror novel. While released by Simon and Shuster and clearly published with the backing of the mainstream feels like one of those great Dell Abyss horror novels. Some might see that as an insult but that line released many great novels. The Troop is a great horror novel, it is not a great urban f antasy novel with horror elements, nor is it an overused classic monster trope. Nope it is a classic kids trapped in the woods stalked by a terror inducing monster novel.

The story revolves around a Canadian boy scout troop ready for hiking and camping adventure on a remote island off the east coast of Canada. The POV of the story smartly and almost invisibly between scout master Tim (small village they from’s only doctor) and the members of the Troop. They don’t even really get a chance to enjoy the trip as strange dying man pulls ashore in a boat. He seems to be losing weight quickly, no matter how much he eats it is never enough.

Tim is not a bad doctor but this is out of his league. The man dies, and the real terror begins as the disease that killed the strange man is transmitted to the boys. Alone on the island they have to suddenly face each other becoming ravenous monsters. This crisis also uncovers a secret one of the boys has kept hidden.

I first heard about this novel when the Parasite obsessed author of ‘We Live Inside You’ Jeremy Robert Johnson suggested it. It is pretty much one of his nightmares, but I admit I was also interested when I saw that Stephen King blurbed it. In the 80’s he was a blurb machine and you couldn’t always trust it, but I assume at this point he really has to have a real book to blurb. Then I saw other heavy weights like Scott Smith (The Ruins) and Jonathan Mayberry had also given the seal I was sold to read it.

I thought it was an effective and disturbing horror novel that made the best of a lean prose style. The King influence is one the author wore on his sleeve, and was found as much in the strong children characters as it was in the horror elements. Horror readers will be very happy with this one.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Book Review: Galveston by Nik Pizzolatto

Galveston by Nik Pizzolatto

Hardcover, 258 pages

Published June 15th 2010 by Scribner Book Company

Edgar Award Nominee for Best First Novel (2011)

The love for HBO’s True Detective really set the bar high for this debut novel by the TD scribe Pizzolatto. I know it came first, but the majority of the people who have now read it, or will read are folks who loved TD and went back to check it out. That is what I did. It is true, as far as crime shows go TD broke a lot of amazing new ground. Mostly this was done with amazing performances by the lead actors and a tight plot that used all kinds of elements inspired by works of dark literature. The fact that an obscure dark fiction classic like the King in Yellow was a trending topic is a miracle that Pizzolatto deserves credit for. Lets not forget the attention he got for awesome cult dark fiction writers like Thomas Liggotti and Laird Barron.

It is really unfair to compare the two. A novel is written alone, and while it is a very good novel, the level of genius that TD reached is hard to do for one author and a keyboard to do. I mean think of all the great people Pizzolatto had helping him. I think the atmosphere created by the director and the actors were a massive part of why that show worked.

Galveston is a very, very good crime novel. Solid in every respect but it is not mind bendingly fantastic or awe-inspiring. He is getting all the attention now but I don’t think he has anything on southern crime writers like Joe R. Lansdale, but Pizzolatto scored big with True Detective and it earned its praise.

The plot of this novel is simple the delivery and how the story rolls out might be a little similar to TD, but shit let’s try and stop with the comparisons. Roy is a dying thug. Probably cancer, his lungs look snowey on a X-ray. His boss tries to have him killed and he just barely escapes with a young prostitute named Rockey. Roy helps Rockey pick up her sister and in the end up hiding in Texas on the beach.

It can’t be that simple, as Roy’s former boss wants them dead. Rockey and Roy don’t have a romance but their story takes many twists. I found this novel to be engaging and well written. The story moves well, and it is more subtle than TD, but there are hidden gems of well thought-out character moments mixed in with some moments of brutal action.

Worth a read, but not as mind blowingly good as I was hoping. It will help tide you over until the next season of True Detective, but I also think the Bottoms or Leather Maiden by Lansdale would be even better.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Movie Trailer: Joe R. Lansdale's Cold in July

Great novel, This looks great!

Book Review: Doyle After Death by John Shirley

Doyle After Death by John Shirley

339 pages

Witness Impulse (Harper paperback)

Known for his novels of science fiction and horror John Shirley has several classics in both those genres. With more than one novel in each category that is strong enough to be considered classics and masterpieces. Known for political edged genre with a message the majority of John Shirley novels deliver intense experiences unlike novels written by anyone else. Each novel has different feel but more than any other novel in recent years I can’t think of one I can compare Doyle After Death with.

Doyle After Death is a metaphysical mystery, what I can compare it to is Richard Matheson’s What Dreams May Come. That comes mostly from the afterlife setting, but beyond that they are very different novels. They share a conceit, but Matheson’s novel is a love story and this novel is murder mystery.

Nick Fogg our narrator dies on the first page and ends in a afterlife that at first seems like our world. Shirley sets up the rules long before the mystery begins. The place is a plane of reality know as Garden Rest. Nick doesn’t know how but he chose to come there. A detective in his now former life, it is suggested that maybe it was to be with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who calls Garden Rest home.

He soon meets up with the famous author and they begin to investigate a murder. Of course how a soul in the next reality loses its existence is a part of the mystery. Doyle makes for a interesting companion and through the lens of this novel we get view into creator of the famous detective Holmes.

This is a strong and interesting novel if any thing was missing was a long discussion about what death means for the characters beyond Doyle and Fogg. A slow burn novel it takes a little while to build but once it does, it does so with visionary style. The highlight being “The Raining lands” in the second half of the novel.

Doyle After Death suggests a sequel as new characters appear towards the end but it might be interesting if Fogg traveled to other planes and met other writers in the after-life. Agatha Christie? Who knows. I am ready for it.

Another well written Shirley novel, is it a classic? Time will tell but it shows a side of Shirley we have seen before and what is more impressive than a writer stretching their wings and doing something totally different?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Book Review: Hot in December by Joe R. Lansdale

Hot In December by Joe R. Lansdale

105 pages

Dark Regions Press

I was very excited to read this novella by a master writer Joe R. Lansdale. If you are not familiar with his work you should be. Not only is he a great story teller and a fantastic word smith, but he works in many genres from southern gothic mystery, horror and western to crime thrillers. Lansdale always has little throw away lines that make you laugh like Elmore Leonard did. Lansdale however has his own gritty and hilarious east Texas feel to most of his books.

This is a good time to get on board as new films based on his work are coming your way including The Bottoms written and directed by the duo behind the criminally under rated horror film Frailty and Cold in July starring Dexter’s Michael C. Hall.

I felt kinda stupid that it took me a few pages to get that Hot in December is a companion piece to Cold in July. You see the title should have done that for me, but I opened up the book and started reading without looking at the back, not even thinking about the title. It was a Lansdale book and that was all I needed to know. Oot into the plot I thought to myself this plot is so much like Cold in July. Duh.

Cold in July is a great short novel, and Hot in December is a equally quick and fun read. Lansdale establishes characters with skill, and builds the suspense almost from page 1. I knew some of the characters from the fantastic novel Leather Maiden, it was nice to see Booger and Cason again. Connections to the Lansdale-verse are all over this book. I think he could have written a much longer book and I would have been along for the complete ride. None the less 105 pages is a perfect quick read and Lansdale fills very page with tons of story value.

I loved it and think you will too.

Book Review: Heaven's Fall by David S. Goyer and Michael Cassutt

Heaven's Fall (Heaven's Shadow #3)

by David S. Goyer, and Michael Cassutt

Hardcover, 432 pages

Published August 6th 2013 by Ace Hardcover

Shadow’s fall by David S. Goyer

David Goyer has made a name for himself for being involved in some of the most sucesscful movies of all time. He has made excellent movies as a screenwriter, director and a producer. He has written comics and TV. He knows how to tell a story. The first novel in this series was written during the writers strike and I personally think the quality of that book over the two follow-ups shows more focus.

Goyer’s partner Michael Cassutt is also a screenwriter after all. The first novel worked well and I liked it a lot. I was excited to read the second book. I liked it but found the ending to be a bit weak. I read this one almost just to feel I completed it. Frankly right now I want him focused on Constantine which i hope will totally rule.

The third book took me forever to finish. I found that I was drifting my attention to other books. The only reason I put my finger on was that the story was not clear to me. The adventure was not clear to me. What the Characters were doing was not clear to me. So if it seems like there is not much to this review that is why.

There is an interesting shift in the story going twenty year ahead in the story, extra terrestrials have taken over the earth, the humans who were taken by Keanu have returned. Etc. It is interesting concept but nothing in the execution captured my interest

Honestly I am not going to go deep here. I didn’t enjoy the book, yet I did really enjoy the first book.