Friday, December 26, 2014

Count Agranoff's Top Ten Movies of 2014

Top ten movies of 2014

10. Horns

This is a very weird bizarro horror film faithfully based on Joe Hill’s novel. Daniel Radcliffe is fantastic and coming from French director Alexander Aja (High Tension) everyone involved was stretching into fresh ground. Movie was funnier than I expected.

9. Captain America: Winter Soldier

I love that this film felt like Captain America in a 70’s political thriller. Not much else to say.

8. Cold in July

Not much to this bare bones crime thriller but it was a faithful adaptation of a novel I really love. So it made me happy.

7. Interstellar

I know Nolan wanted this to be his 2001, but it lacked the mystery of that film. That said it was a blockbuster that’s plot was dependent on the physics of time dilation. I think Danny Boyle’s Sunshine is a better entry in the hard sci-fi genre. None the less I think it was Nolan’s best since Memento.

6. The Babadook

This emotional intense, heartbreaking boogeyman movie is the best descent into madness put on film since Requiem for a Dream.

5. Guardians of the Galaxy

I don’t need to convince you right? This movie was almost perfect.

4. Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon

So combine Crouching Tiger style kungfu fantasy with young Sherlock Holmes, then add a Lovecraftian style sea creature. All put together in amazing 3D visuals by visionary director Tsui Hark. I need to watch this one again actually.

3. The Raid 2

The difference between my #2 and #1 movies could not be more different. The Raid 2 has more story than the first film and that is not exactly a positive. That said The raid 2 is a epic action movie. Amazing ride, and awesome theater experience.

2. The Rover

This Australian apocalypse movie is brutal and powerful. Made all the more amazing by powerful performances from Guy Pierce and Robert Pattinson.

1. Boyhood

Yeah this is a one of a kind movie. It will never happen again. Huge gamble and if Richard Linkletter doesn’t win best director something is wrong.

Honorable mentions: Snowpiercer, Lucy, Edge of Tomorrow, The Monkey King.

Ones I wanted to see:

Only Lovers Left Alive, Fist of the Dragon, Journey to the West,Once upon a time in Vietnam, Die Fighting, Nightcrawler, Over Your Dead Body, Jordorowsky’s Dune, The Chemist, Calvary, 71,Blue Ruin.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Book Review: Gideon by Alex Gordon

Gideon by Alex Gordon

Trade paperback/ E-book 432 pages

Harper Voyager

Release date: Jan. 2015 Gideon is a supernatural thriller that roots itself in the Midwest much like Ray Bradbury’s classic Something Wicked this Way Comes. That is a tightly woven short novel that uses the fall setting in Illinois to create a vibe and feeling of fear that I didn’t find in this novel. When I read the back cover description I was hoping for something in that vein. I am sure that is not fair to the author but that is what the back cover sold me.

Gordon is talented and at times creates moments that I enjoyed. I wanted to like this novel but in the end I didn’t. The novel is the story of Lauren Reardon who lives in Seattle, when her father dies she discovers that there is a dark history in his past. That history connects her to a town in Illinois called Gideon. This town has a history that involves witchcraft, murder and various secrets that make the fictional town interesting.

I can tell Gordon researched the hell out of this book, but the problem for me came in the structure. I was concerned that my problems were “inside basball” problems that only bothered me because of my writer’s sensibility. Howver, those rules exist for the readers too.

The structure to the novel didn’t make sense to me as a reader. The first 7 chapters were basically a 63 page prologue of Gideon back story, part taking place in 1836, and part in 1841. That is a lot of story before we meet Lauren and the actual story begins. I am not sure I would have made it that far if I was not reading a review copy. Those chapters worked but I thought they should have been weaved into the novel as part of Lauren’s path of discovery.

After that the novel gets more interesting , but I never felt the vibe I was looking for. Gordon has a lot of talent and lots of good moments. The problem for me is they happened too far into the text. Those first 63 pages felt like they should have been a 10 page prologue or spread out in the story. I felt the need to connect to Lauren sooner, as a character we can relate too.

I have a hard time giving low marks to first time authors who has shown obvious passion on each page of a book. Certainly in self-published cases I think to myself if only they had the help of a good editor. In the case of Alex Gordon’s Gideon she is published by a major publisher. The acknowledgments list three editors and it is clear this author did her research. So perhaps readers disagree with me. I think in the end this book should get a chance in libraries, because the concept is enough to hook readers who may have different taste from mine.

Book Review: Halo Broken Circle by John Shirley

Halo Broken Circle by John Shirley

Paperback, 352 pages

Published November 4th 2014 by Gallery Books

I know I have no business reviewing a video game novel but here is the deal. The most modern video I have played is Galaga. John Shirley is my favorite author currently calling planet earth home, so I just looked at this as a space opera by an author who doesn’t normally write in that genre. Shirley has written Video game tie-ins before, he is a gamer after all. I read his Borderlands and Bioshock novels as well. (on a side note Brian Evenson has deadspace novel I’d like to read too.)

Of the three franchises his Bioshock novel worked the best as a stand alone novel. That said I did enjoy this novel despite my total ignorance of the Halo universe. The first half of the novel takes place 1,000 years before the events of the game. The second shoot ahead A thousand years and I had the feeling this was the part of the book that tied to the game.

Mostly the first half was about the building of the last forerunner shield world, which seems directly influenced by Larry Niven’s classic Ringworld. Interesting aspect is the fact that the novel lacks a single human character. I pretty sure that is a first for Shirley. This has a much more space fantasy feel than anything he has ever written before.

Shirley does a strong job of building up the factions and breathing life into the characters. It has excellently realized action and it has made me a little more interested in the Halo universe. Must read for Halo fans and Shirley die-hards like me.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Book Review:On Her Majesty's Behalf: The Great Undead War: Book II by Joseph Nassie

On Her Majesty's Behalf: The Great Undead War: Book II (The Great Undead War #2)
by Joseph Nassise

Paperback, 336 pages

Published December 2nd 2014 by Harper Voyager

First things first let me get this out of the way this is the second book in a series and normally I would never start a story in the middle but I jumped at a review copy of this novel because I have been interested in Joesph Nassie's work. I met him briefly during his time as president of the horror writers association and knew his work was well regarded.

It would be easy to dismiss this novel as fitting several genre publishing trends at once. Yes, It is a alternate history zombie steampunk novel. That sounds like it could be super cheezy but it is not. Nassie pulls it off.

I consider this novel to be a great crossover between a Alistair MacLean (Guns of Navarone) novel meets zombie apocalypse. Set against the great war (WW I to us) this novel finds under seige from zombie hordes created by German chemical weapons.

Madman Major Burke is our hero and he is given the job of getting into zombie occupied London to rescue the royal family. There are two styles of zombies Shamblers and Shredders.

This short novel is rare case where I could have handled another hundred pages. The pace is great, the action fast and the vibe feels like a War mission novel when it needs to, and a horror novel when it needs to feel like that. It is well written and seems well researched.

I recommend this series to readers who like adventure fantasy and libraries should have this available for younger readers. They will love it. I intended to go back and read the first book and will be in line when the next one comes out.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Book Review: Stinger by Robert R. McCammon

Stinger By Robert McCammon

538 pages

Pocket books

Robert McCammon is one of the few writers I can say has not delivered a stinker yet. Now I have not read every book he has written but I trust the man to deliver. Stinger was a novel I had held off on because I had not heard as much good stuff as some of RRM's classics like say Boy's Life or Swan Song. But Mine is an overlooked novel in his back catalog I love that one so at some point I was going to read it.

I am glad I did. First things first this is a very different novel from RRM's early work. It is a Crossover of Science Fiction and horror. I think I expected a creature feature but it's foundation is a much more solid Science Fiction base than I was expecting.

Of course RRM novels move fast (even when they are long) and normally have very strong characters. The characters are as strong as always but I would say that this novel is not quite as well paced as most of his novels. This is the first time where I found myself thinking (this could be a little bit shorter.)

Set in a isolated bordertown between Texas and Mexico the setting is vivid and draws you in. Two towns in rural part of Texas along the Rio Grande becomes the battle ground between alien forces. I went into this novel totally cold on the plot so I would suggest that here, but if you need to know more...

An alien ship crashes in the desert and we learn it is an alien rebel on the run from monstrous bounty hunter that she calls Stinger. I say she because the rebel Alien assumes the body of a young girl.

I am sure some of these plot elements with the rivial gangs are a little out of date now as this was written in the 80's. If there is a weakness to the novel, besides being a tad long is that the dynamic of Daufin body snatching the body of the child is not as explored as I hope hoped. That could be me projecting as I just finished watching BBC America's The Intruders which did that masterfully.

Horror Fiction for the Holidays 2014

Of course I would like you to buy and read my novels for the holidays I mean what says Hanakah more than Chinese vampires and werewolf skinheads right? Nothing says Christmas like The Vegan Revolution...with Zombies! However I do not just want to suggest my own work. I mean I believe in giving back to the Book-a-shere as it were. Maybe you are not horror fan but someone in your circle of friends and family loves a good scary or a super bizarre novel.

Books are a great gift, they give hours of entertainment, they look neat on the shelf and in these cases they tell good stories you are not finding in Movies and TV. So I am going to end this with a pitch for my newest novel but before that here are some horror novels/ collections I think are worth getting.

Jeremy Robert Johnson:
The book I am most looking forward to next year is JRJ’s Skullcrack City coming out from Lazy Facist press towards the end of winter. In the meantime Check out his last short story collection “We Live Inside You” We Live Inside you is dark bizarro horror literature at it's sharpest point, sharp enough to enter through the temple and worm deep into your brain. JRJ comes from the same scene but doesn't rely on dildo jokes or B-movie tropes like a lot of bizarro writers do. The insane ideas are still there, but it's like crème filling in a fancy donut. At the same time it's hard for me to advise anyone to take a bite of a book written by a guy who keeps a list of parasites above his desk, but this book is a must for lovers of all literature that is weird and dark.

Sarah Pinborough:
A Matter of Blood by Sarah Pinbrough. This British novel is one of the favorites of recent years, the first of trilogy. This trilogy was released in England under the title Dog Faced Gods, but published here in America in April under the title Forgotten Gods. (I love the cover on the British edition) This is a brutal mystery with a weird crime backbone. The world that Pinborough has created here is filled with very dark shades of grey with almost zero characters worth rooting for. Oh you’ll be interested in them; you’ll want to keep turning pages.

On top of all those elements this novel also has a powerful plot line about a serial killer, including one of the creepiest killers I have read about since Brite’s Exquisite Corpse, but at the same time were talking about a novel with a subtle social conscience. The other two books in the trilogy rule as well.

Cody Goodfellow:
A Perfect Union is a weird masterpiece. Influences ranging from Cronenberg body horror, Evil Dead style gore comedy to a fascinating political dissection of Marx and Thoreau make this a genius horror novel destined to be misunderstand by the masses but loved by the readers ready to get in the ring with Cody. #9 on my all time horror novels list. Dark Bizarro masterpiece.

F.Paul Wilson:
The Tomb is a great novel that is a part of two separate series. Both the 1st book of the Repairman Jack series and the third book of the Adversary Cycle. Repairman Jack is 15 books and Adversary is 6 books. F.Paul Wilson is a plotting Yoda, Master he is. Book 15 of Repairman Jack is also book six of Adversary. The thing is he wrote it over two decades and it works perfectly. Each book is fun and different in its own ways. Harbingers is book 11 of Repairman Jack and one of my favorite books ever. But it all starts with The Tomb so that is where you should begin. You’ll be begging for a Jack TV show like the rest of us. The Tomb is a great action horror novel which combines monsters, suspense, mystery and interesting characters. It is an excellent introduction to the world of Repairman Jack.

John Shirley:
My Favorite author and biggest influence is John Shirley who was a punk rock pioneer in late 70’s Portland and moonlit as a Science Fiction author. He has a Science Fiction Masterpiece (City Come A Walkin’) and a Horror Masterpiece (Wetbones) but I think Demons is where you should start. Demons is a great end of the world novel that highlights aspects of Shirley’s entire catalog. Its high concept, socio-political, funny and all around weird.

World War Cthulu:
This one is on my wishlist. I have not read it yet but I have heard three of the authors read stories from it live and from author list alone I want it. “This book chronicles these desperate battles from across the ages, including Roman Britain, The American Civil War, World War Two, The Vietnam Conflict, and even into the far future.” This collection features stories by John Shirley, Cody Goodfellow and a fantastic tale by my Flesh Trade co-author Edward R. Morris. Amazing illustrations too.

Lisa Morton:
Netherworld by Lisa Morton. Lisa is out of Los Angeles is one of my favorite writers working today. In the last decade Morton separated herself from the pack with several amazing short stories in major anthologies often being the best story along side names like Clive Barker, Dennis Ecthison or Gary Braunbeck. This novel is a swashbuckling supernatural horror crossover with a historical vibe, big thumbs up from me.

Some of the Horror/ Bizarro Publishers I think rock:

Eraserhead press, Lazy Fascist, Deadite, Broken River books, Dark Regions Press.


A Necessary End by F.Paul Wilson and Sarah Pinbrough

Malediction by Lisa Morton

Rumors of my Death by Gina Ranali

Deep Like a River by Tim Waggoner

Long Lost Dog of It by Michael Kazepis

The Last Projector by David James Keaton

Hunter from the Woods by Robert R. MaCammon

In the End, Only Darkness by Monica O’Rourke

So many…actually I will just stop there. Even though I can think of 15 more easily.

OK now that that I finished promoting others work. How about my latest novel from Deadite press. Boot Boys of the Wolf Reich…

"Agranoff writes about what he knows and does it with knowledge and compassion. Most of his older readers, like me, will probably have the common misconception of punks and skinheads in the late 80s as racially bigoted. I had to look up the definition of “SHARP” and “Straight Edge”. But the author is not necessarily writing to us. He is writing for his generation which already knows this…This is an exceptional short novel that delivers on its promise of horror but delves into bigger issues by someone who understand the generation it speaks to. I recommend this book to all lovers of horror fiction regardless of age. The hardcore horror reader will not be disappointed. But I would also advise the prospective reader to come for the Nazi werewolves but stay for the social and family themes. Thoughtful horror fiction like this is getting increasingly difficult to come by." - Hellnotes

"I enjoyed this book. The street menace of the first half is palpable, with one tense scene using a dead-end alleyway to superb effect. I suspect that some of this is semi-autobiographical, which lends credibility to the action...David Agranoff is largely an invisible storyteller and pleasingly succinct. He paints a vivid picture, whether in a concentration camp, ska gig or back street, and transports us there through sharp characterization and drama." - Matthew Fryer /The HellForge

"Boot Boys of the Wolf Reich, by David Agranoff, is a coming of age tale done well...Both the SHARPs and Neo-Nazi crews are portrayed in a realistic and life-like way that envelops the reader. It is a testament to Agranoff’s writing style and his own personal experiences in the subculture."

"Despite some dark subject matter, it’s an entertaining read, and well worth checking out." The Books of Blood blog

Agranoff combines anti-racist skinheads and Nazi werewolves for the perfect punk rock coming of age story you never knew you needed – Dread Media Podcast

"Boot Boys of the Wolf Reich is one of those rare novels that truly erases genre labels. Part punk, coming of age story; part social commentary; part straight-up, old school werewolf horror, Boot Boys delivers on all fronts. David Agranoff takes readers street level into a time, place, and culture depicted with the kind of rich and raw details only one who lived it can know. A blend of beautiful prose and brutal honesty. A powerful, passionate, must-read book.” –James Chambers, Three Chords of Chaos