Sunday, July 09, 2017

Things I Do When I'm Awake by Will Viharo

(pb; 2016. Published by Thrillville Press.)

From the back cover

"Things I Do When I’m Awake is erotic horror noir distilled into a surrealistic mood piece, a series of confessional prose poems that are psychologically complex, sensually stimulating, and emotionally challenging, collectively conveying a seductive nightmare. . ."

Review

The back cover blurb is a good description of this short, intense work, which takes on bold themes of fractured-but-well-meant maternal instincts, rape (emotional and otherwise) and other forms of violence, while maintaining a plot pushing is-this-a-dream-state feel. Things is an experimental and more personal than usual novella (for the author), meaning this will not appeal to readers looking for something light and formulaic.(Viharo's works are not formulaic.) 

If you are willing to enter this distinctive darkness, and appreciate short, sharp and troubling kicks to the brain (entertainment-wise), chances are this would be a worthwhile purchase for you.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes: Revelations by Greg Keyes

(pb; 2017: prequel to the film/movie novelization War for the Planet of the Apes by Greg Cox)

From the back cover

"Driven from their woodland home, Caesar and his apes are still recovering from the takeover by renegade ape Koba. Caesar is desperate to avoid war with the humans, but this is a faint hope, as his enemies are about to receive military reinforcements headed by the ruthless Colonel McCullough.

"While trying to hold off McCullough's soldiers, Caesar sends his son Blue Eyes on a mission to the south to try to find a safe haven for the apes, despite rumors of terrible things happening there. Meanwhile, the supporters of Koba's revolt are spreading dissent among Caesar's ranks."


Review

Revelations is an excellent, entertaining and humane novel that bridges the timeline between Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) and War of the Planet of the Apes (2017). It starts off as a steady build read and around the middle it kicks into high gear with plenty of oh no cliffhanger moments that continue on to the end of the book.  Revelations ends on satisfactory note, one pregnant with future drama and violence that will, no doubt, be shown in the next film/movie tie-in.

As with previous Ape titles, it has many of the characters from the previous film (as well as Rise of the Planet of the Apes, 2011). Eagle-eyed readers may spot a lot of references to the "classic" Apes films, e.g., Ursus, Armand, etc., which added -- for this reader -- to the enjoyment of Revelations.

Is this worth owning, if you are a fan of the Apes franchise? Heck, yes. Even if you are not, it might prove to be a fun read, one worth checking out from your local library. =)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Splatterpunk zine (issue 8) edited by Jack Bantry

(2017; horror/speculative fiction zine)


Overall review

If you are looking for a zine that lives up to its title, this might be a worthwhile purchase for you. The writing is raw and engaging, in a viscous, splatterific and dark-hearted way. Not only that, there are interviews with authors Ray Garton, David Agranoff and Sean Leonard.


Stories

1.)  "Reprising Her Role" -- Bracken MacLeod: A porno shoot goes awry, leading to revenge and death. Solid story, well-written.


2.)  "NSFW" -- Nathan Robinson: Vivid and gory scene showing office sex taken to new, ultraviolent levels. Visually, it recalls the spirit of David Cronenberg's 1975 film Shivers. Readers who want to know the cause and backstory of events being shown may be disappointed, since "NSFW" does not provide that satisfaction -- it reads like a good first-draft writing exercise.


3.) "Two Blocks Down, One Block Left" -- Ryan C. Thomas: Excellent, intriguing work about a skinless man who hangs out near school yards. This is my favorite story in this issue.


4.)  "Dermatobia Hominis" -- Gabino Inglesias: A young man's sins inspire a slow, terrible punishment. Good tale, entertaining.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Quicksand House by Carlton Mellick III

(pb; 2013)

From the back cover

"Tick and Polly have never met their parents before. They live in the same house with them, they dream about them every night, they share the same flesh and blood, yet for some reason their parents have never found the time to visit them even once since they were born. Living in a dark corner of their parents' vast crumbling mansion, the children long for the day when they will finally be held in their mother's loving arms for the first time... But that day seems to never come. They worry their parents have long since forgotten about them.

"When the machines that provide them with food and water stop functioning, the children are forced to venture out of the nursery to find their parents on their own. But the rest of the house is much larger and stranger than they ever could have imagined. The maze-like hallways are dark and seem to go on forever, deranged creatures lurk in every shadow, and the bodies of long-dead children litter the abandoned storerooms. Every minute out of the nursery is a constant battle for survival. And the deeper into the house they go, the more they must unravel the mysteries surrounding their past and the world they've grown up in, if they ever hope to meet the parents they've always longed to see."



Review

Quicksand is an excellent mixture of mystery, science fiction, horror and bizarro fiction, one worth owning. What Mellick has that so many other bizarro authors lack is tight editing, good characterization (which lends itself to a strange sense warmth, bond between key characters) and a willingness to experiment with genre expectations. This is one of my favorite reads of 2017.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Feverish Fiction issue #4 (March 2017) edited by Michael Faun

(2017; dark/horror/speculative fiction magazine. Published by Sleazy Viking Press.)


Overall review

Any magazine whose "Editor's Note" is made up of the lyrics to The Kinks' "Welcome to Sleazy Town" is bound to be interesting (in a good way).


Of course, it comes as not surprise that the fourth, limited-run issue of Feverish Fiction is just as entertaining as its previous issues. A few of the B-flick horror/science fiction stories did not grab me, but it was a matter of personal preference, not faulty writing.  

In addition, there is the usual (semi-)nude female pin-ups, whose themes run between Seventies schtick and Hammer Film Gothicity. One of the high points of this issue is Terry Bizarro's colorful, gory painting ("Unigore Forest"), a memorable piece of art.

This is worth purchasing, if you are an adult fan of small press magazines and horror, science fiction and sex microfiction.


Stories, other works

1.) "Amidst the Mangrove" (poem) -- Lee Clark Zumpe: Solid, chatty "island of strange horror"-themed versework.


2.)  "The Occult Gate of the Comic Book Writer" (story) - Jerry Williams: A comic book writer's work inspires Lovecraftian consequences. Fun, entertaining work that made me think of the 1994 John Carpenter film In the Mouth of Madness.


3.)  "Automaton Word Wounds" (story) -- S.C. Burke:Stream-of-consciousness prose poem about typing, gore and other cerebral matters.


4.)  "The Penis Goblins" (poem) -- Justin A. Mank: Okay limerick about dangerous creatures with lusty, bloody hobbies.


5.)  "Planet of the Volcano Spiders" (story) -- Alex S. Johnson: Quirky, funny and sexy tale about a woman whose possible gig as a literal sacrifice impels her to practical action. This is an excellent read, with a heroine worth rooting for.


6.)  "Statue Playmate" (story) -- Donald Armfield: A freaky brutal rape by a dwarf is not the worst thing that could happen, as one woman finds out.

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The sixth and final issue of Feverish Fiction is on sale now. If you are interested in buying a copy, best jump to it, because -- as noted above -- each issue is a limited-run work, and they sell out fast.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

(hb; 2016)

From the back cover

"Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing, twenty-two year old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George—publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide—and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite—heir to the estate that owned Atticus’s great grandmother—they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours.

"At the manor, Atticus discovers his father in chains, held prisoner by a secret cabal named the Order of the Ancient Dawn—led by Samuel Braithwhite and his son Caleb—which has gathered to orchestrate a ritual that shockingly centers on Atticus. And his one hope of salvation may be the seed of his—and the whole Turner clan’s—destruction."



Review

 Lovecraft is an entertaining, mainstream and cinematic collection of event- and character-linked stories that seamlessly weaves Lovecraftian horror, leavening humor and racial violence into a word-efficient tale with a climax that brings together all the characters and plot strings that came before it. This is an excellent fractured novel, one of my favorite reads of 2017.

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In May 2017, it was announced that Lovecraft will soon be the basis for a forthcoming HBO horror anthology series, produced by Jordan Peele, J.J.Abrams and Misha Green.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Chapterhouse: Dune by Frank Herbert

(pb; 1985: sixth book in the Dune Chronicles)

From the back cover

"The desert planet Arrakis, called Dune, has been destroyed. Now, the Bene Gesserit, heirs to Dune's power, have colonized a green world--and are turning it into a desert, mile by scorched mile."


Review

Chapterhouse is an okay book. Herbert maintains the word sly, character-based pacing of the previous Dune novels -- this time out, though, the slow-build storyline runs a few chapters longer than it should. The power struggles (altered by the events and characters of the previous book, Heretics of Dune) are still intriguing in parts and the finale is thrilling on all levels, but the middle section of Chapterhouse feels like a slog-through read, one that could have been as good as most of the other Dune entries.

This is worth reading if you are a Dune completist. (I would suggest borrowing it from your local library before committing cash to it.) If you are a casual fan, save your time and money for something better.


Followed by the first Prelude to Dune novel, House Atreides, by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.