Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Guardian Angels by Joseph A. Citro a.k.a. Joseph Citro

(1988: sequel to Shadow Child)

From the back cover

"Four years have passed since the slaughter that took place at the old Whitcome house. Four years since the tiny picture-perfect town of Antrim. Vermont was devastated by the ugliest event in the town's history. Now the bloodstained Whitcome walls have been painted over, the broken-down doors repaired. And a new family has moved in.

"Fifteen-year-old Will Crockett could have told his mother and stepfather that the bargain price on the Vermont house was too good to be true. But they never listened to him, anyway. Now weird things were beginning to happen: open doors that he knew he had locked; strange scampering sounds on the porch roof. A sense of being watched. His parents didn't believe him, but Will knew something was wrong -- something so twisted and evil that only a kid's imagination could conceive of its horror."


Guardian is an okay follow-up to Shadow Child. While the characters are well-written, the storyline feels disjointed at times. Citro could have easily streamlined the novel's flow into a more smoothly-told tale by eliminating some of the set-up scenes which read a bit clunky. Not only that, it seems as if the Gentry have more powers than they did in the first book -- at one point, they are almost god-like with their magic.

The novel's saving graces are Citro's superb characterization, his deepening of the Gentry's mythological roots (as well as their collective role in the world) and the last hundred or so pages which explode with supernatural carnage, violence and other sexualized horror.

If you are interested in reading this, I would recommend checking it out from a library before buying it -- unless it is for a bargain-basement price or you are a fan of Citro's writing who must own everything he has published.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert

(1984: fifth book in the Dune Chronicles)

From the inside flap

". . . the planet Arrakis--now called Rakis--is becoming desert again. The Lost Ones are returning home from the far reaches of space. The great sandworms are dying. And the children of Dune's children awaken from empire as from a dream, wielding the new power of a heresy called love."


Heretics is a good, slow-build read. Leto II has been dead for thousands of years. The Bene Gesserit and the Bene Tleilaxu are still engaged in power struggles with each other whilst squelching insurrection within their own ranks. Other groups, including the wild and sexual Honored Matres, have entered this cautious lead-up to war. (The Honored Matres are intent on supplanting the Gesserit Sisterhood and the Tleilaxu.)

Not only that, a young girl (Sheeana) -- a possible descendant of Siona, who helped bring Leto II down -- and a recent Duncan Idaho ghola are showing signs of rebellion, whom the Gesserit and the other groups must control or kill.

Heretics has some interesting characters, Herbert's usual epic-minded writing and potent, series-changing twists, making this a worthwhile entry in the Dune series. For Dune purists who love the Atreides storyline but not the other group politics, I would suggest borrowing it from your local library first (if you are so inclined).

Followed by Chapterhouse: Dune.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Feverish Fiction issue #2 (January 2017) edited by Michael Faun

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

Overall review:

The second, limited-run issue of Feverish Fiction is even better than the first. The magazine has expanded its works to include an oddball, chuckle-worthy cartoon (by Justin A. Mank), as well as several pin-ups (in various thematic states of undress). And, of course, there are B-movie-esque stories and a poem to further entertain its readers. It is worth owning, if you are an adult fan of small press magazines and bordering-on-bizarre horror and sex works.

Stories, other works:

1.) "Canvasses" - Lucas Mangum: The phrase "living art" becomes a media-strange reality in this short, sexualized work. Good read.

2.) "A Virgin Among the Frankenwitches" - Alex S. Johnson: A woman (Leelah) discovers that being pursued by would-be rapists and murderers is not the worst imaginable fate. This appears to be a fun, fairy tale-esque hybrid-homage to Jess Franco's cinematic works (or at least one of them).

3.) "In the Dungeon" - K.A. Opperman: Lust, skeletons and BDSM highlight this sensory-intense poem.

4.) "Story of Spaceship, 12 Little Men Probed Today" - Joe Dorris: Amusing news story about a strange 1955 occurrence centering around an alien attack.

5.) "Other Me" - C.M. Saunders: The appearance of a man's doppelgänger presages his dark, twisty end.

6.) "The Happiest Place On. . . Well You Know" - S. Nycole Laff: Satirical take on the shambling undead and Disneyland -- funny and hues-close-to-nightmare-reality story. This is my favorite work in this issue.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Shadow Child by Joseph A. Citro

(pb; 1987: prequel to Guardian Angels)

From the back cover

"Eric Nolan is a man already too familiar with death. His brother's disappearance, the loss of his parents, and his wife's recent demise have left him near the edge. In desperation he returns to his boyhood home, his grandparents' farm in rural Vermont, now occupied by his cousin Pamela and her family. But Eric's solace is short-lived. Something terrible is going on in the woods nearby; its center seems to be a mysterious stone structure. The mystery deepens as people begin to vanish. As baffling incidents continue, it becomes harder to deny that a powerful malevolent force is at work in the Green Mountains. Eric must confront a reality he can neither accept not deny."


Shadow Child is an excellent, fast-paced 'horror in a small Vermont town' novel that brings together fairy tale-esque terror, occasional gore and well-written characters. Given its familiar storyline and its other genre limitations, it is not a landmark work. It is, however, a top-notch genre work for its superb writing, mounting sense of menace and entertaining effect.

Fans of Gary Brandner's Howling trilogy and Stephen King's early works may want to check this out.

Followed by Guardian Angels.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Triple by Ken Follett

(pb; 1979)

From the back cover

"EGYPT -- where, hidden deep in the desert, a top secret project to build a nuclear plant that will give the Arabs 'the bomb' nears completion.

"ISRAEL -- where the Mossad's number one agent, Nat Dickstein, the master of disguise and deceit, is given the impossible mission: to beat the Arabs in the nuclear arms race by finding and stealing 200 tons of uranium without any other nation discovering the theft.

"RUSSIA -- where top KGB officials have decided to tip the atomic balance in Egypt's favor.

"ENGLAND -- where Dickstein makes what could be the fatal mistake of his career by falling under the seductive spell of Suza Ashford, the dazzling, dark-haired beauty who may be his dearest ally or deadliest enemy.

"THE HIGH SEAS -- where the Mossad, KGB, Egyptians and Fadayeen terrorists play out the final violent, bloody moves in this devastating game where the price of failure is nuclear holocaust."


Triple is an entertaining and excellent political thriller. Its timeline spans from 1948 to 1968, with interesting [if familiar] characters and a swift-moving plot revolving around its central character, Nat Dickstein, whose key goal is to steal uranium for the Israelis. If you are looking for a deep-thoughts read, Triple is probably not the book you are looking for – however, if you are looking for a slick, well-written novel with a slam-bang James Bond-eseque finish, this is a book worth owning.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Halloween II by Jack Martin

(pb; 1981: sequel to Halloween by Curtis Richards. Based on the screenplay by John Carpenter and Debra Hill.)

From the back cover

"It is Halloween night in Haddonfield, Illinois. Six gunshots pierce the silence of this normally quiet town. Neighborhood kids trick-or-treating on the street stare as a man plunges off a balcony. A doctor from the county mental hospital rushes from the house. He has followed his patient, who escaped from the institution, back to Haddonfield, where fifteen years earlier he brutally murdered his own sister. The demented young man has already killed three teenagers this evening. Tonight's massacre has only begun!"


Halloween II is a well-written, solid slasher novel, based on John Carpenter and Debra Hill's screenplay for the 1981 film. If it lacks the out-of-the-blue shocker feel of its source film/novel, it is not Martin's fault. He does his best to imbue the straightforward slice-and-dice storyline with over-the-top descriptions and gore, while furthering the franchise's tone of spare, chilling thematic savagery.

There are few differences between the film and this movie tie-in book. There is one scene in the book that I do not remember from the film (it involves Michael's dispatch of a television producer) and Martin's writing gives us access to the characters' thoughts, giving them more depth.

(The original Halloween film and novel were meant to be single-shot works. No sequels had been planned. Then it made a lot of money and the producers insisted on a sequel. Therein, perhaps, lies one of this sequel's weaknesses.)

Halloween II, out of print and pricy, is worth reading. It is also worth owning if one's expectations take into account its inherent limitations (sequels rarely live up to the freshness of their source works), or if you are a Halloween completist.

Followed by Halloween III (another movie tie-in work, penned by Martin).

(NoteHalloween III has nothing to do with the Michael Myers-Laurie Strode storyline. . . once John Carpenter and Debra Hill had reconciled themselves with the inevitability of a Halloween-themed franchise, they decided that it should center around the holiday, not the Myers-Strode-Loomis triumvirate. Of course, its producers and its fans -- with their unimaginative expectations -- killed Carpenter's and Hill's ambition multi-vision at the outset.)


The film on which the novel is based was released on October 30, 1981.Rick Rosenthal directed the film, based on John Carpenter and Debra Hill's screenplay.

Jamie Lee Curtis reprised her role of Laurie Strode. Donald Pleasance reprised his role of Dr. Sam Loomis. Charles Cyphers reprised his role of Sheriff Leigh Brackett. Dick Warlock played "The Shape" (a.k.a. Michael Myers) and "Patrolman #3" -- a professional stunt coordinator, Warlock provided that service for the film as well.

Lance Guest played Jimmy. Pamela Susan Shoop played Karen. Leo Rossi played Budd.  Nancy Stephens, wife of the film's director, played Marion. Gloria Gifford played Mrs. Alves. Tawney Moyer played Jill.


Rob Zombie remade Halloween IIThe film, a reworked sequel to Zombie's remake of Halloween (2007), was released stateside on August 28, 2009.

Scout Taylor-Compton reprised her role of Laurie Strode. Malcolm McDowell reprised his role of Dr. Sam Loomis. Tyler Mane reprised his role of Michael Myers. Brad Dourif reprised his role of Sheriff Lee Brackett (the original incarnation of Brackett, played by Charles Cypher, was named Leigh Brackett).

Sheri Moon Zombie reprised her role of Deborah Myers, Michael's mother. Danielle Harris reprised her role of Annie Brackett.

Octavia Spencer played Nurse Daniels. Margot Kidder played Barbara Collier. Mary Birdsong played Nancy McDonald. Howard Hesseman played Uncle Meat.

Mark Boone Junior -- billed as Mark Boone, Jr. -- played Floyd. Duane Whitaker played Sherman Benny. Jeff Daniel Phillips played Howard / Uncle Seymour Coffins. Daniel Roebuck reprised his role of  "Big Lou" Martini.

Chris Hardwick played David Newman. "Weird Al" Yankovic -- billed as Al Yankovic -- played himself.

<em>Dead Heat with the Reaper</em> by William E. Wallace

(pb; 2015: two-novella pulp collection) Overall review Dead Heat is a masterful collection of East Bay, California stories that are...