Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

The Network People
by Bob Freville
Psychedelic Horror Press

I recently had the chance to read  digital ARC of this book. My review follows, but the book could be triggering as it does depict child abuse.

Bob Freville’s writing hits like a baseball bat to the back of the skull… in the best possible sense. THE NETWORK PEOPLE collects three separate stories, all separate and disconnected but for the common thread of holding a mirror up to the worst of human behavior. The writing is sharp and powerful and pulls no proverbial punches. At times it’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion… beauty in the wreckage.

WE BUY SOULS

What do you do when everything around you is fake, when everything is a simulation of the real world around you and everything is plastic? What do you do when you are fresh out of jail and feeling more exposed than your first night behind bars? Who’s going to want to hire a felon anyway? Less a story and more a reflection on how cheap modern life can be, and the dangers of walking into a store with a sign that says “Hiring?”

THE NETWORK PEOPLE

“First they taunt you, then they haunt you.” A fortyish actor travels to LaLa Land, pursuing his dreams of making it to the big time. But he doesn’t count on the swift erosion of his soul at the hands of the titular Network People. Part cult, part conspiracy and utterly inhuman and uncaring, the Network chews up the young and spits out the old in a mechanical basis. As the poor actor finds out, it doesn’t take much for it to get its hooks into you, and you’ll end up pulling yourself a part trying to get free. The only other thing I’ll say is the human sacrifice bit doesn’t even top the most disturbing part of this particular story.

SEX TOY

A Clive Barker-esque body horror bad trip in the spirit of THE BOOKS OF BLOOD. When a suburban couple has done everything that they can with each other, what do they do when ennui sets in? What other sensations can they pursue together, and what happens when one of them decides to continue on a journey of sexual exploration without the other? It would be too easy to dismiss this as lurid horror, but buried beneath the grotesque is a moral about communication in relationships, and maybe coming to terms that you can never truly know what another person finds attractive.

THE NETWORK PEOPLE is currently available for preorder directly from Psychedelic Horror Press.

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Celebrity Terrorist Sex Bomb
by Bob Freville
Journalstone

All right, so this is a bit of a first for me, seeing as how out of the blue, Bob Freville drops me a message asking me if I’d like to review his latest novella, CELEBRITY TERRORIST SEX BOMB. Now, just reading that title, has probably got you put on at least half a dozen government watch lists, so just imagine how many I’m on given that I’ve googled that phrase more than I would care to admit. 

You aren’t here to read about my trials and tribulations though, are you? Nah, you want to know if this quick hand grenade of a novella is worth your time. I’m not going to spoil you with a plot, but here’s the thing: with a work like this, it isn’t about the plot. It isn’t even about the characters, as much fun as a foul-mouthed Indian-American not-quite white dwarf starlet is, or her John Stamos-esque suicide bomber enabler. This is a rapid fire indictment that’s bound to offend at least everyone once.

Freville takes a machinegun approach to his blasting of culture, media obsession, how we treat celebrities (especially pretty young women), American militarism, extremism-in-the-name-of-Islam, sex, drugs, and pop music. Through his main character, Priya, he takes the brakes off a full scale indictment of the world as it is, while offering the occasional glimmer of how much better we all could be. It is foul-mouthed, irreverent, and you’ll never think of kegel exercises the same way again.

To be honest, some of the writing jumps around more than a tick on a hot cast iron stove, and you might find yourself wondering just why you decided to tap into what reads like a speedfreak mainlining CNN, MTV, and Lifetime all at once. But if you are reading something CELEBRITY TERRORIST SEX BOMB for the plot, well, I think we all know you made a misstep somewhere, don’t we?

Celebrity Terrorist Sex Bomb is currently available at Amazon… and other places too, if you think your search history can handle it.

Got a novel, novella, or magazine (hey, I don’t judge), you want me to check out? Hit me up on twitter or facebook (left side of your screen). My preference is for indie and small press, especially fantasy, science-fiction, horror, and bizarro lit.

Demonslayer (Book 2 of The Psychonaut Trilogy)
by Tom G. H. Adams
Writing in Starlight Publications

I’d be lying if I didn’t say I hadn’t been waiting for this book for a while. I originally reviewed the first book in the trilogy, The Psychonaut, back in 2016, and to say that this is a strong follow-up is an understatement. I’ll also come out and say that yes, you really do need to read the first book in the series to make heads or tales of what is going on in this book.Demonslayer: Book 2 in The Psychonaut Trilogy by [Adams, Tom G.H.]

It picks up where the last book left off. Merrick Whyte, former corporate negotiator, has come into his own power as a Psychonaut, one that can traverse different realms and can use the power of his mind to well… kill people. A new threat is on the horizon, however, as a demon threatens to Uncreate everything. Meanwhile, there is an anti-occult group with designs on Merrick and his friends, and there is a police officer who has decided that Merrick must die, damn the collateral damage.

What follows is an intricate story that weaves between the colliding plots and subplots. Demigods, fanatics, and the end of the world (isn’t it always?) combine to make a truly thrilling tale that will keep readers on edge. And yes, having some knowledge of Thelema and Aleister Crowley does help with a deeper appreciation of the story.

The biggest downside for me is I really wished Adams had developed some of the secondary characters a bit more. Also, there are some momentous events that occur that get little more than a summation by the characters. Obviously, there are always choices to be made in writing, but I for one hope to see more of Adams’ cast of characters rounded out.

As always, Adams does not shy away from the grotesque, but DEMONSLAYER wasn’t nearly as graphic as THE PSYCHONAUT, but his villains still manage to feel threatening.

Highly recommended if you enjoy thrillers and urban fantasy that weighs heavy on the occult.

DEMONSLAYER is available on amazon.

Death Pacts and Left-Hand Paths
by John Wayne Comunale
Grindhouse Press

You know, I didn’t make any New Years’ resolutions this year, in the main because they have a way of petering out around the middle of February. But one goal I am setting for myself is to read more indie press work. And hey, you know what an advantage is to running your own indie mag? Getting exposed to a bunch of new writers that would otherwise fly under the radar.

One such writer is John Wayne Comunale[1], a Texas based three-way threat who performs with the horrorpunk outfit johnwayneisdead. I decided to see if his long form fic could hold up to the promise of his short fic, and he didn’t fail to deliver.

DEATH PACTS AND LEFT-HAND PATHS follows the travails of a small-time loser, stuck in a dead end job and lusting fruitlessly after a co-worker. His solution? Rather than looking to better himself, he decides to take the short cut of summoning an otherworldly entity, a foulmouthed, chain smoking perverse imp. And yeah, the imp can help… but there’s always a catch. And someone’s going to have to pay it.

What follows is ramping up of death and disaster as our helpless anti-hero ends up more and more beholden in his pact. But the imp isn’t the only otherworldly creature out there, and our protag’s imp has to answer to a master of his own. The only question then is when you fall is how far down is it going to take you?

Comunale doesn’t shy away from the gore, and there’s no way I’d recommend eating this before, after, or even thinking about lunch. There’s not much redeemable about our hero other than to see a reflection of how your own mistakes can snowball into tragedy. You also might look askance at taking public transit… or at least you might end up looking over your shoulder more often.

Do I recommend this book?

Whole heartedly. So, show Comunale some love and pick up this novel, and while you are at it, check out what else he’s got cooking. You can also follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/johnwayneisdead.

 

[1] His short story “Compartments” appeared in issue 3 of Broadswords and Blasters.

Coffin Dodgers: A Sci Fi Horror Book by [Adams, Tom G.H. ]

What would happen if THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME was set in the future, on an alien planet? What if instead of one person set loose in the wilderness, it was a team of competing extreme athletes?

That’s the simple premise behind the latest from Tom G.H. Adams, the aptly named COFFIN DODGERS. A group of extreme athletes and thrillseekers, here designated T-types, are sent to a newly discovered world, there to compete for a fat cash prize.

Soon, however, they discover that they are competing for more than money as they are being hunted and killed in a sadistic hunt. As I’ve come to expect from Tom, he leans way in on the horror, sometimes seeming to bring the gore for gore’s sake, but never ignoring the impact it has on his characters. While I do feel the motivation for his villain(s) is a bit over the top, I can appreciate how he worked the interplay of sex and violence into his text. He does an excellent job of getting into some of the characters heads, and I will say for villain of the piece, that was an insight I did not rightly relish.

Tom does an excellent job of setting up the tension between the hunters and the prey, and while there are elements of the chase I wish he would have explored more (how were the hunters tracking the other contestants? why didn’t the contestants realize something was fishy about the “contest” sooner?)

The novella did fall a little short for me in places. Given how it is set in the future, I would have appreciated a more diverse group of characters. All of them come from Earth, with no real delving into how a Mars colonist might compete. Some ethnic stereotypes are given broad strokes as well (the Australian pilot being the most glaring example). The planet as well, while interesting, relied heavily on it being an Earth analogue, albeit one still going through its own prehistoric development… complete with creatures that looked an awful like what you might find in Jurassic Park. I would have appreciated creatures perhaps a bit more alien, or at least flora that was less benign than what our contestants encountered here.

Overall, for a quick read, it is very enjoyable. 3 and a half stars.

You can pick up your own copy here on Amazon, and you can check out Tom’s website here.The book is releasing Feb 2nd.

Beasts, Brutes and Abominations by [Adams, Tom]

This collection of short stories and penny dreadfuls is a great addition for any aficionado of horror. Most of the stories are told from a first person point of view, inviting you to dive into the perspective of characters whose heads you might want to otherwise avoid, forcing you to confront the darkness in yourself.

The strongest story in the collection, in my opinion, is The Creche, a rumination on the afterlife and whether redemption is within the reach of everyone. Some of the stories come across more as fragments than as self-contained stories, but Mr. Adams acknowledges that, and even teases that they could well be developed into longer stories. I did enjoy the author notes following each of the longer stories as well, but that might be a quirk of my own as I enjoy seeing the thought process that went into the stories creation.

In short, if you are a fan of horror, you are doing yourself a disservice by not picking up this book post-haste.

You can pick up your own copy here on Amazon, and you can check out Tom’s website here.

Nostalgia and Ruin
by Cameron Mount

This is a collection of poetry that is perfect for a cold winter’s afternoon, sipping whiskey by the fire. It’s introspective without the self-pity. It’s a reflection of life’s mistakes without being maudlin. It’s every day failures without the banality. It’s acknowledging that relationships can fall apart without being the fault on any one party.

Mount draws comparisons between himself and Bukowski, and while the themes are similar, Mount’s poetry is more polished and less raw. More focused inward than with the outward hate. It is an acknowledgment that life often doesn’t go as planned, and yeah, we have to own those mistakes.

My favorite poem of the lot is “Smokebreaks,” an ode to the quiet moments between crises, and how a mundane act can help ground you amidst the extraordinary. It also highlights that sometimes you cannot communicate completely with others, even when you desperately need to.

Needless to say, I highly recommend picking up this collection.

Nostalgia and Ruin is currently available on Lulu, but it will be available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, in the near future.

The Psychonaut (Book One of the Psychonaut Trilogy)
by Tom Adams
Writing in Starlight

Occult societies. Global conspiracies. Multiple worlds.

Yeah, I’d say this book is right in my sweet spot.

(more…)

Chapel of the Falcon

Chapel of the Falcon
By Matt Spencer
Damnation Books, LLC

I picked this one up as I thoroughly enjoy Matt Spencer’s other work, the contemporary urban fantasy Deschembine series. This is a bit different, as it follows the adventures of Frederick Hawthorne, bartender and, for lack of a better term, problem solver.

The setting of the book is the smoke of Victorian London, but Spencer doesn’t linger there, setting off for the countryside of as well. Spencer paints a vivid picture, hooking the reader and dragging them in to a myriad plot dealing with witches, pacts, and otherworldly spirits.

Hawthorne’s earthy nature grounds the story well, but my biggest complaint is that very little is revealed about the protagonist. The reader is left with little idea as to why Hawthorne gets involved, other than it’s the end of the world and he kind of lives here too. He comes across a bit as a Victorian era John Constantine, and would fit in well with that trench coat wearing, chain smoking wizard.

As a final note, CHAPEL of the FALCON is not for the squeamish or faint of heart as there is some decidedly visceral imagery played to devastating effect.

4 of 5 stars.

Narcisa: Our Lady of Ashes
By Jonathan Shaw
Harper Perennial

The friend who recommended me this book asked me how I liked it. My response?

“I’m not sure this is a book you ‘like’ or ‘don’t like.’ It’s compelling, it’s interesting, but there is little to like.”

Sure, Shaw paints an incredibly detailed vision of the favela’s of Rio de Janeiro. He dives head first into what it means to be addicted, to live with it every day. He makes the reader complicit in what is going on, perhaps hoping that Cigano (the narrator, but one who is less protagonist and more audience surrogate) and Narcisa (less a character and more a force of nature) will come out the other end relatively intact.

Cigano is a former addict and a thief, despite his claims at being a writer. Narcisa is a junkie, addicted to crack cocaine and wanting nothing less than to destroy herself and everything that comes in contact with her. The reader is treated to almost a day-by-day retelling of Cigano’s enrapture by Narcisa, of her destructive force in his life. Sure, Cigano gave up drugs on his own, but he becomes just as addicted to Narcisa, justifying it that he is trying to save her, one in a long line of saviors.

Shaw writes with conviction, having survived his own addictions, and his own demons. He writes with unabashed clarity and leaves little room for apologies. He writes not so much for the Narcisa’s of the world, wrapped in addiction and destroying those around them, but for the Cigano’s, that they might extricate themselves from the dark nihilists of the world.

My few complaints are that large chucks of the dialogue are all in bold and italic, which is meant to highlight the auditory assault of Narcisa on a full on rampage. The effect, however, is that the reader becomes numb and it loses effect. My other complaint is that the book drags on over long. Some of the segments could be condensed while still making the point and driving the plot. As a result, the book does read at times more like a diary then a novel. As a conceit, that works, but it also leads to fatigue for the reader where the same point is driven home more than once when it isn’t necessary.

I highly recommend this for anyone who wants a glimpse at the horror that lies underneath the veneer in Brazil, those that want a book to grab them by the back of the head and see just how terrible addiction can be. It stands as a warning sign, but it’s a beautiful one.

4 out of 5 stars.