Baal – Robert McCammon

IMG_0539

 

 

To say that I like Robert McCammon’s writing is like saying fish kind of like water. He is, without a doubt, my favorite author that ever put ink to paper. His writing has wrung out every emotion possible from within my soul and has helped shape who I am as a reader, writer and as a person. Yes, his writing is simply magical. So, it was a no-brainer when the opportunity came around to participate in the Robert McCammon Challenge. The RMC is where you read his work in chronological order, one a month, until you’ve completed them all.

Baal is McCammon’s first novel published way back in 1978. Many authors would kill for their first novel to have this level of quality. You can see that it doesn’t quite live up to the standard he set with his later works. Baal has shades that bleed through of the gifted storyteller that was to mature. McCammon was only in his mid-twenties when he wrote it.

It starts off well enough, with the rape of a woman in an ally who later gives birth to a child that is not quite like every other child. As you can imagine, this child grows up to be the demon, Baal. The story has three seperate parts. The first is rape and the life of Baal being shuffled in and out of every orphanage school you can imagine. This is where McCammon shines. Baal is Damien from the Omen to the tenth power. Throw in a little Isaac from Children of the Corn and you get the idea as he round up his minions to do his bidding.

The second part has Baal as a man leading some religious building/gathering in the Middle East. The bleak atmosphere radiates from the pages. You literally feel like your dying of thirst and your skin is blistering, but the transformation into Part III is hurried and muddled.

The last part again uses McCammon’s uncanny ability to build the setting and atmosphere to it’s fullest height. The arctic landscape pictured here makes you shiver and your hands go numb as you follow the characters chasing Baal. Then there’s the ending. Not my favorite. In fact, it felt like McCammon had spend all of his energy on creating the journey that he didn’t quite know what to do with the ending. While it’s not bad – I’ve definitely read much worse from other “masters” of horror – it feels very anti-climactic. Michael’s ability to control Baal without much trouble what-so-ever seemed like a stretch. You’ll see what I mean once you read it. Overall, still a very solid read that lets you have a glimpse of a newborn master storyteller learning how to walk.

3.5 Mangled Hands out of 5
You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

https://intothemacabre.com

http://intothemacabre.booklikes.com

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5919799-ken-mckinley

Apparition – Michaelbrent Collings

IMG_0536

 

Every once in a while, you run across a book that has a pretty hight rating, an intriguing sounding premise and some really nice reviews to back it up. So, you enthusiastically pick it up and begin reading. It’ll start out slow, but thats okay. We’ve all read books that seem to stumble around the first 25% until they find their footing and then they take off. As you approach the 40% mark, you think, “damn, this thing better have one hell of a second half!” Then, for many people, there comes a point where you pass the “point of no return”. This is where you’ve already invested so much damned time in the story that you now just have to ride it out. Others can simply toss the book and move on. I’m not cut from that cloth. I have to finish it, even if I’m cussing it out every other page until the end. Stupid, I know. But that’s how I’m wired.

So, as you’ve already figured out, APPARITION was that way for me. The premise is good. Delving into the phenomenon of filicide and to see if there’s another reason that parents decide to kill their own children besides they’re crazy, perhaps something ancient and evil. I like it. I’d like to go down this road and see where it takes us. For me, the road that is APPARITION was a long, tedious and frustrating one. First of all, barely anything happens for the first 50% of the story. Now don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a slow burn if its told right, ala Peter Straub and Charles L. Grant. But this wasn’t a slow build up, it was an excruciating exercise of patience. One of the things that didn’t work for me, was when Collings would write from the little boy, Matthew’s POV. When he would switch into that character’s telling of the story, I wanted to slit my wrist. Throughout the the story, he had Matthew talking and thinking anywhere from a 3-year old little boy to a college junior psychology major. I also found that the description of the characters thoughts kept stumbling over each other. At numerous points in the story, I wanted to scream, “I KNOW! You just said that for the hundredth time… now get on with it!” Now, I do think Collings can write. In fact, there were a couple of scenes in the first half that literally made my skin crawl and I would think, “Alright! Here we go” and then it would go back into the plodding, repetitive pacing that plagued the entire story. Unfortunately, the characters weren’t interesting or sympathetic enough for you to invest in their well-being. And the ending was “meh”. Nothing shocking, surprising or the least bit satisfying. So there you have it. That’s my review. Now, keep in mind, many other people like this story, many of whom I respect their opinions and I usually agree with the majority of the time. So you may like it too. For me, APPARITION didn’t work.
2 Children Swallowing Demons out of 5
You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

https://intothemacabre.com

http://intothemacabre.booklikes.com

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5919799-ken-mckinley

Monstrosity – Tim Curran

IMG_0532

 

You know a writer kicks ass when they can stretch your imagination to the point where, when you look back, you can’t believe how much of the story you were buying. Curran does that in spades with Monstrosity. Monstrosity takes your typical rural Midwest setting and turns it on its ear in this dystopic tale.

Tremors begin happening in rural Wisconsin and out of the formed cracks oozes out what is called The Food. It looks white, marshmallow fluff and the wildlife and plants are “feeding” off of it. This isn’t good because all of a sudden the animals and plants undergo a metamorphis that Lovecraft on acid couldn’t have come up with. And they aren’t the cute, cuddly critters either. Mother Nature has had enough and she’s out to get rid of us.

That’s Monstrosity in a nutshell. Sounds dumb and unbelievable, doesn’t it? Not so fast, my friends. Monstrosity is probably one of the top 3 best stories I’ve read all year. Curran makes the unbelievable SOOOO believable. I bought into the whole story from start to finish and then couldn’t believe that I did. But Curran is sneaky. He pulls the wool over your eyes by using such likable characters that you can’t help yourself but to follow them blindly. He also paints such a vivid picture of the monstrosities that come out of every nook and cranny, it feels like you’re there with the protagonist. He also brings you along with the ride so close to everything that you run the gamut along with the characters of the emotional rollercoaster that is Monstrosity. Curran really has been on the top of his game with his last few tales. If you’re not familiar with his work, you need to be and Monstrosity is a great place to start.

4 1/2 Magic Mushrooms out of 5
You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

https://intothemacabre.com

http://intothemacabre.booklikes.com

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5919799-ken-mckinley

We Came Back – Patrick Lacey

IMG_0527

 

WE CAME BACK is the impressive sophomoric effort from Patrick Lacey. While, yes, there are shades of King’s SOMETIME’S THEY COME BACK and CARRIE, WE CAME BACK is it’s own monster. A high school revenge tale that takes on a twisted life of it’s own. We can imagine the Melvins in the world. We’ve seen many a teenager in the news that has taken his own life with their high school as their stage as they paint the walls red with their own blood and brain matter. We’ve all experienced various levels of bullying and, while we may not go so far as agreeing with Melvin’s solution to take his own life, we do understand where he’s coming from. We can also imagine what it would do to small, close-knit Lynwood High. Ten years later, the old high school is closed and abandoned. A new school is built on the other side of town. The teachers are doing their very best to forget that there ever was another Lynwood High. That the old brick building with the chained doors and roof leaking into the classrooms never existed. The students are chalking up the stories of Melvin’s ghost wandering the halls as an urban legend. Frank Tanner is especially trying to forget that day a decade ago. Frank was a young teacher that witnessed Melvin’s suicide first-hand. Now his straight-laced daughter is dating the new goth kid and damn, if he doesn’t look familiar. And damn, if she isn’t acting up like never before. Is this all just teen rebellion or is there something evil about her new boyfriend?

Lacey builds the layers nicely in WE CAME BACK. The characters are three dimensional and realistically fleshed out. The atmosphere slowly builds and ratchets up as the story unfurls. He really does a nice job with this one. No sophomore jinx here. I’m looking forward to novel number 3.
4 Pasty White Complexions our of 5
You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

https://intothemacabre.com

http://intothemacabre.booklikes.com

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5919799-ken-mckinley

The Incurables – Jon Bassoff

IMG_0526

 

Every once in a while, a book comes along that has a subject matter that really stick with you. The Incurables struck that chord with me. I’m kind of a sucker for horror with a historical setting. Bassoff’s offering is set in 1953 and uses a real character with a sordid legacy, Dr. Walter Freeman. Dr Freeman created his name in the history books by being the physician noted for the controversial psychiatric procedure, the lobotomy. In fact, he streamlined the surgery by foregoing the traditional methods of exposing the brain with an incision in the skull and developed the trans orbital lobotomy. If you’re not familiar with that procedure, it involved an ice pick and inserting it in the tear duct of each eye socket, using a mallet to break through the soft bone behind the eye, and scrambling the patients gray matter by wiggling the pick around inside the brain. Freeman was a carnival barker-like salesman with his new procedure and would often “advertise” it as a cure-all to whatever ails you. By the early 1950s, Freeman had performed his lobotomy on thousands of patients, including the infamous Rose Kennedy.

I have to admit, I didn’t know much about lobotomies. Oh sure, I’d heard the term and knew it had something to do with messing with the brain and that it turned many people into drooling vegetables. What I didn’t know was the history of the procedure and how prevalent it was in society for so many years. I also didn’t know anything about Dr. Walter Freeman. While reading The Incurables, I found myself looking up all sorts of information on the internet about the subject and I found it chillingly fascinating.

Bassoff uses this sordid character and macabre nugget of American history and weaves a captivating tale involving Freeman being fired from his position and forced to take his carnival act on the road across the United States. He paints a chilling and vibrant tale of horror in a seedy small town in Oklahoma where Freeman preys on the desperation of bleak town rife with mental illness. The writing style is smooth and easy. The characters are well fleshed out and memorable. If there is a down side to the story, it would be that there really isn’t a sympathetic character in the whole bunch. They’re all various degrees of train wrecks. However, I found The Incurable to be an extremely enjoyable read and found that it left a haunting and lasting mark in my psyche.

4 1/2 Bloodied Ice Picks out of 5
You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

https://intothemacabre.com

http://intothemacabre.booklikes.com

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5919799-ken-mckinley

 

 

Jurassic, Florida – Hunter Shea

IMG_0523

 

Let me start this review off by saying that I’m a big fan of Hunter Shea. The guy has made his bread and butter by putting out high-quality creature features. With the amount of work this guy has published in the last few years, even Rembrandt has to stumble once in a while. Jurassic, Florida feels like Hunter’s misstep. The writing is good. The characters are decent. The content was the problem for me. In a quasi-homage to Jurassic Park and Godzilla B-movies, JF comes off as hokie. The story felt like it was trying to play it serious, but I simply couldn’t get into iguanas the size of buildings that happened to find their way to the earth’s surface after an oil well explosion rocks the Gulf. I don’t have to have all the answers to the Hows and Whys, but this one insulted my suspension of disbelief a little too much. Now, if the premise sounds like it might be right up your alley and you can overlook the “realism”, by all means, jump into it. Hunter knows how to construct character and dialogue with the best of them. But, alas, Jurassic, Florida wasn’t for me.

 

2 1/2 Bus-Sized People Eaters out of 5

 

You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

https://intothemacabre.com

http://intothemacabre.booklikes.com

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5919799-ken-mckinley

The Beast of Brenton Woods – Jackson R. Thomas

IMG_0522

 

Jackson R. Thomas’s debut comes to us in the form of a small-town werewolf yarn, The Beast of Brenton Woods. As far as debuts go, it’s a decent one, but the Beast also has a few fleas that I would like to see removed. Bodies are starting to show up again in Brenton Woods after many years of tranquility. Legend has it that the last time this happened in the mid-1980s, a white wolf was responsible. And just like that, the wolf disappeared. Now 13 year-olds Ben and Tyler have seen it. So have early 20-somethings Jimmy, Wendy and Bryan. They are all too young to remember the last time the Beast made it’s appearance in Brenton Woods, but it’s back, bloodthirstier than ever, and it wants revenge on a past that won’t stay buried any longer.

Thomas does many things right in The Beast of Brenton Woods. For one, the dialogue. I think this is the strongest part of the book. So many authors, especially in their debuts, swing and miss with the dialogue. It’s either too wooden or completely unrealistic. In Beast, it’s pretty much spot on. Kudos to Thomas. Second, the characters are interesting. While that’s another bonus, it also left me wanting for more…much more. And this is where we come to the flea portion of the werewolf. The story and character development. While the characters are interesting and realistic, I felt they needed to be much more fleshed out. The story is told in a frenetic pace, but we’re left to continually go back to see which character is who. After just finishing the story, I couldn’t tell you what many of the characters looked like, what the town of Brenton Woods looked like, why the Beast came back or have a clear understanding of what happened in the past. This is the frustrating part, because I really like what the story had for it’s base. I only wish it was more of a smorgasbord than an hors d’oeuvre. Jackson has a ton of promise and I look forward to watching him grow as a writer.

 

3 1/2 Yellow Eyes Glowing in the Dark out of 5

 

You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

https://intothemacabre.com

http://intothemacabre.booklikes.com

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5919799-ken-mckinley