Slowly We Rot – Bryan Smith

imageThe zombie story that’s not a zombie story. Well, not as much as you’d think. So, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Well, that sucks. Why would I want to read a zombie story that doesn’t focus on the zombies?” I’ll tell you why – it’s a great story. The zombie apocalypse, that the story takes place in, provides the desolate setting and feeling of hopelessness that permeates through the story for our protagonist, Noah, to navigate through.

Noah is a mid-twenties college drop-out from alcoholism and a lost love when the apocalypse hits. After holing up in the family cabin in the rustic Smokey Mts, he loses his family and is alone without contact with any people for 5 years. He sits around most days getting high and thinking about losing his college girlfriend day after day. When his sister shows up, out of the blue, and goes off on him for not coming to look for her, guilt overcome him and he begins drinking again. This triggers his desire to trek across the country to see if she’s still alive. His drinking quickly gets out of control and he narrowly escapes peril numerous times. His poor decisions followed by strange happenings makes him question his sanity along the way.

This is where the reader has to pay attention. Things begin to not make sense and you wonder if they really happened, is it delusions from his excessive drinking, or is he losing his mind? The story is around 300 pages and they go by amazingly fast. Smith is a wonderful storyteller and even though he backs off the throttle on the gore in this one, the story doesn’t need it. It’s a wonderful testament to Smith’s versatility.

4 whiskey bottles out of 5
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Crowley’s Window – Gord Rollo

imageAbby was born with a cowl over her face which has given her the ability to see into people and their doings, ala reminiscent of Johnny Smith in the Dead Zone. The ability crescendos once she has her first period and enters womanhood. This is then followed by horrible visions of all of the world’s evils. Enter Marcus Crowley, a mysterious man that promises Abby’s parents that he can help her stop seeing these visions. He can help her to stop seeing, alright. He does it by removing her eyes! Years later, Abby is working in a traveling carnival as a fortune teller. Even though her eyes are removed, she can still see into people by touching them. When she witnesses a girl being abducted from the carnival, the hell from her past comes to visit.

I’ve read a few reviews of Crowley’s Window and I think it deserves more love than it has. In fact, I’ve got this 3.5 star rated novella actually as a 4.5 star read. Why? Characters and setting. The characters are interesting. Ones that you want to read more about. The setting of the carnival adds to the layers of the story and provides depth and realism to Abby’s ability to see. Rollo also uses it to bring the creepiness out. The carnies and “freaks” have always been a spooky bunch of outcasts and he uses the characters and the setting well. Add in the mysticism of Crowley and it truly makes for a real page turner. I do think the story could be expanded into something more and I’ve read the complaints that it should’ve been. But isn’t that the tell-tale sign of a good story – leaving them wanting more? I think it is and I enjoyed the ride. Rollo is quickly becoming one of my go-to authors for a fun romp into the macabre.

4.5 bloody eyeballs out of 5
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The Persistence Of Memory – William Meikle


Another enjoyable short story from William Meikle. He’s yet to fail me on any of his offerings and has quickly become one of my favorite authors. In The Persistence Of Memory, Betty misses her dear late husband George. Her fondest memories are his piano playing and singing old songs together. When the piano begins to strike notes on its own, Betty feels that George is trying to contact her from beyond the grave. In a desperate attempt to bring George back from the dead…well you’ll have to see for yourself.
4 spooky songs out of 5
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Judgement Day – Andrew Neiderman

imageThis is my first time reading Neiderman. I have seen and enjoyed the adaptation of The Devil’s Advocate with Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves as well as the obscure and excellent Pin with Terry O’Quinn. Judgement Day is the prequel to The Devil’s Advocate and I can’t say that I enjoyed it. But a story about the devil taking over a NYC law firm that isn’t A) scary, B) creepy, C) gory, or D) believable, is going to be a hard sell. Add in the fact, that it actually comes across as a hokey Lifetime movie meets an episode of Law and Order, and you can see the eye rolls from here. The characters were a mess. The execution of the plot was like fast food. Not very interesting and making you wish you’d eaten something else. It was also full of holes. The devil decides he wants to be a lawyer and work his way up from a small town firm to a NYC firm that, oh by the way, he’s going to systematically kill off everyone in the firm that stands in his way of taking it over? The detective is a former seminary student that can see evil and the devil and dosn’t seem to follow any of the rules any other detective does and NYPD is perfectly fine with that? His newly assigned partner spends the whole book asking him who, what and why he’s doing every move he makes and the detective never explains any of it? The new assistant DA is incredibly beautiful, never had time for a guy, falls for the weird detective, insert Harlequin romance scene here, yada, yada, yada. Oh and lets shove a bunch of devil trickery in at the end of the story that no one but the detective can figure out. YAWN. If you’re looking for a big chunk of undigestible cheese, here it is. Otherwise, nothing to see here. Move along.
~ I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review ~
2 cheap imitation devil horns out of 5
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The Tent – Kealan Patrick Burke

imageBurke’s tale takes place in the Hocking Hills area of SE Ohio, a place where I have been camping many times. Lucky for me, I have never stumbled upon what Burke’s imagination has lurking there.

A couple clinging to the last strings of a failed marriage are attempting to camp in the secluded woods with their 13-year-old son in tow. It soon turns out to be a bad idea. The husband purchases a cheap tent and is a novice camper at best. The wife does not want to be there at all while their son seems oblivious to all that is going on around them. A storm trashes their tent and they get lost in an attempt to get back to their vehicle. This is where the fun begins. The back hills of Ohio are no place for inexperienced campers to be wandering around in a storm, especially on this night.

Kealan’s novella is well written. The problem I have is with the characters. At first, I felt sorry for the couple on the verge of divorce. As I learned more about them, I cared about them less and less. The husband comes across as a spineless sad sack always apologizing for everything. The wife seems like a bitch and wants nothing to do with camping and you wonder why in the hell she ever agreed to this trip in the first place. We don’t get to know the son very well and he simply seems like cannon fodder, as do the other minor characters in the story. But Burke has an eloquent writing style that pulls you in and I enjoyed the imagination of what was in the woods. Tent had promise, but ultimately didn’t take me to a place where I was hoping it would.

3 out of 5 stars
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Rage – Richard Bachman/Stephen King

imageRage is the first of King’s Bachman Books and can be very hard to find these days. I happened to have a paperback copy of the Bachman Books that happened to include the prologue of why King chose to write under the pseudoname of Richard Bachman. He basically wanted to see if his writing could make it without having the heavyweight punch of Stephen King on the cover. Unfortunately, a book critic from Washington DC started nosing around when he discovered that this new writer, Richard Bachman, wrote an awful lot like that well known fellow from Bangor.

Rage is an interesting tale that comes off as The Breakfast Club meets Columbine/Sandy Hook/(insert your preferred school shooting here). Charlie Decker is a high school student that is teetering on the edge of sanity. After being suspended for whacking a teacher upside the noggin with a pipe wrench, Charlie comes to school to meet with the principal. After a meeting where the usually mild-mannered Charlie lets the principal know exactly what he thinks of him, he heads to his locker in what would appear to be to clean it out before being sent off to have his head examined by the local shrink. Instead, he sets fire to the contents of the locker and pulls out a pistol to head to his first hour class. He is then confronted by the teacher as to if he has a hall pass and to which Charlie promptly puts a bullet into her head and takes over the class. While holding the class at gunpoint, Charlie and the class go into a kind of Breakfast Club setting where they are first made to tell their secrets and then, after a few confessions, the class begins to want to tell their secrets willingly. This sort of cleansing becomes therapeutical and earns Charlie an odd sort of endearment to many of them.

This story predates Columbine by 25 years or so and would not work in today’s age of smart phones, social media, and instant access to knowledge and awareness of school shootings on CNN. However, it works really well when the setting is the late 1970s. Rage is an entertaining and thought provoking tale of one student who got fed up with his parents and teachers. We’ve all been there and Stephen King showed us a small slice long before the rest of the world caught up.

4.5 bloody school books out of 5

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