What Hides Within – Jason Parent

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What started out as an innocent trip on the river, paddling around with your girlfriend, ended up headfirst into a huge spider’s web. The next thing Clive knows, he’s hearing a voice from within, and it’s telling him to do things. Clive, the poor bastard, doesn’t know if he’s losing his mind or if he really has a talking spider communicating with him deep inside his head.

Jason Parent’s latest tale is one of the most unique offerings I’ve ever read. He’s created such great characters in this one. You can’t help to sympathize with Clive and his plight. Is he going insane or is there really a talking arachnid behind it all? However, my favorite part of the story is in the voice in which it’s told. Parent uses a fresh, snarky humor that almost pushes the story into satire. Almost. It does, however, provide the story with a breath of fresh air and a few chuckles that you can’t help along the way. I can’t help but draw comparisons with the ball-busting dialogue that my friends and I unleash on each other. What Hides Within is a well-crafted tale of psychological terror with shades of a Lovecraftian hard-boiled crime story. Great stuff.

4 1/2 Pipe Bombs out of 5

 

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The Nightwalker – Thomas Tessier

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I remember seeing The Nightwalker on some list of must-reads by Stephen King. I knew most of the books on the list, but the Nightwalker was one that I hadn’t heard of. So, on a trip perusing through my local used bookstore, low and behold, there it was. I snatched it up and it sat dormant in my TBR pile for some time. Lately, I’ve been trying to make a dent in the aforementioned pile and The Nightwalker’s time had finally come. For those of you that don’t know, The Nightwalker is a werewolf novel that doesn’t feel like werewolf novel. In fact, the whole time I was reading it, I kept thinking “this feels like An American Werewolf in London”. The story telling has many of the same qualities. It’s fast paced. You don’t know quite what’s going on and once you think you do, you still don’t know how they’re going to end the story. There’s obviously the fact that the protagonist is American and yes, he’s in London, but beyond that, the the storytelling has the same gritty quality to it.

Bobby is an American in London that is in a relationship with an English girl he met not long ago. Lately, Bobby isn’t feeling right. He’s overcome with these sudden urges and that he can’t control. One minute he’s fine, the next his hands start tingling and eventually rage consumes him and someone ends up dead. It’s getting worse and worse and he’s afraid to examine it. In fact, he’s starting to like it.

Like I said, The Nightwalker is a werewolf story that doesn’t like to let you know that it’s a werewolf story. There’s no encounter with a werewolf that starts the story off. No bite or scratch. In fact, Tessier teases you with the idea that it might be from reincarnation and curse from long ago that suddenly awakens. I really enjoyed the vagueness of the origins and the storytelling, in general. It lets you come to your own conclusions and I think it fit the story perfectly.

 

4 1/2 Bottles of Ginseng out of 5

 

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Violet Eyes – John Everson

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Creature features are all the rage right now in the horror market. Now many of them focus on crytozoology and that’s cool and all, but, for me, I find creatures that already exist a more plausible horror. Throw in the fact that these creatures are creepy, crawly bugs that are genetically engineered? Well, now I’m totally on board.

Violet Eyes had been on my TBR pile for a while now. I’ve read a few things from Bram Stoker Award winning author, John Everson, before. The man has talent. No doubt. But could he suspend my disbelief and take me on a wild ride with spiders from hell? For the most part, yes.

A government hired firm was doing some crazy genetic experiments on a small, uninhabited island in the Florida keys. That experiment went haywire and they had to pull the plug. Enter Billy, the former hard-partying, drug-running college kid that has been trying to clean up his act. Billy takes some friends to this island that he used to hide drugs on. You guessed it. The very same island. Billy’s friends are chewed to pieces by these crazy-ass damn spiders and flies, all have eyes that glow violet. Billy escapes with his life, but unfortunately he brings back some stowaways his small litttle hometown on the Everglades. Living next door is Rachel and her son Eric. Rachel has recently moved in after a messy divorce with her abusive and mainly psychotic ex-husband (Don’t we all have a psycho ex in our closets?). She thought her life was a nightmare before, just wait to see what awaits Rachel when Mother Nature is unleashed in a genetically modified fury.

Violet Eyes is a fun romp through a 1980’s-like government conspiratorial creature feature. Everson’ characters are likable enough that you invest in them. Usually, when an author hits the gas on the action and pacing, many times character development suffers. There’s some of that here, but no enough to turn you off. I’ve read some reviews where they complain about Everson periodically introducing characters throughout the story only to kill them off a page or two later. I’m actually okay with that. For me, it showed how ruthless these little arachnids could be. There were definitely places where I thought the plot could be tightened up or an idea expanded upon. Oddly enough, the constant obesession with sex by pretty much every adult character was the part that was hard for me to get over and actually dropped my rating by a half. Don’t get me wrong. Anyone that knows me knows that I’m an absolute horn dog, but if my friends and girlfriend had been eaten by a crazy swarm of killer spiders a week ago, and it appears that the little bastards hitched a ride back with me, I think the last thing I’d think about doing is banging the cute neighbor that just moved in next door. I could see maybe one character with an overactive libido, but all of them? I can’t believe I’m complaining about sex, but that’s my bitch about the story. All in all, a fast-paced thriller if you don’t think about it too much.

A solid 3 1/2 Spider Spewing Skulls out of 5

 

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Bone Chimes – Kristopher Rufty

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Bone Chimes is Rufty’s first collection of short stories and I have to say that I think it’s some of his best work. There are so many gems hidden away in Bone Chimes that each new story you read will be your new favorite that replaced the story before it. The development is excellent and has a very 1980s heyday of horror cinema to it. In case you were wondering, that’s a good thing in my book. The influences of Stephen King, Robert McCammon, Bentley Little, Charles L. Grant, John Carpenter and David Cronenberg are all there.

Love Seat felt like it was made next door to the factory that built Stephen King’s Christine. The Chomper felt like it was set in Grant’s Oxrun Station. The Wager, Bruce Smiley’s Ultimate Death Machine, and Bedside Manner had that great Twilight Zone feel to them. But the one that made me look uneasily over my shoulder was Gearhart’s Wife. That one was full of creepiness and atmosphere that Rufty ladled on with a very large spoon. I kept thinking to myself, what would I do if I were loan officer. This may sound like blasphemy, but I think when he’s not trying to paint the pages red, Rufty’s best writing comes to the surface. He spends his time crafting atmosphere and the characters have that extra je ne sais quoi that breathes life into them. All in all, Rufty has something for everyone in this collection and I can’t say enough about it. Get your butt over to Amazon and click on it immediately.

5 Psycho Relationships out of 5

 

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The Devil’s Colony – Bill Schweigart

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In a trilogy pertaining to cryptid monsters, I find it fitting that the final book in the series centers around the most horrible monster of all – man. The evil that man has inflicted on each other is astounding to think about. Hatred and bigotry come front and center in Schweigart’s The Devil’s Colony. Ben and Lindsay are once again called on by billionaire cryptozoologist, Richard Severance. This time, it’s to infiltrate the compound of neo-nazi Henry Drexler. Henry is the son of a former Nazi SS officer and scientist who was assigned by Hitler to find proof of the dominance and superiority of the Aryan race throughout history. Now Henry is using his family’s fortune and remote camp location in the Pine Barrens Woods of New Jersey to welcome all neo-Nazis and white supremacists who want to join him in continuing his father’s dream. But what else has Henry unearthed in his research of his father’s past?

The Devil’s Colony is different than the previous two entries in the trilogy. The first two, The Beast of Barcroft and Northwoods centers around the cryptid monsters that are unleashed and causing havoc. In The Devil’s Colony, the story focuses mainly on the horror’s of man and the cryptid monster is a side dish to come in during the last act. According to some reviews I’ve read, this difference may have tripped up a reader or two. However, it didn’t spoil the story for me. I enjoyed Schweigart’s tale and thought it hit many of the right notes. Perhaps, the cryptid portion of the story could’ve been sprinkled a little more throughout so that it didn’t seem like two different stories trying to be mashed together. All in all, I enjoyed the trilogy and look forward to more from Bill.

 

4 Nazi SS Swords out of 5

 

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