Review: Mosquitoes by Marc R. Soto

Mosquitoes by Marc R Soto is available now through Amazon

Amazon Description:

David is a normal ten-year-old boy who lives in the bosom of a happy family in a quiet town by the marshes, until some mysterious nightly bites lead him to undergo changes. All of a sudden, he knows things he shouldn’t, horrible things: his father dreams of going to bed with the intern and the husband of his teacher Mercedes is cheating on her. Mercedes is herself hiding a terrible secret from her past and is prepared to do something hideous to protect her future… And suddenly, along with awareness comes hunger. And thirst. An irresistible thirst…

Ade’s Review:

I am rather conflicted about this novella. I read it in one sitting, eagerly devouring every page, testament to the genuinely creepy concept that Soto explored. However, as the story entered its final stages I felt myself becoming increasingly disappointed with the direction the author chose to take us in, twisting away from the subtle into well-trod cliché.

Mosquitoes is a vampire story (yup, another one) but with a nauseating twist: the bloodsucker is an actual bloodsucker – a mosquito that feeds nightly upon a young boy and bestows nefarious powers upon him. Veering away from the mystical vamp of common lore to this everyday insect (albeit one with supernatural qualities) suddenly transforms the campy nosferatu into a much more real and unsettling presence. ‘Mosquitoes’ taps into the fear we all hold of bodily intrusion by the natural world, making the bloodsucking scenes so much more uncomfortable than the borderline erotic ones that dominate contemporary literature.

As David’s mind becomes transformed by the presence I found myself being reminded of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary (IMO the best horror story ever told), but not so closely as to feel that this was anything other than a comparison in my own mind. Ultimately, I wanted David’s powers explored further as these were a genuine source of horror in the tale.

Unfortunately, after these fresh and gripping elements had only just been introduced, the story suddenly becomes a typical one of evil vampire vs courageous heroine. The change of tone into cliché brought up glaring plot weaknesses; for example, the villainous entity was suddenly affected by a cross, even though there had never been the slightest hint of a Christian link to the tale. Perhaps these weaknesses wouldn’t have seemed so troubling if the book had been longer and the concepts more fleshed out.

Verdict:

Mosquitoes is a very promising novella that doesn’t quite deliver. The genuinely creepy concept underpinning the majority of the book makes it worth reading, but I hope the author returns to the story someday to flesh it out further. Ultimately I wanted to read more, which of all the problems a narrative can have is the least troubling.

Mosquitoes is available here!

Review: Bleed by Ed Kurtz

Bleed by Ed Kurtz is available through Amazon!

Amazon Description:

When Walt Blackmore moves into an old gable front house on the outskirts of a small town, things are really looking up for him; he has an adoring girlfriend to whom he plans to propose, a new job teaching English at the local high school, and an altogether bright future. His outlook and destiny are irreparably changed, however, when an unusual dark red spot appears on the ceiling in the hallway. Bit by bit, the spot grows, first into a dripping blood stain and eventually into a grotesque, muttering creature.

As the creature grows, Walt finds himself more and more interested in fostering its well-being. At first he only feeds it stray animals so that the blood-hungry monster can survive, but this soon fails to satisfy the creature’s ghastly needs. It is gradually becoming human again, and for that to happen it requires human blood and human flesh. And once Walt has crossed the line from curiosity to murder, there is no going back…

Ade’s Review:

Okay, let’s get this out the way first – it’s a bit like Hellraiser! Right, now we can move on, because to become bogged down in comparisons would do this enjoyable quick-paced romp through a hellish abattoir a terrible disservice.

Bleed is classic horror tale in the sense that it is about a small group of characters in a remote setting, trying to deal with a peculiar scenario in which they should really seek professional help. Of course, this is not what they do, and the story descends into bloody mayhem. As a reader, struggling against it will collapse the whole damn lot on top of you like so much unbelievable mush, but if you go with the flow you’ll find moments of gruesome hilarity. I loved the tea-party-like dismissal of government help when the lead character discovers a monster growing out of his ceiling!

What is strongest in Ed Kurtz’ novel is the writing. Despite the constant butchering the descriptions never feel tired and we are constantly repulsed by the graphic prose. I was kept guessing about certain elements of the plot right until the end, quite an achievement given the relatively straight-forward story. Alas, I feel the narrative goes on a little too long for the concept and could do with being trimmed by a couple of killings.

Verdict:

Bleed is a piece of visceral entertainment, much like an 80’s splatter movie. Kurtz doesn’t overburden the story; he takes a concept and exploits it to its full potential, showing surprising restraint for the genre. If you want some gore with a creative flair, you can’t go wrong with this.

Bleed is available through Amazon here

Visit Ed Kurtz’ blog

Review: Bottled Abyss by Benjamin Kane Ethridge

Bottled Abyss is Available Through Amazon

Amazon Description:

YOU’VE TAKEN PAYMENT FOR A DEATH THAT DOESN’T BELONG TO YOU.

WHAT WERE THREE ARE NOW ONE, AND I AM FURY…

Herman and Janet Erikson are going through a crisis of grief and suffering after losing their daughter in a hit and run. They’ve given up on each other, they’ve given up on themselves. They are living day by day. One afternoon, to make a horrible situation worse, their dog goes missing in the coyote-infested badlands behind their property. Herman, resolved in preventing another tragedy, goes to find the dog, completely unaware he’s on a hike to the River Styx, which according to Greek myth was the border between the Living World and the world of the Dead.

Long ago the gods died and the River dried up, but a bottle containing its waters still remains in the badlands. What Herman discovers about the dark power contained in those waters will change his life forever…

Ade’s Review:

The terrible price of working miracles is one of my favourite horror themes and one that Benjamin Kane Ethridge explores to gruesome effect. Bottled Abyss mixes Barker-esque blood baths with ancient mythology to create a story that sprints along checking off genres as it goes. What begins as an eerie exploration of a traumatised relationship, twists into a dark thriller and then finally contorts itself into grand fantasy.

This mix of the mythic and mundane is at its most effective in the first section of the story, where the characters are struggling to comprehend their situation. As the narrative progresses we see continual perspective shifts that allow a wider comprehension of the story, but also detract from our emotional attachment.

In the final genre shift we explore the themes and mythology of the piece in greater depth, thus gaining a greater understanding of the concept Ethridge intended. This was the most gripping and stimulating section, but somewhere along the way I felt the characters had been left behind. So much dehumanisation had taken place, there wasn’t much left to root for.

Verdict:

Bottled Abyss drags by the balls whilst dangling lights before the eyes. At its heart this is a gory horror, but the fantastical twist helps the tale slide down easy.

Bottled Abyss is available on Amazon.

Review: Jimmy by William Malmborg

Jimmy by William Malmborg available at Amazon

Amazon Description:
High school can be a difficult time in a young person’s life, especially toward the end where one has to start making the sudden transition into adulthood. For Jimmy Hawthorn it is even worse. Not only does he need to successfully make that transition, he has to do it while hiding the fact that he is the one responsible for the disappearances of two fellow high school girls, both of whom are prisoners in a secret underground fallout shelter he discovered behind an abandoned house on the outskirts of town.

Ade’s Review:
In “Jimmy” Malmborg taps into the torture porn zeitgeist to give us an exploration of a naïve and vulnerable mind that unfortunately takes the leap into acting upon a taboo fetish. Jimmy, the story’s protagonist/villain, is a young man who decides to kidnap a fellow student so to indulge his sadistic sexual fantasies. As the story develops we see him resort to greater extremes to cover his tracks whilst still being held in the grip of his urges.

This book is at its strongest when the story is told through the eyes of Jimmy, allowing us to understand his own confusion and the inner turmoil that his actions have wrought. We also see events from the perspective of various other school-mates, but it is when we’re put back into the head of the bewildered kidnapper that the reader’s interest is roused.

Verdict:
Fans of Jack Ketchum will find the content familiar and perhaps pleasing. Jimmy is a book that is direct and to the point; it offers us an insight into a troubled adolescent mind, but little more. That is not necessarily a bad thing. It does exactly what it says on the tin.

Jimmy is available now at Amazon for £1.99

Visit William Malborg’s site

The Origins Of Grace

The Mariner Giveaway is now over and I’d like to thank everyone who took part. We managed to get down to #28 in the UK Horror chart, and #4 in the US Sea Adventures. The Mariner is once again for sale on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

Jemma the Vicious

I have recently been asked about the origins of Grace, the Tasmanian devil that features prominently in the The Mariner. It was suggested that she was an incarnation of Jemma, my late West Highland White Terrier. Like Grace tormenting the Mariner, Jemma would dominate those who got in her way; snapping, growling and berating any who opposed her. I suppose this curious mix of sadism and companionship did filter into the fictional Tasmanian devil, though it was entirely subconscious.

In actual fact the Tasmanian Grace was inspired by an actual Tasmanian devil. I witnessed this belligerent beast in the healesville sanctuary in Australia. Impatient and grumpy, little Grace would first “Arf!” and then bellow for her food, savage the boot of the handler and generally bully any male that shared her vicinity. As you can imagine, I was infatuated from the start.

Tasmanian devils are in terrible danger of extinction due to facial tumours and destruction of habitat. Action needs to be taken asap to protect this charming species. For more information please visit: http://www.tassiedevil.com.au/tasdevil.nsf

Grace the Tasmanian Devil, photo by Christopher Hayes

Review: Development Hell by Mick Garris

Amazon Description:

Development Hell by Mick Garris – Available on Amazon!

Hollywood, California: the Bermuda Triangle of art, sex, and commerce. The beautiful people make their daily deals with the devil on the sun-dappled patio at the Ivy, not in a fiery underground cavern. Nobodies become somebodies in the blink of an eye, but the flash of heady success can be fleeting. The rocket that shoots you into the atmosphere can be carrying weapons of mass destruction that can send you just as quickly and efficiently to Hell.

And back to Heaven again.

Development Hell is a wicked Hollywood satire, disguised as an extreme erotic horror novel. It is told knowingly from an inside perspective, tracking the career trajectory of a young film school hotshot into the annals of the Big Studio.

This arrogant young director leads us through his own set of unique experiences, starting with his explosive and disastrous first Hollywood movie; his discovery of a mutant baby in the arms of a Mexican news dealer in downtown Los Angeles that will be his ticket back to the top of the heap; into the arms of a re-animated glamorous star who died in the 1930s; and body-hopping through the most glamorous sheaths of human flesh on the planet.

It is a side of Hollywood rarely seen from beneath its unvarnished, Botox-free, crinkling, wrinkling flesh, and features a supporting cast of characters you will surely recognize.

Development Hell welcomes you into a behind-the-scenes peek unlike any other you have witnessed before.

Ade’s Review:

When I was a youngster I watched Stephen King’s The Stand on television. I remember it was during the great mad cow disease scare and due to the combination of that apocalyptic film and the hysterical news coverage I got it into my head that we’d soon all be dropping like flies and I’d have to smother my family with pillows before the end.

Fortunately this never actually happened, but I was left with a love for that adaptation of The Stand, which years later I learned was directed by Mick Garris. I didn’t seek out Development Hell with Garris in mind; rather it became a very happy coincidence that the director who enthralled me in childhood would write a book I would so thoroughly enjoy almost two decades later.

Development Hell is a long crawl through the shit-pipes of Hollywood. Our protagonist (the archetype of Hollywood hack: huge ego and zero talent) rises and falls over and over like waves on a turbulent sea, forever given chances and each time blowing them in spectacular fashion. And yet, as despicable as the lead character is, the world as seen through his eyes remains an honest one, a true depiction of the shallow excesses of the industry.

I was drawn to Development Hell after reading the first chapter in a short stories splatterpunk compilation and although the novel never reaches the same heights as that first gruesome tale, the narrative is interesting, witty and even touching at times. You can never quite bring yourself to root for the main character, although you do identify with him, a peculiar mix that captures his own self-loathing perfectly.

I would recommend this book to anyone who knows enough about the film industry to appreciate the satire, even those with weak stomachs who would be put off by the (brilliant) opening section. There is much more to this book than graphic sex and nauseating descriptions: brutal self-deprecating hilarious honesty.

Verdict:

A true master of the splatterpunk genre: someone who sees disgusting content as a means to an end, rather than the end in itself.

Development Hell by Mick Garris is available here for £1.99. A bargain!

Mariner Giveaway

From 23/01/2013 – 27/01/2013 The Mariner is available for free from Amazon.

The Mariner by Ade Grant

Available for free on Amazon until 27/01/2013

Sailing through an endless ocean on an antique slaver, the Mariner is hopelessly alone. The few remaining settlements are broken husks peppered with survivors and dangerous cults, each and every one as lost as he. Fixated upon a need for answers in a world full of rot and with a deep sadomasochist streak, he’s a pervert, an addict and a monster, and might just hold the key to finding a route home.

“Ade Grant’s particular brand of psychological horror is a corrosive assault on the reader’s morals, which repeatedly promises reprieve, only to smash all hopes with a barrage of harrowing imagery and bitter-sweet revelations.”

“I felt the flow was like that of a road-trip, a nightmare highway journey… The Mariner himself made me wince at my species, at my sex especially.”

“…a polemic, twenty-first century “Gulliver’s Travels” of satirical fantasy. I think that it is a surreal, political, critical and analytical allegory. It seems to challenge perceived politics, religion, science, reason and physiology.
Read and think.”

Get it now!

UK Store

US Store

Review: The Island (Fallen Earth) by Michael Stark

Available Now on Amazon!

Amazon Description:

The Fever struck hard and fast, rising out of the slums and claiming victim after victim. At first, reports trickled across the wire in small segments relegated to the final seconds of the broadcast news. Lost among stories of failing economies and political bickering, few noticed what proved to be the birth pangs of a monster. Within months, the disease dominated the news as thousands died and infection rates soared.

William Hill knew his chances of avoiding the virus sat squarely between slim and none. With experts predicting a global pandemic, his choices boiled down to not if, but where he would die. While the rest of the world built barricades and set up distribution points for food, he chose a simpler end. The island had been one of the last and best times with his father. He couldn’t think of a better place to spend his final days.

He wanted sun and sand, fresh fish on the grill and cool nights by the campfire. He wanted feel-good days filled with oldies on the radio, days when he could hoist the sails and run before the wind. He didn’t set out to make enemies, but he did. He didn’t plan on becoming humanity’s last hope for survival, or watching over an old woman and an eerie little boy either.

To William Hill, the island seemed as good a place as any to die.

He just didn’t realize how good.

Ade’s Review:

The Island (Fallen Earth) is the first part of five that dominate the kindle best seller list. It is a quick read, more of a novella than a fully-fledged novel, and over the course of the story very little happens. That’s not to say it is badly written; far from it, the descriptions are rich and appear to be accurate, it’s just for an introductory segment of a wider story it does little to entice the reader to further exploration other than some cryptic hints at fantastical elements that lurk somewhere in the next volume.

Part one sees an introduction to “The Fever”, a plague that is wiping out civilisation, and William Hill, our fatalist protagonist concerned with spending his final days in peace. Along the way we are introduced to several characters that I assume will become principle protagonists / antagonists as the story develops, but as of yet they are merely incidental.

My main problem with this book is that it is split into five, with a financial charge to read the final two. If each part stood on its own feet I wouldn’t have a problem, but seeing as how the story was clearly just sliced into five parts with little concern for the flow, I can’t get past the fact that I’m being sucked into a marketing trick. Part one is only part one for the sake of being able to charge for parts four and five. There is no other reason for cutting the book up as Stark has done.

It may sound like I’m being negative about The Island, but I truly am not. The writing is competent and flows along at a good pace. It’s just a shame that it ended where it did. I may move onto part two, but am a little jaded by the manipulation.

Verdict:

Michael Stark has delivered his fantasy story in five parts, and if a ‘try before you buy’ approach suits you, then give this taster a go. Part one concerns itself with the calm before the storm which fans of The Stand should be familiar with.

The Island (Fallen Earth) Part 1 is available for free from amazon!

Visit Michael Stark’s website.

Review: Children of the Fog by Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Amazon Description:

Available on Amazon

YOU HAVE 10 SECONDS TO MAKE A DECISION:
Let A Kidnapper Take Your Child, Or Watch Your Son Die.
Choose!

Sadie O’Connell is a bestselling author and a proud mother. But her life is about to spiral out of control. After her six-year-old son Sam is kidnapped by a serial abductor, she nearly goes insane. But it isn’t just the fear and grief that is ripping her apart. It’s the guilt. Sadie is the only person who knows what the kidnapper looks like. And she can’t tell a soul. For if she does, her son will be sent back to her in “little bloody pieces”.

When Sadie’s unfaithful husband stumbles across her drawing of the kidnapper, he sets into play a series of horrific events that sends her hurtling over the edge. Sadie’s descent into alcoholism leads to strange apparitions and a face-to-face encounter with the monster who abducted her son–a man known only as…The Fog.

Ade’s Review:

I am not a paternal person. The bond between mother and child is a mystery to me; as a man who sees children as an unhelpful distraction, I can never hope to understand it, though it is this ignorance that gives me, what I assume to be, an alternative source of horror.

On the surface “Children of the Fog” is a straight-forward tale of child abduction with a spooky garnish, a mysterious ghostly presence that the audience is left wondering about – are the ghosts real, or are they a symptom of the lead character’s alcoholism? The first half revolves around the police investigation and the slow torture of the missing boy’s mother, whose mind disintegrates as she struggles with the loss of her child and the guilt at letting him be taken. As the story progresses we see the setting shift to a rural cabin where the subject matter becomes a lot more ghostly and the secrets of the story are revealed.

But for me the true horror of the book did not come from the child-snatcher (dressed as a clown, something the author, a self-confessed Stephen King fan, should have been wary of), but from the mother herself. Sadie, from whose point of view the tale is told, has nothing in her life other than her son. The problems are hinted at, alcoholism and a failing marriage, but we can only assume at the myriad of personal failings that must have led to such an unfortunate situation. Even before the boy is kidnapped, it is clear that Sadie has an unhealthy obsession with her child, one that is socially acceptable, but no less destructive.

Her husband, Philip, prowls through the story like a pantomime villain. He literally does nothing right, every action is a selfish blunder, every word said designed to hurt in some vicious way. As these crimes stack up, the question arises as to how Sadie could have married such a monster, but taken in connection to her own mental problems, we see a picture of a distorted world, a sequence manipulated by her own desire to be the single presence in her son’s life. I would love to read a version of events told from a different perspective to see just how warped Sadie’s internal world had become.

As the story climaxes we learn that the murderous clown is acting from insane grief, replacing his own lost children. As before, for me the true horror came not from his own ranting, but from the lead character’s failure to see the similarity he held to her. For me it’s this lack of introspection that was truly horrifying.

Verdict:

Tardif’s novel about child abduction hits too many well-trodden steps. If constrained to the ghostly happenings, the horror is rather light, but as a psychological insight into the dangers of motherhood, I thought it was an effective warning.

It may have been an unintended consequence of the author, but when Sadie’s son is abducted my first thought was, “it’s probably for the best.”

Children of the Fog is available now to download on Amazon for £2.56!

Visit Cheryl Kaye Tardif’s website.