When the dead begin to rise, the most unlikely of coalitions form between a pastor from Chicago’s rough South Side, a young reporter, and a female musician. As if an attack from the walking dead wasn’t enough, the trio uncover a conspiracy by a group of dirty alderman to overthrow the city, using the chaos created by the attack to do so without notice. It is this trio and their unique knowledge of the city that can attempt to save the city they love from this corruption while simultaneously escaping attacks from the walking dead.
Setting is an incredibly important aspect of this story. The author’s love of Chicago is clearly evident in his portrayal of this fine city, showcasing it in a way that truly adds to the development of this novel. It isn’t just a zombie novel, but an author’s love story about his favorite city. Having grown up just outside Chicago, I found myself appreciating this novel on a completely different level than I expected. Quite possibly one of my favorite parts of the novel is when a notable figure in Chicago’s mob history makes an appearance, rising from the dead for a brain-noshing experience of his own.
A little lighter in tone than Kenemore’s previous title, Zombie, Ohio, this title takes place around the same time. For unknown reasons, the dead begin rising from the ground. In the case of the zombies in Chicago they begin walking in from the lake, victims of the mob having been swimming with the fishes for decades. The gore and vulgar language are a little more intense in this novel, quite suitable for the setting, however.
The characters Kenemore created are wholly unique in and of themselves, each able to give a completely different viewpoint. Forcing them to work together to survive, the way they relate to one another adds a bit of levity and a comical spin on an otherwise dark and desperate story line.
Once again, Kenemore has created a zombie novel that is a step above the rest, a novel that isn’t simply only about a band of the living rising up against the dead. He just happens to use it as a background to write about a city he loves, political corruption and all.
If you are looking for a zombie novel with a taste of political corruption, this is the novel for you. Highly recommended.
Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week. The featured title this week is Red Moon by Benjamin Percy:
Hardcover: 544 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; First Edition edition (May 7, 2013)
Source: Publisher (via Netgalley)
Set in an alternate world, Red Moon describes a world in which lycans walk among us. Infected by prion called lobos, the protein spreads through the human body like an infection. The contamination is wide-spread: an entire region called Lupine Republic is set aside for those infected. Those forced to reside in this large-scale containment camp survive by mining the uranium that was discovered after the containment zone was created.
There are other lycans that maintain a fairly normal life. They work with us, go to school with our children, ride planes. They are forced to take a highly addictive drug called Volpexx to control the “change.” Yet in some instances they attack and these situations are what have caused the strong feelings of hate toward the lycans. Now, once they are discovered, American lycans are treated like criminals despite never showing any evidence of threat.
Narrated by three individuals, Percy shows three unique aspects to this story. Patrick Gamble survived a lycan attack on board a plane by hiding beneath a body of one of the victims. Claire Forrester is a teen lycan striving for a normal life, seeking revenge after her parents are killed in a government raid.Chase Williams is a politician who is adamantly anti-lycan, even after he himself is infected.
Using these three vastly different characters, Percy shows how our country has consistently treated various subsets of the population different, throughout the generations and continuing into modern times. It isn’t hard to draw the connections between the world within Red Moon and our current cultural climate.
While I would claim this is truly a horror novel, Percy does add some…literary tones to the story that makes it hard to classify it in just one genre. The writing is extremely descriptive and detailed, toning down any overly harsh or graphic segments within the prose. Percy’s novel has truly take the typical werewolf tale outside of the box, beyond the typical comfort zone. He clearly wants this to be much more than just a horror novel, but a story with a lasting and pervasive social message. The thing is, there is a lot of horror out there (Stephen King’s The Stand) that does this, yet people can’t see past the horror category to accept it as anything of substance.
While I commend Percy for his work, there is a great deal of meat (pun possibly intended) to this novel, both in word count and in message. There were parts that I felt seemed to drag on a bit and then also things that I felt could have been detailed further. It almost feels as though this is two novels condensed into one. Perhaps if they had been two individual pieces, Percy could have expounded upon some things without having to restrain his word count. While I appreciated the entirety of this novel, the potential for readers’ interest to wane is great simply due to the page count.
I do plan on listening to the audio book; reviews of Percy’s narration have steeped my interest. Perhaps this is a novel meant to be listened to as opposed to being read. Perhaps I’m just rambling and have no idea what I’m talking about.
In any case, I do recommend this book due to the social commentary and the “out of the box” thinking regarding werewolves and lycans. Do bear in mind the page length; your patience will be ultimately rewarded. Recommended.
Listen to a clip of the audio book. Yep, sounds like horror to me!
AJ is a head nurse at Beechway, a high-level psychiatric hospital. Rather than focusing on the crimes that each of his patients have committed, AJ treats them each with respect and care. It’s hard to ignore their claims that the ward is haunted by “The Maude.” a short little dwarf of a creature that reportedly sits on the chests of her victims as they sleep. When cases of self-harm keep popping up – three resulting in death- AJ is determined to get to the bottom of it.
Meanwhile a patient, Isaac, has been released into the world. He was complicit in a horrible act involving his parents when he was a child. Unfortunately, his involvement with the other patients’ abuse isn’t realized until after his hasty release. AJ, against the knowledge of his supervisor, calls in Detective Jack Caffery to investigate. Do the crude doll-like effigies Isaac created have any correlations to the deaths? With AJ’s help, Caffery digs down to reveal cases of brutality that would terrorize even the most skeptical of minds.
A second parallel storyline follows this one, involving an unsolved case of Caffery’s. Fans of Hayder’s previous work (in this case, Skin) will be rewarded with this return to an old case. Unfortunately, readers new to the series might feel a little out of the loop. Without this second storyline, Poppet would most certainly serve as a great stand-alone to readers new to this author.
Hayder has quite the talent for producing one terrorizing read after another. Poppet is the sixth book in her Caffery series and it is recommended that readers do read them in order. Caffery’s evolution as a character is quite remarkable, something readers might miss out on if they start the series mid-way or at the tail end.
A truly chilling combination of horror and true crime, Poppet is a novel best read under the light of day with all your lights turned on, doors and windows locked. Delightfully chilling and highly recommended.
Peter Mellor is a college professor in rural Ohio. While attempting to visit his girlfriend in the midst of a zombie outbreak, Peter gets into a horrible car accident. Believing he has survived this accident unscathed, he returns to campus, a slight case of amnesia his only ailment. Shortly upon his return he soon realizes that while he’s still walking and talking, he died in that accident and is now one of the undead.
Peter’s situation is certainly unique. Never before has any other zombie been able to maintain an intelligent conversation. Really, the only obvious indication that he is one of the undead is the huge part of his head that is missing, easily covered by wearing a ballcap. His situation, however, gets worse when he realizes that the accident that killed him was no accident. Someone intentionally cut his break lines. So in addition to get adjusted to his new undead life, Peter must track down his killer as well.
If you haven’t guessed it yet, Zombie, Ohio isn’t your typical zombie novel. In addition to the typical humans versus zombie survivalist routine, Kenemore also adds a great deal of dry humor and suspense. Unlike many other zombie novels, readers get the monster’s side of the story, following Peter as he becomes more aware of his “condition.” In doing this, his character develops and evolves into a completely changed “man,” not only due to his situation. The author’s political and social commentary add to the overall tone of this novel, kicking it up one level on the intellectual meter.
So, if you are looking for a zombie novel with a brains (there, I said it!) and a bit of gore, this is the novel for you. Highly recommended!
Like many children her age, Victoria (Vic) McQueen enjoys taking off on her bike, exploring new frontiers. Unlike other children, however, Vic’s bike can transport her to wherever she needs to go…in a matter of seconds. All she has to do is ride her bike through an old, decrepit bridge, coincidentally named the Shorter Way bridge, and she’s transported miles away. These journeys aren’t made without consequence, however, for the act leaves Vic weak and feverish for days.
On one of these adventures, Vic meets a young girl, Maggie Leigh, who has her own special talent. She is able to seek answers by reading Scrabble tiles. Like Vic, Maggie’s “talent” has a side effect. In her case, it is stuttering. She started of speaking normally and without impediment but her talent has caused her speech to deteriorate over time.
It is Maggie who tells Vic about Charles Talent Manx, a man who drives a 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with a vanity plate that reads “NOS4A2.” Manx is an incredibly evil man. His “talent” is the Wraith. It can transport him, and the children he abducts, to a terrifying place known as Christmasland. Manx uses the energy and essence of the children to stay alive; a soul-sucking vampire of sorts.
He takes children for rides in his car and it does something to them. He uses them up – like a vampire – to stay alive. He drives them into his own inscape, a bad place he dreamed up, and he leaves them there. When they get out of the car, they aren’t children anymore. They aren’t even human. They’re creatures that could only live in the cold s-s-space of the Wraith’s imagination.
Maggie stresses that Vic should avoid Manx and the Wraith at all costs, yet after an argument with her mother, Vic treks out in search of Manx. She finds him but is able to escape, the only child to have done so.
Fast forward a few decades. Vic is now an adult and has a child. Her life has been pretty messed up, largely in part to what happened when faced Manx. She is no longer the young and innocent girl she once was; Substance abuse and mental illness have caused her to spiral downward. All these years, Manx has been incapacitated in a coma-like state. He hasn’t forgotten the child who got away. He’s out to seek revenge, going right to Vic’s weak spot: her son. Aiding Manx is Bing Partridge, a truly sick and demented individual. Bing, affectionately (or not) referred to as the Gasmask Man steals dental-grade anesthesia (which smells coincidentally like gingerbread) from his place of employment and uses it to incapacitate the children Manx abducts.
I’m going to warn you…the paragraphs that proceed contain a great deal of gushing about Hill’s brilliance. Please note this text has been trimmed down considerably. My original review was novella length. Figuring no one would want to read all that, I did a bit of editing.
Joe Hill is absolutely brilliant. I have been an avid follower of his for years, before it was known he was the son of the incredibly talented Stephen King. I have loved everything this man has ever written, but he has really outdone himself with NOS4A2. In it, he not only grants readers with a truly outstanding horror novel but a truly remarkable examination of good vs. evil and the strength of families.
At the heart of Manx’s abductions is the idea that he is rescuing these children from abuse of some sort (whether actual or imagined). In the case of Vic the intensity of one mother’s love for her son is what wins out in the end. Speaking of family, Hill gives a few nods to his father’s work and names a character after his mother. In the past, I have mentioned that King’s talented writing has been passed down to his son. I’m going to take that back. Prepared to be shocked…for I believe that, with NOS4A2, Hill has exceeded his father in horror genius. An “amusement park” with a Christmas theme that serves as a prison of sorts to captured children turned evil monsters. That terrifies me much more than any demonic clown might.
Additionally, it’s the depth Hill has added to the characters that really makes this novel stand out. It’s not only the protagonist that stands out in this case, but also a majority of the secondary characters as well. Hill takes the time to develop each and every one of them individually. The fact that the protagonist is a very, very flawed yet incredibly strong young woman pleases me to no end. Unlike many novels with female protagonists, Vic needs no saving. She’s kicking ass and taking names!
Some might think this novel (and perhaps this review even!) is too long. I disagree; for each and every word, every sentence, Hill puts on the page has value and meaning to the story. He isn’t liberal with his writing; he doesn’t insert a bunch of unnecessary, flowery text just to reach his word count. Each.and.every.word.counts. I’ve read this novel twice (and I’m about to start the audiobook, narrated by Kate Mulgrew ) and each time I just revel in Hill’s truly tremendous talent. So kudos to you, Joe Hill, for gifting your readers with a truly brilliant piece of art. Highly, highly recommended.
Publisher: Blue Rider Press; First Edition edition (February 7, 2013)
Brewster, Rhode Island is your average small town. The majority of the residents were born there and will likely die there, their roots to the tight-knit community are strong. In a matter of a few days, however, numerous inexplicable events take place, starting with the “abduction” of a newborn baby right from it’s bassinet in the hospital. Replacing the newly born infant is a snake. This marks the beginning of a host of horrific activities, ranging from a scalping of an insurance investigator to an attack by a pack of unnaturally fearless coyotes.
The local police, including Detective Woody Potter, are stunned into action. Is it possible that all of these attacks are connected? The strange events started after two young girls were drugged and raped during some sort of Satanic ritual in the woods. One of these young victims was the mother of the missing baby, strangely not concerned after her child’s disappearance, likening it to the demonic child in Rosemary’s Baby.
Something decidedly supernatural is at hand, forcing the small community to reexamine one another in a completely new light. From a young boy somehow caught up in the events to his mentally unstable and incredibly violent stepfather, Dobyns creates a truly remarkable set of characters, all revealed within the first several pages. By the end of the novel, these characters are found to be connected, leaving the quiet town of Brewster forever changed.
It is hard to classify this novel into just one genre, instead it is a wonderful blend of literary fiction, crime fiction, and horror. What makes this novel stand out is that it isn’t simply a story of one small town’s demise at the hands of the supernatural, but instead a truly remarkable character study of the dark side of human nature. To do so, Dobyns slows down the pacing to what could have been a much shorter book, instead replacing it with extensive detail and examination of each of the characters. Other reviews state the pacing was too slow, the detail too expansive, but to me this truly aided in the brilliance of this novel.
Typically, I’m not one to be won over by blurbs but when my idol, Stephen King, the master of horror, blurbs a book I listen. The power of this blurb is increased when I see that it’s not just your typical one line blurb but instead a page-long rave detailing his love and respect for this novel.
I’ve written some “secrets of a small New England town” books, and in The Burn Palace, it’s as if Stephen Dobyns is saying–very gently–”Hey Steve…this is how you really do it.
Typically, if I find myself reading the same book for more than a few days I get antsy. In the case of my reading of The Burn Palace, I savored it for three days, truly relishing in Dobyns’ incredibly skilled writing and his genuinely unique characters. Highly, highly recommended.
Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week. This week’s featured book is: Domino Falls by Steven Barnes & Tananarive Due.
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Atria Books; Original edition (February 19, 2013)
Source: Publisher egalley
In this continuation of Devil’s Wake, Kendra and the other survivors finally reach Domino Falls, a secure town in California run by new-age guru Joseph Wales. After a period of quarantine, the conditions they discover in Domino Falls are almost too good to be true: clean bathrooms with running water, hot cooked meals, and a mechanic to help repair the shoddy bus they have been driving for thousands of miles.
It isn’t long before they realize that the Domino Falls is, in fact, too good to be true. Wales is implicitly involved in the apocalypse that caused the infection that turned everyday people into monsters. When what the group of survivors thought was the cause of this wave of infection is disproven, an unworldly source is revealed.
Domino Falls is an extraordinary follow-up to what I thought was an incredibly unique and remarkable first book in a series. In this novel, the characters experience a tremendous amount of growth and revelation. Additionally, readers will be floored when the true cause of the “infection” is revealed, adding a completely astounding science fiction spin on this zombie series.
As with the previous book, the action is intense and the pacing fast so don’t be surprised if you finish this book in one sitting. While I thought the cliff-hanger at the end of Devil’s Wake was powerful, it holds nothing to the ending of Domino Falls. I cannot wait until more is revealed in this series. Highly recommended.
Publisher: Atria Books; Original edition (July 31, 2012)
Source: Personal copy
Kendra and her parents are on their way to the hospital in Portland for a flu shot when it happens: an infection consumes innocent people, turning them into flesh-eating monsters. Escaping before receiving the injection, they attempt to escape the madness that is unfolding before their very eyes. It isn’t long before the devastation hits home, Kendra left to fend for herself after her parents become victims of the mysterious infection.
After fleeing yet another incident that nearly takes her life, Kendra eventually meets up with a group of juvenile delinquents who served time volunteering at a summer camp instead of in the Washington juvenile detention system.The group begins the harrowing journey to find safety. Together, they cross thousands of miles of barren land in a decrepit school bus, fighting not only the infected but healthy individuals, pirating the weak for supplies and information.
A great deal of speculation takes place regarding the cause of the virus that turns people into “freaks,” the prevailing answer seems to be the infected are those who both received a flu shot & consumed a mushroom marketed as a weight-loss diet. All the survivors know is this: newly infected fall asleep and wake up as flesh-eating monsters with blood-red eyes. The cause is not important to Kendra in the survivors. Their goal is to get to safety…and fast.
Devil’s Wake is a fresh, unique spin on the zombie story. Both the cause of the infection and Kendra’s speculated involvement is wholly intriguing. Additionally, the zombies this husband/wife writing combo create are unique in and of themselves. Some turn into bumbling, flesh-hungry creatures but others retain a part of their original selves, some able to participate in actual intelligible conversation.
The main characters are mostly teens, Barnes & Due allow them to retain some of the aspects of teens, including the traditional insecurities that many teens face. Additionally, they are incredibly flawed and make genuine mistakes. One of the many redeeming characteristics of this novel is the strong, female characters. Each of them are head strong and self-assured, traits not often seen in this genre. Also, the authors create characters from different walks of life, combining individuals from well-off backgrounds with those whose family life had more to be desired. Finally, the characters are genuine representations of people of color, not forced into stereotypical roles or norms.
While there wasn’t a strong ending to this novel with several aspects left hanging, this cliff-hanger instead generates a great deal of excitement about the next book in the series. All in all, Devil’s Wake is a great example of zombie fiction for those who like a bit of horror, but not a great deal of vulgarity and gore. Highly recommended.
Publisher: Picador; First Edition edition (January 29, 2013)
This title is comprised of eleven chilling, intertwining tales. The correlation between each isn’t obvious at first, relayed by a small detail or speck of information. The point of view of each tale is first person, the identity again not obvious until a specific characteristic is revealed. Additionally, overall names are not used, readers only able to differentiate from the characters by clues and the character’s specific characteristic is revealed. Ranging from a landlady who murders her husband, the surviving parent of a child killed due to suffocation after hiding in an abandoned refrigerator and a young cabaret singer with a unique heart condition, each of the vast range of characters differs vastly.
The title so beautifully wraps up the overall theme of each story: revenge. Each character seeks revenge for a different reason be it envy, jealousy, or spurned love. What makes each of these stories so eloquent is the sharp, crisp writing of Ogawa, a woman rewarded for her exceptional writing skills by receiving every major Japanese writing award.
The stores contained within Revenge are ghastly and dark, very reminiscent of that of Shirley Jackson. What makes each of them so chilling is how each of the dark acts portrayed in the story seems so normal, for most of the acts takes place off the page, the reader only learning about the acts second-hand. This leaves the actual act up to the imagination of the reader. Granted, I am an extensive reader of horror, but only a few of the stories did I find absolutely grotesque, the others much lighter and not nearly as dark as I expected. More importantly, I particularly enjoyed trying to interrelate and connect each oft he characters, creating quite an interesting looking character map.
Bottom line: readers with a weak stomach (or heart) shouldn’t turn away from reading this title based on the synopsis or blurbs on the cover. I dare say this title is enjoyable for it is a bit on the creepy side, but it is definitely attention-gaining and entertaining. Perfect to read on a chilly night…in the dark…curled up under a warm blanket. Highly recommended.
Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.This week’s featured book is the audio book production of V Wars: A Chronicle of Vampire Wars edited by Jonathan Maberry:
Listening Length: 18 hours and 33 minutes
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Release Date: October 10, 2012
The phenomenon, eventually referred to as the V Wars, begins on a scientific expedition to Antarctica. A bacteria, buried under the ice for a millennia, is unknowingly exhumed. The “junk” DNA of victim, also laying dormant, is suddenly activated and they are transformed into creatures that served as the true basis of such supernatural creatures as werewolves or vampires. Their ethnic background determines just what type of werewolf or vampire they come, whether they can roam the streets in the daytime, whether or not they drink blood or consume human flesh, etc. I won’t spoil anything but going into great detail about each of the stories other than say that there won’t be any sparkling vampires or werewolves with glistening abs making an appearance.
This anthology, made up of stories written by a host of authors including Nancy Holder, Yvonne Navarro, James A. Moore, Gregory Frost, John Everson, Keith R. A. DeCandido, and Scott Nicholson, and of course, Jonathan Maberry. Each author’s story is a different viewpoint on the V-event…the one event that served as the commencement of the V Wars: a battle between the supernatural species and the human race. What is truly compelling and stunning about this anthology is how each of the stories managed to weave together around one event without really having anything to do with one another.
Additionally, the flow of this anthology isn’t linear, the stories alternate. One might believe this would cause a confusing, jumbled mess of prose, but each author’s clear voice makes each of the contributions wholly unique, almost as if you are reading completely different books rather than one volume all together. That said, this format does not detract from the overall flow of the book. There is sufficient flow and transition in each of the stories that is easy to pick up where you last left off.
As mentioned, I listened to the audio book production of this anthology.Typically, I would comment on the production of one narrator. Well, in this anthology there are nine…yes nine…narrators, including Stefan Rudnicki, John Rubinstein, Gabrielle de Cuir, Roxanne Hernandez, Lisa Renee Pitts, Arte Johnson, Cassandra Campbell, Wil Wheaton (!!) and Grover Garner. In my humble opinion, audio is the format best suited for this anthology. Each narrator’s voice is incredibly unique and discernible making it easy to separate each unique contribution on its own.
I could continue to rave about just how much I adored this audio, but I must resist. That said, know that this will top my “Best of 2012″ audio books list! Highly, highly recommended.