Thursday, August 9, 2018

Review: The Peoples Republic of Everything - by Nick Mamatas

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

The People's Republic of Everything is made up of fourteen short stories and one novella from genre fiction writer Nick Mamatas and is the most varied assemblage of work I've read in some time.

Walking with a Ghost - A Lovecraft inspired piece right off the bat and one of the best in the collection.  It's the story of H.P. Lovecraft as AI (Artificial Intelligence).

Arbeitskraft - A steampunkish story about the elimination of the proletariat.  I even see a bit of our times in this unusual tale.

The People’s Republic of Everywhere and Everything - A crime noir story, of sorts, about stealing the Q-chip, or quantum chip, which promised to be capable of breaking any and every code.  This one has one of my favorite lines in the entire collection...

"...even the Revolution appreciated a pretty girl who shaved her armpits and smelled like patchouli rather than patchouli and landfill."

Tom Silex, Spirit-Smasher - Fiction that smacks of realism.  A story about an attempt to obtain the rights to reprint the works of a forgotten pulp writer...

"Tom Silex is like a Sherlock Holmes/ cowboy/ ghostbuster/ Harry Potter-type all rolled up into one."

The Great Armored Train - A fanciful tale of the Russian Revolution and a Polish girl who can turn into an owl.

The Phylactery - Sort of an essay on Greekness.  Phylactery.  It's a Greek thing.  A good luck charm, if you will.

Slice of Life - "Not many women of child-bearing age make arrangements to leave their bodies to science. Fewer still die while in their third trimesters."

North Shore Friday - (Please note that the digital edition does not contain this story)  A tale of immigration.  Here's a helpful tip: If you think the government is reading your mind.  Think in Greek.

The Glottal Stop - Living a life inside of social media...

"By the time she got out of “the joint”— she was thinking in TV clich├ęs from her own childhood now !— all the social media platforms would be obsolete and abandoned, a graveyard of controversies as accessible as floppy disks."

The Spook School - Inspired by time spent in Scotland.

A Howling Dog - The curious incident of a bark without a dog.  This was once produced as a full-cast audio adaptation at pseudopod.org and appears in print for the first time in this volume.

Lab Rat - Supplementing a freelance writer's income by being a lab rat.  I wonder how many of my writer friends have actually done this.

Dreamer of the Day - A terrific crime story of an aging daytime actress wanting her philandering husband dead.

We Never Sleep - It's the Pinkerton slogan.  Dieselpunk - Just like steampunk, but greasier and more efficient.

Under My Roof - What would happen if an otherwise ordinary man built a nuclear bomb, put it a garden gnome on his lawn and became a sovereign state.  I loved this novella to finish up the collection.

I found much of the work in The People's Republic of Everything to be introspective, clever, and fun.

Recommended.

The People's Republic of Everything is available now in both paperback and e-book formats from Tachyon Publications.

From the author's bio - Nick Mamatas is the author of several novels, including Love is the Law, I Am Providence and the forthcoming Hexen Sabbath.  His short fiction has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories, Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy, and many other venues.  His fiction and editorial work have been nominated for the Hugo, Locus, World Fantasy, Bram Stoker, Shirley Jackson, and International Horror Guild awards.  Nick lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Review: glass slipper dreams, shattered - by doungiagam

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Not at all what I expected.  The very first story, "I'll make you famous," was like a sucker punch to the face.

Gam, as her friends call her, has a truly unique voice.  This collection of flash fiction or prose poetry, as some have called it, is so good, it's like the reading equivalent of Lays potato chips.  You can't eat (or in this case read) just one.

Here's a single sample of Gam's prose from "one day we will dance again"...

"'We have to go.'  She tugs on me and we run from the wreck, from our broken corpses, and toward the next life."

While not every story hit the mark for me.  Enough of them did to warrant this five-star review.  Among the numerous gems here is a piece simply entitled, "cold."  It's one of the most artistically powerful stories I've ever read.

As I'm reading any work for potential review, I always make notes for myself.  Among the comments I jotted down for glass slipper dreams, shattered was "the author has the heart of a poet which beats strongly even in her prose."  I know it seems as if I'm gushing, but this collection contains all the emotions and I can't help myself.

Do yourself a favor and try something different.  If I hadn't been totally exhausted when I picked this up to read just one story, I would have devoured this in a single sitting.

Wholly recommended.

Published by Apokrupha,  glass slipper dreams, shattered, is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - Doungjai Gam’s short fiction has appeared in Tough, LampLight, Distant Dying Ember, Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, and Wicked Haunted.  She was a sixteen-time winner in the Necon E-Books Flash Fiction contests and has appeared in the Necon E-Books Best of Flash Fiction Anthology series from 2011 on. she is a member of the New England Horror Writers.  Born in Thailand, she currently resides in Connecticut with author Ed Kurtz and their little black cat Oona. in her downtime, she enjoys road trips, lattes, and playing Pearl Jam on repeat.



Friday, August 3, 2018

Review: Welcome to the Show: 17 Horror Stories – One Legendary Venue - Edited by Matt Hayward & Doug Murano

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Welcome To the Show is a shared world anthology.  They don't always work, but this one's premise is simple enough and every one of the seventeen stories in the collection is true to the theme.

There's a well-known club in San Francisco where nearly everyone who's anyone has played at one time or another.  The place is called The Shantyman.  The thing is, despite its legendary status, the place has experienced its fair share of tragedy and there are tales to be told.

I wondered about the origin of the club's name, having never heard of a Shantyman before.  If you're at a loss, too, take a moment to Google the term.  Once you know it, the name makes perfect sense.

The table of contents is a veritable who's who of my favorite horror writers and a few I enjoyed reading for the first time.

 What Sort of Rube by Alan M Clark - Alan does a wonderful job of setting the stage for the anthology.  It's the story of a man named Beverly who performs at the Shantyman and also sells stories to magazines.  He meets a beggar in the alley outside the club and asks for a story in exchange for a meal.  This is that story.

Night and Day and in Between by Jonathan Janz - George Raft, but not that George Raft shows up at the club, looking for Clara, the current headliner.  But as we'll learn she's so much more than a singer.  This one has a delightful twist in keeping with what we know of the curse.

In the Winter of No Love by John Skipp - A great opening line from John...

"The street was a neon nightmare, a low-rent Disneyland of sleaze down which Marcie tromped in army boots. It was cold— at least for California, with the chill November wind blowing in off the ocean— and in her ankle-length coat of ratty fur, she felt like the least-naked woman on the strip."

Being old enough to remember the late sixties, Skipp took me all the way back with a very enjoyable tale.

Wolf with Diamond Eyes by Patrick Lacey - Vincenzo Lucille is living a nightmare.  Now seventy-two, he's the only member of an Italian prog rock band to survive a fateful performance at The Shantyman and he's finally ready to tell his story.

Pilgrimage by Bryan Smith - A tour bus, a stop at The Shantyman, a stranger with a special blend of weed...it all leads to a very strange trip, indeed.  One of my favorites in a book of terrific tales.

A Tongue like Fire by Rachel Autumn Deering - Words have meaning...and consequences.

Master of Beyond by Glenn Rolfe - Bringing a Ouiji board to a place like The Shantyman.  Not exactly a good idea.

Dark Stage by Matt Hayward - As evidenced in Matt's story, The Shantyman isn't always dark.  Sometimes a bit of light shines down, but occasionally even in light, there is darkness.

Open Mic Night by Kelli Owen - Loved this story.  Kelli presents her take on the "27 Club" and its link to The Shantyman.

Beat on the Past by Matt Serafini - A punk band, an old photograph, and the usual strangeness of The Shantyman.

True Starmen by Max Booth III - If you're not reading Max Booth, your missing out.  His description of hipsters is priceless...

"Thick neckbeards coated in Dorito dust.  Semen-stained fedoras.  Sarcastic T-shirts too small for the massive guts bulging out of them."

BTW, I'm officially old.  I thought for certain shoegazing had to be a made up thing.  But once again, thanks to Google, I learned something new.

Just to be Seen by Somer Canon - One of the stranger tales in a collection of strange stories.

Parody by Jeff Strand -  It's time for Zany Chester.  A wickedly funny tale that could only be told by Jeff Strand.

Ascending by Robert Ford -I've been a big fan of Bob's work for some time now.  His style, the way he puts his words together.  I just love it.  At first, I thought this was going to be a touching love story, but then I recalled this was The Shantyman and Bob did not disappoint.

The Southern Thing by Adam Cesare - Its been sometime since I've read an Adam Cesare story.  My fault, not his.  This is a good one.  A quick story, which packs quite a punch.

Running Free by Brian Keene - Best story in the anthology.  Brian hits it out of the park.  Wonderfully told.  Complete in every way.

We Sang in Darkness by Mary SanGiovanni - And we end, appropriately enough, with a bit of Cosmic Horror from the wonderful Mary SanGiovanni.

In conclusion, let me say how much I love a good shared world anthology.  This isn't that, nope.  It's a GREAT shared world anthology.  Without a doubt, Welcome to the Show is my favorite antho so far in 2018.

Welcome to the Show: 17 Horror Stories - One Legendary Venue from Crystal Lake Publishing is available now in both paperback an for the Kindle.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.
Recommended.





Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Review: They Feed - by Jason Parent

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

"Better not to think of it.  Better to just run."

There was much more to the story of Tyler's incarceration for the shooting death of a former High School classmate, but the truth of the matter was he spent six years in Wichita State Penitentiary.

"Prison had not been easy for a fair, slender boy of sixteen, easy prey thrown into a den full of predators.  Yeah, the things he had seen, the things he had done, might have made him tougher.  They'd definitely turned the chip on his shoulder into a whole bag of Doritos."

When Tyler returned to the scene of the crime, all hell breaks loose.  As if it wasn't bad enough he was breaking parole by "borrowing" a car to get to Galveston State Park where he accidentally had shot Stevie Coogan wasn't bad enough, someone had followed him there and they had plans to exact their revenge.  But wait, there's more.

I could get into the diverse group of characters trapped in a shack while creatures make every effort to get at them, but I won't.  Will any of them survive till morning?  To say any more would take too much fun from the reader's experience in this wonderfully original creature thriller.

Jason Parent is one of the best new voices working in horror today and this is one of his finest.

They Feed is available now in both paperback and e-book from Sinister Grin Press.

From the author's bio - In his head, Jason Parent lives in many places, but in the real world, he calls Southeastern Massachusetts his home. The region offers an abundance of settings for his writing and many wonderful places in which to write them. He currently resides with his cuddly corgi, Calypso.  When he’s not working, Jason likes to kayak, catch a movie, travel any place that will let him enter, and play just about any sport (except for the one with that ball tied to the pole thing where you basically just whack the ball until it twists in on knot or takes somebody’s head off). And read and write, of course. He does that too sometimes.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Review: Teeth - by Kelli Owen

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

If the only vampires you have room for in your worldview are of the Bram Stoker's Dracula variety, you might as well stop reading this review right now.  I say this because Kelli Owen has done the unthinkable, she has created her own vampire mythos and in so doing erased nearly everything that has come before.  But it's OK, it's only a story, and a mighty good one at that.

First of all, don't call then vampires, they're lamians.  Use of the "v-word" is both ignorant and derogatory.  While they are not exactly immortal, lamians can live well into their second century.  You can see where this is going, no sense in spoiling all of Kelli's surprises.

Teeth plays well on multiple levels, with a wide variety of characters.  Humans who wish they were lamians, lamians who would like to be human again.  Then there are others who are just trying to fit in.  Of course, there is lots of misunderstanding, racism, and hate.  Deep down, Teeth is an allegory of the times in which we live.  Add to all this, a story about someone who is killing both humans and lamians and you end up with an ecellent read.

Kelli is gifted at expressing truisms from our everyday life and weaving them into her stories...

"He lifted the burger's bun and pulled two pickles free, apparently believing it was easier to remove them than to request a special order."  Ain't THAT the truth.

The bottom line is if you can accept a fresh take on vampires, sorry...lamians.  If you can accept a fresh take on lamians, I think you're more than likely going to enjoy Teeth.

Recommended.

Teeth is available now in both paperback and e-book formats from Gypsy Press.

From the author's bio - Born and raised in Wisconsin, Kelli Owen now lives in Destination, Pennsylvania.  She has attended countless writing conventions, participated on dozens of panels and has spoken at the CIA Headquarters in Langley, VA regarding both her writing and the field in general.  Her fiction leans toward thriller and quiet horror, with an occasional bloodbath and even rarer happy ending.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Review: House of Windows - by John Langan

4 of 5 Stars   

With NECON (the Northeastern Writers Conference) a week away, it's only appropriate I read a book I picked up at last year's event.

House of Windows by John Langan is a bit of an anomaly for me, a foray into the world of literary horror.  I tend to lean toward books written in the vernacular of the common people, like myself.  And then I go and use a word like vernacular, seems John's work is already having an affect on me.  I'm pretty sure that is the correct usage of affect.

 House of Windows is a story told by Veronica Croyden and is mostly about the events leading to her husband's disappearance.  It's a ghost story, of sorts.  Or at least a haunting since you could say both Veronica and her much older husband are haunted by the death of Roger's son from a former marriage.

Central to the tale is the Belvedere House name for a minor painter who had summered there half a century ago.

"We bought the house for a song and a fairly cheap tune at that."

Along the way, Langan provides occasional insight into the human condition.  I particularly liked his take on being a teenager...

"When you're a teenager—or at least, when I was, the last thing I wanted was for my parents to identify with me.  I wanted them to respect who I was, which was, of course, completely different from either of them, let me do what I wanted to, and provide food, shelter, and cash as needed.  Neither of them lived up to that ideal—not even close.  What it boiled down to was, Dad was slightly less annoying than Mom."

There were times I found myself asking, "Do I really care about any of these characters?"  But, I just couldn't pull away from the drama.

House of Windows was John Langan's first novel and it had a hard time finding a home.  The genre people weren't happy with all the literary stuff, and the literary people weren't happy with the genre stuff.

I am glad the story found a home which made it easier to get John's next work published, the critically acclaimed novel, The Fisherman.

Recommended.

Originally published in 2009, House of Windows, found a new home with Diversion Books in 2017 and is currently available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - John Langan is the author of two novels, The Fisherman (Word Horde 2016) and House of Windows (Night Shade 2009/Diversion 2017), and two collections of stories, The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies (Hippocampus 2013) and Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters (Prime 2008). The Fisherman won the Bram Stoker and This Is Horror Awards for superior achievement in a novel in 2016.  He's one of the founders of the Shirley Jackson Awards, for which he served as a juror during its first three years. Currently, he reviews horror and dark fantasy for Locus magazine. In 2018, his next collection, Sefira and Other Betrayals, will be published by Hippocampus Press.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Review: The Switch House: A Short Novel - by Tim Meyer

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I first read Tim Meyer a bit over a year ago when I picked up a copy of his novel, Sharkwater Beach.  Here's what I had to say about that read...

"Sharkwater Beach is pure B-movie madness.  Lots of blood.  Loads of fun."

So, when the opportunity arose to read Tim's new book, The Switch House, I jumped at the chance to do so.

The premise of the TV show, which shares its name with the book, is simple enough.  The Shepards, Angela and Terry, switch houses with Rosalyn Jeffries and the producers film the results.

The real story comes to light after the cameras are put away and the show begins to air on TV.  Things turn a bit surreal as Angela begins to have a complete breakdown.  Is she hallucinating or is she really experiencing some kind of cosmic horror?

"Each of his appendages tore free from his body and disappeared somewhere into the surrounding realm, leaving crimson torrents in its wake.  Blood exploded from the fresh scarlet pits like a city fire hydrant in the dead heat of summer."

The Switch House defies description, but I will say it's enjoyable and a quick summer read, but that's not all.  When you're done with the main story, stick around for a few shorts.

How To Kill a Bear with a Bow and Arrow - A wonderfully twisted little tale of man against beast.  So much fun.

Siren's End - The last pub on the edge of the world...

"An Island of Women, he had said, which, to men who'd spent a great deal of time on the sea and limited hours amongst the company of women, sounded heavenly. They had set course at once and sailed west, toward the location of this great mystery."

Aperture - The dying days of the movie theatre projectionist and a bit of comic horror makes for a terrific little story.

The Switch House is coming July 26th for the Kindle from Evil Epoch Press.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.
Recommended.

From the author's bio - Tim Meyer dwells in a dark cave near the Jersey Shore.  He’s an author, husband, father, podcast host, blogger, coffee connoisseur, beer enthusiast, and explorer of worlds.  He writes horror, mysteries, science fiction, and thrillers, although he prefers to blur genres and let the stories fall where they may.