Archive for book review

Review: Silverfish (Book)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2016 by thiathebard

Author: Hobie Anthonysilverfish
Publisher: Tentacles Press
Date Released:December 7, 2015

Review by Bridget Cannon

Silverfish is a compilation of short horror stories by Hobie Anthony. The setting is a dystopian world ruled by one twisted man. The stories have different settings and twists while keeping with the overall theme. Despite the theme, and the hard work that was clearly put into the stories, I was not a fan of Silverfish.

The stories in Silverfish were not a style that I am overly fond of reading. Particularly the first story which shares the name of the main volume itself.

The first story utilizes a style of writing that can be confusing if the reader is not accustomed to it. The lack of punctuation and flow was off putting until I realized what Anthony was doing with the story. Instead of it adding to the story, I found it disjointing. It is set in a dystopian future that heavily utilizes shock and sex in the narrative. There was one twist that I did enjoy, but other then that it fell flat for me.

The other stories do have a better pace. Perhaps if Anthony had started with one of them, it would have been a better way for the reader to be introduced to his writing.  I did enjoy Anthony’s verbiage. After getting past the first story his vocabulary was able to shine.

There was a story that I did enjoy called “A Cleaner Today, A Brighter Tomorrow.” It was able to keep the grit and shock that are a big part of the overall novel. The main character in this story was a lot more interesting to me then the others. She seemed less flat than the others.

 Silverfish has a lot of great tropes. I can see where the author tried to make his characters gritty and have more of an anti-hero quality. A lot of them just felt like I was reading caricatures that were meant to shock me, though they never really did.

The idea behind the stories were good. It just never really reached the point where I was scared or excited. 

While I did not enjoy it as much, it has gotten some very good reviews on Amazon, so if you like dystopian or shock horror, perhaps you might want to try it.

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Tim from Last Week Reviews: Criminal Macabre – A Cal McDonald Mystery #1!

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 4, 2016 by Tim from Last Week

Story: Steve NilesCriminal Macabre #1 cover
Art: Ben Templesmith
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Released: 4/20/2001 (collected 8/2011)

Steve Niles is well-known for his horror comic writing, as well as work outside of comics. He has written Spawn, Spawn: Dark Ages, and Hellspawn for Image Comics; 30 Days of Night (et. al.) for IDW Publishing; Batman: Gotham County Line and The Creeper for DC Comics; as well as writing the script for Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment’s F.E.A.R.3 video game.

Ben Templesmith has created the art for some of comics’ creepiest titles, including Hellspawn, Hatter M, Fell, and Ten Grand for Image Comics; 30 Days of Night (et. al.) and Silent Hill for IDW Publishing; Gotham By Midnight for DC Comics; as well as art for Steve Jackson Games, Wizards of the Coast, and White Wolf Game Studios.

The cover of this book starts us off right. If this is your first exposure to Ben Templesmith’s art, get used to it: he creates some creepy art. Here, we see Cal McDonald, our “hero,” with a shotgun in his hand, blood on his chest, and a creepy dude (vampire?/demon?/something?) over his shoulder. The city is dark and gritty behind them, so I’m thinking things are bad.

It seems it’s been bad for Cal since childhood, when he found a headless body, and it’s only gotten worse from there. Cal headed west, to L.A., to try to stop monsters. Regular old, nasty, monsters. Cal works with some undead folks to battle the demons, werewolves, vampires, whatever.

The book opens with Cal telling some cops “what went done”, and they don’t believe his tales. Turns out Cal has some addictions, and some history, and the cops don’t really like him. As Cal tells his tale, we see it. Seems he was working a vampire case (cops couldn’t figure out why some college students were dead and missing their blood…). He gets some info, grabs his gear, and heads on out. As it turns out, there are beasties everywhere. Some are just trying to get through life, like us. Cal knows them all, but he’s most comfortable with the ones who lurk around the shadows. They don’t really make trouble, and they don’t tend to be noticed. Cal tracks his vampire, but his rules dictate he can’t just kill the baddie in front of the world. After lifting his wallet, he hopes to track the vamp home (to kill him), but notices another address while checking the I.D. When he gets to the address, he fights his own urges to bolt and get high, even though the gig doesn’t feel right. Cal’s vampire and some friends are talking inside, but he’s surprised to see different types of monsters, together. Instead of running scared, Cal pumps some adrenaline, and ends up interrupting the bad guys. Some monsters escape, some end up bloody, and Cal ends up with little information.

Time passes, and some beasties break into a lab (with the security codes…), to steal a chemical. They efficiently dispose of the records of their passing, but don’t kill the guard. When the police arrive, they find out that a rare strain of black plague was stolen. Records show it never killed anyone, but legend says it wiped out a town in the 1300s. Evidence indicates werewolves, but the crime doesn’t fit the wolves’ m.o.: hunting and killing. Cal stumbles home, hoping to dull the pain with his various vices, but ends up finding his ghoul friend, Mo’lock, in his place. Mo’lock informs Cal that the city’s ghouls want Cal’s help to solve a mysterious attack, so Cal and Mo’lock go deep into the sewers to talk to a gathering of ghouls.

So, I like Cal McDonald. He’s not a great guy, so far, but he is doing what he can do to keep the worst of the worst from damaging the normal way of life. Not that he gets to live that life, and not that he’s necessarily doing it out of love for people; just an obligation, a job. But, he’s also not just a random monster hunter, who kills just to kill. Bad guys may need to go down, but if you’re not a bad monster, it looks like he’ll leave you alone. Seems like a solid plan. This is not my first exposure to Steve Niles. I read all of his old Spawn work when it came out. And, frankly, this was not as scary as his older stuff, but I like the fun nature of this work, much better. The Spawn books were trying to show how evil evil can be, and I think Criminal Macabre is trying to show that there is another side to what we traditionally think of as monsters. I like that treatment much better (Hell, that’s how I view people!).

So, Ben Templesmith is great at creating mood. A lot of it comes through in his color choices, but even regular people can feel creepy under his hand. During the police interrogation, you can tell everything you need to know about the cops just by how their faces appear. I love this stuff. Cal goes through minor transformations from scene to scene, sometimes looking tough, sometimes beat down, sometimes even a little wimpy, and that’s all about Ben’s work. And, of course, we get to see a bunch of different creatures, and his art sort of re-interprets some of the old looks that we generally associate with these monsters. However, through all of the color palette changes and all of the different looks for the characters, there is never a moment where you can think it’s not a dark and gloomy book. We are shown the underbelly of the city, and the only place to go is down.

I really enjoyed this comic, and I plan to read through the rest of the stories. This is the first part of a 5-issue mini-series, but there have been a bunch of mini-series published (mostly) by Dark Horse Comics, who also published the omnibus edition that I used for this review. Criminal Macabre Omnibus volume 1 contains 2 complete series, plus a one-shot story (Love Me Tenderloin), plus another complete series (Supernatural Freak Machine), totalling 392 pages, all for $24.99. There are 2 more Criminal Macabre Omnibuses available, containing 368 pages per volume, also $24.99 each.

Criminal Macabre, and other great comics, can be found at Johnny Destructo’s Hero Complex located at 4456 Main Street, Manayunk, PA 19127. Visit him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jdsherocomplex/

Guest Post: Review of The Shining, by Stephen King

Posted in Guest Post with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2015 by Xander Woolf

Published in 1977 by Doubleday Publishing

Currently on Amazon’s Books from Hell: The 25 Best Horror Books Ever Written

Written by Bridget Cannon

Are you looking for a book to get you in the Halloween spirit? The Shining has always been one of my favorites. Perhaps because it was my first “grown up” horror experience. Since then, I have seen a lot of horror movies and read a lot of horror books. Stephen King has remained on the top of my list. I think it is because of the nature of his writing. He brilliantly weaves real life with the supernatural. This is a clever way to allow the reader to feel secure about reading things that normally might just hit a little too close to home. I happen to think that this layer of reality is what makes his books scary. It gives them some real teeth.

The Shining is no exception. In fact, I think it is one of the best books of his to start with because it showcases his early writing so well. We have an ordinary family, the Torrances, with very ordinary problems. They are then thrown into an extraordinary and dangerous situation; specifically, a haunted hotel called the Overlook. The extraordinary then pushes these people to the brink, forcing them to either battle their monsters or to become them.

These battles, in my humble opinion, are far scarier than whatever is in room 217 or the hedge monsters because these are the battles that people have to fight every day. It is a battle that can be lost at any time with very real consequences. The reader gets to see that early on with Jack Torrance. Yes, the ghosts are scary and, yes, we worry about Danny but it is the humanness of it all that is the scariest. That really makes us care about what is happening in the Overlook Hotel.

The Shining is one of my favorite books for these reasons. If you are looking to try the film, there are two versions. I like do the 1980 movie version despite it losing parts of the book, but Jack Nicholson is wonderful in it. The 1997 miniseries is a lot closer to the book and the version I prefer. I have found that to be true with a lot of King’s miniseries since they were able to keep more of the book without having to worry about a run time.

So, if you are looking for a good scare this Halloween, pick up a copy of The Shining! You won’t regret it. If you have read it, then perhaps you should give it a quick reread before picking up a copy of Doctor Sleep, which is the wonderful sequel.
HAPPY HALLOWEEN, EVERYONE!

Review of “Misery,” a Novel by Stephen King and Movie (1990)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2015 by Xander Woolf

In honor of Stephen King’s birthday this past Monday, September 21, this entry is the first installment of my three-post review trilogy. In this post, I will review not only the novel Misery, but also the movie of the same name.

Novel: Misery, by Stephen King. Published: 1987; Viking Publications.

Movie: Misery (1990). Dir. By: Rob Reiner; Starring: James Caan and Kathy Bates. Currently on Rotten Tomatoes Top 100 Horror Movies list.

For those of you who don’t know, Misery, by Stephen King, is about a fairly successful writer named Paul Sheldon who gets into a traumatic car accident and ends up the hostage of Annie Wilkes, a paranoid, manic-depressive shut-in with psychotic tendencies who happens to be Paul’s self-declared “number one fan.” As Paul pieces together what’s happened to him and slowly gets to know Annie’s dark side, the novel becomes more and more intriguing. In fact, I had to force myself to put it down a few times so that I wouldn’t end up having nightmares about Annie Wilkes throwing poisoned sand in my face… or worse.

The novel itself is extremely well-written, as can only be expected of Stephen King. It contains absolutely no typos, which is rare now-a-days, and this reader could tell that every single word was carefully chosen and placed exactly where Mr. King intended. This is crucial to a good horror story, as one misplaced word can disrupt the suspense and quell the reader’s growing fear. But good writing isn’t only made up of carefully chosen, grammatically correct words and punctuation. No, good writing has soul, which Stephen King delivers by the truckload.

The characters are fully formed and well researched. Paul Sheldon is a romance novelist who has houses in New York and LA to show just how successful he is. He has a thorough back story and a distinguishable voice that is maintained throughout the story. Annie Wilkes is a former nurse turned recluse with a mysterious and dark history of death and mental illness. She’s terrifying when she’s angry and almost childlike when she’s happy, which makes her psychosis even more frightening. The key to a good antagonist is the element of surprise. You never know when Annie Wilkes is going to go off.

The novel has just the right amount of suspense to keep the reader engaged until the very end, and the movie is the exact same way. Actually, I’m surprised that the film adaptation is able to capture the exact essence of the novel. Sure, lot of things were changed, as can be expected when a story switches mediums, but the changes seem right. They’re fair, as Annie Wilkes would say.

While James Caan does an amazing job playing Paul Sheldon, I want to focus on Kathy Bates’ version of Annie Wilkes. James Caan was good, but Kathy Bates was phenomenal. Kathy Bates was Annie Wilkes. It can be argued that Kathy Bates is the glue that holds this horrifying story together. She just captures Annie’s psychotic personality and brings her to life, to my horror. Sometimes, when I’m watching a horror adaptation of a book, I pray and pray that the person who plays the villain will be so bad at it that I’m able to laugh. This was not the case with Bates. She was so good that I’m afraid that if I go to sleep, I’ll wake up in that little room with her looming over me.

Whether you prefer to read books or watch movies, I highly suggest Misery in either of her forms. If you prefer to read, take pleasure in King’s easy prose with vivid and horrifying imagery. If you prefer to watch, take pleasure in Kathy Bates’ riveting and frightening performance of Annie Wilkes. Or, if you’re like me, do both and compare, then let me know what you think of it all!

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