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Review: Behold! Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders – Edited by Doug Murano

Hey everyone, hope you’re all well. 🙂

I got the chance to read this impending anthology, which will be published by Crystal Lake Publishing, and jumped at it. I’m glad I did – this is a truly memorable publication, and a stand-out addition to the annals of Horror.

First shout-out has to go to Josh Malerman for an incredible foreword – it’s not often that a foreword truly captures the essence of what the reader is going to be reading, but Josh did an incredible job; so much so that you’ll probably find yourself re-reading the foreword, as I did. And if you’ve yet to read Josh’s work, the foreword alone will make sure you do; the man has an enticing, evocative and lyrically rhythmic turn of phrase which seems perfectly suited to Horror. (and yes, I too have yet to read Josh’s work)

The anthology is divided into three sections – Oddities, Curiosities, and Undefinable Wonders, and Lisa Morton’s LaRue’s Dime Museum opens the anthology – an inspired choice by editor Doug Murano, as this tale hints at practically every strange and terrifyingly wondrous thing you’ll read. Let me be clear: the feel of it, how it blends reality, fear, and longing, as well as the imagery and atmosphere of it, will prepare you (to a certain degree) for the rest of the tales. It’s also a tale which defies end-guessing, and which will probably make you look twice at that strange-looking person across the street… Here’s an exceptional illustration from the mad-skills-afflicted Luke Spooner, to give you a taste of what you’ll be reading:

The next tale, Brian Kirk‘s Wildflower, Cactus, Rose is absolutely chilling in how it looks at society’s sick need to ‘look better’, as well as how ‘normal’ and ‘accepted’ abuse becomes. It’s a difficult story to read, and should be – we have to talk about the things that make us uncomfortable and that have no easy answers, and this tale doesn’t flinch from showing the uglier sides of human nature… Yet there’s a strange kind of beauty there, too.

Hal Bodner‘s The Baker of Millepoix is filled with the kind of imagery you’d expect from a charming foreign-language movie; the writing is flowing, lyrical, easy – as if your eyes are following the happy gurgling of a stream with birds tweeting in the background and a slight breeze puffing your hair. Yet when the horror arrives, it seems almost sweet and -dare I say it again- charming. You, the reader, will have witnessed something society says you must not allow to happen, must not take part in, yet… You’ll have found it a bit wonderful.

Next you’ll read Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament – not saying who the author is (either let yourself be surprised or spoil it for yourself). This tale is about the discovery of talents, the exercising of power, the black-hole-pull of love and lust, the physicality of intention, how guilt is able to ravage and inflame, and how, strangely enough, there’s a sick, twisted and yet breathtaking beauty in the experiences of pain and horror. The tale also ends with one of the most unsettling, yet fitting, scenes I’ve ever read.

What also makes Behold such a memorable anthology are the poems which split the book’s sections – Stephanie M. Wytovich isn’t one of those ‘read and have no clue what you’ve just read’ poets; her work won’t leave you feeling as if you missed classes at some high-brow literary school. It’s as if Stephanie has woven scenes or micro-stories using the ideas of Horror, the foundational elements and emotions. Her work is unsettling and addictive. An Exhibition of Mother and Monster is, to me, a scathing indictment of humanity’s need to make a spectacle of that which freaks us out. The poem points at us and says, ‘You giggle and cringe and thank your genes that you haven’t come out different, yet you don’t see the beauty and tragedy in what you’re paying to see and selfie.’

The next tale, John Langan‘s Madame Painte: For Sale is a quirky tale – it almost serves as a warning to bargain- or antique-hunters to be very careful of what they find, yet it could also be a warning to folks against believing the stories which accompany the pieces you’re interested in; it works both ways.

The next tale, Chalice, by another author I won’t name (for the same reasons as Jacqueline Ess) is one of those quaint, leaves-you-with-a-good-feeling tales – it’s sublimely written and marries the strange and out of place beautifully with the solitary life of a small-town retiree.

Fully Boarded by Ramsey Campbell is a story every traveller will love. 😉 Or maybe you’ll never travel again. Or maybe you’ll never go anywhere just to find fault with a place… Who knows? 😉

In Amelia’s Wake by Erinn L Kemper is, to me, a brooding, lovely and yet dark meditation on loss and progress, and about how grief can become a wall which not even more loss can break through. There’s a dark magic to this tale.

In A Ware That Will Not Keep, from John F.D. Taff, we hear the confession of an old man to his grandson, and we’re taken back to World War 2 and the atrocities committed against the Jews by the Nazis. It’s a tale which explores the nature and repercussions of revenge, and is probably also the first time I’ve ever felt true sorrow for a mass-murderer. Here’s a hint of what you can expect, again from the excellent Luke Spooner:

 

Then comes Ed Pruitt’s Smoker by Patrick Freivald – this tale ranks among my favourites because of the nature of the tale. It takes a seemingly innocuous subject -bees and bee-keepers- and gives it a terrifyingly wonderful twist; you simply have to read this one to understand what I mean.

We’re then treated to another poem by Stephanie Wytovich, As a Guest at the Telekinetic Tea Party, and this time she focuses on the utter uselessness, faux frivolity and inherent judgements made by women who hold tea parties. Or does she? You decide.

Hazelnuts and Yummy Mummies by Lucy A. Snyder will have you laughing out loud and perhaps wiping away tears, too – Conventions may be one of those events an author aspires to, but be careful of the cookies, okay? 😉

Brian Hodge‘s The Shiny Fruit of Our Tomorrows launches the reader into the anthology’s final section – Undefinable Wonders. Brian’s tale is one of the most beautiful, and heart-breaking, tales in the anthology. It reveals a world very. very few of us have ever (willingly or otherwise) entered, people by real people, the likes of which you have probably met without knowing it. You know how sometimes truth and need, when combined, can be heart-breaking? That’s what this tale represents. Wonderful, lingering stuff.

The Wakeful by Kristi DeMeester is sublime, slow-building horror… Don’t read it while sitting out in your garden; you’ve been warned.

Christopher Coake‘s Knitter beings to my mind the awesome work Stephen King did in Insomnia – that marriage of the seemingly innocuous with the truly strange; it’s a glimpse into a world which will be very real to you while you read the tale.

Sarah Read‘s Through Gravel is, to me, an exploration of how claustrophobic religion can become – Sarah shows us a world in which darkness is sacrosanct, and change is anathema; it’s when the light begins to filter in that things change…

The collection ends with Hiraeth by Richard Thomas – a beautiful tale which resounds with aching need, sorrow, and a growing love amidst slow and beautiful magic. A reminder that the world has more to offer than we can possibly see, or know from experience. Here’s another one of Luke Spooner’s incredible illustrations – perfectly suited to the tale:

Behold is one of those memorable collections – you haven’t encountered anything like these stories in fiction before. Beauty and darkness and terror and love swirl together to create a book I’ll be thinking about for a long time. You simply have to read this-experience this-absorb this. Major kudos to Doug Murano for excellent editing and to Crystal Lake Publishing for giving readers this anthology. Absolutely incredible stuff, and well deserving of a resounding 10 out of 10.

Pre-order the Kindle version for just $2.99, and join the two ThunderClap campaigns to spread the word about this incredible anthology, and check out the many other top-notch titles Crystal Lake has released. You can also add the book on Goodreads. 🙂

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
 

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Book Review: Article Three

I was extremely lucky to be gifted an English version of this originally Swedish dystopian YA novel from the author herself for unbiased review. I spent my Christmas holiday reading this book and enjoyed it immensely!

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Trust will get you killed – and trust will keep you alive

In a world where the System governs everything, Ava’s a rebel – one who can control other people’s thoughts with her mind. As part of a resistance movement preparing for war, this is a useful skill.

Levi stopped believing in the struggle for freedom when it snatched his parents from him. Now he’s just trying to live a quiet life and control the voices that threaten his sanity.

One night Levi’s sister is arrested. To free her, he has to break old promises and get involved with people he swore he’d never associate with. Ava’s ordered to help him and, together, they leave on a rescue mission. She says he has to trust the rebels. But should they?

First of all, I tend to have a hate and hate-some-more relationship with translations, especially translations from languages I’m somewhat familiar with. While my Swedish definitely isn’t good enough to allow me to read this novel in its original form, I feel I know just enough of the language to be thoroughly irritated when I sense it going wrong. This book, however, was translated very well! There are a few instances of incorrect word use or slightly clunky syntax, but it was never enough to annoy me. And this book gets huge bonus points for being a self-published translation as well! I have read some truly atrocious Big House translations! Okay, but let’s get to the story…

This is a YA dystopian and starts off feeling comfortingly familiar with several identifiable tropes that have made this sub-genre of sci-fi so immensely popular. What made it so different and refreshing is that Lund presents us with a trio of main characters made up of strong, independent young women, and a physically weak, not particularly good-looking guy who freely admits that he isn’t all that smart either. Levi is the antithesis of every brave, buff, and (supposedly) intelligent hero of YA fiction. Forget Roar or Four or Gale – Levi is none of those things and yet, it’s his faults and ineptitude that make him so endearing, not only to the readers but to the women in his team.

Another refreshing aspect to this story was the Scandinavian setting. Without giving too much away, I can say that this book starts off somewhere in what might be the remnants of Germany and takes the trio on a several thousand-kilometre journey north through Denmark, past some well-known sites, to a snowy Sweden where they even get to interact with Sami reindeer herders! Being a resident of the north myself, it was pretty awesome getting to read a YA dystopian novel set in this part of the world.

And finally, the touch of near-supernatural that comes into the story in the form of ‘faculties’ some people possess – that is, explicable talents such as a form of mind reading – makes this a little different again from the way dystopian books usually play out, and another layer to already well-developed characters.

For a first book in a trilogy, the pacing is great and the resolution was satisfying while leaving plenty more story to be told in the sequels. But herein also lies my only gripe. While I know this is a series and Lund is very much going for a slow-burn approach to revealing the characters and their motivations, I did feel like I wanted to get to know the trio all much better as individuals. There are brief moments of flashbacks explaining their behaviour or thoughts but I wanted so much more! I also have to note that the ‘accent’ with which the one character speaks is really distracting and I wish it hadn’t been written into all their dialogue. So two gripes then – both fairly minor things.

Overall, this book is a refreshing take on the dystopian genre, a great first installment in a promising trilogy, and definitely a book I’d recommend to readers who are looking for something fresh in their YA sci-fi.

4/5 ink splats from me!

4 inksplats

~Suzanne~

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2017 in Reviews

 

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Review: Rime by Tim Lebbon

Hey everyone, Dave here. 🙂 Hope you’ve all been well!

I’m back with a new review, this time a with a look at Tim Lebbon’s ‘Rime’. I said on FB, while I was reading it, that the tale reminded me of why I’m a fan of Science Fiction, and I’m sticking with that.

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Adrift in space, a gigantic freighter, Cradle, carrying seventeen million souls makes its slow journey across the universe.

They are in search of a new home, a ‘Goldilocks’ planet to sustain human life after the decimation and downfall of planet Earth.

One man, a control room tech, is part of a generation destined to live their lives protecting those of the sleeping millions onboard Cradle.

But soon, everything is about to change…

When Cradle encounters five unknown entities flying just beyond its radars, the ship’s AI calls for caution. Comms go down across the gargantuan ship, cutting the tech from the millions of other souls under his watch.

Those in cryosleep don’t realise the danger they are in. Their lives are in the balance.

And the alien ships are fast approaching…

Now this lonely technician must make his decision: will he stand his ground, and risk the lives of millions?

Or is it time to admit that humanity has strayed too far into the unknown?

Mankind’s fate is in his hands. Soon, the consequences of his actions and the message he bears will be felt for generations to come…

‘Rime’ is a SF retelling of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘Ancient Mariner’, and while I must confess that I haven’t read that Classic, I’m confident in saying that ‘Rime’ can stand alone and proud among the future Classics of Science Fiction, and also among all that has come before. For such a short tale (around an hour and half’s reading, I’d estimate), this story has wonderful depth.

‘Rime’ centres on a technician aboard what we would know as an ark-ship, called Cradle. Cradle has been travelling away from Earth for centuries with a cargo of millions of humans in cryo-stasis; the generations of various technicians living on Cradle have the envious job of making sure that the vast ship runs properly. Something happens, at once wonderful and terrible, which none of the technicians, nor the ship’s governing Artificial Intelligence (also named Cradle), could have predicted – contact with intelligent aliens, and the technician is drawn into the centre of events which will affect not only Cradle but humanity as a whole.

Now, remembering that Cradle is an Ark-type ship, or Colony Ship, Tim does an excellent job of conveying not only the ship’s size but also how all the myriad technicians fit into the running of it. The technicians also have their own culture, dependent on their specific jobs on the ship and who they come into contact with. Some technicians have no religious beliefs, few manage to explore Cradle in its entirety, and social circles are small.

There’s a sense of almost desperate isolation in the characters we meet which deepens as Tim tells the tale from two points in time – pre-Contact and post-Contact – I was kept wondering about what had happened aboard Cradle and just where the technician had ended up, what had happened to so psychologically affect him, and the fate of Cradle and its passengers, both in cryo-stasis and tending the great ship. Tim steadily unfurls the tale, like a solar sail being released by its parent craft, early on already, and by the time the ‘sail’ is fully extended and begins to catch the solar wind, the book is impossible to put down.

For those seeking action and battles, this might not be the kind of book you’re expecting. Though it is proudly and wonderfully grounded in the core of what good SF should be -that sense of wonder and mystery, of exploration and consequence- it is a tale that also explores what it means to be human, to react emotionally, to grieve, and to be at once at part of something massive yet also supremely isolated.

‘Rime’ is damned well crafted, beautifully and painfully told, and a welcome addition to Science Fiction – won’t be surprised at all if this becomes a future SF Classic.

10/10

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You can order your copies (ebooks) of Rime at Amazon US and Amazon UK, and check out this post by Tim for more information about the tale. Rime was published by Venture Press.

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2016 in Reviews

 

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Book Review: African Monsters

As part of my goal this year to read more African authors, I was delighted to accept an offer from the editor to review this anthology, especially when it features a story by our very own Dave!

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Speculative fiction, art and graphic stories from African authors, based on African folklore, myths and legends about monsters. African Monsters is the second in a coffee table book series with dark fiction and art about monsters from around the world.

 

I always find it really tricky to give a star rating to an anthology of stories by different authors. Some stories I absolutely adored and thought were excellent, others I didn’t really care for. One of the highlights for me in this anthology was the short story by Nnedi Okorafur. Having only read Lagoon by Okorafur, I was looking forward to reading something else by the author and her story ‘On the Road’ definitely didn’t disappoint.

Dave-Brendon de Burgh’s story was another high point in the anthology – a story which gave a twisted, were-beastie spin to what felt like an excerpt from a Harry Dresden novel. This story in particular felt like it had the potential to spawn an entire novel and if it did *hint hint Dave* I would totally be reading that!

‘A Whisper in the Reeds’ by Nerine Dorman was another favourite for me featuring beautiful writing and delicate relationships between well-developed characters. Whenever I feel cheated by the length of the story and yearn for more, I know it was a good short story and that is exactly how I felt with these words by Dorman!

I also need to mention the art and illustrations scattered throughout. As you can see by the cover, the artwork in this book is spectacular and I particularly enjoyed the graphic stories included in this anthology. It’s the first time I’ve encountered ‘wordless’ stories in an anthology this way, adding yet another unique aspect to what is already a fabulously diverse read.

While I didn’t love every story in this collection, I can still strongly recommend this anthology if you’re looking to diversify your reading, particularly if you’d like to sample a selection of scary tales by African authors. This anthology scores 4/5 ink splats from me.

4 inksplats

~Suzanne~

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2016 in Reviews

 

Review: Neverlight by Dan Weatherer – Collection

Hey everyone, Dave here. 🙂

I hope you ordered your copies of Dallas Mullican’s “A Coin for Charon”, which I reviewed on Friday. 🙂

Today’s review will focus on a short story collection by Dan Weatherer, titled “Neverlight“, published by Spectral Press.

Are we mere puppets, a slave to the will of others? Influence, an inescapable and unseen force exerted upon all of us. Can we ever say that we are creatures of free will, acting according to our desires and not of those around us? Influence is the white noise that bombards our every waking moment, clouding our thought, hindering our judgement.

Looking beyond our existence, there are those beings that dwell beneath the surface of our planet, ancient entities twisted in their resentment of our freedoms, that would mean us harm. Theirs is an influence ancient in its origin, born from evil and cruel intent. Their will presses upon us, calling out to our most primal instincts.

We, oblivious, heed their call.

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This is a collection of short stories and verse, the third collection from Dan’s pen (check out Only the Good Burn Bright and The Soul That Screamed), and serves to put a spotlight on a storyteller of talent and range.

The collection opens with the tale, “Abarath“, a chilling, Lovecraftian tale about two friends discovering the truth behind a rumoured treasure; it’s atmospheric and builds menace and tension steadily.

The next tale, “Signed” is my pick for the most entertaining, since it focuses on a struggling Horror writer and the lengths he goes to to get an agent; it’s also a wonderful, satirical look at struggling authors and successful authors and I’m sure many writers will catch themselves enjoying it for all the wrong, yet spot-on, reasons. 😉

The Watchful Eye” is a great twist on the run-of-the-mill Haunted House tales, charting the implosion of a couple while revealing the utter strangeness of the house they live in.

Time Flow and the Spectral Realm” reads almost like an extract from a larger essay and, in my opinion, needs a bit more to shift it into the realm of a true short story. It does offer an interesting take on a phenomenon many people have experienced and which I (as a paranormal investigator) have also thought about.

My First Horror Story” shows that even children can be evil and calculating, yet reveals this in a darkly humorous manner.

Meadow View” is a tale of friendship and darkness in a strange psychiatric facility, and though predictable in a sense, it remains one of the strongest tales in the collection.

The Withered Touch” is a tale of misery and love, a tragedy which leads into a resolution which made me smile.

One of my other favourites, “The Raven and the Wolf” explores a strange yet beautiful friendship between two vastly different creatures, showing that perhaps companionship is the one thing which can bridge any difference.

“The Miners of Annan” is another foray into the creeping, stygian horror made famous by Lovecraft and has some truly creepy imagery.

A Butcher’s Wife, Indisposed” sheds light how  how one old woman ‘enjoys’ her stay in an NHS hospital bed while getting to know the other women in her room; of all the tales, it is the most well-constructed and incredibly entertaining.

The Tragedy of the Tailor” seeks to show that finding the answers you seek could actually be a curse, but is almost too short a tale to explore that idea.

The Thing Beneath the Bed” brings an age-old monster into the world of adults, and could have also benefited from a more gradual building up and exploration of the idea.

Clarence Milton – Vampire Hunter” was, in my opinion, the weakest of the tales – I think it’s trying to explore the dark side of psychotic obsession when it comes to the supernatural, but doesn’t do so strongly enough.

That Laughing Man” is really damned creepy and is one of the tales which lingers; really enjoyed the character’s investigation of a sinister-looking attraction.

Six Feet” follows the travails of a grave-digger – definitely one of the most interesting tales in the collection.

She Who Casts No Shadow” was engaging and tragic yet also ended a bit too quickly – I would have liked to read more of the main character’s experiences and been able to delve a bit deeper into her thoughts and psychology.

Soul, Ugly” is a biting tale with a brutal stab of an ending, really damned good.

Killing Gary” is a quirky look at a simply crazy woman and the back and forth between her and the detective interrogating her – Gary’s of the world, read it at your peril. 😉

Brammerly House” is another teasingly taut and creepy tale of what a child witnesses, and I feel it could have used a bit more to make it more effective.

The collection is also interspersed with short snap-shots of thoughts, idea-explorations and meditations, many of which still resound; I’m sure there’ll be many readers who will count a fair number of them among their favourites.

All in all, this collection is a great peek into what goes on in Dan’s head – his talents range across the board, from striking characterization while exploring interesting ideas, to being really effective at building tension and creepiness; I do wish that that some of the stories were a bit longer and that Dan strung the reader along for a couple of more pages before springing the climax. Some of the endings arrive so quickly that they lose their effectiveness even though they fit the tale. So that would be my only complaint. 🙂

I’m definitely looking forward to reading much more of Dan’s work (he’s got a novel on the way, too), and folk that like audiobooks will be glad to know that Neverlight will be produced as an audiobook, too.

The stunning cover art was created by Holly Madew – you’ll be seeing a lot more of her exceptional work, trust me! 🙂

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I give this collection a strong 8 / 10 and hope you’ll check it out – it’s currently selling for a bargain-price on Amazon UK and Amazon US, and you can order the limited edition hardcover direct from Tickety Boo Press.

And do go check out Dan’s site for more info about him and his work. 🙂

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2016 in Reviews

 

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Review: A Coin for Charon by Dallas Mullican

Hey everyone, Dave here again, hope you’re all well. 🙂 I hope you got yourselves copies of ‘Thou Shalt Not’, which I reviewed on Wednesday.

In this post I’ll be reviewing a serial-killer thriller which is right up there with the work from folks like John Connolly and Thomas Harris, at least in my opinion.

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Gabriel isn’t murdering anyone. He’s saving them.

The media has dubbed him the Seraphim Killer. He believes the gods have charged him to release the chosen, those for whom life has become an unbearable torment. Gabriel feels their suffering—his hands burn, his skull thunders, his stomach clenches. Once they are free, he places coins on their eyes to pay Charon for passage into paradise.

Detective Marlowe Gentry has spent the past two years on the edge. The last serial killer he hunted murdered his wife before his eyes and left his young daughter a mute shell. Whenever she looks at him, her dead eyes push him farther into a downward spiral of pain and regret. He sees the Seraphim as an opportunity for revenge, a chance to forgive himself―or die trying.

Gabriel performs the gods’ work with increasing confidence, freeing the chosen from their misery. One day, the gods withdraw the blessing―a victim he was certain yearned for release still holds the spark of life. Stunned, he retreats into the night, questioning why the gods have abandoned a loyal servant. Without his calling, Gabriel is insignificant to the world around him.

He will do anything to keep that from happening.

This novel is the first book is Dallas’ ‘Marlowe Gentry’ series, gentry being the main character and a detective.

Marlowe is a no-nonsense, seriously unhappy man; having gone through a massively traumatic experience and working as a detective, he sounds like the kind of character it would be difficult for the reader to associate with, but I found myself really caring about this guy; Dallas’ reveals more of Marlowe’s inner self chapter by chapter instead of giving the read *everything* about the man as soon as he’s introduced, a mistake which many writers in this genre have made. Marlowe comes across as an living, breathing person, and when I finally found out just what had been driving -and hounding- Marlowe, it rounded out his character perfectly. He’s a damaged man, but then, all great, memorable characters are.

Marlowe’s supporting cast is split between his superior, McCann, and his friend, Spence – the back and forth between them is entertaining and doesn’t feel forced at all. McCann is a man under immense pressure and Marlowe’s past (which is known to him) doesn’t make things any easier for him. Spence is, in many ways, Marlowe’s opposite, yet still manages to stand out among the cast – he supports Marlowe but also calls him out from time to time, the kind of thing a true friend does. Koop, the medical examiner, is another stand-out character who, along with Spence, could easily star in their own series’.

There are two other characters, Becca and Max. Becca is a psychologist and the wife of a bad cop; Max is a husband and father who gets very bad news, which impacts and changes his life. How these characters swirl into each others lives and then intersect with Marlowe’s, was expertly handled – they are all important and central to the plot, as well as to the plans and choices of the man who will change all their lives.

Which brings me to Gabriel, one of the most interesting serial killers I’ve met in this genre. His view of life, his personality, his choices, motives and methods are pretty damned unique and memorable and I was absolutely helpless as his tale unfolded.

The novel has an air of mystery and just-perceptible supernatural elements and the writing is tight and controlled; Dallas’ creates and maintains a balance between evoking the gritty urban world the characters inhabit and their inner selves, both deeply realized and explored.

When there’s a tangible sense of place as well as stand-out characters, a tale works well, and this tale, focusing on people trying to find their place in an unforgiving and brutal world, is excellent.

The only writers of the genre who have so captured me before this have been Thomas Harris and John Connolly – Dallas Mullican deserves to stand alongside them, and I’m really looking forward to reading the next Marlowe Gentry novel.

10/10

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And how awesome is the cover art?! 🙂

To order your copies, follow this link for all the other links and info you’ll need. 🙂

Until next time,

Be Epic!

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2016 in Reviews, Uncategorized

 

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Review: Thou Shalt Not – Edited by Alex Davis

Hey everyone, Dave here. 🙂 Hope you’ve all been well! Apologies for my absences – I’ve been writing a lot and editing a lot lately and have achieved a balance or sorts which will lead to more regular reviews from me. 🙂

Let’s get into ‘Thou Shalt Not’!

The Ten Commandments were laid down in the earliest days of mankind, a guiding set of principles for our everyday lives. For centuries these tenets have shaped our morality, our laws, our societies. But what happens when these commandments are tested – and even broken? Step inside ten tales exploring the dark consequences of breaking these most ancient and sacred of rules…

That’s the premise for this anthology and, being raised as a Roman Catholic, I was really curious as to how the premise would be explored. Put it this way – I was shocked, stunned and left speechless, and I mean that all positively.

The anthology opens with Jeff Gardiner‘s Dionysus, a tale exploring the commandment, “Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me.” It’s also a tale about awakening and emerging from from the kinds of chrysalis’ which we find ourselves smothered in while trying to navigate Life. It is hard-hitting and heart-felt, the kind of tale that will probably echo in the reader’s mind when witnessing situations similar to what the two main characters find themselves in.

The next tale, Amanda Bigler‘s The Last Dinner, explores the commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Worship Any False Idols” and focuses on a photographer’s confession of love and admiration, exploring not only his quirks and tendencies but also throwing a light on a shady, dangerous business. It hit hard and had me swearing when I finished it – the build up in this tale is perfectly managed and the end is darkly, brutally brilliant.

All the Best Tunes by Clare Littleford takes the commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Take the Lord’s name in Vain” as its inspiration, and focuses on a couple, their desperate love for one another, and how their relationship impacts the community in which they live which, at times, has the flavour of a dystopia. It’s a subtle tale with an intense gut-punch of an ending.

Stuart Young‘s Confessions explores the commandment, “Thou Shalt Keep the Sabbath Day, to Keep it Holy“, and is one of my favourite tales in the book. It’s an absolutely blistering and eye-opening look at the concept of sin – outstanding tale!

The Looking Glass Girl by Laura Mauro, exploring the commandment, “Honour Thy Mother and Father“, is one of the more tragic tales in the anthology and follows the main character as she begins to uncover the truth behind her sister’s disappearance. The thing is, her sister, Stefania, appears in a mirror … or does it? Are we experiencing something supernatural or are long-suppressed memories rising to the fore? Great tale.

Danuta Reah‘s The Dummies’ Guide to Serial Killing (with “Thou Shalt Not Kill” as its theme, of course) is a fun, vicious tale in which a budding murderer is given a brilliant lesson in how not to go about being a serial killer. I enjoyed a nasty little cackle at the end of this tale.

Fuxnet by Pat Kelleher, exploring “Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery“, is uncompromising and truly scary – the author takes online pornography and creates a nightmare which consumes the main character. It’s a disquieting, unflinching tale and may upset some readers, but is well worth the read.

Mark West‘s The Goblin Glass explores “Thou Shalt Not Steal” and has the main character sent to steal a particular, special mirror (The Goblin Glass) by a man he wishes to impress. He finds the mirror, of course… 😉 A great, tense tale in which you as the reader know that the character is heading into dangerous territory, but you really don’t want to warn him (even if you could) because you need to know more about the mirror.

After Jasper Kent‘s The Tangled Web, you will never break the “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbour” commandment ever again, and you might even look at Twitter from an entirely new perspective, too…

And finally, rounding out the anthology with a tale of salesmanship, business deals and Hell, Jacey Bedford explores “Thou Shalt Not Covet Anything of Your Neighbour’s” in Pitch, an entertaining, surprising mix of themes and outcomes.

Thou Shalt Not

This is a seriously good anthology, exploring different themes with physical, emotional and psychological Horror-elements and should keep you reading late into the night; in fact, you’ll probably be late for work the next day. Not checking Twitter at all. Wondering about Sin. And so much else. 😉

I’ve got no idea how many tales Alex had to choose from, but all of these tales are damned good and memorable. The editing was sharp and completely invisible and I’m definitely looking forward to reading further projects edited by Alex, and written by these authors.

9 / 10

You can order your limited edition hardcovers direct from Tickety Boo Press, or get the Kindle edition at the following links: Amazon US and Amazon UK.

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2016 in Reviews

 

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M.D. Thalmann / Satire and Sci-fi

M.D. Thalmann, a novelist and freelance journalist specializing in satire and science fiction, lives in Phoenix, AZ with his wife, children, and ornery cats, reads too much and sleeps too little.

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