Tag Archive: horror


Best-Horror-of-the-Year

Audiobook review “The Best Horror of the Year, Volume 4”

Edited by Ellen Datlow

Read by Various Readers

Published by Blackstone Audio

Approx. 17 hours

Always the fan of horror and always the fan of short stories this book was a must read for me. When I saw the title, “The Best Horror of the Year…” my first question was what year? Seeing that the hardcover version was published in 2012, I looked further and discovered this was the best of 2011. Being a bit cynical I thought, we’ll have to see about that.

Well, the cynicism went away right at the first story. Each story in this collection represented a different point in the horror genre of fiction from mysterious faith-healers to monsters that live underground and sense vibrations of their prey to two spies trying to capture a Lovecraftian villain and more. This collection will introduce you to some new horror story telling and allow you to revisit some of your favorite storytellers.

Each story was read by a different narrator creating the fun from each of their own vocal talents. The editors matched perfectly each story to a different voice, not only allowing the difference from a male or female point of view, but also the tone of the stories match the vocal tones of the readers. The narrators includes Lindy Nettleton, Charles Carroll, Shaun Grindell, Angela Brazil, and Fred Sullivan

I will briefly describe a few of my favorite stories from this collection, in no particular order.

“The Little Green God of Agony,” by Stephen King opens the book with a story of a rich man seeking to live forever, pain-free without the grueling physical rehab. Hearing of a faith healer that has a history of positive results the man uses his influences to bring in the faith-healer, not all of the man’s staff hold the same faith. He summons the Rev. Rideout to his bedside. Rideout is no mere faith healer. He doesn’t heal, “I expel.” He casts out the demon god that feeds on hurt.

“Blackwood’s Baby,” takes place in rural Washington state, This story tracks a 1930s expedition of diverse hunters seeking a beast of legend more dangerous than any of them anticipate.

In John Langan’s “In Paris, in the Mouth of Kronos,” two government agents try to prove themselves when they’re hired to grab a “Mr. White,” who may not be a human. Mixing spy thriller with a touch of Lovecraft this story has a great creepiness factor.

“The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine” by Peter Straub is a bit of a surreal journey down a river on a luxury yacht where Ballard and Sandrine could live comfortably as long as they don’t ask questions. But as is human nature the couple investigate their surroundings if only to find where their food comes from. Everytime they gain new information it seems to be lost, forgotten or clouded by the next interlude.

“The Moraine” has a feuding couple lost on a mountain in a whiteout fog with a monster. The monster in this story mixes the monsters from “Tremors,” “The Ruins” and “The Mist.” This is a good old-fashioned monster story that could have been a drive-in movie theater hit if made into a movie.

In my favorite story out of the group, A.C. Wise’s “Final Girl Theory,” “‘Kaleidoscope’ isn’t a movie, it’s an infection, whispered from mouth to mouth in the dark.” A cult movie is the basis for an underground following that leads one fan to seek out the leading lady in the film.

A great collection of different horror stories with a great collection of narrators makes this audiobook one to grab.

joyland

Audiobook Review: “Joyland”

By Stephen King

Read by Michael Kelly

Published by AudioWorks / Simon & Schuster

Running time: Approx 7.5 hours

 

So, all I knew was that Stephen King had a new book out.  I have been a fan of King’s ever since his book “Christine” came out back in 1983.  That was the first Stephen King novel I read, and I was hooked ever since.  I have read every book published and as soon as a new one  comes out I HAVE to have it.  Anymore I don’t bother reading what the book is about I just read it, or in this case, listen to it.

 

Looking back at the wide variety of Stephen King books you never really know what you are getting into.  Sometimes it is a murder mystery, sometimes a fantasy about dragons, or an alternate world.  King is known as the master of horror and that could lead to a really nice horror novel.  Putting together clues from the cover of the book I deduced that this book must be some sort of murder mystery.

 

The book cover features a picture which closely resembles the art work on the covers from the Pulp-fiction / Crime Drama magazines from the middle of the 20th century.  The book was originally published in paperback through “Hard Case Crime” which is an American imprint of hardboiled crime novels, just like the novel “The Colorado Kid.”  So putting these together I deduced that it was going to be a crime novel that features that extra Stephen King twist, and it was.

 

Before I talk more about the book I have to praise Michael Kelly on his narration of the book.  The book is presented as a first person point of view.  That point of view comes from Devin Jones, a University of New Hampshire student who takes a summer job at Joyland in 1973.  Michael Kelly perfectly captures the mood and psyche of Devin Jones as he starts out at the amusement park as a greenie and eventually attempts to solve a murder and brightens the life of a dying child.  Kelly’s voice fits the voice of Devin Jones like a glove and makes this character come to life in this audiobook version.

 

As I stated, Devin Jones takes on a summer job at Joyland amusement park in North Carolina working with the “carnies” and “wearing the fur” Joyland talk for portraying Howie the Happy Hound, Joyland’s mascot.   Devin soon learns of the local urban legend of the ghost in the haunted haunted house in Joyland.  A few years past a young girl was murdered in the horror house and the killer was never caught.  Every so often the ghost of the girl appears to someone in the park.

 

Devin also learns from the park’s fortune teller that he will meet two children that summer. One is a girl with a red hat. The other is a boy with a dog. One of them has The Sight.  So with a little bit of “The Shining” mixed in with a little bit of “The Colorado Kid,” Stephen King weaves a tale of murder, mystery and psychic powers in a way that only he can tell a story.  This is a coming of age, human interest, horror, murder mystery that will have you laughing, crying and leaving the lights on at night.

roadtowoodbury

“The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury”
by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga
read by Fred Berman
Published by MacMillan Audio
Running time: 10 hours

For the year 2013, I’m declaring February Zombie month. This is the month when the phenomenal TV series, “The Walking Dead” starts back up to finish up season 3 this month, I have just caught up to issue #106 of the comic book series and I have just finished listening to the second audiobook written as a companion to the series. I am ready for more zombies.

The two novels written in this series coincide with the comic books and not the TV series. The first novel was “Rise of the Governor” and the sequel to that novel is this one “The Road to Woodbury.” Both novels follow the stories of two characters that were introduced early in the comic book series. The first one covered the Governor and how he became leader of the settlement called Woodbury. In the comics the Governor is much more brutal than the one portrayed in the TV series, at least so far. This time around we are told the backstory of Lilly and in part, that of a lesser characters, Bob and Martinez. In the comics Lilly is the one that puts a bullet into the head of the Governor after the attack on the prison. At first those only knowing “The Walking Dead” through the TV series may see this as a spoiler, but anyone that has read the comics knows, the TV series has branched off in directions that stray a bit from the comic book storyline enough that the TV series can go anywhere and it’s anyone’s guess as to what will happen.

The bulk of this novel is the development of the character of Lilly. When I read the comics I didn’t think too much about her character. In fact, I considered her pretty much a lesser character, but with a major role. Someone had to kill the Governor, really he had to die, so she was chosen. Apparently she was enough of a character for Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga to tell her story, and I’m glad she was. This book is a great survival story like all of the stories from all forms of “The Walking Dead” multimedia experience, but what made this novel even better for me was zombie clowns and circus performers. More on the zombie clowns later.

Before I summarize the meat of this book, I’ve got to first talk about the reader, Fred Berman. Mr. Berman does an outstanding job of bringing this book to life. Not only does he provide each character a voice, but he is able to make all the emotions and actions of the characters come out in their voices. At times it nearly seems like this is a multi-cast performance. This book is a full audio experience thanks to the voice talents of Fred Berman.

“The Road to Woodbury” starts out with a group of survivors setting up a tent village putting together all their efforts to stave off the zombie apocalypse. The center of this makeshift survivor campground is a circus big top tent, left behind when the plague hit. Now, if you are like me, then you probably see the problem with this from the start. I had to wonder what was going on, why on Earth would anyone think a tent village would be safe in a zombie apocalypse? The flaw is soon discovered when a herd of zombies attack and some children, which were under the care of Lilly are under attack, while most of the others in the group are out scavenging for food and supplies. Lilly manages to save three of the four, but when the oldest of the kids gets spooked and runs away, she soon meets her demise under the chomping teeth of zombies.

The father of the children becomes distraught and begins beating on Lilly, breaking some ribs and fracturing her jaw, seeing this, a man who is somewhat of a love interest, Josh Lee Hamilton, comes to her rescue and beats up the man. The problem is that all of Josh’s pent up frustrations come out and he kills the man. The people in the tent village discuss this and decide to exile Josh. Lilly is furious with this and while in no condition to do anything, she decides to leave with Josh. Possibly seeing what is to come, Lilly’s high school friend and her boyfriend, a stoner couple who spend the apocalypse getting high, decide to go with them. Also deciding to leave is former Marine medic, now never sober, Bob Stookey.

The group of 5 leave the tent village and find an abandoned gas station. Josh and Lilly head out scavenging for food, actually Josh has in mind to hunt down one of the many deer in the area, when a herd of deer are spooked their direction, fleeing from something the deer run right past the two humans, soon Josh and Lilly discover the horror that has the deer spooked. It is at this moment that the creepiest scene in any zombie story ever occurs. The zombified members of the circus which the members of the village were using the big top tent, is leading a herd of undead heading straight for Josh. The authors describe in detail the characters that are now flesh eating zombies from this circus. There are clown zombies, the fat lady zombie, acrobat and contortionist zombies and many more. Just take a circus and freak show from the early days of touring circuses and turn all its members into zombies and have them travelling in a herd toward the survivors. Yes it gets creepy.

Later, while regrouping and trying to decide what to do next, the tent village seems to come under attack. Not knowing what is going on but seeing the flames and hearing the noise from the tent village it can’t be good. A couple of vehicles approach the gas station as they are fleeing from the village, but do not stop and ram into the station destroying the outcasts’ shelter.

This sends the outcasts on the road again and after walking dead encounters they come across an abandoned Wal-Mart superstore. Gathering what is left of the looted store for survival supplies the group is confronted by a group of men. The leader of the men, Martinez, tells the group of a town that is full of survivors working together to ensure they all survive. Thinking this too good to be true, but tired of being on the road the group follows the men to Woodbury and meet the Governor.

The group discovers that Woodbury is not all it seems to be. An evil is lurking beneath the town and at the cost of lives the Governor is becoming more and more brutal.

Along with the book “Rise of the Governor,” “The Road to Woodbury,” is a great addition in the world of “The Walking Dead.” Whether you are a fan of the comics, the TV series or both these books should be added to your must read now list.

the-walking-dead-goveror

“The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor”
by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga
read by Fred Berman
published by MacMillan Audio
Approx 11 hours.

Not sure where it all started but I’m really loving this new love of zombies. I do know that a lot of the newfound love of the undead is brought about by the multi-media incursion of the works of Robert Kirkman and “The Walking Dead.” What started out as a simple black and white print comic book has developed into a television series, a couple of novels, a social game as well as many other games available as apps. “The Walking Dead” series is not one of those simple horror films about zombies eating brains, the ongoing story tells the story of survivors and their day to day struggles. The stories all cover politics of a world with a sudden loss of a central government and how to reform social order, or whether that social order can be reformed, all this while trying to avoid being eaten by a horde of zombies.

What really grabs the public’s attention in this is the collection of very human stories that could be anyone, all the characters created in this series are human, make mistakes and have emotions that make the situation very real. Then throw in some adrenaline pushing horror into the mix and you have a well rounded story that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats.

One of the storylines in the comics, and currently running in the TV series is that of the “Governer” and his brutal way of maintaining the peace. In the comics we meet the Governor after he has already established his community in Woodbury. His actions are very brutal, like chopping off limbs of people if they don’t see things his way, forcing prisoners to fight zombies and his keeping a little girl zombie locked in a closet and treats her as though she is still alive. But what made the Governor the way he is. I know when reading the comic I thought, my gawd, how can someone be this brutal and insane and yet still have a community allow him to lead?

That’s where this book comes in. When the book was originally released back in 2011, I wanted to read it and had it on my list, but never quite got around to reading it. When it was released in audiobook form later that year, I thought, now’s my chance to grab on. But my list was overpopulated and I still didn’t get around to listening. Now I find out there’s somewhat of a sequel to “Rise of the Governor” released called “The Road to Woodbury” I now have no choice, I can’t fall too far behind. So I latch on to this one and have a copy of “The Road to Woodbury” on top of my stack for the next listening. So that is my journey to getting here, let’s talk about the journey of the Governor, but before I do, after listening to this thrill a minute novel I can see why it took a whole novel just to tell the Governor’s story. It seems that it doesn’t just happen overnight for someone like him to become brutal and insane, even in a zombie apocalypse.

“The Rise of the Governor” begins with the story of brothers Brian and Phillip Blake and Phillip’s daughter, Penny, getting together with their friends, Bobby and Nick and trying to escape the havoc which is the dead rising and eating the living. Doing everything he can to protect Penny, Phillip gets the group loaded in an SUV and seek safety. Following all the TV and radio broadcast instructions to head to Atlanta where a survival area is supposed to be in existence. The first stop the group makes is in a gated community called Wiltshire Estates. Readers of the comic will find Wiltshire Estates familiar as one of the stops for Rick Grimes and his crew, the main characters from the Walking Dead comic and TV series.

Wiltshire Estates appears to be safe and after settling down in one of the homes, the group finds themselves settling in and raiding the nearby houses for supplies. The group begins to reinforce the fence around the community too keep the cannibalistic corpses out. Soon the numbers of walking dead become too much and a weakness in the structure allows the dead to invade. Bobby gets attacked and bitten by a zombie in hiding and soon dies. Before he turns Phillip shoots him in the head. Distraught by the loss of a good friend the remaining group make their escape and continue on to Atlanta, but not before Brian makes a sign warning of the dead inside.

When they arrive in Atlanta they find that the safe zone is a myth and that Atlanta is overrun by millions of zombies. They are trying to escape a horde when they are flagged down by a woman who leads them to safety in an apartment building. The woman is April Chalmers, who is holed up in the first floor of the building with her aged father, David, and her sister Tara. They again think they may have found a place to settle and begin growing a garden on the roof and making escape routes among the buildings as well as routes to scavenge for food and supplies. When David dies of natural causes and turns into a zombie, it is up to Phillip to “kill” the zombie David. Tensions mount between the men and the women, and Phillip does something stupid which results in Tara holding the group at gunpoint forcing them to leave.

Once again the group is on the run trying to survive. They find motorcycles and plan on heading to the Gulf of Mexico to find a place to live out this apocalypse. Along the way Brian keeps getting glimpse and feelings of people following them. Chalked up to paranoia the group ignores his stories. Soon they find themselves in a villa conveniently located on top of a hill and in the middle of a peach orchard which, while they are weaponless, seems like a safe place. The only problem a group of ruthless outlaws soon find the villa and force them to leave. The battle that ensues is one of the most tragic described in the series, this is where Penny gets bitten by a zombie and is turned into one herself.

This is the turning point where Phillip becomes brutal, he fights back with a vengeance and manages to keep alive two of the attacking party, the rest are all killed and destroyed. The two are kept alive in a barn where only Phillip can enter. He tortures the two captives on a daily basis because they are responsible for the death of his Penny. Phillip also has another sign of snapping in that he is keeping Penny alive as a zombie tied to a tree. When Nick and Brian discover what is going on in the barn they kill the two captives, who by this time are begging for their own deaths. Phillip keeps them from killing Penny and eventually they decide the villa is no longer a place to be.

Travelling further the group comes across the community of Woodbury, where no one cares who comes or goes. The group set up in an apartment and the darker side of Woodbury becomes known. The town seems to be run by a group of National guardsmen who charge admission for anyone wanting to watch the car races at the local dirt track. When Brian can’t pay the admission a gun is placed in his mouth as the brutality and bullying ensues.

Phillip sneaks Penny into the apartment and soon begins feeding her fresh cuts of human flesh to the horror of Brian and Nick.

At this point the book becomes very brutal and the Governor takes command but there is a huge twist in the tale that will leave the listener/reader amazed. When the Governor finally takes over the town of Woodbury is destined to be the town seen in the comics and the TV series, but like I said, there’s a twist. Check it out and be ready for a super thrill ride in zombie-land.

The reader of this book, Fred Berman, does a superb job of capturing every thrilling second.  He is able to express the emotions, the attitudes and even at times make the book feel like a multi-cast performance.  His vocalizations of all the characters is perfect.  In fact there were times when I would just get thoroughly lost in the story thanks to his vocal expertise.

“Cold Days” by Jim Butcher

“Cold Days” (Dresden files book 14)
by Jim Butcher
Read by James Marsters
published by Penguin Audio
Approx. 16 hours

It was so awesome getting this audiobook in the mail. I’m a huge fan of Jim Butcher’s writing and have been waiting anxiously for this latest installment of “The Dresden Files,” featuring my favorite wizard and all around protector of humanity. I think even if Chuck Norris were a wizard Harry Dresden would still give him a beat down. Dresden is just that awesome. I mean really he’s taken on werewolves, vampires, demons, gods and the three billy goats gruff and manages to keep on for the next day.

Okay there has been an exception to this, and I’d better approach that before carrying on with this book. If you haven’t read up to book twelve, “Changes,” you may want to skip ahead in this review because this paragraph will contain some spoilers for you. Basically at the end of “Changes” Harry Dresden dies, but what is it like when a wizard dies? In book thirteen “Ghost Story,” Dresden comes back to his hometown of Chicago as a ghost and helps fight of an evil while going all Patrick Swayze on his friends. Then at the end of that book Harry is brought back by the faery Queen of Winter, Mab, because at the end of “Changes” he agreed to serve her as her Winter Knight in order to save his daughter. So he has died but he is so awesome that he comes back to life.

So now we are at this book, the 14th in the series, “Cold Days.” As per the usual run of any “Dresden Files” book, Harry is faced with many dangers that to any normal person, this includes you, Chuck Norris, would lead to death and the possible end of the world. Harry is now the Winter Knight and as part of his rehab, yeah after being dead he has to go through some intense life-threatening physical therapy, his life is threatened daily by Mab via poisonous spiders, fire, and just about any evil she can come up with for him to fend off. Picture Cato Fong, from the Pink Panther series always surprising Clouseau by attacking, only now make Fong a nearly evil Queen of Winter and Darkness, with unlimited power, and that’s what Harry has to contend with.

After Harry’s physical rehab, he is assigned a couple of assistant’s of sorts. One is the Cat Sith, no he doesn’t have a red light saber, who is a powerful faerie who is dangerous, and a woman who seems to be Mab’s BFF, but may also have an ulterior motive. Harry is then invited to his own Birthday party to announce the him as the new Winter Knight. There are two simple rules at this party and other than those anything goes. The two rules are 1. No one speaks to Mab unless she says otherwise and 2. No blood is spilled. In Harry’s world, you know one of the rules is going to be broken.

At the party Mab’s daughter Maeve tries to seduce Harry and pull him to her side, after that fails a Red Cap powry tries to get Harry angry and spill blood, but Harry manages to maintain his cool and receives his first order from Mab; Kill Maeve. So to start things out Harry has to kill an immortal (one who can’t be killed).

Harry then is allowed to return home to Chicago and in order to find a way to kill Maeve he retrieves his wizard’s equivalent of a computer, Bob. Once he’s on the trail to find out how to kill that which cannot be killed Harry figures out he’s going to need his friends not because of Maeve but because his island, Demonreach, is about to explode and take Chicago with it. So with the help of his apprentice, Molly, his half-brother the vampire, Thomas, the faery general, Toot-toot, and more Harry has to stop a mystical island from exploding, save Chicago, avoid being killed by the Earlking and his hunt and kill an immortal. Oh yeah, and he’s only got 1 day to do it.

As a side note and a bit of a spoiler, Harry gets to meet Santa Claus and even kicks Santa’s butt in a battle. Funny stuff and great adventure in this latest adventure from Jim Butcher. If you haven’t launched yourself into the Dresden Files yet, get on it.

As a final note I have to talk about the reader of this audiobook, James Marsters. Actually reader doesn’t do it justice, Marsters is the performer of this audiobook. James Marsters has become a fan favorite as reader of the Dresden Files books and when he was busy with an acting gig and couldn’t do the “Ghost Story” novel, many fans were upset, including me. Marsters, is best known for his role in the television series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” as the vampire, Spike. His performance in the Dresden books is way above par. He captures the character of Harry Dresden perfectly by being able to vocalize all of the between the lines stuff, such as emotion, history and even the awesome use of sarcasm and snarkiness. Not only does he portray a great version of Harry Dresden, but there are times that while listening to the book it almost sounds like a multi-cast performance with Marsters doing some great vocal gymnastics to represent each character. Thanks to Marsters, the faery General Toot-toot comes to life in full 3-D representation. He definitely adds one more plus to these already great books.

“H. P. Lovecraft’s Book Of The Supernatural”
Edited by Stephen Jones
Read by: Bronson Pinchot, Steven Crossley , and Davina Porter
Published by AudioGo
Running Time: 16hrs 44min

I know I should have looked deeper into this book before requesting to listen, but I saw the name H.P. Lovecraft jumped on it. I was hoping for an audiobook full of Lovecraft’s stories but instead I got a collection of gothic Supernatural tales from the 19th Century. Granted the stories were a mixed bag of treats, some good, some average and some just plain boring. The readers of the stories were also a mixed bag of treats. Some good and some seemed as though they were, as the saying goes, “phoning it in.” Bronson Pinchot did well with some of the parts he took part in but there were times where it seemed as though he was forcing a feel of the old gothic tales but what happened was his delivery was downright boring, the same goes with the other readers. Some stories were perfectly read while others were dull each narrator had their moments of each.

The basis of this book is H. P. Lovecraft’s 1927 essay on Supernatural Horror in Literature and talks about the evolution of the genre from the early Gothic novels to the work of contemporary American and British authors. Throughout, Lovecraft acknowledges those authors and stories that he feels are the very finest the horror field has to offer: Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, Bram Stoker, Robert Louis Stevenson, Guy de Maupassant, Ambrose Bierce, and Arthur Conan Doyle, each story is prefaced by Lovecraft’s own opinions and insights in their work. It is a nice collection of supernatural gothic tales and for any fan of supernatural and horror a good study of the genre.

The stories are too numerous to sum up but I will touch on some of my favorites and some which require some extra mention.

“Markheim” by Robert Louis Stevenson
When faced with a supernatural being (that could be “the Devil”) after murdering a shopkeeper, Markheim must evaluate his life for redemption. This was one of the most intriguing stories of the collection, in that it forced a man who has thrown away his life to review and determine his own worth.

“Message Found in a Bottle” by Edgar Allan Poe
This was a very nice Poe story in which a man is a sole survivor on a ship that is adrift in the Pacific. As the ship gets closer to Antarctica he spots another ship which boards and finds himself a ghost aboard that strange ship. Typical Poe story in that the literary illustration of the events and background will lose you in this one.

“The Middle Toe of the Right Foot” by Ambrose Bierce
I found this one to be humorous for some reason, probably due to the completely unrealistic aspect of the story. It is not a very well set up, in fact it’s very abrupt in the plot build-up but the essay segment before warns the listener of this. Basically a man kills his wife and children and for some reason he has to fight a duel with a man in the same house he murdered his family. The police come to the home the next day to find the man dead, but no wounds on his body and 3 sets of footprints in the dust. Fun ghost tale, but very awkward in structure.

“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Oilman
I have read this story before and loved it. The main idea behind the story is a first person story told by a woman who at first seems to be suffering from what today would be called postpartum depression, but slowly descends into madness after being shut in a room with ugly yellow wallpaper. The wallpaper begins as ugly but as the woman loses herself into the madness begins to love the color and sees women “creeping” around outside her window, soon she wants to stay in that room so she doesn’t have to creep along with them. Very creepy psychological horror story told by the woman who at first seems normal but soon changes.

“The Recrudescence of Imray” by Rudyard Kipling
I didn’t find much horror in this one, but the idea that a murdered man’s ghost comes back to help find his body and his killer seems to be the gist of the story. Not up to par with a Lovecraftian story but interesting in its historical aspect of the genre.

“The Hands of Karma Ingwabanashi” by Lafcadio Hearn
This one is almost humorous. An old woman is dying and she tells the young girl that comes to sit by her in her dying days that she is to replace her as the wife of the lord. The girl protests and as she helps the woman to stand. As she does so the woman grabs the girls breasts and dies. The hands become “infused” with the breasts and they stay with her for the remainder of her life making the young girl not able to marry. Weird tale there.

Other stories include: “The Burial of the Rats” by Bram Stoker, “The Red Lodge” by H R Wakefield, “The Captain of the PoleStar” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Villa Desiree” by May Sinclair, “The Voice in the Night” by William Hope Hodgson, “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James, “The Dead Smile” by F Marion Crawford, “The Wind in the RoseBush” Mary E Wilkins-Freeman, “Novel of the White Powder” by Arthur Machen, “The Tale of the German Student” by Washington Irving, “Who Knows?” by Guy de Maupassant, “The Invisible Eye” by Erckmann Chatrian, “What Was It?” by Fitz James OBrien, and “The Torture by Hope” by Villiers de Ilsle Adam

Nice collection as a whole but with the variety of stories, they may not all be your favorites, but they do present a good historical variety of supernatural horror.

“Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection – Field Notes from Dr. Robert Twombly”
by Don Roff
read by Stephen R. Roff
published by AudioGo
1 hour 41 minutes

Well, I finally got to get back to another zombie book, and this one is a gem. What makes this one a gem is that while it is still a dead become reanimated and eat the living typical zombie book, the telling of the story makes the difference with this one. It is told as though through a series of journal entries. In the print version of the book which was first printed back in 2009, there were sketches and various illustrations that gave the book a sort of study in the year of survival in the zombie apocalypse. This audio version, while no sketches were provided, continues that journal feel with the main character, Dr. Robert Twombly, recording his thoughts in a recorder. In the beginning of the book it is explained that the recordings were found and that the good doctor was a bird watcher and was accustomed to keeping such records.

With this style the story is told through a series of dated entries beginning in January 2012, with the initial infection coming to notice to the doctor via patients coming into the hospital where he works. Granted this book was released in 2009, but the audiobook has just been released this year (2012) and with the year of this tale being 2012 it seems a bit dated. If I were the one producing this audiobook, I would have kept the dated entries but left off the year allowing the recording to be timeless. No, it doesn’t take away from this great story, it’s just a way I would have done it.

Dr. Twombly’s entries cover everything from how he survives, escaping a zombie surrounded hospital, to finding fellow survivors and trying to avoid being eaten by the flesh-eating zombies. Some of the entries are descriptions of the various states of decomposition of the bodies and the different activities the zombies are found doing. Each new action by the undead spurs the doctor to wonder whether they think and how they stay animated.

Along the various groups of survivors the doctor manages to outlive, he finds that the infection may have been started by a food processing plant and an additive that is found in nearly every food and beverage. As he finds other survivors and he interviews them and at those times there are other voice actors performing the characters. Mixed in to this audio production are various incidental sound effects that give this production the feel of actual audio journal entries that are recorded whenever possible, putting the listener in the middle of the story and surviving along with Dr. Twombly.

At this point I have to point out that what makes a good zombie story is not necessarily the zombies eating people or the people hunting down zombies, but the actual survival and how the living keep going. This book provides a superb mix of the action, in story form, and the survival to keep you interested. This along with the “real” feel of the story being told as it happens makes this book a must have for any zombie story fan or anyone that loves a good survival / horror story.

“Fangoria – Dreadtime Stories Volume 1”
Narrated by Malcolm McDowell
Multicast performances
Produced by AudioGo
4 Hours 12 Minutes

I have always been a fan of Audio Drama, especially radio shows from back in the day and when I received this production from AudioGo, I kept wondering, how did I miss this. This series aired on satellite radio and streaming from the website, so I can see how it has passed me by. But now AudioGo presents these stories in audiobook form so finally I can enjoy them. Being a career terrestrial radio broadcaster, I have not jumped on the satellite radio bandwagon, and probably never will. I have only recently turned to podcasts (even publishing my own weekly podcast) but streaming audio I can’t see myself getting into. So once again AudioGo has brought some really great audio drama to me, and I may investigate at least the streaming audio, maybe.

Either way I now have listened to volume 1 and thoroughly enjoyed it. This collection brings back the classic radio horror feel, much like the shows “Lights Out,” “Suspense,” or “Inner Sanctum.” Malcom McDowell’s narration between segments of each story is superb. He has that charm that invites you in but at the same time his voice has that air of eeriness and suspicion that let’s you know you are in for a ride with the story. The actors in all the stories were all excellent in their roles, making this entire collection a great horror escape.

“Dreadtime Stories – Volume 1” consists of six unique horror stories. Each story has great twists and turns throughout the drama that as a listener you’ll never know how the story is going to end, and they probably won’t end the way you think, or hope, for that matter.

The first story, “The Late Shift” written by Dennis Etchison was a great way to kick off this collection, especially for me. I work until midnight and the commute home from work is when I get some of my best audiobook listening. This story tells the tale of what if all those zombies working the late shift were really zombies. If you have ever been in a convenience store, gas station or fast food place in the overnight, you’ve probably run into at least one of these mindless beings that seem to not quite function at a higher brain power, and just barely get your order or transaction right. In “The Late Shift,” those brain-dead graveyard shift workers are really brain-dead and when one unlucky guy discovers the secret, he may be the next to pull an over night shift.

“Reincarnal” by Max Allen Collins, at first sounded like it may be a sexy horror story, but turns out not to be. A young artist is hypnotized at a party, as part of the party’s entertainment, when she awakens she sees the rest of the party-goers looking at her with concern and a touch of horror. It seems that while under hypnosis she relived a past life in which she was a teenager who was the victim of a mass-murderer on prom night in the eighties. The coincidences begin when another series of murders are occurring that bear a strong resemblance to the same string of murders in which she was a part of in her “past-life.” Now though she is seeing the murders through the eyes of the female victims, and the only person that believes her is a blogger/journalist that helps her track down the killer.

“A Fungus Among Us” by Steve Nubie, is a story that would fit perfectly with those mad scientist 1950s “B” movies. This one hit a bit of synchronicity with me, which tells me I’m listening to the right story at that moment in my life. The Synchronicity this time concerns the Ophiocordyceps fungus. This is known as the “Zombie Ant” fungus. This fungus infects an ant and causes him to stray from the normal behaviours of an ant and when fully mature the fungus explodes a node through the head of the ant and spreads the spores to infect more ants. In this story this is happening to humans. The humans are setting fires, robbing banks and then when caught their skulls explode and a node extends out of their heads. Is this man-made or is the fungal world seeking its revenge?

“Wolf” by Max Allan Collins, is an almost typical were-wolf story. A resort lodge has had a murder occur on its grounds and the victim was mangled as if by an animal. The man under suspicion by the local authorities is a wealthy lodger who checked in on the night of the murder. The man’s name is Mr. Wolf, but remember this is a “Dreadtime Story” so it might not quite be what you expect.

“Living Space” by M. J. Elliott is a story that brings to mind the “Saw” series of movies but a little (not by much) more tame. A young couple have found an apartment in New York that is priced too low to be true, and remember if it is too good to be true, it is. In this case once the trap has sprung there is only one way out can this young couple learn the way that no other tenant could figure out?

The final story in this volume is yet another classic monster brought to modern life, well at least to the 1930s Chicago gangster time. “A Good Head on His Shoulders” is written by Max Allan Collins and brings back one of the top 3 classic movie monsters, this time around a rash of murders is taking place that has the police baffled. Prominent doctors are being slain by a maniac dubbed “The Mangler.” When a local mob boss learns the real namesake of his loyal Doctor Stein he finds out too late that he should have destroyed the brain of his dead rival.

Each of these stories were a perfect companion for those midnight drives home causing me to move a little faster when arriving home and going inside. So do yourself a favor and check out this chilling collection of stories from Fangoria.

“Raise the Gipper”
by John Barnes
Published by Metrocles House
213 Pages

With the birth of the Kindle the readers of the world have been treated to a plethora of Independent authors and publishers. No longer having to pay the high printing costs a writer can get his work out into the public’s hand faster and cheaper and sometimes to readers that would probably never get the chance to read their works. The other aspect of that same trend is that authors can get their works out faster. The latter is more of the case here.

While I probably would have gotten around to reading something by John Barnes having the ability for him to send me this book and immediately load up on my kindle made it a sure thing I would read his work. According to his wikipedia page he has been publishing since 1987 in the science-fiction and Young Adult reading realms. This book is perfect for the Kindle because it is very timely, involving this years Republican National Convention, and the faster readers can read it, the funnier it will be.

I have recently not been able to sit down and read, but when I did, I couldn’t wait to get back to this book. This is the first ever book that tackles head-on today’s politics and runs it through an industrial mixer with some sci-fi, and some horror and instead of getting a pink slime meat substitute, you get a hilarious zombie/alien invasion of the G.O.P.

The story revolves around the idea that this election year (and the last one, if you really look at it) the Republican party cannot find someone worthy enough to adequately represent their values. The last Republican really worthy was former and the late President Ronald Reagan. According to Barnes; the pledged delegates are refusing to vote for Mitt Romney on the first ballot, because of three important reasons:

1) they don’t feel he adequately represents their conservative views,
2) they feel that a dull gazillionaire has no real chance in November,
3) they’d rather work at an old folks home cleaning underwear by chewing it.

In steps Dr. Bayle Brazenydol, political guru deluxe and extreme, who presents them with an alternative … their dream candidate … a man who is perfectly what they want except for three little problems:

1) The candidate has already had two terms as president
2) The candidate happens to be very, very dead
3) Dr. Brazenydol himself is secretly controlled by a monstrous alien bent on taking over the Earth and devouring every living thing.

Is the Republican party evil enough to make a pact with the Undying Faceless just to get a good candidate? In short, and really no spoiler here, yes they are. But in order to save the world a group of four must team up to stop the brain-eating/body-snatching evils. Those four are 2 witches, one a liberal protester, a right-wing blogger, and a carpenter who happens to always be at the right place at the right time and has a knack for feeding many with nothing.

This hilarious political zombie romp will take you through the adventures of Reagan eating Gingrich’s brain (he wasn’t using it anyway), Rick Santorum becoming pregnant and Sarah Palin becoming the V.P. nominee, and the debates from Fox News as to how great it will be to have Reagan again and anyone who thinks otherwise is merely hating the Temperature challenged.

“Zombies vs. Nazis; A Lost History of the Walking Dead”
by Scott Kenemore
published by Skyhorse Publishing
259 pages

Sometimes you just have to read a zombie book for fun. I know, that’s kind of hard to do with zombies being the flesh-eating creatures wanting to eat brains, but if you ever pick up a zombie book by Scott Kenemore you’ll see what I mean by a fun zombie book. Scott is the same author that brought to the zombie literary world; “The Zen of Zombie,” “Z.E.O,” “The Art of Zombie Warfare,” and his novel “Zombie, Ohio.” He always takes the fun approach to zombies and sometimes applies them to possible practical uses.

Scott Kenemore is a fan of all things zombie and throws in as much of his knowledge as can fit into each book. This time around he breaks out some lost communications between the leaders of the Third Reich and some scientists sent to Haiti to find the secret to making zombies so that the Fatherland could send armies of zombies to trample the allied forces and lead to the Rise of the Third Reich as THE world power.

The book is written as if they are communications from three scientists sent to Haiti to find the secrets of zombie making. The communications are reports from each member 2 of which are under the guise of lepidopterists, in search of the Haitian Monarch Butterfly and a third disguised as a member of the clergy. One of the scientists begins his excursion falling from the heat and complaining non-stop even threatening the “Obergruppenfuhrer” with punishment from his influential family to get him back to the Fatherland. This scientist is Franz Baedecker, and his communiques are some of the funniest in the book.

Baedecker soon changes his tune and goes native. Baedecker even sends messages to not tell the other two where he is and that he is seeking further information by entrenching himself with the voodoo practitioners to learn more.

Gunter Knecht, under the guise of a clergy, places himself among the other clergy sent to convert the heathens to Christianity, Judaism or Muslim by the other clergy on the island. Knecht is taken in by Father Gill (a drunken Irish priest) and shown a zombie making ceremony, but before the ceremony begins, is abducted and tied in a cave in a compromising position as a warning.

The three eventually find zombies, battle zombies and even make zombies, but problems and in-fighting prevents the three from bringing the secrets back to Hitler, thus allowing the Allies to win the war.

“Zombies vs. Nazis” is a hilarious book that will keep you giggling at the exploits of what seems to be the Nazi equivalent of the Three Stooges.

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