KIDS by Paul M. Feeney (Book Review)

KIDS by Paul M. Feeney (Dark Minds Press)

This was the first time I’ve read anything by Paul M. Feeney. KIDS, as it says on the packet – the cover shows a girl with a bloody knife – is a story about a group of children who go on a killing spree. Quite a simple premise really, but effective all the same. But let’s get to the beginning, the story centers around married couple Matt and Julie who, along with their three children, go to visit Julie’s brother and sister at her parent’s home in the country. We have a small group of solid characters most likeable, but one in particular – Julie’s brother-in-law – who’s nasty and selfish. As the adults get together and are preoccupied in small talk, the children disappear within the large house to go and play, but as you can imagine things soon take a sinister turn.

The kids somehow turn into homicidal psychopaths, picking off the adults one by one. Leaving the main character, Matt, to find a way out of the property and save the remaining adults before it’s too late. It’s your run-of-the-mill horror scenario with the house booby trapped at every corner. Gripping stuff, and some super kills.

KIDS is a fun short read. It’s fast paced, engaging, and well-written. You’ll be guessing at the outcome throughout, and I’ll have to admit that I didn’t know how it would finish but, in my head, I decided how I would plot the outcome, and Paul nailed it, great ending. I’m looking forward to more fiction by Paul M. Feeney, and I’d recommend you do yourself a favour and buy this book. (Jack Bantry)

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NIGHTMARE REALITY by Kyle Lybeck (Book Review)

NIGHTMARE REALITY by Kyle Lybeck

This is Kyle’s second collection but it is my first experience reading his work.  Given the accolades I had heard from others and the blurbs that grace it, I was expecting a dripping bouquet of extreme and brutal horror. NIGHTMARE REALITY is not, what it is a much more realistically based gathering of stories, many of which almost have the feel of urban legend or passed tales.  It is one of the charms of the book.

Opening with EMILY’S FIRST FLIGHT,  a short a gut-punch of a tale about a little girls first foray into the air, which is followed by FOREVER LOST, FOUND AGAIN. This triple-decker sandwich of grief, loss and grief is a story I was lucky enough to see the author read at a convention this past summer.  It is a powerful piece. FINAL JOB is a tale of assassins and honor, while GHOST WARRIORS reminds me of an old campfire tale. BSL-4 is a modern tale of the disgruntled employee, with a little espionage added for flavor.

FAMILY VACATION mines the tragedy vein again, as so many of these stories do, this one packs a wallop when you finish that last paragraph. SPREADING MY LOVE is a modernly dark parable of revenge and the great lengths some go to exact it. The collection closes with BAD PICTURES which plays like an old episode of NIGHT GALLERY or something. Actually most of Lybeck’s stories carry that almost small screen flair.

I did not mention all of the stories here, I liked most. There were a couple that seemed a little “been there, done that” but had enough of a fresh voice added to make them palatable.  I did like enough to recommend the collection and to want to follow this young man’s progress as he (hopefully) puts out more material. (John Boden)

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THE TERMINAL by Amber Fallon (Book Review)

THE TERMINAL by Amber Fallon (Fresh Pulp Press)

Dirk Bradley isn’t really looking forward to the holidays. His boyfriend has badgered him into a spontaneous visit to the parents who all but abandoned him finding out his sexual proclivity.  This slam-bang of a novella begins with them waiting in line at the crowded airport in Chicago.  Lines of obnoxious gits and sound cocoon the pair as they wait their turn to board their flight.  Then they see the lights in the sky.

A meteor crashed into the terminal, several actually. And with them comes a war party of almost neanderthalic aliens bent solely on destruction and carnage.  Through his fear and some personal losses, Dirk cinches up his belt and decides if he’s going to survive and bring anyone along with him, he needs to play the hero.  He also realizes that shit isn’t as easy as the movies lead you to believe.

THE TERMINAL is a wildly fun and gore-drenched ride through old-school pulpville.  The characters are quite realistic and Dirk harbors a snarky demeanor that I fell in love with.  It’s an exciting and sometimes tongue-in-cheek excursion through the rubble and smoke of the end of the world.  Think DIE HARD and RAWHEAD REX duking it out on the set of PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES.

I greatly enjoyed it.  I give it four out of five thumbs, still bleeding and twitching on the kiosk counter. (John Boden)

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OF FOSTER HOMES AND FLIES by Chad Lutzke (Book Review)

OF FOSTER HOMES AND FLIES by Chad Lutzke (Scary Carpet)

Sometimes things happen that will throw a boy’s life into chaos. When these things include your surviving parent passing away unexpectedly, a boy may be forced to make decisions that he is not qualified for, no matter how mature they think they are.

In Chad Lutzke’s, OF FOSTER HOMES AND FLIES, we are swept into the life of twelve year old Denny with his desire to win the local spelling bee, no matter what. The only problem is that his mother has died and Denny can’t tell anyone out of fear of missing his shot to do the one thing he is good at. Spell.

Lutzke writes a darkly tinted coming of age tale that is full of emotion. Sadness, fear, and uncertainty abound. Denny is a well imagined character with real thoughts and enough character development for readers to easily feel sorry for him as he tries to keep his mother’s death a secret in the heat of a New Orleans summer and Lutzke avoids the traps that could easily turn this story into a dark comedy.

Reminiscent of McCammon’s A BOYS LIFE and James Newman’s MIDNIGHT RAIN, OF FOSTER HOMES AND FLIES will transplant readers into the story, gently pushing them toward the true horrors contained within. You won’t find any monsters or serial killers splattering blood all over the walls. No eviscerations.  What you will find is the quiet type of horror that penetrates slow and deep, takes you in its arms and cuddles to the point of suffocation.

Growing up can be awkward for many kids, and Lutzke paints a vivid world full of horrible consequences that only a child can imagine. Denny’s tale of grief and personal battle for redemption are perfectly balanced and as you read this story, you too will realize that this story could have very well been taken from a news story that you scroll by every day on social media.

Be sure to pick this up if you are drawn to well-voiced coming of age tales that have a quiet horror brooding in the background. It’s the kind of book you will return to in the future, no matter how many flies are buzzing around. That’s what fly swatters are made for, after all. (Cory Cline)

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LOST SIGNALS: An anthology (Book Review)

LOST SIGNALS: An anthology (Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing)

Have you ever heard those late night radio shows that revolve around crackpot conspiracy theories, aliens, teleportation, spirits, and just about anything that puts a speculative spin on this often time mundane life we share? I’m convinced the authors of the new anthology LOST SIGNALS (published by Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing) are quite possibly the very people who eat late night conspiracy theories like candy, only they did us one better and wrote their madcap ponderings in the form of short stories.

LOST SIGNALS is a collection of short genre fiction that explores the dark side of technology. We’re talking radios, televisions, monitoring devices, video games—anything electronic—devices we use, enjoy, and even take for granted everyday of our lives.

The anthology starts kind of slow, with stories you would almost expect from the loose theme (radio is the most commonly used device for stories, but there is plenty of variety, so don’t worry too much about that), but once I read “The Givens Sensor Board” by Josh Malerman, I knew I was in for something good. This story creates its own technology, weaves a plausible story around it, and asks the reader a serious moral question, all with a mystery, deep atmosphere, and brilliant writing. I found myself thinking about this story for days after reading it.

Though there were only a half a dozen stories that affected me that deeply, there are only three stories that I didn’t like at all, which, considering this collection has twenty-four stories, are pretty good odds. “How the Light Gets In” by Michael Paul Gonzalez was the best of the desert stories (apparently deserts and creepy shit go hand in hand). “Eternity Lie in Its Radius” by Christopher Slatsky was a great look at the dark side of inspiration for a fledgling rock band.

LOST SIGNALS is punctuated by three stories that don’t fuck around. “Little Girl Blue, Cry Your Way Home” by Angelica Damien Walters and Paul Michael Anderson’s “All That You Leave Behind” will bring you to a crushing emotional plateau, particularly if you are a parent. You’ll never look at baby monitors and pregnancy the same way. To cap things off, we have James Newman’s “Something in the Code,” which is a horrific look at video games as told through blog posts, newspaper clippings, podcast excerpts, and government documents. It is rather genius in its execution and has a surprise ending that put a grand smile on my face and finished off the anthology about as well as any closing story I’ve ever read.

Max Booth III and Lori Michelle have put together quite a collection here with a nice mix of themes and stories told from a variety of viewpoints, some experimental and others more linear. These aren’t merely concept stories inspired by the call for weird fiction with the focus around electronics and transmissions, these are fleshed out, character driven pieces with plenty or horror and heart. Well done! (Robert Essig)

Lost Signals

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FALLEN SOLDIER by Rich Hawkins (Book Review)

FALLEN SOLDIER by Rich Hawkins

From the author of THE LAST PLAGUE, FALLEN SOLDIER is a (long) short story about Joseph, a young soldier who returns home after serving 4 years on the Front, battling the horror of the trenches, where he is unable to save his men from war and disease. On his return to the ancestral home Joseph is greeted by horrors unimaginable.

This time will he be able to do anything about it?

Joseph is a man who has survived the trauma of World War 1, only to come home and find his mother chained to the wall in the cellar. Joseph’s comfortable world – the one he has return to after escaping the horrors of the war – is turned upside down.

FALLEN SOLDIER is bleak, traditional horror. It’s tight, fast paced and well-written, a pleasure to read. I’m looking forward to more fiction by Rich Hawkins. (Jack Bantry)

Fallen Soldier

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BLACK CAT MOJO by Adam Howe (Book Review)

BLACK CAT MOJO by Adam Howe (Comet Press)

A downtrodden dwarf porn star, a couple of moronic redneck crooks who see a big payoff in a dog’s ass, an ex-gangster living in witness protection who is conned by a kid, and the tale of a carnie and Ed Gein’s car pretty much sums up Adam Howe’s BLACK CAT MOJO, a collection of three novellas and a short story. With a voice that’s all his own and a mind that is clearly comfortable wallowing in the weird and depraved, Adam Howe brings the goods with these gritty, absurdist crime stories.

The first story, OF BADGERS & PORN DWARVES, is an in depth look at the life of a little person who is well endowed and has made quite a living for himself in the adult entertainment industry. In the wake of his floundering career, he finds himself a victim of his own vices and owing the wrong people a considerable amount of money. He agrees to quite an absurd arrangement to pay off his debts, but you’ll never guess where this story is going and how it will end. There were moments when I was tired of reading about the dwarf’s exploits, but in the end this turned out to be quite a roller coaster of an odd crime story.

JESUS IN A DOG’S ASS was the weakest of the bunch. Amongst religious zealots, idiot redneck criminals and brainwashed fools, there is absolutely no one to give a shit about. I would have been pleased to have the entire town in this story bombed. The writing is tight, because Howe knows his craft, but this one just didn’t do it for me. On top of that, the ending fell flat.

The final two stories are where this book shows its teeth. FRANK, THE SNAKE & THE SNAKE is a story about an ex-gangster living in the witness protection program. He has a book out detailing his rise and fall as a mobster and after years as a grease monkey, one of his biggest fans recognizes him, but this fan wants more than just an autograph. This story is great, hands down. Frank has a rich, complex story and though he used to mingle with the mob, you can’t help but root for him. As is the method Howe seems to approach with the stories in this collection, this one takes enough twists and turns that the reader can’t possibly predict where it is going.

The final story THE MAD BUTCHER OF PLAINFIELD’S CHARIOT OF DEATH only upstages the preceding story in that the subject matter is even more interesting. Carnies? Check. Ed Gein? Check. Third-rate amusements? Check. This story is based on the guy who actually carted Ed Gein’s car around the carnival circuit after buying the vehicle at auction. People ate this shit up, but Howe tells us the real story, because what could go wrong with showcasing Ed Gein’s car, right? I can tell you this, what you’re thinking is not what happens, because if there is something you will understand at this point in reading these stories, it’s that Adam Howe knows how to take his readers on a different kind of trip, one that you most likely haven’t thought of, and though his characters are heavily flawed, they have qualities that the reader can identify with (well, except for the dopes in JESUS IN A DOG’S ASS), and that, in addition to the stories being so goddamned weird, is why they work so well, and why I will be looking for more work by this author. Adam Howe is one to look out for, and what better place to look than with BLACK CAT MOJO? (Robert Essig)

black cat mojo

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