Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dawn to Dusk: Cautionary Travels

by Ray Bradbury
Published by Gauntlet Press

This book is a bit of a departure from Mr. Bradbury's previous books.

The first 139 pages will be familiar if you've read Something Wicked This Way Comes--or even if you've only seen the movie. As a matter of fact, the story began as a screenplay treatment entitled, "Dark Carnival" and was written for, of all people, Gene Kelly! It is this screenplay that is included in Dawn to Dusk. Unfortunately, Kelly, though excited about "Dark Carnival" was unable to secure production financing, and so the screenplay was eventually fleshed out into a novel entitled, Something Wicked This Way Comes--which eventually did get financing, a screenplay was written again, and now we also have the movie.

Are you with me so far?

Dawn to Dusk is rather like visiting an archeological dig, in that you can clearly see the skeletal system upon which the flesh of the novel was hung. You will notice that certain characters' personalities and relationships changed from "Dark Carnival" to Something Wicked --but even if you haven't read SWTWC, Dawn to Dusk is still most enjoyable.

There is a single short story, right in the middle of the book, entitled, “You Must Never Touch the Cage," and it appears in print for the first time anywhere in Dusk to Dawn. It is a story of the circus and the strength of belief. Masterfully written, as usual for Bradbury.

Next, we have another screenplay entitled, "The Catacombs." This is a thoroughly depressing tale of a doomed relationship centering around a married couple trying to patch things up with a trip to Mexico. It is a story of neediness, bullying, cruelty, humiliation, and co-dependence so profound that it will make your skin crawl. I read it twice.

A third screenplay, "The Black Ferris" is the last piece in Dusk to Dawn, taking us back to the SWTWC archeological dig, where we see that Bradbury eventually changed a black ferris wheel in Dawn to Dusk to a carousel in SWTWC. This story is a bit closer in the telling to SWTWC, too.

I highly recommend this book--to all Bradbury fans for the literary history interest, and to anyone else who just enjoys a great read!

Buy it here.

Reviewed by Carson Buckingham

Carson Buckingham is a writer living in the great American Southwest and she reviews horror/paranormal suspense novels.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
Published by Tor Books

Ok, I admit it: I never made it further than Children in that god-almighty of sci-fi sagas, Dune, let alone delving into Brian Herbert’s extensions and had never heard of Kevin J. Anderson before. However, after reading Hellhole, it’s obvious that they have a hell of a talent for building a universe and wrapping an engaging tale within it, even if that tale, on its own, is ultimately unfulfilling.

In a far-flung future universe, the aging Diadem rules her empire of 20 core worlds (known as the “Crown Jewels”) and 54 pioneer “Deep Zone” planets with an iron fist (if iron sucked the life out of everything it touched). In the aftermath of a failed revolution, she exiled the revolution’s leader (General Adolphus), leaving him in charge of the worst of the DZ planets, the aptly named Hellhole. No one should be remotely surprised to find that he still harbors some hopes for rebellion, but few could predict the empire wide effects of the newly discovered remnant of the long lost original civilization on Hellhole.

It is easy to be impressed with the breadth of this book; taking place on several different worlds, each with their own topography, personality and culture. At the same time, that's pretty much expected from anyone daring to create broad, universe spanning fiction. The real skill on display is in the points of view that are given. There are over ten truly significant characters, standing on both sides of the battle, and each seen through each others' eyes as well as their own. This makes for an intricately plotted and morally complicated affair that I dug quite well. They also walk a tightrope regarding the motivations of the aliens and their method of resurrecting their species. Just enough hints are dropped to keep the situation tense, without directly saying whether it's due to cultural misunderstanding or if they have a much more sinister plan beneath it all. The effect is disturbing in all the best ways.

But a reader of such keen eye and mind as yourself will have noticed that I called it ultimately unfulfilling, despite such glowing, giddy statements. Frankly, I'm not pleased that it wasn't a self-sufficient story, even as part of a larger epic. Brian should have learned from his father's example that the story should have some minor sense of closure even as it opens the door to worse problems on the horizon, yet we get no such thing here. If I had dropped thirty bucks on what amounts to the buildup to a war that doesn't even get started by the end, I'd be miffed about it.

So, great universe building, tremendous characterization and marvelous mounting tension are offset by the fact that it drops you off a cliff at the end. Tough call.

Buy it here.

Reviewed by Anton Cancre

Anton Cancre is one of those rotting, pus-filled thingies on the underside of humanity that your mother always warned you about. He has oozed symbolic word-farms onto the pages of Shroud, Sex and Murder and Horrorbound magazines as well as The Terror at Miskatonic Falls, an upcoming poetry anthology by Shroud Publishing and continues to vomit his oh-so-astute literary opinions, random thoughts and nonsense at No, he won't babysit you pet shoggoth this weekend. Stop asking.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Red Moon

by Troy Patone
Published by Authorhouse.

Clones, cryogenics, and mutated animals: Red Moon has it all. This novel chronicles the story of Lance Longfall, a prodigy who secretly succeeds in creating the world’s first human clone. Stephen Bropalski, Lance’s best friend, often serves as the narrator in this cautionary tale about the consequences of playing god. When Lance’s lover Miranda dies in a fire at his own house, Lance vows that he will get her back. In order to do this, he must not only clone his dead girlfriend, but be frozen cryogenically so that he can meet her when the clone is old enough to be “just like Miranda.” Not surprisingly, things don’t go as expected when Lance reawakens.

Lance Longfall is a protagonist who is a little mysterious to the reader throughout the novel. The reader gets Stephen’s thoughts about Lance, and Lance never really gets to explain himself very well. Lance’s back story is intercut with the plot of the novel and fills the reader in on his hard life in a bad family. Lance is ambitious without being cruel, desperate without being hopeless and hubristic without being unaware of the dangerous game that he plays.

Red Moon is the kind of book in which you have to just shut your mind off and enjoy the ride. In the negative column, the author’s style is lacking in polish, making it hard to really dive into the tale being told. There are so many plot points that the tale starts to get simply unbelievable, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be a little bit of fun. The dual narrative of the book is a plus (some sections are straight narration and others are the recollections of a supporting character called Stephen), as was the fact that there is no “scary villain” in opposition to Lance Longfall because over the course of the novel Lance proves himself to be his own best opponent.

buy it here.

Reviewed by Christopher Larochelle

Christopher Larochelle is a University of New Hampshire student coming close to being launched into the professional world in which he hopes to become a distinguished Writer of Stuff. He is an intern with New Hampshire Magazine, where some of his Stuff has begun to fill pages. He’s the guy with the comic book in front of his face, or the bass guitar or camera strapped around his neck, or maybe he’s at the computer typing something up for his shiny new blog at

Friday, March 11, 2011

Every Shallow Cut

by Tom Piccirilli
Published by ChiZine Publications (March 29, 2011)

Overtly socially conscious fiction tends to bug me. The second I become aware that I am being taught a lesson, I start to tune it out or get pulled from the story. It tends to draw more attention to the artifice than to the feelings that should be created by the art itself. Often the best and most effective lessons are those we learn when we don't realize we are being taught, like falling off a bike or walking in the front door at the wrong time of day to find someone else with your someone else. What does that have to do with the new novella by Tom Picirilli? Read on...

Picture your life turned into a walking medley of the most stereotypical country music you can think of: your career has collapsed, your house has been foreclosed and your wife done run off on you. At least you still have your dog, your car and a shiny new gun, even if that is it. Maybe now might be a good time for a trip back to the old hometown, to beg at the foot of a brother much more successful than yourself or collapse on the doorstep of your first love. Maybe the manager who hasn't been keeping his promises could use a visit, too.

That is precisely where Mr. Piccirilli places you, with no easy separation of a 3rd person narrator or even a name to distinguish the main character from yourself and the experience is not a kind one. Sure, the man's work has never been among the cheeriest, but he reaches a whole new depth of bleak here. Few people could have made this man's desperation and hopelessness into the reader's like Tom has, with prose that dances between poetry and bluntness, a hammer and chisel wielded with purpose and power. The beauty here is a somber, dark beauty, of a kind that wounds, but it is a beauty nonetheless. However, for some it may hit a bit too close to home. This isn't a doomed quest for revenge or an ill-fated push for redemption, but the steady collapse of a man losing everything he had been told would matter in his life. If you are looking for an analogous work, Hemingway's “A Clean, Well Lighted Place”, with more rage and less apathy, wouldn't be far off.

Looking back to that initial statement, we can see the immensity of what Tom has done here. Anyone can rant about the disparity in lifestyles in this country or the problems of the promises too many of us were sold over our lives. Anyone can scream that there is a problem. But within these pages, we have no choice but to live it, to breathe it in and make it a part of ourselves. It isn't so easy to ignore then.

This isn't art to raise you above your problems, or to rub in a soothing salve. Instead, it shoves our faces into it, scratching and tearing all the way. Still, the wounding bears a minor relief, if only in the knowledge that someone out there understands.

Buy it here.

Reviewed by Anton Cancre

Anton Cancre is one of those rotting, pus-filled thingies on the underside of humanity that your mother always warned you about. He has oozed symbolic word-farms onto the pages of Shroud, Sex and Murder and Horrorbound magazines as well as The Terror at Miskatonic Falls, an upcoming poetry anthology by Shroud Publishing and continues to vomit his oh-so-astute literary opinions, random thoughts and nonsense at No, he won't babysit you pet shoggoth this weekend. Stop asking.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Scales and Petals

By Michael Bailey
CreateSpace (March 25, 2010)

This disturbing collection is aptly titled. The Scales are the thirteen speculative horror tales and the Petals are the thirteen poems interspersed throughout. I cannot, alas, comment authoritatively on the poetry in this book. If it isn't Frost, e.e. cummings, Poe, or Spike Milligan, I don't really "get" poetry. If that makes me soulless, so be it.

The arrangement of this slim volume (208 pages) is intriguing in and of itself. It's very like a thirteen-course meal (if there is such a thing), with a single poem appearing after each story, much like a palate-cleansing sherbet before the next dish is served.

And these are some dishes!

"Plasty" is a cosmetic surgery nightmare.

"Habit" is a witness statement from a most unusual young lady.

"Defenestrate" isn't what you think. It’s a tale of cooperative domestic violence.

"Wilted Flowers" casts an ancient wooden trunk as the monster, found by an 11-year-old.

"Without Face" How do you describe someone to the police who doesn't have a face?

"The Shower Curtain Man" When the old guy holding a 'Need Help' sign is gone from his usual spot one day, a curious driver wonders what happened to him. He finds out.

"Fix" is an ultra creepy story of one bastard of a screenwriter. You won't even feel sorry for him at the end of it.

"Golden Rule" Probably my favorite of these, because I am such a fan of justice, no matter how long it takes to be served.

"Empty Canvas" Is the art of oil painting dead? You tell me.

"Unstitched Love" Cinderella gets even.

"The Girl in the Red Flower Pattern Dress" The horrors of Iraq.

"Brick House" A teenage coming out story and the intolerance that inevitably follows.

"The Trial Chair" A writer finds himself at the mercy of one of his beleaguered characters.

Bailey's style is captivating. He has a wonderful way of integrating really over-the-top, out-there horror with mundane, every-day events; so that by the time the reader reaches the end of the story, he/she is entirely off-balance…but in a good way. The man has a powerful hand with a plot line.

That being said, the book would have benefitted from the skills of a good editor. There were a few misused/incorrectly spelled words that a sharp-eyed editor would have caught and corrected.

However, don't let that discourage you from securing your own copy of Scales and Petals as fast as you can. Michael Bailey is going places. And once you read his book, you'll be glad that the places he's going are in the horror-writing world and not to your house!

Buy it here.

Reviewed by Carson Buckingham

Carson Buckingham is a writer living in the great American Southwest and she reviews horror/paranormal suspense novels.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Gardens of Night

by Greg F. Gifune
Published by Uninvited Books

Author Greg F. Gifune pens an eerie, disturbing atmospheric tale of violence and redemption in Gardens of Night from Uninvited Books. Gifune's track record runs the gamut from shorter works to several novels and he also works as the associate editor at Delirium Books.

Marcus is a broken, damaged man, treading the path to recovery with his broken, damaged wife, Brooke; the nature of their damage is unclear, only that they desire to move past it and patch their shattered relationship in the aftermath. Together with their childhood friend Spaulding, they take a vacation to a remote cabin near the Catskills, in the hopes of regaining a semblance of peace and normalcy.

What should be an easy and natural retreat to the country side is complicated by dreams which refuse to relegate themselves to sleep alone. Marc's nightmares bleed over into reality and the everyday world, in which an innocuous walk through the woods becomes a sinister maze of strange portents and visions. Figures benign and malignant are lurking around every corner, and Marc's world quickly spirals out of control, assaulted by visions of his past, his present, and events about to unfold.

Gifune's introduction intrigues, and his skill as a story-teller is evident in what he chooses to withhold from an audience rather than what he reveals. What happened to Marc and Brooke that left them so broken is deftly woven into the narrative as it reaches a twisting conclusion. Philosophy, mythology, and debates on the nature of God abound as Marc struggles to make sense of the inherent violence within nature and within himself. Gardens of Night is a story about transformation and violence as much as it is about destiny and sacrifice, and it would do a reader well to brush up on their mythology if they would like to enjoy the larger themes employed in this introspective work.

Gardens of Night makes for a quick, enjoyable ride for the reader who enjoys a mystery that cannot easily be defined and figured out, keeping one guessing up until the conclusion just how Marc will resolve his past with the colliding future. This is a well-executed work which showcases Gifune's gift for creating an atmosphere of unease with an economy of words.

Buy it here.

Reviewed by Martin Rose

Martin Rose lives in New Jersey, where he writes a range of fiction from the fantastic to the macabre, holds a degree in graphic design, and enjoys blurring the line between art and life. Look for his work in the anthologies Fear of the Dark from Horror Bound publications and Art From Art from Modernist Press. More details are available at

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Three Seconds

by Anders Roslund & Börge Hellström
Published by SilverOak

The Swedish crime novel has become a very popular subset of the genre, the biggest example being the explosive “Millennium” series by Stieg Larson (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). Perhaps it’s the perfect combination of grey winter skies and existential angst that work together to create effective dark psychological fiction, a Bergman-noir effect that calls to English-speaking audiences looking for something other than harried “too-old-for-this-shit” police officers or jaded private eyes. The award-winning duo of Roslund and Hellström has created a bleak, psychologically complex novel that explores the theme of “only a thief can catch a thief” while also being a well-plotted and suspenseful thriller.

Piet Hoffman is a former thief who has been working for the past ten years with the police to infiltrate and bring down the operations of the Polish mafia in Sweden. Only a handful of officials know of his existence and his true mission; in fact, his official record has been manufactured perfectly to substantiate his cover. But after a drug deal goes badly and another police informant is murdered, Piet takes on his most dangerous assignment: he is to be arrested and incarcerated in a maximum security facility in order to begin, and then crush, the mafia’s extensive prison drug operations.

At the same time, Detective Inspector Ewart Grens is assigned the case of a drug related murder in a Swedish apartment. His tenacity brings him to a security consultant with a long record of violent crimes named Piet Hoffman; a man who is now holding a warden and a fellow inmate hostage in a prison workshop. Grens continues to investigate and uncovers the string of high-level government secrets that put Hoffman in this situation, even as he must decide whether or not Hoffman must die to protect the lives of his hostages.

Roslund and Hellström have built two intriguing characters with Hoffman and Grens. Their contrasting personalities are the two pillars on which the plot is supported. Piet is an extremely sympathetic character, forced to display a cold demeanor even as he plans and executes dangerous and brutal actions in order to survive. Grens explodes in anger at ineptitude and deception, hiding the coldness of his soul after the death of his wife. The narrative also shines during the passages describing Piet’s time in prison, perfectly capturing the claustrophobic and deadly world behind the bars. Nevertheless, the novel suffers from too many other passages bogging down in repetition, from comma-heavy punctuation choices, and from too-frequent shifts of point of view. It’s difficult to determine if these problems are of translation, author intent, or editorial laxity, but all serve to confuse the reader needlessly. Despite these problems, Three Seconds is still an enjoyable read and a decent diversion from the usual suspense bill of fare.

Buy it here.

Visit their website.

Reviewed by Shedrick Pittman-Hassett

Shedrick Pittman-Hassett is a full-time librarian and part-time writer trying to do that the other way around. He has written reviews for Library Journal and has also had two articles published in the award-winning Knights of the Dinner Table magazine. Shedrick currently resides in Denton, Texas ("The Home of Happiness") with his lovely wife and the obligatory demon-spawn cats. When not writing, gaming, or watching cheezy kung-fu flicks, he can be found in a pub enjoying a fine brew.

Shedrick's website can be found here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Zombie Pulp

by Tim Curran
Published by Severed Press

Tim Curran's Zombie Pulp is comprised of nine short stories and two novellas, all of which deal with the undead. Two of the short stories, “Shelter” and “The Mattawan Meat Wagon,” appear to be set in the same world, one inhabited by 'Wormboys,' a form of zombie capable of organization and logical thought. The others cover a prison's bizarre method of body disposal, a woman's not-so-joyful reunion with her dearly-departed daughter, a similar reunion between a man and his mother, the grisly result of a botched underworld murder, a vacationing couple's run-in with an even hungrier-than-usual school of piranha, a law-enforcement raid on the strangest cult ever and a world overrun by zombie primates.

The two novellas, “They Walk by Night” and “Morbid Anatomy,” stand head and shoulders above the rest of the collection. The former is a pulp-noir detective story pitting your typical tough-as-nails private dick against a group of criminals accused of digging up and resurrecting the dead to further their nefarious schemes. The latter is connected somehow to a Lovecraft story called Herbert West: Reanimator that I'm sorry to say I've never read, and mixes horrific zombies, grisly scientific experiments and the real-life horrors of World War I.

Zombie Pulp is an excellent showcase of Curran's range; he writes housewives, every day people, police and soldiers (both modern and historical), in an equally convincing manner. “They Walk by Night” in particular demonstrates his talent for creating the mood and gets Curran high marks for use of vernacular and the two 'Wormboy' tales, for lack of a better descriptor, hint at a world and backstory that could easily be expanded into a longer body of work, perhaps even a series.

Buy it here.

Reviewed by Lincoln Crisler

Lincoln Crisler's debut novella, WILD, is due in March from Damnation Books. He has also authored a pair of short story collections, Magick & Misery (2009, Black Bed Sheet) and Despairs & Delights (2008, Arctic Wolf). A United States Army combat veteran and non-commissioned officer, Lincoln lives in Augusta, Georgia with his wife and two of his three children. You can visit his website at