Friday, April 28, 2017

Friday Night Feature: Chicago Undead

Chicago Undead: On The Eleventh Floor by Shawn Weaver is a great glimpse into a zombie outbreak set in downtown Chicago. Weaver wastes no time setting up the story, and he delivers a realistic introduction to the main character waking up from a severe flu, only to discover all hell breaking loose in the streets below his apartment. The survivor, Robin, eventually decides to make a stand on the eleventh floor.

There is a lot of unpredictable action, which keeps the story flowing at a quick pace. The ending was a shocking surprise. The perfect zombie short story from beginning to end. I wasn’t expecting anything more, but Shawn Weaver has written another short story that takes place in the same setting.

Chicago Undead: Deep Freeze follows another survivor’s plight during the Chicago outbreak. The teenage girl’s experience has nothing to do with Robin’s experience in this mini-series, which was a little disappointing. I was hoping that Deep Freeze would pick up where the other left off, but it’s still a good story. While she does have multiple encounters with the undead, there’s not as much action as the first installment, and there’s more of a cliffhanger at the end.

I would love to read a third installment, but I hope Weaver doesn’t go back to the girl…she isn’t a very interesting character, although she may have been limited by the change in weather. Her story takes up a longer time frame than Robin’s misadventure.

Whether you’re into zombies or not, these different tales of survival in Chicago are sure to entertain horror fans.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Throwback Thursday: The Jakarta Pandemic

The Jakarta Pandemic by Steven Konkoly is one of the scariest non-zombie apocalyptic stories that I've read in a long time. I think what disturbed me the most was how absolutely plausible this story is - the CDC ought to be worried about this situation rather than zombies because I've already seen many of the scenarios in this book played out after a natural disaster has struck an area, so it did not require a stretch of the imagination.

The prologue begins with Alex Fletcher "lying under a neighbor's play set in a blizzard, eagerly waiting to kill," and wondering how his neighborhood had devolved so rapidly. The story is then divided into three main sections: Arrival, Quarantine, and Survival. The Jakarta Pandemic is NOT about the infected, the nature of the virus, or how the outbreak occurs. Alex tells the story of how society falls apart in less than five months - from his perspective as a pharmaceutical sales rep and former marine, with neighbors turning against one another when food supplies and medicine become scarce. Konkoly emphasizes throughout the book how disbelief and denial can do more damage than the actual virus.

In Arrival, beginning Friday, November 2, 2013, Alex receives a phone call from the Maine Medical Center confirming the first cases of a new pandemic flu, initially called the Hong Kong Flu, and mainly confined to the Asian community. At first, it's not clear who Alex is, what he does for a living, or where he is located (Scarborough, Maine), until the second chapter. I think his profession should have been revealed right away, to explain the heavy emphasis on the medical aspect of the flu.

In Quarantine, which begins on Monday, November 5, 2013, several of Alex's neighbors have contracted what is eventually called The Jakarta Flu (after the true epicenter is discovered), but they remain completely ignorant about the ease of spreading the virus. When all the stores close down because of empty warehouses, some of the neighbors want to pool resources, including signing up for a babysitting schedule, and carpooling to the hospital. After Alex and some others wisely quarantine themselves within their homes, people attempt breaking in and stealing supplies, while others form violent mobs which demand access to their neighbors' emergency provisions.

In Survival, less than a month from the initial outbreaks, people from other areas begin invading Alex's neighborhood and squatting in the abandoned houses. By Saturday, December 15, 2013, several shootouts take place, with people killing each other over anything and everything. Many people believe that those who have not fallen ill are hoarding miracle vaccines. It's not until Sunday, March 31, 2014 that The Jakarta Pandemic has run its course, and Alex describes the wreckage his once-happy neighborhood has become.

Konkoly masterfully crafts a sad story of people that slowly realize how a few unfortunate decisions can easily destroy entire families and communities, without the need for monsters or supernatural events. The Jakarta Pandemic has a sinister quality, highlighted by disturbing examples of the psyche under incredible duress. After reading this, you'll never look at your neighbors the same way again.

As always,

AstraDaemon

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Best of 2017: The K2 Virus

The K2 Virus by Scott Rhine is the best novel I’ve read so far in 2017. The story follows the path of a deadly virus, leading us to Daniel Mann, the world’s best chance of surviving this new plague. Readers will find terror, suspense and drama in the forms of an outbreak, complicated relationships and political warfare…right up the very end. The pace is steady, the characters are well-developed and the dialogue is gripping. I’ve never even heard of Scott Rhine before reading this book, but I’m definitely a fan.

Daniel Mann is a phenomenal person…impressive without being over the top, and so unassuming, you can’t help but like the guy immensely from the very beginning. His efforts to save his company and his co-workers’ careers lead him to the discovery of the K2 virus, following a thought-provoking exploration of how one simple act can have a deadly domino effect. Daniel proves to be one hell of a scientific warrior as he battles the new plague, while losing some of those closest to him.


There isn’t a single thing I would change about this novel. The effort that Rhine put into his research shows through on every page, but, most importantly, the author keeps the emphasis on humanity and the power of friendship, creating a story that will appeal to readers, regardless of their genre preference.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sunday Suspense: Need To Find You [book review]

Need To Find You by Joseph Souza is an intriguing crime drama, proving that Souza is just as comfortable with this genre as he is with the horror genre. Joseph Souza is well-known for his zombie series such as The Living Dead and The Liger Plague. However, after releasing his award winning novel, Unpaved Surfaces (and, no, that’s not just a blurb, he really did win multiple awards for his first crime drama), Souza is well on his way to becoming the next big thing out of Maine.

Souza avoids the cliché of violence as a plot device, and slowly weaves a story based on a hidden manuscript that might destroy the reputation of a classic author. Mikiela, investigating the memoirs of Robert Cornish, is abruptly kidnapped, but she manages to give her phone to Yasmine. As luck would have it, Yasmine has a history with the kidnappers and plans on using the phone’s contents to exact revenge on a man known only as The Viking. Whip is a former undercover detective struggling to overcome his alcohol addiction, but he accepts the task of finding Mikiela. Haskins is the corrupt assistant police chief who is trying to tie up all the loose ends to pay his debt to The Viking, but both Whip and Mikiela have a score to settle with the dirty cop.

The setup is slow, and there are several more characters to keep track of…to be honest, I wasn’t sure this book was going to be to my liking. I shouldn’t have doubted Souza’s ability to draw readers into one hell of a mystery. I would never have believed a crime drama could be centered on something as simple as a manuscript. Patience is required, but rewarded with the electrifying ending of Need To Find You.

I can’t wait for the next book in The Liger Series, but I’m thinking Souza needs to leave the undead behind and consider giving Whip his own detective series.

As always,

AstraDaemon

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Sean T Page on Zombies, Aliens, the Apocalypse and Mrs Emma Peel [Interview]

Sean T Page is one of my favorite authors...he's writing style is a mix of Max Brooks and Monty Python. Two of my favorite Page books are War Against The Walking Dead and Meta-Horde, but he is best known for his series of Haynes survival guides.

Sean is also known for traveling from one country to another, as well as his responsibilities with the Ministry of Zombies. However, I was able to lure him into the Lair for a chat about his ever-growing writing career...



You are something of a world traveler. Any particular place you call home?

I’m one of those people who grew in up in the same small town as my parents. Growing up my world was pretty small. All my family lived within a few miles of my house. But, I’ve lived in London for now for years so London’s home. I’m a Londoner!

How, if at all, do your adventures abroad influence your writing?

I think they have. I’ve certainly keep notes whilst travelling. I think being exposed to different environments certainly helps your writing. In a recent titled 1975, which was published by Infected Books, what better way to understand being trapped in a bunker, than being sealed in a bunker yourself. I’m not clever enough to write about stuff completely alien to me.

Do you remember when you first felt like a “real” author?

Honestly, it never came. I think serious horror writers think my guides and manuals are all a bit child-like – fair point I suppose – I do write for a wide range of readers. I don’t tend to get invited to write for many anthologies and things like that.

You’ve written in more than one genre…do you have a favorite? Is there a particular writing style and/or format that you prefer?

I suppose the zombie stuff is where I started and I still love it. However, I do enjoy alien and time travel tales to. I’ve not really written science fiction as such but I enjoy reading it. I also tried something more serious but by all accounts it wasn’t great!

What are your most recent projects? I heard your working on another guide…

The rumours are true – I’m working a few bits – I have to limit what I do as I’m working and studying.  My next project is around post-apoc transport…more to follow but it does involve converting a big red London Bus into the ultimate zombie-busting form of transport….

Is there any one book that was more challenging to write than the others?

I have sketched out my time travel manual - it’s not slated yet for release but the science was bewildering and took some real focus to master. Although I didn’t manage to get my time machine fully working, I did send a sandwich toaster back to 1945. I do wonder how that affected the timeline?

Which book was the easiest to write? Why is that?

Zombie, zombie, zombie stuff.  We loves it. We knows it. We read all the books. We all love the genre. I’ve got a ready-created universe for stories.

Is there anything you wouldn’t write?

I think I struggle with dialogue. To be fair, I’ve never really been trained it. I like to use ‘He said’ then ‘She said’ then ‘He quipped’ then ‘she joked’. You get the idea. I think I’d struggle with a serious book – some horror authors think apoc fiction should be gritty real. My apoc fiction is like a cross between an episode of Sherlock Holmes and The Avengers (1960s tv series). What better way to face the end of the world than with a cup of tea, Mrs Peel by your side and a joined bowler hat.

What do your friends and family think of your writing career?

My wife gets it but the rest are not sure. I think they see it as a bit of a weird niche thing. The only time they really mention it (this will be familiar to many writers) is when:
a)      They spot your book in a shop
b)      They read about the new Harry Potter film and suggest “making a movie” as a great way to make a bundle of cash.

Do you interact with your fans at conventions? What kind of people make up your fan base? One kind or a mix?

I used to do a lot but family commitments make it more difficult now. I realized loads of kids around 10/11/12 read my books so I try to ensure everything is good for them. There are a real mix – young, old, alien, human…..so certainly not one kind.

Do you think there’s a difference, if any, between American readers and British readers?

Good question. I’m a bad person to answer this. I reckon I’ve sold 95% of my stuff here in the UK and Ireland. I’ve never really cracked America. I’m a bit like Marmite I expect. I’ll probably always be a bit of a niche player in the US.

My alien manual has recently been translated into Chinese and I suspect I now sell more books in China than in the US.

If I’m honest, I don’t really know why. Maybe I should avoid using words like Marmite that no-one outside the UK understands…

Is there anything else you want to share to entice new fans?

Only really that I write to provide a bit of entertainment. I honestly don’t want readers to have nightmares. My books are full of survival content that’s real – I don’t make the survival elements up – I consult with real experts to help me get things right.  Remember, if you want a British-style apoc then I’m probably a good bet.

Thanks for stopping by!

Those of you who are interested, I strongly recommend Sean T. Page for your reading pleasure…

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, April 3, 2017

Monday Murder: Killing The Written Word [review]

An Anthology of Short Stories and Poems by Colby Lane, Mason Casey, Patrick Murphy, and Jayson Bradshaw seems like it was written by a bunch of middleschoolers.

Reading this "anthology" was more like finding someone's notebook filled with random story ideas...mostly flash fiction, with a few short stories and scattered poems. The poetry is the best part. The flash fiction is pointless, and the short stories are not only poorly written, but some of them appeared to be ripoffs of other people's work.

There is one story in particular that could land the authors in a lawsuit. I strongly suggest pulling this off Amazon, before that happens.

The authors should focus on a collection of poetry instead.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Saturday Short: Ben Jackson [review]

Ben Jackson by Amanda Linehan would have made a great murder mystery if the ending hadn't been so poorly written. I did enjoy the meat of the story: Ben is killed, Jim has partial amnesia and Kevin is the business partner that ties the three of them together.

I was hooked when Jim lost a day and, while I had my suspicions, I still enjoyed the secrets of Kevin unraveling. However, the ending went from crime drama to Stephen King's Dark Half in no time at all...disappointing, especially when the story had been flowing so well up to the very end.

I think the author had a solid idea for a full-length novel, but she wasted it on a short story format.

I don't usually mention price in a review, but this is not worth $2.99...not with that ending.

However, Father McMahon's Confession is a much better story by Amanda Linehan, and I definitely recommend it.

As always,
AstraDaemon