Saturday, June 16, 2018

Piranha Balls

Shirley Oliphant's dream is to take her grandkids on a picnic in a Rolls-Royce. Her husband, the old KO, finds just the car, a 1974 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow once owned by a Mr Van Buren, who brought the car back from Africa. Since his death, seven years ago, the Rolls has been sitting in Mr Van Buren's garage, keeping a secret. A deadly secret. And the old KO is about to discover that secret, and unleash it.

Africar by Martin Price is kind of like a steampunk version of the Langoliers. The slow setup aggravated me a bit, but, when the action finally begins, the terror is rather gruesome, especially when the creatures dig in.

While I think this story would have been better as a flash fiction piece beginning with the old KO working on the car, skipping the conversation with Liversausage, I did appreciate the details about his marriage and the accident...added an extra layer of anguish to the ending.

There are also a couple of excerpts from two other stories included, which look promising.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, June 15, 2018

*TRIGGER WARNING*

When a six-year-old girl is abused and left for dead by a pedophile known only as the "Rabbit Man" due to the claw marks left on her body, police follow every lead but reach only dead ends.

Hungry for justice, her grieving father abandons wife and child on a harrowing journey deep undercover into Miami's sex offender colony under the Julia Tuttle Causeway. His purpose is simple: to find the "Rabbit Man" among them, and put him in the ground.

Months later, with no one to trust and the pedophiles he lives among growing suspicious of his actions, he learns nothing is simple where the monsters live.


Where The Monsters Live by Duncan Ralston touches on a deeply disturbing subject, but does not use the violation of children as a plot device. There are no graphic details. This story, instead, focuses on the helplessness and soul-searching of a victim's father and what he is willing to do to restore his peace of mind. In a way, his family suffers more from his quest for revenge than the actual crime.

Even though this is a work of fiction, it's not difficult to imagine a parent going through this exact thought process, dealing with all the frustration and emotional trauma of the pedophile getting away with hurting a child. The ending is an emotional roller coaster, with a couple of shocking twists. I'm glad Ralston chose to take the story in that particular direction.

There is also a short story included afterwards...Baby Teeth is so absolutely disturbing, I don't think any woman with fertility issues should read it. I don't think any pregnant women should read it either. However, if you enjoy horror which causes psychological trauma, be sure to read it.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Saying Goodbye To The Past

You can go home again, but sometimes you really, really shouldn't. 

Jessica Bates is a successful paranormal investigator with a new network TV deal, a boyfriend she loves, and no idea of the trouble she's about to find herself right smack in the middle of. 

Nobody told her the location of their latest episode and investigation site. Because they knew she'd never come with them if they did. Twenty years ago, Jessica's high school burned to the ground, killing all her friends while she watched. Now there are reports of strange noises and odd activity in the abandoned school, and the town has hired Jess's crew to figure out what is causing the disturbances. 

What they find is worse than they ever imagined. 


Reunion by John G. Hartness is the best ghost story I've read in a very long time...it has EVERYTHING! The setup has a steady pace, increasing the suspense as the backstory is revealed in pieces. When the paranormal activity kicked in, I was genuinely on edge, wondering if anyone would make it out alive. There is more than one twist in the plot, before the story ends. I wasn't able to predict any of it, and it's increasingly difficult for me to find stories which surprise me anymore.

Hartness writes with such a thrilling style, it's easy to visualize everything in the story...I think Reunion would make a fantastic horror movie.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Monstrous

A man, walked on his entire life by others, discovers his wife's infidelity, and decides to do something about it. After a deadly encounter in an alleyway he must look into the depths of himself to find the line unseen, and face the horror beyond.

The Line Unseen by Joe Hart has all the elements of classical horror: drama, suspense and psychological terror. Even though this is a short story, Hart's characters are well-developed, adding a gut-wrenching depth to Tim's misfortune. The details in every scene emphasize the dread and panic Tim is feeling, until the grotesque nightmare overwhelms him.

I'd love to see this story get some screen time.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

When Fear Consumes You

Jippa by KM Zafari is a flash fiction piece based on a nightmare the author once had. The descriptions are well-written and the imagery is terrifying. The use of "Jippa" for the title is a perfect choice. The setting is similar to cultural folklore, capturing the horror of allowing fear to be all-consuming.

Let me also take a moment to say, Zafari should've put the author's note AFTER the story. The note had nothing to do with the tale itself.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, June 11, 2018

Appetite For Destruction

If you had the chance to hit the reset button, would you?
If a stranger told you they could take away your cancer, would you let them?
If paradise was gifted to you, a new life, a house by the lake, more money than you could imagine, and a wife for whom you would eventually love, would you agree to take that deal?

There is only one condition. In 20 years you must give something back. You don’t know what that something is, and you never will until you need to give it. 

All debts need paying in the end.

Everything has its price.


The Debt by Mark Lumby (author of Most of Me, Lord of the Harvest, Rats in the Loft and Bag of Buttons) is a visceral story about a young man named Jack Monday. Jack owes $500,000 to a pair of loan sharks, and, in order to pay off his debt, he essentially sells his life (not his soul) to a rather perverse man who calls himself Francis Dupont. What level of perverse, you may ask? Think: family orgies, torture, slaughter...all manner of depravity.

The POV switches between characters, with the story belonging just as much to Francis and his family as it does to Jack and his family. There are many difficult choices to be made throughout the book, and it's maddening to guess what path each character will choose. Once again, Lumby has succeeded in writing one hell of an original storyline.

While The Debt works as a stand-alone, I sincerely hope Lumby will consider writing a sequel...I'd love to see a good battle between granddaughter and grandfather.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Screwing With The Dead

How much would you pay for a night of passion with your favorite celebrity?

After her untimely passing, the body of a world-renowned actress falls into the hands of an unscrupulous restorative artist. Using the funeral home in which he works as a den of sexual depravity, he auctions off a once in a lifetime opportunity with one of Hollywood’s most beloved starlets.

One bidder, however, has something else on his mind.


Dead Heart by Brandon Ford is a story about loving the dead, in more than one way. The author had an interesting (and rather sickening) idea, but Ford never really went anywhere with his horrifying theme. There is POV switch between characters as the dead actress exchanges hands, and I think it is a mistake. I wish the author had stayed with Carl's storyline and given him the same treatment bestowed on the bodies of the deceased...or maybe switch to Abe's POV. John Smith could have at least been a necromancer or anything other than a lovesick loser. As is, the ending is dull compared to the rest of the story.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, June 8, 2018

Incomplete

Pietro believes it shouldn't be that difficult to kill his work mate. After all, his is a dangerous job. And indeed, when he's up there on the top of the wind tower, and the storm is raging, it seems everyday rules no longer apply. Yet...


The Wind Tower by Peter Rey should come with a warning for those afraid of heights...the descriptions are dizzying. Two guys climbing to the top of a wind turbine with a storm coming is nerve-racking enough, but knowing one of them has murder on his mind makes for a rather distressing suspense story.

Unfortunately, the ending leaves a LOT to be desired. It's as if the author simply stopped writing at a certain point. I think, at the very least, there should have been some kind of epiphany or closure to Pietro's inner struggle. The story seems rather pointless without a proper ending.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Throwback Thursday Review

From Robert S. Wilson's debut collection WHERE ALL LIGHT IS LEFT TO DIE. When those with a special gift can catch your soul in that dark realm between here and hereafter and bring you back to life, who will save us all from the jealous void?

Every now and then, I need to remind myself why I became a fan of the horror genre. It wasn't because of the monsters (real or perceived) or the violence and/or gore...it was the unknown.

Robert S. Wilson takes the biggest unknown - death - and terrifies readers without monsters, gore or violence...just the darkness waiting to snatch the dying light.

In this story of a catcher, one who brings others back from death, he himself has to be rescued by another catcher. He also falls in love with someone he has caught. Eventually, the unknown catches up to him, and he can't ignore it any longer.

Great flash fiction for fans of The Twilight Zone or Tales From The Darkside.


As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Should've Used A Paper Map

After Jimmie uploads an update to his GPS, the device develops an attitude and starts calling the shots. During an outing, its obsession with Jimmie becomes dangerous for him and his girlfriend as the GPS subtly formulates and implements a systematic plan to take Brenda out so it can have Jimmie all to itself. Jimmie finds himself in a nightmarish predicament and is fighting for survival, resisting the mounting calculated threats and blackmail. The machine evolves into an entity, and its kisses… are deadly.

Kisses, Suzi by Joanie Chevalier is a suspense-thriller about a man having supernatural issues with his GPS. Considering some of the weird stories circulating about Alexa, this story is all the more frightening. The author mixes horror and science fiction for an intense evening drive, as Jimmie struggles to regain control over "Suzi" before Brenda realizes the danger right in front of her. The ending left me wondering if the GPS is the real cause behind Jimmie's problems.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Dirty Money

Emerson Cartwright is a wealthy, respected business man. He’s also a man with an obsession. Doctors, therapists, hypnotists, nothing seems to help him fight the compulsion to pick up found change, to hoard every coin he and his family has every held. When he discovers a hidden letter from his great grandmother, he begins to wonder if this family quirk stems from a sinister deal made long ago. Emerson desperately wants to break the cycle and shed the burden of this obsession, but the price he needs to pay may be too high.

A Slave To The Coin by Debra Dunbar appears to be a short story centered on a man suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder. I could feel the pressure from Emerson's compulsion to pick up any coin he sees. The family superstition about money is a nice touch as well, but Emerson's suffering runs much deeper than he realizes. The very end is a shocking heartbreak.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, June 4, 2018

Ink and Blood

A dead writer asks you to help him kill. He’s not asking for complicity in a murder, however; he’s asking for vengeance. 

The target is a monster of a man who did terrible things to the writer’s family. 

The choice is yours: finish the story and help administer justice, or put the tale down unfinished and leave the monster’s fate in someone else’s hands?


Ghost Writer by Nick Wisseman is a flash fiction story revealed through the last written request of a dead man. The narrator describes events leading up to a devastating conflict with his killer. Not much in the way of action, but this piece is written in the style of Edgar Allan Poe, which is sure to appeal to classical horror fans.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Integrity vs. Insanity

The zombie apocalypse is underway, and Reggie is facing his worst nightmare. The question is, as the metal and wood of the shotgun warms under his grasp, whether or not his love is strong enough?

Daddy's Little Girl by Tee Morris is a flash fiction story about the struggle between a father and daughter. Reggie just wants his family back together again, but he's already failed them once and he's not sure he can keep his word. The author's depiction of the undead is very unusual.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Five Minutes Of Fear

My buddy Bryan liked to collect dolls...

Naturally, people made fun of him for it...
that a man his age would have such a childish hobby...

Bryan didn't care... He loved his doll collection...
and doted on them like they were his own children...

Little did he know, his obsession would be his undoing...


The Peruvian Doll by Christopher Kai is a frightening piece of flash fiction. Bryan's friend is a cop, but nothing in his career could've prepared him for the horror he finds in Bryan's bedroom. The descriptions are grotesque and the action is surreal. In the end, a life-altering decision must be made. Not the doll story one might expect.

As always,
AstraDaemon