Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Waking Up On The Wrong Side

When Daniel Miller wakes up one morning, something has gone terribly wrong. The power is out. The phones are dead. The house is silent. The street is shrouded in fog. Both his partner and their adopted daughter are missing. So are their neighbors. And so is everyone else in the world. Daniel Miller is the last person left on Earth... or is he?

Alone by Brian Keene is not the usual style of writing I've come to expect from the author, but, man, he nailed it. Keene kept me guessing. I had my suspicions, but the odd detail here and there continued to throw me off.

Even when Keene drops the bomb on readers, I still didn't know what to expect in the end. I felt Daniel's fear throughout the story. Nothing like uncertainty to to turn alone time into a nightmare.

As always,

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Made For TV

Tracy Franks has never felt the need to find adventure. Aveline, her friend since childhood, lives for adventure. When Aveline convinces Tracy to go on one such adventure with her and her friends, Tracy is thrown into a nightmare she can't wake up from.

Deep Down by Meg Hendry tells the story of four people who decide to explore an abandoned mine. Not much action or dialogue, just telling. There really isn't much in the way of suspense either, being somewhat predictable.

I strongly recommend Hendry hire an editor to help transform the story into the adventure promised in the description. As is, the tale might make a good SyFy movie, but doesn't work well in printed form.

As always,

Monday, October 29, 2018

You Are What You Eat

Many tales have been told about the Wendigo, the man-eating monster of Algonquin legend. But how many times has the Wendigo ever spoken for himself?

I Am The Wendigo by Matthew W. Quinn is an interesting flash fiction story told from the POV of the Wendigo. There's just enough brutality to terrorize readers without being too graphic, but I wish the fight scene had been a little longer. The transition at the very end of the story is an entertaining touch.

As always,

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Ice Ice Baby

Have you heard the one about the girl who woke up in a bathtub full of ice?

Ice by Magnolia Forsyth is a sinister twist on a popular story about kidney theft. This flash fiction piece could also serve as a cautionary tale about stranger danger and blind dates. In any case, Forsyth delivers both suspense and horror in just a few pages.

As always,

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Sick in the Head

A sick man, frustrated with the homeless problem in New York City, decides to vent his issues on a cold Winter afternoon in the city.

Infested by D.W. Nathan is so unlike the stories I've come to expect from the author. However, it is one of the most disturbing pieces of flash fiction I've ever read. The main character is sick-minded and I wish a bus had run him over at the end.

Nathan does a great job of playing both sides of an issue I often see debated in social media, as well as using one or two other hot topics to highlight the story. Definitely food for thought, emphasizing the fact that real life monsters are often well-disguised.

As always,

Friday, October 26, 2018

Nothing Lucid About It

Against The Wind by Ines Akinson takes place in France, during the year 1316. The narrator, Rainier of Lyon, talks at great length before beginning the tale itself...not the best way to delve into a short story. Rainier and his group are tasked with retrieving a well-known blacksmith to attend to the horses, which are behaving in an unusual manner.

A supernatural element is introduced, but the author's attempt at terror is lost within all the wordiness. The action scenes are disappointing, especially after being promised a story which would "take fear to another level." Too much emphasis on prose prevents any build-up of suspense.

Towards the very end, the year is referenced as 1312, creating some serious confusion. Just one of many editing issues. I can't recommend this story in its current version.

As always,

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Bitter to the End

Rumors of the people who went missing from the large national forest at the heart of America didn’t keep its thousands of yearly visitors away. In fact, those privy to the Ozark legend were allured by it. 

Horrified and puzzled by the grizzly scene of a mutilated young man, a park ranger named Clyde Oaksdale and his boss Warren Jean were faced with an unsettling notion . . . the stories may be true, and reality is often times more hair-raising than rumors.

Bare Bones by S.O. Bailey is more of an action-thriller than a horror story, but it's absolutely captivating, nonetheless. I expected the monster to be a Big Foot or something similar, but Bailey created something much more sinister. Revenge and mental instability is a deadly combination. For Clyde, the key to his survival lies within his past. The Dragonfly guys are a nice touch.

As always,

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Devil's Dining Room

His mother is filling her days with vodka and orange juice, and his psychotic little sister keeps cutting the heads off her dolls. His delusional grandfather won't stop staring at non-existent cows in the pasture, and their farm dog is acting meaner than usual.

Everyone blames Cooper for the tragic accident which took his girlfriend’s life. Now a group of slackers from Mount Tom Regional High School are gathering deep in a forest clearing—at the Devil’s Dining Room—eager for the rising of her ghost on Devil’s Night, the eve before Halloween.

Bones by Howard Odentz is nothing like what I expected. I thought it would be the story of a troubled young man haunted by a ghost. Instead, Odentz has created a family drama with a supernatural twist. While I suspected there was a hidden layer, the depth of Cooper's pain is a horrifying surprise.

Odentz weaves one hell of a ghost story with the darkest of details.

As always,

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

A Reason for the Season

DO NOT CROSS THE BRIDGE. The stories are real. It has been years since his accidental death, but the body of Denny Dennison will not leave, terrifying unsuspecting travelers and haunting the locals who dare go to the bridge at night. Now two kids fresh from their high school graduation decide to tempt fate and venture to the bridge one last time to see the dead boy.

The Quay Avenue Bridge by Phillip Garcia is an excellent ghost story, worthy of being made into a horror movie. Garcia does a fantastic job of laying out the history of the bridge and the freak accident which begins everything. As the author transforms the tragedy into an urban legend over the generations, Garcia masterfully reveals another devastating accident to continue the curse of the bridge.

Perfect story for this time of year!

As always,

Monday, October 22, 2018


Meet Eric. He has a house in the suburbs with a beautiful garden that he doesn't care about, a wife he hates, constant psychotic hallucinations, and a compulsion to torture and murder other people. He can safely be said to be living the American nightmare. Even his simple pleasure of mowing the lawn is denied to him when his lawn mower breaks down.

The Tomato Garden by Ben Arzate is a shocking bit of horror. Eric is apparently a serial killer, but he suffers from so many violent delusions, it's difficult to tell what is actually happening and what is something purely in his head. I'm not even sure if his interactions with his wife are real. For some reason, I really enjoyed the talking dog giving Eric advice.

The scariest part of this story is the reality of the mental illness destroying Eric's grasp of reality. The ending is a blessing.

As always,

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Outbreak Finale: Invitation Revoked

Follow Wilder and Butsko in the third chapter of the Outbreak series as they continue to fight the ever-evolving zombies while attempting to save humanity. The remaining humans thought they saw the worst the zombies had to offer, but one final mutation unveils the true face of the enemy and what their true intent is. 

After failing to destroy the zombies in Outbreak: The Mutation, and after discovering the secret behind the zombie’s mutations, Wilder and Butsko switch gears and decide to bring the fight to the deadly horde. This is their last shot at saving the world. Will they be able to thwart the zombie’s endplay, or is the world doomed by the ravenous horde?

OUTBREAK: ENDPLAY by horror author Scott Shoyer is the third installment in the series. THE HUNGER followed two groups, soldiers attempting containment and families visiting the zoo. THE MUTATION followed three storylines, with a variety of twists, as well as many new characters. ENDPLAY reveals the true source of the virus, and discover a secret hidden for decades from the human race.

While the series most certainly began as a horror story about a zombie apocalypse, by the third book, Shoyer has created a rather elaborate science fiction nightmare. Everything that befalls the survivors in ENDPLAY makes everything in the first two books look like a cake walk. Cheryl's growth as a character is inspirational, and the bond between soldiers Wilder and Butsko highlights the inner strength of humans. The family forged-by-fire becomes the key to saving the species...the one thing the virus couldn't destroy.

At first, the big reveal seems rather over the top, considering how small scale THE HUNGER is, but the survivors aren't willing to go gently. As a result, Shoyer delivers battle after battle with a highly explosive ending. While I'm fine with the trilogy as is, I wouldn't say no to a story set among the post-apocalyptic rubble.

As always,

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Kill or Be Killed

Seven months after the events in 900 Miles, we pick up with John and Kyle who are bunkered down with their newfound community back at Avalon.

Unexpectedly thrust outside the protection of Avalon’s walls, they’re forced back into the world of the dead on a scavenging run that should be routine. However, they quickly learn that there are forces at play making this journey anything but…

In a race against time to get home, they quickly find themselves being hunted by a madman intent on stripping away the tiny slice of life they’ve fought so hard to hold together – ultimately forcing John to learn just how far he’s willing to adapt to the rules of this new world. A world where most men are willing to do whatever it takes to survive. A world where Man is the real plague.

900 Minutes by S. Johnathan Davis is the sequel to 900 Miles. The follow-up not only reveals the fate of Avalon, but also emphasizes the living are the worst kind of monsters. The surviving groups fight each other for supplies, for territory...for revenge. Almost a year has passed by, but John, Kyle and the others are still struggling to live from one day to the next.

Some readers will consider the zombie virus the worst thing that happens in this series. After all, it's the catalyst for everything that follows. Right? Others will consider the rapists and murderers, the ones exploiting the weak, as the ones who really brought about the downfall of society, not the undead. Just think about how many bad things happen without the zombies even being present.

However, I think the most devastating part of this story is the change in the people who were generally "good" before all hell broke loose, and the revelation at the end of 900 Minutes will shake readers to the core. Watching the events leading up to the moment when a person chooses to become a killer is the true horror.

I'm still hoping I can talk Davis into writing a third 900 novel.

As always,

Friday, October 19, 2018

Sarcasm and Survival

John is a killer, but that wasn't his day job before the Apocalypse.

In a harrowing 900 mile race against time to get to his wife just as the dead begin to rise, John, a business man trapped in New York, soon learns that the zombies are the least of his worries, as he sees first-hand the horror of what man is capable of with no rules, no consequences and death at every turn.

Teaming up with an ex-army pilot named Kyle, they escape New York only to stumble across a man who says that he has the key to a rumored underground stronghold called Avalon...

900 Miles by S. Johnathan Davis won me over from the very beginning: instead of a long set-up, or several pages without any undead action, Davis gets down to business right away. The main character, John, is attending a meeting in New York when a viral outbreak occurs. Of course, no one believes it - until everything falls apart outside of their office building. Even then, the survivors don't realize just how bad the situation is, until the infected find a way in. The storyline follows John's attempt to get back to his wife, and doesn't try to explain anything about the undead or the source of the infection, which I found to be a more realistic view of a global epidemic.

I really like the characters John and Kyle. It's been a long time since I actually cared what happened to the people in a zombie story. One reason is that I appreciated the dry humor that appeared from time to time...I know I shouldn't laugh when someone is getting their finger cut off, but the victim's reaction to his captor made me laugh out loud. I also laughed at the way the characters viewed their situations - nothing like sarcasm to get a person through a crisis with his sanity still intact.

Davis definitely knows how to entertain the zombiephiles.

As always,

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Throwback Thursday: Almost Gave Up

Life in a small town can be pretty boring when everyone avoids you like the plague. But after their father unwittingly sends them to stay with an aunt who's away on holiday, the Hardscrabble children take off on an adventure that begins in the seedy streets of London and ends in a peculiar sea village where, according to legend, a monstrous half-beast boy roams the woods...

The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter is set-up as one of the three Hardscrabble children writing a tale about a personal adventure, under the guidance of a teacher. While the writer is to remain anonymous, it doesn't take long to figure out which child is most likely the author. The problem I have with this approach is it really does seem like a child wrote this book (so, technically, Ellen Potter is a talented author), and I grew sick of having the story interrupted by the narrator addressing the reader directly (cheesy interjections, and some on the insulting side). This seems to dumb-down the book, rather than add to it. The constant explaining of events, as well as the brief summary of things to come at the start of each chapter, slowed down the pace of the story considerably.

Otto is the oldest of the Hardscrabble children; he keeps a scarf wrapped around his face, he doesn't speak, and he signs in a way that only Lucia and Max can translate. Lucia is the middle child, and seemed to have a harsh personality. Max, the youngest, is the deep thinker. Their dad, Casper, travels quite a bit, and leaves the children in the care of Mrs. Carnival. Their adventure begins when an arrangement for their care falls through and they decide to search for a mysterious great-aunt. Along the way, they meet a curious character named Saint George, and a five-legged cat they call Chester.

I was so sure I would never recommend this book to anyone. The thing is, when I finally realized what this story is really about, I found this to be one of the most beautiful tales that I've ever a sad way that brought tears to my eyes. Ellen Potter isn't just talented; she's ground-breaking. She uses a combination of genres to introduce a new perspective to a family problem that would be difficult for anyone to deal with, especially young children. I love how Casper and the children come together to make the best of a tragic situation. Anyone who reads this book will appreciate the resiliency of the Hardscrabble children.

As always,

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Zombie Kids With Brains

In a world overrun by the living dead, one band of survivors built a community with a strange sort of peace with the undead. The dead were contained, but not exterminated.

Now they’ve exiled four people—two undead, two alive—into the wilderness outside the city walls. Lucy, a beautiful zombie overwhelmed by her desire to kill and feed, keeps herself just barely under control around her living companions. Truman, a gentler and more reasonable zombie, looks at the living with something close to disinterest. Rachel and Will have trouble understanding and trusting one another—let alone their undead companions.

Dying to Live: Last Rites by Kim Paffenroth introduces a new dilemma into the zombie survival mindset. Instead of the typical “kill me before I turn” decision, the characters realize it’s possible that they could turn into one of the thinking undead…so, getting infected doesn’t necessarily mean the end of life after all.

Unlike the traditional zombie novels, this is a story about the undead trying to escape the living…the living who are no longer the only “survivors” of the zombie apocalypse. Many authors/directors have tried to humanize zombies, but no one has come close to what Paffenroth has accomplished with Last Rites.

Not only do we see the development of Rachel and Will’s relationship, but we are given intimate details of the relationship between the zombies, Truman and Lucy. We watch as the group is pulled apart when faced with survivors who are rebuilding a society that exploits the thinking undead.

Paffenroth also brings in zombie children. Not the ankle-biting kind; these zombie kids can think too, and they aren’t as innocent as their human counterparts. Everyone suffers in this novel.

As always,


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Dying To Live, Twelve Years Later

Twelve years later the community has reclaimed more of the city and has settled into a fairly secure life in their compound. Zoey is a girl coming of age in this undead world, learning new roles--new sacrifices. But even bigger surprises lay in wait, for some of the walking dead are beginning to remember who they are, who they've lost, and, even worse, what they've done.

As the dead struggle to reclaim their lives, as the survivors combat an intruding force, the two groups accelerate toward a collision that could drastically alter both of their worlds.

Dying to Live: Life Sentence by Kim Paffenroth begins years after the first books ends, with Zoey (the infant rescued in Dying to Live) writing about something that happened when she was twelve years old. One of her first comments reflected on the adults laughing at the irony of finding other survivors in a mall. Her character doesn't understand why, but I appreciated the nod to Dawn of the Dead (Divimax Edition). Also, "Popcorn" has become "Will," which I found interesting; if not for his strong will to live, he wouldn't have survived the movie theater or prison traumas. Of course, Milton continues to round up zombies, and Jack, Sarah, Tanya, Jonah, and even Fran are still active members of the community as well.

Zoey tells us what has happened to the central characters from the first book (but neither book is dependent on the other - both could function as stand-alones). Then the story shifts to Truman's point-of-view...Truman being a zombie who is starting to remember things, and uses a type-writer to write his own journal. Truman attempts to explain the changes with some of the zombies. All of it leads up to the discovery of the River Nation.

The complexity of the characters, and their relationships to one another, make this novel quite dramatic, but I would not call this book a horror or thriller novel just because it has zombies. The only thing that may be a problem for some readers is the switch in POV. It goes chapter by chapter, but there is no difference in the type-setting. Some people might not like it, but I found it easy to follow.

The trilogy continues with Dying to Live: Last Rites.

As always,

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Novel That Never Gets Old

A lone survivor in a zombie-infested world, Jonah Caine wandered for months, struggling to understand the apocalypse in which he lives.

Every time I read Dying To Live by Kim Paffenroth, I find myself caught up in the perspective of a different character each time. This book was first released over a decade ago, but it's a zombie story I still recommend to horror readers to this day.

The first time, I naturally thought about the main character's perspective. The book starts with Jonah, long-after the initial outbreak. He had originally been searching for his family, then rescued from a zombie horde by a group of survivors. He tries to make a life for himself at their museum-turned-fortress, but he doesn't find peace. Instead he finds himself on a mission where he discovers a father and infant struggling to survive near a gruesome site, as well as a helicopter. When the group flies back to the museum, they see a trail of smoke, and decide to seek out the other survivors. They realize too late that there are some things more traumatic than the walking dead. Jonah is forced to face the worst of human behavior, and after his ordeal, it's not exactly what you can call a happy ending.

The second time, I took Popcorn's perspective into consideration: a child, who loses his mother after zombies overwhelm their rescue station, and has to fight zombies by himself. When you discover Popcorn's story, before he joined the museum group, you convince yourself nothing bad could happen to this character. Unfortunately, when his team finds the other survivors, even Jonah is sickened by Popcorn's horrendous fate. It's not often you find an author willing to make a child one of the main characters, but I was glad that Paffenroth didn't sugar-coat the outcome, even though I was severely shaken.

The third time, I related more to Frank than any of the others. Many of us zombie fanatics ponder what we would do in the event of an actual outbreak, but since I'm someone's mother, I have to rethink all my previous post-apocalyptic plans. Frank does a superb job of keeping his head together to take care of his infant daughter. However, Paffenroth show us how even a great father isn't safe from the sadistic side of humans. I had to ask myself if I would be willing to sacrifice myself for the greater good, if I couldn't see my child again.

I could go down the line with each character, but this review is long enough. The main storyline is the museum survivors who discover another group of survivors - at a prison. As I said earlier, it's not exactly a happy-ending, but Dying to Live is an excellent zombie novel.

As always,

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Need A Fix?

Six months ago, the world ended.

The Baugh Contagion swept across the planet. Its victims were left twitching, adrenalized cannibals that quickly became known as Junkies. Civilization crumbled as people created isolated safe havens to hide from the infected... and the possibly-infected.
Now, as society nears a tipping point, lives will intersect and intertwine across two days in a desolate city. THE JUNKIE QUATRAIN is four tales of survival, and four types of post-apocalypse story. Because the end of the world means different things for different people. Loss. Opportunity. Hope. Or maybe just another day on the job.

The Junkie Quatrain by Peter Clines proves the author is a master of post-apocalyptic fiction. Not only does he know how to create thrilling suspense situations, Clines also has an impressive talent for manipulating POVs, carefully crafting detailed pieces of a four-dimensional puzzle. Make sure you read the intro because it provides some fabulous insight into the stories.

One story features a woman who prefers to travel alone & yet she envies the pack mentality of the infected. Her description of the Junkies made me think of cannibals on crack, suffering from a disease like rabies. Another story follows a group of "outsiders," who leave their sanctuary on a supply run; they cross paths with something more deadly than the Junkies. (Clines had me guessing until the very end.) A third story centers on a doctor, revealing the source of the Junkie infection & a dark secret at the sanctuary that serves as a home base for the outsiders. The final story is a thought-narrative by a lone survivor who doesn't like to share...but I was surprised that he didn't recognize another survivor from a pre-apocalypse encounter...I think if he had, it would had added more depth to that particular moment in the story.

The Junkies Quatrain will leave readers begging for another fix. I will definitely "roll the dice" the next time I revisit this unique collection.

As always,

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Living Dead Series: The Final Countdown

Dar and her band of survivors must flee for their lives after a terrorist blows up the fence protecting their Boston camp. Departing in two eighteen wheelers, the group heads to Washington State to find Dar’s family.

A caravan of army troops, led by egomaniacal General Townsend, arrive in Boston to take control of the camp only to find it in ruins. His goal: to capture the President of the United States and Annabelle, one of the few ‘ghosts’ in the world who can walk freely among the dead without fear of attack.

Hungry and in need of rest after being pursued by Townsend, the survivors take refuge in a walled-in Amish compound. But all is not what it seems there. The compound, which has its own ‘ghost’, is bitterly divided and separated into two camps by a zombie-filled ditch. Dar realizes that if the Amish don’t soon change their traditional ways, they will die at the hands of the dead. Little does anyone know that a militant group of Amish youth has been secretly planning to overthrow their elders and take control.

Darmeggedon by Joseph Souza is not as strong as Darpocalypse, but it is still far better than The Reawakening. There is just too much repetition followed by sudden jumps in the timeline. The characters spend pages and pages doing the same thing: run from the military, stop to take a break, fight zombies, rinse, get the idea. When there is a change in events, there is usually a large leap in time - weeks or even months.

I LOVE the development of the main character, Dar; one of Souza's strong points is the growth of his characters, and the way they interact with one another. The characters are radically different from the first two books - AS THEY SHOULD BE.

I thought this was the last book in a trilogy, but, based on the ending, I wouldn't be surprised if Souza decided to continue the series. There was only one loose end for me: General Townsend, but Souza could probably write another two full-length books with the direction that he has taken in this series.

Since writing this series, Souza has moved into the mystery-thriller/crime drama genre and I highly recommend Unpaved Surfaces and Need To Find You.

As always,

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Living Dead Series Continues

The second wave of the plague has struck with a brutal vengeance and a full-on zombie apocalypse has spread throughout every corner of the world.

Abandoned by her father, Dar has managed to set up a camp in the Boston Common. Surrounded by hordes of ravenous zombies, one person living inside the camp holds the key to their survival.

A few lucky people on Earth have developed a mysterious immunity from the plague. Known as ghosts, they are prized for their ability to walk among the dead and gather food and supplies without fear. The Boston camp harbors one such person, and President Roberts orders the Army’s finest soldier to bring their ghost to Washington, D.C. at any cost.
As the world descends into apocalyptic madness, the horde grows increasingly aggressive, threatening the wellbeing of every survivor in Dar’s camp. Boston Common becomes ground zero for a dramatic showdown, and Dar realizes that she must make a decision that threatens not only her life, but the survival of every person she’s been entrusted to protect.

Darpocalypse by Joseph Souza was a thousand times better than The Reawakening. The range of characters is fantastic. Rather than rooting for any particular survivor, or survivor group, I simply enjoyed reading the battle royale for survival against the supernatural undead. I was utterly captivated. I'm not reading zombie literature to increase my brainpower, so it's refreshing to find an author that remembers the main reason for writing: ENTERTAINING the readers.

In the first book, readers were introduced to a zombie apocalypse caused by a genetic experiment gone wrong. The story centered around a family trying to survive until helped arrived, but they soon found out that their survival was entirely up to them. In the sequel, one of the characters from the first book, Dar, has risen from the carnage and become a very formidable leader of a community that is doing better than the tattered remains of the US government. Unfortunately, the government is willing to throw away the lives of Dar's followers in order to save their precious capitol.

Even the ending was a pleasure to read...instead of slapping readers in the face with an abrupt cliff-hanger, Souza wrote an ending that has me dying to read the next book in the trilogy - I'm glad I chose to follow Dar through The Living Dead Series.

As always,

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Warning: Zombie Controversy

A series of terrible things begin to happen when a scientist with a dark past resumes his genetic experiments in a small Maine town. The animals suddenly become aggressive for no apparent reason, attacking anyone within sight, including Rick’s wife. After slaughtering his diseased herd, Rick realizes to his horror that they have come back to life. Soon the farm is under siege by the deranged animals, and a small group of refugees who have assembled in the farmhouse must hunker down and defend themselves against the terrible onslaught of cannibals. The entire town soon becomes filled with the human flesh-eaters, threatening the farmhouse and the survivors within it. But they all have the same message before they reawaken: they are seeking the chosen ones. The onset of winter provides a temporary defense against the army of the dead, but with supplies running low, the survivors realize they must formulate a plan before the arrival of spring and the dreaded melt-off. And as the world outside them descends into total madness, a surprising leader emerges from the group who will hopefully lead them to safety. 

The Reawakening by Joseph Souza is the first book in The Living Dead Series. This novel really upset a lot of zombiephiles, as well as myself. When dead people start talking about an afterlife and "chosen ones," it stops being horror for me. As a matter of fact, The Reawakening seemed more like a sci-fi/fantasy story with just enough brutality thrown in to give it a horror flavor. I am not a fan of supernatural zombies. Granted, the cause of the undead rising in this book is a science experiment gone wrong, but the nature of the undead left me wondering if I was going to be able to finish the book. 

I also disliked the characters - the way they interacted with each other was deplorable, especially considering some of them are related. There was definitely no bonding of any kind within this group of survivors. Not to mention the effort it took to keep reading: a corpse rots faster than the pace of this story. However, after a while, I rather enjoyed the suffering of the characters (sick, I know), and I was just curious enough about their fates to finish the book.

Despite my strong dislike of this story, I went ahead and read the second book in the series, Darpocalypse, and I found it to be a great improvement over the first book. It's definitely a unique approach to the whole zombie apocalypse scenario, so if you are looking for something different, this might be the series you were waiting for.

As always,

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Z-Boat Finale

Ally Lane survived the sinking of the Betty Loo, escaped imprisonment, and averted an all-out war between the nations that would have destroyed the world.

Now she is faced with her greatest challenge. She must cross the country, avoiding hordes of the undead and groups of people willing to do anything to survive. 

While she travels with a rag tag group of survivors and new additions, the reality of their situation hits home. There are worse things out there than the zombies, and she can only think of one solution for them to live.

Z-End by Suzanne Robb begins a few months after Z-Topia ends. Ally is severely underappreciated, she is surrounded by people going insane, and the new zombie mutation has made the undead nearly impossible to kill. Despite everything that happened in the first two books, Ally has found a few people to care about, and she is determined to find a safe place for them. She just needs to stay alive long enough to see her plan through.

More details are revealed about the source of the outbreak, but Ally is more concerned with uncovering the reason for the downfall of several other survivor groups, before she loses what little she has left. It's looking like the end of the human race, once and for all.

Robb does an excellent job of mixing mystery and suspense into the horror of her zombie series!

As always,

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Z-Boat Book Two

Ally Lane wakes up aboard a cargo ship dazed and confused. She has survived the explosion of the Betty Loo only to discover she's in more danger than ever. The captain has a hold full of zombies and the doctor on board is out for himself. The reality of what is happening hits her when she sees a map of the infected areas.

Armed with the truth, Ally must find a way to let as many people know what is really going on. She runs into a snag when the captain betrays her, turning her over to an enemy from a past she'd rather not remember.

Z-Topia by Suzanne Robb is the second book in the Z-Boat series. The post-apocalyptic future Robb created seems like a strong possibility - a frightening future. It reminds me of a quote that I recently read, "One day the only thing left for the poor to eat will be the rich."

Society has turned into a savage struggle for survival: food shortages, brown drinking water (if any water at all) and multiple families sharing one apartment...just to mention a few highlights of daily life. No more governments - just three major firms running the world, and the US is not one of them.

As if the self-induced apocalypse wasn't bad enough, a secondary apocalypse has unfolded in the form of a worldwide zombie outbreak (which spread through the limited water supply). While the main character, Ally (sole survivor from the events of the first book), sets out on a revenge mission, she realizes a third apocalyptic wave is unleashing a new nightmare in the form of stronger, more bullet-resistant zombies. Oh, and they're smart too.

Robb packs the pages with espionage, drama, brutality and character-intensive action. I can't wait for the third book!

As always,

Monday, October 8, 2018

Undead Underwater

Ally Lane is the pilot and navigator of the The Betty Loo, a search and rescue submarine. She took refuge from her demons on the sub a decade ago.

Brian Kingston, a captain with good intentions but a heavy drinking problem, jumps at the opportunity to make more money than he can imagine on a deep-sea dive aboard the search and rescue submarine, The Betty Loo. He quickly discovers just what he’s gotten himself, and his crew, into. The Betty Loo will be going to suicidal depths on a mission to rescue The Peacemaker, a sub once thought to be unsinkable. After receiving an anonymous threat on the day of departure, Brian is left with no choice but to continue on the mission. 

But the depths of the sea aren’t the only problems ahead. New crewmembers arrive, and seeds of distrust are sown within hours. And, upon arrival to The Peacemaker, he realizes that though not all the bodies are dead, there is no one to rescue. 
The crew members, both old and new, have to trust one another and fight for their lives against the adapting undead or join them in the floating graveyard that is The Peacemaker.

Z-Boat by Suzanne Robb is more mystery-thriller than a horror novel. While the first 1/4 is a painfully slow set-up of the characters and setting, it's obviously necessary. I know a lot of readers that would be tempted to give up, and, if they did, they would miss the fantastic writing in the rest of the book. Robb has a real flair for the dramatic, and knows how to reach in & twist your guts.

The prologue is a nice touch, but depressing as hell. The new world powers are Russia, Israel, and North Korea. Drinking water has to be mined from the Moon. On a mission to find a new sources of energy in the ocean, the crew of a submarine are being slaughtered by some unknown enemy, and send out an SOS. The chain of events in the prologue really sucked me into the book, but the pace of the story came to a crawl as the timeline jumped ahead six months to a rescue mission.

Robb does a thorough run-down of the characters' descriptions, including some brief personal background info, and switches the POV among them for the duration of the story...but it takes time to get everyone into place for the unfolding drama. It's like the characters of Deep Rising, in the setting of The Hunt for Red October, with some elements of Resident Evil, and some fabulous original writing by Robb.

As always,

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Worst Work Commute Ever

For Mike, the day started out as any other, getting ready for work and going through his morning routine. And then it happened, something that changed everything. Now, on the run from an evil he can't begin to understand, will he find his way home to his family, or will he be swept away in the rising tide of insanity and the unknown?

And So It Began by Nicholas Catron is a fast-paced short story about a guy who wakes up into an ongoing nightmare. Readers are never told what exactly is happening to the people around Mike, but it doesn't matter. The many fight and run-for-your-life scenes are intense and terrifying. I enjoyed this setting so much, I would read a similar story told from Tiana's POV.

As always,

Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Special Project

Joe Dawson is a struggling 41-year old writer battling a serious case of writer's block. When he travels to Wales in a last-ditch attempt to reignite his career, he finds himself staying at a mysterious seaside hotel, where nothing is quite what it seems. As the secrets of his past finally catch up with him, Joe is thrust into a life or death situation where his every action could have terrible consequences.

Out of Time by C.M. Saunders took me on a ride. I honestly expected a story about an author overcoming writer's block with a near-death experience or something along those lines. For the longest time, I thought I was reading a science fiction story instead. However, once the truth is revealed, I realized Saunders had found a way to combine horror, sci-fi, and the supernatural to expose Dawson for the monster hiding behind his books.

As always,

Friday, October 5, 2018

Is this the end of Alaskan Undead Apocalypse? [Interview]

Finding the Whittier tunnel barred, separating the small city from the rest of Alaska and possibly from the undead infection, a flagging sense of hope is restored. Neil has led the dwindling band of survivors, including young Jules and Danny, through all the perils of this new world of the undead, including the relentless elements of the gathering winter season. Seeking sanctuary, Neil’s group is pursued by both the living and the dead, all yearning for their deaths. The survivors fled Anchorage and its streets teeming with flesh-eating zombies, narrowly escaping with their lives and now face dangers along Alaska’s Seward Highway which stretches southward to Seward, Alaska where it ends at the sea. Their options limited and their time running out, Neil and the others find themselves hoping against hope that Whittier has the answers. They must first find their own way into the city and then trust that the infection has not preceded them.

Resolution is the best book in the wrapped up loose ends without winding down - even in the epilogue! It also gives readers background stories to members of the militia group, in addition to deeper connections between the survivors in Neil's group.

There are several new characters, creating some truly unexpected scenes (loved the addition of William), and a zombie horde on nearly every other page - no one ever dies the same way...Schubert is quite creative when it comes to killing his characters with the undead.

I thought it only proper to invite the author, Sean Schubert, to the Lair to discuss this series...

Q. I was certain Alaskan Undead Apocalypse would be a trilogy. Why did you decide to do a fourth book?

A. That’s a fair question. Actually, my original plan was to write a book (Infection) and that book became too big for a single episode, and so Containment was born. Finishing Containment, I realized I wasn’t done and thus Mitigation emerged. Resolution, I thought, had tied the whole series up and it was done. Again, I thought that was the case but Permuted Press asked for more. I was reluctant at first, hence the title of the most recent installment, Unwilling. However, as I delved further into that storyline, I realized how much fun I was having writing it.

The problem that I ran into was that in my books people die and killing off major characters is very difficult for me…very emotional. There is a song that I hear regularly coming out of my home or car stereo that almost makes me cry now. Unwilling is still in the pre-publishing stage but it’s been completed and submitted. I assume that’s it for the Alaskan Undead Apocalypse but…we’ll see. If Neil and crew have another story in them, then I’ll write it.

Q. Where did the idea for this series come from in the first place?

A. Aside from my fascination with zombies and the grim prospect of being eaten alive, there were two primary factors/inspirations for Infection. The first was a local story on NPR about disaster readiness and the challenges Anchorage faces. In the article, a discussion about the limited ways in which Anchorage can be evacuated. We only have one road out north and one road out south. We are hemmed in by the Cook Inlet to the west and the Chugach Mountains to the east.

The other nugget that figured into the story’s genesis was an article I read about an US Army Air Force plane crashing and disappearing somewhere in the Rocky Mountains circa 1947. Fast-forward to the late Eighties/early Nineties, a group of hikers happened upon a crash site that was slowly emerging from glacier ice. They discovered the long lost wreck. In it, the bodies of the crew were still in their seats and largely preserved by the ice. 

I matched those two stories together with my own twisted take on the world and Infection emerged.   

Q. Tell us about your writing process. For instance, how did you come up with so many different ways to kill off your characters?

A. I wish I had a writing process I could share other than to say that I write most days but I only do so when I feel like writing.  I write for pleasure and not for publication.  I like spinning tales and love language, so writing is just something I enjoy.

As for killing off characters both big and small, I feel like if I’m not entertained then a reader won’t be either. I recently read another book that always described deaths in the same or very similar fashion—“the head came apart like an overripe melon” or “the skull exploded like a watermelon struck with a hammer”. It became tedious without the variety.

Obviously, in a zombie apocalypse there will be similar themes regarding death both from the zombies as well as from the humans, but I think there are enough ways for a demise to be met that I can be creative in depicting it.

Q. In the anthology, The Will to Survive, you wrote a short story set in the AUA universe. Will you be doing anything else within the series?

A. The main character in The Spread shows up in Unwilling, the latest Alaskan Undead Apocalypse installment.  I would love to continue to write about the proliferation of the apocalypse in the Lower Forty-Eight, but that would take me away from Alaska.

The opportunity and the challenge about leaving AK for story telling is that the stories will likely be on a much grander scale without the same limitations imposed by Alaska’s geography.  It’s just a different stage.

Q. You have another novel, Fyre, also set in Alaska. Is this a horror story or something else? Is it a stand-alone or the beginning of a new series?

A. Fyre started as a standalone novel but it might develop into something more…not sure.  One of the characters caught my attention and a story might be forthcoming surrounding him but it may not be a sequel so much as just existing in the same universe.  Fyre was just a short foray into mythology.

Q. Do you plan to write anymore zombie stories in 2019?

A. Well, as I said, Unwilling is complete and should be released in early 2019.  I’m working on another untitled novel right now.  It’s horror again but not zombies. I’ve really enjoyed writing it though.

I’ve created a fictitious town in Alaska where some pretty funky stuff starts to happen.  I will likely circle back around to the Alaskan Undead Apocalypse or at least into that universe again.

Special thanks to Schubert for coming to the Lair...I will never look at Alaska the same way again.

As always,

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Alaskan Undead Apocalypse Continues

Containment by Sean Schubert is the second book in the Alaskan Undead Apocalypse series. I am pretty pleased with this sequel to Infection, but I'm not sure I would say it's as good as the first installment. There is more character development, but the timeline in this series has slowed down considerably.

I am happy to see the storylines of the two survivor groups finally converge, but I'd like to see the author follow up on the original site of the outbreak, and let readers know what happened to the older brother. I'm a little surprised the two kids haven't suggested to the adults that they try to hold out at the cabin up north.

The series continues with Mitigation, which returns to the very source of the infection - fantastic hook! This is something I am sure many readers have been wondering about since the beginning.

The series plot is continued by revisiting characters [cut off] from the main survivor group of Containment. Schubert ties up a lot of loose ends from the first two books without rushing through the timeline.

Check back later this week for my review of the fourth book, as well as an interview with Schubert himself.

As always,

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Apocalypse In Alaska

Infection by Sean Schubert is the first book in the Alaskan Undead Apocalypse series. The story begins with three children exploring near their family's vacation cabin. They discover a "caveman" partially thawed in a glacier. One of the kids is infected, and rushed to the hospital. The child succumbs to his illness, dies, and when he reanimates, he begins to attack those around him. Anyone who is attacked becomes infected, dies, and rises up again. The situation quickly overwhelms the hospital, and, as the outbreak spreads into the rest of Anchorage, Alaska, the authorities incorrectly assume they are under attack from terrorists.

The cast of characters are a realistic cross-section that you could expect from the population in that area. No one is an expert. Everyone has their breakdown moment sooner or later - they are just people who have the sense to run at the first sign of something wrong, and are struggling to stay ahead of the undead mob. Nothing is working perfectly for anyone; they don't get lucky. They work hard to stay alive, and sacrifices are made. It's about as genuine as you can get, but there is always that one guy who has to be a delusional jerk...

There are two main groups, and both are fortunate to have at least one person who was at the hospital when the outbreak occurred, so they at least know it's not an act of terrorism. The POV is third person that alternates between the groups, which helps the storyline flow at a rapid pace. There is a great balance of interaction among the survivors and confrontations with the undead.

If you haven't read this series, you really should...this is one of my all-time favorites.

As always,

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

It Was An Accident

Samuel is a prisoner, innocent to some, guilty to others. But his prison is different than any other. Here the dead have a habit of coming back to life, madness is just around the corner, and the only real escape is into hell itself.

In the Pit by Erik Lynd is full of terrifying twists. Samuel wakes in his cell into what appears to be a night terror. His reluctance to explain his fear lands him in solitary confinement, where he experiences flashbacks to his troubled childhood. He thinks he might be going crazy, but the secret within the prison walls is more insane than any of Samuel's thoughts.

Lynd's vivid descriptions of the abominations surrounding Samuel left me feeling as trapped and frightened as the prisoner. I focused so much on his tortured soul, the ending came as one hell of a surprise.

As always,

Monday, October 1, 2018

You Reap What You Sow

Sycophants by Joshua Scribner is only a few pages long, but this flash fiction story is one of Scribner's very best! The author has taken a modern issue of bullying in the form of mean girls and mixed it with a rather brutal pice of native folklore. The mix of genres makes for a great cautionary tale about using other people.

What a great way to start October!

As always,