“Of Saints and Shadows” by Christopher Golden (JournalStone, 2016)

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Back in the 90’s, very pre-Twilight, when there was really only Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles to contend with, as well as a really bad movie called Buffy the Vampire Slayer, bestselling author Christopher Golden (Dead Ringers, Snowblind) penned a series of vampire novels known as The Shadow Saga that brings a whole new world, feel and sense to the vampire story. Featuring the vampire hero Peter Octavian, they are now being re-released. Also some of these vampires can go about in daylight, and no, they damn well don’t sparkle.

Vampires have been scorned by the Catholic church for centuries, and are referred to as the Defiant Ones, an abomination under the sight of God, so there are those within the church who do all they can to kill and eradicate the blood-suckers, even if it means using powerful, magical abilities that seem like a form a heresy. There is a book of the undead, the Gospel of Shadows, that holds the answers to wiping all of the them out once and for all. The book has been missing for some time, but has recently been discovered. Now the church is looking to get a hold of it and carry out a mission it has longed to complete for a very long time.

Peter Octavian is a Private Eye, he’s also a vampire with some impressive powers. Those powers help him solve the cases, though he tends to pretty much just work at night. He has separated and distanced himself from his vampire coven for some very specific reasons, but as a new case is brought to his attention, he realizes it has far-reaching ramifications. He’s sees that the Catholic Church is involved and what their plan is. He must make some big decisions and consider the costs.

Of Saints and Shadows is a vampire story that has a very different feel to it. With the P.I. angle, it feels a little like the TV show Angel, but in this world the vampire rules don’t always apply in the same way. Magic is also alive and well and those who can wield it can carry out some impressive feats. There are also demons – aren’t there always demons? – that can be summoned, drawn from another world in this one to wreak havoc. The story does have an “older” feel to it, since it was written and published in the nineties, but nevertheless is enthralling and entertaining and sexy and many things a vampire story should be.

Originally written on November 22, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Of Saints and Shadows from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Feedback: A Newsflesh Novel” by Mira Grant (Orbit, 2016)

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“And we’re back” says Mira Grant in her acknowledgments, as the bestselling author returns to her Newsflesh world after a trilogy and collection of novellas. Events essentially reset as we jump back in time to the beginning of Feed with the presidential race beginning in a world where zombies are at the forefront of everyone’s minds. While the main characters from the aforementioned book are joining the campaign of the Republican nominee, our new diverse group of characters find themselves being tapped to join one of the Democratic potential nominees and cover her run for president.

The story is told from the point of view of the Irwin Aislinn “Ash” North, who is Irish but now a recent citizen after having married Benjamin Ross for pure green card purposes and getting herself out of her native country for some very specific reasons. Then there is Audrey, the fictional, who is Ash’s girlfriend. Finally, there’s Mat, the requisite techie, who is gender-fluid.

Readers are no doubt excited to hear about a new Newsflesh novel, but hopes will be somewhat dashed when they learn it is a very similar story to Feed about a news team covering a presidential race with lots of zombie attacks thrown in for action. There are some new details and facts added about the world that open things up a little, but after the astounding ride around the world that was Rise: The Complete Newsflesh Collection, Feedback is pretty much a disappointment in most areas.

“This Year’s Class Picture” by Dan Simmons (Subterranean Press, 2016)

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Bestselling author Dan Simmons was asked to write a zombie story for the zombie anthology Still Dead, Book of the Dead 2 edited by John Skipp and Craig Spector back in the early nineties when the zombie craze was barely an inkling in the reader’s eye. He wondered what he could write about the walking dead that hadn’t been done, then he wrote “This Year’s Class Picture” which went on to win both the Bram Stoker and World Fantasy Award for best short story in 1993.

Ms. Geiss is a fourth-grade teacher who has a very set schedule for every day. She gets ready in the morning then goes to her classroom, where she writes out the daily schedule for the class to see, then she proceeds to go through each class, reading and instructing to the best of her ability. For recess, she sets her class free outside, then brings them all back. For Q&A periods, she rewards her students with treats.

The unique thing about Ms. Geiss’s class is that while it is made up of kids, they also happen to all be zombies. Ms. Geiss keeps them chained to their desks and tries every day to get a reaction out of them; to see if there might be some inkling of humanity left in them. She also makes sure her perimeter is secure. In addition to barbed wire and other obstructions surrounding the school, there’s a moat of gasoline.

This is a story about zombies. It’s also a story about survival. It’s also a story about hope. It is a moving and emotional tale that will bring you to tears in many ways.

Originally written on May 10, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of This Year’s Class Picture from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“End of Watch” by Stephen King (Scribner, 2016)


In the final volume of the Bill Hodges Trilogy, as we know with Stephen King, he’s going to be pulling out all the stops and things ain’t going to be pretty, and with a title like End of Watch, you know the ending is going to be anything but happily ever after. Retired detective now turned geriatric private dick Bill Hodges got pushed to the limit in Mr. Mercedes with a true psychopath. In Finders Keepers things took a turn in a different direction, but Hodges was still well tested. In this final showdown, unsurprisingly, it all comes back to the Mercedes Killer, where it all started, even though he’s a comatose vegetable rotting away in Room 217 of the Lakes Region Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic.

Bill Hodges gets a call from an old friend in the force to come check out a strange suicide, and brings along his partner in crime, Holly. As they learn more about the case they discover it has some strange ties to the Mercedes Massacre, but the connecting link is anything but obvious. Hodges is drawn back into the case he thought he was done with. He stopped seeing Mr. Mercedes, Brady Hartsfield, when he was told to by Holly. But it seems Brady’s not done with whatever he started and somehow even though he’s little more than a helpless body, behind his eyes, in his brain there’s something going on. There’s a power that gives him control over others. Hodges just has to figure out how and why before a lot more people get hurt. He also has an important doctor’s appointment he keeps skipping out on, because he’s pretty sure – with the intense pain in his side that’s isn’t going away – it’s bad news.

Readers may be a little disappointed with the concluding volume of the trilogy, after the fun wild ride that was Finders Keepers, that King brings it back to Brady Hartsfield. By the end of the book the story has its definite King flair, but is a little thin and simple, with the end being pretty predictable and straightforward.

Originally written on July 12, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of End of Watch from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Rise: The Complete Newsflesh Collection” by Mira Grant (Orbit, 2016)


It’s been a few years since fans enjoyed the last Newsflesh novel, and in that time the dark and twisted Mira Grant has written a number of novellas for various anthologies, which fans may have missed along the way. Thankfully, the wonderful people at Orbit have helped collect all these separate stories together in this mighty and magnificent tome, Rise.

After a thankful introduction from the author, the collection begins with “Countdown,” originally published as a series of blog posts, that helps document the lead up to the rising. “San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats” is the incredible story of the rising at Comic Con when thousands of fans were trapped inside with some amplified zombies and what some did to survive, and what others did to help those outside survive a little longer. In “How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea” new head of After the End Times Mohinder travels to distant Australia which is different from the rest of the world in that the Aussies have always lived in a world where things were trying to kill them. The newsie travels to the Rabbit Proof Fence, a massive enclosure protecting the Australian people from amplified kangaroos and other marsupials that would love nothing more than to sink their teeth into some human flesh. “The Day the Dead Came to Show and Tell” tells an origin story for a known Newsflesh character and is one of the most moving stories in the collection, as one teacher fights to keep her first grade class of children alive.

Rise also features two brand-spanking new novellas the world has never seen before. “All the Pretty Horses” is the powerful story of Shaun and George’s parents, Stacy and Michael Mason; how they survived the rising and found a new lease in life and ultimately made the decision to adopt two very special children. “Coming to You Live” continues the events immediately after Blackout, giving fans some much needed answers and story.

This collection is a delight and shows the true breadth and complexity of the Newsflesh world. And to add the icing on this delicious bloody cake: there is a NEW Newsflesh novel coming out in the fall called Feedback.

Originally written on July 13, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Rise from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The City of Mirrors” by Justin Cronin (Ballantine Books, 2016)


It’s been many years since readers got the first bloody taste of the terrifying vampires in Justin Cronin’s The Passage. Since that time the second volume of the trilogy, The Twelve, came out with a lesser bang than the first. And now the final volume, The City of Mirrors, is finally here much to everyone’s hope and excitement, and it does not disappoint.

After some setup chapters, the story jumps ahead where Peter is approaching middle age and has been president for some time. There has been no sign of the vampires in a long time and the decision is made to let people spread out and colonize and settle down in this new and very changed world. But Amy, the Girl from Nowhere, knows that there is one vampire still alive far in the East, the original vampire from the very beginning known as Zero. She knows he’s building an army and has plans. Then there is Michael who has been alone for a long time and has discovered an old giant tanker and a plan begins to hatch, one that will take him decades, but it may be the answer the dwindling numbers of the human race have been looking for.

The City of Mirrors pulls the story back to the exciting thrill ride of The Passage, after the somewhat annoying and disappointing diversion that was The Twelve, with some great ups and downs along the way. A satisfying ending for a trilogy of long books like this might be a tough thing to accomplish, but Cronin ends his epic series in a satisfying way that will leave readers happy.

Originally written on July 13, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The City of Mirrors from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

King Capsule No. 2

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Welcome back. I trust you enjoyed your first course of the particular bloody and terrifying horror that is Stephen King. Since you have returned, you are clearly wanting more. Well then, without further ado, here is your next capsule, featuring a larger dose this time.

Capsule No. 1 can be found here.


Carrie (1974): Stephen King’s debut novel that went on to become a bestseller has become part of lore and urban legends and part of the American lexicon. Carrie White wants nothing more than to have a normal high school experience, but high school is never like that. Plus she has a religious zealot for a mom who has controlled her in every way since the day she was born. But Carrie has a secret: she has a special ability that no one else does: she can do things with her mind. And maybe it seems like things might be okay when a cute guy asks her to the prom and gives her a chance to have the perfect night. But this IS a Stephen King novel after all, even if it’s his first, so nothing is going to go the way it’s planned to go.


The Dead Zone (1979): Continuing on the theme of extra-sensory perception or ESP we have the story of Johnny Smith who had a bad ice skating accident when he was six years old and now he can kind of predict things that are going happen, then when he’s in a bad car accident as an adult and spends four years in a coma, he returns to the world with the ability to see what is to come. It is both a blessing and a curse. The good thing is you know when things are going to happen and you can get out of the way and protect yourself; the bad thing is all those other people that are in the way and need saving.


Firestarter (1980): Rounding out King’s ESP trilogy is the incendiary Firestarter. Andy McGee and Vicky Tomlinson participated in a drug experiment when they were younger, but unbeknownst to them it was orchestrated by a secret government group known as The Shop. The child they have, Charlie, develops the uncanny ability to set things on fire. Some things she makes just burst into flame, other things she can make explode into a raging pyre. But she’s also a scared, confused little girl. The Shop wants to get her so they can study her and do experiments on her and find out how her powers work and how they can harness them, regardless of the fact that she is a child. But her dad Andy isn’t going to let them get within a mile of her; so now the two are on the run from a clandestine government body that has limitless resources.


Cujo (1981): This is the story about a dog named Cujo. This dog contracts rabies from a bite and turns rabid. Donna Trenton and her young son, Tad, come up to the old farm one day and discover Cujo who is looking to sink his teeth into anything. And here we have King’s powerful, moving story about a mother and child fighting to survive against a terrible beast. But it is also the story of a special kind of small town that could allow an animal to turn rabid and begin tormenting two of its citizens.


Christine (1983): Arnold Cunningham is your classic Geek who is covered in zits and dreams of being close to a girl, let alone touching one. Until the day he sees the 1958 Plymouth Fury named Christine. It’s the first female he ever falls in love with, and the last, and once he buys the vehicle his life changes completely. Whether it’s for the better or the worse, is a matter of opinion, depending on who you’re asking. But all of a sudden he’s looking better, has a gorgeous girl on his arm, and everything seems to be going his way. Except for this close friend. And the fact that people who get in his way tend to end up dead all of a sudden. But who’s behind it? The car? Now that’s just crazy talk.


The Dark Half (1989): We all have our other side, our dark half. Stephen King had it with his pseudonym Richard Bachman. So when successful author Thad Beaumont decides he’s written his last book as Richard Stark (who got him most of his money), he stages a PR set and puts his pseudonym to rest with a fake gravestone. But once everyone leaves, something crawls out of the ground where that gravestone is. It’s coming after Thad. It doesn’t want him to stop. It wants him to write another Richard Stark book. Whatever it takes. Even if he has to write it in blood.