“The Heavens Rise” by Christopher Rise (Gallery Books, 2013)

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Christopher Rice, son of bestselling horror author Anne Rice, returns with his next novel that is dark and terrifying and mystical in a number of ways, while capturing a feel of New Orleans and that part of the world post-Katrina in a way that only someone deeply familiar with the area could.

This is the story of the strange disappearance of the known and respected Delongpre family; mother, father and daughter lost to the bayou and the world. The daughter, Niquette, is mourned by her boyfriend Anthem and her close friend Ben, while the twisted person Marshall is pretty certain their death was due to his actions. Marshall then throws himself from a high-rise building and ends up in a coma, from which he has gained strange powers.

As years pass and Marshall continues to somehow control others to his whim, it seems perhaps the Delongpres may not be gone for good, as strange things continue to happen, as people fall under a spell, and are not all controlled by Marshall.

Told from various perspectives, Rice has crafted a chilling and thrilling story that abhors as well as entices, leaving the reader turning the pages until the astonishing finale.

Originally written on November 8, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“By Blood We Live” Edited by John Joseph Adams (Night Shade Books, 2009)

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Vampires and zombies continue to be incredibly popular, and after editing a collection of zombie stories in Living Dead, John Joseph Adams now turns to the tale of the vampire in By Blood We Live.  Featuring stories from Stephen King to Neil Gaiman to Kelley Armstrong to Jane Yolen; after reading this book you’ll either be sick of the blood-sucking fiends or be stocking up on garlic and crosses.

The collection kicks off with Neil Gaiman’s twisted tale of Snow White moving on to the only short story Anne Rice has published, “The Master of Rampling Gate.”  The book features thirty-six vampire stories including writers like Robert J. Sawyer, Garth Nix, and Eric Van Lustbader: writer’s you wouldn’t expect to be in this collection.  It runs the gamut from the terrifying to the romantic to the steamy to the outlandish to the science fiction type.  One of the most disturbing stories is from Harry Turtledove, “Under St. Peter’s,” as a newly elected pope must perform a sacred ritual under the gaze of an unknown order, where they travel deep beneath the Vatican and find a man waiting there, a man who has been there for a very long time, a man we all know very well . . . and he’s hungry for blood.

While overall readers may realize that there are only so many ways to tell a vampire story and that some featured in this collection may seem similar and somewhat mundane, By Blood We Live gives readers a chance to get their fill on these denizens of the night, as well as discovering a number of new authors they may never have planned to read.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on December 21st, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Under St. Peter’s” by Harry Turtledove

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I’ve begun reading By Blood We Live, edited by John Joseph Adams [who also did The Living Dead and Wastelands (both of which I’ve reviewed)] which kicks off with a wonderfully dark, sexual, and twisted story by Neil Gaiman about Snow White, called “Snow Glass Apples” followed by a boring story from Anne Rice (the only short story she’s ever published apparently) called “The Master of Rampling Gate.”

The third story in the collection — “Under St. Peter’s” by Harry Turtledove — kind of blew my mind, as all good stories should.  When I’m done with the book and eventually review it, I will certainly mention the story, but won’t be able to reveal the big twist of a tale behind the story, because you can’t do that in book reviews.  The point of a book review is to entice the reader to get the book, and not spoil the ending and surprise.

So instead I’m going to reveal the ending for this story in this particular blog post.  Since it’s just one story in the collection, it’s not that big of a deal to reveal it as there are plenty more enjoyable tales in the rest of the collection.

And if you don’t want to find out how this story ends, stop reading now and you’ll be just fine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Under St. Peter’s” begins with the induction of a new pope deep within the heart of the Vatican.  The former cardinal is now very happy to have been promoted to such a high position, knowing he will now be remembered forever.  He then is informed of a secret order that has existed since the beginning of the papacy that very few know about.  The pope is to perform an induction ritual with this order, as has been done with every pope since the very beginning.  He is led through a hidden door in the floor down deep beneath the Vatican.  He is led down many steps, going deeper into the dark underground, being led by a member of the clandestine order.

When they reach their destination, they find an old, emaciated form that shocks the pope to his very soul when he sees who the man truly is.  This person bears wounds upon his palms and feet, by his side; familiar wounds that have become synonymous with his depictions on a crucifix.  He also bears a pair of small wounds on the side of his neck, which are never shown in any of his images or carvings.

It is Jesus, who has remained beneath the Vatican for a very long time.  And each time a new pope is elected, he is brought down to this hidden chamber where this man drinks of the new pope, for he is a vampire who can never die of hunger, satiating himself with each new pope.  Once he even drank too much of one pope, killing him, and a new one was immediately needed.

It puts that whole story about being raised from the dead by Lazarus in a much clearer perspective.