“The Robusta Incident” by Jennifer Fales (Amazon Digital Services, 2015)

Robusta Incident
starstarstarHalf Star

The term “corporate zombie” has become a cliche at this point, overused and in some cases misnomered. So, Jennifer Fales decided to write a book about it to the ultimate extreme. The Robusta Incident gives a whole new meaning to the term “weird,” as in this is a weird book where a lot of weird stuff happens, but then if you like all things weird, you’re going to enjoy The Robusta Incident.

Howard Danishefsky is feeling pretty low in his life. Living in a dead-end apartment that gives him little joy other than being a place to crash. His boss, Melinda Carpenter, is an ex, who gives him a really hard time every day, and he really can’t stand, but at the same time she’s very beautiful in all the right places, and he can’t really admit to himself he still has the hots for her. Meanwhile, he works as a chemist for the Robusta Corporation, an international coffee conglomerate, and feels he’s going nowhere face. A dead-end job for a dead-end company in a dead-end world.

His father is a renowned astrophysicist he’s never met, who is an important member in the Consortium of Evil. And then, there’s his Russian mother, who is long dead, but shortly after she passed, he started hearing her in his head, and now, she never fails to give plenty of pointless advice and criticism throughout his day. He’s also a heavy drinker and, after work, seeks to get completely sloshed as quick as possible, and wake up in his crappy bed in the morning, feeling like something that shouldn’t be alive.

So Howard decides to throw everything to the wind and try something different. You see he’s concocted this strange serum that he starts putting in the coffee that everyone drinks at work. Each day, he adds more, and the employees blindly drink more, as they become slower, more lethargic, and spend chunks of time just standing around doing nothing as if in a trance. His main target is his boss, and ex, who he is happy to turn into a zombie and control.||But then, a voodoo queen finds out what’s going on and gets involved, as does an aging professor and someone who seems like he should just back into the coffin he apparently came from. As if that isn’t enough, the corporate zombies start doing what zombies tend to do: eat people; and they’re starting to eye him up like a tasty morsel. Maybe he’s gone a little too far this time? But he’s waiting for that call from the Consortium of Evil any day now.

Readers get to experience a week in the work life of the very strange Howard Danishefsky. The Robusta Incident at times gets pretty repetitive, as we experience Howard at home waking up, getting to work, working, then going home from work, drinking and going to bed over and over. While the author was wanting to show these five days, the book could’ve used some editing out of some of these repetitive scenes that seem to go nowhere and aren’t really necessary. But weirdness and the need for editing down aside, Fales has a very distinctive voice with her character and the story which will certainly catch the eye of many a reader and hook them till the end.

Originally written on August 3rd, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

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

“The Scarlet Gospels” by Clive Barker (St. Martin’s Press, 2015)

Scarlet Gospels

To know Pinhead is to fear him. The demon who is a priest of hell can be summoned with a cryptic little box, and then the hooks and chains come, giving a whole new meaning to the term agony. Barker fans have been waiting for the demon’s return for many years and the creature appears in this final showdown in The Scarlet Gospels.

With a nod to the Divine Comedy, Harry D’Amour soon finds himself sucked into a world of trouble. The lead investigator of all things magical and supernatural has to pull together his cadre of helpers and then they find themselves passing through a portal straight into hell. Harry has one goal: to end Pinhead once and for all. But traveling through hell isn’t that easy, especially after his history of pissing off the paranormal and sending numerous demons back to hell from whence they came.

The gang soon discovers that something is terribly wrong in hell. Things are falling apart and looking way worse than they normally would. Pinhead has started his final plan after taking the life of every known magician, witch and wizard and has absorbed all this power; and now he is bringing hell to its knees. Sending the dead and the demons to whatever there is beyond hell, with plans to take on Lucifer himself and make himself ruler of hell. The question is how is Harry going to bring Pinhead’s existence to an end?

The Scarlet Gospels has been building for years, with readers anxiously waiting for some new material, and sadly the result doesn’t deliver as expected. While the story is a fun romp through hell for Harry and the gang, the last part of the books gets to be a little too much of the same thing over and over again. Barker had said this would be it for Pinhead, one final sure ending for him from which he couldn’t return. But by the end of the book, as the reader is left feeling unsettled with how it all came to a close, they’ll also be wondering if this really is it for Pinhead, as his unmoving corpse was never actually seen.

Originally written on July 10, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

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

You might also like . . .

Chiliad  Abarat  Coldheart Canyon

“Dark Screams: Volume One” edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar (Hydra, 2014)

Dark Screams Volume 1

Ebooks have and are continuing to change the way we read books, with shorter chapters and a growing popularity in short stories, ideal for reading on your particular ereader on the go just about anywhere. When it comes to horror, you want to make sure you find a good story to enjoy, and the first volume of Dark Screams features some big names in the genre and at a very reasonable price.

The opening story and high-point of the collection, “Weeds” by one Stephen King, is about a meteor that crashes to the earth and the weedy alien life upon it begins to grow in this world as well as on one of its inhabitants. The next story keeps the thrill and chill going with “The Price You Pay” by Kelley Armstrong about the price of debts, and how some can never be repaid.

Sadly, the collection goes downhill from there with the remaining three stories from Bill Pronzini, Simon Clark and Ramsey Campbell doing little to stimulate the mind and are just dark and don’t really go anywhere whether it’s about a strange member of an asylum or a doomed person trapped in a chamber of torture. Nevertheless, Dark Screams: Volume One is worth the read for a reader looking to experiment in the genre.

Originally written on December 8, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Dark Screams: Volume One from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Revival” by Stephen King (Scribner, 2014)

starstarstarHalf star

Revival is the sort of book Stephen King would inevitably write, and I mean this in a good way. It’s classic King of the 2000s: not an outright horror story, but definitely with some terrifying elements that give you shivers, some memorable “Kingly” characters, and a story that just makes you wonder.

Revival is a coming of age story for Jamie Morton, unsurprisingly, in a small, quaint New England town where everybody knows each other, and expects to see each other at church on Sunday. And at the Methodist church there’s a new preacher in town, one Reverend Charles Jacobs. Jamie met him the other day and instantly took a liking to him, and soon pretty much everyone is a fan of the new preacher, making Sunday School now a well-attended event, while Mrs. Jacobs soon becomes the apple of a many a boy’s eye.

Revival also features magic, of a sort. The Reverend Jacobs has some interesting hobbies that Jamie gets to see in his special shed where he invents unique devices that seem to use a new form of energy and would likely be very popular if they were sold worldwide. Jacobs jokes about doing this one day, when his experiment is complete. It is then that Jamie starts to realize that his might be more than a hobby, perhaps more of an obsession. But then tragedy strikes the Jacobs family and when the reverend recants his faith and decries the inexistence of God to his congregation, he leaves town.

Revival then follows Jamie’s life becoming a guitarist as a teenager and playing in various bands through his twenties, living the life of a nomadic musician traveling from town to town. He also adopts the rock star life and becomes addicted to drugs, because he is a Stephen King character after all. He is at an all time low with his heroin addiction when he meets the Reverend Jacobs again.

Revival is a story of many things and the title aptly applies to many of them. It’s about Jamie’s life and life choices, and Jacobs and what he hopes to accomplish with his inventions. While the eventual reveal of Jacobs’s “quest” is somewhat disappointing (as is the case with a number of King’s endings), overall Revival is an exciting and contemplative read that will leave you contemplating numerous things.

Originally written on January 13, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Revival from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

You might also like . . .

Doctor Sleep  Joyland  Wind Through the Keyhole

“Symbiont” by Mira Grant (Orbit, 2014)


The good news is that while Parasite and Symbiont were meant to be a duology, the Parasitology series has now been expanded into a trilogy; the bad news is that things are not getting any easier for Sal.

The SymboGen implants are now getting out of control, as the tapeworms move up the body and eat themselves into the host’s brain, turning the person into a “sleepwalker” who will lash out and start attacking at any moment. It’s snowballing out of control and the world is starting to fall apart.

Sal is going to have to work with her team to find out how these tapeworms are being triggered and what they can do to try and . . . save the world. It’s going to require a journey to her old home where this all began, SymboGen headquarters where, even though the world is falling apart around them, is somehow running business as usual.

Symbiont definitely feels like a “bridging” book between Parasite and what will be the concluding volume, but Grant keeps the reader interested with some introspective questioning, as well as pulling at the reader’s heartstrings, as Sal is a chimera – a tapeworm within a human – and yet is also our hero who were are hoping will somehow save the day.

Originally written on February  11, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Symbiont from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

You might also like . . .

Parasite  Feed  Deadline  Blackout

“Chiliad: A Meditation” by Clive Barker (Subterranean Press, 2014)


Bestselling author Clive Barker has an innate ability to find an unusual and compelling word, story or book that grabs a reader’s interest; and he does just this with Chiliad. A chiliad is a measurement of a length of time, exactly one thousand years; this book features two novellas that stretch across the span of a millennium.

“Men and Sin” takes place in the year 1000 AD about a strong relationship between an ugly man and ugly woman, and when this man has his love taken from him, her life ended, he vows revenge against those who have committed this grave sin for removing the thing he cared for in his life. “A Moment at the River’s Heart” taking place a thousand years later also features a brutal attack against a woman and its repercussions against those who carried out the act and those who care.

Barker apparently wrote these novellas after a period of depression, and while the stories can feel convoluted and overly-philosophical, it’s possible to feel the dark, strong emotion emanating from Chiliad. It is an evil and twisted ride, one you might want to end, but it is also one you shan’t forget.

Originally written on December 30, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Chiliad from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Troop” by Nick Cutter (Gallery Books, 2014)

The Troop
starstarstarstarHalf star

The Troop is a return to a classic sort of horror that starts out scaring you quick, then builds and builds, letting your imagination ratchet up your fear with each chapter. As Stephen King’s quote for the book says, “Not for the faint-hearted, but for the rest of us sick puppies, it’s a perfect gift for a winter night.”

Scoutmaster Tim Riggs gets the fun job of leading a troop of fourteen-year-old boys into the heart of the Canadian wilderness to teach them about survival and roughing it. He happens to be a medical doctor and feels like he can handle whatever nature can throw at him, and has never had any issues before. That is, until now.

A stranger shipwrecks himself on the island and soon runs into the scoutmaster and the boys, and he is very, very sick. There is something inside him, eating him away, turning him to skin and bones. Riggs watches this before his very eyes as he tries to help the suffering man, who soon dies of what appears to be starvation. It is a sad day for the troop, but they must move on. Except, Riggs is noticing that he now has this growing hunger within him that cannot be satiated; he knows that he is sick, and whatever that poor man had he now has.

The boys know they must now fend for themselves, but Cutter has done a great job of creating an interesting cast of characters here, as each boy is individual with his hang-ups and issues, and as the reader follows the story along, it’s discovered that there are some real special kids here with some big personal and psychological problems. Combine that with this strange sickness and the harshness of the Canadian wilderness, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a story going.

Cutter intersperses chapters with reports, interviews, articles and documents recorded after the ending of the story, which just helps to pique the reader’s interest further. While towards the end some storylines get dragged out a bit, overall the book keeps you hooked to the end, which you have no real clue about. This is horror at its best: making you want to stop reading right away, but knowing you physically are unable to.

Originally written on April 18, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Troop from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.