“The Grand Hotel” by Scott Kenemore (Talos, 2014)


Welcome to the Grand Hotel where things are never as they seem. And as the Eagles said: “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” The horrors that happen every day here are not quite like other horrors, they’re more twisted and incarnate, each with their own bizarre nature. There’s the strange “person” in the bed who appears to have been dead for quite some time, but someone keeps paying his hotel bill, and a whole host of other long-staying residents.

The desk clerk leads a group of visitors around, introducing them to these eccentric and at times terrifying guests, but one of the visitors is a little girl who seems to be something else the desk clerk can’t quite understand.

The Grand Hotel is a series of eleven stories linked together with a guided narration and tour via the desk clerk, who may in fact be the devil. The writing and style are a little jarring and unusual to begin with, forcing the reader to take a little while to get used to, but the deeper the reader gets into the book, the more interesting the stories get.

Originally written on January 28, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

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

“The Fireman” by Joe Hill (William Morrow, 2016)


After delighting growing fans with a classic ghost story in Heart-Shaped Box and a tale of terrifying horror in NOS4A2, in his latest tome weighing in at 768 pages, Joe Hill presents his world on the edge of apocalypse. No one really knows how or where it started, but wildfires are tearing through the country and they’re being caused by people. Now, when I say people, I literally mean people are bursting into flame and starting these fires.

Doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton, but everyone else refers to it as Dragonscale. It’s a highly contagious spore and you know you’ve got it when you find these lustrous black and gold bands on your body. It’s unknown what happens in between getting the ‘scale and spontaneously combusting, but there are a lot of people burning up and society is starting to fall apart. There are roving gangs looking to put an end to anyone with the Dragonscale to prevent it spreading further, meanwhile the government says its working on a cure, but really has no idea what it’s doing. Things escalate and continue to get worse and worse.

Our story focuses on Harper Grayson, a talented and compassionate nurse who cares greatly for others and is working her butt off with the current crisis. Her husband, Jacob, barely sees her and doesn’t really get why she’s trying to save all these people with Dragonscale. When Harper contracts the spore, he goes off the deep end mentally and it turns into a very different relationship. Harper doesn’t needs convincing and tries to get the heck out of dodge, but Jacob has other plans. Harper makes it out of the house with the maniac formerly known as her husband is after her. That’s when the tall drink of water with a British accent known as The Fireman comes to save the day.

Harper joins a commune where they have apparently mastered the power of Dragonscale. By joining together and singing, they are able to control the incendiary ferocity of the disease and keep themselves alive and well. But in any group fighting to survive, tensions are strained and stress is at an all time high, as things turn into a kind of Lord of the Flies situation. But there is a rumor that has become legend of an island off the coast of Maine where they are taking in people with Dragonscale, where they can live a nice, normal life without prejudice or persecution.

The Fireman is a wonderfully original tale that takes a few elements like plague and fire and churns them into a compelling story. As with all stories of an apocalyptic nature, it is ultimately about the choices and decisions the people make to survive. Hill’s characters are varied and interesting and definitely give the novel a realistic feel. The middle of the book lags a little, and overall could’ve had some pages editorially excised, as the downturn of the commune gets pretty predicable and uninspiring. But the last third of the book is nonstop action, and even though Joe Hill seems to suffer from his dad’s problem of executing a good ending for the book, The Fireman is a fun escape from you mundane life into a world of fire and fighting and people who give a damn.

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

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“Chimera” by Mira Grant (Orbit, 2015)


In what was originally planned as a duology, now comes to a close in the final, third volume of Mira Grant’s Parasitology trilogy, Chimera. Implanted tapeworms are rising up and taking over their human hosts everywhere, turning them into mindless, zombie-like mobs. The world is in a state of collapse.

The book opens where Symbiont left off. Sal is a “guest,” AKA prisoner of USAMRIID (United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases). Her hope is that she will be treated okay because her father is the one in charge until she can come up with a plan to escape. But there are those below her father who see Sal as the cause of all this trouble and wish to take out some vengeance on her.

Eventually Sal escapes and joins her group with Dr. Cale. Then the next step is to work out how to neutralize the tapeworm eggs that another chimera and enemy, Sherman, inserted into the water supply. The water will affect everyone and anyone – chimera, human, sleepwalker alike, all with the goal of creating an army of superior chimeras like Sal and Sherman. They just have to save the world. No biggie.

Chimera moves through very similar stages to the first two books, and actually to Mira Grant books in general, making it feel pretty repetitive and uninspiring to read. While there are some twists, for the most part, things end as expected. A new character and type of chimera does add an interesting element to the mix, but overall the final volume is a somewhat dissatisfying conclusion, with a placid and unoriginal outcome.

Originally written on March 23, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

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

“Tortured Souls: The Legend of Primordium” by Clive Barker (Subterranean Press, 2015)


For those who have wondered about one of the great horror writers who goes by the name Clive Barker, but have never read any of his work, they would do well to sample the novella Tortured Souls. It encapsulates this talented author in a limited number of pages, showing his skill at revealing a short story, with memorable characters, and some dark and bloody plot that will leave you gasping.

The “first city” of Primordium is renowned throughout history for its upheavals and political changes and at its heart lives a being whose origin is unknown and whose existence is enigmatic to say the least, known by many names, but most commonly Agonistes. If you wish, he will transform you to your heart’s desire, whether it is for love or revenge, but know that it will be an agony you have not felt before.

In this novella we learn of the wondrous city of Primordium and some of its inhabitants and their desires and hates, as well as the power that Agonistes wields and how once you are transformed by him, there is no turning back, whether you wish to or not.

Originally written on November 14, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“Rolling in the Deep” by Mira Grant (Subterranean Press, 2015)


Mira Grant, of Feed and Parasite, is back with a great novella about mermaids, except these aren’t the beautiful sirens of the sea, but more the demons of the deep type.

The Imagine Network is known for producing quasi-documentary shows that are more a blend of fact and fiction, with some impressive special effects that viewers have come to expect and enjoy. And now they’re going to start filming their biggest and most expensive project yet: to find a real mermaid. Along with the standard film crew, there are a number of scientists, a full crew to pilot the mighty ship Atargatis, and a group of professional mermaids who pretend to be these fabled creatures. The Imagine Network isn’t going to stint on any facet of this production, and the entire group will be heading to the Mariana Trench, located in the extreme emptiness of the Pacific Ocean, at the deepest hole on the planet.

It is here each of the scientists will be conducting their studies and research, while the group of fake mermaids frollick in the waters, and the film crew does their thing. Only no one is really sure what that green light is deep in the water and when something comes up to say hi with all its teeth, everyone starts to become a believer.

Rolling in the Deep is Mira Grant at her best, turning a conventional story completely on its head and giving you some great horror to boot, along with some fun scientific research that will make the reader think. While Grant seems a little fancy free with some of the nautical research, overall the story is just a lot of fun with great characters and a plot that will keep your interest piqued until the last bloody page.

Originally written on January 1, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Rolling in the Deep from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Bazaar of Bad Dreams” by Stephen King (Scribner, 2015)


To date, Stephen King has published seven short story collections, proving that the prolific writer is still a big fan of the short form. This latest collection, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, has perhaps one of the more horrifying and chilling covers to grace the front of a book in some time. But this makes sense, since many of the stories in the pages of this collection are both chilling and horrifying. The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is perhaps King’s best collection of stories since his debut collection Night Shift.

The anthology kicks off with “Mile 81” where there is an old abandoned vehicle at a defunct rest stop that has a tendency to absorb everything that touches it; one might even say eats. In “The Dune” a man can see people’s futures written in the sand. “Morality” is the story of the collection that really makes you think, as a couple must decide whether they will perform a certain act for a large amount of money, and whether their relationship can survive because of it.

What happens when you die? King decides to present his thoughts in “Afterlife.” In “UR” an ereading device has special powers. “The Little Green God of Agony” is a story about pain in its many forms and if it had a physical presence, what it would look like. “Obits” is a story about a journalist who causes bad things to happen to people when he writes their obituaries. The collection also features King’s novella “Blockade Billy” in its entirety, about an old baseball player who had certain “abilities,” as well as King’s most recent short story published in the summer of 2015, “Drunken Fireworks.”

For those wondering why so many readers love everything King does, the many great stories in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams makes it easily convincing. The anthology has a little bit of everything: ghost stories, psychological thrill rides, captivating thrillers, and moving stories of fiction. You will not be disappointed.

Originally written on January 17, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Bazaar of Bad Dreams from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“Dead Ringers” by Christopher Golden (St. Martin’s Press, 2015)

Dead Ringers
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What if you weren’t the only one of your kind? What if one day you saw someone who looked exactly like you, to the point where your friends and family couldn’t really tell the difference, and this doppelganger was also better looking and more successful than you? And what if he or she wanted to kill you so they could take your place?

Tess Devlin runs into her ex-husband in downtown Boston; she notices something different about him. He looks younger, thinner, healthier, and he acts like he has no idea who she is. When she calls him later to vent, he tells her he never saw her because he’s in New Hampshire.

Frank Lindbergh is wondering if it’s time to give up and just die. A few days ago this guy showed up who looks exactly like him, only better. He stripped him naked and chained him to a pole in his own basement where he’s been going to the bathroom in a bucket and eating whatever scraps and leftovers his doppelganger deigns to bring him. He’s withering away and is actually starting to see the basement floor through parts of his naked body. The man who isn’t him is living his life, working his job, and fooling everyone. So does he just give up and die or does he fight?

Not everyone has an exact, evil copy of themselves; it’s only a select group. What they have in common is a special house where bad things happened, where bodies were found that had been buried for a long time. Dark and twisted rituals had been performed there and somehow that’s important. Then there’s the psychomanteum.

As with his previous novels, Christopher Golden has proven he has a talent for writing the out of the ordinary horror story. Dead Ringers is a story about a haunted house and ritual black magic; it’s also about feeling lost and out of control, and what it means to have your whole life threatened by someone who looks exactly like you. It is both terrifying and horrifying on many levels, some of them subtle, some of them painfully obvious.

Originally written on January 7, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

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