“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.

“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.

“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.

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