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

Dark Screams Volume 1
starstarstar

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)

Revival
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)

Symbiont
starstarstarstar

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)

Chiliad
starstarstar

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.

“Kronos Rising: After 6 Million Years the World’s Greatest Predator is Back” Max Hawthorne (Far From the Tree Press, 2014)

Kronos Rising
starstarstarstar

The book Jaws by Peter Benchley was published in 1974 and became an international bestseller, followed by the movie adaptation that became an instant cult classic and a favorite of many. Since then some sequels have been made, and many knock-off novels that play on the whole idea of a sea monster on the loose terrorizing a small town and its people.

I thought Kronos Rising would be another unrealistic example of this genre: predictable, over the top, and simply inaccurate, but the bookwas in fact a complete surprise.

It is a classic setting: a small American town on the east coast where things are simple and straightforward and haven’t changed in some time. Jake Braddock is the town sheriff, a former Olympic fencer who lost his wife in a tragic accident and has made some bad choices in his life, but now he’s on the straight and narrow and does just fine dealing with simple, small-time crimes, until that all changes.

People are starting to disappear out on the water and at first it seems like there might be a man-eating shark on the loose, but the evidence seems to point to something bigger, much bigger. And when an uneaten part of a rich senator’s son shows up, things really begin to heat up. The media gets involved wanting to know what creature is behind the attacks. Braddock enlists the help of a pretty scientist who has shown up with her crew from the World Cetacean Society; she has some evidence revealing that the creature is not just big, but enormous; a surviving relic from the time of the dinosaurs know as the kronosaurus queenslandicus. It is hard to believe but the evidence is irrefutable.

The media has a field day with this announcement, not believing it until the giant creature shows up in the harbor and wreaks havoc upon the residents. The rich senator calls in an élite group to take care of this creature, enlisting the help of Braddock and the scientist, though the sheriff knows they’re getting in way over their heads.

The characters in Kronos Rising are well developed, each with their own complicated backgrounds that have a strong bearing on their current lives. The key to a good story is conflict, and this book is full of it, as the characters come into conflict with each other, which at times feels a little contrived, but nevertheless makes for addictive, page-turning reading.

Max Hawthorne has also done his research into marine biology and ocean life, which all helps make his characters more knowledgeable and interesting and the whole world more believable, even if there is a giant monster eating people in it. The writing is compelling and action-filled so even though the book is well over 500 pages long, it is still an addictive read. While the last third of the book goes off the rails a little and some of the characters become almost caricatures, overall the book is a great addition to this genre, worthy of sitting on the shelf next to Peter Benchley’s Jaws.

Originally written on May 11, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

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

“Let the Old Dreams Die” by John Ajvide Lindqvist (Thomas Dunne Books, 2013)

Let the Old Dreams Die
starstarstarstar

If you’ve read any books from the bestselling Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist, such as Handling the Undead, Little Star, Harbor, or his big international hit Let the Right One In, you know he’s got a knack for telling some cold, dark, scary stories. In Let the Old Dreams Die he presents international readers with his first short story collection, showing his breadth not just as a horror writer, but also as a skilled storyteller.

“The Border” is a story about illegal smuggling across an important line of demarcation, but this particular border agent has a talent for spotting and knowing when someone is smuggling, except in this case it turns out to have more to do with her than she knows. “Eternal/Love” is about what happens when your loved one is brought back from the dead, still human, but irrevocably changed. The book also features some important sequel stories, in “Final Processing” to his book Handling the Undead, and “Let the Old Dreams Die” to Let the Right One In.

The collection is a lot of scary fun, working as a good introduction for readers wanting to try Lindqvist for the first time. But it also satisfies cravings for fans: showing his full spectrum as a writer, and providing some much needed new material in various settings, revealing his skill at telling a story that will leave you unable to sleep the night you finish it.

Originally written on April 16, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Let the Old Dreams Die from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

You might also like . . .

Let the Right One In  Handling the Undead  Harbor  Little Star