“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.

“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.

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

“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.