I tend to suffer from zombie burnout rather easily, only occasionally dipping my foot into the ever increasing pool of zombie fiction, and by all accounts my reluctance towards zombie fiction meant I rather missed out when it comes to Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series (Feed, Deadline, Blackout). However, the notion behind Grant’s most recent horror novel fascinated me (in a “Ew, that’s disturbing” kind of way). In Parasite the company SymboGen has developed a genetically engineered parasite, a tapeworm to be precise, which bolsters and improves the human immune system. Just about everyone has one of these parasites and in the opening chapters of the novel it is her parasite which save’s Sally Mitchell’s life after a fatal car crash.
Another entry into Stephen King’s Hard Case Crime writing (the first was 2005’s Colorado Kid) Joyland was released in June of this year. Unlike other King novels Joyland leans a bit more heavily on the mystery aspects of the story rather than the horror though King does manage to toss in a touch of the supernatural. That being said this isn’t a horror novel, nor is it quite a mystery novel nor is is quite a thriller novel; instead the novel feels a bit more like a bildungsroman than anything else. Joyland is, above all things, a coming of age story. Perhaps, it might be better say that Joyland is a snapshot of a young man’s final days of youth. Joyland is Stephen King at his best. Sure it isn’t a novel full of the fear and dread of ‘Salems Lot or the wonder and the weird of The Gunslinger but it demonstrates King’s ability to capture the mood and energy of a place and a person.
Richard Matheson’s Hell House may be the best haunted house story of all time. This is another horror novel which I’ve known about forever but for some reason just haven’t read. The premise of the novel is fairly straightforward: a rich dying business man offers a noted scientist, Dr. Barrett, an obscene sum of money to determine whether or not the spirit can linger by investigating the titular Hell House. Accompanying Dr. Barrett on this journey are his assistant and wife (Dr. Barrett had polio which has left him with a bum leg) Edith, a spiritual medium Florence Tanner, and the sole survivor of the previous excursion to Hell House (also a medium) Benjamin Franklin Fischer.
Believe it or not my mother is the chief impetus for my decision to finally read Stephen King’s The Shining; it also doesn’t hurt that the sequel, Doctor Sleep, also just recently released. My mother has told me, repeatedly, that the book is much better than the Kubrick film so I figured now would be the time put that claim to the test. Over the years my stance on “the book is always better” has softened and all but melted away. Truth be told I’m more inclined to say (in 99.9% of all cases, I’m looking at you World War Z) simply that “the movie is different from the book.”
The Promise of Blood, the first book in the Powder Mage series, is a trilling and accomplished debut by author Brian McClellan. The novel opens with a bang as readers are thrown into the midst of a bloody coup as Field Marshall Tamas and his soldiers dispose of the corrupt nobility and the powerful Privileged. It’s a hell of a way to start a story and McClellan quickly establishes Tamas as a man who is willing to do what needs to be done for the greater good of the common folk. Of course, all is not quite as it seems as the bloody coup was initially presaged by the King’s professed intent to offer concession to Adro’s long-time enemies. That is only the tip of the iceberg as the deaths of the Privileged uncover deeper problems of a more magical nature that threat not just Adro but the entire world.