Peter Clines Ex-Heroes has quickly become one my favorite series in recent years. In fact, it is just about the only zombie-related series I’m currently reading or listening to. The Ex-Heroes series takes place in a world ravaged by a tide of undead (referred to in the series as ex-humans) where the last vestiges of humanity in the Los Angeles area are defended by a group of superheroes. Throughout the series Clines has done an excellent job of creating heroes who feel similar to more familiar comic book heroes while maintaining enough originality to let them stand on their own. Together with the people they defend the heroes of Peter Clines’ series have survived numerous ordeals from battles with former L. A. gangs, the obligitory hordes of zombies, to the remnants of s secret military project. Ex-Purgatory shakes things up a bit with a bit of a cold open. Readers are introduced to a young girl in the midst of a therapy session as she discusses with her doctor the fact that every night she dreams of a world full of zombies and heroes; a world that she insists is real. Immediately after readers are thrust into the life of George Bailey, who series regulars will immediately recognize as St. George/The Mighty Dragon, however this is a George whose life is fairly normal and who lives and works in a L. A. seemingly untouched by neither zombie or apocalypse. It is a clever play, clever enough to make even me wonder if what we had read before in the previous novels was reality or dream.
It took me a long time to finally sit down and read The Shining. The Shining is a multi-layered tale about hauntings both in the ghostly variety and in the sense of the past and how its influences, its echoes, stay with us through the present. The Shining is Jack Torrance’s story through and through as the Overlook hotel’s ghosts and the ghosts of his own past conspire to send him spiraling down the path to madness. Doctor Sleep is Danny Torrence’s story. While in The Shining Danny serves a vital purpose in helping build tension while simultaneously providing a means through which we can get a glimpse inside both Jack and Wendy’s heads he doesn’t really take center stage. In The Shining Danny Torrance is an innocent caught up in the whirlwind of his father’s madness. Doctor Sleep deals with the natural progression of those elements and we see Danny stepping into the shoes of his father as he desperately fights the ghosts of his own past and the strain his abilities place on his conscious.
This slim novella displays the brutality and darkness during the rule of James I as a result of persecution against witches and papists or, as it is oft-repeated in the novel “witchery popery popery witchery.” The Daylight Gate is based on the real-life Pendle witch trials that occurred in 1612, trials which just marked their 400th anniversary this in August of 2012. The heroine of The Daylight Gate, is Alice Nutter, a woman of means and unattached who worked for the Queen before her death and who, in the story at least, belonged to an elite circle of mystics headed up by none other than John Dee.
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.
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 Shadow of the Soul is the second book in the noir/horror series The Forgotten Gods/The Dog-Faced Gods by Sarah Pinborough. Ace Trade is releasing the books here in the US a couple of months apart from one another as each was previously published in the UK between 2010-2011. The Shadow of the Soul picks up almost exactly where A Matter of Blood left off. DI Cass Jone has met with some success in his past cases but that success has cast a harsh light on the corruption within the London police force; a fact further ostracizing him from his peers. To make matters worse the lingering court cases resulting from his work in A Matter of Blood have left him with a boring case load. Of course that won’t remain the case as a series suicides hits London’s student body all linked by the mysterious phrase “Chaos in the Darkness.”
A Matter of Blood is the first in Sarah Pinborough’s Forgotten Gods (or Dog-Faced Gods if you’re in the UK) horror/noir series. I have a soft spot for urban fantasy but am pretty particular about the quality of the material in that subgenre. While many books in the urban fantasy realm stick to the somewhat conventional realm of mystery A Matter of Blood mixes together the gritty world of noir with horrific dark fantasy to create a vivid world painted in shades of gray. A Matter of Blood takes place in a near-future London where the economy is in shambles, detectives work on bonuses for convictions, corruption is rife (to offset the fact that those bonus are tied up in an overtaxed court system), and the seemingly powerful Bank has its hands in everything. Detective Inspector Cass Jones is a jaded but surprisingly hard-working police officer ostracized by his peers due to an undercover job that went wrong. Cass is about as honest as a corrupt cop can get and throughout the novel seems compels to catch whoever is responsible even when easier targets could be made to take the fall.
I’m pretty sure I pulled this off a list at the HWA website (it’s down at the moment so I can’t check right now) The Blood Gospel is a supernatural tinged thriller from NYT bestelling author James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell (an up and coming author best known for her Hannah Vogel noir series). It should be warned that this book leans heavily on Biblical knowledge and some previous knowledge of Catholicism; particularly the belief in transubstantiation. The novel opens with a flashback to the siege of Masada (around 73 CE) delving straight into the novel’s more fantastic elements with a scene straight out of The Exorcist (though not nearly as terrifying). Fast forward several thousand years to present day when an earthquake in Masada reveals a strange tomb. The sudden appearance of the tomb brings together the novel’s three heroes the mysterious priest Father Rhun Korza, the smart archaeologist Dr. Erin Granger (she escaped from a radical Christian sect in her youth and holds tight to her skepticism about all things religious as a result), and the brave Sergeant Jordan Stone (who works in military forensics).
What unfolds of over the course of the novel is a historical mystery and globe-trotting adventure full of strange and horrific creatures. The Blood Gospel isn’t a heavy read by any means, this is a light, action packed thriller with a strong thread of the supernatural horror running throughout. I’d hesitate to call this a horror novel though as the novel’s primary focus isn’t fear but action. The Blood Gospel as about as much horror as The Underworld series of films is. By and large The Blood Gospel is a taught novel tuned to catapult you through the plot. The novel’s only major stumbling block involves a young man who survives the opening earthquake, though with some rather strange side effects. This plot thread isn’t wholly developed here and doesn’t really offer any major benefit to the novel. The Blood Gospel is the first in a series and I have no doubt we’ll get deeper into this part of the story but it just felt a little out of place here. While the characters aren’t wholly original and fall into specific archetypes (amusingly enough this is touched upon in the plot) the author’s still manage to infuse them with a sense of individuality that leads to at least the beginnings of emotional attachment. For fans of action and the supernatural The Blood Gospel is a must-read.
I’ve been pretty cagey about the supernatural elements of The Blood Gospel. The last bit below the jump might spoil that some so read on if you don’t really care.
You should know who Joe Hill is. Seriously. Hill is one half of the team that brought us Locke and Key (my bid for the horror comic of the century, seriously difficult to top), he brought us the delightfully twisted Heart-Shaped Box, and the exquisitely crafted collection of chilling tales 20th Century Ghosts. He is the son of horror legend Stephen King. Hill’s latest novel NOS4A2 is both a homage to his father’s legacy of chills and definitive statement that Hill is more than capable of standing not in father’s shadow but shoulder to shoulder.