Tag: horror books (Page 1 of 2)

Zombie, Inc.

‘Zombie, Inc.’ by Chris Dougherty

In a world overrun by dystopian, zombie-laden futures, this book stands out.

Post-apocalyptic (because of the zombies, of course) novels are a dime a dozen. Seriously—do an on-line search for that broad category and you’ll find more than you can possibly read, for not much money. Zombies have invaded most genres as well; they’re not just confined to the horror section. Now you can have zombies in young adult novels, romance novels, parody novels, even in the self-help and poetry sections, if that’s what you like.

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Unfortunately, many of these books just aren’t good. Either poor logic brings them down (yes, we’re reading about the dead eating the living, so our suspension of disbelief is already at its maximum, but some laws of nature must still apply), or just poor writing skills and storytelling, separating the wheat from the chaff can be a tedious task.

I’m very happy I gave Zombie, Inc., more than a passing look.

Doughterty’s writing style is straight-forward and right to the point, and easy to read. The novel takes place after the zombie apocalypse, but after the horrors of the living dead have been mostly contained. People survived, but their existence is curtailed by living in compounds; their lives are dictated by regulations, food shortages, and violence. They owe their safety to the company, Zombie, Inc., which built itself into the largest organization left.

At the beginning, I thought the story would be tongue-in-cheek. It starts with the introduction of a newly hired Assessor—one of the people employed by Zombie, Inc., to do field calls for clients—and follows her and her mentor through their daily routines. Each chapter is headed with information from Zombie, Inc.’s employee handbook guidelines. The novel sneaks up on you; its quick read means you’re a third into it before you realize the included company regulations are becoming more insidious, the atmosphere is much darker, and this journey is making a u-turn into something you didn’t predict.

Although it details life after the apocalypse, it focuses more on a generational gap of people who fought and lived through the early waves of zombie attacks versus the well-meaning but under-informed radical youth who want zombies to be given rights instead of killed on sight.

Then, just as you think you’ve got the plot under control, it pulls another switchback and becomes a warning about corporations becoming too big and too powerful. The company Zombie, Inc., has become greater than the government in this new world, and that is the true horror the characters have to face.

The characters were easy to relate to, and there was enough substance to the story that it felt polished. I also liked the fact that not everything was spelled out or expounded by the author; there were things just taken for granted that the reader was never given explanations for. Instead of making it feel half-done or rushed, it gave the novel weight, like Dougherty had proper backstory and justifications for it all, but it wasn’t vital so it wasn’t added just to make word count.

The zombies themselves are the standard rotting, animated corpses motivated by human flesh. How they came into being or their physiology isn’t the focus of this work, so if you’re looking for something more concentrated on that, this isn’t the zombie novel for you. If you’re willing to be taken by surprise by a zombie novel, if you’d like to read something with a different twist, this may just fill that need.

Everything Here is a Nightmare / Nelson W Pyles

‘Everything Here Is A Nightmare’ by Nelson W Pyles

The title of Everything Here is a Nightmare, an anthology by Nelson W Pyles, is a paradox. It’s both true and untrue.

It’s true because every story included is truly a nightmare. Some are straight up horror with zombies and werewolves and chopped up people used as ornaments on a Christmas tree; while others are much more subtle in their execution: unseen but vocal tormentors, love lost, love found. Don’t you fret about the love lost, love found bits: they’re chock full of Pyles’ touch. Instead of slamming your face into the horror, it’s just a gentler nudge, like when a child is told by a well-meaning adult, “Just try a bite! Just try it, you’ll like it!”

The untrue component of the paradox is that nothing here is a nightmare to read. The stories pass by quickly without much taxation on your brain. And honestly, that’s the most delicate, cunning stroke of all.

See, Pyles’ stories are smooth. Almost too easy. You start to read them and they’re good. If you’re into horror, they’re fun. They seem like conventional tales. But here’s the thing. Here’s the bloody bit that crept up on me and made me think a bit harder, a bit longer on some of them:

They’re insidious little beasts.

Those conventional tales? You’re reading them, chugging along, and can see where they’re going, and—correction, you think you see where they’re going. More often than not there’s this little barb, this little hook in them that get you. Like a fish going about your business, thinking you know all there is to know, and suddenly, bam! You’re caught and dragged out of your element and, if you’re really unlucky, flayed open.

That’s Pyles’ style. That’s Pyles’ craft.

Are some of the stories stronger than others? Yes. Included in this book are stories that are (roughly) half collected in other anthologies and half previously unpublished. That doesn’t mean the ones never-before-been-published are the lesser of the two. Far from it! Some of my favorites hadn’t ever been published before.

The introduction mentions that Pyles’ wants to try different things: Westerns, crime, scripts, weird fiction, etc. And in this collection he does, all with that horror slant. Even with a novel under his belt, he’s trying new things, honing his work, continually making it better. A well-rounded author, one with his fingers on the keyboard and a willingness to put in the time and effort for the end product is a good thing, not a nightmare at all.

About Nelson W Pyles

Nelson W Pyles is an author currently living in Pittsburgh, PA. His first novel Demons, Dolls and Milkshakes was released to critical acclaim in 2013. He is currently working on two novels. He created the popular podcast The Wicked Library (www.thewickedlibrary.com) and remains the executive producer. He runs the Society 13 Podcast Network (www.society-13.com) with David Fairhead. For more information please visit www.nelsonwpyles.com, www.facebook.com/nelson.pyles and @nelsonwpyles on Twitter.

The Scarlet Gospels / Macmillan

‘The Scarlet Gospels’ Review

As a horror fan, I have a history with visionary director and writer Clive Barker.  When I was in my teens, I was a huge fan of his books and he introduced me to many horrific ideas that Stephen King usually didn’t get into.  Barker’s world was often a torrid world, where H.P. Lovecraft travelled the paths of the venus in furs to dark pleasure dungeons and horrific body modifications, to the majesty of a town fighting as a human transformer (it’s better than I make it sound), eventually finding his way to some surprisingly interesting teen stories with his Abarat books.  Don’t get me wrong, King gets into sexual issues in his books. But Barker’s stories are often about where sexual desire originates or how it can go wrong, but you know, horror.

But I did walk away from Clive Barker eventually.  God knows that the nuance of the plot of The Great and Secret Show has sort of escaped me for the present, fifteen years after reading it.  But I remember this: They kill the bad guy, and then bring him back to life in the sequel Everville.  I said it to Heroes, and I’ll say it to Clive Barker: Get new bad guys!  If I read an 800-page book about stopping someone, don’t bring him back in the next one! It still sticks in my craw a little.  It took forever to kill that guy!  And then he was just back!  I know, I know, he had a different body or something. But yeesh. Narrative back-tracking is the worst.

But Barker has an amazing imagination, and he’s great at back story, imagery, original conceptions of the every day, and bringing sexuality to the fore of story in a very interesting and unique way.

Which brings us to his latest book, The Scarlet Gospels.  The story unites two of Barker’s most famous creations, the Cenobite Hell Priest from Hellraiser— we call him “Pinhead,” but don’t call him that to his face– and private eye to the macabre, Harry D’Amour.  Pinhead is attempting a magical coup in Hell and Harry is sort of trying to stop him, sort of not, he just gets dragged in with some weird friends of his, the Harrowers– because people name their groups sometimes.

I really, really wanted to like this book.  And it has all the hallmarks that Barker brings to the table, amazing imagination where Hell is a living city that still fulfills all your ideas of hell, amazing imagery of death, love, from the divine to the macabre, and a lot of ideas that could only have come from Clive Barker.  The book is a quick read and if you are even a passing fan of Pinhead, he brings him back to the character from the first Hellraiser movie in the way that we’ve all dreamed about since Hellraiser 4 had us all slamming our foreheads in embarrassment.

But maybe Clive had more to do with the Hellraiser sequels than I thought, because this book is terrible, just awful. The characters are all sub-Baywatch in development and maturity.  Their constant sex banter reminds me of some of the horrible things idiots said in fifth grade. At the beginning of the book, when Pinhead has two people rut like dogs for their lives, it was just embarrassing. Iggy Pop wanted to be our dog in 1977 and it was something different. Now, it’s just a sexual cliche. And the whole book is like that. There’s a scene where everyone is trudging through entrails that seems like something those same fifth graders would enjoy. And on top of everything else, entrails aren’t water! It wouldn’t work like that! Remember in Parenthood when Steve Martin is pandering to some children by slipping around in guts?  The whole book is like that!

And Pinhead is not that interesting.  He’s an eternal being who claims to have seen it all, but still seems to get little S&M kicks from extremely juvenile ideas and, gack… I guess the issue is that in Hellraiser, Pinhead is a monster and we don’t see him that much. But in The Scarlet Gospels, we get his juvenile, stilted perspective.  If you watched Over the Top for the story about father and son or cried during Catwoman, you might like this book. But you should know that you are an imbecile.

I wanted to like you, The Scarlet Gospels.  I really did.  But without any kind of character development, you’re just not good.

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