Category: horror


I return! This is one of the books from Odd Voice Out’s Kickstarter back in December and I was lucky enough to be invited to review it. So with a big thanks to the awesome folks at Odd Voice Out publishing, here is K. C. Finn’s Fallow Heart. Enjoy!

FHcover2

Lorelai Blake was on the way to work when she was attacked by the creature with the massive antlers and breath that stank of rotting meat. She should have died. With something demonic growing within her and a murderer on the loose Lori will have to learn everything she can about what’s happened to her. Will she decide if she can trust the organization that supposedly treats conditions like hers, the DC, or if she should follow Kasabian, the mysterious fellow who seems to have escaped his demon? Something is stalking Lori, waiting to harvest her. Can she control her burgeoning demonic powers in time to find out what’s going on? Can she escape it?

K. C. Finn’s Fallow Heart is a solid supernatural story with some really nifty ideas. The concept of people being infected by demons, like it’s a cousin to lycanthropy, is particularly cool. Plus I like the idea of the various groups that are trying to deal with the demon problem.

That said, Fallow Heart is very focused in on its protagonist, so let’s talk about Lori.  A lot of the early stuff in the book involves Lori being bothered by the fact that she’s over weight, it affects her self esteem deeply.  She thinks of herself as being ugly a number of times. This is, in fact, something that one of the murder victims uses when he’s bullying her. It’s something mentioned in the blurb and I admit that I was concerned that it would be over used, but Finn did a really good job with it. It isn’t a constant thing, but does crop up when Lori is already second guessing herself. It isn’t the sole non-demon issue Lori has, and it doesn’t eclipse the other issues. It does make the bits where she’s clever and resourceful or confident, feel more solid. The balance makes Lori feel more real.

The flip side of the focus on our protagonist is that since Lori is out of her depth things can feel confusing or disjointed. We’re introduced to everything from Lori’s point of view and follow things with her biases. So if she isn’t interested in or can’t follow up on something, that’s not going to be explored. I’m hoping that a lot of what was introduced here will be built on in later books.

There’s some really good horror elements here. Finn does an excellent job with atmosphere. There’s this really good emotional feel for some of the places, a low creeping fear. I’m hoping for more of that too.

Honestly, the only thing I have an issue with is the ending. I’m not going to go into spoilers. It was just something that’s fairly common to stories that are billed similarly to Fallow Heart that I really hoped wasn’t going to be the end point. A thoroughly expected disappointment if you will.

So overall, I’m left with a really positive experience with Fallow Heart. I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the series and reading K. C. Finn again. It does lose a little for the ending just because I feel like more could have been done there within the theme. That leaves Fallow Heart with a four out of five. Check it out if you get the chance.

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As mentioned yesterday, my stop on the Armour Piercing blog tour is up tomorrow. That’s going to be an author guest post, so definitely stop by and check that out if you’ve got the chance.

Still dragging along on finishing that book, but I have something that might help light a fire under my butt for it.

There’s this horror youtuber, Nick Nocturn, who’s started a reading challenge for House of Leaves leading up to him talking about it on his channel. I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read since something like 2012, so it’s not one that I’ve been super chomping at the bit to read but it is something that I’d really wanted to cover for Halloween or something. That especially back when Slenderman was a bigger thing in my corner of the internet. I’m like six days behind on this, so I’m probably not going to complete the challenge on time, but I figure that it’s something I’ve wanted to read and I’m not going to let myself start on it until I’ve finished the book I’m on now.

I don’t have a lot else to talk on this week, so let’s end it here.

Standard stuff then, if you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. Or, if you really like what I’m doing here, you can feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. In either case, have a great rest of the week!

I’ve mentioned something that I’m super excited about a few times in the past couple of weeks. This is that. See, there were a number of books this year that I really enjoyed and really want to share with you all. So, three readers are going to win one of three books that I’ve either reviewed this year or that come from a series I’ve reviewed this year.

Cool, right? Let’s make it even more fun, all three books are going to be signed by the author. So, what are the books I’ve decided excited me the most this year, the books I am so ready to share with all of you?

Well, there’s the first book in a series I talked about a bunch of times back during the Fall Into Books challenge. K. C. Alexander’s Necrotech. I still want to talk about these books anytime I’m given the chance and probably will.

Necrotech cover

And, as much as I enjoy a good cyberpunk story, let’s add a ghost story to this list. Let’s talk about a hitchhiker who’s been wondering America’s roadways since she was killed, the girl in the green silk gown. Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire, a book that left me hunting the sequel through a number of bookstores.

Sparrow Hill Road cover

Then let’s follow up the ghost story with a nice Saturday morning cosmic horror story. Those kids and their dog have been waiting an awfully long time to solve that last mystery, the one that split them up and left them broken. Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids. This is another one that I still want to talk more about, so look forward to that.

Meddling Kids cover

So, rules and whatnot. How can you get your hands on one of these awesome stories?

Sometime between now and when the giveaway closes at midnight central time on December 31st, you’ll need to follow this blog and then comment below.

As to what you should comment about, let’s make it thematic. The year is coming to a close, tell me about your favorite reads of the year. And, of course, which book you want or your order of preferences on which books you want.

You’ll also need to live in the continental US and be comfortable with sending me your mailing address after winners are announced. I’ll be using random.com to choose winners for the sake of fairness and that announcement is going to come January 1st by midnight.

Good luck!

Well, this isn’t when I intended to post this. Life kind of ate my ability to get this one polished up for Friday, which is unfortunate. Having finished the series and written reviews for all three books, I find myself kind of wanting to do a spoiler-y overview of the whole deal. Talk about the things I enjoyed more in depth and bring up a few of the places that I think it could have been stronger overall. That might be a project for later. In any case, here’s Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Fourth Closet by Scott Cawthon and Kira Breed-Wrisley. Enjoy!

FNaF The Fourth Closet cover

The past isn’t easy to escape. Charlie died, John was there when it happened, but a woman with her face showed up at the dinner days later. He’s certain it wasn’t her no matter how the rest of their friends insist. Some things aren’t meant to be forgotten. There’s a new pizzeria in Hurricane, Circus Baby’s Pizza. Kids are disappearing again. Just like ten years ago. Strange things are happening, Charlie isn’t herself and nothing she’s doing or saying adds up. Jessica doesn’t want to believe John, but what if he’s right? Carlton, Jessica, Marla, and John have a few more answers to find if they want to lay the past to rest.

I have mixed feelings on this one. Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Fourth Closet is meant to be the final book in the trilogy started back in The Sliver Eyes. There are a number of good moments here, places where things just click and they work really well. But clunky scenes and spots where things just don’t feel solid are also interspersed throughout. There’s been this B movie feel to the books so far. Things haven’t needed to makes absolute sense because it’s been fun enough to make up for it, there’s only so serious you can get with haunted animatronics after all. The Fourth Closet tries to be a more dramatic book, so a lot of the B movie vibes don’t carry as well.

Part of this is down to how rushed the various story lines can feel. We go from the question of if the new woman was Charlie to the reveal of her being an antagonist in what feels like no time at all. There’s a lot early on of John’s life falling apart due after Charlie’s death that drags on for a couple chapters, but doesn’t really do anything once the story gets rolling. There’s a lot that feels like it should have been introduced earlier and allowed to build longer for better impact. A lot of things feel like they should have been given more weight within the story but where cut short to rush on to the next thing.

That’s sort of the major thing for me on this one. When The Fourth Closet lets characters be the focus within the plot it can work really, really well. There’s a bit where resident fashion girl, Jessica, is trapped by the antagonists and has to keep safe and try and figure out what they’re doing. The reader gets to see her forcing herself to think on other things to stay calm, we get to see her being competent and focused. Her confrontation with one of the animatronics is one of my favorite parts of the book. Another character, Carlton, gets a lot of really good lines that reflect his previous funny man characterization. But then he also gets a really nice character arc that picks up his feelings of having failed his best friend from The Silver Eyes. Even Charlie and Circus Baby get a couple of nice moments, though I wish there had been more lead up to those moments.

I do feel like John was the major weak point in the character work though. Any empathy for Circus Baby sort of hinges on the reader being familiar with her from the games’ lore, she really needed that lead up as more than just another monster. But that’s sort of expected at this point, the Five Nights at Freddy’s novels are an alternate universe to the games but still pull heavily from them. John doesn’t really have that excuse. He’s billed as the protagonist of this novel, but then he doesn’t really do anything that any of the other characters couldn’t have. Most of what he does do is bone headed and could have been easily worked around. He’s the not love interest who seems desperate to be in love with the idea of Charlie rather than the character herself. The other characters have their own lives going on outside of the plot, things that happen outside of undead murderers and possessed robots. John doesn’t have that and is a much weaker character for it. He needed something outside of his feelings regarding Charlie to work.

I feel like that’s as far as I can go without delving into major spoilers. In a lot of ways, I feel like The Fourth Closet should have been broken up into two books and more time given to both the new batch of missing kids and Charlie and not Charlie. It’s very wanting in more room to spread out and show the best of itself. There are some legitimately tense scenes here that I really enjoyed. There are some emotional scenes that are good, but that could have been so much more if only we had more time to process them. There’s the big reveal that could have been so awesome, if it had been built up better or if characters were given time to react to it and themselves process it. It’s fun, but flawed in serious ways, which nets Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Fourth Closet a three out of five. I’d revisit this series again if another book was released.

This was later than planned, still working on fixing that. I’ve been looking forward to this one for a long time. Thanks to  James Aquilone, here is Dead Jack and the Soul Catcher. Enjoy!

Dead Jack and the Soul Catcher cover

Dead Jack, the best zombie detective in Shadow Shade, saved Pandemonium from certain destruction. It was totally him. The cost was high though, Oswald hasn’t woken up since her took the blast from the Pandemonium Device exploding. Without Oswald there Jack’s fallen off the wagon, spending his days in a haze of dust and Devil Boy. He hasn’t had a case in weeks. Lucky for Jack an old army buddy from his living days, Garry, has tracked him down with the promise of finding their souls. Just, get someone to translate the diary Garry stole, find the alchemist who has their souls, and dodge the neo-Nazis that want to use his sidekick to wipe out Pandemonium. Nothing difficult for the best zombie detective in Shadow Shade. Right?

Dead Jack and the Soul Catcher follows a book that I enjoyed a great deal, removes a big chunk of what I liked about it, and still leaves me waiting for the next book. The last book gave us a noir style detective with all the tropes associated, but then never tried to make him right or to present his behavior as correct. Dead Jack is a massive jerk, and that’s great because he gets called on it. Here though, Oswald is out of the picture so that element of humanization is absent. Instead we get more of Dead Jack the character instead of Dead Jack the plot device, we get into his history as he’s forced to deal with feelings and memories and a lot of things that he generally doesn’t.

A lot of Jack’s memories tie into his time in World War 2, particularly dealing with his death and the horrific experiments visited upon him. The way he became Dead Jack. This works pretty fantastically to show the reader more about the man Jack had been, especially when that man and the zombie we know don’t line up quite right. That’s a fantastic draw for me. Tie it in with Dead Jack seeming to soften up to his companions a little and I’m excited to see where his characterization goes from here.

Now, the group of neo-Nazis who had been experimenting on him follow Garry into the story. They’re after the diary and him again, but more than that, they want Oswald as part of a plan to steal all the souls in Pandemonium. They are the biggest threat of the book, bigger than dark elf prison guards or giant spiders or the devil himself. They have the ability to potentially bring Pandemonium to its knees. They’re weirdly obsessed with their uniforms and how nice they are. The book manages to strike a balance between making it clear that they’re fanboys for the original Nazis and that that is ridiculous and making it clear that they are an actual threat to Pandemonium and very dangerous. It also makes it incredibly satisfying when they get punched.

Much like Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device this isn’t a super serious book and it plays with familiar tropes. I enjoy it all the more for that. This was a fun read, it maintains the quality of the first book, and it leaves me impatient for the next one. So, yeah, Dead Jack and the Soul Catcher gets a five out of five. If James Aquilone keeps this up he’s going to wind up one of my favorite authors.

It occurred to me today that I hadn’t posted this yet. I admit, I’m a little sad that this is the last one for now. Maybe there will be another arc or the start of an ongoing after the Crossing Over event in the classic Ghostbusters comic. What Dreams May Come was a pretty awesome story though, so I can hope. Here’s the last one for now, enjoy!

Issue 5 What Dreams May Come cover

After being consumed by their fears and fighting them back, solutions failing and answers being found, this is the final confrontation. The Ghostbusters have their shared memory and a plan in place to stop the Schreckgespenst. Will it be enough or will Dr. Kruger trap the world in his nightmare dimension?

This is where we’ve hit the final confrontation, the boss fight, the last effort before the world is doomed where our heroines triumph. It’s also the big test for the neural connections that should, in addition to the shared memory, allow them to find each other in the nightmare world. Let’s dig in.

We jump right into the fight with the Ghostbusters fighting Dr. Kruger and then activating the neural connection. Things go wrong almost immediately with the team not being able to keep together. I feel like that does a really good thing with one of the issues I had had in the last issue. We start with Erin left alone with her nightmares, but then she’s able to focus on Abby and reach her and together they get to the shared memory. Patty on the other hand finds the shared memory no problem, it’s set in a historic site that’s Patty’s thing, but she’s alone. She couldn’t hold on to the others well enough to get to both. That, for me, is brilliant. Erin and Abby had known each other for years before Erin ran off, so it makes sense that it would be easier for them to lock on to each other. Patty only met anyone in the team during the Rowan incident, so she doesn’t have as long a connection or maybe not as many points of connection with them.

The art here is great, as it has been for the entire arc. I want to see more of Corin Howell’s work because of this comic. Her expressions in particular are awesome and the Schrekgespenst couldn’t have been much more awesome. The same goes for Valentina Pinto’s work on the colors. The art is awesome, but it wouldn’t be nearly as dynamic without the color work to punch up the mood.

Admittedly, what I really want is more of this team on this comic. This was a fantastic way to tie up the arc and the way Dr. Kruger was defeated was a great example of the character work that I’ve enjoyed throughout the run. So, yeah, Ghostbusters: Answer the Call: What Dreams May Come issue five gets a five out of five. And I really hope that question mark at the end means more is on its way.

I’m really going to need to learn not to announce things before they’re ready to roll. My computer messed up and wouldn’t work, I think I’ve got it working mostly right again but it took a while to get it going again. In any case, this one’s thanks to the awesome folks at Curiosity Quill Press. Here’s Anne Stinnett’s Creature of the Night. Enjoy!

Creature of the Night cover

It’s TV’s most scandelous phenomenon. Fantastic vampire judges. Roaring crowds jumping at the bit to see contestants fail. Blood and glamour in equal measure.  It’s a chance at eternity for one lucky contestant, and the risk of death for the other eleven, the new season of Creature of the Night promises to be a bloody good time for the viewing public.

Anne Stinnett’s Creature of the Night is a book that I really wanted to like just based on its concept. The whole vampire game show thing where the winner becomes a vampire is kind of awesome and something I’m a little surprised I haven’t found in other urban fantasy novels. Supernatural beings using their being supernatural to grab a wide and adoring audience, or being used to do that, seems like it would be more of a thing. The idea that people not only go wild over this but blood thirsty, mocking failed competitors and camping out wild is interesting and feels like it could say a lot about the culture surrounding celebrity culture. The problem comes when it didn’t seem interested enough in the characters or world to really pull that off.

Let’s talk about that potential though, because I really do think that something like Creature of the Night could do a lot of interesting things with urban fantasy. The ingredients are all there.  The masquerade was broken, so people know that vampires are real. More than that, the television viewing public not only loves them but loves seeing people risk their lives to become vampires. It almost seems like they have the world enthralled. But there’s a limit to how many people can be turned legally, which leads to the show being billed as a sort of way to find “worthy” people to be turned. This makes me wish that we could have seen more of the world beyond the show, possibly through more time in the mansion or more time with the viewers at home. Just something more away from the show challenges themselves so that we get more of the back ground.

That’s sort of a running thing in Creature of the Night, that sort of need for more details outside of the competition itself. The back story for the world is mentioned and teased, but in a way that becomes distracting rather than informative. It’s the same with the protests over certain aspects of vampires interacting with humans, they’re mentioned and it is part of a couple of characters back stories, but they don’t really do anything for the story. It would almost be better, if we were looking to keep the length of the book about the same, to drop the world building hints entirely and allow the reader to make their own assumptions about how this all came about, then use the space from dropping that to develop the characters more.

It’s sort of a thing I think I can see what Stinnett was doing with the characters, this being a horror comedy and all, but she left her characters really flat. They were sort of horror movie cliché sketches of characters rather than being full on developed, which made it really difficult to care what happened to any of them. This ties heavily into my thing about wanting more page time away from the show challenges. While the challenges are largely interesting they also feel big and sensationalistic. They show the characters as competitors but not as people. The between challenge chapters do some character interactions, but they’re also taken up with the in book show’s confessional sequences where the characters talk about the challenges and other competitors and whatnot. What makes this a little strange, is that it’s clear that changes are happening with some of the characters but we don’t see much of them as they change, possibly because the show lasts at most a week. Plus the confessional bits often have characters returning to type, rather than reflecting any sort of development.

At the end of it, Creature of the Night feels very like the novelization of a B movie that doesn’t exist. The characters have little to no presence. It’s often violent or gross for the sake of shock factor for a fictional audience. Cutaways to the audience at home or the judges can be interesting, but usually feel like padding. All in all, it would work a lot better on film than page. I wasn’t a fan of this book and I think I would wait to check out the reviews on any other books Anne Stinnett writes, but I would be willing to read her again. It’s mostly because of that that Creature of the Night gets a three out of five.

Later than I’d planned for, but this is one that I’ve been looking forward to finishing. It’s been a book that I’d been meaning to read since before its release but didn’t get the chance to really dig into until this week. Here’s Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids. Enjoy!

Meddling Kids cover

Back in 1977 the kids of the Blyton Summer Detective Club had their last big case, some guy in a mask was hunting around in a supposed haunted house and the Blyton Summer Detective Club decided to stop him. They succeeded, really, they did. But maybe they saw a little more than they were meant to. A lot more than they were meant to. They solved the case, but what they saw broke them a little and they went their separate ways. The tomboy, wanted in two states. The brain, turned biologist, turned alcoholic. The golden boy, a star on film and in person, burned out before his time. The horror geek who turned himself over to an asylum, the only one who still talks to the golden boy even if he wishes he didn’t.  But the case wasn’t finished, not by a long shot. And that’s going to drag them back to the town where summer lived. The Blyton Hills, where their last big case was never fully solved, where everything went wrong, where just maybe they can put it back together again and put the past to rest. Put the past to rest and maybe save the world while they’re at it.

Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids is a deeply interesting beast of a book combining a number of takes on its own prose and some distinctly strange ideas that I want to see more of. This is, from title to composition to set up a fond reflection of those other meddling kids and their Great Dane. It isn’t a one to one thing, certainly, but the familiarity from that reflection allows for a certain degree of comfort with the less Saturday morning cartoon aspects. Lovecraftian strangeness and all that.

That’s actually a really good starting point here, Meddling Kids is sort of Lovecraft by way of Scooby Doo. It’s a lot softer than most of the Lovecraft based stuff I’ve read, more comedy than pure horror. But it plays with the wrongnesses worked into the fabric of reality that make up the horror of a lot of that sort of style of horror deals with. The writing will sort of break from standard prose into stage directions and lines and then snap back, characters interact with the narrative in non-standard ways. Kerrie, the resident brain, has hair that’s almost a character of its own. It reacts to things and has feelings, and somehow that’s done frankly enough in the writing to work. Similarly Tim, the Weimaraner, is given a ton of human reactions and is textually treated as being as self aware as the rest of the cast. Even buildings get in on the act. This all makes for some really nifty double take moments. It can also be a bit distracting when you first start reading, so there is that.

As far as the story goes, it feels very much like a comedy horror detective story. It is, in fact, shaped like itself. That isn’t a bad thing by any stretch, but I do feel like it shines the most when the characters have reached Blyton Hills and are poking at the things they hadn’t had the chance or awareness to investigate in the past. The points where things they’d talked about or experienced as kids come back up in the story, how safe a room had always felt or wanting to ride a mine cart, are really strong points for the characters and they feel good. This reads best when the focus is squarely on the characters, when it’s a bunch of former teen detectives trying to go back to what was and get down to the bottom of what is. It stays there too. The reader gets to see Andy being grumpy and aggressive and trying to keep the team going. We get Nate trying to keep it together as things get weirder and weirder and the dead guy won’t stop talking to him. I do wish we has seen more of the dead guy, I feel like Peter could have been a bigger presence throughout.

The setting is also great. Like I mentioned before, buildings become almost characters, reacting to the characters approach, muttering, and the like. The town of Blyton Hills is a town dying a slow death, but not ready to let go. There’s still people and drama and the issue with that old mansion. The choice to have the book take place in 1990 also works well with a lot of standard horror tropes. The technology we rely so readily upon just isn’t there, so they’re cut off in a lot of ways. There is no just grabbing a cell phone to call for back up, because they weren’t nearly as common. Likewise, the research needed has to be done by hand because the internet wasn’t as big or readily accessible. It also sort of slots the story into this sort of timeless place that doesn’t feel quite real, technology is seldom specifically brought up so the reader can sort of let things slide as they will. Blyton Hills itself has that sort of not real feeling so many fading towns get, it meshes well with the cast being comparatively small, but we’re also treated to the protagonists noting how empty the place feels. It makes for a pretty fantastic level of low key creepiness.

Meddling Kids is definitely a book that I hope gets a follow up. The handful of things I wasn’t a fan of pale in comparison to the things that work. This gets a five out of five from me. And I’m probably going to go looking for more of Edgar Cantero’s work.

Wayfarer: AV494

I am really excited to bring this one to you all, mostly because I was excited to read it. Something about checking out new sci-fi does that for me, I think it might be down to how well done the first chapter was on this one. This one’s thanks to the nice folks at Curiosity Quill Press for providing a review copy. Here’s Matthew S. Cox’s Wayfarer: AV494. Enjoy!

Wayfarer AV494 cover

An expedition to planet AV-494 could make Kerys Loring’s career, especially after her bosses took all the credit on the last one. She’s desperate enough to be cheap and experienced enough to know what she’s looking for. She’s everything Avasar Biotechnology is looking for. It’s clear they were right to hire her when she quickly makes a fantastic discovery, one that could change everything. A discovery that does change everything, seemingly unleashing a curse upon the station and driving everyone in it to violence. Kerys will have to find the truth if she wants to survive, though even then it might not be enough.

Wayfarer: AV494 is a solid piece of sci-fi with awesome character work. Matthew S. Cox did a really good job with his setting and, more than just that, with making the station feel both familiar and new. Wayfarer: AV494 is also very much a zombie story and hits a lot of notes familiar to that brand of horror.

That’s actually where my only minor qualms with the book come from. The characters surrounding Kerys are legitimately enjoyable, so seeing them succumb to the hate plague infecting the station is jarring and wrong and it works so fantastically. But then there’s the point where background characters start dropping like flies and these well built, likeable characters are part of that. It got to a point where I kind of stopped caring for a bit because it seemed so completely hopeless. There were a couple of spots of hope along the way and I know that sort of hopelessness is kind of a hallmark of this particular sub-genre, but it did get a little tiring.

Past that I really liked the way the characters, Kerys’ abusive ex aside, were handled. The other xenoarchaeologists Kerys works with, the various military personnel she works with, and Annapurna, the head of the xenobotany team, all wind up with solid if brief characterization that leaves them feeling very human. The way the xenoarchaeology team talks to each other as they work, the joking and such, feels organic. Some of the best work with the infection early on came from them because they were themselves, just a little wrong, where as the unnamed back ground characters were just suddenly ready to fight any and everyone. Which brings up the abusive ex, Will, since we’re shown his behavior through how he acts towards Kerys, most of his positive attributes are more informed than anything. He isn’t really played off of anyone, which makes him feel less solidly a character rather than others with less over all page time but more interactions outside of just Kerys and how she reacts to them. I’m entirely sure that this was on purpose, but it did wind up feeling a bit overdone and made it somewhat difficult to believe that other characters would be as taken with him as Kerys thinks they could be.

The setting works really well here, leaving our protagonist trapped while everyone around her goes mad. If she leaves, then she has a vastly limited air supply and nowhere to go that would be any help. The station itself is nearly a character, starting clean and orderly and well run before devolving into messes and murders and the chaos of people falling apart. The weather outside builds as Kerys’ emotions run high, leaving the station feeling somehow even less safe. Places that are briefly seen towards the beginning get a second run through after the infection sets in, showing how the stations inhabitants affect their surroundings. The changes in some of these areas a just as startling as the changes in the people living in them and it’s fantastic.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book. There were a couple of things that lost me a little, but nothing really big. I could have done with a little less hopelessness at times, but I would definitely read another book by Matthew S. Cox. So, yeah, Wayfarer: AV494 gets a four out of five.

I’m late again. I dozed off after work and slept longer than I should have. But I’m fairly happy with how this turned out all the same. This book makes me think quite a bit of some of the old horror comics I grew up reading but more overtly funny. This one’s from netGalley, here’s James Aquilone’s Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device. Enjoy!

Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device cover

Dead Jack is the best zombie detective in ShadowShade, possibly all of Pandemonium. It doesn’t hurt that he’s the only one around. It also doesn’t hurt that he’ll do anything for fairy dust. No job is too big as long as the price is right, possibly right up to saving all of Pandemonium. That is, if he can survive leprechauns with a grudge, a mad bat-god, and his own ideas.

So, James Aquilone’s Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device is kind of an odd critter of a book. I’m left feeling simultaneously like I have very little to say about it and just wanting to throw all the words possible at it. It’s a detective story with very little detective work. The protagonist is terrible but still likeable. The side characters don’t show up much but they work so well when they do. It’s pretty great.

Our protagonist, Dead Jack, is the embodiment of everything I tend to dislike about noir detective style protagonists. He’s a jerk, he can’t function without his addiction of choice, he stubbornly refuses to believe that his companions could accomplish anything without him around, he should be the worst. But it’s all played in this sort of humorous subversion of tropes way. He’s addicted to fairy dust, both for the high and as a means of suppressing his zombie hunger, and thinks about it pretty regularly. It is in fact the entire reason he takes the case, but it doesn’t become something he waxes on about for pages at a time. We’re given mentions of him wanting fairy dust or of noticing the effects of it on other characters, but it’s for the purpose of telling us about the scene or the world. Jack is terrible to his homunculus partner, Oswald, but Oswald gives as good as he gets and the story never tries to convince the reader that Jack is in the right when he’s being a jerk. That wins both the character and the writing a lot of points from me.

Tied into that, Jack seems to be the least competent character in the book. But we are seeing things from his ridiculous self-aggrandizing point of view in such a way that it’s funny rather than annoying. This is a character who actually thinks that he’s an amazing detective, but the story itself doesn’t agree so there’s a nice balance there.

There’s a lot of that actually. Dead Jack has a tragic back story somewhere along the lines, but he doesn’t seem to remember most of it. We get some bits of it that serve to rattle Jack and tease more, but nothing that takes pages at a time. The reader is sort of dropped into the middle of Pandemonium and expected to keep up. It’s a world very different from our own, but its Jack’s home so he doesn’t go much into the specific differences. That allows the reader to build their own conclusions on specifics while keeping the pace fairly quick.

Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device is a very quick read but very tightly plotted for how short it is. There isn’t a ton of time taken to flesh out the world that isn’t also being used to move the story forward or introduce a near immediately important concept. It takes good advantage of slower scenes to set up ideas for later without grinding to a halt.

This was a really enjoyable read and I am definitely going to be looking for the next one when it comes out. Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device gets a five out of five from me. If you enjoy off beat detective stories or just need a way to spend a couple days, it’s worth giving a shot.