Category: Horror Writers


House of Dead Trees — By Rod Redux

For those of you who have read my previous entry about Mr. Redux, this review really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.  But, just in case you missed it (or just don’t want to click the link above and read it now) it is this readers opinion that Mr. Redux is going to be the next Stephen King.

First, for all of you King fans out there know this:  I love Stephen King.  I always hesitate to say that I’m his Number One Fan for (hopefully) obvious reasons, but damn if it hasn’t felt that way for a very long time.  In fact, I can say with all honesty (and experience) that he is the only “star” I would ever probably get arrested over if I saw him in real life.  His writing, even the books I didn’t like (and yes, there were a few) took me to places and fired up my imagination in ways I will never be able to fully express to someone else — or for that matter, repay Mr. King.

Second, I am NOT writing this review in a positive light just because Mr. Redux commented on my review of the movie The Thing.  Although I do freely admit to a moment of childish glee and indecision as to how to react (including whether I should even mention it here), I would never write a review that wasn’t true to my feelings about the subject matter.

Okay, so now that that is out of the way, on to the review…

The story centers around a group of paranormal investigators who get the chance of their lives (for their TV show “Ghost Scouts”) to investigate one the country’s most haunted houses — The Forester House.  Now, if you are anything like me, the idea of investigating a haunted house sounds fabulous, but when work, family life and geography get in the way, a show or book about someone else doing it will do just fine.  Such is the case with House of Dead Trees.

However, what this book does in addition to a haunted house tale, is give the book a backstory that in itself could be published as a short story or small novella.  In fact, since the book starts out with the backstory, I was so enthralled with it that I didn’t want that part to end.  Obviously it did, and we are then led into an entirely different story, with the backstory interwoven into it.  That, my reading friends, is what I call a great book.

The biggest thing I fear whenever I write a review that is so glowing that you are let down once you crack the pages or press play.  Although I went in expecting a lot from Mr. Redux , I was not disappointed one iota.  But as you know, all stories, movies, and tall tales affect each of us differently.  So please go in simply with  the idea that this is supposed to be a pretty darn good book, and let your imagination do the rest.

PS — I do apologize for not updating here more regularly, but alas, real life does occasionally interfere and such is the case with yours truly.  My promise to you is that I will update as often as possible and as long as my fingers still remember asdfjkl;.

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Ah, September.  That time of year when the night air turns crisp and clean and you can just feel fall beginning to settle into your bones.  The time of year when Mother Nature prepares your soul for cold weather, hot soup and reminds you to save your energy for the all-too-soon holiday shopping nightmare.

However, September is also a reminder that soon, very soon, we get OUR month — you know the one — October. October, the one month of the year that belongs to horror and horror fans alone (well, and maybe a few Wiccans, but whatever).  Yup, we get one whole month in the ramp up to Halloween where horror movies are shown all times of day, haunted houses are visited (and maybe egged), “no trespassing” signs are completely ignored and yet, no one bitches about it because in the end, everyone loves Halloween.

So I say, why not take a note from the advertisers playbook and start the Halloween celebration in September?  That one month ramp up goes by way to quick for this horror fan so here, babies, we is breakin’ the rulz.  Starting now, each week leading up to Halloween we will have a feature on what makes this time of year so great — the monsters, the chill in the air, and all the things that go bump in the night.

To start our Festivus for the Rest of Us off right, this week, it’s zombies, zombies and more zombies.   Since I just so happened to just finish re-reading Best New Zombie Tales, Volume I, the theme fits quite nicely with my current state of mind.

Best New Zombie Tales, Volume I has some real doozies in it, but since I’m not gonna read the book for you and ruin it, here are a few standouts and my thoughts on them you know, just to whet your appetite.

Paradise Denied, by John L. French:  In a world where all of the “good” people get taken up by God, what happens to those left behind?  More importantly, what becomes of those that come back?  A great twist on the zombie story and one that just might make you think about all of those little white lies…

Muddy Waters, by Brian Knight:  Definitely one that stays with you.  Big city girl gets herself in quite a mess in the country.  This one will stay with you, so “haunting” is the right word here.

Zombie Love, by Ray Garton Asks the eternal question “What would you do for love?”  A better question would be “Would it be worth it?”  This one asks and answers both questions much to this readers delight.

Pegleg and Paddy Save the World, by Jonathan Maberry:  When you read this one, be sure to have their accents right in your head to get the full enjoyment factor.  It’s funny, gruesome and charming — the best mix.

In the Land of the Blind, by Robert Swartwood:  I don’t normally go for deep zombie tales, but this one has that certain something that makes it work.  An inspiring zombie tale in a down trodden world.  Or something.  Just read it for Pete’s sake.

So, that’s Volume I and all of the stories contained in it are great.  Also, there are currently two other volumes out there (II and III) and I may post about those this week as well.  But if not, rest assured that I’ll be doing my part by being kept entertained by something of the undead variety and I hope you are too.

OTHER STUFF:  For the record, there are other holidays in October besides Halloween.  There is Columbus Day which deserves a bit of attention I suppose, but the only other holiday in October is United Nations Day, which —  let’s be honest — should really observed be on April 1st.

OTHER STUFF II:  I would also like to take a moment and apologize for the lack of posting lately.  Unfortunately, I am located on the East coast and was affected by hurricane Irene.  That bitch killed my power and left me feeling very lost, hungry and quite frankly, scuzzy.  But Pepco be praised, it’s back from the dead and so am I.  Here’s to everyone else still without power joining us in the 21st century again very soon.

I’ve said it before and I mean it — it is important to support unknown authors, dammit!  This is true if you love new and original work, but it’s especially true if you want to be an unknown (at least at first) author.  Check it out:

It recently came to my attention (yesterday in fact) that Jason Kristopher, author of The Dying of the Light:  End, is quite a busy man.  Turns out, he has taken up a cause that I can wholly support — publishing authors that normally wouldn’t stand of chance of anyone except friends and family seeing their work.  He operates Grey Gecko Press, whose purpose is “helping foster many new and talented authors in the years to come.”

The best description of Grey Gecko Press is Mr. Kristopher’s own:

“If you’ve ever written a story and been turned down, or if you’re frustrated by the way ‘the system’ works against new authors, or if you just want to try something different, give us a shout. I can’t promise that we’ll publish what you write, but I will promise to listen and to give you a chance. With no preconceived notions or ideas, no artificial barriers.”

So, if you ever thought no one would publish your book or, if like me and just enjoy great work, stop by his site and check it out.  While you’re there, you might as well pick up a book, too.

Rod Redux

Rod Redux’s horror and fantasy work as described on his Amazon page“The novels of Rod Redux are challenging, subversive and fantastical, merging genres and pushing the boundaries of propriety and good taste.”

I can agree with that.

When I first came across Mr. Redux’s name while searching out a good zombie book, two things struck me:  first, I honestly thought that the name “Rod Redux” had to be a pseudonym (a weird one at that) and second, due to my impression of his name, his books would be very cheesy.  However, instead of just moving on I found a book by him called Mort and read some of the reviews of it listed on Amazon.

At the time, I had been in a zombie book rut — it seemed like no matter which book I purchased I was being let down again and again.  The reviews of Mort on Amazon didn’t help all that much either, as some were good and some were bad.  I am well aware that reviews are all highly subjective and therefore in my mind, suspect.  This is important to me because after all, these books ain’t free.  Against the cynical voice in my head telling me not to, I went ahead and purchased the book.  Man, am I glad I didn’t listen to that negative little pissant voice.

Every once in a while, a book or film comes along that changes your mindset about a genre in such a way that it can never be switched back to its original setting.  This is what happened to me with Mort.  With Mort, Mr. Redux takes a done-to-death (ha ha) sub-genre (zombies) and instead of cheapening or exploiting it, actually manages to enhance it.  It’s not just that he added some twists to the mix (he did), but he was able to combine those twists with characters and a plot that were deep enough to not only keep you interested, but to make you feel involved.  I’m not saying that Mort is Shakespeare or that it’s going to change the world but that doesn’t mean it’s not still one heck of a great zombie book.

After being so pleased with Mort, I decided to check out some of Mr. Redux’s other offerings.  Next on my list was The Oldest Living Vampire Tells All — I wasn’t expecting much.  But again, my initial impression was proved wrong.  It’s an interesting book with a very unique main character.  Suffice it to say that after book number two, I went on and read his other books.  Not all of them had the impact on me that Mort did, but not one of them let me down.  He really is an author you just shouldn’t miss.

Here is a list of his current work, with my ratings:

  • Mort  5/5
  • The Oldest Living Vampire Tells All  5/5
  • The Oldest Living Vampire On The Prowl 5/5
  • Menace of Club Mephistopheles  4/5
  • Hole:  A Ghost Story  4/5
  • Indian Summer  5/5

Mr. Redux is currently working on a new novel, House of Dead Trees, and you can read an excerpt here.  He is also planning on a sequel to Mort, which this zombie fan ain’t gonna miss.

UPDATE 8/19/11:  On a whim, I decided to search around a bit about the sequel to Mort and found this, which indicates he is not writing a sequel.  However, I know I saw somewhere that he said he was after the date of the link above and will post it as soon as I find it again.  Maybe his mom convinced him to write a sequel?  Just keepin ya in the loop!

SIDE NOTE THAT HAS (ALMOST) NO BEARING ON THIS REVIEW:  I have seen a lot of horror book reviews that complain about the amount of sex and harsh language contained within them.  Here is my bottom line on this subject:  if the sex and language is even slightly pertinent to the story, I could care less if they are having orgies on Mars while screaming “Fuck Me Harder Beltran!” every other sentence.  It’s a HORROR book people; it is supposed to push boundaries.  If you don’t like that, there are plenty of books written in the same genre that leave all of that out.  To be fair however, some authors do like to add extra curse words and detailed sex scenes for no apparent reason and I agree it gets annoying, but only because it can take away from the story.  But even if they do that though, there is something you can do to make it go away right quick — flip the page.  You might just enjoy the book in spite of it.

The Dying of the Light:  End by Jason Kristopher

The Dying of the Light: End

This is one of many books I choose sort of haphazardly based on the “items others have purchased” function on Amazon’s website.  Whereas this tactic often lands me with a book that I have to struggle to finish and/or deal with poor to non-existent editing, it’s still a worthwhile endeavor for a few reasons.  First, there are some real gems to be found this way and second, I am a true believer in reading works by authors who would have never been published back in the day (support unknown authors dammit!).   This is how I found The Dying of the Light:  End.  I should warn you, I am a fan of reading a story as fresh as possible.  So, I give as few details as possible on everything I review, while still attempting to ensure it is accurate and informative.  I also do not read any reviews before I write mine, so for better or worse, they are untainted by what others  have said.  On to the review…

The story is a zombie tale which is told primarily from the point of view of a somewhat reluctant soldier, David.  It begins with an interesting few chapters of a fictional history of the first zombies and a couple of characters brought in again later in the book.  Overall a nice, if a bit oddly placed lead-in to the rest of the story.

The majority of the book tells the tale of a government group of super-secret (aren’t they all?),  elite soldiers known as AEGIS (Advanced Experimental Genetics Intelligence Service) and their role with a zombie problem facing the world.  It’s not a typical “end of the world” tale, as it does not take place after bazillions of zombies decided to start chomping on humanity.  As I tend to enjoy those types of books, I thought this would make the book boring, but Mr. Kristopher does such a good job of character development and story telling that I was happy to be wrong.  (It also has some pretty good zombie chow-downs to boot, but lacked a little in the gore department for my tastes.)

Although there is a bit more soldier and gun lingo than I would like, it’s not nearly as bad as some books that ooze with so many military acronyms I lose track of what weapon is what, much less which calibers.  In this book the lingo makes sense, and it seems like the author tried to tone it down a bit for the sake of us civilian readers.  Thanks man, I appreciate it.

All in all, this was a solid book with a pleasant mix of zombies, military good guys, science and history (albeit fake history) and I recommend it.  On the negative side, there were a few slow areas but not enough to make me lose interest.  There were also a couple too many love scenes between the main character and his woman, but we are saved from falling into the romance novel porn pit that some horror books  throw us into.  Lastly, I would have liked to have seen more of a few of the lesser characters, some of which didn’t make it to the end.  That sucks.  But, since a sequel is on the way, The Dying of the Light:  Interval, I am hopeful to see the ones who did manage to make it very soon.  If that link doesn’t work for you, here’s another just in case.

YOU JUST MIGHT CARE, SO:   The Kindle version of The Dying of the Light:  End includes a preview of Interval.  I was impressed and very much intrigued.  It’s a definite buy once released.

For those that are unfamiliar with Jeff Strand, he’s a horror fiction writer whose work is probably best described as horror/comedy.  Probably.  Well, maybe.  It’s hard to pin down exactly what he does in his books without writing an essay — and since I wouldn’t torture you with what would surely be a hot mess — I suggest you go and grab a copy of one of his books and see for yourself what I mean.

Jeff Strand

To date, the books I have read of his are limited to what is currently available on Kindle, which means there are a few out there (The Haunted Forest Tour, for one) that I am totally pissed off I can’t get from Amazon.  (Yes, I know I could order the paperback and wait for it in the mail, but that would require some degree of patience, of which I have none.)  Anyway, his books have a way of blending horror and comedy that turns the horror story on its head.  You end up (at least I did) caring a great deal about the so-called “monsters” in the stories and coming away with a kind of reinforcement of the morals mom tried to teach us, and we promptly forgot (or mentally deleted on purpose).  Odd?  Yes.  Fantastically different?  Absolutely.

Take Benjamin’s Parasite.  I sincerely feel that you have no soul if you didn’t care about well, Benjamin’s parasite.  Sure, you cared about Benjamin (mostly) but what is not to love about a parasite that can speak to you in your head and tells you it’s your best friend constantly?  It knows you really, really well and still loves you.  I don’t know about you, but I need more friends like that.

So, if my blathering didn’t turn you off to Jeff Strand’s work, here are some of his other offerings I highly recommend (in no particular order):

  • Dweller
  • Fangboy
  • Wolf Hunt
  • The Mad and the Macabre:  Kutter
  • Mandibles
  • Pressure
  • The Sinister Mr. Corpse

For a complete list of Mr. Strands work, click here:  http://jeffstrand.wordpress.com/

PS.  If by chance you ever read this Mr. Strand, you did kind of piss me off with the ending of Dweller, but I forgive you.  More importantly, I am sure Owen forgives you.

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