You may have noticed lately that I haven’t been posting too many book reviews. There’s two very good reasons for this. First is that lately I haven’t had a lot of free time for reading, so if a horror novel doesn’t grab me in the first 1-3 chapters, well I just toss it aside and look for the next book. Second; I’ve been reading some really shitty horror novels lately. REALLY shitty ones that I’m not even getting 2 chapters into. Well luckily I recently hit upon an anthology, a zombie book, and a graphic novel that were all fun and which have inspired me to wanna read more books. Let’s start with the horror anthology.
TWICE THE TERROR, VOL. 2 (edited by Jeani Rector, incorporates short stories, horror poetry, and horror sketches into a pretty diverse and fun book. The sketches, which are good (not great), won’t leave a lasting impression on you. The best by far was a sketch of Vincent Price by Jason Beam which I’d love to have blown up so I could hang it on my wall. But other than this one you won’t find yourself overly impressed or “blown away” with the majority of them.
Unfortunately the poetry will have the same effect on you as the sketches. There was nothing in the poetry section that really grabbed me. Most of it, and I’m sorry to sound like a prick here, reads on a high school level. Let me give you an example from poet E.J. Tett titled “Crazy for You”:
[I HAD THE POEM INSERTED HERE BUT THE AUTHOR CONTACTED ME ASKING ME TO REMOVE IT. I GUESS SHE’S EMBARRASSED BY IT AS WELL!! — Ed.]
Really? That is a really bad poem, and author Tett has three more poems (just as good) in this anthology.
Luckily the short stories are stronger than the art and poems and save this anthology. There are some stories by well known authors such as Bentley Little and Graham Masterton, but the majority are written by unknown and previously unpublished authors. “The Flock” by Chris Castle was an interesting little story with some gothic overtones. Unfortunately the story has an ending like you’d expect to see in an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE. The same goes for “Erasure” by Sandhya Falls about a woman who is seriously stressed out over giving a speech. It’s a nice idea but has a very TWILIGHT ZONE-ish ending. Perhaps my favourite story was David Bernstein’s “It’s a Boy” about a zombie baby. The writing was definitely more mature than most of the stories here, and the ending was extremely satisfying. “It’s a Boy” will mind you of the recent zombie baby movie GRACE.
So skip the sketches and poetry and go straight to the short stories in TWICE THE TERROR, VOL. 2. Besides having a few immature and inexperienced writers, overall the stories will keep you interested and are fun.
Editor: Jeani Rector
Overall Book: 3 out of 5 stars
Overall Gore: 4 out of 10 skulls
DR. DALE’S ZOMBIE DICTIONARY: THE A-Z GUIDE TO STAYING ALIVE by Dr. Dale Seslick is exactly like the title suggests … this is a tongue-in-cheek “reference” guide for staying alive in the upcoming zombie apocalypse. But unlike other similar books (like Brooks’ ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE), Seslick’s ZOMBIE DICTIONARY is done for humor, and it gets that humor right. The ZOMBIE DICTIONARY isn’t poking fun at the genre and the people who love it; it’s a self-referential book that finds the humor in the impending zombie apocalypse. But amidst all the humor there are some really solid survival tips that readers could actually use.
It doesn’t take long for the comedy to start: In the “Dedication” Dr. Dale thanks
[T]he random homeless people who gave their time and bodies for a plate of sandwiches in order for us to carry out experiments on them, in the current absence of any undead.
When I read this I immediately thought of Lucio Fulci’s THE BEYOND and how Fulci used homeless people for zombies and dead people at the end of his flick. And all he paid them in was cheap wine. Maybe this was a reference to that; maybe it wasn’t. But it worked for me.
After an introduction in which Dr. Dale tells us he wrote this book “to make sure we don’t get our intestines ripped out,” we get an overview of the basics of zombies, and then we jump into the ABC’s of zombology. This is just a hilarious read where I found myself laughing out loud a lot. I honestly can’t remember the last time I had so much fun reading a book!! When talking about animals (in the “A” section of course), Dr. Dale discusses the best animals to train to help fend off the living dead. His conclusion, most likely after much research, is that sheep are the best animals to train. But as he points out:
The only thing to consider when training sheep is that they are not very good at multitasking and so you will only by able to train each sheep to carry out one specific task.
Such ‘tasks’ include “Attack Sheep,” “Defense Sheep,” Reconnaissance Sheep,” “Guard Sheep,” and “Search Sheep.” In case I need to point out the obvious, he’s talking about training fucking sheep people!! I was laughing out loud in this section. One problem with the attack sheep is that they only come up to a zombie’s groin area, so you need to either “train the sheep to lever itself on its hind legs … or you could train the sheep to stand on top of each other” in order to get to and destroy the zombie’s brains. That is good, funny stuff there people.
The ZOMBIE DICTIONARY is also very current and makes references to such movies as MEGA SHARK VS. GIANT OCTOPUS, ZOMBIELAND, DEAD SNOW, and video games such as LEFT 4 DEAD 2. Dr. Dale also stresses the importance and use of zombie video games as part of our training for the upcoming apocalypse.
I could easily go on for pages re-typing hilarious sections of this book for you but the bottom line is if you want a really fun, fast, and hilarious read pick up Dr. Dale’s ZOMBIE DICTIONARY. Besides the great writing, there’s also a ton of great sketches that illustrate certain important points. As Dr. Dale says about researching this book,
[L]ike most resourceful, intelligent people … we have researched our information thoroughly using movies, books, blogs, forums, Wikipedia and a man down the pub who we think is called Bob…or perhaps Bert – can’t really remember, but he does wear a hat.
I think that says it all!! Pick this book up people.
Author: Dr. Dale Seslick
Plot: 5 out of 5
Gore: 0 out of 10 (this isn’t written as a “gory” book)
The last book I read recently isn’t a book at all but a graphic novel titled HARBOR MOON. This is written, edited, and produced by Ryan Colucci and tells the story of a man, Timothy Vance, searching for his identity. Timothy’s search brings him too Harbor Moon where the answers lie somewhere in the secretive town. We follow Timothy as he unravels clues as to both he and his father’s identities as well as a secret that will forever change his life. I know I’m sounding really cryptic here, but to give away any more details would be to ruin the story arc.
HARBOR MOON was really enjoyable and although you’ll figure out the secret the town is hiding pretty quick it doesn’t take away from any of the fun or suspense. The way the story ends Colucci is definitely intending to make a series out of this, and I hope he does. I really like what he does with the character of Timothy Vance. Vance, of course, comes to realize who and what he is by the end of this graphic novel and the story is open for future problems (there’s a group of men who want to wipe out the people of Harbor Moon). But in and of itself, Colucci writes a self contained graphic novel that even if another one isn’t written you’ll still feel satisfied with this one’s conclusion.
I also really enjoyed the art work in HARBOR MOON, done by Pawel Sambor. We get a lot of dark browns and earth-like tones that are accented by the occasional bursts of bright red and yellow. The contrast is pretty damn striking and the darker tones really help to establish the mood and atmosphere of the story. It actually took me quite a bit more time getting through HARBOR MOON because I kept stopping and going back to look at the art work. Great job.
I’d really like to talk more in depth of the plot here but I’d rather you all go out and pick up a copy yourselves. HARBOR MOON is being released by Arcana Studio on February 15, 2011, although it was completely financed and edited by Colucci himself. This is most definitely a labor of love for Colucci and I think he does a great job. Just like I’m always urging you to go out and support indie horror filmmakers, go out and support indie writers and indie presses … I haven’t steered you wrong yet, have I!!
Author: Ryan Colucci
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Gore: 4.5 out of 10 skulls