Tag Archives: Serial Killers

The Way of All Flesh

May I once again state that I am sick to death of zombies. Seriously, weary of the walking dead. I don’t much care any more if they lope or shuffle, run or even fly. I’m all out of shits to give for the cavorting cadavers. Its all grown so damn boring.

Then Tim Waggoner decided to craft a zombie novel. I’m a big fan of Tim Waggoner. So when I was asked if I would like to review it, I said certainly. And when it arrived, I kind of thought I was in for it. The cover is a little hokey. Not horrible but not at all as cool as the inner contents.

The Way of All Flesh is a novel that is populated with the usual set pieces and suspects: A rag tag group of survivors holed up somewhere, in this case a fortified school. We have a brave warrior maiden, Kate, and her bookishly smart girlfriend, Marie. We have the macho man among them who is not at all what he seems to be. His name is Nicholas and before the zombie apocalypse he made Jeffrey Dahmer look like Michael Landon! Now that society has crumbled and zombies are the most feared in the land, he kind of lost his title. He ain’t happy about it. In his quest to regain his status as top predator, he really gets in touch with his psycho-side. I mean really.

But our hero is David, he’s a zombie and he’s also Kate’s twin brother. He doesn’t really know he’s a zombie. Zombies view the world a bit differently. They see humans as grotesque creatures out to kill them for sport. They also view one another as though they were normal living folks. David must find his family and save them and try to figure out what the hell is going on. He is dogged along the way by Simon, a skatery youth in a Megadeth shirt. Simon seems to know a great deal about what is happening and could help a lot more than he does. He’s kind of an asshole.

These are the ingredients to one of the most amusing zombie novels I’ve read as of late. There is zombie gore, people eating and all that, but damned if Waggoner doesn’t introduce existentialism and one of the most ingenious devices for the cause of a zombie apocalypse EVER. And when things get gruesome and fucked up, they get really gruesome and fucked up.

Deft characters and a cinematic gait keep The Way of All Flesh a fun sliver of bloody entertainment. Get it now from the fine folks at Samhain Publishing.

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Cain’s Blood

The premise of Geoffrey Gerard’s debut novel, Cain’s Blood, is enough to make any horror aficionado pluck it from the shelf and give it a good once over. Clones of the world’s most infamous serial killers have escaped from a government-funded facility, leaving a trail of violent crimes in their wake. Shawn Castillo, a former black ops soldier, has been tasked with the capture of the escaped clones and ultimately teams up a young boy created from the genes of Jeffery Dahmer. What’s not to love?

Sadly, the brilliance of the premise is tarnished by the delivery. This is largely due to the novel’s rapid pace. Reading Cain’s Blood is akin to traversing a carnival in a rocket car. There are plenty of cool things to see, but most of the time you’re moving far too fast to get a good look. Much of the plot has the characters moving from state to state in pursuit, but little of the scenery is ever mentioned. Likewise, many of the houses and hotel rooms are cycled through with little attention to detail. What’s worse is that this breakneck speed kills much of the suspense the novel could have had. In the horror genre, pacing is King. No amount of crime scenes or gallons of blood can change that.  At its heart, Cain’s Blood is more of a thriller one might take to the beach than a horror novel.

In terms of characterization, those who populate the novel often fall into worn tropes, particularly the protagonists. The damaged soldier seeking redemption and the misunderstood youth can feel paper thin in places, and the reader isn’t given solid reasons to cheer them on until later in the book. Additionally, the young clone is clearly used as a poster child for the nature vs. nurture debate, turning him into more of a medium for the author’s thoughts on the subject than a fully-realized character. The escaped killers themselves also leave something to be desired in terms of development as much of their characterization is heavily dependent on the personas of the originals to the point of it being a crutch, overshadowing any personal experience the clones might have, at least in the case of those partaking in the killing spree.

One of the stronger aspects of the novel is the information on cloning sprinkled throughout. Girard has done his homework, and it certainly shows. From a brief overview of cloning to open the novel to lectures on various government experiments and cover-ups, plenty of ground is covered. While this can sometimes turn into a heavy-handed info dump as a character proceeds to tell the reader about a dozen related events at a go, these insights tend to be some of the more enjoyable sections the book has to offer.

While the use of facts regarding real events makes progress toward cementing the premise in reality and making it more believable, almost every plot choice in the novel works to do the exact opposite. Between the addition of other government science experiments and Hollywood style shootouts, much of the novel ends up coming off as outlandish rather than convincing. Throw in a number of gaps in logic regarding the behavior of the escaped clones and a highly convenient ending and everything becomes a little too unstable. The suggestion that a clone of John Wayne Gacy would be genetically predisposed to wearing a clown suit and makeup is tenuous at best, as is the concept that a handful of homicidal loners would pile in a car for a murderous road trip.

It may be worth pointing out that the Internet is full of praise for the novel, and that while reading these reviews I felt as though I had experienced something entirely different from the average reviewer. If you’re looking to read something that is quick and requires little mental effort to digest, Cain’s Blood may be for you. However, if you are looking for something with prose that goes the extra mile and suspense served up with a good, old-fashioned sense of dread, it may be best to look elsewhere.

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The Serial Killer trope is a hard one to crack. I mean, we’ve all seen hundreds of movies that have had hundreds of imitators…it’s like a Xerox of a Xerox of a Xerox. With Hacks, Brian Knight delivers a gore-drenched love letter to the “stalker in the woods” corner or our horror estate. While not going above and beyond with originality, it makes up for it with strong characters and detailed plotting.

A fine young talent receives an invite to a prestigious retreat for writers. He is ecstatic and eager to attend, not only to hobnob with the elite of his field but to get away from the soon-to-be ex-wife and her unabashed bitchiness.

Once there, the body count starts to rise.

As I mentioned earlier, the plot is fairly cookie-cutter stuff. Where Knight shines is with his rich character portrayals—most of which are based on actual writers I would wager. The writing is strong and the pacing excellent.

Writing is about entertaining the reader. If you can do that, you can’t ask for more. Knight does that with Hacks, and he does it well.

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Psychos and the Appalachian Undead

Some staff news, ya’ll! Cue banjo!

This coming October, if not sooner, Apex Publications is set to release Appalachian Undead, a new anthology dedicated to the walking dead. I contributed a quirky tale called “Long Days to Come.”

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The brilliant artwork was created by Cortney Skinner. Quite a lineup, too: Elizabeth Massie, Jonathan Maberry, Tim Waggoner, S. Clayton Rhodes*, Maurice Broaddus, Bev Vincent, Tim Lebbon, Steve Rasnic Tem, John Skipp* & Dori Miller, and Gary A. Braunbeck, to name a few more than a few.

If you’d like to check out the full table of contents, click here.

You can also pre-order via the above link (and get 5% off if you tweet the link), but before you do, check out this groovy contest they’re running for those who do pre-order.

As always from Apex Publications, you can expect quality.

Not to be outdone, Mercedes and John each have stories—“Murder for Beginners” and “Intruder,” respectively—in Psychos: Serial Killers, Depraved Madmen, and the Criminally Insane, the latest slab—and I do mean slab; these things are massive—in an ongoing series edited by the inimitable John Skipp which has thus far included Zombies: Encounters with the Hungry Dead, Werewolves and Shapeshifters: Encounters with the Beasts Within, and Demons: Encounters with the Devil and His Minions, Fallen Angels, and the Possessed.

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Psychos is due out in September via Black Dog & Leventhal, and features new and classic fiction from the likes of Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Jack Ketchum, Joe R. Lansdale, Lawerence Block, Neil Gaiman, Leslianne Wilder*, Violet LeVoit, Weston Ochse*, Kathe Koja, and many more.

If you order now, Amazon has it for $10.07. That’s 608 pages for $10! No-brainer.

We hope you’ll buy both!

* Shock Totem alumni.

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