Daniel I. Russell is the author of Entertaining Demons, Samhane, Retard, Come Into Darkness, Critique, The Collector Book 1: Mana Leak, Mother's Boys and the huge collection Tricks, Mischief and Mayhem. Daniel is a HWA active member and represented by the Tobias Literary Agency, NYC. Daniel has also been the vice-president of the Australian Horror Writers' Association, special guest editor of Midnight Echo, associate and technical editor for Necrotic Tissue, and Shadow Awards judge.
Review: Hollow House by Greg Chapman
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Thursday, February 28, 2013Bonjour!
A quick ad hoc blog post today, just to give a shout out to my French visitors, of which it seems there have been many of late.
With horror big in America, and with my own thing of being English/Australian and with books translated into German, I keep a keen eye on these countries, but have always had an interest to look into the horror scene in France and Japan. Maybe it's the time to diversify!
Anyway, to my French friends, thank you for stopping by. Should you have any information on French publishers or authors, I would very much like to hear from you, the readers! Feel free to leave a comment or to email me direct at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013REVIEW OF...FLESH GOTHIC BY EDWARD LEE
Now first off I have to admit that this was a Leisure edition of Flesh Gothic. Now I know it's very unfashionable to read Leisure titles since...well, you know...but I still had a stack of them on the TBR pile. Am I going to give up on good books? No Sir! After enjoying many of Lee's books now from Deadite Press, I saved a particularly chunky novel within my dwindling Leisure pile for later. I could wait no longer, and here is my review.
Although if you can get hold of this from a legit publisher wherein the author will get paid, please do. For example, German readers can get this through Festa Verlag.
Hildreth is your typical rich lunatic with a full on kinky sex fetish, so much so, that he buys a porn company, which he sets up in his mansion. While the ultimate acts of degradation take place within the walls, Hildreth has something grander up his sleeve. One night, as the sick frivolity reaches a crescendo, the porn stars and drug addicts are slaughtered mid orgy.
Some weeks later, Hildreth's ultra rich wife wants answers and pays for a crew of psychics to investigate the terrifying mansion, accompanied by a writer to document the events.
Horrific events took place in that house, but that was just to set things in motion...
Ah yes. We return once again to the tried and tested formula of the haunted mansion. Not that this is a bad thing. I've read many, many haunted house books, including those from Lee's Leisure stablemates Douglas Clegg in his HARROW series, and Graham Masterton does a particularly effective haunted house in the likes of THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT and WALKERS. Can Lee stand out with such successful books from the same publisher?
Lee has a very unique voice in horror, and while not to everyone's taste, I'd go out on a limb and say that Lee is a master of visceral and extreme horror. He goes further than physical torture and depiction. Disgust and sickness without boundaries. That's Edward Lee.
"Yes, Dan," you might be saying, "you might be easily satisfied with gratuity, but I require more with my horror, jerk."
No need to be rude, but I know what you mean. Again, Lee delivers here. The thing I love about his work is that he really does hook you in. I found myself returning to this book at eleven at night when I'd turned in for bed after a tiring day. Why could I not go to sleep without getting a few chapters in? Simple. The secret to good story telling.
I wanted to know what happened next.
So while raping monsters made of fat, vaginal piercing chastity belts and (spoiler) a spirit being inhaled and literally raped out might not have general appeal, if you have the stomach, get on this, and get into Edward Lee. He rips one hell of a yarn.
Sunday, February 24, 2013REVIEW OF...DEAD SPACE 3 (Yes, I do games now too)
This has been crying out for a review all week, but I've been stuck in Liberty City.
Okay, Dead Space 3. If you don't know this already, the first Dead Space is one of my all time favourite games. It has it all: atmosphere, story and action. Dead Space 2 expands on the ideas of the original, but taking place in larger locations, loses some of that all important feeling of desolation, no matter how many creepy, blood splattered nurseries you chuck in there.
So how does the third installment size up?
Number 3 once again puts us in the rig of Isaac Clarke. While the game offers a previously on Dead Space video to get players up to speed, the marker story line is getting somewhat convoluted by now, and I found it best to go into this one fresh.
Turns out after surviving the events in the last game, Isaac and fellow survivor Ellie had a short lasting relationship which Isaac still dwells on. Enter Captain and complete dick clown Norton and his lacky Carver, who convince Isaac to accompany them to rescue Ellie, who resumed her mission to destroy the markers. Before her ship went dark, she requested Isaac and his expertise...
Oh, and there's another anus monkey called Danik who is a Unitologist, because religious fruitcakes always make the best villains.
The game can be considered as four parts. The introduction is very action heavy and loaded with set pieces as Isaac, Norton and Carver attempt to leave a panicked metropolis with Danik's forces hunting them down. I was initially worried that things had gone too far down a Gears path with cover based shooting. At least there are enemies that shoot back bullets this time.
Enter space and we settle down into core Dead Space gameplay. Long, empty corridors. Skittering sounds from the vents. Following that blue glowing line down elevators through the dark, deeper into the bowels of a ship haunted by quick, vicious killers.
The usual necromorph specimens are here with a few new ones thrown in for good measure in the latter half of the game. Yet I felt the gooey beasties could take more of a licking and had a tendency to come at you in groups of four or five at a time, even creeping up behind you more often. They're also noticeably faster, so keep your stasis topped up!
We also see a fair bit of this:
Now while at this point things are all well and good in Dead Space Land, and I'm remembering how much I adore this series, things were feeling a tad stagnant. I've been in cities, on ships and floating through space before. Is this just a rehash?
DS3 brings a new environment to the table in form of Tau Volantis, the Hoth-esque ice planet on which the crew find themselves. Cue low visability, challenges regarding staying warm and as for those pesky necromorphs...they can jump out of the snow. Anywhere. At any time! Within a few minutes of landing, you'll soon to learn to keep on your toes.
Volantis has a strong Carpenter's The Thing vibe, which can never be a bad thing.
The final parts of the game again offer another completely new environment to the series, and a special kind of necromorph that will have you sweating when you see it dashing towards you, and shitting when you see two of them dashing towards you.
Another major new feature is regarding the benches. Rather than simply swapping weapons or upgrading them via circuits, players can now build weaponry from scratch, mix and match their preferred types, fine tune them with special features and then add new circuits to cater weaponry just the way you want it. My set up involved an epic missile and grenade launcher with extra damage upgrades to take out crowds or larger necromorphs in one slot, and a wide angled plasma cutter (classic) with an electric ripper for the weak and fast 'feeders' (or skinnymen, as I call them) in the other.
Scavenger bots are also a new inclusion and aid in gathering resources for building or upgrading weapons/rig. Big love for the little guys.
Negatives? The storyline is a bit jaded at times, with things never going Isaac's way, yet he always gets through it in the end.
"I'll get us a ship outta here. Gimme five minutes."
"Okay, I found us a ship. But it needs an engine. The engine is two floors down and guarded by a huge blob thing that shoots off little blob...things. Gimme five minutes."
(gasping) "Okay I got the engine, but my screw driver won't fit. It needs a flat one and I have a bloody Phillips head! Typical. I need to go down to the workshop to find one."
"Isaac here again. Someone put gum in the lock to the workshop and I can't get in. In addition, I left my lunch back on Uxor and I think I'm getting a touch of the flu. Gimme five minutes."
At times it's like Some Mother's Do 'Ave 'Em in space...
Will there be a DS4? I hope so, as long as the devs give us taste of something new once more. Desert world Necromorphs for example would be interesting.
DS1 is still my favourite, but DS3 is a highly polished, top class action horror game. Highly recommended.
Thursday, February 14, 2013Review of...INFERNUS
With any item I write, be it fiction in novels and short stories, or nonfiction, which is mainly reviews like this, I have a pretty plan in mind with where I want to go. You know, introduction, plot summary, my thoughts and then a final verdict. This one is…different. This is going to be one of the hardest reviews I’ve written.
Why? Because INFERNUS by Mike Jones is a very different book indeed.
Hell is a popular subject among writers be it a touch of classical with Dante, pleasure and pain indivisible with Barker, or something akin to a demonic Dali painting, like the recently read Through the Inbetween Hell Awaits by Robert Essig. Out of all the visions of Hell, the one that stuck with me the most was from one of the stories in the anthology Hellbound Hearts: Orfeo the Damned by Nancy Holder. In it, the unfortunate protagonist opens the puzzle box and is taken to Hell, but what made this stand out was how the author captured the sheer scale of the torment. Here, the victim was not only being tortured, but was being tortured in an infinite number of ways all in the same instance. There is no hope, nor reprieve. Just an uncountable number of atrocities, forever.
Jones hits this on the head with INFERNUS, wherein each torment (and my oh my is there a lot of torment depicted in this book!) goes on for millennia, yet all INFERNUS unfurls in a single moment.
It’s very hard to describe the plot of INFERNUS, as to be honest, it doesn’t sound like much. The nude subject of an arts class regales the story of INFERNUS to the students. A story within a story, we follow a new occupant of Hell who is to be trained by his maybe father, a red demon.
See I look at what I’ve just written…and no. It’s not right. It is right, but it’s not…
INFERNUS is a very strange book, and as the writer himself mentions in his afterword, things are linked in circles. Things come full circle. Circles fold in. Things go backwards, forwards and whothefuckknowswards. Some may simply see the book as a repetitive list of homo-erogenous acts of violence, but it’s much much more than that….but it isn’t…but then it is. It’s everything and nothing.
I know that you’re probably sat reading this and wondering just what the Hell (pun intended?) I’m banging on about, but how can you review a novella that equates to the rantings of a mad man?
This is how INFERNUS comes across, and the author is unashamed by this approach. It’s even part of the book’s charm.
If you want a more traditional story with a start, middle and end, a relatable protagonist with a love interest and an action packed finale, you won’t find that here. This is obscene, bizarre and the insanity of its composition shouldn’t work, but it does, in this reviewer’s opinion anyway.
I wish I could find more works like this, not just books that are outside the box, but books that are like this:
If you want something radically different, and can stomach all the gore, buggery and all the juices that come with them, grab yourself a copy.
Sunday, February 10, 2013Innsmouth Free Press reviews The Collector Book 1: Mana Leak
The Collector has been reviewed over at Innsmouth Free Press!
Check it out here.
Thursday, February 07, 2013Out this week: Zippered Flesh 2
Zippered Flesh 2 (More tales of body enhancement gone bad!) has hit the shelves this week. The original went down well with readers and the sequel looks to continue the success.
The anthology contains my story Prosthetics, a Dr. Sally (Samhane) origin story that was originally published in Malpractice: Tales of Bedside Terror.
But take a look at the TOC!
Kealan Patrick Burke
David Benton & W.D. Gagliani
Christian A. Larson
Zippered Flesh 2 is available from Amazon. Just click on the cover! ;-)
Wednesday, February 06, 2013Review of... The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
An exgirlfriend of mine, while we at university and she was doing a writing degree, quite confidently stated that books are written because authors have to deliver a message of their own agenda. This message may be wrapped in and hidden away in the subtext of a piece of fiction, but it’s there. I disagreed, and still do. Yes, an author can do this, but can’t an author simply want to tell a story or entertain?
With The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, I got a very clear message that wasn’t quite as subtle as I would have thought.
In HTK, Yeine is the leader of the kingdom of Darr, a clan of warrior women in the north. The barbarian is surprised to find herself summoned to the floating palace of Sky, wherein her grandfather, the ruler of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is to choose an heir. The choice is between Yeine, the outsider, or his spoiled, evil niece or indulgent drunk nephew. Yeine, reluctant to enter into such a contest, takes the opportunity to delve into the mystery of her mother’s death. Did her grandfather order the killing, as she’s believed for years, or is there a deeper mystery at play here?
I’m sitting on the sofa writing this on my laptop. The early morning sun is coming in through the window, and I can smell the rich espresso from the cup beside me.
This was a book I received free at Swancon 2011. I keep a small stash of fantasy to dip into as a change from the horror.
Although I call this fantasy, I’ve seen it dubbed as romance. There are romantic elements, certainly, but the drawer of attention appears to be: majestic sex with gods! The sex is very PG here with no mention of anything even slightly rude. If you had sex while out of your tree on LSD, and described the LSD bit over the sex, you get an idea of the scenes here. So just a warning, erotica lovers, this is NOT erotica!
And fantasy lovers…I wouldn’t call this a straight up fantasy novel either. It reads more like a political mystery set in a hovering fairy tale castle. The protagonist Yeine just seems to wander from room to room, talking to people. Yes, twists emerge to make for a more intricate plot, so then Yeine has to go and talk to everyone all over again. Repeat the cycle a few times with Yeine getting more moaning and whining each time and you have the book. Even one of the characters complains to her about her endless whinging towards the end. Good on him.
I like circuses. Do you like circuses, Duffy?
For a book titled Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, we see very little outside the palace walls and the endless talking. To have such a good premise and not use it is a shame. The very rare moments that something happens elsewhere or simply something happens at all, is like the reader coming up for a well needed gasp of air before going back down into the murk.
Don’t get me wrong, the writing is of a high standard, and this author can certainly do a good job, but is let down by a short-sighted plot and some annoying habits.
These scene breaks. Annoying aren’t they? Now picture a four hundred page novel written like this. Seriously. How the hell an editor of a mass market publisher would green light this is beyond me. Some of them don’t even make sense.
Mickey, Minnie and Goofy triple fatty bang bang.
So in summary, no, I did not like this book much and will not be looking into part two of the trilogy. I would rather read something from this author over some piece of crap from a writer who doesn’t have the tools in his/her author toolbox, but yeah, not for me.
What of this not so subtle message that I mentioned?
I hope other readers picked up that every female character in this book is powerful. They’re gods, or leaders, or have a strong, commanding presence. They’re fighters and world changers.
The men….not so much. Every male character is greedy or weak or basically a shit. Most are patronising to women. I thought about the exceptions. One god, Nahadoth, who the author appears to like and is the source of the LSD sex scenes, turns out isn’t necessarily male (and she even hints that he is more of a female in one scene). So he doesn’t count. With another god, Yeine doesn’t like him much unless he’s in child form. The only other reputable male character is a guy called T’vril. Turns out he’s crap in bed and a bit of a coward to boot.
The book reads like the author was dumped/cheated on and wrote the book in a ‘all men are arseholes, yet I am a warrior woman. Hear me roar!’ kinda mood. It soured what was already a mediocre experience for me. Not because I’m male and felt hard done to; I’d feel the same if the book was having a pop at women (and even Ketchum books where women are being raped/tortured have balance).
My third dip into my fantasy pile and my second disappointment (loved The Hobbit, obviously).