This past Halloween I got a chance to finish up Jonathan Janz’s serial novel, Savage Species.  The last two parts of this book are pretty relentless.  The action is very high tension and there is no ease off the accelerator.  Just when you think a threat has been eliminated, three more pop up.  Janz has done a wonderful job of connecting the readers with the characters.  To the point that my heart was pounding hard as I read each word.

So let me get you caught up.  Group A which consists of Jesse, Emma, Colleen, and Red Elk are being chased through some caverns by a vicious species that Red Elk refers to as The Children.  We last left off with Emma and Colleen being taken away by some nasty bats.  Group B is Sam and Charly, followed by Charly’s jealous husband, Eric and his assistant Mel.  Group B is searching for Charly’s newborn who was kidnapped by one of the Children.

So naturally both groups eventually collide.  In part 4, The Arena, both groups finally reunite with their lost loved ones and are placed squarely in the middle of a battle between the Children and the Winged Species.  From here its escape and survive.

Since I was able to finish Savage Species, I can now comment on the story as  whole.  I loved what Janz did with the Species.  They are not necessarily vampires, but they are vampiric in nature.  Way more vicious than vampires and they certainly do not sparkle.  The characters and their stories are well crafted.  They help keep the story going forward when there are not any savages breathing down their necks.  The connection with the characters also make it difficult to get through part 5. 

Janz has crafted one hell of an action-packed story with wonderful characters and some nasty antagonists.

And I have a feeling we will be seeing the Savage Species again.

 

Mini-Movie Review:

Evil Dead:  Not so great.  Like many remakes, this one fails to capture most of the magic of the original.  There are some iconic images that fit well.  But for the most part, there is no character development and a whole lot of blood.  I enjoyed the twist of the story and the characters, but not enough for me to really tout this movie.  I am confounded as to why this movie received so much praise.  Two out of five stars.

Some quick, mini-reviews for ya as I blast through movies and stories on this fine October friday:

Let Me In – This is a shot for shot remake of the original foreign film Let the Right One In.  What it lacked was the emotion that was delivered in the original.  I suggest getting your hands on the original and best.  Subtitles be damned, it is a great story.  Not a scary story, but one worth experiencing.

Crypto-Squad by Eric S. Brown – A fun, quick read featuring your favorite cryptids; such as Loch Ness Monster, Mothman, the Sasquatch, Jersey Devil, and many more.  Brown creates a world in midst of a zombie invasion.  They have not overtaken the country, but are close to the verge of doing so.  A cult is at work to raising the dead for an army and in hopes of raising an ancient Snake God.  Working against them is a secret agency where humans and cryptids work together to fight the forces of evil.  This work is very sci-fi, very pulpy, and just plain fun.  The Mothman is by far the strongest character and will grow throughout the rest of the series.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – I attempted to watch this when I was 15 years old.  I ended up stopping the movie, because I was bored.  It must have been my young, adolescent mind that could not keep my attention.  I just viewed this ground-breaking film last night.  I wanted to gain the original perspective before watching the latest movie in the series.  First, Ed Gein has been a hell of a muse.  He inspired Hitchcock for developing Psycho.  Leatherface and his messed up family can also thank Ed Gein.  The story is a bit of a slow build as some teens are on a road trip through rural Texas.  They pickup a hitchhiker who, like in all horror movies, displays how insane he is.  They proceed to kick the man out and head out to some old property.  The action and killing picks up as one by one, the teens fall victim to Leatherface.

What TCM accomplished is using brutality to bring fear to the audience.  Everyone cringes at the sound of a chainsaw.  It is a tool of unstoppable pain and destruction.  The chase scene with Sally is very riveting.  I loved it when Leatherface would get close as she struggled through the brush.  And then Hooper has the audience delve into the insanity of the family at the dinner scene.  Superb horror film-making.  I anxiously await for the latest TCM movie to compare.

I’ve been a fan of Hunter Shea since he come onto the horror fiction scene with his debut novel, Forest of Shadows.  I became a fan because he convinced me to give his novel a try and it turned out to be a horror gem.  Shea gives us horror mixed in with fun, great characters, and his interests of ghost-hunting, comics, and writing.

Shea’s short, The Graveyard Speaks, is an intro to the character Jessica Backman, the main protagonist in his latest novel: Sinister Entity.  Sinister Entity is the second in a series orbiting around this character.  Backman was first introduced in Forest of Shadows, but only as a little girl with a special gift.

In this short, Backman is a college student while fulfilling her destiny as a ghost hunter.  She picks up a mysterious case featuring a black mist.  The story felt very episodic.  Character discovers a mystery.  Uses her friends to gain intel.  Takes on the problem.  Uses her gift to solve said problem.

Like an episode in a paranormal TV series, the short was used to establish the character of Jessica Backman.  Considering readers last knew her as a small girl, this was a great way for Shea to show us where he was going to take this character.

What I liked best and worst about the story was the ending.  Shea teases us with Backman’s next case about a Poltergeist (my fave kind of paranormal story).  I expect you to follow through on this one, Mr. Shea.

Hello everyone,

Sorry its been a while.  Coming in the next couple of days will be a bevy of reviews.  I was able to catch up on some reading and movie viewing.  Here’s the first.

 

So in the first release of this serial novel titled ‘Night Terrors’, Janz introduced us to some characters that really get to your heart.  A mother stuck in a relationship with an abusive husband.  A photographer on a trip with a reporter and crush of his life and their fellow co-worker.  Janz did a great job of quickly getting me attached to these characters.  And just as ‘Night Terrors’ finished, shit was hitting the fan.

In part 2 titled ‘The Children’, Janz does not let up on the action.  By the time the book was 60% done, I was literally breathless.  The main cast featuring Jesse do not get a break with the pursuing monsters.  The monsters themselves are parodies of the beasts from Richard Laymon’s work.  Janz has done a great job of giving tribute while still adding his own spice.  I especially enjoy the monsters marking some of their prey.  I can only guess what that will allude to, but I will not reveal anything here.

The B-story featuring Eric, Sam, and Charly also gets some development.  Janz shines again with characterization before throwing this cast of characters into the pit of hell, literally.

The monsters live up to their name in this one:  Savages.

Pick up Janz’s Savage Species on Amazon or at Samhain’s website.

Tomorrow will be the review of Hunter Shea’s short:  THE GRAVEYARD SPEAKS

I have always loved the tale of Sleepy Hollow.  As a kid, I was fascinated with the Headless Horseman and his mission to decapitate the poor residents of the small town.  I even enjoyed the Johnny Depp movie, despite its quite confusing ending and plot holes abound.

Most recently, Fox has followed the trend and produced Horror TV.  That’s right horror fans, Horror is the latest pop culture bubble.  With success of The Walking Dead, networks have scrambled to produce anything horror related to boost ratings.  SLEEPY HOLLOW is one of those recently produced television shows.

SLEEPY HOLLOW is part buddy cop with smart and tough Lieutenant for the Sleepy Hollow Sheriff’s department and a time-traveling Ichabod Crane.  Stay with me here, ’cause it gets better.  So Lt. Abbie Mills loses her partner and father figure at the hands of the headless horseman.  Meanwhile, Ichabod Crane wakes up in a cave surrounded by objects that suggest witchcraft.  A couple one-liners later with Crane making quips about the future and we figure out that there is evil abound in this small town.  Including a demon and John Cho.  The big reveal is that the Headless Horseman is actually part of THE Four Horseman.  So these two set out to stop the apocalypse. 

So that is the first episode, and I was curious to see how things were going to progress from there.  Hooked is a bit strong of a word; I would say I am the curious fish, nibbling at the bait.  After viewing the second episode, I can say they are going in the right direction…so far.  There is still plenty of time to mess this up.  Instead of Crane and the Horseman facing off each episode, it seems the buddies will be taking on all sorts of supernatural baddies as they come to this town.

This is not ground-breaking television.  This is popcorn television.  Guilty pleasure television.  Its a rehashed formula that the show SUPERNATURAL has used for years now; but It is also fun with a mystery.  I’m not going to proclaim that this program is must see.  But I just might miss it if it leaves.

I think this is best viewed Netflix style on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

Catch SLEEPY HOLLOW Mondays on Fox at 9pm.

I’m back, suckahs!

And I’m back with my review of Blake Crouch’s latest novel:  WAYWARD.

I was lucky enough to get a chance to do a first read for this novel, courtesy of Mr. Crouch and his publishing company.  WAYWARD is the next installment of his WAYWARD PINES series.  At this point it seems as if he will be going the trilogy route with this one.  Which is fine by me. 

WAYWARD takes place right after the events of PINES, in which our main character Ethan Burke learns the truth of Wayward Pines.  If you wish to learn about said secret, please pick up PINES by Blake Crouch.  Do it!  Now!  So WAYWARD begins with Ethan thrust into his new role as Sheriff of Wayward Pines.  And man, does he hate his job.  I mean most people are irked about their job, but this guy is in living hell right now.  

So through Ethan, we meet some old characters such as David Pilcher and my personal favorite Pam.  Pam is great because of the way Crouch writes her.  She is that perfect mix of sociopath, deadly evil, and sexy as all hell.  We get a back story on Pilcher and how Wayward Pines came to be; which helps the story move.  And we meet new characters, like Tobias the Ranger-esque character that is floating outside Wayward Pines.  And Margaret, she is a captured aberration or abbey.  I have a feeling she will play a bigger role in the next installment.

The novel is a bridge, connecting PINES with the next novel which is currently untitled coming out in 2014.  So something for you to look forward to, kids.  And since this novel is a bridge, not much action is involved.  Instead we get a great character driven story that allows you to connect to said characters just time for the chaos that will be the next novel.  And Crouch writes his characters quite well in this one.  Their emotions literally drip from the page. 

Crouch begins weaving many storylines in this book.  When I saw I was at 90% on my Kindle and still so much story needed to be told, I realized that I was going to be gut punched with a cliffhanger.  Damn you, Crouch. 

Pick up PINES and then WAYWARD here.

The Afterword from this author on this title gave me a better perspective of how and why Crouch wrote this novel the way that he did.  Pines is an emotional as well as a physical rollercoaster.  And it is the reader that goes through this rollercoaster as much as the lead character, Ethan Burke.

Pines begins with Ethan Burke running for his life and not remembering a damn thing.  He wakes up in a hospital bed.  He escapes the empty hospital in search of his identity and only ends up with more questions and a concussion.

Ethan awakens once more, identity intact, but in a town that quickly raises his suspicions.  As he digs deeper into the mystery of Wayward Pines, the more hostile the town becomes; especially the main antagonist Sheriff Pope.

Ethan tries to flee, but drives in circles and runs into high mountains and electrified fence.

Crouch is pretty fantastic with his prose here.  He makes characters that infuriate you as they constantly stop Ethan from the truth.  On his third trip to the hospital, the nurse becomes quite sinister and deadly with needle that more resembles a butcher knife. 

Crouch is great at writing action sequences, but he also touches on some powerful emotions.  Emotions that are easily felt by the reader.  Towards the end, Crouch finally pulls back the curtain to reveal the reality and it is pretty original.  And it reminded me of such shows as Twin Peaks or Lost.  Low and behold the Afterword explains the homage to these shows.

I have read three books by Crouch in the past year.  Each one good, but each contain some sort of action climbing sequence.  It is as if Crouch needs to include climbing into each of his stories.  I can appreciate passion for a sport, but I feel an inclusion of such a sequence begins to wear on the reader.  To a point where it becomes a cliche; sort of like Koontz and his golden retriever obsession.

I give this book a 7/10.  Crouch is pretty flawless in taking the reader on an emotional and physical ride.  Tune in to your television sets as Pines has been picked up to be adapted into a TV series (and deserving so).  And stay tuned to your Kindles as Crouch writes his sequel to Pines titled Wayward.  Crouch hints at the plot for a sequel and I’m pretty excited to see where Crouch takes us next in this universe he has created.

Until next time, Keep Reading!

~SJB