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Book Buzz: Extra Creepy Halloween Edition
We review seven horrifying treats for Halloween
By Tim Janson
October 30, 2011
The Book Buzz returns this week with our annual (as of this year) Halloween special with a look at some of the hottest upcoming horror novels as well as SEVEN reviews of horror-themed books. No matter what your horror tastes, I think you’ll find something to your liking. Happy Halloween!
Dead of Night: A Zombie Novel Jonathan Maberry [ St. Martin ’s]
A prison doctor injects a condemned serial killer with a formula designed to keep his consciousness awake while his body rots in the grave. But all drugs have unforeseen side-effects. Before he could be buried, the killer wakes up. Hungry. Infected. Contagious. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang…but a bite.
The Night Eternal Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan [William Morrow]
It’s been two years since the vampiric virus was unleashed in The Strain, and the entire world now lies on the brink of annihilation. There is only night as nuclear winter blankets the land, the sun filtering through the poisoned atmosphere for two hours each day—the perfect environment for the propagation of vampires.
There has been a mass extermination of humans, the best and the brightest, the wealthy and the influential, orchestrated by the Master—an ancient vampire possessed of unparalleled powers—who selects survivors based on compliance. Those humans who remain are entirely subjugated, interred in camps, and separated by status: those who breed more humans, and those who are bled for the sustenance of the Master’s vast army.
The future of humankind lies in the hands of a ragtag band of freedom fighters—Dr. Eph Goodweather, former head of the Centers for Disease Control’s biological threats team; Dr. Nora Martinez, a fellow doctor with a talent for dispatching the undead; Vasiliy Fet, the colorful Russian exterminator; and Mr. Quinlan, the half-breed offspring of the Master who is bent on revenge. It’s their job to rescue Eph’s son, Zack, and overturn this devastating new world order. But good and evil are malleable terms now, and the Master is most skilled at preying on the weaknesses of humans.
A Rattling of Bones C. J. Henderson [Elder Signs Press]
When weapon designer Raymond Du Raire hears whispers that his father has risen from the dead, he returns to his native Haiti to deal with what he believes are nothing more than vulgar rumors. Within a day of his arrival, however, he discovers that the dead are indeed walking the Earth. Moreover, he finds that this is not the work of voodoo tricksters, but a plague loosed upon the world by the discovery of an ancient crystal. Before he can begin to comprehend what has happened, Raymond finds himself in a swirling storm of corporate deceit and government cover-ups as a nightmare of zombie madness begins to stretch across the entire world.
Petrified Graham Masterton [ Severn House]
Braydon Harris is convinced God has it in for him. Although Suki, his little girl, seemed thrilled to be kidnapped from her mom’s parents’ house, an electric storm has hit, and it looks like the Lord isn’t going to make it easy for Braydon to get away. Braydon’s right. A huge truck jack-knifes in front of him, his car catches alight, and Sukie winds up in hospital with terrible burns – burns which only exacerbate the terrible nightmare she’s had for years about scary things flying through the sky, like shadows…
The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 22 (Running Press)
The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror series continues to be the world’s leading annual anthology dedicated solely to showcasing the best in contemporary horror fiction. The latest volume is comprised of more than 20 of the most outstanding new short stories and novellas by both contemporary masters of horror and exciting newcomers.
Them or Us (Hater Trilogy) David Moody [Thomas Dunne]
The war that has torn the human race apart is finally nearing its end. With most towns and cities now uninhabitable, and with the country in the grip of a savage nuclear winter, both Hater and Unchanged alike struggle to survive.
Hundreds of Hater fighters have settled on the East Coast in the abandoned remains of a relatively undamaged town under the command of Hinchcliffe---who’ll stop at nothing to eradicate the last few Unchanged and consolidate his position at the top of this new world order. This fledgling society is harsh and unforgiving---your place in the ranks is decided by how long and how hard you’re prepared to fight.
Danny McCoyne is the exception to the rule. His ability to hold the Hate and to use it to hunt out the remaining Unchanged has given him a unique position in Hinchcliffe’s army of fighters. As the enemy’s numbers reduce, so the pressure on McCoyne increases, until he finds himself at the very center of a pivotal confrontation, the outcome of which will have repercussions on the future of everyone who is left alive.
11/22/63: A Novel Stephen King [Scribner]
On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas , President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back? Stephen King’s heart-stoppingly dramatic new novel is about a man who travels back in time to prevent the JFK assassination—a thousand page tour de force.
Following his massively successful novel Under the Dome, King sweeps readers back in time to another moment—a real life moment—when everything went wrong: the JFK assassination. And he introduces readers to a character who has the power to change the course of history.
Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls , Maine , who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students—a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk.
Not much later, Jake’s friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane—and insanely possible—mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life—a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.
New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird (Prime Books)
For more than 80 years H.P. Lovecraft has inspired writers of supernatural fiction, artists, musicians, filmmakers, and gaming. His themes of cosmic indifference, the utter insignificance of humankind, minds invaded by the alien, and the horrors of history - written with a pervasive atmosphere of unexplainable dread - remain not only viable motifs, but are more relevant than ever as we explore the mysteries of a universe in which our planet is infinitesimal and climatic change is overwhelming it. In the first decade of the twenty-first century the best supernatural writers no longer imitate Lovecraft, but they are profoundly influenced by the genre and the mythos he created. New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird presents some of the best of this new Lovecraftian fiction - bizarre, subtle, atmospheric, metaphysical, psychological, filled with strange creatures and stranger characters - eldritch, unsettling, evocative, and darkly appealing.
Stories by: Neil Gaiman, Caitlin r. Kiernan , China Mieville, Cherie Priest, Kim Newman, Charles Stross and more.
Vampire Art Now (Harper Design)
Harper Design has put out a number of books in their “Art Now” series covering various genres and this time they turn their attention to the blood-sucking creatures of the night. Vampire Art Now is large hardcover book featuring 192 pages of full color work by some of the hottest artists in the business. The book covers a range of different vampire genres and runs the gamut from the whimsical to the grotesque. Each piece of art includes a paragraph or two comment from the artist as they share their insight on their work. It also includes information on what media the artist used to create the piece from traditional paints to digital work to sculpture. Finally, there’s a detailed artist directory which lists each of their e-mail addresses and websites.
It’s quite interesting to compare styles and methods. You see watercolors along side digital photography, next to oil paintings on canvass and virtually about anything you can imagine. Chapter two highlights Vampire Vixens and includes such works as Michael Calandra’s gorgeous “Nightfall,” Gonzalo Ordonez Arias’ “Lillith” and Jarno Lahti’s haunting Eternity in Hunger.
Chapter 3 looks at contemporary Goth and Urban Undead and as it sounds these examples include a lot of subjects who are adorned in leather with a lot of tattoos, and piercings. Chapter 5 features the vampire’s sworn enemies, the vampire hunters. These subjects include everyone from monster-hunting reporter Carl Kolchak to Anime-inspired vampire slayers. The chapter called Dracula and his disguises includes examples of some notable screen Draculas like Christopher Lee and Bela Lugosi.
Not matter what your vampire preference may be you’re certain to find something you’ll love in this fantastic collection. Grade A-
The Halloween Encyclopedia Lisa Morton (McFarland Books)
Lisa Morton’s fun and informative Halloween Encyclopedia moves into its 2nd edition with (almost) everything you wanted to know about the holiday. The traditional A – Z encyclopedia covers all things Halloween from many different angles including historical origins and influences, popular films and TV shows, Halloween traditions, pop culture references, vintage décor, and much more. At 250 pages it’s probably a little slim to include everything Halloween but for those topics it does cover it is detailed and well-researched. I tested the book by thinking of various Halloween subjects to see if they were included and for the most part they were.
One of those subjects was Anoka, Minnesota. Anoka is widely regarded as the Halloween Capital of the world and it was the first city to put on a Halloween parade back in 1920 which has become the town’s claim to fame. I was surprised by what was in the book, namely a lot of terms I had never heard of before. Calan-Gaeaf is the Welsh term for Halloween Night; Goosey Night which is the term for the day before Halloween in New Jersey (here in Michigan it’s known as Devil’s Night); and Odawa Ghost Supper which is a celebration of the dead held around Nov. 2 by the Odawa Indian tribe in Michigan.
Everything you’d expect to be here is here like Guy Fawkes Day, Washington Irving, Witches, Pumpkins, bobbing for Apples, Samhain, the Halloween film franchise, haunted houses…There is a wealth of information on customs from around the world as well as dozens of photos of vintage Halloween décor, postcards, costumes, masks, and more. I was hoping for an entry on Don Post costumes but I suppose you can’t have everything. Grade B
Monster’s Corner Edited by Christopher Golden (St. Martin’s Griffin)
Monster’s corner is a brand new anthology of all-original stories, edited by Christopher Goldern. The subject is…Monsters, as you might have guessed. Golden isn’t necessarily looking for stories to frighten( although many do)…these monsters are more the misunderstood creatures like Frankenstein’s monster. Also, Golden thankfully left out any stories having to do with zombies or vampires since those have become ridiculously passé. In all there are 19 stories from the likes of Lauren Groff, Chelsea Cain, Simon R. Green, Sharyn McCrumb, Kelley Armstrong, David Liss, Kevin J. Anderson, and more.
The standout slant of Golden’s collection is that the stories are told from the Monster’s perspective rather than the victim or the hero’s point of view which makes it all the more refreshing to read. There are stories here that don’t make you think “monster” such as "The Cruel Thief of Rosy Infants" by Tom Piccirilli, a tale about Fairies which puts them into a whole new light. Tinkerbell they are not! Sarah Pinborough’s fresh take on the Medusa in "The Screaming Room” is one of those that do a great job of equally making the reader sympathetic and repulsed at the same to the main character.
Kevin J. Anderson has written some great fiction about DC Comics heroes Superman and Batman but his tale “Torn Stiches” presents a modern look at the Frankenstein Monster, who survives into the 20th century as, of all things, a tailor, which is oddly appropriate since he himself was sewn together from various parts. Anderson does a great job of mixing the gothic elements of Shelley’s novel with the atmosphere of a Universal horror film.
Comedy gets its due in the collection as well with Simon R. Green’s “Jesus and Satan Go Jogging in the Desert" is exactly what it sounds like as Green gives us Satan’s side of things. Gary Braunbeck offers his comical Lovecraft tribute in “And Still you Wonder Why Our First Impulse is to Kill You.” It is filled with dark humor and scores of in-jokes.
Sure every anthology is going to have a clunker or two but by and large, The Monsters Corner is a fresh and bold take on a genre that has been sorely lacking. Grade B+
The Secret of Crickley Hall James Herbert (Tor)
With the horror genre being so overstuffed with vampire and zombie fiction, it’s always welcome to see someone try their hand at a good old haunted house story. And you could do a lot worse than James Herbert, the esteemed British Horror writer who has delivered such novels as “Once” and “The Rats.” It’s a 600 page behemoth that is probably a good 150 pages long for its own good, and the readers, but it’s an effective and often grisly novel and a welcome addition to the haunted house family.
The plot begins rather ordinary with a plot device that has been overused in many previous books and films. It’s the family that is trying to start over after dealing with a tragedy. In this case Gabe and Eve Caleigh are trying to start a new life after a terrible incident in which their five-year-old son has disappeared. They move from London to a secluded old home located in a place called “the Devil’s Cleave” which is basically a valley or ravine. So ok, Herbert’s not scoring many points on originality. And why do people, after a tragedy” feel the need to move to a creepy, secluded house? I mean if you’re trying to get over a tragedy wouldn’t it do better to be around more people instead of fewer? There I go, being logical again.
The standard haunting activities soon begin to manifest…the family cries at something unseen in the walls, cupboards rattle, doors slam, strange lights, puddles of water appear mysteriously…Gabe and his family have all this to contend with along with his new job and the hints from neighbors about the home’s tragic past. It turns out the house was once an orphanage during WWII and run by a nasty fellow named Augustus Cribben, who terrorized, and mistreated the children. A flood nearly destroyed the village and killed the children although only a handful of bodies were ever found. The family tries to figure out just what happened in the house. Is it haunted by the children? By Cribben? Or both? With the help of an old groundskeeper who believes that children died in a more sinister fashion and a local psychic investigator, Gabe and Eve try to solve the mystery of the house and try to find out what happened to their son.
As mentioned, The Secret of Crickley Hall is overlong. Herbert tends to get a bit repetitive with events as well as over-descriptive of scenes. But he creates a terrifying atmosphere and a story with many twists. Grade B
How to Draw Chiller Monsters, Werewolves, Vampires, and Zombies J. David Spurlock (Watson Guptil)
Combining art instruction with everyone’s love of horror, J. David Spurlock is your host on trip through the techniques of drawing all manner of your favorite monsters. The book features the artwork by a virtual who’s who of comic book and pop culture art including Neal Adams, Kerry Gammill, Basil Gogos, Alex Horley, Jim Steranko, Frank Frazetta, Berni Wrightson and Wally Wood. That assemblage of talent alone is worth the $20 cover price.
The book features ten chapters in all the cover various subjects such as form and structure; figure drawing, Light, Shadow, Tone, and Texture; Composition; hardlines, as well as chapters covering various types of specific monstes like zombies, werewolves, vampires, and the Frankenstein Monster. At 144 pages, and much of it devoted to the art of the many great masters I named, the book isn’t going to be all encompassing. There’s an assumption that the person that reads the book has some familiarity with general art techniques and tools of the trade. For example the opening chapter on form and structure gives you the basic rundown on body shapes and proportions and the layout of the basic face with standard diagramming of facial features. Spurlock then shows you several examples of finished art. Spurlock comments on the technique and features these talented artist’s works.
One key piece of advice that Spurlock offers is in relation to using photos for reference. A common technique among illustrators but he warns about following to close to the picture and creating lifeless, flat images. The chapter on Monsters in Your Face teaches you about perspective and how to make your illustrations leap off the page. A brilliant piece by Gene Colan featuring Dracula highlights this chapter.
Spurlock presents an Artist Spotlight in many of the chapters where a particular master’s work is used to highlight the topic of instruction such as David Hartman on drawing zombies, Basil Gogos on drawing the Frankenstein Monster, Alex Horley and Kerry Gammill on werewolves, and Jim Steranko’s incredible storyboards from the 1991 film Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
While not geared for the beginner, How to Draw Chiller Monsters, Werewolves, Vampires, and Zombies is a great aid to help the budding artist refine and improve their work and help take it to the next level. Grade A.
The Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror: From Beyond the Grave (Harper Collins)
The Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror has been a Halloween tradition with the series for many years and that tradition has carried over to the comics medium with Bongo Comics. Harper Collins collects issues 12 & 13 of the Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror comic with this full color 128 page collection featuring art and story by a diverse group of comic creators. The book leads off “Gnaws”, the longest story in the collection and a wildly crazy parody of “Jaws”. This story does for Jaws what the Family Guy’s “Blue Harvest” did for Star Wars…and the thing is that it doesn’t even star any of the Simpsons family. Chief Wiggum plays Chief Brodie, Professor Frink as the Matt Hooper Character, and Captain McCallister plays Quint as they set out to catch the monster that is ravaging Springfield’s shores. The story was written by Brian Posehn and illustrated by Hilary Barta. Kyle Baker turns in the truly loony “Blood Curse of the Evil Fairies” with a rather unique take on the traditional Simpsons art.
“They Draw” is written by standup comedian Patton Oswalt. It’s Carl’s birthday down at the nuclear plant and Lenny forgets to get him a present so pulls a pair of sunglasses out of the lost and found basket that lets you see people as rough pencil sketches. This story is a parody of the 1980s cult action film, “They Live!”
God charges Homer to save the world in “Homer’s Ark”. God plans on having Homer build a flying ark so he can spray the world for cockroaches. Considering Homer has no clue as to what a cubit is, you can imagine the results.
Great stories all by my favorite is “Prop, Prop, Fizz Fizz”. Bart is in Comic Book Guy’s store and find all sorts of famous movie and TV props that are cursed. Picking them up sends you into the movie/TV show. So Lisa picks up a wooden stake and ends up in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Millhouse ends up in Buckaroo Banzai; and Bart ends up in Evil Dead: Army of Darkness. Great pop culture parodies! A must have for any Simpson’s fan! Grade A
Jack and Jill Went up to Kill Michael P. Spradlin (Harper Collins)
Jack and Jill Went up to Kill is the third zombie-themed mini book…the previous books have been parodies of Christmas carols and love songs. This third book is a parody of well-known nursery rhymes. Spradlin’s witty prose is complemented by the ghoulish illustrations by Jeff Weigel. An example of what you will find in the book is this take on Little Miss Muffet:
Little Miss Muffet turned on a truffet,
Eating fresh brains all day;
Along came a human,
She added some cumin,
And munched the poor man away
These books are slight editions…only 70 pages or so. And as such, a $9.99 price tag…about $1 - $2 more than the average mass-market paperback…it seems a bit pricey but that’s my only complaint. It’s fun and it makes a unique gift for someone who is a big zombie fan. Grade B