Category Archives: Horror

The Call by Peadar O’Guilin

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cover art of The CallThis tense, fast paced thriller asks the question, what would happen if the gods and goddess of mythology returned to the modern world with their hearts full of vengeance?  O’Guilin has taken modern Ireland and cut if off from the rest of the world, due to the magic of the Sidhe.  These were the mythical fairy folk of the Emerald Isle and of Scotland, physically beautiful but cruel and capricious. The Sidhe were tricked by the ancient Irish into a hellish netherworld and now are seeking their revenge by abducting their adolescents into the Greylands to be mutilated or killed.

Twenty five years have passed since the horror began when without warning young people began disappearing suddenly for a little over three minutes of our time but a full day in the alternative world, during which they are hunted by the Sidhe. Their chances are surviving are slim at best and should they return alive, the survivors are forever altered both physically and mentally. The young are now sent away to school to be taught and toughened for when their “call” comes.

The story focuses on Nessa who is not expected to survive due to a childhood bout of polio which has damaged her legs, but not destroyed her strength or will to live. She and the other residents of the Boyle school are simply ordinary teenagers forced to fight for their lives and many of the characters the reader comes to care about meet tragic fates.

The author O’Guilin mixes moments of humour with moments of anguish, loyalty with betrayal, desire with scorn, each with a deft hand.  Despite the overall darkness as the country slips into subsistence living when the doom of the Sidhe takes hold, there is a sense of hope and defiance in spite of the odds.

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The Dark Missions of Edgar Brim by Shane Peacock

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edgarbrim

What would you do if all the imaginary horrors of the world weren’t imaginary at all? Such is the world of Edgar Brim. As a young boy, his father told him many tales of the bizarre and the macabre, leading to Edgar’s heighten sense of fear and frequent night terrors. Later when he is sent to a gloomy boarding school in Scotland run by the stern and mysterious Mr. Thorne, life for Edgar turns even darker as he becomes the subject of bullying and ridicule. It is only in the finding of a journal written by his novelist father which helps Edgar develop the courage to fight both his bullies and his fears.

When I picked up the book and read the premise of a gothic horror novel set during the reign of Queen Victoria and featuring Bram Stoker, I knew this was my type of novel.  The book reads much like a classic Victorian novel of mystery, full on dark intrigue, gloomy atmosphere and cryptic clues and the main character of Edgar makes for an interesting foil to the action. Edgar both grows up physically and emotionally in the novel, while keeping a certain distance of personality that makes we wonder what mysteries we will find out about him as the series goes on. Setting the book during the Victorian period adds a whole set of socially acceptable and expected behaviours that feel odd to our modern sensibilites and are really pronounced with Edgar’s friend, Lucy.

I really liked the literary references to the great Victorian writers of the time and can see their influence in the story and in the character of Edgar. The build up in story is slow as it lays out a number of plot threads and takes time introducing Edgar and the world he inhabits but once the action begins the it moves rapidly and ties up a number of ends while leaving some mysteries for further in the series.

 

 

“Just End Already !” The Ruins by Scott B. Smith

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ruinsSo at my second job I have been listening to a ton of audiobooks. For those who have never tried one before you definitely should. They are both enjoyable and super convenient when you don’t have time to pick up a book but have the time to multitask and listen to one. Now that being said, I have listened to many great ones. Some that flew by. Some that made me laugh out loud and make my co-workers give me dirty looks as they walked past me. Some that made me cry -yes, even us tough guys cry at sad parts in books (it really was a sad moment). However, some books are so utterly boring, uninteresting and drawn out that it makes you just beg the book to be over. The Ruins, by Scott B. Smith is that book.

A few years ago I had already seen the film adaptation and thought it was pretty decent as far as horror movies go. I am a huge horror movie fan so when I say its decent that’s a good sign as I think most horror movies kinda suck these days. Anyways, I found out that the movie was based on the book and made a note to read it soon. Needless to say I read it years later and wow was it a let down. The best way to describe it is “Ughhh why won’t this thing just end”. So the premise of the book is four college age young people: Jeff, Amy, Eric and Stacey, go on a last hurrah trip to Cancun before starting medical school and the next parts of their lives (I know right? College people going on a trip that leads to certain death…super cliche). They meet up with a young German man named Mathias who is searching for his missing brother. Mathias convinces the group and a Greek friend they met to help find the missing brother and so they travel to the jungle and get chased up a giant Mayan ruin covered in vines with blood red flowers. Okay, so not a horrible premise. I’ve heard plenty worse. To sum up the 400 page book, the group gets trapped on the hill, find out the vines are evil and then.. well you can guess the rest, it is a horror novel after all and I don’t want to spoil it.

This painful read was literally a 400 page story about character development. While character development is very important to a story it doesn’t take 400 pages to do it. It also helps when you actually care about the characters. The whole time I just wanted these people to die so the book would be over. But no. Of course it had to drag on and on about absolutely nothing. Smith tried to describe setting but honestly, there is no setting. The whole thing takes place on the ruins and once they describe it once it doesn’t EVER change. I had to go through 9 out of 12 discs before the first person died and then another 2 discs after that for the next person. That is just unacceptable when it comes to a horror novel. No, that’s not true. If the book is good or interesting then its fine. But for this its just mind-numbingly boring. Even when a character was dying Smith still tried to develop the character… Like WHY?! Literally it was like “I’m stabbed in the chest… one time at the zoo..” Just no. Just die and go away so the book can end and I can move on and be done with all of you. Out of all the characters, Stacey was the least annoying as I felt she was the most real(ish). There was one moment in the book when they joked about their lives being turned into a movie and which cliche they each would be. I guess that was pretty funny.

I suppose the whole struggle to survive premise was good and could be realistic if there was ever a situation where people were trapped on a hill with killer vines that could talk, make smells and eat you. Or maybe that’s just me being bitter about this book. I guess I should also say that the book isn’t completely horrible. It’s not completely without merit. It was actually well written so that’s always a plus. Another good thing is its a horror novel with an interesting premise, which can be hard to come by. So look at that! Two positive things about the book.

So, is the book worth the read? Well, that is up to you to decide. Do I regret reading it? Well, mostly. Too late to look back now. I’ve moved on to better books. So, I kinda hate to do this, with my librarian education and all, but seriously… just go watch the movie. It’s an hour and half, the characters still kinda suck but it takes a whole lot less time than reading the book. (Also they greatly change character roles around so that sucks – but if you’re only watching the movie, who cares!). Just give the book a pass and save yourself the agony of this snore fest.

-Eric

PS. Check out the trailer here!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzdto154_to

Afraid by Jack Kilborn

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afraidkilbornBy Eric Stein

For all the horror lovers out there, this is a novel for you, just in time for Halloween. Jack Kilborn (aka J.A. Konrath) delivers an incredibly chilling, gruesome tale of the small city of Safe Haven, Wisconsin. For the readers out there who love horror, or even those like myself that want to give horror novels a try, this book is perfect. It has everything you could need to satisfy your Halloween horror cravings; blood, gore and a detailed story that is not too cheesy. If this book were a movie you would definitely need either a loved one or a very big blanket to comfort you.
Right as you begin reading the novel you learn that Safe Haven is anything but safe. It is quickly established after the crash of a helicopter that something is horrendous is going to happen. The story follows various members of the city; primarily its old chief of police, a young firefighter and a single working mother. The book draws you in to each of these characters plights, just as the horror unfolds before them. Will they make it through? Will there be causalities along the way? This is all something you will need to find out.
This book is not for the faint of heart. I am a major horror movie buff, and even this book made me cringe at points! Needless to say, I had to find out what was going to happen to the characters I grew attached to. So if you’re a horror fan or in need of an exciting scare for this Halloween, check this book out! Just be careful; there may be someone lurking behind you.
Afraid is available in audiobook and electronic format at the Thunder Bay Public Library
Happy Halloween

Ach! Zombies!

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Alright. So I’m back on a fiction kick. It’s been years, really. I started with a Christine Dodd book called the Scent of Darkness. A cursed werewolf-type man (who is also an international winery CEO) is under attack by similarly-cursed assassins. So, he must escape the killers, and hunt them down, while he protects and falls in love with his attractive executive assistant. I didn’t finish it yet, it’s not my favourite book. I find that each chapter kind of…sounds the same? So I put that one down and started reading other supernatural stories: Let the Right One In and Zombie, Ohio.
Let the Right One In is about a vampire, not zombies. I found it to be an engrossing read that I was excited to get back to after necessarily taking breaks from reading (for such things such as eating and going to work, etc.). If “un-put-down-able” was actually a word, I might use it here to describe Let the Right One In. Also, if you’re nerdy like me, you might be interested that several movie adaptations have been made of this international best-seller by Swedish author, John Ajvide Lindqvist. Super good book that I’m recommending to everybody.
I’m slowly finishing another book called Zombie, Ohio by Scott Kenemore. I didn’t get into this book as easily as Let the Right One In, but it certainly has its appeal. It’s a much lighter tone/mood than in Right One, more like dark humour than paranormal drama. The main character is “the Kernal” a former professor who finds himself the de facto leader of a battalion of zombies ravaging the Ohio countryside. Like I said, I’m not quite finished this one, but I’m excited to see how some of the sub-plots are tied up.

Zombies, Vampires and the Last People on Earth: an Integrated Review of I Am Legend, Warm Bodies, The Road and; The Walking Dead

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Zombies, Vampires and the Apocalypse are on everyone’s mind these days (well, maybe not everyone), and I’ve been studying up on them…just in case.

The “last person alive” genre is one of my favourites. I’ve just finished I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. It’s a classic that has spawned at least three film adaptations: The Last Man on Earth (1964) starring Vincent Price, Omega Man (1971) starring Charlton Heston, and I Am Legend (2007) starring Will Smith. (I’ve seen Last Man and Legend, but have yet to see Omega Man).

Matheson’s novel, first published in 1954, follows the story of Robert Neville an ordinary man who, in three years of solitude, undertakes an in-depth study of vampires. Like the Smith movie, the cause of vampirism in the original novel is not mystical, but medical: germs. How these monsters are created is as interesting as how humans attempt to survive. The cause can be experimental, like Frankenstein, or space radiation like Night of the Living Dead, or stories may forego a formal cause and leave that as a mystery.

In the Road by Cormac McCarthy, the cause of the apocalypse is not specified; it is left up to the reader to imagine why the world is ashen, barren and lifeless. Similarly, in Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion, the cause of the apocalypse (in this case, a zombie apocalypse) is not known – it is not even known how much time has passed. Also, the amazing graphic novel series The Walking Dead is like that – the reader is thrust head-first into a world of brain-eating zombies. Very important, in Warm Bodies, Marion explains why it is that zombies eat brains. Very simply, they need the memories and consciousness of the living to “live”.

In all these stories, the world is obliterated. Everything we know and owe to “civilization” is gone. Survivors are wise not to go out at night. Needful things are guns, stored food and bouts of insanity. Examples of such bouts include: 1) throwing a glass of whiskey at a wall, 2) catching yourself in your own trap after yelling at a mannequin, 3) talking to a dead wife on a disconnected phone, and 4) falling in love with a zombie. Characters universally struggle with losing hope for the future. This is usually the same time that they start going crazy.

Hope is seeded, however, through love and/or a sense of humanity.

In the Road, for instance, finding a family of “good guys” leaves the reader with a feeling of hope. In Warm Bodies, the return of humanity starts the wave of restoration. And at the end of I Am Legend (the movie) that a cure was found and taken to the last bastion of survivors is meant as an ending hinting towards humanity’s salvation. That ending is very different from the book, by the way.

All in all, what I’ve learned is this: don’t be afraid of zombies or vampires, because in the end love (and a shotgun) conquers all.

A Bad, Bad Man

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A Bad, Bad Man

Joe Pitt is one bad dude.  But he is one bad dude that does appear to have somewhat of a moral compass.  Much like me, I’m sure you will find yourself instantly liking Charlie Huston’s gritty, chain smoking and hardboiled main character Joe Pitt in the Joe Pitt Casebooks series.  I liken Joe Pitt to a Clint Eastwood “Man with No Name” type who doesn’t take anyone’s side but his own and will align himself with a group if there is an angle in it for himself (just replace Eastwood’s poncho with a leather jacket and his cigarillos with Lucky’s and you have Joe Pitt, oh and take away the cowboy hat).  Pitt is what you call a freelance, someone who is willing to do some dirty and no so dirty jobs for a price; one day he might look into a domestic situation for someone and the next day he might break someone’s kneecaps for a loan shark.   Huston has published 5 books in the series and while I have only read the first two and am currently getting started on the third, I have yet to be disappointed and am actually quite impressed.  Huston’s writing has a great vibe that reminds of those classic crime noirs produced by Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and early Robert B. Parker.  The stories take place in New York with Pitt living amidst powerful groups and organizations that secretly control the various sections of the City.  Being caught in the middle of a constant turf war with no allegiances can sometimes be a full-time job for Pitt, especially when he has other things on his mind, namely scoring human blood.  Oh yeah, did I fail to mention that Joe Pitt is a vampire and the turf war is between rival factions of vampire clans.  I know what you are thinking: Oh great, another vampire novel and quite honestly I don’t blame you.  However, I must tell you that you are going miss out on a great series.   If you’re willing to give it a shot, the first book in the series is titled Already Dead and the Library has copies of this publication in multiple formats.  Derektbpl