The way things are going, the end of the world might seem like it is one push away from happening, all it needs is a little nudge from some misguided soul; and in Sean Deville’s The Defiled we get to witness each and every step of that nudge. Deville delivers a tight action packed thriller that takes the Book of Revelations and twists it to fit into the world of today. Through the eyes of the many different characters we see how the world is controlled by only a few and the rest of us are just their playthings. It might go on a little longer than necessary, but in the end is a really fascinating book on destruction and death.
The plot of The Defiled is an interesting look at the interpretation of the Book of Revelations and how someone could use it as a blueprint to destroy the world. The story revolves around the Apollyon company and its introduction of a biometric microchip. This chip is supposed to have many applications, including no longer needing credit cards, IDs, or cash. However, the chip is just a piece of the puzzle in Apollyon’s CEO’s plan to bring about hell on Earth. The CEO happens to worship Satan and is hoping to use the chip and a few other company projects to start the enacting the seven plagues. And this isn’t the death of the first born or locusts either. It’s more like rivers of blood, insanity, and the destruction of holy places. I really liked the idea of a corporation bringing all of this about, we can all admit that at one time or another we’ve thought some business is evil enough to do this.
Deville does a wonderful job of taking this concept and expanding it into something haunting. Each plague has its own dedicated section of the book and we are taken directly to the people this affects, not a bird’s eye view of it. So, when an algae created to help feed people on Mars gets irradiated and becomes an all consuming red death, we feel the pain as it enters a person’s lungs and eats them from the inside. And there are no montages of the plagues, they are all delivered in gruesome detail.
It’s amazing to see how each of these events creates a chain reaction to start the next one. None of them seemed forced or unnatural to the story. They flowed together and became a series of dominoes falling over. How they connected was interesting and nothing you could predict, which I think Deville deserves a lot of credit for. Only near the end, when the picture was clear could you see the eventual conclusion of how the final plagues were going to be enacted. When dealing with a series of events that need to have a precise through line, one miss can create a huge plot hole or appear to be lazy, but Deville finds the perfect balance to make this work and be surprising.
Now, I did have a bit of an issue with the number of characters and how perfect they all were. Each character does play into the master plan of the apocalypse, be it on the good side or the bad side. But, man this felt like someone crammed The Stand into a 300 page book. So you have a professor who is studying the original text of Revelations, the ones not in the bible, then there are secret guardians that are protecting the “chosen.” On the other side you have the evil CEO, a madman security guard that has no problem torturing or killing, a genius inventor and his female handler. Oh, and there is a detective trying to find the woman that killed his partner, plus a ton of side characters. You are correct if you are thinking there are a lot of players to follow
It took a minute to fully remember each character and what their goals were, but you’ll get there eventually. They do each have a unique voice, which helps while jumping from plotline to plotline. But the tough thing is that they are all perfect specimens for their roles, creating a glossy feel to all of them. It felt like watching The Avengers, where each character is pretty much a superhero that could have their own story, but instead are stuck in here. The security guard, guardians, and detective are all badasses that were the top of their class, best at everything, killers. The others are all geniuses that quickly deduce facts or are thinking ten steps ahead. Of course there were failures and goals not accomplished by these characters, but very rarely did you see one get frustrated, miss a shot, or fail. It got a little tiring not seeing this world through an everyday person.
As I reached the conclusion and the end of the world was in full swing I found myself getting frustrated, in a good way, at not being able to help. They were always so close to figuring something out, but just couldn’t step back to see the big picture. I wanted to scream at them or climb in and point out what was happening. Which I think is always a sign of a good book because it take you out of being a passive reader and gets you invested.
The Defiled is one of those books that takes a snapshot of current events and mutates it into a haunting story of what could be. Despite some of the issues with character, this is a fun story about the end times that I would find perfect to read while watching people tear each other apart.
BY JAMES SABATA
ART BY: CHRIS “OZ” FULTON, MAJA CORNVALL, AND TEO GONZALES
If you’re a fan of horror and use YouTube at all, there’s a good chance you’re at least somewhat familiar with Mr. Creepy Pasta. One of the most popular names in viral horror, MCP has grown his channel to over 1.3 million subscribers. Updated several times a week, MCP’s channel has received just under 210 million hits since debuting in 2011.
His partner, Vincent V. Cava has published several books of horror as well as penning many of the stories MCP reads to his subscribers. Together, Vincent V. Cava and Mr. Creepy Pasta have brought great horror to audiences around the world, including print and eBook anthologies of their original stories, their own mobile app, and live performances at conventions throughout the United States.
Their most recent venture is the CreepyPasta comic anthology – The first full-length comic book influenced by internet horror. A double issue, the comic is anchored by the mysterious Blueman, an intimidating phantom that lives in the deepest, darkest recesses of the net. He tells two spine-tingling tales full of twists and turns. The first, HE IS… THE RAKE, features a creature that has inspired a massive fandom around the web. Appearing to people in the night, the entity causes the death of one man’s wife. That man will stop at nothing to gain revenge, but his quest for vengeance may be misguided. I WAITED INSIDE HER CLOSET follows a dangerous serial killer with an unhealthy obsession with fame. The homicidal maniac’s grisly exploits soon set him on a collision course with something much more terrifying than he’ll ever be.
The two stories are self-contained, and the reader is thrust directly into the story and able to identify with the main characters instantly. One does not require previous knowledge of Creepypastas or the (highly limited) history of The Rake to enjoy this collection. The stories are easy to understand and will live on in your memory due to the way they marry humor, pain, and vengeance. One of the things I loved about these stories is that they found a way to still tell the stories in a mostly first-person point of view; something most successful Creepypastas have in common. I also enjoyed that these stories are able to be devoured by a huge age range. While there are slight implications of sex, it’s never really shown. The deaths occur (as expected), but I would argue the gore level is lower than it is on the cover of the book. However, that doesn’t make those deaths any less emotional for the reader. I think these books would appeal to teenagers as well any adult who reads horror and comic books.
As for the art, this book far exceeded my expectations with its artwork. The colors are vibrant, while maintaining the darkness necessary for stories such as these. The horror of certain monsters shines through in beautiful form as we’re allowed to actually see them, instead of imagining them in our minds. The panels flow effortlessly, drawing the eye on the correct track to allow the story pacing to maintain a stranglehold on the reader. The art adds to the story without being overbearing and distracting. If I had one criticism of the art work, it would be a single word balloon where the font size is too small and drew me out momentarily; which was unfortunate as it is at one of the most important parts of the story.
Overall, I cannot say enough good things about this endeavor. I spent time with both Vincent V. Cava and Mr. Creepy Pasta discussing their love of the pulp comics of the past and the horror televisions shows we grew up with (Twilight Zone, Tales from the Crypt, The Outer Limits, Tales From the Dark Side). The influence of these past horror classics is not only evident in this comic, but this comic is, in turn, a true homage to them while also taking its rightful place next to them.
Mr. Creepy Pasta and Vincent V. Cava tapped into something the current comic scene desperately needs more of. Anthology series like this are few and far between. Hopefully this is the beginning of something beautiful from this crew and maybe the book that will influence future storytellers the same way so many of us were influenced by the horror shows and comics we grew up with.
The comic is currently available in hardcover and now an e-book version.
FOLLOW MR. CREEPYPASTA:
FOLLOW VINCENT VENA CAVA:
Website for the Comic: https://www.creepypastacomic.com/
WE ALSO HAVE AN INTERVIEW WITH JAMES SABATA WHICH YOU CAN READ BY CLICKING HERE
BY CHARLOTTE BOND
This is an atmospheric tale, reminiscent of MR James, but unfortunately spoiled by bad editing.
Matthew Dombey inherits his childhood home when his father dies in mysterious circumstances. Upon inspecting the contents of the house with the lawyer, Richmond Bassingham, Matthew uncovers a painting with a terrible history and so sets off a chain of events that tests both his physical and mental limits. Only the mysterious Galahad Ravensdale offers him any hope of surviving the terrible fate that awaits.
The painting itself is described in wonderfully sinister terms; you can conjure it perfectly in your mind’s eye as if you were standing before it. In addition, the encounters between Matthew and his demon tormentor are well-written and send a delicious chill down your spine. The author really draws you in so that you might be standing next to Matthew as he faces all these terrible attacks.
The story revolves around Matthew, never deviating from his point of view except at the end, when we switch to Galahad’s viewpoint to see the wider picture. As such, Matthew is a compelling character, really evoking sympathy from the reader. However, this tight focus does mean that the secondary characters suffer from lack of development. It feels like the author has barely given a thought to their history.
For example, the novel opens as follows:
I met Richmond Bassingham for the first time when I was nine years old, and it would be a fair assumption to say that even at such a tender age, I did not care for him very much at all. And meeting him again on a slate grey, cold and wet winter’s day, some twenty-one years later, nothing had changed to temper the dislike I felt for my family solicitor.
My interpretation is that Mathew met him once when he was nine and is now meeting him again for the second time. To back up this theory, the narrator goes onto say:
‘Matthew, please, call me Richmond,’ he replied as he grasped my upper arm and gave it a gentle squeeze, a gesture I had always felt unpleasant whenever applied as the gentlemen who wielded it were often always selling something or wanted something in return.
If Matthew had encountered Richmond several times, then his distaste for the gesture would likely be phrased in a more personal manner, rather than comparing it to salesmen in general.
But later we get lines such as:
‘And I’m grateful that you weren’t, Matthew,’ Bassingham replied, [his] voice displaying a tenderness I had never seen in the man.
How could Matthew possibly make such a comparison in relation to tone of voice with a man he barely knows?
Another example is while Matthew gets his servants to call him by his first name, he refers to them as Mr and Mrs Shale. This somewhat undermines the idea that they are more like family than servants, and shows a lack of back story. Just what was the conversation where the young master says to them: “In both public and private, I want you to call me Matthew, but you know what? I think I’m still going to call you Mr and Mrs Shale.” It doesn’t make sense.
The key confrontation between Matthew, Galahad and the demon is suspenseful. However, it is somewhat spoiled by Galahad admitting the limitations of his magic when an immensely powerful demon is within earshot. Now the demon knows all it has to do is keep up its attack and Galahad’s wards will fail. This clumsy exposition means that you instantly lose any respect for the character of Galahdd. It’s such a shame, as the rest of the scene is very well done.
A developmental editor should have picked up on these issues because they undermine both the plot and the characters. But the bad editing doesn’t stop there. Within the text are glaringly obvious issues of bad copyediting. You can even see examples of it in my quotes above:
But there are plenty more examples in the rest of the book:
This novel is filled with inconsistencies and editing errors, but despite that, it shows plenty of promise. The author has a skill in conjuring up a by-gone era, and the atmosphere is well-crafted. If you’re the sort of person who isn’t bothered by typographical and editing errors, you’ll probably be drawn into this book and enjoy it. However, if you find such errors jolt you out of the story then you’ll probably find this book is unreadable.
In my opinion, “The Antiquity of Dark Things” is a promising example of future talent but not a fully-formed novel that will satisfy.
Peter Larson and his wife Hannah need a change of scenery. After a tragedy rocks their lives, they pick up and move back to Peter's hometown of Maple City--an apt name for a sleepy little college town in the sticks. Unfortunately, Peter's father, a man everyone affectionately calls Big Bear, has lost the ability to look after himself in old age, and must be moved to a residential care facility near the town. He is moved into a room with his wife Myrna. He leaves behind two houses--one that the local university quickly purchases for student housing, and an unoccupied house that he rented to various people over the years.
It is this vacant, ominous home that Peter and his wife move into, looking to fix it up and put some of their painful past behind them. Peter, a successful audiobook narrator, quickly discovers a small room in the basement that seems to be perfect for setting up his recording booth. He begins to notice odd occurrences, unexplained noises on audio tracks, and feels strange in the basement. As the house begins to wake up and come alive around them, the Larsons must fight the rising darkness and struggle to escape this sinister abode.
Okay. The brief synopsis above barely scratches the surface of what lurks in THE NIGHTMARE ROOM. As a full disclosure, I received this book for review purposes and was not promised any compensation or other incentive for a positive review. Also, in the spirit of full disclosure, I've never read anything by the author, Chris Sorensen, before, and all I knew about the guy was that he is an accomplished narrator of audiobooks. Naturally, his character Peter shares this profession, but Sorensen is never boring or heavy-handed with unnecessary technical details.
Before I get into the meat of the review, I'll just warn potential readers: spoilers lie ahead. Some are minor, some are major, but if you don't want your reading experience to be ruined, please consider skipping ahead past the paragraph break.
Okay, so, THE NIGHTMARE ROOM took me by surprise. I am not the biggest fan of haunted-house stories, mostly due to the multitude choking the reader's market today. It can be difficult to wade through and separate the good from the bad. Also, as a mildly-busy guy, I don't have a lot of time to sift through everything in the mountainous TBR pile taking over my house and lurking on my Kindle. Thanks to the world of social media (Twitter and Goodreads), I kept seeing very positive reviews for this book. After so many, I figured I had to at least give this story a shot.
Right away, ten pages in, I knew this would be a quieter affair. Sorensen focuses less on gore and outright terror, and more on characterization and atmosphere. I was disappointed at first, as quiet, ghostly horror doesn't do very much for me. However...all of a sudden, I was halfway through the novel. Much like Peter Larson experiences dissociative episodes and dreamlike hallucinations, I felt as though I had just snapped out of a spell. Chris Sorensen's choice to detail the relationship dynamics of Peter and Hannah's marriage, as well as their shared loss of their son Michael, well, it sucked me in. I am a sucker for the depiction of parent-child dynamics in horror fiction. It always adds to the stakes and hits the reader right in the sensitive spots.
I cared about these characters. I felt hope when they moved into the little house and started over. I agonized as Peter slowly learned the nature of the dark entity known as Whisper/Mr. Tell. As this freight train picked up momentum towards the conclusion, Sorensen threw in plenty of twists. Every time I thought I'd predicted where things were going, based on classic haunted-house tropes, I'd get a vicious curveball. By the time I reached the end, I felt as though I were trapped in the nightmare too. Disoriented, unsettled, confused. Sorensen has a very unique concept of the haunting and the entity itself--we're talking time loops, bonding rituals, a symbiotic relationship, and other interesting concepts.
This brings me to what I enjoyed most about this novel. Chris Sorensen writes matter-of-factly about hauntings and interactions with the spirit world. Throughout this work, I kept getting the feeling that maybe the author himself has had paranormal experiences. I was quite pleased to reach the afterword and see I was correct. Not once in this story does any explanation of ghosts and other entities feel forced, or like an awkward info dump. Sorensen's use of the character Ellen Marx moves the story along in this aspect, giving the reader just enough technical stuff to understand what's going on. The author's efforts to depict a plausible haunting were successful.
I just want to say, for the last fifty or so pages, I was mesmerized. I just kept thinking, this is a story about a man who literally can't trust his own shadow, and if you have read the novel already, you'll know what I mean. Peter Larson's strange connection to the dark entity Mr. Tell intrigued me. What if you could forget the pain of memories? It's depicted here, and it's pretty chilling. Oh, and one more thing. You'll notice that the cover of this book denotes it as Book One of the Messy Man Series. I spent most of the time wondering when the story would get around to that, and the payoff was incredible. The final scene leaves enough unanswered questions for me to follow up with this series and keep an eye out for the next book.
Okay, the spoilers are over. All in all, I'm giving THE NIGHTMARE ROOM a rating of four stars out of five. I'll definitely check out book two in the Messy Man Series, called THE HUNGRY ONES, coming soon from Harmful Monkey Press. Thanks for taking the time to check out this review! Until next time, check out the rest of the Ginger Nuts of Horror site, and if you absolutely need more of my ramblings, I'm active on Twitter, @TheRealJohnBend, and I keep a personal blog at http://slashersandscoundrels.blogspot.com. Thanks!
Picked up on a whim, I think as the ebook was on sale. I know of SanGiovanni’s podcast work, on both The Horror Show amd Cosmic Shannagains (a deep-dive-yet-accessible exploration of cosmic horror in all its forms, covering both the work and the underpinning philosophies, tropes, and branches - well worth your time). I’d also been aware of John Boden’s reviews of her work elsewhere on this site.
Chills is set in small town Connecticut, where a freak snowstorm in May is spreading misery and mayhem, as well as proving to be the harbinger of a far darker situation.
The novel starts off as a pretty standard police procedural, with a murder detective and a gruesome, frozen crime scene, and part of the joy of the book, for me, was just how skillfully SanGiovanni gradually wove the more sinister, supernatural elements into this well-worn genre. It’s a real pleasure to feel the cosmic horror/creature feature blend slowly bleed into the procedural, without ever quite overtaking the narrative entirely - this remains, at its heart, a cop drama, albeit one where the cops in question are facing a very atypical opposition - and with higher stakes than that genre can generally reach for.
The cops themselves are brilliantly realised characters. - the family man and experienced murder detective, the younger irishman, and the somewhat distant occult specialist, who is respected for her expertise. All are exceptionally well drawn, with an admirable lightness of touch that allows the characters to breathe on the page, their interactions and dialogue flowing naturally from their circumstances. It’s deft, assured writing, and really swept me along with the narrative.
It’s a hell of a story, too, taking in cosmic horror, evil cultists, dark family secrets, and some superb, pulp horror setpieces. While SanGiovanni is not afraid to deliver gore, should the occasion demand it, in many of these sequences it is the building of tension that is most powerful, and her ability to generate a mounting sense of dread is exceptional.
Overall, I found Chills to be a superb reading experience - gripping, powerful, and brilliantly written. I look forward to exploring more of SanGiovanni’s work.
Sarah Pinborough is to writing what Pablo Picasso was to art. By that, I mean only that she manages to create unique, rich worlds one can easily become lost in and that her work fits perfectly in both stuffy intellectual settings and the home of the average person.
Cross Her Heart was definitely more mainstream thriller than horror novel, somewhat of a departure from Ms. Pinborough’s horror swaddled past. That said, I enjoyed it immensely and I do understand the need to reach out to a broader audience.
Cross Her Heart is the story of Lisa: A single mother with a history, Marilyn, Lisa’s coworker/friend/enabler, and Ava, Lisa’s horny teenaged daughter. Trust issues abound throughout this trio, there are interconnected webs of secrets and lies, powerful truths, and some deep interactions that provoke sympathy, anger, disgust, and hope. There is so much depth to the characters, they are so distinct and fully realized, that it’s hard at times to forget they aren’t real people.
I know, I know, this review is a bit on the lean side… but I really don’t want to say too much more about the book. This is DEFINITELY something you’ll enjoy a lot more the more you are able to discover for yourself.
The narrative is skillfully executed, fast paced, and full of turns, twists, secrets, and surprises. You won’t be bored reading this book. If you’re like me, you’ll have trouble putting it down to go to sleep at night!
Last time I reviewed a Philip Fracassi novella for Ginger Nuts of Horror I was on a flight to Sweden, this time I’m heading in the opposite direction bound for Ireland. These shorter works of fiction sure are neat travelling companions and pulling in at a brief 47 pages “Shiloh” certainly caused plenty of distractions on the way to the Emerald Isle. Since I discovered this author eighteen months ago I’m become a huge fan of his clever novellas and strikingly original short stories. “Shiloh” is a fascinating addition to his impressive back-catalogue of weird tales, is it a short novella or long short story? Who cares, either way it is an excellent read.
“Shiloh” was originally released as a very limited edition by Mount Abraxas Press which is long since sold out, with the trade edition to follow in mid-April, via Lovecraft E-Zine Press, which will include the Kindle and other ebook releases. There are elements of cosmic horror in the tale, but other than that “Shiloh” does not have any other direct Lovecraft influences.
“Shiloh” will undoubtedly be more recognisable to American readers than us over here in the UK, as the “Battle of Shiloh” was both a strategic and vicious battle in the American Civil War which saw over 25,000 deaths, fought over two days in April of 1862. Fracassi’s story is his peculiar spin on this famous battle, seen from the point of view of twin brothers Henry and William, infantry soldiers in the Confederate Army (the South). Both are young men proud to be fighting for the South and desperate to draw blood, see the enemy die and protect each other’s backs. When the battle starts nobody is prepared for the sheer scale of it, which is conveyed nicely by the author.
First off, the battle scenes were terrific. They were visceral, realistic, atmospheric, noisy and brutal, easily pulling the reader into the boiling cauldron of thousands of evenly matched soldiers fighting over small scraps of land. Blood flows, limbs are shorn, and it’s hard to tell who is winning or losing in the mass confusion as orders fail in the mass slaughter.
Of course, this is a horror spin on a famous true event, so at a certain point in the story one of the brothers who is dead on his feet and fighting to return to his wounded twin starts to see weird visions tracking dying or soon to be dead soldiers. Is he hallucinating or are the hounds of hell arriving to revel in the sheer volume of death?
I don’t want to say too much about the direction the second half of the story heads into, generally the second day of the battle. However, as things get weird the story is still loosely based upon fact, if you have any knowledge of the real Battle of Shiloh you might know what I am eluding to, but I will provide no further spoilers myself. It’s strange stuff but is nicely balanced with the first act of the novella and a clever use of a truly ‘weird fact’ which I looked up after a tip from the author.
Bringing supernatural beings into the centre of the American Civil War is not something you read every day, Fracassi recently said this about the fun he has with literary mash-ups:
“I have a tendency to mix genres. The Civil War setting intrigued me because what I like to
do in my stories is take Ingredient A and mix it with Ingredient B to come up with something
that hopefully reads as fresh. I’m a big fan of mash-up genre pieces, both in literature
and in other mediums, so it was fun for me to take a historical
war story and combine it with supernatural horror.”
As with all of Fracassi’s works he has the knack of drawing the reader into his world incredibly quickly and with few words draws believable and likeable characters. As the battle rages you’ll be thrusting your metaphorical bayonet along with Henry whose point of view of story it is seen from, whether you’ll still be cheering him on in the second day I’m not so sure. “Shiloh” is a brief but very enjoyable read from one of the best writers of short horror fiction in the business.