Review: Mister B. Gone

TITLE: Mister B. Gone
AUTHOR: Clive Barker
PUBLICATION: 2007 by HarperCollins
FORMAT: Hardcover

BOOK SYNOPSIS

Mister B. was a lowly demon from the Ninth Circle of Hell until he was fished out of the World Below. Hear his words and maybe you’ll give him the relief he begs for, even the great Secret.

 

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT . . .

I’ve had such a fondness for Clive Barker since reading the copy of Weaveworld that I discovered in the stall of used books selling in the middle of the mall during my teenage years. I did check out Mister B. Gone back when it was first released, but due to silly circumstances that put me out of the mood to read it, it was returned unfinished.

This novel is written as a confession of vile deeds done in the name of survival and fun. The reader gets to find out all about the Ninth Circle of the World Below as resembling some kind of ghetto district of the inner city. Barker has given his main character the backstory of a tragic protagonist instead of just going by the assumption that he’s a demon and therefor evil to the core. Although we don’t actually get any in depth account of vile deeds except for patricide. Time and time again the reader is informed of all the horrible things our demon narrator has done and would do at the slightest chance, but nothing is given concrete except vague allusions.

Our narrator seems… complicated. On the one hand while traveling across the land with his companion they seek to punish priests who sin the very vices that are preached against, but only a couple of pages later he is bathing in the blood of infants. Mister B. is a demon after all. Readers might find themselves confused about whether to root for him, or revile him at the brief glimpses. I find him an object of pity if anything.

The story itself is really rather dull. You can see Barker’s skill with words and crafting prose, but overall Mister B. Gone is nothing to get excited over to be honest. Even though it does have interesting lines such as the following:

Everyone loves a measure of fright in their stories; a revulsion that makes the release into love all the sweeter.

Would I recommend it? No, I can’t. The only reason you’d want to read it was if you were bound and determined to read Clive Barker’s entire body of work (which I probably will do at some point). There was some fine writing, but it felt unfulfilled.

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Review: The Fall


TITLE: The Fall (The Strain Trilogy #2)
AUTHOR: Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
PUBLICATION: 2010 by HarperCollins
FORMAT: Hardcover

BOOK SYNOPSIS

The vampiric virus unleashed in The Strain has taken over New York City. It is spreading and soon will envelop the globe. Amid the chaos, Eph Goodweather—head of the Centers for Disease Control’s team—leads a band out to stop these bloodthirsty monsters. But it may be too late.

At the center of the conflict lies a book, an ancient text that contains the vampires’ entire history . . . and their darkest secrets. Whoever finds the book can control the outcome of the war and, ultimately, the fate of us all. And it is between these warring forces that humans—powerless and vulnerable—find themselves no longer the consumers but the consumed. Though Eph understands the vampiric plague better than anyone, even he cannot protect those he loves. His ex-wife, Kelly, has been transformed into a bloodcrazed creature of the night, and now she stalks the city looking for her chance to reclaim her Dear One: Zack, Eph’s young son.

With the future of humankind in the balance, Eph and his team, guided by the brilliant former professor and Holocaust survivor Abraham Setrakian and exterminator Vasiliy Fet and joined by a crew of ragtag gangsters, must combat a terror whose ultimate plan is more terrible than anyone has imagined—a fate worse than annihilation.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT . . .

The first thing that a reader will notice is that the second installment of this trilogy of a vampire apocalypse is that it doesn’t really stop for breath. I like this approach because the slow build-up was what The Strain consisted of (find my review here) and it shouldn’t continue in the subsequent volume. Now that the characters are aware of the threat facing them, it should be about action and that’s what this book delivers. Would you really want people just sitting around doing nothing or do you want their swords singing of silver?

I liked how there was more delving into what could be the origins of these parasitic creatures, something that was alluded to in the previous book by Setrakian when he mentioned that they were not of this Earth. The questions about why the Master would seek to spread his strain of eternity when it would eliminate the food source are also addressed.

Setrakian remains my favorite character, but I confess I find myself intrigued by Mr. Quinlan. Even among the vampires, he is… unique. Gus makes the observation of how the blood worms do not wriggle underneath his skin, as they do among the Ancient Ones. The reason for this is never explained, but perhaps the answers will become clear in the final volume since it appears he was spared the destruction that the Master plotted for his adversaries.

It’s interesting to see how the world might be in the face of global destruction. I think that it’s summed up best early on in this book when amidst looting it is observed that one just needs to wait and see what happens when people are no longer able to charge up their laptops and phones. Could you imagine the chaos? People would actually be forced to talk face-to-face! The horror!

Personally I found that The Fall was the better of the two books in the trilogy that I have read so far. My hold on the final book The Night Eternal is currently in transit at the library so I am hoping to start reading the trilogy’s conclusion next week. If you haven’t read this trilogy, what are you waiting for?

MY RATING

Review: Fangs


TITLE: Fangs (The Vampire Archives #2)
AUTHOR: Otto Penzler (editor)
PUBLICATION: 2010 by Vintage Books
FORMAT: Paperback

BOOK SYNOPSIS

The second immortal volume in this dark and fantastic series, Fangs is a scintillating and sinister collection of vampire stories and part of the now legendary Vampire Archives. Including Clive Barker, Anne Rice, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Many Many More. . .

Featuring:

· bloody fangs
· dark and foreboding crypts
· mysterious nighttime apparitions
· languid ladies

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT . . .

I rather liked the first volume of the mass market paperback release of The Vampire Archives that I read last year. I’ve had volumes two and three in my possessions since they were available but I’ve kept putting off reading them and I don’t know why. Yet it’s Halloween and what better time is there for vampires?

This volume is giving me my first tastes of certain popular authors such as Richard Matheson and H.P. Lovecraft. Yes, this is my first experience with Lovecraft. It seems he’s a staple of anyone whom calls themselves a fan of horror fiction, but I’ve never gotten around to reading his stuff. But what caught my eye on this particular collection were the names Clive Barker and Arthur Conan Doyle.

The beautiful thing about anthologies is the fact that if a story is bad, it won’t be the whole book. I can skip it if it’s keeping me from reading and I don’t have to force myself to read on in the hopes that it may get better before I totally abandon it. I can just go to the next tale. In this volume there are good stories and not so good stories. Richard Laymon’s “Special” was interesting with women being used as breeders for human Guardians or food for the vampires. The poem from Lord Byron proves that I need to read more Byron at some point. I was kind of bored by the Anne Rice story so I skipped it… I can always finish it at a later point, right? To be honest it’s not the only one that I skipped. I confess my shame that I got bored by the Clive Barker tale included in this collection and the sad thing is that he’s one of my favorite authors so I was looking forward to his the most.

One of the stories that I was looking forward to is “Carmilla” by Sheridan de Fanu. It’s one of those tales that I’ve been meaning to read for several years but either never found a book that had it or got around to it. However, now that I’ve finally read it I can say that it’s my favorite in this particular collection. A lesbian vampire that shape-shifts into a cat? Oh, yes, I’m all for that right there! I rather enjoyed it.

I found “The Werewolf and the Vampire” to be quite comical. It’s another good tale I enjoyed in this collection.

These vampires aren’t all the traditional blood-suckers either as there are some which can merely drain the life from their victims.

For the vampire or horror fan, this is a decent choice of short stories to look into.

MY RATING

Review: The Strain


TITLE: The Strain (The Strain Trilogy #1)
AUTHOR: Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
PUBLICATION: 2009 by Harper Audio
FORMAT: Audiobook (read by Ron Perlman)

BOOK SYNOPSIS

They have always been here. Vampires. In secret and in darkness. Waiting. Now their time has come.

In one week, Manhattan will be gone. In one month, the country.

In two months–the world.

A Boeing 777 arrives at JFK and is on its way across the tarmac, when it suddenly stops dead. All window shades are pulled down. All lights are out. All communication channels have gone quiet. Crews on the ground are lost for answers, but an alert goes out to the CDC. Dr. Eph Goodweather, head of their Canary project, a rapid-response team that investigates biological threats, gets the call and boards the plane. What he finds makes his blood run cold.

In a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem, a former professor and survivor of the Holocaust named Abraham Setrakian knows something is happening. And he knows the time has come, that a war is brewing . . .

So begins a battle of mammoth proportions as the vampiric virus that has infected New York begins to spill out into the streets. Eph, who is joined by Setrakian and a motley crew of fighters, must now find a way to stop the contagion and save his city–a city that includes his wife and son–before it is too late.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT . . .

I am a fan of vampires, but my heart truly resides with the terrifying monsters of our deepest nightmares. I loved reading the first two books in the trilogy last year and I’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of the final volume. My significant other was interested in the first book when he heard it was available as an audiobook and so I have access to Ron Perlman’s performance whenever I choose now. I decided to listen to it in full, since I’ve only really sampled the first disc in the past. I wish to reread the trilogy’s installments already published in readiness for the last book to be released at the end of this month. Partially from the fear that I forget too much of a story over time due to the sheer volume of books that I read, and perhaps also the desire to hear Ron Perlman read to me because I positively adored him as Vincent in the Beauty and the Beast television series!

One of the first things that I as a reader noticed about this book was how readable it turned out to be. In fact, it often feels as though a movie is playing, which shouldn’t be too surprising considering that one of the authors is a film director. I sincerely hope that del Toro and Hogan were writing the screenplay for a future movie because I wouldn’t miss it for anything! There are so many different perspectives that we are given from various characters, several whom only deign to make a single appearance but sometimes it can leave you cheering one moment and sick the next. Like the scene where the wife finds her abusive husband whom she believed to be dead nesting in her attic. Anyone who is familiar with Bram Stoker’s Dracula will see how The Strain is a homage to the vampire classic. One of the things that I like about reading (or listening to in this case) a book again is noticing all the little details that might have been missed upon the first perusal. I know what’s going to happen so I can pay attention to elements of the writing. And yes, I did forget things even though it’s only been about a year since I last read the novel.

It’s quite interesting the approach that the authors take in treating vampirism as a virus. And what it does to the body is not sexy, it’s utterly disgusting and vile what was once human can become after the blood worms do their work. In my opinion the ancient vampires are one of the coolest aspects of these books, and it makes me anxious for the next book because I know that they have a little more page time. While a stinger under the tongue doesn’t appear to be a unique feature in vampire literature if another book on vampires I read is to be believed, it most certainly is a refreshing change from pointy fangs. To be turned is definitely not a fate that you want to experience in this universe. Hogan and del Toro have made vampires cool again… in an utterly terrifying way.

Setrakian is easily my favorite character in the book. One of the things that I really like about Perlman’s narration of this novel is the voice that he gives this character.

Ron Perlman is a good narrator, and I think he works well for this particular story. I wouldn’t go so far to say he’s my favorite reader, but sometimes it was easy to lose myself in his narration of the beginning of the vampire apocalypse. I thought the dramatic music was a nice touch because it could startle you when you least expected it. The only thing I would have changed about the presentation of this audiobook is the inclusion of an “end of disc X” announcement. I’m just picky that way, I guess.

I want all the teenyboppers who want vampires for boyfriends to read this and tell me how much they want to procreate with this vision of the undead.

I definitely recommend that you read this book. More people need to read this trilogy! Now!

MY RATING

Review: Bestial


Title: Bestial
Author: Ray Garton
Publication: 2009 by Leisure Books
Format: Paperback

Book Synopsis

Something very strange is happening in the coastal California town of Big Rock. Several residents have died in unexplained, particularly brutal ways, many torn apart in animal attacks. And there’s always that eerie howling late at night….

You might think there’s a werewolf in town. But you’d be wrong. It’s not just one werewolf, but the whole town that’s gradually transforming. Bit by bit, as the infection spreads, the werewolves are becoming more and more powerful. In fact, humans may soon be the minority, mere prey for their hungry neighbors. Is it too late for the humans to fight back? Did they ever have a chance from the start?

What I Thought About It . . .

I only owned a copy of this book because I was at the Wal-Mart close to work one day and seen several horror titles going for $1.99 each… and being a horror fan myself, I couldn’t resist the temptation to buy several of them. Werewolves were also part of the temptation for me. I need a break from reading about vampires all the time. Which is kind of amusing considering that I like werewolves better than undead bloodsuckers…

The novel starts off interestingly enough. A half-breed child is born from a woman’s rape that starts off the story by eating a human baby a mere moments upon its birth. And so begins a long list of gore, violence, and sex, both consensual and forced. Did we really need that much rape to be going on? However, I will give the book kudos for making the virus for lycanthropy transmittable through sexual intercourse instead of the usual bite or savaging from a werewolf. Reminded me a bit of the film Ginger Snaps. Garton’s werewolves are monsters plain and simple. You don’t want to copulate with them, except if you happen to be one I suppose as the big orgy would imply. Some of the things described in the book were a bit disgusting to me, a fact that proves I must not be totally desensitized from horror. Although it could all just be in the writing style and how it has been portrayed. Perhaps I’m spoiled by classic writers.

I consider myself to be a character-driven reader so if I do not really care about the casting of the story, there’s a good chance that my enjoyment of the tale shall be greatly lessened as a result. And so was the case in this instance. I didn’t really care if the characters didn’t survive in Bestial. Let the lycanthropes eat human flesh! Although I did like the gang of ex-convicts that were brought in as back-up for the investigators sent to Big Rock. It’s quite the pity that there was so little page time devoted to them.

Like any true horror novel things are not wrapped up in nice little packages, and true threats are extremely hard to kill. The big climax of the story seemed short-lived. I would say that I liked the set-up of this novel, but I didn’t particularly care for the execution of it. Still it had its interesting moments. Yet I wouldn’t go out of my way to suggest that you read it.

MY RATING

Review: My Swordhand Is Singing


Title: My Swordhand Is Singing
Author: Marcus Sedgwick
Publication: 2007 by Wendy Lamb Books
Format: Hardcover

Book Synopsis

WHEN TOMAS AND HIS SON, Peter, settle in Chust as woodcutters, Tomas digs a channel of fast-flowing waters around their hut, so they have their own little island kingdom. Peter doesn’t understand why his father has done this, nor why his father carries a long, battered box, whose mysterious contents he is forbidden to know. But Tomas is a man with a past: a past that is tracking him with deadly intent, and when the dead of Chust begin to rise from their graves, both father and son must face a soulless enemy and a terrifying destiny.

What I Thought About It . . .
With so much vampire fiction flooding the market nowadays, it is difficult to discover something enjoyable to read if you don’t fancy a story with romantic notions regarding the undead. This makes discovering something like Marcus Sedgwick’s novel a treat because we have vampires that are based upon folklore and not Hollywood fantasies.

The prose is simple and straightforward. I think this will appeal to many, but personally I would have liked more descriptions. Still that is just how I am because I like to feel the setting of a place in great detail. Much is left to the reader’s imagination, but I suppose I need to remember what audience this book is written for so I cannot fault it on that point since it is my own likings that require this of books.

The terror starts swiftly in the opening chapter with a gruesome death and then builds up again as Peter realizes the horror around him is not merely peasant superstitions. I do enjoy how the author has drawn on the traditional folklore that surrounded these creatures for centuries. And they are wonderful predators instead of misunderstood romantics!

MY RATING