Day 1—The Jungles of Ekanga by Gilbert M. Stack
Welcome to Occultober 2020—an exploration of the spookier side of literature: urban fantasy, paranormal adventures, and, of course, horror. To open the month, I offer one of my own novels which is out today, The Jungles of Ekanga. And since I can’t review my own work, I’ll just tell you a little about it.
Jungles is a prequel novel to Legionnaire, my 10,000+ sales military fantasy series—but it’s not a clone of those stories. Where Legionnaire focuses primarily on what would be considered conventional military threats in the fantasy genre, The Jungles of Ekanga takes an inexperienced Green Vigil Marcus Venandus and confronts him with a horrific and decidedly non-conventional danger deep in the untamed jungles of one of Aquila’s more recently conquered provinces. This is fantasy sliding into the horror genre as Marcus faces threats that he and the men under his command never dreamed were possible.
Jungles is packed with enemy shaman and warriors, treacherous senior officers, a mysterious murderer, and a mystery at the heart of it all that I hope will send shivers up and down your spine.
If you’re interested in The Jungles of Ekanga, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Day 2—Dads vs. Zombies by Benjamin Wallace
Zombies hold an extremely important place in the paranormal fiction of the last couple of decades thanks in no small part to the works of brilliant authors such as Robert Kirkman and Laurell K Hamilton. One represents the zombie virus and one represents magical zombies. But the genre has grown so much since then and I’ll be introducing a lot of different types of zombie stories in the next 30 days. The first one is the very funny, but still powerful, Dads vs. Zombies.
As you can probably tell from the above, I really like the zombie apocalypse subgenre and read a lot of it. So, it is with some authority that I state that this was one of the best zombie apocalypse novels out there. It has a solid plot that would fit in nicely with any book in the genre (three men trying to reunite with their families as the world falls apart around them) but it’s the extraordinary level of humor that lifts this book to the top of the ladder.
The novel opens with our three dads (John, Chris and Erik) at the bowling alley where they have been forced to join a league by the much-hated president of their Home Owners Association. The three men don’t appear to like each other very much and it’s fairly clear that at least one of them (John) probably isn’t liked by much of anyone. The laughs start early in the chapter and continue to the end of the book. The banter between these three men is superb as Wallace draws out each man’s very distinctive character. Forced to walk home because they’ve been drinking, the zombie apocalypse comes to unlife around them and they don’t notice. By morning, the world has gone to hell and our three dads are trying to figure out how to find their families and reconnect with them.
Then the mistakes begin. In many of these novels the heroes are super smart and physically capable. They kill zombies better than Rambo. That does not describe our dads. John, especially, has an almost superhuman ability to do something stupid. And these blunders both add to the tension and create extraordinarily funny situations. Laugh out loud funny. Grab your sides funny. Rip yourself a new hernia funny. Get your eighteen-year-old son to start listening to the book with you funny. It’s that good.
It also took me in directions I didn’t expect several times. Part of this is because John continually does such comically stupid things. But many are also just good plot twists. I was sorry when the book came to an end because I just wasn’t done listening to it yet. Fortunately, I see on Audible that Dads vs. the World is coming so the humor will continue.
you’re interested in Dads vs. Zombies, why not join the discussion on my
author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Day 3 Dire Wolf of the Quapaw by Phil Truman
Here’s a spooky book in which a great deal of the tension is derived from not knowing whether or not the supernatural is involved in the horrific crimes.
Deputy Marshal Jubal Smoak is hard on the trail of Quapaw bandit, Crow Redhand. Redhand has shot Smoak twice so the deputy is highly motivated to bring him to justice. Then Redhand becomes the prime suspect in a massacre of a Quapaw family and the stakes raise considerably. Smoak needs to get his man before more people are senselessly butchered. The problem is that—dangerous as Redhand is—he’s not the only suspect in the murder. A drifter had a fight with two of the now-dead family members and more troubling yet—for the superstitiously minded—there’s a Quapaw legend about an evil spirit that takes the form of a giant dire wolf and the locals clearly fear this monster is behind the crime. Smoak isn’t big on superstition, but the reader will certainly find themselves seriously considering this possibility…
As if that isn’t enough of a mystery/adventure, there are very intriguing side mysteries that keep wrapping around the main problem. One of these was so cleverly inserted that I missed its possible connection to the main story until Smoak started putting the pieces together. Once he did, I started to figure out the whole plot—and isn’t that a significant part of what the reader wants in a good mystery? A fair chance to figure out what’s going on and then the excitement of seeing the hero try to bring the villain to justice?
This is a good mystery, but it’s also a good western. If you like both, you’ll definitely want to read this novel.
If you’re interested in Dire Wolf of the Quapaw, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Day 4 Invasion at Bald Eagle by Kris Ashton
Alien invasions are the root of many a great Occultober tales and Kris Ashton has come up with a particularly creepy take on the subgenre. The story is set in Bald Eagle, a sparsely populated Colorado town, in the 1960s. Bald Eagle is a tiny little place with one hotel, a two-man sheriff’s department, a weekly newspaper, a nuclear plant and a hippie commune. Life is pretty tame in Bald Eagle despite the fact that the hippies enjoy protesting nuclear power and the manager of the facility freaks out every time they arrive with their signs. Bert, the sheriff, is pretty laid back and sensible about his job, at least until he discovers that his daughter, Sharna, who is supposed to be in Denver has actually joined the commune and its free love lifestyle.
While the sheriff tries to figure out how to stick all the hippies in jail without forever alienating Sharna, strange things begin happening at the commune. A silver egg plummets from the sky into the lettuce patch and “stings” the hippie who picks it up. The next day he begins to act stranger than usual as does the woman he sleeps with a short while later.
I don’t want to give too much away, but things really start to heat up when Derek, the leader of the commune, gets undeniable evidence that his fellow hippies aren’t just sick, but have something sinisterly wrong with them. He runs for it, eventually encountering the sheriff who locks him up and is uninterested in stories revolving around strange eggs from the sky and the changes they have wrought on a hippie commune. Yet within a couple of days, the sheriff can’t pretend that the problems growing in his town (a large number of disappearing persons and more of the silver eggs) are all originating from hippies taking bad drugs and he is forced to deputize Derek, plus the head of the local nuclear plant, and a journalist in an attempt to save his community. The federal government also gets involved but they seem more intent on quarantining the town and wiping out all the infected rather than in helping people.
This is where this novel goes from being merely entertaining to gripping. These unlikely defenders of humanity have to come up with a plan to save Bald Eagle—both its handful of uninfected residents and those who have already been contaminated by the eggs. Their plan is a little hokey but frankly, with the pressure they are under, it’s totally believable they would try it. One of the strengths of the story is how Ashton deals with this effort and the extraordinary pressure on these men as they try to save everyone—especially the handful of very young kids who seem to be immune to the contagion. People you come to like die painfully and frankly I quickly reached the point where I couldn’t figure out how anyone was going to survive the crisis.
If you enjoy a good mystery-turned-horror-thriller, you’ll like Invasion of Bald Eagle. I know I did.
If you’re interested in Invasion at Bald Eagle, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Day 5 The Lucius Fogg Series by Dan Wickline
Urban fantasies are a rapidly growing segment of the spooky stories that compose Occultober. Most urban fantasies are mysteries focusing either upon tension in the supernatural community or frictions between the supernatural and mundane communities. A lot of the fun in reading them—especially early books in a series—comes from figuring out how the supernatural community works and why it hasn’t overrun the mundane community yet.
Enter Dan Wickline’s Lucius Fogg series. It’s built upon the Nero Wolfe model established by the amazing Rex Stout. Lucius Fogg is a master sorcerer—perhaps the greatest alive in post World War II New York City—but he has one significant restraint on his power. If he takes even one step outside of his home, he will die. To get around this difficulty, he employs private detective Jimmy Doyle to do his legwork for him as he investigates supernatural phenomenon that catch his interest.
Jimmy Doyle is a World War II vet who took a bullet to the head and spent three months in a coma. He only woke up because Fogg sent a magical pendant to him which a nurse hung around his neck. Now he has a metal plate in his head together with a strong sense of justice. He’s also got a lot of attitude that makes you wonder why he doesn’t get slugged more by the men he provokes.
The final piece of background that is critical to understanding this series is that most Americans do not believe in the supernatural even though quite a few of those creatures live among them. A lot of that ignorance is made possible by the Compact. The relative peace that New York City enjoys was built upon a compact between Fogg, the chief vampire and werewolf of New York, and a famous hunter who had been trying to kill off all the supernatural creatures in the city. This compact kept NYC from breaking out into total war at the price of Old Town (about thirty blocks of the city) being turned over to the supernaturals. New Yorkers believe this is an area of such tremendous crime that not even the police go there, but those in the know understand the truth. There’s a kingdom within New York City where mortal law does not hold sway and a lot of what Fogg and Doyle do is try to make certain that the supernatural problems stay in Old Town so the rest of the city can ignore the threat posed by their neighbors.
You can read my reviews of the individual books of this series here: https://www.gilbertstack.com/lucius-fogg. I just wish Dan Wickline would sit down and write a few more of them, but in the meantime, he’s arranged for book 1, Deadly Creatures, to be free on Amazon from October 5 to October 9 at this link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005C20FFG/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i31
If you’re interested in Lucius Fogg, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 6 Wilders by Cass Kim
For Day 6 of Occultober, we return to the zombie apocalypse where Cass Kim has found a new take on an old theme. Her equivalent of the zombies (and for the record, her story does not have zombies but the far more creative “wilders”) have not yet completely destroyed civilization. Humanity (at least in the United States) has adapted to what keeps getting referred to as the “half-pocalypse”. Life is not easy in the new normal, but it is livable. This provides a quite different story environment than the typical tale and that was very refreshing.
What’s more, Kim’s book is not about simple survival but something much more important in the grand scheme of things. (It’s difficult to write about this without giving away an important plot twist.) There is plenty of action in the book, but larger issues than personal survival are dealt with on a very intimate level that really struck home with me.
So those are the big issues that can be summed up as Wilders has a unique flavor for this subgenre, but by themselves they would only have made this an interesting book—not a great one. Fortunately, Kim populates her world with a believable cast of teenagers who are trying to thrive in the half-pocalypse. It’s a difficult balance which Kim handles with a master touch dealing with the basic immaturity of young people when the consequences of teenaged rebellion can include being eaten alive by wilders. Add to that parents who are emotionally damaged by the civilization-threatening events and Kim has created a social environment that quickly builds sympathy for her cast and adds quite a bit of tension to the story.
Finally, every novel can benefit from superb narration and Liz Brand certainly does her part to bring this book to life—especially excelling at young, easily differentiated, voices.
Cass Kim isn’t on Facebook (I think this is an age thing—young cool people do Instagram) but she very kindly answered a few questions for me which I happily include here. She’s also made Wilders free on Amazon from October 6-10. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07RQ74LG7
The half-pocalypse gives your series a very different flavor than many other books in this subgenre. How did you come to set your tale before the world finished falling apart?
Thank you! I think I was trying to look at how things might play out more realistically. It’s stuck in the half apocalypse because the rules of the virus are more realistic, giving humanity a fighting chance. I wanted my characters to have some quieter moments that allow them to relationship build and react with thinking, not just fight or flight instincts.
Which one of your main characters is most difficult to write and why?
I think for me Syd was the hardest because she has the most different dialect, and she’s a little older than the others, but still doesn’t fit in the with adults fully either.
Would you like to tell us a little about the rest of the series? No spoilers, but where are these books going?
The series is complete now as a trilogy. The second book I wrote (but first in the series) is a prequel set ten years earlier, showing the outbreak. It has totally different characters. I know it's chronologically first, but I think it's a little more fun to read second, since knowing the details of the virus in "Wilders" increases the tension in "The Change." The final book, "Consequences" deals with the aftermath of the decisions made in "Wilders" and then ratchets up the action for the second 2/3 of the book. It ties up all the loose ends.
And finally, what are you working on now? More Wilders? Or do you have new projects bursting to escape from your mind and onto the screen?
I'm actually editing a lot right now. I have a freelance line and developmental editing business (https://casskim.casskim.com/services/editing-beta-reading) that is starting to get busy, which is wonderful. I'm not sure what's next for me as a writer, but I do plan to put something new out in early 2021. Still deciding which way to lean with a few projects. I did just publish the second of the "Autumn Nights" charity anthology series: "Autumn Nights: 12 Chilling Tales For Midnight" - all profits from this installment got to Feeding America. All profits from the 2019 Autumn Nights anthology ("Autumn Nights: 13 Spooky Fall Reads") go to the ASPCA.
Occultober Day 7 Nomad by Jamie Nash
Some of the greatest horror stories were set in outer space (anyone remember Alien?) and that’s where Jamie Nash brings us in the very creepy novel, Nomad. The tension is present from page one when the heroine wakes suffocating in a cryogenic chamber while an unknown man tries to break her out of the tube. She escapes into chaos with no idea where she is or who she is. The chamber, where hundreds of additional tubes are stored, is blowing up and only the heroine and three people manage to escape to relative safety—but two of those are already dying from wounds they suffered getting out.
What follows is a rather involved mystery. Where are they? How did they get there? Who are they? And why is someone trying to kill them? This is a good mystery with a great and very creepy science fiction solution. The physical threats are very real and no one can really be trusted. But be forewarned, the violence and suffering in this novel is extremely graphic and it was hard to listen to.
So if you like your science fiction with a lot of tension and an excellent creep factor, you should give Nomad a try.
you’re interested in Nomad, why not join the discussion on my author
page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 8 High Above the Waters by Gilbert M. Stack
Ghosts are not a creature you usually find at the center of an urban fantasy novel—which might explain why I chose to put one at the heart of my book, High Above the Waters. The novel is a standalone story that intersects sixty years later with some of the characters and events of my Pembroke Steel series. It was a lot of fun to write and it continues to haunt me ten years after I finished it.
The big question at the heart of many ghost stories is why did the spirit linger in this world and it’s the critical question at the heart of this novel—but it’s not the only one. Ghosts give us a chance to explore the past in a peculiar way, and in so doing for our heroes (or heroine, in this case) to learn a lot about themselves.
High Above the Waters is now available on Amazon and in Kindle Unlimited, so if you subscribe to that series, you can read it for FREE. Here’s the blurb:
Marcus Hunter won’t stay dead; he stalks his bridge all bloody red.
Throws people off on stormy nights; and smiles as they scream in fright.
As a pregnant fifteen year old, Autumn Fields learned firsthand that the town ghost was more than a creepy legend. Rejected by her boyfriend and beaten bloody by her father, Autumn climbed out onto the old railroad bridge at the edge of town to kill herself, but a mysterious figure talked her into running away instead. Sixteen years later, she’s come back to Prospect with her daughter to learn if there really is such a thing as a ghost on Hunter’s Bridge…
If you’re interested in High Above the Waters, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 9 Riders Where There Are No Roads by David Bain
H.P. Lovecraft changed the horror/sf genres with his introduction of Cthulhu in the early twentieth century. Cthulhu is one of a number of ancient extra-dimensional entities so horrific and incomprehensible to the human mind that simply seeing one can drive a person insane. Humans are like insignificant gnats to these creatures who are constantly trying to work their way back into our universe with the help of crazed fools. Many authors have honored Lovecraft by building elaborate stories grounded in the Cthulhu mythos. David Bain’s Riders Where There Are No Roads is one of the latest tributes and unique to my experience because it’s set in a version of the old west.
Six men and one woman—mostly gunfighters, bandits, and a buffalo soldier—have found themselves in an afterlife that’s very different from what Sunday school led us to expect. It’s a huge western desolate landscape where a demon who is usually in human form and a group of his followers hunt down people who accidentally open gates into this world so they can torture them and turn them into demons like themselves. These men and women have decided to risk their own existence to try and put a stop to it—and it’s quite a wild and weird ride. This book is unquestionably as western as they come and yet—not anything like the wild west we’re used to reading about. I think Lovecraft would be proud to see he inspired this series.
If you’re interested in Riders Where There Are No Roads, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 10 One Night in Drake Mansion by Channing Whitaker
A good old fashioned haunting has long been a staple of horror so on Day 10 we turn to a genre that has given us such extraordinary books as The Turn of the Screw and The Haunting of Hill House.
A reality TV show has offered a reward of one million dollars to be split between five people if they manage to stay in a famous haunted house (the Drake Mansion) from dusk until dawn. One’s an actress, one’s a medium, one’s a ghost hunter, one’s a medical student, and one’s a supernatural debunker. Everyone is very excited when they enter the house and start to explore, wondering why a whole family disappeared here eighty years before and why so many people who have entered the house since have died.
Then, as you might imagine, strange things start to happen—things the paranormal enthusiasts instantly claim are signs of ghosts while the skeptic offers completely plausible non-supernatural explanations. To add tension to the story, the group comes across the journal of Drake, the former owner of the mansion, and we begin to relive the experiences of him and his family just before they disappeared, raising the very real probability that the mansion really is haunted.
I’m not going to give away the ending. This is an extremely well-crafted tale and will have you playing with both supernatural and mundane explanations for what is happening in the mansion. I will say, it’s exciting to the end and a totally satisfying resolution to the mystery.
If you’re interested in One Night in Drake Mansion, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 11: The Halloween Legion by Martin Powell
For Day 11 of Occultober, I want to take a look at a novel geared toward a younger audience. Writing for youths is a challenging endeavor because you need to minimize the mature elements of a story while simultaneously simplifying the plot. Yet at the same time, it’s critically important not to compromise on characterization. This is a difficult balance to achieve, but you wouldn’t know that from reading Martin Powell’s The Halloween Legion—a creepy tale enjoyable by all ages.
The small town of Woodland has had a hard time of it lately. A few months ago a freak tornado caused a lot of damage and now strange things are happening all around them—the goat boy keeps getting spotted, a brontosaurus crushes a building and kills a man, a barn starts crawling up hill towards a nearby house (that was my favorite), and a ghost keeps making appearances, and well, you get the idea. Creepy things are coming to Woodland and the sheriff and a local high school girl seem to be stuck in the middle of it. But that’s not all because a bizarre carnival run by a very strange woman has come to town and is setting up the show of a lifetime—or maybe that’s the last show of your lifetime.
What I liked most about this story was that I was very deep into the tale before I was certain who the good guys and the bad guys were. The whole tone was unsettling and let’s face it, that’s a lot of what you want in a Halloween story. I also was very pleased at how well plotted this story is. All the strange things are tied together into a very believable problem, and if the sheriff is a little slow to get on board with the supernatural things occurring all around him (even after the events of the first chapter) I’m sure I would have wanted to find another explanation if I were a character in the story as well.
If you’re interested in The Halloween Legion, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 12 The Corpse Whisperer by H. R. Boldwood
As we approach the middle of Occultober, I want to spotlight one of the most unique urban fantasy settings I’ve yet to come across. The Corpse Whisperer is not your typical zombie novel. While it’s still possible that the end of the world is coming, the people inhabiting Cincinnati haven’t figured that out yet. Instead of a zombie apocalypse, the world of The Corpse Whisperer has police forces, legal systems and a medical establishment that has learned to cope with the facts that the dead don’t always stay in their graves and a handful of special individuals like Allie Nighthawk have the power to raise them.
Boldwood takes this premise and runs with it, creating a whole world that is built around the existence of the dead walking mostly on the fringes of society. Zombies and the virus that creates them are studied by scientists. Not all zombies become instant biters and not all bitten people become zombies. There’s even a new medicine that can hold a person back from turning once bitten. The legal system has evolved to incorporate this new reality as gifted people like heroine, Allie Nighthawk, are often needed to raise the dead to ask them important questions like—did you see who murdered you? The rules are pretty well understood by the professionals. The problem that confronts the heroes in the first book of the series is that the rules are suddenly changing. People are turning without being bitten and people without the traditional genetic markers are turning too. Perhaps that cliched apocalypse really is about to overrun the world.
In the middle of this unfolding crisis is Allie Nighthawk. Studying Nighthawk would make any psychologist’s day. She has this amazing power but her ethics keep her from getting rich with it because she actually cares about people and the world around her. Yet those same people don’t seem to like her very much and she has become brash and difficult as a defense against constant rejection and ill treatment. Yet, when push comes to shove, she still stands in the thick of things, loyal to the core and determined to keep the undead from hurting people.
Nighthawk works as a consultant to the Cincinnati Police Department, and they don’t like her much either—even as they keep needing her skills to help with their investigations and generally keep the citizens of their fine city from being killed. Allie’s police detective partner enjoys giving her as hard a time as she gives him, but he has a major personality defect—he’s hard in lust with a news reporter named Jade Chen who keeps her ratings high by loudly criticizing Nighthawk every time a zombie rears its head in the city. And they’re rearing their heads a lot these days, and exhibiting new behaviors that scare the fecal matter out of anyone with enough knowledge to understand what’s happening.
As if all of that wasn’t complicated enough, Nighthawk has been assigned to help protect Leo, a mob accountant who has decided to squeal on his superiors in front of a grand jury. Those superiors, quite understandably, want to prevent him from doing this, but are they the only ones trying to kill him? Oh, and there’s one more thing about Leo which explains Nighthawk’s involvement with him. He’s been bitten and only a new drug is keeping him from turning right away. His tolerance for the medicine is growing, however, so it’s only a matter of time before he starts biting other people with the rest of the zombies.
Leo is the character that best shows Boldwood’s brilliance as an author. He starts out brash and unlikeable, but the longer he appears on the pages, the stronger you will root for him to beat the zombie thing. That’s not easy to do, and he’s not the only character that Boldwood tricks you into liking.
So, if you like great characters, non-stop action, a couple of solid mysteries, a smattering of genuine surprises, and your zombies without the cliched apocalypse, you should really give The Corpse Whisperer a try.
If you’re interested in The Corpse Whisperer , why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 13 Supernatural Bounty Hunter by Craig Halloran
There are two general directions that most urban fantasies take with their settings—the paranormal creatures are known to exist or they are still a secret from society at large. In Craig Halloran’s Supernatural Bounty Hunter series, the existence of magical creatures is not yet known even to most of law enforcement, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that changes over the course of the series.
One of the exciting elements of this series is that there is, in essence, a supernatural creature of the week and two out of the three books I’ve read so far feature monsters that do not typically appear in urban fantasies.
Yet the best part of the series is the chemistry between John Smoke, ex-special-forces-soldier turned bounty hunter turned ex-con, and Sydney Shaw, smart, driven, competent, and by the book FBI agent. They’re very much opposites, and of course the almost required romantic tension begins developing immediately, but the dialogue is great and will make you smile.
Smoke and Shaw are tracking down suspects on the FBI’s mysterious Black Slate list. No one seems to know quite where the black slate came from and why people are on it—but Smoke and Shaw quickly find out why no one listed on the slate ever gets brought in for arrest. It’s sort of like the ex-files, but more dangerous.
If you’re interested in Supernatural Bounty Hunter, why not join the
discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 14 Trapped by Michael James
For Day 14 we return to alien invasions, but I doubt you’ve seen one that looks like this. On the surface, this is a rather straightforward novel about alien drones that blanket the earth killing anyone who steps outside of a structure like a house or an automobile. The death toll quickly mounts upwards of one billion as humanity hunkers down and tries to figure out what they will do when the food and water runs out in their homes. At the same time, this is a story about people and how they will respond to being shut up with each other after terrible tragedy. Their fears and their insecurities bring out the absolute worst in some while others find the courage to face their circumstances and help others. It’s this latter story, handled with subtle sophistication by the author, Michael James, that makes this novel so powerful.
James sets the stage by introducing a fairly large cast of people planning a neighborhood barbecue. As with any street in America, there are a lot of tensions underlying the relationships on this street. An alcoholic mother is abusing her teenaged daughter. An adulterous affair is on the verge of rocking two marriages. And the usual macho BS dominates the interactions of the male parents. None of these problems seem important when the sky opens up spawning thousands of drones that immediately begin firing lasers at anyone caught out in the open, but when the survivors find themselves trapped in small groups wondering what they are going to do next, these tensions will threaten their ultimate survival.
Focusing mostly on four locations—three houses and a tree fort with three kids inside—the novel examines how different personality types deal with what could well be the end of the world. The ones who have the most difficulty coping with their sudden helplessness are the most assertive and controlling of the neighbors. Strangely, it is the teenagers in the tree fort who are best able to think about the global problem of the drones and begin to figure out ways to work around them. They show intelligence and courage that their parents are sadly (but believably) lacking. And one of the best (i.e. most outrageous) lines in the whole book comes after the teenagers have made it possible for people to start linking up together again when one of the parents says, “Let the adults handle this.” The irony of it still makes me chuckle.
Trapped is a brilliant mix of all-too-relatable horror and a well-thought-out science fiction setting. As with most good horror fiction, its success is built on believable characters dealing with appalling circumstances. Some rise up to the challenge while others give into their darker natures. It makes for very good reading and leaves me hoping there will be a sequel.
If you’re interested in Trapped, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 15 Oktoberfeast by Gilbert M. Stack
This morning, on the fifteenth day of Occultober, the third book in my Preternatural series, Oktoberfeast, went live. You can find it on Amazon and FREE on Kindle Unlimited.
The vast majority of urban fantasies follow women who find themselves enmeshed in the world of the supernatural that force them to discover or develop special abilities that they possess (often not knowing about them as the opening novel begins). They might be shape changers, witches, vampires, or have the power to raise the dead. I decided to go another route in Preternatural. The stories are told almost completely from the perspective of two individuals without any magical powers. One is Joanna Donovan, a tough as nails, extremely smart, police officers who was kicked out of Chicago for showing bias against vampires when she survived their attempt to murder her by shooting them with blessed ammunition. The other is Sam Winter, a nineteen-year-old girl who’s trying to raise money for college by taking photographs of the all-too-frequent preternatural incidents that happen in her small town. So, unlike most series, the heroines of Preternatural don’t have any special advantages when it comes to surviving the wide array of dangers they face in each book.
The first clue that nobody should be living in the town of Hadrian’s Well are place names like Dead Man’s Field and Widow’s Creek. There’s just something different about the territory—something that attracts abnormal numbers of preternatural creatures toward the town. If long term residents know what that something is, they aren’t talking.
By the time Oktoberfeast begins, Hadrian’s Well hasn’t has been rocked quite badly by previous preternatural incidents. Half of the town’s deputies are either dead or incapacitated and now, Undersheriff Joanna Donovan learns she has to police the annual Oktoberfest celebration with town volunteers rather than hiring trained law enforcement professionals to stand in for her injured force. Yet happy beer-guzzling tourists aren’t the only visitors coming to Hadrian’s Well this season. Can Joanna and her small team protect the town, or will Hadrian’s Well be overrun when the happy October festival turns into an unholy Oktoberfeast?
If you’re interested in Oktoberfeast, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 16 Wolf Hunt by Jeff Strand
Wolf Hunt is one of the best werewolf series on the market today because it manages to make the horror genre very, very funny—even while totally freaking the reader out. Jeff Strand’s bad guys really are horrible people, while his good guys are—well, let’s face it, the heroes, George and Lou, are bad guys too—they’re just not as bad as the true villains. In fact, they are two of my all-time favorite characters in fiction. They have me laughing right from the beginning of the series and I’m still laughing on the last page of book 3. They’re a little bit dumb, seriously stubborn, and surprisingly heroic and human as they try to make up for the admittedly stupid mistakes they make in every book. Things happen to them, and around them, and, unfortunately, to anyone in the vicinity.
There is a lot to love about this series—but three things stand out in particular. First, the villains are phenomenal. They are so clever in their sadism that Jeff Stand’s family might want to have him checked out by a mental health professional. It’s sick, but that’s what makes a great villain so fun to hate, isn’t it?
The second absolutely amazing thing about these book is the creative—but pretty untraditional—ways in which George and Lou continue to go after the werewolves they encounter. It turns out that silver bullets just aren’t that plentiful and that forces them to get clever—not A-Team clever by any means, but creative none the less. I was astounded by the myriad ways they managed to hurt the basically unkillable-by-conventional-means creatures. All the while soaking up tremendous amounts of damage themselves.
Finally, Jeff Strand’s ability to surprise me is absolutely amazing, and he keeps upping the ante with each successive book. I always think I know where things are going, and I’m always wrong. Strand just thinks so far outside the box that he is constantly coming up with amazing ways to advance his stories.
I suspect that this would be a great series in paper or electronic format, but it was my good fortune to encounter the audio version, so let me just add a few words of praise for the performance of narrator, Scott Thomas. All of the key figures in this book have totally unique voices that make them easy to identify. More importantly, Thomas really draws out the humor in the banter. I am really impressed that he did this without once breaking down into peals of laughter himself, as I did consistently while listening to it.
If you’re interested in Wolf Hunt, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 17 Legion of the Undead by Michael Whitehead
As we’ve noted before, zombies are an important part of horror novels. What makes this series fascinating is that the zombies arrive—not today—but at the height of the Roman Empire. In many ways, other than the setting, it’s typical zombie fare—a single source point of infection is vectoring across the planet—but it just doesn’t feel typical when you’re watching Roman legionnaires respond to the threat. The whole novel feels highly authentic as the legions struggle to come to grips with the walking dead. Then things get even more interesting as politics intersects the zombie crisis to make saving civilization—no, saving all of humanity—even more difficult. Strong and memorable characters that the author is not afraid to kill populate an unusual apocalyptic tale.
If you’re interested in Legion of the Undead, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 18 Night of the Hidden Fang by T. James Logan
Werewolves are one of the legs of the tripod that comprises modern urban fantasy (together with vampires and zombies) but it’s really difficult to write a good werewolf story focused on high school kids—at least it looked that way before I discovered Night of the Hidden Fang. The problem isn’t that the high school kids often live a very separate life from their out of touch parents, they do. It also isn’t a problem that no one would believe the high school kids if they started talking about werewolves prowling the neighborhood, they wouldn’t. No, the break down usually comes when the high school kids insist on solving the whole problem by themselves and somehow get away with doing it without the adults ever finding out. That isn’t the way T. James Logan handles this problem in Night of the Hidden Fang and as a result he was able to surprise me again and again throughout the novel. At times it felt like he was “breaking the rules” and that was very good for his story.
Mia is a believable high school girl who never feels like she fits in. Because her dad was in the military before he joined the FBI, she hasn’t lived in any one place very long and she doesn’t have many good friends. She’s bullied by some of the more popular girls and suffers endless amounts of teen angst over the boy she likes but feels like she could never have. Then strange things start happening—disappearances, body parts appearing, unsettling men, some mysterious boys—and suddenly we’re not in high school anymore. (Except, Mia is, of course, and manages to never lose all her angst no matter what terrible things are happening around her.)
After a slightly slow beginning, the plot starts charging forward and never stops until the end of the novel. There were a couple of very big surprises for me—shocks that I just never believed would occur—and one very obvious plot line that fortunately never happened. Both the shock and the author’s restraint greatly enhanced the novel.
If you’re looking for a new take on the werewolf story, you should give Night of the Hidden Fang a try.
Occultober Day 19 I Was a Teenaged Weredeer and An American Weredeer in Michigan by C.T. Phipps and Michael Suttkus
Urban fantasy loves its lycanthropes, but I had never come across a weredeer before. I mean, take a moment to think about it—deer are not carnivorous and so just don’t come to mind when you think about ravenous half-man-half-animal monsters seeking human flesh. And—the weredeer don’t do that in this novel either, but they still make for a fascinating protagonist in a world where the carnivorous types of were-creatures also exist.
The setting is also well thought out with different sorts of were-creatures living together in a world that includes vampires, ghosts, old gods, and lots of monsters. (I suppose I should consider were-creatures monsters too, but since the heroine is one, they don’t come off feeling that way.) This is a world where something new is being discovered at every turn and where the crime is deeply intertwined with a highly credible setting.
I Was a Teenaged Weredeer is a fast-moving romp that mixes a very serious, thoroughly engaging mystery with a lot of snarky teenaged attitude and about five million pop references that really solidified the setting and the story. An American Weredeer in Michigan gives you more of the same. Honestly, I couldn’t figure out how Jane was going to get out of all the messes she wandered into, but the cast is so much fun—especially the gun with the angel in it—that I wouldn’t have minded her taking twice as long to resolve the problems in both novels. Phipps and Suttkus have found a wonderfully light-hearted way to deal with some very dark issues and I think it’s this tone that puts this series head and shoulders above so many other urban fantasies. I’ve just never read anything else in the genre that feels like these stories.
If you’re interested in I Was a Teenaged Weredeer and An American Weredeer in Michigan, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 20 The Man from Rome by Dylan James Quarles
The Man from Rome is one of the most unique paranormal novels I have ever read. It’s a story about deep and abiding hate. The kind of hate that only grows over time and finds no price too great if it holds the promise of vengeance. It is perhaps ironic that the triggering incident of this raging animosity was a very small act of rejection.
In the ancient past, before the humble beginnings of the city of Rome, two immortals met. The first (the goddess, Diana) attempted to seduce the other (he who will become the Man from Rome) who drove her away with the warning that she and her kind (i.e. the other gods) should stay away from what will become Rome. Instead of listening, Diana decides to destroy the man who threatened her. Some three thousand or more years later, she is still trying. But this time she has a particularly insidious plan…
This whole book felt like a spy-thriller to me, but one with supernatural characters at least two of whom are close to immortal. The cast is wonderful. The Man from Rome himself is properly enigmatic and occasionally extraordinarily frightening. His enemies are intriguing as well, and the weapon they have chosen to use on him—taken out of the pages of mythology—was absolutely fascinating. The humans drawn into the conflict are both extremely sympathetic as they seek to be something more than sacrificial pawns. The plot was extremely well thought out, the action is pulse-pounding, and the mystery intriguing. And while I knew very little about the geography of the city of Rome before I started reading, the author succeeded in making me feel transported to that ancient city. If you’re looking for a fast-paced adventure with a lot of twists and turns, I think you’ll enjoy The Man from Rome.
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Occultober Day 21 Zombies and Chainsaws by Mike Evans
For Day 21, we return to the zombie subgenre. Question: What do you get when you combine an illegal chemical dump in a graveyard and a group of expert tree removal specialists? Answer: Mike Evans’ descriptively titled novel, Zombies and Chainsaws—an action-packed extravaganza of four men trying to fight their way out of the zombie apocalypse. I’ve read a great many novels built upon the zombie theme and for sheer fun, this one stacked up well. As with most books in this genre, I knew the plot before I listened to the first words of the story and judged the book by the three-fold test of character, action, and realism. Evans goes to town on the first two tests. His characters worked for me. Many were sympathetic, which meant I cared what happened to them, and others work as people I hoped the zombies would get their hands on. The action was also top notch. Chainsaws don’t appear in these books that often and Evans convinced me that they were the Excalibers of anti-zombie weaponry. It was only in the “realism” category that the novel had any problems. For example, I suspect that one call in the early 1980s to the CDC claiming that zombies are over-running a small midwestern town would not have been taken seriously—but ultimately it’s a small complaint. If you want a fast-paced, action-filled, zombie novel that requires absolutely no thinking to enjoy, you should take a look at Zombies and Chainsaws.
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Occultober Day 22: Hotel Megalodon by Rich Chesler
On Day 22, we leave the supernatural for the pre-historic intruding upon the present day. I read Hotel Megaldon because the blurb reminded me of the old disaster movies—The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno—and I was right. Hotel Megalodon is a very fancy, one of a kind, underwater hotel built on a reef in Fiji. Unfortunately, the building of the hotel right on the edge of an extremely deep underwater chasm has attracted the attention of a sixty-foot beast that the world thought had died out sixty million years ago. What follows is a sort of Jaws on steroids. Chesler had me on the edge of my seat from the very beginning as the prehistoric shark begins making its first appearances and James White, the owner of the new hotel, refuses to believe that anything is going wrong with his grand opening.
White makes a great villain for this story—in many ways much better than the megalodon who is only a force of nature—not evil. Even as disaster strikes and people start to die, White is more interested in covering up the problem than in saving people’s lives. Worse, he has no problem trying to murder, Coco, our heroine to further his schemes. Every bit of the attempt to rescue the hotel guests is complicated by White’s sociopathic nature and it adds substantially to the stress.
Coco makes a great heroine. She’s intelligent and brave if sometimes more than a bit rash and foolish. It’s easy to care what happens to her because she cares what’s happening to everyone. In fact, she over cares at a couple of points and it is my major problem with the story. After nearly dying helping several people escape to the shore, Coco herself gets free and immediately goes back to the hotel to see if she can help anyone else. By this time the hotel is cut off and underwater, so returning wasn’t easy, but that’s not my problem with her move. She makes no effort to alert people to what’s happening. Yes, there have been some reports from the guests she rescued, but one would think that a marine biologist and employee of the hotel might be more successful in raising public attention to the danger the remaining guests and staff are facing. There is never any talk about getting naval help (even if it were to say, no ships could arrive for forty-eight hours) and not nearly enough attention given to the reporters who are on scene trying to understand what’s gone wrong.
That being said, this is an action-packed adventure which gives 99% of its attention to the action. The ending was also not at all what I was expecting, but I liked it very much. If you think Jaws isn’t scary enough to keep you out of the water, you might want to book a room at Hotel Megalodon.
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Occultober Day 23 Bad Things by Jasper Tripp
Aliens return to Occult-tober with Jasper Tripp’s Bad Things. If you decide to read this novel, be prepared to fasten your seatbelt because you’re in for a wild ride. Aliens have come to the town of Slagstone, Montana and it’s up to the small-town sheriff, his cheerleading coach girlfriend, and a family of crazy survivalists to save the whole world from alien conquest. There frankly isn’t a lot to this plot that you haven’t seen a dozen times before, but Tripp puts it together with lovable characters and a heck of a lot of action. It’s loads of fun from start to finish and I’m very glad I read it.
I wanted to give this novel five stars for the sheer pleasure of the experience but the truth is there are a couple of flaws in the book that make me hold it down to four. The first is that the way the aliens propagate never really makes sense to me. I don’t want to say more because it would spoil a surprise toward the end of the book, but it seemed to me that the rules for making more aliens that were setup early on are broken near the end and that doesn’t sit well with me.
My second problem was much more serious. There are a lot of encounters with the big bad guy across the room while our heroes are shooting up the aliens. They identify him. They watch him do bad things. They exchange meaningful glances. But nobody ever takes a shot at him and that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Since he’s needed for the end of the story, I wouldn’t have minded him ducking out of the way, or one of the other aliens taking the hit for him, but it’s hard to understand why nobody tired to send a bullet his way in multiple scenes.
I think these problems are serious, but they only slightly tarnish a really fun story. So if you’re looking for a lot of hearty action in the alien invasion subgenre, you’ll be glad you read Bad Things.
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Occultober Day 24 Deep Night by Ambrose Ibsen
Deep Night is a supernatural detective story that plays fair with the reader even as it offers a healthy portion of make-the-hairs-stand-up-on-the-back-of-your-neck terror. As with all good horror novels, author Ambrose Ibsen builds the reader’s feelings of unease slowly and with a brilliant mechanism that absolutely everyone can relate to. A woman is awakened in the middle of the night by a tapping on her window. Just think about that for a moment. It’s almost midnight and she’s shaken from her sleep by a quiet tap tap tap on her bedroom windowpane When she builds the courage to peak outside, no one is at her window, but she catches sight of a figure watching her from the street. She quite sensibly calls the police, but the responding officer doesn’t find anything. The next night, matters progress further and when the police again come up empty handed, the woman goes in search of a private investigator to discover who is harassing her.
Enter Harlan Ulrich, formerly of Toledo. He’s lazy and uninterested in the case until his landlord increases his rent and he realizes if he doesn’t earn some money fast he’s going to lose his office. It was in many ways an unfortunate way to introduce the character because it made Ulrich initially unlikeable. We, the reader, knows this woman desperately needs help and he seems uncaring about her predicament. Fortunately, Ulrich quickly wins the reader back by sticking with the case when it immediately goes bad. You see, Ulrich quickly uncovers evidence that the client’s nocturnal visitor is not human.
From this point forward, the novel revolves around the investigation into why the client is being harassed by a supernatural creature. The creature’s appearance is quickly connected to a painting the woman has just acquired so Ulrich opens his investigation by looking into the painting’s origins and how it came into the woman’s possession. This investigation did not take the direction I initially assumed it would, and that’s always a good thing. Not all of the twists and turns in the rest of the novel were as surprising, but when an author fairly provides the clues to a mystery, he has to risk readers putting the pieces together faster than his detective does.
This novel is boosted by the excellent vocal talents of narrator, Kyle Tait. He provides excellent pacing and clearly discernable voices for all the characters. His low voice and quiet style added significantly to the tension Ibsen builds in the story as the scope of the supernatural problem is uncovered. If you like solid detective stories with a healthy (or should that be “unhealthy”) dose of the supernatural, you’ll enjoy Deep Night. I intend to read the next mystery in this series.
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Occultober Day 25 Blood Ties by Gilbert M. Stack
One of the things that made Dracula so effective is that it began by taking an English man out of his normal world and placing him in what was effectively another world—Transylvania, which was described in almost medieval terms. I wanted to recapture that sense of helplessness that comes from being dropped into a foreign environment way outside a person’s comfort zone when I wrote Blood Ties. So, I take a capable lawyer with some baggage, throw in a grieving son who is not thinking very clearly, and rip their world apart in the ancestral home of the paranormal adventure. My tag line for this one is: In the quest for immortality, a relative is a terrible thing to waste.
Here’s the blurb: It seemed like such an easy case. All attorney Liz Dunn had to do was escort Ryan Hart to meet his long lost uncle in the tiny country of Carpathia on the Transylvanian border. Ryan stood to gain a ten-million-dollar estate. Liz wanted the hefty check that would keep her law firm in the black. But Ryan’s dying uncle, the enigmatic Stefan Carpathios, planned to get something far more sinister in return. In an ancient land where legends come to life, Liz is about to discover that the world is much more complex than she believed and a blood tie can be an exceedingly dangerous thing.
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Occultober Day 26 Life and Other Dreams by Richard Dee
I’m not quite certain that this is truly an Occultober story, but it’s strange enough—shall we say, magical enough, that I thought I would go ahead and include it. It certainly is an excellent story whether it is technically supernatural in nature or not.
In fact, it’s two stories in one, mixing an excellent sf tale with a contemporary psychological drama. Rick dreams when he goes to sleep—that sounds pretty ordinary until you realize he’s dreaming another man’s life in extraordinary detail. That man happens to live six hundred years in the future on another planet and beginning to end of the novel, you’ll never be certain if that future is real or not—because the evidence clearly points in both directions.
What is clear is that Rick’s jealous wife can’t handle her husband’s dreams and invents a wild fantasy that they are proof that he is being unfaithful to her. She’s a complex and highly manipulative woman who happily takes their marriage off the deep end to validate her delusion. As she wrecks Rick’s life in this world, his dream life faces catastrophe as well. But are the two sets of events connected? And if they are, can Rick save both the women he loves on both planets. I think this one will continue to trouble you after you finish reading it.
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Occultober Day 27: Cupcakes, Trinkets and Other Deadly Magic by Meghan Ciana Doidge
Doidge has a lot of fun with the reader in this first book of her Dowser series, playing with the urban fantasy tradition of mixing romance with the genre to set the reader up for some very big surprises. In doing so she creates a vibrant setting mixing witches, werewolves, vampires and other supernatural creatures. Her heroine, Jade, is an extremely weak witch who is more interested in making cupcakes than magic. She’s bullied mercilessly by her sister—but doesn’t seem to recognize what is happening. And she’s unintentionally become a person of interest into a secret investigation into the death of several werewolves.
The story is frankly a lot of fun, but it took me a while to truly accept Jade’s character. I suspect that, like me, the average reader will figure out who the bad guys are and what they’re up to within the first few chapters, but Jade is really slow to put the pieces together. However, I decided by the end of the book that that was the result of really good characterization on the part of the author. I don’t want to give away the ending, so I’ll try to be indirect and subtle. The problem is that we often blind ourselves to the truth of those around us and while frustrating, it is actually very realistic to let our preconceptions force us to overlook what’s really happening.
Doidge has a nice setup here for future stories which will hopefully explore the mysterious half of Jade’s heritage and help the reader understand how it interweaves with the trinkets she is constantly crafting. It’s a mystery I would very much like to see resolved.
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Occultober Day 28 Cryptid Zoo by Gerry Griffiths
Gerry Griffiths knows how to set up a horror story. In this novel about an eccentric zoo featuring legendary creatures like the sasquatch, the thunderbird, and the kraken in a Jurassic Park style environment, the first half of the novel is all about creating that feeling of uh-oh. As our main family tours the exhibits and the guide happily talks about how this animal is super bright, likes to solve problems, and can survive out of the water for short periods of time, the reader is happily imagining how all of those precious little talents are going to turn into a nightmare for the characters in about fifty pages. It’s a tremendous amount of fun, and Griffiths sets the stage for a couple dozen of these bizarre creatures to get loose and wreak havoc on our cast of tourists and zoo employees.
When the animals begin their inevitable escape the tension grows dramatically. The first deaths begin to occur, followed by the first narrow escapes, until finally the expected chaos is rolling across the zoo and our various groups of heroes are struggling valiantly to survive. I only have two complaints. The first is that I just can’t imagine that any zoo would set up its electronic locks to open if the power went out. I mean, think about that for a moment. Zoos do not want the lions and tigers (or in this case, the flying snakes and the Chupacabra) escaping every time there was a power outage. And it wasn’t necessary. The first breakouts had already occurred in completely believable ways. Those monsters could have ended up freeing the others as a natural result of their destructive behavior.
My second complaint is that the novel ends too quickly. There is a ton going on and it’s all really interesting and I would have liked to see a lot more of it. The cryptids were already introduced and I could have happily read another hundred pages of our cast of heroes surviving their encounters with them. But then, many of the monsters escape into the wild so maybe Griffiths ended it where he did so he could have a sequel.
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Occultober Day 29 At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft
As the month of Occultober winds to a close, I wanted to make certain I paid tribute to at least one of the great figures who has inspired so many of these works. H.P. Lovecraft created and popularized the whole Things Man Was Not Meant to Know subgenre of horror / fantasy / sf or whatever it really is. The Elder Gods threatening the very sanity of the planet comes from Lovecraft and not only do his motifs show up rather blatantly in works like Roger Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October as well as more recent series like John Ringo’s Special Circumstances and Larry Correia’s Monster Hunters International, I suspect that you would never have gotten a TV show like the X-Files without Lovecraft, much less HBO’s new Lovecraft Country.
So, Lovecraft is hugely influential (the World Fantasy Award used to be a bust of Lovecraft) but that doesn’t mean that he’s an easy author to read. Most of the problem is that he was writing in the 1920s and 1930s and his fiction style comes off as slow moving and dated. At the Mountains of Madness takes the form of a narrative account of a disastrous expedition to Antarctica written long after the expedition’s survivors returned with the hope of dissuading the next expedition from beginning. It is filled with long and impressive descriptions of the geology of the continent and the remarkable discovery of a series of fossils the like of which have never been seen on the planet. Isolated from the rest of the world the scientists begin to discover that a wholly unanticipated species inhabited the earth tens of millions of years ago and the more they discover about this early life form the more horrific the story becomes.
And yet, while it is definitely creepy and Lovecraft has many subtle tricks to increase the reader’s understanding that things are going badly wrong, it is still a very slow-moving story thanks to the narrative style. Today this book would have been written as a third person narrative following the expedition in “real time” and the action scenes that are quickly summarized in the original would have been fleshed out to play a much more significant role in the book, but that’s not how Lovecraft wrote and I think it makes the book harder to approach for today’s readers.
I listened to an audio version of the novella narrated by Edward Hermann who did a masterful job of bringing the text to life, but even so it remains a slow-moving story. That being said, I still highly recommend it due to its influence over the decades since it was published.
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Occultober Day 30 The Blonde Goddess of Tikka-Tikka by Chris L. Adams
The modern author I know who best embraces the themes of classic pulp horror writers such as yesterday’s spotlight, H. P. Lovecraft, is Chris L. Adams. Adams is an expert on the pulp horror-adventure story and in his own fiction updates the genre for modern audiences. In his short story, The Blonde Goddess of Tikka-Tikka, I feel we get a mix of Robert E. Howard’s Conan, Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan, and H.P. Lovecraft’s Things Man Was Not Meant to Know. And I’ve had the pleasure of reading an early draft of a monumental sequel to this book that I hear is coming out soon.
Adams is at his best at building suspense as ancient horrors return to the earth. The Blonde Goddess is a fast-moving tale which you’ll want to read in one sitting. There’s a tiny twist at the end of the story that gives some well-appreciated justification to the villains’ actions. I’m hoping we will be spotlighting the sequel in this space next year.
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Occultober Day 31 Hiding Among Us by Gilbert M. Stack and Marc Hawkins
Even spooky things have to come to an end, so to celebrate the final day of Occultober I’d like to return to my own work and spotlight a novel I co-authored with my friend, Marc Hawkins. Marc and I wanted to craft a paranormal adventure that held within it the seeds of all the classic monsters—werewolves, vampires, zombies, etc.—but didn’t actually use any of them. Instead we created what I believe is a unique paranormal creature and placed them all over the planet fighting their own little wars while humanity goes about its business blissfully unaware of the monsters hiding among them. At least humanity was unaware until Mina Raintree stumbles into a situation that forces her to confront this terrifying reality.
Here’s the blurb: If not for the quick action of a passing stranger, Mina Raintree’s bad-news sister would have bled out in the road. Now the hit-and-run driver who put her in the hospital has fixated on Mina with pathological fury. He wants something Ally stole from him, and the stranger who saved Ally’s life is the only thing standing between Mina and the madman. But who is this good Samaritan who’s always at the wrong place at the right time to help Mina? And is he, like Ally’s crazy-eyed assailant much more than he appears to be? There’s a supernatural community hiding within Philadelphia pretending to be human and Mina, thanks to her younger sister, is about to learn what happens to people who discover there are monsters hiding among us.
Hiding Among Us is available on Amazon both for purchase and as part of the Kindle Unlimited program where it can be read for FREE.
Thank you for joining me for these 31 days of Occultober. You can continue to find my reviews on this site, ranging from the spooky stuff we encountered here, to just about every other conceivable genre. Next March I will host the second March to Other Worlds event to spotlight great science fiction and fantasy stories. I hope to see you all then and in the days in between. Be safe and have a Happy Halloween!
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