Krampus, the Yule Lord, Brom, Harper Voyager, ISBN 9780062095657, $27.99, 357 pgs.

Okay, so this is a holiday book, sort of. Krampus of the title is an old yule spirit who’s a bit pissed off because Santa Claus has managed to dump him into a cave for a few thousand years. but Krampus manages to get out and is looking for revenge. Santa ends up getting a bit beat up by Krampus and his pals and a few mortals end up in the mix as well.Krampus

This is not your average holiday tale, as you already have figured out.  Santa is not quite the jolly nice guy, although anyone with a naughty list probably has at least a grey side if not a dark side.  Krampus is not quite the abused old spirit either as he’d just as soon use you up than hand you a treat.  Most of the book takes place in West Virginia which is not a bad setting for old world vs new world ideologies.

I have to admit that I let this book sit around for a bit because I am not big on artists who decide they can be authors.  And there is a bit of the naive presentation to this story that surely comes from that.  But, on the other hand, it’s an interesting read full of characters who are not quite what they seem to be and who act occasionally in ways that seem out of character until you think about it.

Should you wait until next Christmas to read this book?  Depends on your own sensibilities.  Certainly there is nothing wrong with reading a holiday story outside of that holiday’s season.  And since Krampus is involved your window is a bit wider than if it were just Santa. I’d say go ahead and throw caution to the wind.  Besides, the best time to read horror stories is in the light of day so maybe the best time to read holiday stories is after the holiday is past and done.

Recommended and if you want to pick up a copy for your very own all you have to do is click right here: Krampus: The Yule Lord

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The Dead Run, Adam Mansbach, Harper Voyager, ISBN 9780062199652, 297 pgs., $25.99

Jess Galvin finds himself on the wrong end of a fight in Mexico and ends up in prison. And it’s not the nice kind of prison. But he’s in luck, sort dead runof. He’ll get released and be free if he only delivers a package across the border. The catch? He has to do it in 24 hours or less, the trail is pure southwestern desert, and he’s pretty sure the iron box he’ll be carrying is nothing less than a package from the devil.  Galvin accepts the bargain as it is the only way he is ever going to get out of the prison and get back to his daughter who is living with his unbalanced, ex-wife.  Galvin is to cross the desert and give the box to Aaron Seth.  Simple.  What Galvin does not know is that Seth is the son of the demon who gave him the box in the first place and this is to be the final step in transferring power from father to son.

As Galvin navigates the desert he is beset by girls who claw their way out of the sand to attack him.  Former victims of the demon who are rising to bring an end to this evil for once and forever.  At the same time, local law man Bob Nichols finds his small town beset by crime and, oddly enough, cult leader Aaron Seth seems to be involved.  the disappearance of a sixteen year old girl, who is linked to Seth, sets Nichols investigating deeper than he normally would.

As the box gets closer and closer an ancient evil begins to stir, drawing all of the pieces together for one final cataclysm.  Is it the end of the world or just that part of Texas. For those involved it hardly matters.

Okay, this was a fun book, if a book about evil and the end of the world built on the backs of young, sacrificed girls can be considered fun.  Still, it is full of possibilities of redemption and that’s what most of us want in a horror novel.  Plenty of gruesome gore and ultimate redemption for the ones who make the ultimate choices.

Mansbach puts together a pretty tight and fun novel, with plenty of chills and shivers and a story that’s got more than a few twists to it.  The characters are also a diverse and fun group, or I should maybe say interesting group.  I really enjoyed the book, didn’t see a lot of the twists coming, could not guess the end except for a very broad way, and found myself thoroughly entertained.

Recommended if you like horror, suspense and macabre humor.

to get your very own copy, click here: The Dead Run: A Novel

By the Blood of Heroes: The Great Undead War: Book I, Joseph Nassise, Harpoer, ISBN 0-06-204875-2, 345 pgs., $14.99

The Red Baron

The Red Baron (Photo credit: jarrodvk)

It’s 1917 and the Kaiser‘s scientist’s have stumbled on a new type of gas to be used in the trenches–one that turns the dead into zombies. They’ve also discovered that if they use it on a battlefield devoid of their own living then all of the reborn dead attack those who are living, primarily the enemy soldiers. But there’s an oddity as well, and that is that occasionally, one of the new-born dead remains conscious of thought. One of these is the Red Barron, who continues to fly and shoot down British planes even though he died in a crash. When veteran American Ace, Major Jack Freeman is downed behind enemy lines and taken captive, Captain Michael, Madman Burke is recruited to go in and get him back.  Burke, and his merry band of oddball madmen, have to work their way behind enemy lines, break into a prison camp, and then return with Freeman to the allied front.

Okay, so Zombies in World War One may be stretching the whole zombie experience a bit too far, but, hey, if it’s fun then it’s worth it.  Nassise does a credible job with taking what could be just a really silly premise and keeping it pretty straightforward.  A couple of the characters are pretty stereotypical but no more so than you would find in any war movie of the period.  Making the Red Barron one of the aware zombies is a bit of a stroke of positive intelligence as you get not only a known name villain but a pivot point for some of the action.

It’s an interesting book, entertaining, fairly tight in it’s plotting with decent characters.  There is one major error in the book however. At one point the allies have one of the bad guys tied to a chair in the prisoner of war camp and they are working him over for information.  One of the Americans says, “let’s shoot him.”  And then there’s a noise outside, they leave the room.  Never to return.  I assume the guy is still sitting there, tied to that chair.  Kind of a bone head error.  I assume the book was read at least 3 times for errors so it got through each time. I read that passage 5 times just because I was sure I was missing something, some word, some thought, that would make this behavior okay.  Nope, not in there.  Ah, well, I suppose when zombies are involved you have to expect the occasional brain error.

I’d recommend it but only conditionally. If you’re not a zombie fan then there’s not going to be much here for you.  Otherwise, it’s worth picking up.

And, to get your own copy, just click here: By the Blood of Heroes: The Great Undead War: Book I

Raising Stony Mayhall, Daryl Gregory, Del Rey, ISBN 9780345522375, $15, 448 pgs.

English: A zombie

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One day, in the middle of a snowstorm, a woman, and her daughters, find a dead girl and a baby on the edge of a field by their drive. Neither the girl nor the baby is breathing. And yet, the baby opens its eyes and looks at them–and then he begins to move. They take him inside and, against all better judgement, they begin to raise him rather than turn him over to the authorities who would destroy him for the zombie he clearly is.

Seems there was a viral outbreak in the late 60s that turned people into zombies and it was only beaten back by dramatic action in the part of the government. But there is more to the baby than meets the eye. Unlike other zombies who are frozen at the stage they became infected, Stony, for so they have named the babe, begins to grow. Years pass and Stony continues to grow–and learn. He makes friends with his sisters and with a neighbor boy. But then, when he is 18, things change and Stony needs to run or be destroyed. This is the first time he learns that there are others like him. Many others. And they are organized. And some want to infect the world as a means of survival.

I have to say that this is one of the more interesting zombie novels I have ever read. It comes in five parts: raising Stony, the underground, Prison, the future, and the end. Each part is a logical progression of the previous although it is not necessarily immediate. Gregory has taken the zombie world and turned it on its head. These are not the mindless zombies of Romero, although they do go through that phase, but, rather, people who have been zombified and have come out the other end, sometimes the worse for wear and sometimes just different. The book is well crafted, extremely well written in an understated style that works extremely well with the subject matter.

This was a fun book to read and Gregory does not hold anything back. The narrative moves between positive and negative with fluidity but always moves forward step after step. On top of his writing ability, Gregory has developed zombification in a way that I have never seen before. In some ways, it carries a lot of the belief suspension required when dealing with the subject. Gregory does a masterful job at this and the book is interesting and compelling. I highly recommend it and I would search other anything else that Daryl Gregory has written. I know that I am going to.

To get a copy for yourself, click here –> Raising Stony Mayhall

The Fall (The Strain Trilogy), Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, Harper, ISBN 9780061558252, $9.99

Master (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

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This is the second book in Del Toro and Hogan’s trilogy retelling of the Dracula mythos. Eph Goodweather leads a ragged band out to destroy the vampires which have infected Manhattan–and the world. The Master, an aged vampire who has gone against centuries of vampire culture to make a play for world domination, has come to New York in order to put his plan in place. He’s going to get rid of the rest of the other old vampires and build things new again.
Humans don’t stand a chance since it seems that many of the weapons talked about in vampire lore don’t work. Even direct sunlight only made the master smolder and did not kill him. Now, Eph and a few others, are faced with a growing vampire population in the city that they have to work through to try to find and kill the master. If they succeed the world may survive, but only if they do it fast enough. If they don’t then everyone is doomed.

Del Toro and Hogan have taken Stoker‘s Dracula and revamped it, as it were, for the modern age. The book suffers a bit from middle book syndrome in that the pacing is a bit off, the story is in a flat period–the introduction is all finished and you know a third book is coming which contains the big finish so what is going to happen in this, the second book? And it’s a big book. They’ve also trapped themselves a bit by stretching this over three books. Certainly it is a big story but not big enough for three big books. Heck, Stoker did it in one medium sized book.
As for the story itself, it has all the implausibility of a movie script. But this should surprise no one since Del Toro is a director. I’m leaning heavily now on not letting movie directors write books. Sure the imagery is great, I mean, that’s what they do, but the plot is always full of holes because they are going for the pretty picture and not what makes sense for the characters to do.

I really liked parts of this book but I also yawned through big parts of it too. I thought the first book was very well done and I imagine the ending will be a big Hollywood finish, but getting there is going to be a bit tedious. There is a real lack of energy in this book. I found myself skimming page after page of description. The flashbacks did not move the story forward and the characters became uninteresting at times. This is very hard to do considering we’re talking vampires taking over Manhattan. But, if you remember, movie directors have done this in the past with the American Godzilla movie which was made to be tedious and illogical.

If you are a hard core vampire or Del Toro or Hogan fan then I guess you have no choice. Otherwise I think your time is better spent elsewhere.

The Strain Trilogy
* The Strain
* The Fall
* Eternal Night

To get your copy, click here: The Fall (The Strain Trilogy)

Wait For Dusk, Jocelynn Drake, Eos, ISBN 978-006-185181-0, $7.99

A vampire "dusting". The writers fel...

Image via Wikipedia

This is the fifth Dark Days novel, and it continues the story of Mira. Mira can control fire, a rare thing among vampires, which makes her incredibly dangerous to everyone. And when she is teamed up with vampire slayer Danaus, her power grows exponentially. This is one reason everybody wants her–either to kill her to keep her from interfering with plans, or to use her as a means to bring about the end days. Either way, Mira finds herself surrounded by people she can barely trust and thrust into situations that constantly require her to make decisions that put those she loves into danger. Death, it seems, is around every corner, and this time the corners are in Hungary. Mira has few places to turn and fewer people she can depend on.

This book returns the point of view (POV) to Mira, after switching, for no apparent reason, to Danaus for the last book. Once again, Mira is faced with the Naturi who want to use her to open a portal to the place they were exiled to so they can return and cleanse the Earth of everyone. She also has to deal with the Elders, among who she is now one, as they use their centuries of living to manipulate and plot against each other. There is, it seems, no low they won’t sink to in order to get a little revenge. And then there is Mira’s love interest, the man who is dedicated to seeing her killed but who finds himself working with her more than against her. It’s an odd relationship to say the least.

I have to say I enjoyed the first three books and that the last book, due to the POV switch, kind of threw me. While this book returns to the formula of the first three there is also a lot jammed in here and it seems to cover little new ground, although it does inch along some character development. That said, if you really enjoyed the first three books then you will also enjoy this one.

I think series are tough to maintain because the writer either had a grand tale to tell or not and can get lost in the telling or just lost in the selling. Seems to me there are plenty of stories out there relating to Mira and Jocelyn Drake has proven that she can write so she should feel free to tie some of these story lines up and move forward. I’m hoping the next book does some of that.

Recommended, especially if you loved the first couple of books.

Click here to purchase the book from Amazon. Wait for Dusk (Dark Days, Book 5)

Aloha From Hell, Richard Kadrey, Harper, ISBN 978-0-06-171432-0, 438 pgs., $23.99

Cover of "Sandman Slim: A Novel"

Cover of Sandman Slim: A Novel

This is the third Sandman Slim novel and it continues the story of James Stark, the human who was sent to hell, only to become the baddest, bad ass killer of demons in Pandemonium.  While you don’t need to have read the first two books, you should.  First because it helps to have all the story behind you and second because they are very good.  This time Stark needs to return to hell to find and kill Mason, the guy who sent him to hell in the first place.  Along the way Stark has a few adventures and needs to get a few things straight and manages to save a few people in the process as well, sort of a typical week for Stark in Los Angeles.

When Stark returns to hell, and getting there is quite the journey in and of itself, he has to find his former girlfriend Alice, who has been kid-napped from heaven, stir up a rebellion by releasing certain demon generals from Tartarus, then track down Mason.  And he has to do it without being recognized by the thousands of hellions who are on the look out for him.  Good think Stark has a few tricks up his sleeve and the help of a few wild cards of his own.

I really enjoyed this boo. It’s a rousing adventure with a protagonist who has a sick sense of humor and a twisted way of looking at the world.  Not that you would not expect this from someone who went to hell and spent a decade as the plaything of demons.  Kadrey has created a world full of magic and menace and tempers it all with dark comedy.  The writing is crisp, the pace at time frenetic, and the plotting is always interesting and deep.  The dialogue especially is fun to read.

There are few books out now that I immediately put to the top of my reading list.  Sandman Slim gets put there the minute it comes in the door.  Highly recommended.  Go out and get them all if you haven’t read this series yet.  And if you have been waiting for book three, it’s here so clear a few hours off your schedule and enjoy.

And, since you will want to get the book right this very instant, I have included the following link:

Aloha from Hell: A Sandman Slim Novel