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ANNO MORTIS By Rebecca Levene – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 8, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Zombies in ancient Rome? Gladiators and zombies? I bet the publishers were wetting themselves hearing the idea for this. Unfortunately somewhere along the line the idea got a little watered down as the plot developed.

A female gladiator, a rich young playboy, a pampered slave and a mysterious red-headed man join forces when they discover there is an ancient Egyptian Sect planning on opening the gates of death in Caligula’s Rome. Fighting not only the all-powerful sect, which has infiltrated all of high society, but also staying out of reach of the crazy Caesar, will keep our company occupied.

Ok, so the passion and excitement that swelled with the idea is a little tempered. But it could still be a pretty good book.

And it is, until the end, when all goes to hell, literally, when our heroes have to go to the land of death, visiting with the Gods themselves in their efforts to put things back to normal. While the Roman zombies are set up nice and plausibly, the ending just goes too far, breaking through the thin web of believability, heading into unknown realms. It just goes too far, the “twist” ending, which takes up the last fifty odd pages, just makes all of what happened previously a waste of time.

The characters are pretty good, and the book starts well, but the ending virtually ruins it.

Abaddon Books can be praised for virtually starting the current trend of historical zombie stories, but unfortunately for them other people are doing it much better.

So much promise, so much disappointment. A worthy effort, but only for those obsessed with the undead, otherwise there is better on offer.

RED By Jack Ketchum – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 9, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Avery Ludlow is an old man fishing with his dog. When three teenagers try to rob him he offers them all the cash he has, barely twenty dollars. The teenagers aren’t happy and shoot Ludlow’s dog, blasting off its head with a shotgun and laughing as they make their escape.

So far, so Ketchum. I was expecting a huge and hideously violent revenge tale.

Erm, that’s not what happens. Instead, we get Ludlow trying to get justice, but by traditional, conventional methods; visiting the boys’ parents, going to the police, appearing on TV. But Ludlow’s efforts come to nothing and each time he tries something new, they retaliate against him, with bricks through his window, and burning down his store.

This isn’t really a violent book, it doesn’t make your squirm. It’s a quiet novel from Ketchum, who doesn’t deliver the nastiness he normally does. This is a nice book, more subtle than regular Ketchum readers are used to. It’s good, Ketchum still provides the goods, but not in the way you expect. It’s a nice horror novel, more like a Richard Laymon or Dean R. Koontz book. A horror novel that turns out right in the end, not the bloody massacre of Off Season.

Obviously the publishers have realised that what Ketchum readers want is blood, violence and nastiness, and so they’ve provided us with the novella “The Passenger” in this edition. Classic Ketchum. When her car breaks down late one night Janet is pleasantly surprised to be picked up by a former classmate. So she wasn’t exactly friends with Marion, but she doesn’t have too far to get home. Then they crash into a group of murderers and rapists after Marion refuses to let Janet leave the car, and things start to get really nasty.

When humans goes bad, it could be the tag line of most of Ketchum’s work, and “The Passenger” is no exception. Think of all of the evil possibilities and them throw in some more and then ramp it up a notch, and that’s what Ketchum delivers.

Red isn’t Ketchum at his best, but it’s still a good novel, and nice and short. But “The Passenger” is classic Ketchum, and classic Ketchum always delivers. It’s not like reading, it’s like experiencing pain and torture. Somehow, you don’t know how, you managed to survive and you know that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.