Nightmares Abound!

I’ve been a fan of Adrian Chamberlin‘s work since I first read The Caretakers. He’s a helluva writer, and has a sense of humor to match. After reading The Caretakers, I resolved to pay close attention to any anthology in which his work is featured, as well as to his own books.

I stumbled on Dreaming in Darkness awhile ago and had purchased it for my Kindle. Since I finished a run of books for review, I wanted to read something quick for myself. If nothing else, it would be vastly different than the books I had been reading, and I thought it would work as a palate cleanser until the next round of review books arrived.

Dreaming in Darkness was more than I could have ever hoped for, and just may have spoiled me for Mythos literature forever. There are only four stories in the book, which clocks in at  a massive 356 pages. Each story is by a different author, and I tell you no lies when I say that all of them were fantastic. After having finished it, I’d be pressed to select just one as a favorite. They were all so wildly different, yet united in that they were horrifying on a visceral level. These stories are what primitive fears are made of!

Before I go into each story, please note that I am giving vague descriptions of each. They are all wonderfully complex with solid and engaging characters. But I don’t want to deprive the reader of the surprise and terror by spoiling the stories ahead of time. Therefore, please forgive me for the thin descriptions.

THE ORDER – Aaron J. French

In this tale, retired detective Carl Sanford returns to the field at the behest of a friend. His interest in the occult as well as conspiracy theories makes him a particularly important viewpoint on the latest murder case. As Sanford and the others delve deeper into the case, they find that not only are many of the occult theories actually true, but that there is a cult called the Order of Oriphiel that seeks to overturn the world order and bring the Apocalypse.

SHADRACH BESIEGED – Adrian Chamberlin

A centuries-long struggle to keep a horrifying idol out of the wrong hands comes to a terrifying climax at an abandoned monastery during the English Civil War. The majority of the soldiers caught up in the mess think they are fighting their Civil War. Little do they know that Shadrach and his old foe have also come together to wage their own war, and everyone around them will get swept into it. Not to mention having to cross a hellish forest with an agenda of it’s own!

THE SERPENT’S EGG – Jonathan Green

A writer goes and stays in a castle, hoping to find inspiration after his marriage and life crumbled in the aftermath of his first successful novel and the dry period that followed. He’s researching the legend of the Lambton Worm, and thinks himself lucky to find his host is none other than Lord Tristam Lambton himself. However, he stumbles onto a pagan ritual and from there everything goes to hell. He soon finds out that not only is the Lambton Worm no legend, but he now must fight this cult for his life.

NEW HEAVENS – John Prescott

Instead of bringing the Old Ones to us, we are brought to the Old Ones. Literally! Monoliths rise from the sea, people wander into the ocean only to be changed into horrifying creatures, and then one day, the Earth itself is transported somewhere else. Our characters are left to battle against the Old Ones in their own environment, among countless other horrors, as they also struggle to get the Earth back in it’s own universe.

Again, these descriptions are thin compared to the wonderful complexity of each story. The descriptions in all of them are guaranteed to give nightmares – I can attest to this personally, from experience. At first I thought I could pick favorites, but by the end, I was positive that every story is unique and terrifying in it’s own right.

All four authors masterfully blend suspense, thrills, scares, and mystery together. Dreaming in Darkness is an absolutely amazing book, and at $4.00 for Kindle, it’s an absolute steal! If you don’t have a Kindle, don’t despair. You can still read it with the free Amazon Kindle app.

Nightmares, I tell you!

I know this is probably common knowledge, considering I run a review website dedicated to horror and sci-fi, but it bears repeating. I love horror. To the point where I live it. My library walls and shelves are covered with all sorts of horror paraphernalia, and Edward Gorey lithographs hang in my living room. My movie collection is basically a wasteland if you don’t like horror. The same for sci-fi. The point I’m trying to prove is that it’s been quite some time since I’ve had nightmares based on what I’ve read. When you read about zombies and monsters and all other manner of horror all the time, it’s hard to be shocked.

I thought those days were over, to be honest. But then I started The ePocalypse: emails at the end. From the first day until the last, I had nightmares. The stories are all told in an email format, where the reader is given a collection of exchanges between people and that makes up the story. The Kindle version is 450 pages long, and as you can see with all the author names in my keywords section for this post, the talent is varied and strong. (You may see some familiar names….Suzanne Robb, Adrian Chamberlin, and Bowie Ibarra stood out for me. The ones you don’t recognize will still make an impact on you, and leave you wanting to read more of their works!)

For such a specific topic, the emails are surprisingly varied. They are between coworkers, estranged lovers, friends, enemies, families, friends, and just about anyone you can think of. As to the apocalypses themselves, they’re also varied. The standards are there: chemical warfare, biological warfare, human stupidity, disease, starvation, natural disaster, etc. Everything you would expect. Then there are some really out-there stories, that work purely because they’re so damnably absurd, but treated so realistically. There are mole people who come up from the Earth and destroy people. Disease cures gone wrong. Astronauts trapped in space trying to fight a fungus-like growth. A few religious fanatics. And my favorite, killer kudzu. That’s right….a bio-engineered and very pissed off strain of groundcover plant goes postal. It’s reminiscent of one of my favorite movies, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, wherein a plant goes bonkers and attacks a family.

This book, in Kindle format, is 450 pages long, and I plowed through it in a matter of days. I couldn’t put it down. My Kindle was literally hitting me in the face as I was struggling to read it. I was going into work with burning eyes and slurred speech. I regret nothing.

Even if this doesn’t seem like your kind of book, read it. Every single story is amazing. I never knew there were so many ways to end the world, and even though the glimpse we are given of the characters in each story is shorter than I’d like, it’s enough to feel for them. Whether it’s rage at their actions or denial, or you are empathizing with their loss. This book will tear your heart out, even as you’re shitting yourself in terror!

 

A New Favorite

I am normally the kind of person who can (and does) read multiple books at the same time. Usually I have a book that I’ll take to work or out and about with me, a book that I might read if I’m relaxing in the bathtub, and a the caretakersbook that I read before bed (which is usually the book I’m focusing on reviewing). That all changed when I picked up Adrian Chamberlin’s The Caretakers. What a roller coaster ride! The story is complex, intriguing, and utterly insane from the jump. It absolutely demanded my sole attention, and then proceeded to keep it throughout the entire read.

And it also made for a hell of a review subject.

The plot is utterly unique, and centers around a vengeful and terrifying goddess named Andraste. In order to keep her from bursting into our world and destroying everything, a group of people need to offer up a sacrifice every year. This isn’t your garden-variety sacrifice though, it makes Mayan sacrifices look like a Sunday school picnic. Andraste demands that her tributes suffer total agony and a slow death. The ground of All Souls College, the location of the ritual, is guarded by animated dead boars, known as the Children of Andraste.

Chamberlin creates and maintains tension throughout the book between Andraste’s devotees and a rag-tag band hell-bent on preventing this year’s sacrifice and putting an end to Andraste once and for all. At first, the unlikely heroes have trouble working together. Memories of an incident they were involved in at a college bar years ago are still too fresh, and their purpose together is too unclear for them to form a strong bond. Unlike most literary heroes,  each one has their shortcomings. Andy has a terrible, black temper. Rob is fond of mind-altering substances. Phil is full of himself and self-righteous. Jason is fiercely intelligent, with a destructive side.

For a long time, I couldn’t decide whether I was more impressed by the plot or by the characters. It’s still a rough decision, but I’ve decided that the characters steal the show. Chamberlin’s characters are realistic. They have their flaws, and there really isn’t a “good guy” or a “bad guy”. There’s just people, doing the best they can with what they know and what they believe to be true, and that’s pretty much any and all of us ever do. Chamberlin avoids stereotypes with his characters, and every page brings the reader new surprises about the characters.

I can’t say more about the book than I already have, which is a shame, because I could gush about it all day! I don’t want to spoil the intricate plot for any reader, because Chamberlin kept me guessing every step of the way. Just when I thought I had it figured out, he tossed me another crumb. Just enough to keep me guessing, and salivating like Pavlov’s dogs. Not to mention, no character is safe. He killed off my favorite character! Actually, BOTH of my favorite characters. (Really, Adrian?! You know I won’t forgive you for that!) I read the 5-page Epilogue three times, and then burst into tears. I cried steadily for about half an hour. Then I wiped my eyes and re-read the Epilogue. (If you’re wondering – I cried again. So sue me.) Chamberlin knows how to write an amazing ending to an amazing story! I never saw it coming, but it fit perfectly.

Adrian Chamberlin’s The Caretakers has made it’s way into my absolute favorites list, because his plot is as fresh as a newly dug grave, and his characters are realistic. I highly recommend this to anyone – fans of horror, fans of mystery, and (forgive me, Adrian) fans of tasteful, not all-consuming romance subplots. Basically, if you don’t have this book – YOU NEED IT. So go and buy it. NOW!