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.

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!

“Twilight” Dad goes bad – in a biiig way !

Drive Angry 3D Panel. Actors Nicolas Cage, Amb...

Image via Wikipedia - Cage, Heard, and Fichtner in a panel for "Drive Angry".

The other day my boyfriend and I went to see the new Nicholas Cage movie, “Drive Angry 3D”.  I had purposely not seen the trailer for it prior to going, because I have found that lately the trailers show the entire movie.  What a disappointment it is to then go and see the movie, realizing you’ve seen the whole thing before – just not in the correct sequence.

There’s not a really deep plot to “Drive Angry”.  Nicholas Cage is going after the man who killed his daughter (masterfully played by Billy Burke – who has now officially broken out of the stigma of being “the dad from Twilight“. Not that I have anything against the “Twilight Saga“, lord knows I’ve seen the movies and read the books, but still – he’s a great actor and needs to be in more movies.)  In any event, the cool part about the movie is that Nicholas Cage is a very special kind of escapee, and his nemesis (possibly frenemy?) is a man with supernatural powers called The Accountant (played masterfully by William Fichtner).  He is helped along the way by the too-pretty-to-be-human Amber Heard, and his enemy is a cult fanatic (Billy Burke).

The movie was pretty good overall.  It reminded me almost of a “Constantine” remake.  Most likely that stems from the common subject matter of escaping Hell and having only a certain amount of time before having to go back.  The movie was lightened several times by Fichtner, whose character The Accountant was given a few moments of genuine humor.  The movie also boasts the funniest sex scene that I’ve ever seen.  (I’m not going into detail – go see the movie.  But it really is funny.)    Fun fact – Amber Heard plays the blond neighbor who first teaches wimpy Columbus the lifesaving “double-tap” technique in “Zombieland“.  (I come from a family of movie buffs – we like trivia like that.)  Billy Burke is very refreshing as a cult leader.  At first, he’s unrecognizable, and I think that attests to his acting ability.  I usually don’t like going to see movies where the actor is the same, no matter what part they are playing.  Burke can do bad very very well.  If for no other reason, this movie should be on your list to see, though I’m not sure if its worth purchasing.  It’s more of a rental or Netflix movie.  The movie is also rather gory, and I had to hide my eyes for the first few moments.  While the movie didn’t overdo the 3D aspect, it was still rough seeing a hand blown off someone’s wrist and watching the hand appear to fly out over the crowd at my face.

“Drive Angry” wasn’t anything over-the-top special, but it definitely wasn’t a terrible movie.  It was gory, funny, and stressful at times.  The actors and actresses all carried their parts well and the story was interesting.  Go see it before it leaves theaters – and make sure you see it in 3D !