September Book Reviews are of older Horror Novels (15 years or more). Each of the following books may be purchased through www.amazon.com.
REVIEWED: Swan Song
WRITTEN BY: Robert R. McCammon
PUBLISHED: June, 1987
Another successful novel by author, Robert R. McCammon. Swan Song is a post-apocalyptic horror story following the survivors of a nuclear Armageddon. The characters are diverse and engaging, though many border on the stereotypical “too-good” vs. “too-evil.” However, I appreciated the variety of characters’ “Points of Views” by chapter, similar to Stephen King’s own post-apocalyptic novel, “The Stand.” The desolation and misery created by McCammon is emotional; you can feel the pain and weariness of the survivors as they trek across the ruined country. But that’s also offset by the perpetual hope and innocence of the girl, Swan, as well as the life lessons learned and perseverance by Sister and Josh and the others. The ending is very satisfying, even somewhat beautiful. Swan Song is a classic and recommended reading for anyone who enjoys dark fiction.
Five out of Five stars
REVIEWED: Among Madmen
WRITTEN BY: Jim Starlin and illustrated by Daina Graziunas
PUBLISHED: April, 1990
Easy read, fast-paced, violent, and gripping = highly recommended for fans of pulp action stories. Consider this similar to a zombie plague, only instead of fighting off the undead, the protagonists must battle “Berserkers” which are people who have contracted an incurable mental condition that drives them to sadistically murder anyone they can (consider a similarity in this to the movie, “28 Days Later”). Another level to this story, which makes the plot successful, is that anyone may contract the illness at anytime. So survivors are constantly suspicious of their friends, wondering if they’re about to turn berserker. The main character, Tom Laker, is an ex-vet and sheriff of a town of survivors. He’s a well-rounded hero with flaws and tragic circumstances. Most of the other characters are rather flat, however, and represent bland stereotypes. The author forces a great deal of emotion into the book, some of which is advantageous and some which is not. He cares for a wounded dog, which then runs away, leaving the audience to wonder at its purpose, or if it was an analogous device for Tom himself. Overall, if you’re not expecting too much, this is a great “read-something-fun” book. Also illustrated by the author’s wife, Daina, although I question the placement of the images, as they always came before a plot point, thus giving away what was going to happen.
Four-and-a-half out of Five stars
REVIEWED: Song of Kali
WRITTEN BY: Dan Simmons
PUBLISHED: January, 1998
Song of Kali is a well written novel of dark fiction, though hardly “the most frightening book ever written” as heralded across reviews and its book cover. There are actually very few scenes that seemed particularly scary at all. The plot is fair and emotionally-driven, compelling and sad, with good pacing, conflict, etc. And, man!, can this author write! The technical ability of Dan Simmons is extraordinary. However, the book just felt barely “above-average,” rather than fantastic, after closing the final page. The ending is anticlimactic, i.e. dreadful (in terms of boredom)… this story had so much potential to have been greater. The backdrop and circumstances Simmons established could have led to many, many more frightening scenes than he used. All-in-all, a fine read, especially as this is the first novel he ever wrote. Note to reader: His books get much better.
Four out of Five stars
Eric J. Guignard writes dark and speculative fiction from the outskirts of Los Angeles. Assorted stories and articles that bear his byline may be found in the disreputable publications reserved for back alley bazaars. As an editor, Eric’s produced the anthologies, Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations and After Death…, the latter of which won the 2013 Bram Stoker Award®. Read his novella, Baggage of Eternal Night (a finalist for the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award), and watch for many more forthcoming books, including Chestnut ’Bo (TBP 2016). Outside of the glamorous and jet-setting world of indie fiction, Eric’s a technical writer and college professor, and he stumbles home each day to a wife, children, cats, and a terrarium filled with mischievous beetles. He’s a member of the Horror Writer’s Association, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Of America, and the International Thriller Writers. Visit Eric at: www.ericjguignard.com, his blog: ericjguignard.blogspot.com, or Twitter: @ericjguignard.