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Archive for the ‘horror’ Category

strain_cvrfall_cvreternalnight_cvr

Co-author: Chuck Hogan

Yes, it is a new year, so why not start it off with a bang. So there a triple review.
Guillermo Del Toro is known for his handiwork in films such as Hellboy I & II, Blade II and the ever-talked about Pan’s Labyrinth (which I must admit that I have not seen). So last summer when FX decided to premiere a series called the Strain and it was about vampires, I pretty much went into a bloody eye-rolling hysteria … that was until I found that it was being directed by Guillermo Del Toro. Even better, I found out that the series was based on trilogy: The Strain, The Fall and the Night Eternal. Now you’re probably wondering if the Evil Parrot has finally lost his bloody mind reviewing three books instead of one at time. In all honesty, these books are best enjoyed … serially. And they will be reviewed likewise … that’s how the Evil Parrot rolls. So enough with tbe bollocks and on with the review … shall we?

When a Boeing 777 lands on a JFK tarmac and just sits in complete radio silence for a long while, the airport officials suspect the worst. No, it’s not ebola … though compared to what was in store for the unwitting NYC population, ebola would have been a much prefered pathogen. Enter Drs. Ephraim Goodweather and Nora Martinez from the CDC to determine what was the cause. The discover a plane filled with “dead” passengers and few “survivors”. Also on the plane, and unknown to the passengers, is a very large box with delicate ancient carvings and strangely filled with dirt. So needless to say, the passengers are evacuated and the live ones are quarantined and the “dead” one carried to the city morgue. And then the fun begins. Add to the chaos is the super-rich, sinister Eldritch Palmer with ulterior motives, that …let’s just say … doesn’t have the best of interest for humankind. Sure enough, the FX adaptation may have added a few creative elements such as the foxy Euro-type female hacker that supposedly slows the Internet down (insert a big bloody eye roll here).
In first book, The Strain, we get to see the formation of a rag-tag group of what will become resistance fighters against the strigoi (that’s the word being used for vampires): Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, Dr. Nora Martinez, Prof. Abraham Setrakian (a man obsessed and with a past with dealing with the strigoi), Vasiliy Fet (a New York City rat exterminator, though more intelligent than he sounds) and Gustavo (a Mexican gangbanger). We are also introduced to the one known as the Master, who is the archnemesis and head vampire (or strigoi) that is viciously cunning as he is lethal. There is treachery, betrayal, the occasional hot sexual encounter (mostly between the docs) and the suspense practically clenches your sphincter.
In The Fall, our rag-tag goup is engaged in a constant game of cat and mouse as the strigoi population grows around them. It is during this period of time they learn two things: the Master can communicate telepathically with the roaming strigoi, hence he can track his enemies and secondly, there is the existence of a book called the Occido Lumen that holds the key to the Master’s origin and destruction. Of course there is race that is on to find the Occido Lumen. Now I’m sure you can probably guess what is going to happen. How it does it happen …well, well, well my dear readers you will have to find out on your. Yeah, I’m not going to be tosser and spoil all the fun for you now. To besides reading about it is the best part.
In The Eternal Night, the strigoi has populated the world and using various weapons they were able to create a disruption in the atmosphere where the Earth is covered by a polluted sky and sunlight is only available for a few hours (and that’s on a good day) daily. It has become a world where some humans have become collaborators in order to improve their own standing on the food chain (somehow this doesn’t shock me) and others simply become … sustenance. Aye, think of cows being milked … and you’ll get the idea on that last part. Now try to get a good night’s sleep with bollocks swimming in your mind. Though I suspect many of us have already watched the first season of The Strain, and like yours truly, just can’t wait for the second season to begin … and of course, decided to simply just read ahead. The books are just as intriguing and suspenseful as the televised adaptation, though I must admit that after having seeing the show I’ve carrying the faces of these actors attached the character through the entire trilogy. The Strain Trilogy hooks you in from the first chapter and keeps you breathless with anticipation to get to the other page to see what will happen next. It is the evolution of the vampire like you’ve never read about or seen (unless if you watched Blade II … which just happened to be directed by Del Toro) and makes the Cullens and the Voltari (or whatever) look like a bunch of flower-gathering-dancing-in-the-meadows nancies. There is violence (mostly quick, vicious and dirty), despicable human beings, surprising allies and climactic ending that will blow you way. In other words, just the book(s) you need to keep that adrenaline flowing. And for the most (as the immortal Martha Stewart would say) that is a good thing.

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princelestat_cvr

It is has been while since we heard from the Vampire Lestat, and for the longest while we had to contend with the offerings of those brave enough to grace the vampirescape. There was a group in Louisiana and someone called Sookie Stackhouse and it often involved a spectrum of mythical creatures along with myriad of nude bodies (some we could have done without but which forever scars our mind). And yes, the deliciously, dominating Kristin Bauer van Straten can sink her stilettos … er, fangs on my neck … anytime. Yes, that’s what I meant … fangs. And then somewhere there something about a Team Edward and a Team Jacob. Slowly reformatting my brainwaves on that bit of memory. And then last summer, Guillermo Del Toro came out with the Strain on FX (which BTW will be reviewed on this dear, humble blog … and yes, it is based on book). So when it was announced by Ms. Rice that a new addition to the Vampire Chronicles was about to grace the world with its presence, I was giddy with excitement. And all of sudden all the echoes of Team Edward and Team Jacob that ricocheted in my head seem to suddenly drift away … almost like it never bloody happened … and I could feel myself running on mountainsides covered with edel weiss as a cool Austrian wind whipped through my blonde plaited hair and I burst into a jubilant singing …er, whoops, I think I’ve got the Sound of Music randomly accessed in my head. Dreadfully sorry about that. (And I hope my nieces never read this). Onwards to the review, shall we?

Reading the first chapter of Prince Lestat felt like meeting a long lost friend. In this case, our lovable scoundrel of a vampire, Lestat. It was one of those it’s-been-awhile-what-have-you-been-up-to moments. And at one point there is the temptation to even invite him out for a pint or two, you know a bunch of old chaps catching up. Sure, there would be the invitation to a few pints … until I realize that whilst my thoughts of pints may be of the Guinness kind, Lestat’s might be of the red kind that flows inside me. So yes, no invitation to pints. And needless, to say, I have detoured a wee bit.
This new addition to the Vampire Chronicles introduces us to a rich, extended, genealogical tapestry of vampires, with all their equally mesmerizing stories to add. And yes there are several favourites (David Talbot, Armand, Louis and the twins Mekare and Maharet) and host of others, some with the usual intergenerational rivalries that show up since it is apparent that some folks can hold a grudge for a very LOOONG time. Seriously, if you don’t know who these characters are but you know the Cullens … we have to seriously talk, mate. Even more is the fascination, by Lestat, at the propagation of computer technology and Internet technologies such as social media that rivals vampire telepathic abilities. Yes, vampires carry iPhones and tweet, possibly do selfies (hopefully nothing like that bollocks involving a paper bag and nude attention whores … and yes, it seems that I did go there).Even more interesting, is that science has found its way into the vampire clans as a select group of scientific minded vampires set out to study and improve the lives of their fellow vampires. And yes, these efforts did the unthinkable: in producing an actual child with Lestat’s DNA. Yes, Lestat has a modern day son. Gasp, you say. How did this happen, you wonder? Tsk, tsk, tsk … I’d be a complete tosser to spell this out for you now, won’t I mates? But while this seems, thus far, as a nice gathering of vampires and such … there is a bit of drama and suspense afoot as many vampires are being massacred (think crispy critter) around the world and in the eye of this chaos emerges a sinister entity known as the Voice. As the whole entire vampire world face a dire future, alliances are formed, hearts are broken (mostly the readers’) and an ancient name rises from the ashes.
This is premium Rice in a sea of rich compelling stories that accompany the many vampire lives that we encounter intertwined with suspense that leads up to a warm endearing conclusion that only Rice can deliver … ever so eloquently. And yes, though we’ve been used to a very bratty, impulsive Lestat of old, Rice has shown a more wiser and restrained Lestat that truly makes him … yes, Prince Lestat. The Prince of Vampires. The Vampire Chronicles live on (I hope … pretty please, Ms. Rice). But I’m still not going to ask him out for pints.

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annericewolves

It’s that time of the year. The Christmas cards were out for sale since October. There are rampant cries of “Black Fridays” afoot. And retailers indulged in materialistic lust, whilst the Nativity story (birth of Christ) stood in the backdrop. Yes, it was the sounds of Christmas in the air. Twenty-first century style. But enough about me being snarky and cynical about the season.

When we last left our hero, Reuben Golding (in the Wolf Gift), he had just inherited a sizably mansion on Nideck Point and he was with his new love Laura … both having received the Chrism that would make them full-blown werewolves. Though Reuben has grown into it, Laura is still merely fledging getting to know her new-found abilities. Under the watchful eyes of Thibault, Margon, Sergei and Felix (also known as the Distinguished Gentlemen), they are slowly guided into this new life as Morphenkinders. But in the supernatural world the dust never quite stays settled. Soon, Reuben is being troubled by the sudden emergence and visitings by Marchent’s ghost. To add to this poor sod’s misery, his ex-girlfriend has announced that she is pregnant with his child – a child that was conceived prior to his turning. What’s werewolf to do? I’m afraid a stint on the Maury Show is not in the cards on this one. Sorry, couldn’t help that. The main focal point, however, was the Yuletide celebrations that was orchestrated by Margon, for the entire Nideck Point. This was something that was so exquisitely described by Ms. Rice with such extravagance that it made most red carpet parties sound mere bollocks and surprisingly put me in the spirit for Christmas. I know what you’re probably saying: “how in bloody hell does a book on werewolves, put you in the spirit of Christmas?” Trust me, a considerable amount of pages (mostly in the central part of the book) was devoted to what could possibly the most decadent Yuletide celebration ever described that it is enough to solicit nostalgic drooling or the longing Christmas celebrations like it. We also introduced to the Forest Gentry; forest spirits that haunt the forest that are close Reuben’s mansion in Nideck Point. Though seemingly malevolent, they are actually quite gentle … that is until someone tries bollocks up around them, as was demonstrated in one of most chaotic and cataclysmic moments involving a bunch of foreign Morphenkinder (or werewolves). Apparently, holiday grinches extend beyond humankind, though most grinches don’t feel the need to rip you to shreds (or at least the few that I’ve ever encountered). Not your typical werewolf reading, but Rice’s world of werewolves are ever so richly woven and alluring enough to trap you into its intertwining. There are some touching, surprising twists that will delight rather than shock the readers and even shed a few tears.

A pure delight and another book that adds to the rich interwoven tapestry of the world of werewolves according to Rice; one of many more, I suspect, to come. And yes, I shall await them … patiently (just don’t take to long, luv). And yes, I forgot how mesmerizing Mary Fahl’s voice is in October Project’s “Return To Me” … 1996 and studying in college library with a certain Greek girl. I miss those giggles.

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doctorsleep

Back in the 80s, I remember sitting under this house with a bunch of people in a makeshift cinema that was comprised of several benches, a large telly and a Betamax video player (the size of the Hoover dam), watching The Shining. Aye, in Guyana they tend to build houses on pillars, that way you get to use the full yard and still have a very large house with two stairs. I was in my early teens then, and along with a few of my mates, I had paid my two quid to get the bollocks scared out of me … and let’s just say that The Shining didn’t disappoint. What I got from that movie was about a week of sleepless nights and me pledging to never accept any carnal proposals from any strange naked women, I encounter, emerging from bathtubs, in strange hotels. Then again … about the last part … oh come on, just kidding. Maybe.

The last time we heard of (or saw) Dan (Danny) Torrance, he was escaping, along with his mum and chef Dick Hollaran, from the Overlook Hotel … and the psychotic wrath of a possessed father. Up until then no knew what happened to Danny Torrance beyond Overlook. Apparently, for many fans, inquiring minds wanted to know and this specter may have raised its head at several of King’s signings (or so I had gleaned from his Author’s notes … aye, I tend to be a bit thorough with King’s prose sometimes). And so, the much anticipated sequel to The Shining was born: Doctor Sleep. Here we find a middle-aged Danny Torrance, drifting around America, a full-blown alcoholic and occasional drug user (if there is ever such a thing), from job to job. His mother had passed on (now please folks, this is not much of a spoiler, for you will learn this early o’clock in the book … and no, I would never be such a wank). We are also introduced to a group called the True Knot that travel by RVs and Winnebagos across the country and they seemingly have an appetite (literally!!!) for young children that have the shining ability. Immortal and viciously terrifying, they are lead by the charismatic Rose the Hat; a woman whose viciousness and charm are so bloody terrifying that it makes Hannibal Lechter looks like a dolled-up children librarian that wears lots of pink (the colour … and not the Victoria Secret brand … it is troubling that I know this). If you look closely on the cover you’ll see a depiction of the sultry Rose (yes, it took me awhile to figure that out … and to notice the outline of her tophat) which more or less dampens the pure malevolence that hides beneath the surface of this bird. The paths , between Rose the Hat and Danny intersect, when both (sort of) encounter Abra Stone: a young girl that is born with the shining, very powerful and is perceived by the True Knot as some sort of Holy Grail. Aye, sick, twisted and bloody creepy. And so a battle royale begins, as the Rose and her True Knot cult try to capture Abra. For Danny, it is déjà vu all over again where Abra is the same shoes as Danny was at Overlook and Danny, now, has to become a mentor of sorts, as chef Hollaran was to him, to her in face of an emerging and terrifying battle.
King does not hold back nor spares any punches as this terrifying sequel explodes, on your senses, with the force of high yield megaton atomic bomb as it often not only makes your hair stand on end but bloody glow with tension and anxiety. There is a mixture of everything for every emotion in this book … and most of it …very twisted. We learn about Dick Hollaran’s disturbing pass as a young child. We get to cheer (a bit) when Danny finds his way to recovery whilst working in a New Hampshire hospice and because of his shining “ability” he has this unique way of helping people to pass from this life into the other (hence the title “Doctor Sleep”). And of course, there is one of the most touching endings I’ve read in Stephen King book that almost got me sobbing like a little nancy. Okay, my eye got a wee bit glazed over … but THAT’S IT. (Forgive me, Jason Statham, Patron Saint of Manliness).

Needless to say, it is premium King at its most thrilling, frightening … and yet, oh so touching. An adrenaline-induced, horrifying, roller coaster ride that you never want to end. The much anticipated sequel was well worth the wait. Though now I am a bit ever more cautious about RVs and Winnebagos that I may encounter on travels on the highways of America, for you never know who …or WHAT is in them (also echoed in the Author’s notes). Mr. King you are one scary bastard … a loveable scary bastard.

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Nos4A2

It is October. The month in which we all tend to indulge in things that give us the hibbie-jibbies. Or possibly soil our undies. Dark things. Disturbing things. Scary things. Things more scarier than Kanye West’s ego, the Kardashian’s fame or the wanks in Washington. Aye, it is the month where Syfy, AMC and tons of other networks on the telly go into overdrive with their horror marathon. And so I shall take a cue. Pleasantries out of the way … and .. here .. we … GO.

Victoria McQueen (aka the Brat) is a precocious young woman with a crappy upbringing and a really cool Raleigh BMX bike which she loves to ride. This, however, is not just some ordinary bike and Victoria McQueen is not your ordinary tomboy. Some days, the BMX bike acts like a knife that cuts the fabric of reality allowing Victoria to cross over into another world by a portal in the form of a covered bridge (aka the Shorter Way Bridge). In this world, Victoria can find whatever she’s looking for from a lost mother’s bracelet to … trouble. Which brings me to Charlie Manx. Like Victoria, Mr. Manx is also very special but to a terrifying degree. Adding to the creepy factor is the fact that he drives around, with the aid of some Igor types (in this case, Bing Partridge … sexually depraved manchild and tosser), in his 1930s Cadillac Wraith that only plays Christmas songs. Aye, it could be worse … think Ke$ha, Mylie Cyrus, or Rihanna. Like the BMX, the Wraith is Manx’s reality fabric cutter that takes him and unwitting children to Christmasland where everything is anything but jolly. On a fateful crossing of the Shorter Way Bridge, Victoria is hurtled in the future, encounters Manx and … survives. The good news is that this is just the beginning of things to come. It is also safe to say that is also the bad news. Hill takes us on what could be easily summed up as a terrifying (literary) joyride … at night … with a psycho … who’s driving with one hand on the wheel … and other holding a semi-loaded gun, playing a game of Russian roulette … pointed at you in the passenger seat. Bloody hell … you say? You’ve got that right.
Charlie Manx is the sort of bloke that would make even your local boogeyman piss himself senseless before he hands in his retirement papers. And yes, would most likely have most of us checking out the closets and basements before turning out the lights and entering a nightmare-marinated sleep. Hill’s NOS4A2 is like a careening, bloody car chase down a dark highway and every page just prods you into turning the next (sleep and bodily functions be damned) page. Most definitely not to be read on a full moon night (trust me on this, you’ll see what I’m talking about), or if you live next to creepy neighbours that wear WWII gas masks. A warning to ALL readers: try not to get too attached to some characters. There … and that’s all I’m going to say about that. As a good, blood-curdling, bump-in-the-night, blood-splattering read, NOS4A2 does not disappoint. Yes, quite the understatement. And Mr. Hill has found a coveted spot in my mental “library”.

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blackhouse

In French Landing, Wisconsin, there is a killer (known as the Fisherman) roaming the streets, kidnapping and killing children. And the bad news is that this not even the creepy part, for the killer also takes pleasure in eating certain parts of their bodies (preferably the butt). Aye, I did warn you that I didn’t get to the creepy part. Enter Jack Sawyer, former star LAPD detective who has very special, outerworldly abilities. I mention “outerworldly” because the killer has certain supernatural capabilities and shows up in the form of a creepy, perverted, boogeyman named Charles Burnside. Now I know what some you might be a saying, and I hate to break it to you that the last statement is not some bloody spoiler, because you’re basically clued into this early o’clock into the book. The story takes places in two parallel worlds: French Landing, Wisconsin and an outerworld called the Territories. In French Landing, King and Straub introduces us to the strangest and most delightful combination of characters: a blind disc jockey (with multiple radio personalities), the Thunder Five (an intellectual yet tough biker gang that is most likely to get into bar fights over discussions of literature and politics), and an embezzling nursing home director that is occasionally orally serviced by a secretary that has a penchant for imitating an Irish brogue. And that’s just a generous sampling. Yes, only from the mind of King and Straub.
Now I’ll be a bit up front and on the level with you. The book starts off a bit slow and with strange experimental narratives, but patience (being a golden virtue and other such bollocks) will reward you with a riveting story that may give some of you the hibby-jibbies, and maybe the possible need of dry and clean undies. As the two worlds collide and intersect, the book becomes this terrifying roller-coaster ride that’ll have you gripping the pages and possibly the light switches in your house (preferably to the ON position).

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fulldark2

Stephen King is at, again. In Full Dark, King compiles four compelling stories – all with very dark and disturbing themes. In other words, a really good and jolly book that tickles the cockles of your heart, something to read as you sit at a warm fireplace as the wind and rain howls outside and branches scrape your window.
In 1922, a father and son murders their wife/mother and seemingly gets away with. Of course, anyone that watches BIO or Investigation Discovery (ID) knows that … these days it is not so easy to get away with murder. But like the title of the story, it is set in 1922, and it eventually takes a very macabre turn in a twisted Edgar Allan Poe-esque way. I would love to tell you how it turns out but that would just make me a grade A tosser.
In Big Driver, a raped writer gets to become Jodie Foster in the Brave One, after uncovering that her circumstances were all part of a twisted design. Note to self, don’t trust librarians that are into Richard Widmark. And yes, I am a librarian … so there.
In Fair Extension, terminal disease takes on a Daniel Webster and The Devil twist … with a slight adjustment.
In a Good Marriage, a good housewife stumbles on her husband’s dark secret (and it’s got nothing to do with dressing up in ladies undies and being spanked … too much information, yes?) and basically being caught between a rock and hard place.
Full Dark is premium, giving a sense of deja vu but still urging the reader forward to find out what is going to happen next. The stories are dark, and in many cases not everyone emerges with clean hands (i.e. no stars). And best of all, it’s Stephen King doing what he does best.

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