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I am in love with the horror writing of Jonathan Janz. It is vicious, scary and sometimes downright dark (and possibly disturbing). In other words, books to curl up with at the fireplace with your bearpaw slippers, as you sup on milk and cookies. What? No. Or so I’ve heard. But enough about my … um, reading habits and let’s get on with the bleedy review. Yeah?

Needless to say, the cover of this book conveyed all the fear that it could possibly entail and then some (feel free to look at the cover … intimidating, yes …. well, good). Species originally revolves around two groups of people: Charly and her husband Eric; and a local newspaper crew (Jesse, Emma, and Colleen). Charly is a housewife with a newborn and two daughters (and apparently scorchingly hot) that is married to cheating wanker of husband named Eric. Apparently Eric is a volleyball coach that has thing for younger assistant coaches (who … surprise, surprise … often turn out to be young women). Despite his cheating, the thorn in his side is Sam Bledsoe, a contractor that is doing some renovations to his house. Yes, Sam is slightly older, divorced, knows a lot about home renovations (despite Eric’s awful, ignorant micromanaging) and a good looking, manly man-type. I imagine him as Sam Elliot in his forties (what … I like Sam Elliot … think what you want). And unlike Eric, Sam is actually decent to Charly and not because she often agrees with him over her husband’s ridiculous suggestions on home improvement. The truth is Sam Bledsoe is a decent chap (kinda like Sam Elliot … I’m never going to live that down, am I … very well). On the other side is the equation is a local newspaper crew consisted of Jesse, Emma and Colleen, that are on assignment to cover the opening weekend of a recreational park area called the (refrain from laughter) Peaceful Valley Nature Preserve. And there is a bit of soap opera going on here. Apparently Jesse has the hots for Emma but loves her from a distance. Colleen is a no-nonsense woman but, gleefully, senses this about Jesse.
Though it is not exactly the assignment they dreamed of they arrive at the Nature Preserve expecting a crateload of boredom and instead finding a college frat party. And rivals to Jesse’s affections. During the first evening, the three explore the grounds and the forested area with a large river where Jesse encountered a winged-monstrosity of a shadow in the night sky. At first he thought it was just some environmental effect wreaking havoc with his vision. And then there were the strange sounds. The woods that line the housing developments have always troubled Sam Bledsoe, for at night he always found those woods unnerving. Meanwhile, Charly is in the process of putting her children to bed, when she encounters a strange, naked, (over nine feet tall) humanoid creature with green eyes and feral teeth standing in her newborn’s room. Before she could scream, the creature grabs her newborn and leaps from a second story window and runs off into the woods. Back in the Nature Preserve, Jesse is standing the shadows of the woods watching Emma flirt with a jock-type when suddenly a bunch of tall creatures (think subterranean creatures of Descent except slight taller and some near Cloverdale sized) ran out of the woods and proceed to slaughter everyone at the party. What is even more disturbing is that some of these creatures, bearing exaggerated-size organs (that would probably give the likes of Ron Jeremy an inferior complex), and aside from mauling, engage in rape (of mostly deceased females). And then, the real horror begins (yes, you’ve read correctly).
Species is little under 300 pages, and the first 30-50 pages there is calmness. Beyond that it is ongoing, relentless intrigue, ghastliness, gore and … horror. And Janz does not make it boring or repetitive. It is possibly the first horror book I’ve ever read where the action stretched over several hundred pages. And along the blood-splattered journey we encounter Frank Red Elk. Yes, Frank is wisecracking Native American that has lived near and the preserve for many years … and knows about the existence of these monstrous creatures. He is also a porn aficionado. And as the two groups paths converge, they find themselves under the guidance of Frank, who not only makes it his duty to “compliment” some of the women of the group by telling them that they resemble certain porn stars but would at the most inappropriate times (usually when their lives were in peril) decide to discuss the differences between soft and hard core porn. Yes, I must confess (shamefully) that I visited Google on several occasions and found myself transported back to my Cinemax days that featured many of Frank’s infatuation. BTW, who still watches Cinemax … just asking … not judging.
Species IS a train ride of terror, where all the doors and windows are welded shut with steel bars, the cabins are splattered with blood, the brakes are destroyed and the end of the line results in the train plunging into a deep chasm. And the passengers know this. Sure it might give you some sleepless nights if you live near wooded areas that are filled with strange nightly sounds and I apologize to my mates that live in certain New England and Southern States. Caution to readers: try NOT to get too attached to the characters. Game of Thrones has nothing on Species (and don’t worry, I won’t detour by ranting about the last season … it’s probably been said ad nauseum). Jonathan Janz, I love you. Maybe more than Sam Elliot. Maybe.

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I’ve become a fan of Belcher’s steampunk, weird West novels. After having read Six-Gun Tarot and Shotgun Arcana, I became Kirsten Dunst’s character in Interview With The Vampire and I wanted MORE. And somehow, Mr. Belcher heard my silent plea and brought forth Queen Of Swords. Took me a while to get my paws on this one since the library only ordered a few copies (bloody hell) for the ENTIRE system (aye, a travesty) and so I had to join the other mortals and put in a REQUEST for this one. Took me a while to get it but when it showed up on my desk … there was Handel’s Messiah sung with Enya’s voice … purring in my ear. Yeah, I know … need to get out more (and I did … was in Vegas in the last week of September … more on that in another forum). So enough with the bollocks .. . and let’s get this book review on the road, yeah?
Belcher’s first two books, in this series (why is he saying series and not trilogy like he said in the past reviews … patience, mates or feel free to skip ahead and read … and possibly miss some Vegas stories … who knows), took place in the Midwest city of Golgatha. Queen, however, takes place in South Carolina, London and Western Africa. And this time, everything is mostly centered around Maude and Constance Stapleton who we all know are members of a secret cult of women known as the Daughters of Lilith and these women are badasses (think witches combined with ninjas … yes, some serious stuff). In previous books there has always been mention of Anne Bonny, the pirate queen, that not only is a distant relative but a mentor (of sorts) to the Stapleton women. Queen, however, delves deep into the life of Anne Bonny and I must admit she’s a loveable asskicker. But hey Evil Parrot, you may say, what or who is the bad guy in this one? Pushy aren’t we … but I’ll be a good chap and all. Meet Typhon, a sort of octopus monster-thingy wearing a really bad human disguise but is quite the evil tosser you’d love to hate. Oh did I mention like Lilith, he is the Father of a cult that is mostly male and rivals the Daughters of Lilith: the Sons of Typhoon. And yes, for those that have fired up an extra neuron or two have figured that … yes … Typhon and Lilith had thing, possibly engaged in copious amounts of the good old in/out, in/out … and like most relationships, things went tits up and here we are. As most of know, previously, Constance had moved away from Golgatha to be with her grandfather in North Carolina and apparently the grandfather was holding on to her whilst claiming his daughter, Maude, was seemingly unfit as mother. I guess it was that whole exposing-your-daughter-to-battles-with-demons-monsters-and-cannibals thing that must have gotten this bloke’s knickers all twisted. What a pissy bastard, that one. A bit too hard on the man, you say? Eh, maybe. Nay. So Maude is off to Charleston, South Carolina to reclaim her daughter that results in a fiery courtroom battle featuring a female lawyer (Maude’s representation and possible future regular character), Arabella, that is just as vicious as any of skirmishes in the book in its subtlety. Keep in mind that this is the 1800s where lawyers were mostly men and yet Arabella manages to make Gloria Alred look like a bottom-feeding ambulance chaser. Whoa, did I go a bit too far on that one? Maybe, and yes, I guess I did go there. So along with dealing with a cantankerous father, Maude now has to deal with the emergence of the feral Sons of Typhon and some other Daughters of Lilith. And the focal point of this madness: her daughter Constance. And yes, we get to meet some more Daughters: Inna and her daughter Lesya Barkov(Russians), Leng Ya (Chinese and arrogant as hell), Amadia Ibori (cool headed African), Itzel (Guatemalan and deceptive in appearance) and Alexandria Poole (English, with possibly ice for blood). Did I mention that they are very formidable badasses. We’re also introduced to the mystical/somewhat spirit guide/sensei Raashida (very ancient, African and witty).
Queen is written in two timelines, approximately a century apart, detailing the life of pirate queen Anne Bonny and her quest along with the “present” craziness involving the Stapletons, the Sons and the Daughters. This is not, I caution, mere filler stuff when it comes to the two timelines and it is done purposely that adds to the delightful climax in the novel. How, you ask? I’m not going to be a bloody tosser and say, mates. Sorry, that’s how the Evil Parrot rolls. Also a few adorable notables: Alter Cline ( reporter that’s apparently gunning for Maude’s affections), Belrose (a French mercenary that is seemingly drunk throughout the entire book), Adu (the enigmatic African guide that is enigmatic as he is formidable), and Nourbese (a Yoruba Amazon that makes Rhonda Rousey sound like a ballet dancer). Our favourite half-breed (half coyote/half man) Mutt, along with Golgatha, makes a brief appearance. Still trying to figure out the dynamics behind that whole coyote-man thing … and then often spend a bit erasing the imageries from my mind. But the best part is the trip, towards the end of the novel, is getting there: sinister plots, betrayals, ulterior motives … all caught in an adrenaline-infused roller-coaster of emotions (mostly anxiety and fear) as Belcher hurtles … like a screaming banshee on fiery steed … towards a conclusion that would make you anxious as the last page approaches. And yes, I don’t think Mr. Belcher is done with the Weird West (at least that is another of my silent pleas in hope of another book). Good show, Mr. Belcher. Jolly good show, mate. Keep it coming. Just don’t go George R.R. on us. And yes, I did go there, GoTers.

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