Welcome to Woofer's Lair. Curious as to what you will see here? Well, for the most part, you will find book reviews, maybe the occasional movie review, and if you are lucky, you might stumble across one of my own works in progress. If you like what you see or what read, and even if you don't, please feel free to leave your comments. As I am somewhat new to blogging, all of your constructive feedback is appreciated. Have fun and thanks for stopping by.
Friday, February 1, 2013
Bloop starts off with a group of Charlie's Angels-type mercenaries, The Sisterhood of Saint Tommy Gun (yes, I did roll my eyes at that), taking on a marauding pack of yetis. If you're familiar with the Bigfoot series, you'd expect all of these little girls to be slaughtered by the yetis, but that isn't the case. The Sisterhood wins the day, without a single broken nail or a hair out of place. Oh, and no casualties. I guess the yetis aren't as formidable as the American cousins. Battle won, the Sisterhood just disappears. Who were these masked women? We want to know more about them, but alas, the story jumps elsewhere.
Where does it jump, you ask? To the middle of the ocean, where a yacht is about to be attacked by some sort of sea monster. What kind of sea monster? We don't know. The extent of the description is that it's serpentine, has armor-like scales, and sharp teeth. Oh, and it's hungry. We learn this because no one on board the yacht survives. Really? Even Godzilla had one survivor. How else did we come to learn about the giant lizard that ate Tokyo (actually, NYC comes to mind—yes, I'm thinking about that "God-awful" Matthew Broderick film, which isn't really all that bad if you don't think of it as "Godzilla", but I digress).
The scene jumps again (I'm beginning to get a little dizzy with all this globe-trotting jumping around), this time to a college campus, where a bored professor is slurping his cold coffee while he lulls his students to sleep. Said professor is the leading authority in the hazards of environmental corruption on the natural world (we knew he had to show up sometime). An associate interrupts his class (how dare she!) to let him know the military is waiting for him (déjà vu here, folks). What could they want with him? Duh! Obviously he doesn't read the news. Oh wait! Military coverup. Gotta keep this under wraps. Convenient that no one survived. Our hero learns about this creature, whatever it is, and then it becomes a race against time to destroy the big, bad monster before it attacks again. Do they? Well, no, but then again, do we, as the reader, care? Again, no. And yes, Charlie's Angels do make another appearance, if you care to know, but I'm not going to say anything else.
Where do I begin? There's so much wrong with this book, I don't know where to begin, but I gotta start somewhere. One of the first things I noticed with Bloop is the narrative structure. We start off with a Prologue, but we never know where the Prologue ends. We have "****" to indicate a jump in the story, but we don't know where it actually starts. I was constantly on the look out for "Chapter One" or "1" or something to let me know, "Okay, folks, we're starting." That never happens, so the novella reads like one giant Prologue.
The second thing I noticed was the manuscript the lack of editing/proofreading (if it was, Brown needs to fire the party(ies) involved and get someone new). Nowhere is it more obvious than with character names... Well, once character in particular—General Waltson. Or is it Walton? It changes constantly throughout the story. Brown refers to a ship named the "Author Curry", and Driscoll even smirks at the name, as if he's in on a secret no one else is privy to. Given Brown's love of comics, I believe he meant "Arthur Curry", aka Aquaman. Elsewhere in the book, a reporter slips past the MPs to ask our hero, "Why has the military but you in on this?"
The story also suffers from a lack of detail. After having read it, I still have no idea what this creature looks like other than it's an armor-plated serpentine creature with sharp teeth. I have no idea how big it is, or what it is. Are we dealing with a genuine sea serpent? Given the environmental aspect introduced earlier with the introduction of Driscoll, are we dealing with a giant, mutated eel or sea snake? Or do we have a remnant of prehistoric times along the lines of Nessie and Champie? It's plausible, given Brown's previous works. I mean, after Bigfoot, why not tackle another legendary creature? had this been a short story, this is something I could forgive, but even then, the reader needs a little more to go on. Given that this is an attempt to take it longer than a short, but not quite achieving novel length, you need to give the reader more. In any movie that falls into this giant creature sub-genre, you always learn what the creature is and where it originated from. That's not so here.
This same lack of detail carries over into the world Brown attempts to create. Not once could I envision where I was supposed to be, and that's something I can usually do when I read. And the characters? Who cares. They are cardboard cut-outs, stock characters typically found in this type of story. There's no character development, and no back story to breath life into them. We know nothing about them, so why should we care about what happens to them? Brown's main focus is story—this happened, then this happened, then this happened, and as a result, the story suffers. The structure of the story as it is currently written doesn't even provide the element of suspense.
I know we're dealing with fiction here, so don't go jumping on my case for what I'm about to say, but where Bloop is concerned, there's no essence of reality. By that I mean the world has not become real for the reader. There are a couple of factors behind this. One is the lack of detail. The other is dialogue. If you've read Brown's work, you know he is not one to shy away from the gore aspect. Granted, it is not rendered as vividly as some authors tend to do, but it is there, so why is he so afraid of vulgarity? You will not find a single "fuck", "damn", or "hell" in his books, which in and of itself is not a bad thing, but there are times it's expected. Case and point, we're dealing with military men here in a combat situation, so when one of them blurts out, "What the frag do we do now?", you can't help but laugh. Frag? Really? Who the hell says "frag"? It totally knocks the reader out of the story, which in this case isn't too hard to do. If you don't want to use the "f" word or the "h" word, leave it as, "What do we do now?" That tends to be a little more realistic than using something like "frag".
I feel part of the problem with Bloop lies in the fact that it is based on a "screen story", so Brown is probably adhering to the story as it was given to him, to the letter. He's not putting his own spin on it, adding insights to the novella (yes, folks, it's very short—this review is probably longer than the "book"), or adding any details. Had he approached this as an original work, I think we might have seen an entirely different story. Having read some of Brown's other works, I was hoping for so much more with Bloop, but what I got does not live up to what I know Brown can do. He failed to deliver here, so unfortunately, this is not one I can recommend. You'd do better to check out his Bigfoot War series.
Saturday, January 19, 2013
Even if you've only seen one slasher film, you'll know what to expect from D'Allasandra's follow-up to Death House. That should be part of the fun—but it isn't; in fact, it's one of the reasons why this book fails. She (actually he, as Andrea D'Allasandra is actually Jery Tillotson) isn't concerned with character development because she knows she's only going to kill them off. Her only concern is to keep the story moving, but even that gets stale after awhile.
The characters in Horror House are poorly developed stereotypes, all of which you hope get killed off soon just so you don't have to deal with them anymore. Take Scotty, for example. The only gay character in the book. A flamboyant ex-stripper/GoGo Boy trying to live the legitimate life because he's fallen in love with the nerdish professor, Charlie (who never makes an appearance), yet like ALL (yes, I am being sarcastic here, so don't start sending me hate mail) gay men, he wants to screw every guy he sees and is constantly fantasizing about seducing Tyler, the straight, jock-type security guard. While the author tries to make him the likable comic relief, his over the top characterization makes the reader hope he's one of the first to go. One of the other problems with D'Allesandra's characters is that she pulls things out of thin air whenever it's convenient for that point in the story. Scotty thinks with his dick, but then all of a sudden he's got this soft spot for kids. Josie Jetson, a successful author of cookbooks who looks more like Honey Boo Boo's mother than Martha Stewart, is an abrasive, obnoxious bitch who hates everyone—but has a soft spot for kids. And why are kids their Achilles' Hell? Because Benji "adopts" an abused child, who then becomes a tool to catch his victims unaware. When you look at the entire cast of characters, there really isn't a likable one in the crowd, not even the sheriff, the only carry over from the first book. The "good guy" has been reduced to a conceited strip-o-gram cop who literally masturbates while watching himself perform in a home-made bisexual porn flick he made with another sheriff and the man's wife. Somebody give me a happy ending and shoot this guy—quickly.
Since the characters aren't enough to keep you interested, you pray the story itself is enough to hold your interest, but unfortunately, it isn't. There's nothing new, nothing fresh, but you plod on hoping that one of the characters will be killed off in an interesting, unique manner. Don't hold your breath. Not even the writing is enough to keep the reader engaged because it is very poor. One has to wonder if D'Allesandra accidentally submitted a first draft instead of the polished, final version because Horror House suffers from the same thing so many other self-published books suffer from—poor or no editing. With clunky sentence structure and needless repetition, it becomes painful at times to read.
I really wanted to like Horror House, but unfortunately I didn't, and I can't, in good conscience, recommend it. There are so many other self-published books out there you can spend your time with.
Thursday, January 10, 2013
This outing, Brown teams up with Jennifer Minar-Jaynes to give us Boggy Creek, The Legend is True, a novelization of a film by the same name, which I haven't seen yet — but it's on my list. Brown doesn't waste any time getting to the meat of the matter, so to speak. Boggy Creek opens with a rather nasty attack on a young couple parked in the woods. Casey Guthrie is savagely mauled and his girlfriend, Brittany, is among the missing. Missing? Yeah, Brown finally went there without actually going there. Seems that's the MO of these Bigfoot attacks — the men are killed, the women abducted. You do the math. Anyway, back to poor Casey. It's a powerhouse opening to a fun read.
As it turns out, Casey and Brittany aren't the only victims of these random animal attacks. Yeah, you heard me. Seems the local sheriff knows what going on, but refuses to do anything about it because of some misguided sense of duty. It's his deputy, Mark Klein, who finally grows a pair and decides enough is enough. He and his redneck friends decided to hunt the beast down.
Meanwhile, enter some would-be college freshmen. Jennifer Dupree and her friend, Maya, are headed to Boggy Creek for a little rest and relaxation. Jennifer is actually coming to lay the past to rest. Her fathered lived in Boggy Creek until he met his maker in a freak accident (or did he? We're never told what exactly happened to her old man). Unbeknownst to Jennifer, Maya has planned to make this a partying weekend, and thus the scene is set. Now the question becomes: Will Jennifer and friends survive their week in the wilds of Boggy Creek, or will they become meat for the beast?
Let me start off by saying Boggy Creek, The Legend is True is not a great book, but it is well written (barring a few errors that I'll get to later), and it is fun. I mean, it's Bigfoot; what's not to like? Given the length of the novella (a mere 120 pages), it's perfect for a lazy Saturday afternoon in front of the fireplace. Notice I say afternoon. If you live in the city with not a tree in sight, feel free to curl up in bed at night, but if you, like me, live in or near a wooded area, it's best to read this during daylight hours. The scare factor isn't high, but the suspense is there. The authors have the ability to draw you into the story, so much so that you'll be jumping at those unexplained sounds outside. Is that really a branch scratching at the window, or something else?
The cast of characters in Boggy Creek, The Legend is True is your typical slasher fare: creepy neighbor, gruff sheriff, inept deputy, partying coeds, and a host of cannon fodder. Regardless of their role, the authors treat them all with the same attention to detail, fleshing them out and making them real. They give that same attention to his scenic descriptions as well, fully realizing the locales, thereby making it so easy for the reader to lose him- or herself in the narrative.
For all the pluses in this novella that make it a fun read, there are a few glaring errors that were enough to jolt me out of the story and had me flipping back to double check to see if I had misread something. In the very beginning — remember Casey and his girlfriend? — the couple is sitting in the front seat of his pickup. Yet a few paragraphs in, the monster leans into the car. Wait a minute? Didn't you just say they were in a pickup truck? OOPS! (Bad editor!) When Jennifer arrives in town, she and Maya pass a sign that says, "Boggy Creek, Texas. Population 406." Later on when the sign is passed, it reads, "Boggy Creak, Texas. Population 421." Whoa! Wait just a cotton pickin' minute! Was there a baby boom within the past 24 hours or so? And is the highway department that much on top of things that they were out there putting up a new sign so quickly? (Very bad editor!) And a little later on, when Jennifer meets the creepy neighbor, he says his name is Dustin Long, but two chapters later, during a flashback, he name is Dustin O'Brien. (Very, very bad editor!) Yeah, he may have given her an assumed name, but if he is supposed to be concerned for the girl's well-being, especially after what happened to his wife, why lie? More importantly, we aren't told that he lied. The average reader might not notice these things, but to me they were glaringly obvious and enough to break the flow of the story. There were a few other things that I can't recall at the moment, which means they weren't enough to knock me out of the narrative.
The only drawback to the book is that the authors didn't give us a look at Bigfoot other than through the eyes of the characters. They put us in the creatures head when it is about to attack, but doesn't give us a peek at the "homestead". Are the ladies being dragged back to the lair in a Neanderthal-type manner only to be served up as a midnight snack? Or are they, as is insinuated within the text, being used as breeding stock? Inquiring minds want to know these things. Is there a "I had Bigfoot's baby" story in the future? One can only hope.
All in all, though, I have to say that Eric S Brown and Jennifer Minar-Jaynes delivered a solid and enjoyable story, a must for Bigfoot fans. Highly recommended!
Thursday, January 3, 2013
Fifteen years ago, three friends who shared an interest in the paranormal ventured into the infamous Lowry House. What happened while they were in there was so traumatic, they were robbed not only of their memories of that night, but also huge blocks of their high school memories. But whatever happened that night runs far deeper. Amber never fully recovered. She's plagued by nightmares, keeps herself heavily medicated, and can't seem to hold down a steady job. Drew, a psychologist, entered his chosen field with an ulterior motive — that somewhere along the way, while treating his patients, he would find the key to unlock his own lost memories. Trevor continues his pursuit of the paranormal with the hopes that a chance encounter will trigger the lock box in his mind and allow his memories to be rediscovered. That night in Lowry House, something else was lost as well, the chain that bound the three friends together. After that night, they drifted apart.
One night, a voice from their past reaches out to Amber. A fellow misfit, Greg, calls her and invites her to attend their 15 year high school reunion. She's reluctant at first, but before she can talk herself out of it, she's reaching for the phone and reconnecting with her old friends, friends she hasn't spoken to since that night.
From the moment they arrive, it's obvious that whatever entity traumatized them as teenagers isn't finished with them. Nothing overtly frightening, more like a cat playing with a mouse. Some of their memories start to filter back to them, but not nearly enough to prepare them for what's to come. Will they recover their memories in time, or will the evil of Lowry House, even though the house itself no longer stands, finish what it started 15 years ago?
One of the problems you have when dealing with a book like this is you never know just how much the known author, in this case, Waggoner, had to do with it. Did he do a majority of the writing, or did the television personalities do the writing with the author only on hand to offer suggestions and help shape things up? Without knowing the answers to these questions, I went into Ghost Trackers not expecting much, and sometimes it's best going in with minimal expectations. This way I wouldn't be disappointed if it sucked too much, and I'd be pleasantly surprised if it turned out better than expected. I'm happy to say, I was pleasantly surprised, to the point where I did not want to put it down. I usually go to bed between 3 and 4 am, and some nights (mornings?) the sun was starting to shine through my bedroom window and I was still reading. I had to force myself to put it aside so I could get a couple of hours sleep before starting work for the day.
The story flowed evenly and at a rapid pace, and I couldn't help but be swept up in the events as they unraveled, even if, at times, it felt like I was watching one of those cheesy SyFy Original Feature Films. The Biology Lab scene actually had me chuckling because I was having mental flashes of Haunted High. If you've seen it, you'll know what I'm talking about. The characters, for the most part, are fully fleshed out, believable, and likable. The only thing that didn't sit well with me was the ending; it was a little too sentimental, almost as if the book was being targeted for a Young Adult audience. I even had an "Awwww" moment — for the BIG BAD GHOST!! And while plausible for the novel, the ending came across as a little too contrived. Another "Awwwwwwwww" moment here.
Problematic ending aside, I enjoyed Ghost Trackers and intend to read the next in the series. If you enjoy genuinely creepy ghost stories, I would highly recommend picking up this one.
Saturday, August 18, 2012
The book opens deep beneath the streets of New York City, where, unbeknownst to the city's residents, Top Secret Government experiments are being carried out on the city's homeless population. The subjects are being injected with microscopic nanobots that are supposed to accelerate the body's natural healing processes. While the experiments are successful in that the body suddenly has the power to not only heal itself of minor wounds, but to regenerate lost limbs. Medical miracle? Decidedly so, if it wasn't for the side effects. It seems that in order to carry out the functions for which they were designed, the nanobots consume an awful lot of the body's energy, which creates in the subject an insatiable need to feed, and if that need is not sated, the nanobots will start to consume the host in order to obtain that energy. Even if the host dies, the nanobots continue to animate the dead tissue, driving it to devour living organisms in order to obtain the energy it needs. Under the experimental conditions, before things can progress to this point, the "infected" is subjected to a 50,000 volt taser blast, which effectively kills off the nanobots.
It would seem that they have everything under control—until one of their infected subjects manages to escape. Driven by this insatiable hunger, he attacks and bites the first person he sees, a young woman by the name of Jess. The fear of being returned to the underground lab outweighs the need to feed, and out man is on the run, leaving in his path one bitten body after another. It is only then, when Jess takes ill, dies, and comes back, that we learn that these nanobots are living organisms with the ability to reproduce, and they can be transferred from host to host. With the hopes of containing the outbreak, Jess and her husband are "kidnapped" and taken below ground. It's too late for her, but they are able to save Jack. But saving Jack was not done out of the goodness of their hearts, an attempt to atone for their sins. Something more sinister is at work here. Will Jack fall victim to the government scientists, or will he be able to, with the help of his new-found allies, escape the underground labs into a city gone to hell, a city where the dead outnumber the living?
When I first started Machines of the Dead, I thought I was going to be in for some trouble. I tend to be a purist where my monsters are concerned—werewolves are half-man/half-animal killing machines, NOT men who turn into oversized wolves; vampires are undead creatures of the night that prey on humans to survive, not romanticized objects of affection that want to date us, NOT eat us; and zombie are reanimated corpses with a hunger for brains and human flesh—so to attempt to blend horror with Science Fiction (a genre I avoid due to the tendency to get overly technical), I admit to having some reservations. The origin of the zombie in horror fiction has always been ambiguous—radiation caused by an asteroid passing too close to the earth; God's punishment on the sinners; medical experiments gone awry; Haitian servants run amuck; alien possession. There has never been a definitive cause for the zombie outbreak; theories, yes, but never, in my limited exposure to zombie fiction, has there been one true cause of the outbreak. Usually it's the "Why is this happening?", with no one around to supply the answer. So when the cause of the outbreak was spelled out so clearly as being purely scientific and not supernatural, I wasn't sure how I felt about it. I'm still not sure. What I do know is that I enjoyed the book immensely.
Part of the success, I feel, is the author's refusal to get bogged down in the scientific aspect of the novel and focus more on the horror elements, that being the zombies. He explains what the nanobots are and what they are supposed to do without going into all the details as to how they do what they do. Other—and I don't want to say more experienced authors, but that is the first phrase that comes to mind, so I'm going with it—more experienced authors might attempt to go into the scientific details as to how the nanobots worked, and if that had been done, Bernstein would have lost me as a reader.
In addition to focusing on the zombies, Bernstein also focuses on character development, even those minor characters who, because of the attention that's been given to them, are killed off, much to the surprise of the reader because it seemed as if they were being groomed for a larger role. It was reminiscent of the discussion they had on The Talking Dead, the discussion panel that airs following showings of The Walking Dead, when they warned the viewers not to get too attached to any of the characters because any and all were in danger of being killed off. That helps to create a sense of urgency as you read, and you find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat hoping that certain characters are going to make it through to the end. And then there are characters who are supposed to be the good guys that you take an immediate disliking to and you hope they get killed off some time soon.
As much as I enjoyed the book, it is not without its flaws, the biggest is the tendency to repeat certain bits of information that were recently revealed in detail. One example that jumps to mind is when the reader is being given Zaun's backstory—and maybe the reason this example comes so quickly to mind is because I can't stand the character of Zaun and any flaws I find might tend to be magnified. The author has just finished giving us a complete inventory of the types of martial arts Zaun has been schooled in, and a page or two later, it's mentioned again. In detail. It's almost as if Bernstein didn't trust the reader enough to remember what was previously spelled out. There were a couple of other minor elements that stood out for me like a sore thumb, and it's something that needs the be shared equally between author and publisher, but I place most of the blame on the publisher. I'm not going to spell it out here because the average reader probably won't even notice it, but it's something I did bring to the author's attention.
The other issue I had was the lack of zombie action. It's there, but I wanted more. Granted, this is the first book in a proposed trilogy, so I'm willing to forego it at the moment. The central focus of this first novel was to create the apocalyptic background against which the book is set and and to introduce us to the characters.
Overall, I feel Bernstein did an excellent job of blending the genres of horror and SciFi. The pacing of the book, for the most part, is swift and fluid, like a rapidly moving river, but there are parts where is does grind to a halt as we are fed a character's (read Zaun) backstory. Again, maybe I'm harping on this because of who the character is, but I feel releasing bits of the characters past in bits and pieces would have helped improve the flow instead of feeding it to us in one fell swoop. I have a feeling, though, that we won't have this issue in the second installment, as the main characters have already been introduced.
The bottom line: Is it worth reading? Most definitely. In a market that is quickly becoming over-saturated with zombie novels, Machines of the Dead offers a refreshing new look into the cause of the outbreak, and as innovative as it is, you won't see any running zombies here... and that's a good thing. So go ahead and pick it up. You won't be disappointed. Then again, maybe you will, as the book does leave you hanging in the end, and you'll be chomping at the bit for Book 2, which isn't available yet. You've been warned.
Thursday, August 2, 2012
Hey guys and gals! It's been some time since I posted my reviews on a regular basis and I apologize for that. My mother passed away in January after a prolonged illness and it sorta knocked the wind out of my sails. After taking care of her for six years, I felt kind of lost, without purpose, and it's taken me a while to bounce back. Not 100% there yet, but getting there, and I'm hoping to start posting reviews again on a regular (or semi-regular basis). Thanks for hanging in there with me.
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
When choosing something to read, sometimes I look for something short. Nothing too involving, just something I can tackle in one sitting. I saw Erik Gustafson's My Garden, My Lover being promoted in one of the Facebook groups I belong to that is devoted to self-published authors. Since the dawn of the Agency Pricing Model, I have found myself reading more and more self-published authors simply because of the price. Sure, most of it is schlock, but there are some rare gems. And then there are those like Gustafson, who, to me, is a diamond in the rough. With a little polish, I can see him going far.
With that said, let me start by saying this was the first time reading anything by Gustafson, and I admit to being pleasantly surprised, while at the same time being disappointed with My Lover, My Garden. The premise was a bit over the top, which didn't bother me. It's somewhat simple -- an socially inept man finds a passion for life in the gardening skills he honed under the tutorial of an estranged uncle. When the uncle dies and leaves everything to his favorite nephew, the man's passion soon becomes an obsession, and rapidly moves on to his sole purpose for being. He gives up everything so he can devote every waking hour to the his one true love.
When the younger brother turns 18, he, like most children, seeks to escape the prison that is his parents' home, and with nowhere to go, he turns to his brother. He quickly finds out just how far gone his brother really is, and when he seeks to "rescue" the older man from his own life, the garden, like a jealous lover, rises up and seeks to destroy the threat. As far-fetched as this might seem, I found myself caught up in the story, which in and of itself would warrant 3 or more stars if I was assigning Star Ratings, so why only 2 stars? The book is an e-book, so I was basing how far I had to go based on my "percentage". Just past what I thought was the halfway point (about 60%), the story takes an incredulous turn, and I was left with an uneasy feeling that the author had grown tired of the story and and wanted to wrap it up as quickly as possible. But still I pushed on, figuring I still had another 40% to go for a satisfactory resolution, but then at around 63%, the story was done. The balance of "book" is devoted to promoting the author's new novel, which, by the way, I didn't read. I never read sample chapters that appear at the back of books, but that's just me.
Will I risk reading something else by this author? Yes, I'll take a chance because he was able to involve me in what I was reading. Would I recommend this particular work? Sure. It's short and can be finished in one sitting, but just be prepared for an unsatisfactory wrap up.