WOOFER'S LAIR

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.

Wicked Seasons

Wicked Seasons
My short story, HUNGRY FOR MORE, is included

CURRENTLY READING

CURRENTLY READING
Koji Suzuki's Spiral

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Send in the Clowns. . . Uh. . . On Second Thought. . .

As I continue my search for the next great zombie novel, a friend of mine loaned me a copy of Keith Carpenter's Zombie Circus: The Most Death Defying Show in Town. It was something I had spotted on Amazon and made a mental note to check out when the price came down. At 166 pages, I found paying ten bucks for the Kindle version a little hard to swallow, and forking over twenty bucks for the paperback even harder to swallow. I got burned once paying a high price for an unknown, and after having read Carpenter's little novel, I am so glad I didn't shell out the money for it, which is really sad because I wanted to like this book more than I did.

The book starts out in the town of Ashbrooke in the year 1946. Ashbrooke is a little backwater town, heavy on the religion, so when the Fink and Zimner Freak Show and Circus roll into town, a majority of the town folk were downright furious that such a shameless display of the evil and debauchery should set up tents in their little town, and they had every intention of making their feelings known.

The circus folk, however, are well aware of how the town folk feel, as they were greeted with hostility every time they passed through. So what makes them think this year is going to be any different? They don't, but they came prepared with the Apa Vie, a tonic that promised a good long life if used properly. Madame Zadora is against the selling of the Apa Vie because she knows what can happen should it fall into the wrong hands.

When the town folk, led by the less-than-holy Pastor Harry Farwell, and the circus folk meet, things get a little out of hand. Well, that's an understatement. Things actually go to Hell in a handbasket, and by the time it is over, all but one of the circus folk are dead, and the pastor has had his hand severed. In the skirmish, the pastor has the misfortune of being splashed with the Apa Vie, and by the next day, his hand has grown back, which he takes as a sign from God that he has done the right thing.

Jump sixty years later, and another circus is pulling into town. This time around, the majority of the town folk are looking forward to it, but there is one man who would love nothing better than to run them out of town—the local sheriff. The circus sets up on the same grounds where the previous circus met their end, and the only thing still around from the previous performers is a decrepit caravan wagon—and a case of Apa Vie. When the Apa Vie bottles are broken and the mystical fluid seeps into the ground, it reanimates the charred, decaying corpses of the previous circus, and they rise up seeking revenge.

Can the town of Ashbrooke survive the wrath of the Circus of the Damned?

As I said earlier, I really wanted to like this more than I did. I like the premise behind it, as it brings to mind campy classics like Hard Rock Zombies and Killer Klowns from Outer Space, and if the circus aspect has been done before in a zombie novel, I haven't come across it yet. So what was wrong with it? For one thing, the characters come across as cardboard cutouts, stereotypes of the kind of character they are meant to be, with very little development to flesh them out. They lack dimension, and the words that come out of their mouths are so stilted it's laughable.

In addition to the dialogue being laughable, the book itself is painful to read in places. The author does not seem to have a grasp of basic writing skills, as there are run-on sentences, mixed tenses within a sentence, misspelled words galore, all evidence that this book wasn't placed in the hands of a proofreader or editor. Had it been, the book might have been elevated to an enjoyable read.

Aside from the actual writing, I also found situations in the book to be very contrived, something that might have been forgivable had the book been better written. A group of survivors are holed up in an old church, and when they have the chance to escape, they move to the back of the building, where there's a convenient secret door that will lead them outside. Obviously it wasn't so secret if they made right for it. There's a zombie monkey crammed into the glove compartment of a car, ready to spring like a blood-hungry Jack in the Box. How the hell did it get the car door open, climb into the glove compartment, and pulled the panel closed?

As poorly written as the book is, I can't say it was all bad because I did like the idea behind it. As I was reading it, it brought to mind John Carpenter's The Fog, a movie I love. Is it worth reading? If you don't mind a book that reads like a very roughly written first draft, because that was my overall impression of the book, I'd say, "Go for it." However, if you are put off by poor writing, this might be one to skip.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A MISH-MASH OF MONSTERS

It's rare for me to sit back after finishing a book and wonder what I just read. Unfortunately, James Roy Daley's Terror Town had me doing just that, which is sad because the book started off with such promise.

Daley paints a portrait of a picturesque little town, but like most towns, no matter how quaint they seem on the outside, there's always a darkness that lurks in the heart of some, if not all, of its residents. Of all the town's resident, Nicolas Nehalem has perhaps the darkest heart. Despite the worn exterior of his house, the interior is meticulously maintained, which only serves to deepen the horror of what lies beneath. Beneath the cellar, in a subcellar of his house is a torture chamber with two occupants.

It's obvious from their physical condition—caged, with missing fingers and toes and emaciated to the point their ribs are visible—that Olive Thrift and Cathy Eldritch have been held captive in Nehalem's Chamber of Horrors for quite some time.

Daley makes it a point to emphasize the third cage in his description of the subcellar, and Nicolas' apparent displeasure that the third cage is unoccupied. This sets the stage for what could be a thrilling psychological horror novel, but you are left wondering what this has to do with the book's description, which promises vampires and zombies.

Daley then introduces the reader to Daniel McGee, a summer resident of the town of Cloven Rock. He is in the process of renovating his home with the hopes of making it a full-time residence. While working in the basement, he discovers the existence of a sub-basement, which he proceeds to explore. However, upon his initial attempt to check out the place, he never reaches the bottom. The sudden drop in temperature combined with the impenetrable darkness and the mysterious sounds propel him toward the surface. Right away you assume this might be the lair of the promised vampires, but no. When Daniel returns in the company of friends to continue his exploration of the basement, he uncovers the lair of the mutated spider/crab hybrids, one huge one and a bunch of smaller ones that have hatched from a bunch of egg sacs.

One of Dan's friends is devoured by the huge monstrosity, and another of his friends has been bitten and stung by the creature. The bite or the sting, it's never clear which, triggers a metamorphosis, and the young lady turns into a rage-filled lunatic who turns on her friends. But that's only the beginning. Shortly, she becomes encased within a cocoon, within which she undergoes a physical transformation and sets out on a bloody rampage.

So where, you might ask, do the promised zombies and vampires come into play? Disappointingly, they don't. Cameron, the young lady who was bitten by the creature, transforms into a vampire-like creature, but actual vampires? Not in this book. And there is not a zombie in sight. Those who Cameron bites become enthralled to her and do her bidding, but I would hardly call this a zombie. A vampire-like servant to the vampire-like creature? Yes, but zombies? That's pushing it.

The fact that the book does not deliver what it promises is a disappointment and a failure, and it's the first of many in Terror Town. The first major failure, in my opinion, is the number of monsters Daley attempts to incorporate in this novel. Sadistic killer, mutant spiders, vampire-like creatures and their servants. It's too becomes too much; the reader ends up rolling his/her eyes and thinks, "Okay, what else is he going to throw in here next?" Sometimes less is more. Pick one baddie, two at the most, and go with it.

Another fail in this book is the excessive gore. I'm not usually one to complain about the amount of blood and guts spilled in a book—I loved the whole extreme horror of the Splatterpunk movement—but it needs to be done well. The descriptions contained within Daley's novel are almost laughable, with the skulls that broke with a POP! It's like a bad B movie where they want to see just how far they can go to sicken the viewer (reader), but in the end it becomes a joke. Think Dead Alive, one of the goriest movies ever made; the blood fest is so excessive you can't help but laugh at it. It's almost as if Daley is attempting to overachieve in order to detract from the sloppy writing. Notice I said sloppy, not bad.

While the book on the whole is not badly written, it is in desperate need of an editor and a proofreader to clean up the text. Daley, in his attempt to creative as graphic an image as possible, tends to overwrite. When describing teeth, he says they are "like needles, like knives." Needle brings to mind images of a rattlesnake with their thin, venom-injecting fangs; knives generate an image of pointed, wider, dagger-like teeth, the teeth of a carnivore. Pick one, needle or knives, not both.

Another area where the book could have benefited from an editor/proofreader's eye is with author's misuse of words and the cleanup of additional words contained within sentences. There are numerous instances where the wrong words have been used—"option" where it is clear "opinion" should have been used—and repeated instances where additional words appear in within a sentence, for example, "he pointed it the gun at". Happening once or twice can be forgiven, but the number of times this type of error occurs is sloppy. There's also a point where Hellboy, William's pure-breed boxer is described as having a stumpy little tail, typical of boxers, but later on, when the creatures are struggling to emerge from the basement, the dog is described as have its tail between its legs. Last time I checked, a stumpy little tail couldn't drop between the legs.

Had the manuscript been turned over to a trained eye, what turned out to be a barely passable read could have been elevated to an okay read. Had Daley tightened up his story line a little more, choosing to keep his creature count to a minimum instead of the Monster Mash it was, the okay read might very well have made the move to a good read. But as it stands now, it's just a mish-mash mess that should be passed over, not passed on.