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Books for Review should be sent to: Don D'Ammassa, 323 Dodge Street,  East Providence, RI 02914

Last Update 6/27/15

The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker, St Martins, 2015, $26.99, ISBN 978-1-250-05580-4  

Pinhead and the Cenobites have their last hurrah in this new novel by Clive Barker. The demonic creature has been killing human magicians and stealing their knowledge and power. When his superiors in Hell discover what he has been up to, they banish him but that triggers his attack on the status quo, and in the absence of Lucifer Ė who has disappeared unaccountably Ė Hell has deteriorated and is no match for a determined rebel. Meanwhile, our heroes have left the world of the living to penetrate Hell itself in pursuit of an abducted friend. Thereís plenty of imagination and exotica Ė to say nothing of grotesque imagery and gore. In fact, if anything I overdosed on it so early that the second half of the novel really had no shocking scenes and felt like a little bit of a let down.  6/27/15

Coldbrook by Tim Lebbon, Titan, 2014, $14.95, ISBN 978-1781168783  

This is a zombie novel and I donít generally care for the subgenre, which tends to be very repetitive. Lebbon is, of course, able to rise above the limitations and add some new twists. The title refers to a research installation trying to punch a hole into the multiverse and it opens a gateway to another world. Despite all the safety protocols, something comes through the breach, apparently human, but it carries the zombie apocalypse mutation. The facility is quickly infested and then the world beyond. One of the scientists goes through the breach and finds an alternate Earth very much like our own, but devastated by the creatures. There is also the Inquisitor, a horrifying figure whose nature is the key to figuring out what is happening. A bit overlong I thought, but very well done. 6/26/15

Plague of the Manitou by Graham Masterton, Severn House, 2015, ISBN 978-0-7278-8492-3 

Harry Erskine defeated the Native American shaman Misquamacus and banished him from the world forever. Unfortunately he had two magically talented sons and they have reappeared as spirits to tell him that they are unleashing a plague that will drive the white man from the continent. This is a rather busy book Ė ghostly nuns, giant bedbugs, at least two different plagues, revivified corpses, demonic possession Ė and the graphic horror is rather restrained for a Masterton novel. Although I donít think this is among his best, itís a nice, solid, suspenseful thriller, and it was nice to see Erskine again. Masterton is incorrect, however, when he states that scalping was introduced by Europeans. It was a common practice among some tribes for centuries before Columbus showed up. 6/21/15

Charnel House by Graham Masterton, Pinnacle, 1978 

In many ways this is a reprise of the authorís first novel, The Manitou. A man complains of strange noises in his house. The first victim falls into a coma and his breathing is inhuman. The second is fatally attack, but his heart continues to beat. The third dies when his body swells, filled with inhuman blood. Itís an ancient Indian demon reassembling its own body. Thereís an Indian medicine man, a climax in a hospital, and the dispatching of the creature is also very similar to that in the early book. Entertaining but a little too familiar. 6/17/15

The Hitchhiking Effect by Gene O'Neill, Dark Renaissance, 2015, $19.95, ISBN 978-1-937128-76-0

This is a collection of ten stories, one of them original to this book, which include four Bram Stoker Award finalists. They are generally horror although some are technically post apocalyptic SF. The earliest story is from 1981. These are not traditional horror stories at all and they involve modern concerns like warfare and its consequences. "Dance of the Blue Lady" and "Balance" are particularly good, and I remembered both from when I first read them several years ago. The others vary slightly in quality but not enough to matter. The original story is quite good as well. The real testimony to O'Neill's work is that he generally makes me like the kinds of stories that I ordinarily would not care for at all. 6/13/15

In the Gulf of Dreams and Other Lovecraftian Tales by David Barker & W.H. Pugmire, Dark Renaissance, 2015, $19.95, ISBN 978-1-937128-49-4

This collection of Lovecraftian tales includes some by each author individually and others by the two of them in collaboration. The majority of the stories are reprints but most appeared in relatively obscure publications so they should be new to most readers. "The Stairway in the Crypt" provides a nice, strong opening. Most of the stories are comparatively short and the longer ones are generally more impressive. It takes a while to properly generate the right atmosphere. So it's not surprising that the quite long "In the Gulf of Dreams" was my favorite in the collection, which consists of more than two dozen tales altogether. Barker seems mildly better at creating atmosphere while I liked Pugmire's plots marginally better, so they make a complementary team. There's a lot of good fiction here at a reasonable price. 5/14/15

The Djinn by Graham Masterton, Pinnacle, 1977   

Although this novel features Harry Erskine, hero of The Manitou, it is not a part of that series and in fact he seems unaware of what took place in that book, although this canít be a prequel because the opposite is also true. He attends the funeral of his godfather, who had become terrified of an ancient jar he brought back from the Mideast, insisting that it be destroyed upon his death. His widow defers to Harry and a mysterious woman who turns out to be working for the Iranian government trying to recover looted artifacts. Thereís a jar containing a powerful genie and heís not a benevolent one, a plot to open it, and a counterplot to destroy its occupant. Suspenseful but the ending is a bit flat. 5/2/15

The Sea of Blood by Reggie Oliver, Dark Renaissance, 2015, $19.95, ISBN 978=1-937128-48-7

This collection mixes reprints from several previous collections with a few stories that have not been previously published. Since I have read none of the collections, only about four of these were ones I'd previously read and "Baskerville's Midgets" was the only one I remembered. It's a hefty collection, almost four hundred pages, and the quality is quite consistent and well above average. Oliver is the master of an unusual blend of traditional - even somewhat old fashioned - horror tropes mixed with modern settings and sensibilities. There are ghosts and devilish interventions and hauntings and even Jack the Ripper here. I found this one thoroughly enjoyable and a bit shuddery, particularly "The Dreams of Cardinal Vittorini," "Come into My Parlour," and "The Druid's Rest," but it was really hard to pick favorites. Oliver should be better known in the genre. 4/25/15

Dream Stalkers by Tim Waggoner, Angry Robot, 2015, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-85766-372-6

I suppose this is technically urban fantasy but it's creepy enough that I'm going to list it as horror. A human woman and a supernatural creature who manifests itself as a clown are working for an agency which protects Earth and an associated reality from magical menaces. Their second case - following Night Terrors - involves the appearance of a new drug which leads to violently antisocial behavior. Separately - or is that really the case> - a horde of disembodied demonic spirits are invading the dreams of ordinary humans as the opening steps in a campaign of possession. This is decidedly strange territory for urban fantasy and there is a very dark and unsettling atmosphere. Plus a weird clown. If you've been experiencing a lot of deja vu in your reading lately, this one should shake you out of your rut. 4/19/15

The Manitou by Graham Masterton, Pinnacle, 1976 

Mastertonís first horror novel remains made a very strong impression when it first appeared and it holds up very well indeed. A young woman discovers a growth on the back of her head and consults an expert in tumors. X-Rays indicate that it is not a tumor but bears some resemblance to a fetus. She and others have also been experiencing vivid dreams that are strongly similar about a primitive village and a 17th century Dutch galleon. A fake clairvoyant is concerned for her welfare and a real medium invokes a powerful, malevolent spirit during a sťance.  Itís a medicine man named Misquamacus (who reappears in some of the authorís later novels) who has escaped through time in order to wreak vengeance against the European invaders. He is ultimately defeated by the manitou of the police supercomputer, which sounds a bit silly but it works in context. The minor movie version was inferior, though interesting. 4/13/15

Petrified by Graham Masterton, Severn House, 2011  

Second in the Nathan Underhill series. Underhill is a scientist who has successfully recreated a phoenix, whose stem cells he believes will help burn victims. He is being bothered by another researcher Ė who leans toward the occult Ė who is trying to bring gargoyles to life. Itís pretty obvious that he is doing so Ė theyíre flying around Philadelphia killing people Ė but the transformation is only temporary and they eventually plummet to the ground and usually shatter. I had some problems with this one. Underhillís son is supposedly twenty, but heís still in high school? The doctor at the burn hospital is willing to risk his career and a patientís life to try out the experimental procedure? The director of the research lab is so mad when he is exposed for sexual harassment that he assaults a woman in front of two witnesses?  And the homicide detectives show up at the site of one manís immolation BEFORE theyíve been notified that anything happened. It also seems unlikely that someone could transport more than one hundred large statues of gargoyles around Philadelphia without there being some record of it. Disappointing. 4/3/15

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