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review 2018-09-12 07:22
Vampire Wars: Vlad Gets Medieval

 

When Francis Ford Coppola's movie Bram Stoker's Dracula came out, my Vampire: The Masquerade gaming group debated its merits. The part we universally enjoyed was not the stylish costumes, or the goofy reincarnation plot, or Keanu's acting, but the opening ten minutes when Vlad Tepes is in plate armor spearing his enemies and throwing swords at crosses. "Why," we asked, "doesn't someone make a movie just out of that bit?"

This book is for that gaming group.

If you ever wondered what Dracula did between his death as Vlad Tepes in the late 1400s and the time of Bram Stoker's story, wonder no more. Vampire Wars is a short story collection about some of those missing years. It begins at the time Dracula (here using the Romanian, "Draculea") barely had two underlings to rub together. It progresses over the centuries to a climactic battle against the only unearthly horror that could possibly stop his minions or dampen his nigh-unbreakable will.

Along the way, Vlad kills, maims, tricks, or strikes bargains with more dead things than you'd find in a Kansas City slaughterhouse. Sure, he has a few monstrous minions such as lycanthropes and humans fed vampiric blood, but in the undead world there are revenants, Persian, African, and Russian vampires, and two notable vampire rivals from China (whom, as far as I could gather, do not hop like in Hong Kong horror comedies, because that's about as terrifying as sparkling).

Some of these undead are wholly original, while many others are well-known in horror circles from mythology, fiction, and history. Johann Faust, Erzsebet Bathory, Mircalla "Carmilla" Karnstein, and a conga line of undead from public domain works make appearances. For some extra spice, there's a cameo by some Lovecraftian byakhee and a passing reference to Angelus from you-know-where. If there's an overarching theme to the world-building here, it's simply "It's true -- all of it."

As other reviewers have pointed out, it's essential to view the chapters as individual stories and not a novel. Practically all my quibbles with the narrative style came from the expectations of reading a single story. The author repeats some information (like Vlad's minions' roles and his powers) quite often, which is irritating in a novel, but makes perfect sense in short stories where one can't be assured of reading the previous installment. Because the stories can't depend on each other, Vlad's rise to power is less a long-term campaign with masses of legions, and more a series of small-unit attacks on powerful undead. Decades go by between stories, giving it an episodic feel, and Vlad's minions are often done in during the fighting or just as often, killed off-screen before a new story begins. By the time we get near the climax, Vlad's survival alone seems like reason enough to crown him as the ruler of the vampires. While Vampire Wars is the first in a trilogy, the ending had enough closure to leave me satisfied, which is usually a sticking point for me.

My remaining quibbles are mostly with editing and the odd anachronistic phrase. Vlad uses "thee" and "thy," but his minions will occasionally pipe up with modern language like "you have to be kidding." As for content, I personally wanted to see a bit more interaction between Draculea and his allies apart from the campaigns, and it appears I am not alone in this. The sequel, Brides of Dracula, appears to cover exactly that ground. So though I took off a star or so for not being a work I would reread obsessively, I think I will be checking out more by the author.

At about 200 pages, Vampire Wars is pretty fast reading. I personally got it on Kindle. I'd recommend it to Lovecraft fans, vampire buffs, and yes, to my old gaming group.

Note: I can't find the author on Booklikes, nor am I able to add him, which means I can't add this book, either. Navigate to Amazon/Goodreads if you are curious.

Source: www.amazon.com/Vampire-Wars-Perry-Lake-ebook/dp/B00IWTUK2O/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1536730789&sr=8-1&keywords=vampire+wars+perry+lake
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review 2016-10-19 18:05
Black January by Douglas Wynne
Black January: A Spectra Files Novel - Douglas Wynne

 

Since the Starry Wisdom Church tried to unleash the Old Gods in the city of Boston 2 years ago, things have been quiet for Becca. Unfortunately, a portal through which the Old Ones could come through is currently being tinkered with, and Becca, as well as a team from SPECTRA, (a mysterious government agency), are being called in to prevent said portal from being opened. This doorway is centered inside Wade House, wherein Becca's father has disappeared. Outside Wade House, black snow is falling.

 

(This book takes place in the same world as Red Equinox, by the same author. One does not have to have read RE to understand Black January, but it certainly would enhance the reader's understanding of the story.)

 

Wade House is an extraordinary property. Reminding me of House of Leaves and Hill House both, the angles are all off. A room that looks one way when you pass through it, may look entirely different when you pass through it on the way back. In fact, it may no longer even lead you back from whence you came at all. If Becca's father is lost there, how will they ever find him and more importantly, how can they seal these doorways so that nothing is ever allowed to enter our world? You'll have to read this book to find out.

 

The house and the Old Ones were my favorite parts of this book. I love stories about mysterious houses with dark pasts, mirrors that are gateways, and pianos that, when a certain tune is played, have lids that open onto hell itself. What horror fan wouldn't like that? As some of these portals and doorways do briefly open, the reader gets a glimpse not only of Lovecraft's Old Ones, but Wynne's Old Ones- in all of their "drive you to the brink of madness itself" glory. Wynne makes these Gods his own-they are memorable, evil and timeless.

 

Black January was a blast from start to finish. It's imaginative, creative, fast paced and overall just plain FUN! I highly recommend it for fans of Lovecraft and the Great Old Ones. I also think that fans of House of Leaves would get a kick out of this highly entertaining novel.

 

Available now, here: Black January: A Spectra Files Novel

 

*An eARC was provided to me by the author, in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

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review 2014-07-23 13:26
Dead Five's Pass - Colin F. Barnes

When a new cave is discovered in the Rocky Mountains, no one considered the terrible consequences that would follow.A volunteer mountain rescuer dealing with the loss of a child, the break-up of a relationship and the grief of a rescue gone wrong, Carise Culey isn't sure she's the right person for the job when she receives an emergency call. A climber is missing, presumed dead, and his girlfriend is found bloodied, beaten and catatonic with fear.Carise soon realizes the discovery of the cave...

 

I've kinda thown a back nerve out so i will keep this short and sweet...

 

This was my first read from Colin Barnes and I thoroughly enjoyed it, Dead Fives Pass packs an incredible amount into a novella and I felt like I’d read something a lot more substantial. i got hints Of Lovecraftian horror. that i could understand so i loved it!! you can this book on Amazon uk for £2.45 

 

Though it might be cheaper in the usa.  All in all really enjoyed this book and will be collecting more of Colin F Barnes work in the future xx

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review 2013-09-30 11:52
Black Wings: New Tales of Lovecraftian Horror by S.T. Joshi
Black Wings [jhc] - Edited by S. T. Joshi

30/8 - 200 pages in and I've read about 8 of the stories.  So far while none of them have truly horrified me (in fact last night, after reading 4 or 5 of the stories I dreamed about a dessert buffet table where I searched for and found scones with jam and cream), they were differently weird and a bit spooky.  The monsters (where applicable) were well described, I could imagine them without difficulty despite the fact that most of them were not humanoid.  So far my favourite has been "The Broadsword" by Laird Barron, which was about evil, psychotic aliens hiding in the boiler room of an old apartment building.  I found this the most memorable story because of the creepy idea of these psychotic beings whispering to the tenants through the venting system in each apartment.  I've never lived in a multiple occupant building, but can imagine being able to hear other tenants through the vents and then one day, suddenly hearing someone talking about eating someones brains versus sweatbreads (thymus or pancreas).  I've never been much of a fan of short stories because I've always felt that there's not enough time to fully develop the story, (let alone the characters) or give a rounded out ending, but they are very easy to read.  As I'm reading I feel like I'm speeding along because each short story is only 10 or so pages long, so there's no slow parts (in my opinion), and if I find any in the upcoming stories I imagine they won't be very long, as each author doesn't have enough pages to waste on unnecessary writing.

5/9 - Now finished.  I originally rated this as 4 stars and now that I'm finished it's still the right rating.  I found some of the stories went over my head a bit because they were focused on Lovecraft and some of his characters (I think that's who they were), especially Richard Upton Pickman.  So I didn't understand the references to any Lovecrafts characters or his life.  Prior to reading this I knew the name but that was it, I didn't even know that he wrote a strange combination of sci-fi/horror/fantasy.  In the first part of my review I said that my favourite story was "The Broadsword" by Laird Barron, that's now my second favourite after "Lesser Demons" by Norman Partridge, the 3rd last story in the book.  This one was about a dystopian post zombie-esque apocalyptic world where suddenly, out of nowhere a wide range of demons appeared on the planet.  The demons would eat people and then spit the person's blood back out at anyone else hanging around.  A few hours later anyone who got spat on is infected by the blood and becomes a zombie-esque psycho.  They file down their teeth to points and dig up dead bodies for dinner.  Another quite good one was An Eldritch Matter by Adam Niswander.  It was very short but very interesting, about a guy who morphed into an octopus.  Another review that I read asked the question "Is it a good book for people who have never read Lovecraft before?"  I would say that some of the stories are easy to follow, while the ones more focused on Lovecraft characters are a bit difficult to understand.  It was like watching an episode of a tv show half way through the second season, you have no idea who the characters are or how they relate to eachother, which leaves you feeling unsatisfied with the plot.

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