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review 2018-12-21 18:30
HUSK by J. Kent Messum
Husk - J. Kent Messum

 

HUSK was a fast paced, science fiction, political, mysterious, horror-show and I loved it!

 

Let me set the scene. We're in NYC at some point in the future. The political landscape is a mess. The Occupy movement has relocated from Wall Street to Central Park and has grown beyond all expectations. Our economy has gone to hell, people are out of work and out of patience. We now grow almost all of our own food, which sounds great, but it's not. We are growing our own meats, (yes, we grow meats, UGH), and vegetables in warehouses, with who knows what chemicals and additives. There is a severe water shortage that allows us to only "mist" not shower. Our technology has outpaced us and the best of the best of it is only available to the super rich.

 

One of these technologies is the ability to upload your essence, (your mind, emotions, thoughts-everything that makes you YOU), into a computer or server when you die. You then become a POST MORTEM. As a PM, you can live in your own virtual reality, you can be downloaded into a robot of sorts, or if you're SUPER-SUPER rich you can hire someone to loan you their body. These hirees are called HUSKS. Rhodes, the subject of this story is one of them.

 

Rhodes is having some trouble husking lately. He's returning to his body to find it beaten up, scratched and bruised. Nothing that would violate his husking contract, but definitely things that devalue him to a post-mortem looking for a good time. When Rhodes starts having hallucinations and memories that are not his own, he begins thinking about leaving husking behind and finding another line of work. Will he be able to extract himself from this business? Will he be able to return to a somewhat normal life and his pregnant girlfriend? You'll have to read this to find out!

 

The mystery here is quite engaging, and it's hard to figure out what's going on at first, until you get the feel for how husking works. It's basically high tech prostitution. With the lack of jobs and the tanking economy, Rhodes lacks the skill set to do much else-I felt for the guy. Most people I know, including myself, are a few paychecks or one major illness away from being out on the street.

 

Aside from the mystery surrounding Rhodes, the politics and observations regarding our climate and environment, the rich vs. the poor, cloned foods and the lack of fresh foods are sharp, on point and all too realistic. Messum has envisioned a scary and dark world that has no time or room for the poor, the uneducated and/or the unlucky. This is where the horrific aspects come in. (Other than the horror of lending out your very body and mind, of course.)

 

I was impressed by this story. The world-building is not only fascinating but prescient and did I mention all too realistic? The characters were mostly well drawn, though I feel like I didn't get to know Rhodes quite as much as I wanted to. Perhaps that's because Rhodes didn't even know Rhodes? I'm not sure, but I deducted half a star for something I felt was missing in Rhodes, in his girlfriend Ryoko, and in Phineas, a friend to them both.

 

That said, between the vision of the world presented, the technological ideas, the fast pace and the action that occurs during the second half? I totally enjoyed this experience and I ripped through it quickly and with great pleasure!

 

Highly recommended!

 

You can get your copy here: HUSK

 

*I received a free e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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review 2018-02-09 15:34
All the Names They Used For God by Anjali Sachdeva
All the Names They Used for God: Stories - Anjali Sachdeva

ALL THE NAMES THEY USED FOR GOD is a collection of short literary fiction stories, the last two of which were absolutely brilliant.

 

The tales in this book are all over the place, but I think it's all the different facets of humanity that link them all together. No two stories here are even remotely alike and I enjoyed that diversity.

 

Among my favorites were:

 

LOGGING LAKE which involved a strange happening at an ill advised campsite.

 

ALL THE NAMES THEY USED FOR GOD which was a heartbreaking story of two young girls who were kidnapped and forever changed by it.

 

ROBERT GREENMAN AND THE MERMAID: Once we glimpse something fantastic,(in the true sense of the word), it is very difficult to let it go.

 

MANUS was probably my favorite story here. After so many tales involving ordinary life, here's one that is totally out of left field. Gripping, poignant, and so creative-I'll never look at a human hand in the same way again.

 

And finally, PLEIADES: I don't even know what to say about this story. It's powerful, beautifully written and well told. I doubt anyone could read it and remain unmoved.

 

I liked the tales in this collection, but until the last two I didn't feel that this volume was anything special. MANUS and PLEIADES elevated this book to something really special in my eyes, and I highly recommend this book to fans of literary and speculative fiction.

 

*Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the free e-ARC in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

 

**Also, thanks to my fellow book blogger Cody for turning me on to this collection. You can find his excellent reviews here: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/56352820-cody-codysbookshelf **

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review 2018-01-28 15:45
Dark Screams: Volume Nine
Dark Screams: Volume Nine - Kelley Armstrong,Richard Chizmar,Stewart O'Nan,Brian James Freeman,Peter Straub

DARK SCREAMS: VOLUME NINE was a ton of fun! I was most especially impressed with the last entry TORN by Lee Thomas.

 

I'm not even going to get into what TORN was about because I think it should be related exactly as the author intended. I will say that even though this is a longer story than I usually care for in an anthology, it kept me riveted, it was original and I LOVED it!

 

THE DEAD YEARS by Taylor Grant was another original entry and this one had a science fiction bent to it that I enjoyed. I would love to see this idea expanded to a full length novel.

 

SUMMER OF 07 by Stewart O'Nan. A super short story that reminded me of Ted Bundy.

 

THE BLACKOUT by Jonathan Moore was an unsettling tale mostly set at the morgue.

 

INVITATION TO THE GAME by Kelly Armstrong. This was another tale that had a science fiction bent to it, in my view. It's about a corporation that controls, (or attempts to control?) all aspects of its employees lives. When they send you an invitation, it is unwise to decline.

 

Lastly, there was a story from Peter Straub: VARIATIONS ON A THEME FROM SEINFELD. I admit that the reason I requested an ARC of this book was due to Straub. I have such love for him and for Seinfeld, for that matter, but this story didn't do much for me.

 

Overall, I had fun with this volume, (most especially the story TORN!), and I recommend it to dark fiction and science fiction lovers everywhere!

 

*Thanks to NetGalley and to Hydra for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is it!*

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review 2018-01-22 18:45
Splatterpunk Fighting Back
Splatterpunk Fighting Back - Dave Benton,Jack Bantry,Tim Curran,Rich Hawkins,Duncan Ralston,Glenn Rolfe,Bracken MacLeod,Kristopher Rufty,Adam Millard,John Boden,Matt Shaw,W.D. Gagliani,George Daniel,Elizabeth Power

 For me, this anthology was nearly perfect. Almost every single story hit home with me, and the fact that the purchase of this anthology benefits the fight against cancer makes it that much sweeter.

 

Without further ado-these are the stories that affected me most, in the order in which they knocked off my socks:

 

MOLLY by Glenn Rolfe. I have read a number of Glenn's works now and it's my opinion that he's an author to watch. With this story, he has arrived! A killer doll, a hotel, sexy women and weak men-add them all together and what have you got? Molly. 5*

 

LIMB MEMORY by Tim Curran. It sucks to lose an arm. Turns out that it also sucks when the arm comes back! 5*

 

THE GOING RATE by John Boden. A super short, shocking story! LOVED. IT. 5*

 

EXTINCTION THERAPY by Bracken MacLeod. Beautifully written with one of those punch-in-the-gut endings that I adore. 5*

 

THEY SWIM BY NIGHT by Adam Millard. Who doesn't love a good story about sirens? (Not like on police cars, but like in ancient mythology.) You have to ignore those singing ladies, or they'll get you every time. 4*

 

THE PASSION OF THE ROBERTSONS by Duncan Ralston. This was gross, funny and messed up all at once. 4*

 

FEAST OF CONSEQUENCES by W.D. Gagliani and Dave Benton. This story was a constant stream of Oh No! Followed by YES! I 'll let you guess upon which of those the story ended. 4*

 

DARLA'S PROBLEM by Kristofer Rufty. This being my first Rufty story, I wonder why I've waited so long to check him out. When Darla comes to you with a problem-take her seriously.

 

SPLATTERPUNK FIGHTING BACK was an anthology that totally worked for me, and I'm guessing even though it's only January, this will be included in my best anthologies of the year.

 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

 

You can buy a copy here, (remember-proceeds go towards fighting cancer):

Splatterpunk Fighting Back 

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review 2017-04-06 18:42
Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction Horror, edited by Mark Matthews
Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction Horror - Johann Thorsson,Max Booth III,Glen Krisch,Jessica McHugh,Kealan Patrick Burke,Mark Matthews,Jack Ketchum

 

Garden of Fiends is an unflinching and intense collection of addiction stories from some of the best authors in the business. It is not for the weak of heart, but neither is addiction. Let's take a brief, but closer look at the tales within:

 

A Wicked Thirst by Kealan Patrick Burke: Alcoholism is no joke and many find that they cannot quit on their own and seek out help from programs like AA. This story does not shy away from the absolute power that is addiction and then it slays the reader with its powerful ending. 5* 

 

The One in the Middle by Jessica McHugh: This tale was twisted as twisted can be. (At least I thought so until I read Max Booth III's story, but more on that in a moment.) A hard, direct look at the downward spiral of addiction and the other crimes associated with it. After all, drugs often cost an arm and a leg. 4*

 

Everywhere You've Bled and Everywhere You Will by Max Booth III: Combine a heroin addiction, blood everywhere and spiders and what have you got? You have this graphic and dare I say... disgusting?, tale of heroin dependence. You'll need a strong stomach for this one, but I think it's worth it! 5*

 

Last Call by John FD Taff: This was another story of alcoholism. This one shows us that there are no shortcuts to sober. 4*

 

Torment of the Fallen by Glen Krisch: Demons abound in this story and not all of them are drug related. 3.5*

 

Garden of Fiends by Mark Matthews: A tale about how addiction affects everyone surrounding the addict. It floods out like the ripples on a calm lake,  as do the effects of eating anything from this particular garden. 5*

 

Returns by Jack Ketchum: here we have another tale of alcoholism, but with the twist of also involving a ghost. Short and to the point, this one punched me right in the gut. 5*

 

To be all technical about it, my ratings add up to a 4.5, but after thinking about this collection overnight, I think it adds up to more than the sum of its parts, so 5 fat stars it is!

 

My highest recommendation to those readers who are strong of heart!

 

You can pre-order your copy here: Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction Horror">Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction

Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction Horror"> 

*I was provided a free e-ARC in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

**Further, I consider Mark Matthews a friend, albeit online only. This did not affect the content of my review.*

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