‘Savage Days’ by Kyle Van Dongen – Review

*Disclaimer – I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

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The others said it came after dark, but Maisie wasn’t taking any chances. She carried a machete in a sheath strapped to her leg. The sound of its handle clicking against her belt should’ve empowered her, but instead it taunted. She’d never handled a weapon like this before, nor was she confident she’d be capable if the time came. 

It was a dreary, late autumn evening in Essex County. Distant rain clouds added a modicum of diversity to an otherwise colourless sky. A rolling field of dried corn stalks separated Maisie’s ramshackle farmhouse from the edge of a dark forest. 

Through narrowed eyes, she surveyed the motionless tree line. Shade from the canopy made it difficult to see farther than a few meters inside. For all she knew that damned beast hid just out of sight, waiting for the opportune moment to strike. 

Maisie cradled a heft wicker basket under her arm, supporting its curved brim against her hip as she tugged at the squeaky clothesline. Like everything else on the farm, it needed replacing. 

“Mommy, come push me,” a child’s voice called. 

Adelyn wore a frilly white dress embroidered with flowers. The spotless fabric flapped in the wind as she swung on a rickety swing set. She looked like she’d traveled here from another time, from a world Maisie never knew. 

“I’ll be right there,” she responded. 

The swing set stood next to the house, no more than six meters from the back door. Maisie felt certain that if the creature attacked, she could but her daughter enough time to get inside. Whether the dilapidated building would offer much protection however, was another story. 

It wasn’t that Maisie hadn’t tried to re-enforce the place. She’d boarded every window and installed makeshift crossbar brackets on both doors. Her handiwork wasn’t the problem so much as a lack of suitable materials. The old picnic table in the backyard became the first sacrifice, and since then she’d taken to prying up her bedroom floor. Unfortunately, most of these planks, regardless of their source, were already rotting long before she nailed them into place. 

 

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Synopsis –

Residents of a small farming community, already struggling to survive in the aftermath of nuclear war, are faced with a new threat when a terrifying creature emerges from the woods and snatches a child from her bed. A trio of broken people, including the missing girl’s grief-stricken mother, an aging scavenger, and a surly hunter, must learn to work together and utilize their limited resources to slay the beast and return peace to the community.

 

Thoughts –

Savage Days is a post-apocalyptic novel that explores the inherent human need for community and companionship struggling with the basic need to survive. Our trio of characters are well rounded, individually motivated, and fighters to the end. Young Maisie staying alive for her daughter, Benjamin and his love of music working for the community that shunned him to protect themselves, and the skilled hunter Caleb finding his place after the death of his ‘doomsday prepper’ father. A mis-matched team with their own agendas, all secretly wishing to find a friend but in the open, defensive for the sake of survival, leads to an unpredictable and often twisting hunt that threatens to get them all killed at every turn. The question is, is community more important than individual survival? And is survival for survivals sake, worth the effort?

Savage Days is a novel carried by the strength of the characters within it. Set in an America ravaged by looters, mutated humans and animals alike, and small farming communities struggling to return to a sense of normalcy for the sake of their children. Opening with their worst fears coming true – the thieving of a child in the night by a monster no one has seen – a harrowing journey is undertaken to stop this monster and keep the fearful community together. Van Dongen writes with skill and the careful treatment of his characters brings their stories to life. Using a well worn trope and breathing new life into radiated lungs, Savage Days is a novel waiting for a second or even a third reading.

 

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Savage Days is a story that will have you hooked from the very first page, and keep you hooked long after you’ve turned the last. Van Dongen will surely be a name to watch.

 

About the Author –

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Kyle Van Dongen is a dark fiction writer from Canada. Savage Days is his first published novel and you can find him on Twitter here.

 

Read and Review –

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads.com

 

Are you a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction? What’s your favourite type of global destruction? Is setting or character more important when dealing with this genre? Let me know down below!

‘Maybe the Dream Knows What is Real’ by Steve Grogan – Review

*Disclaimer – I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

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From the beginning of my life, I knew what purpose I would serve. Clarity hit me the second my father’s sperm pierced the shell of my mother’s egg. Yes, that is how immediate and obvious the truth was. 

Mother gave herself to him that night completely. She wanted his hands, his mouth, his entire body to fuse with her so they could become one. As I got older, I was raised to believe that a woman offering herself in this was to a man was a special occasion, but over time I discovered none of my peers held the same belief. They had hollow caves where their hearts should be. Since they had no problem sharing this treasure with whoever happened to be around. Some would use excused for this promiscuity (like constant horniness, alcohol, or drugs), but I was not blind to the truth. Mine was a generation of misfits incapable of loving themselves, more prone to loneliness and alienation than even the Beats. 

I was unique among my peers because I understood love. Ironically, this meant I was lonely as hell because in their minds I was this weirdo who wanted a serious commitment instead of just empty sex. Over time I came to embrace my individuality/ I wore it like a badge of pride. My problem proved to be its own solution. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

As I was saying, the purpose of my life became clear to me very early on. One might be inclined to thin I am exaggerating, but this realization came to me while I was still hovering in the womb. I was meant to fulfill one role: the underdog, the loser, the one who has bad luck or no luck at all. 

This was the trajectory my life was supposed to follow. Someone or something had already chosen it for me. Into the fluid of the life-giving sac I screamed inquiries and profanities of all sorts, lashing out with my feet when the lack of answers frustrated me. 

Months passed. My development was the same as any other embryo. They physical traits, however, were where my similarities to others ended. I had already gained a realization that I would be different. There would be no one quite like me. 

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Synopsis (from Goodreads) –

He was lost, directionless, unable to find his identity.

He thought he found it in her, which was good because he was teetering on the edge of madness.

She had no way of knowing her actions would push him over the edge.

This is a story about the dangers of depending on others to give you a sense of self-worth, taken to the extreme. It is a graphic, dark story not meant for the faint of heart. The graphic content makes up only 15% of the prose, but it is some of the most harrowing writing ever committed to page.

 

Thoughts –

Maybe the Dream Knows What is Real is the fantasy of an ‘incel’, and I didn’t enjoy it. It certainly is horrifying the way that some people think, especially men who hate women as much as the main character in this book did, but there needs to be more than a glamorized description of their fantasies from their perspective – men hating women for the fact that they are women isn’t interesting, it’s depressing.

As you can see from the quote above, the book begins by the protagonist describing that he understood society and relationships while he was still in the womb and that can basically describe his entire personality. He constantly monologues about how people treat him so terribly because he’s actually so interesting and intelligent, and how women hate him but yet he has multiple girlfriends who he has loads of sex with and breaks up with amicably – there’s inconsistencies here with his account and obviously he’s an unreliable narrator but he’s much too unreliable for the story to work. And nothing comes along to test this guy, no characters try and hold a mirror up to his character, there’s no actual conflict for him that I read until the bizarre final scenes which should never have happened and to be honest I skipped over most of the gore as I could tell where it was going – rape and torture of a woman who did nothing wrong.

The story ends with a scenario that makes no sense – his girlfriend breaks up with him only to invite him to small gathering where she gets with another guy? Why would she do this? To further the plot of course and lead him on a graphic rape and murder spree, why else.

This isn’t a pleasant story to read, and I know it was never meant to be, but when I read a story I want there to be some character or scene or something to cling on to so that I can still believe humanity is not a complete dumpster fire – I didn’t get anything like that from this book. Hearing from a misogynistic murderer why they hate women and want to kill them isn’t interesting especially as the reason is ‘because they’re women’. Killers are only interesting for the stories of the people trying to fight them off, to get away from them – essentially for the humanity and fight for survival that they bring out in others.

Maybe the Dream Knows What is Real is a short and uncomfortable read that holds a niche audience.

 

About the Author (from Goodreads) –

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Steve Grogan has published several collections of poetry and short stories. This is his first story of extended length to be published.

 

Links to Buy and Review –

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads.com

 

 

How do you feel about horror stories from the killers perspective? Does there need to be some accountability in their stories? Does exorbitant violence turn you away from a book?

Late Night Partners by Fennel Steuert – Review

Disclaimer – I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

“Though they said she never was human, exactly, Doris had held onto the belief otherwise – even as she sat in the back of a wagon with a few pigs being taken along the road southward.

It was a slow ride. She contemplated running, but where could she go? The man at the head of the wagon had a dog with him, and he would certainly set it loose to her. She tried to imagine that being bitten wouldn’t be that bad. This only made her blood run cold, and with that came a kind of numbness, until something large swooped down from a tree onto the man at the reins. His gingerly whistling turned to a yelp. As the dog barked and the pigs squealed, Doris took off. 

Behind her, the dog let out a quick final screech.

Doris ran faster, ably dodging the star-lit silhouettes of the trees. But what was along the ground was another thing. She stumbled over rocks and roots, until something on the ground sent her tumbling to the dirt. When she looked up, all she could see was the silhouette of a man in a tricorn hat. And then the entirety of existence was the fiery pain where his teeth tore at her neck. Her last sight was the bleeding wound formed as the man pressed a pointy finger along the inside of his arm.

 

Synopsis

In Late Night Partners we meet Doris, a victim of the American slave trade, who in her escape attempt, finds more than she bargains for in a contagious bite from a stranger. Cut to the present day and strange things are happening in the city where Doris and her Native American ghoul friend through the ages, Gesine, now live. Human Roger gets pulled into the fray after his elderly uncle Simon, afraid to leave his house because of a mysterious and bloody attack he suffered, and both of them find a world that neither thought was possible before. As the two worlds intertwine, the earthquakes shaking the city turn out to have a supernatural and shocking epicenter. With twists and turns for days, distinct and charming characters.

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What I Liked

What I liked about Late Night Partners was obviously the uniqueness of the story. I’ve never read a novella quite like this, with characters like these, and I’m glad I got the opportunity to do so. There’s no fear for ‘diverse’ characters here, and there never should be, but more importantly there are no stereotypes either. Steuert’s treatment of not only LGBT characters and women of colour was nuanced and enjoyable, as was her treatment of much used creatures such as vampires and ghouls. I was surprised quite a lot in this book by the origins of the characters and their afflictions and the twists that the story too – that ending? Never would have seen it coming in a million years. Late Night Partners is definitely not a story you can walk into assuming anything and that made reading it quite easy to keep the pages turning.

The urban setting was also quite interesting for me. I have only read medieval type fantasy stories before and having this in the setting of a city was quite something different and works quite well I think.

 

What I Didn’t Like

One thing that bothered me in Late Night Partners was the time jumps. Between Doris in her beginning as a vampire and the characters in the present, I often got confused as to where I was supposed to be picturing them. This is something that can easily be fixed with some sub-headings but it did mean some re-reading. I also would have liked to have the romance side of the book explored more, and I am not a romance fan. I just feel like the characters could have been explored more in their interactions with each other, if this was focused on with a little more time it would have added another layer to the story.

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Recommended for:

I would recommend Late Night Partners to someone looking for a light, fantastical read. Anyone who needs another shot of vampires but wants an urban twist to it, and anyone who thinks they always know where the twists are going – you will fail for this one!

Late Night Partners is a new twist on an old tale and if you are looking for a diverse book you should definitely pick this one up. I’ve talked before about the need for more LGBTQ characters in particular in horror and ‘genre’ fiction, you can check out my thoughts on Lesbianism in Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House here.

Purchase Links:

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads

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What do you think of modern vampire stories? Do we need more diversity in our fiction? Does the vampire mythology need a new re-vamp? (puns always intended here) Let me know down below!

 

If you have a horror/dark fiction/sci-fi/thriller novel, short story, or collection you would like me to review, please get in contact!