‘Screaming Creatures’ by Sean M. Thompson – Review

*Disclaimer – I received free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

***

You put the key in, and the lock catches a bit. You’d forgotten about this quirk with the door, but there are many little things to get used to as a house sitter. You have to use a good amount of force to fully engage the mechanism, but you manage it, even one-handed, with the Jensen’s mail balanced against your side.

The heat is the first thing to hit you: stifling, cloying humidity, which seeps right into your lungs. The smells of potpourri left in the blazing sun, of no doubt thirsty begonias in a crystal vase, mix with the smell of the chemically-treated water in the fish tank. You’re surprised the mauve wallpaper hasn’t just peeled off the wall like a snake’s skin.

Maggie Jensen hired you primarily to feed her fish while she takes some much needed R and R at Acadia National park in the good old state of Maine, where life is slower. Being from Rhode Island this has a certain appeal. And who knows, maybe you’ll take some time off in September to go yourself.

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Synopsis –

Enter a world where nowhere is safe. These 14 stories take our everyday lives and turn them upside down. Encounter wendigos and succubi, demons and beings from beyond the stars, travel from the forests of New England to the wasted plains of the old west, succumb to haunted media and plagues of madness. Screaming Creatures is a fast ride to surreal landscapes full of hard decisions and frayed sanity.

Thoughts –

Screaming Creatures is the latest collection from Sean M. Thompson and Nictitating Books. From unsettling naked strangers in ‘Sunny Village’ to a world lost to insanity in the titular story ‘Screaming Creatures’, Thompson takes you on a journey through creeps, chills, horrors, and unbelievable terror.

Thompson’s writing is swift and engaging, a style that you can trust to keep you locked in with characters and events at all times. The tones of the stories are wide ranging but always with an undercurrent of tension that is enough to turn your stomach. The thrill of a secretarial job for a blood thirsty employer, the cold yearning for a connection with strangers – you’ll find a story that hits a nerve.

The final story of the collection ‘Screaming Creatures’ is a tale of a world infected by madness, and one that reflects all too much our current situation. Seemingly a virus with unknown origins infects the world, though they never find out how it is spread, but instead of physical sickness here it is insanity, irrationality, and violence that push our world over the edge, turning us all into nothing but screaming creatures… or maybe we already are.

A powerfully written collection to dive into, Screaming Creatures is sure to echo in the mind long after the last page.

About the Author –

Thompson grew up in a suburb of central Massachusetts. He is, in no particular order:
A weirdo. An angry ghost. A redhead. An asshat. A soda-swilling, sarcastic son of a bitch who loves cats and gallows humor.

He is a transplant to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he’s doing his best to become a desert-dwelling surrealist

Sean M. Thompson is the author of the collection TOO LATE, TH3 D3M0N, the novella HATE FROM THE SKY from Eraserhead Press, and FARMINGTON CORRECTIONAL from Planet X Publications. His work has been featured in TEST PATTERNS, TERROR IN 16-BITS, VASTARIEN, and UNNERVING.

Read and Review –

Goodreads.com

Amazon.co.uk

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‘Dark Thoughts’ by Kevin Kennedy – Review

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

****

The Karakyuza stood in single file, breathing in a synchronised rhythm while the incessant banging outside continued. Over one hundred and twenty-seven million people were estimated dead in Japan alone, which was pretty much the entire population. The fourteen-person unit stood unaware of the number of casualties, but they were well aware of the situation outside. 

People had been talking about secret organisations for years, but the Karakyuza had never once been mentioned or hinted upon anywhere. That was because they were the first men, well, gods really. Adam and Eve was a fairy tale, all religions were creations, and they all came from these very men. The Karakyuza created so many different gods over the years, they lost count, but they had always been there, watching, judging, but never intervening. 

The zombie plague was man made though. In the last century, more and more things were changing due to mankind rather than the Karakyuza’s will, but they had decided to see where the path led. It had led to destruction , the fall of mankind, and now the Karakyuza were surrounded by hundreds of thousands of the dead. 

The Karakyuza were almost sexless, they were men and women of sorts, but you could never tell. They were self-styled warriors, the only read gods to our basic understanding of the meaning, and they had already spent thousands of years battling Demons before man even came to be on this planet. We are their creation, and now that creation had died, all over the planet, millions dead, searching for any last scrap of living flesh to feast on. 

****

Synopsis – 

Dark Thoughts is a collection of short stories from writer Kevin Kennedy. A seemingly random selection that focuses mainly on zombies and cannibals, with a few interesting new horror concepts thrown in as well, Dark Thoughts is not for the faint hearted and includes sexual 18+ scenes and incredibly gross imagery. You’ve been warned.

 

Thoughts

Dark Thoughts begins with a mildly heart warming story of three kids trying to survive a zombie apocalypse and quickly descends into violent cannibals and the most ‘childhood ruined’ add on to ‘The Wizard of Oz’ that I would never even want to imagine. There are good points and bad points about this collection with the overall writing being a good point, but some more intentional choices needed in putting the whole thing together.

The layout of the collection seems to have little thought put into it. There are many ways you can set up a collection – you can have an over-arching theme that connects the stories, you can have characters that appear in multiple tales, or you can simply place the stories differently so that similar stories don’t appear side by side. Dark Thoughts feels like it was just a list that was never even tinkered with. Multiple zombie stories follow multiple cannibal stories (and even a cannibals fighting zombies hybrid!) with the shock of some serious porn in the middle; there’s just no rhyme or reason to it and it gives the collection a rambling, monotonous feel.

There’s a story involving the main cast of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ which feels like an indulgent sexual fantasy on the part of the author with some violence thrown in at the end so they can call it horror. I’m no prude, though I find descriptions of sex in literature to be at best cheesy and at worst bizarre, but this story just feels like a porno script. The characters have the same names as ‘The Wizard of Oz’ characters but that’s the only real connection to the source material. If you went in and changed those names to anything else, it would just be a violent erotic flat tale that if you aren’t actively masturbating to, will just make you uncomfortable. Definitely only written for a straight male mind in my opinion. It also paints Dorothy as possibly the worst heartless, sex addicted female caricature imaginable. If you have any warm feelings towards Dorothy, this story will not hesitate to erase them.

A story I did find interesting as well as utterly disgusting was one involving a whole lot of fecal matter. Dark Thoughts is a collection that has many different types of shadow in it. I’m normally not a fan of over indulgent gross stories, however this story has engaging characters, believable motivations and a chaos that makes it unforgettable. There are some gems in this collection, I just feel like it needed another pass to polish up a few things and perhaps rethink some of the stories.

Kennedy seems to have skill with setting and introducing characters but the endings tended to fall flat, like he ran out of steam. A short story has a different structure and focus than a novel or novella and at times I felt like his stories would have been better suited to an expansion to novella or full novel even. There was so much more that could have been explored with characters and the blunt endings just weren’t satisfying enough.

 

 

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Dark Thoughts has an apt name. The collection was marred for me personally by the strange pornographic story with no real plot to it. I would have liked more diversity in the themes of the stories or perhaps one interlocking theme – some kind of link between the tales. Kennedy’s writing is enjoyable and I would read his work again, but I won’t be picking up this particular collection in the future.

 

About the Author –

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Kevin J. Kennedy is a Scottish Horror author and editor, and a Bram Stoker Award nominee. He is co- author of ‘Screechers’ and ‘You Only Get One Shot’ and editor of multiple horror anthologies. You can find him on Twitter and on his website here.

 

Links to Buy and Review –

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads.com

 

How do you feel about gratuitous sexual content in horror? Should short story collections have a linking theme or just have different themes for each story? Does a weak ending ruin a story for you?

’13 Dark Tales’ Collection 2 by Mike Martin – Review

*Disclaimer – I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, then I couldn’t get the file to work and panicked and bought the kindle so make of that what you will.*

****

Connor hadn’t planned his first kill. Self-defence, plain and simple, even though others hadn’t seen it quite that way. He was sixteen and the hapless victim of school bullies: a trio of witless sociopaths. One day, it all got out of hand. 

He was walking home alone, along the edge of the park, when they leapt out of the bushes and rushed him. But Connor was fast on his feet, and only Lenny Barnett stood a chance of keeping up. He’d have outrun him, too, if he hadn’t tripped over that friggin’ tree root. Lenny had a temper, but his face was a mask of pure hate when he fell on Connor, punching and yelling obscenities. Connor bucked and squirmed, tried to fend the blows, but Lenny was bigger and stronger. He’d just about managed to wriggle onto his side when he was the sharp stone. He dragged it from the wet leaves and hurled it wildly at Lenny. By sheer luck, it hit him square on the temple. In an instant, the punching stopped, and he flopped to the ground like a rag doll. Connor grabbed the stone again and slammed it down on Lenny’s head. Dark blood rushed through his wavy hair. Connor rolled him away and got to his feet. But he wasn’t finished. The “fight or flight” instinct had switched to something he’d never felt before: a bloodlust wholly reptilian in its cold intent. But one of Lenny’s mates got there just before he could bring the stone down again. Connor dropped it and fled home, where he blubbed it all to his frantic mum. 

The next few days were a bit of a blur, and he could recall very little of his dealings with the police. Lenny died a week later in hospital. Connor’s father hired a good barrister who argue successfully for manslaughter, but it still meant eighteen months in a youth custody centre. And a life changed forever. 

 

Synopsis –

This is the second collection of dark tales numbering 13 by Michael R. Martin. Ranging from ancient Viking legends, satanic cults, ghosts and serial killers with a few sci-fi stories fit for a Creepy Pasta SCP, this collection has some fresh ideas and an able writer.

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13 Dark Tales Collection Two leaves the gore and violence behind for the most part and asks the reader to do more thinking and look at these tales with a different perspective. Martin tackles the past with skill and shows that there are always more ways to look at a story. From aliens to ghosts, ancient Viking folk tales to modern government conspiracies and murders, there’s plenty for everyone in this collection. Martin is adept at setting up a story and creating compelling characters with interesting back stories.

One issue I had with this collection is the repetition of the structure. Over half the stories in the collection involve one character telling another character a story from their past, often times one that they both already know somehow but this person knows the real story, the truth. The first few times this was fine, but after the fifth or sixth it was too much. Each collection is well written in and of itself, but it could have used a mix up, a few different frameworks for each tale and I think the stories themselves would have evolved within new structures as well. This also meant that there was little actual action happening, and more often than not the endings fell flat as the main story had already happened and it was more a flash of and ending rather than a satisfying conclusion.

13 Dark Tales is worth a read though even if it’s just for the new insights. I would still recommend the book – the fact that I sweep through collections in one go may be a contributing factor to my issue with the repetitive framework. I’ll also be giving Collection 1 a look in the future.

 

About the Author –

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Michael R. Martin is a dark fiction writer from the UK. He has a degree in mechanical engineering and takes inspiration from the likes of Stephen King, Philip K. Dick, and Nigel Kneale. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Links to Buy and Review –

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads.com

 

What’s your favourite short story collection? Do you prefer action and gore or less tangible horror? Let me know down below!

Destination Death: A Horror Anthology by Chris Liberty – Review

Tracy’s heart thumped. “Jonas!” Her shout filled the cabin. She raced forward, followed by the others, their footsteps clomping on the wood floor. She grabbed the flashlight from her belt and aimed the light and gun up at the dark chimney. Stars gleamed from the purple twilight through the top of the funnel. Blood streaks dripped from the stones, and she jumped from the fireplace, wiping her face. “He’s gone!”

“What’re we gonna do?” Nick shouted, his eyes flitting around. 

From the bottom of her boots to her shoulders shuddered as if in an earthquake. The floor boards rattled. Something was underneath. She froze. An explosion of wood and dirt cascaded like a bomb. Tracy was thrown back. The air crushed from her lungs, and her vision spun.

Frank tumbled beside her, his gun lost in the surging dust cloud. “Son of a bitch!” 

Nick slammed into the wall. He pressed a hand to his brow, his eyes dazed and unfocused. Something pushed through the plume of debris with menacing force, right behind Nick. The filmy image, glowing in the moonlight that streamed through the window, reached out. 

Tracy jumped to her feet. “Nick, run!”

It was too late.  –  Wendigo Woods

 

 

Destination Death: A Horror Anthology is a collection of four short novellas that are tied together by the theme of death – does exactly what it says on the tin. Each story deals with it’s own urban legend/mythological creature and doesn’t shy away from gorey and bloody ways to dispatch characters and uses the sense of dread and mystical eeriness of forests to kick the suspense into a higher gear. Stories like ‘Wendigo Woods‘ and ‘Death Forest‘ borrow from Native American traditions with Liberty’s own unique spin. ‘The Devil’s Field‘ is one that feels more rooted in American urban legends following after movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer, whereas the final story, ‘Shadow Mountain‘, brings in Eastern tradition and mixes Native American and Japanese mythology to great effect. With young groups of men and women venturing into the unknown, armed with stories of unpleasant murdering fiends, what could go wrong?

Destination Death is an anthology looking into the depths of survival, of friends trying to battle their own baggage and stay alive in the face of supernatural powers, fighting the inevitable danger on the incredibly close horizon. His inclusion of flawed characters give them a sense of realism that keeps them relatable in such strange and surreal circumstances.

 

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What I Liked

What intrigued me about Destination Death was the refusal to shy away from violent gore and bloody deaths. If this isn’t something you would like to read then it may not be for you. The violence is not gratuitous and I never felt it was forced, it just felt natural for the kind of creatures that appear in the stories, would have been unnatural for the deaths and violence to come ‘off screen’ so to speak.

Liberty’s treatment of the multiple characters, for the most part, worked quite well too. Each voice is distinct and the personalities come across in a powerful way.

By taking the general outline of different myths and creatures, Liberty gives a sense of familiarity to the darkness in his stories but adds his own personal twists to the monsters. He cycles through some of the most interesting themes a writer can use, not just death, but retribution, secrets and lies, and of course the unknown. The forests in this anthology represent a fear of the unknown and a fear of things that are hidden, always leaving the possibility that there is more there than even the characters discover.

 

What I Didn’t Like

There were a few things that took me out of the stories and one of them was the description of the female characters. In short stories it can be a rush to get the image of a character in as quickly as you can, and though I don’t believe it’s intentional on the part of the author, phrases like ‘generous breasts’ too often appear to describe the women. In most other ways the characters are full and three dimensional, but the fact that I know that almost every woman had breasts trying to burst out of her clothes, had me frowning for a while. There are no sexual scenes in the stories and as the point of view is generally third person and not from a straight guy for instance, it seems out of place.

One more point about short stories is that it can be difficult to keep them under the word count while still giving the reader all the information they need. In the story Death Forest for instance we see an ex-boyfriend pushing to go on a trip where the woman he cheated on will be even though he wasn’t invited by anyone –  it just pulled me out of the story that this was thrown in there and couldn’t get my head around it.

 

Recommended for:

If you are interested in mythology and urban legends and have a particular penchant for creepy trees, I think you might enjoy this anthology. pulling you along through stories of death, darkness, and betrayal, you won’t find a happy ending here but you might find something a little more interesting, something that really gets you thinking.

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Purchase and Review Links:

Amazon.co.uk

Goodreads

 

 

About the Author – Chris Liberty

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Chris Liberty was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1972. His passions include travelling the world, the darker sides of world history and understanding cultures outside of his own.

You can find him on Twitter and Facebook

Check out my other reviews of horror story collections – 

Brain Dead Blues by Matt Hayward

The Sea Was a Fair Master by Calvin Demmer

 

What do you think of urban legend horror stories? Would you like to see more ancient myths brought to the twenty first century? How do you feel about taking established myths and adding your own twists? Let me know down below!

If you do read Destination Death: A Horror Anthology, don’t forget to review it wherever you can! It helps authors and it helps other potential readers too – and it’s free!

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!