Sunday, May 23, 2010

Personal Demons (The Jake Helman Files) by Gregory Lamberson

Personal Demons is the biggest little book you will ever read. There. I said it. This book is jam packed with that super hero quality that makes comic book geeks drool, yet peppered with enough of a good, old fashioned, crime novel - meets horror feel - just to make sure you know it's crossing genres. It also slices, dices and washes your car!!! All this and more!

Jake Helman, an elite member of the NY Special Homicide Task Force, is facing what most cops fear - an elusive serial killer. While investigating a series of sacrificial killings being doled out by a mysterious man known as The Cipher, some of Helman's personal demons come out to haunt him. After refusing to take a drug test and resigning from the force, he finds himself working as the director of security at Tower International - a highly controversial genetic engineering company. Under the guidance of the secretive and trailblazing Mr. Tower, the company is conducting experiments of an utterly unethical nature, in the name of human progress. After delving deeper into the company, Helman finds that the Tower Int. is doing more than just playing with science, they're playing with human souls.

Lamberson, the writer and director behind the cult favorite Slime City, delivers an incredible 1-2-punch with his second novel. Like I said before, this one has a very comic book/superhero feel with a dash of crime novel thrown in for good measure. The story itself is not too complicated, wickedly fast, and jammed with so much action that you barely have a chance to breathe while reading. I flew through this one in a day or two.

Lamberson's ability to kick your ass down to the pits of despair with the main character, and the bring you flying back up at a whim, are incredible. You really feel for Jake the whole time. Lamberson does get quite masochistic when it comes to the shit he puts Jake through, making for some very painful points in the book.

If I had a rating system here at Paperback Horror, you can be sure that this book would be somewhere up near the top. It's rare to find someone so excited about the genre who turns out to be not only a phenomenal writer, but also a deliciously dark dreamer, and someone who actually has to chops to bring you all over the emotional spectrum with his well placed words. Lamberson is seriously an author to watch, as he's poised to take the modern horror world by storm.

I really want to recommend this book to everyone who feels like they need something a little more interesting from their horror novels. And keep an eye out for the second installment of the Helman Files - Desperate Souls (coming October 1st, 2010) and Lamberson's werewolf novel - The Frenzy Way (June 1st, 2010), both by Medallion Press.

PBH

Monday, May 17, 2010

Dark Hollow by Brian Keene

Brian Keene is probably best known for giving zombies in books a new breath of life. One of the hardest working authors in modern Horror, Keene can also be called prolific - even considering the fact that his first Mass Market Paperback came out in 2004 - and he's only been on the scene since 1997. According to an interview with DF_Underground, as of this writing Keene has 10 more projects on the go and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

In Dark Hollow, his 6th book for Leisure books, Keene goes much further into the unknown, sinking his teeth into your heart in a different way. This time he brings it to a more personal, somewhat semi-autobiographical level.

Adam Senft, a Mystery writer who lives in a little town with his wife and dog "Big Steve", is plagued by the bad memories of his wife's two miscarriages and the steady decline of their marital relationship. While on a walk through the local woods, he stumbles upon a very strange sight: one of his female neighbors fellating what seems to be a large statue of a Satyr. While watching this weird scene, the Satyr comes to life, throwing everything he knows into disarray. Soon some of the women from Senft's small town go missing - summoned by the mystical sounds of the Satyr's pipes. When Adam gets a group of men together to trek into the forest and save the women, they uncover a supernatural evil bent on entering our world and spreading it's seed.

First of all, I feel I have to say something about the huge pink elephant sitting here in the room with us. Who writes about evil Satyrs? Nobody. That takes balls to pull off, and Keene does it with panache, as the whole feel of the story is dark and oppressive.

Written in first person, Keene doesn't give the reader a choice by to feel Senft's inner turmoil while he quarrels with his (in)ability to procreate, and ultimately with the loss of power he feels during that time. That's basically what this book is about: The feeling that is accompanied with the loss of power to something stronger than you. And this Keene doles out mightily.

The characters in the book (besides Senft) are pretty lackluster, but one usually comes to expect that from Keene after a while. It's his imagination and the situations that he puts his characters in that steal the show and make Keene a main stay in modern horror. His descriptive ability is fruitful and oft times depraved, while still sticking mostly to realistic themes. Well...until he brings in Satyrs...

Now, given my praise for the book, there were a lot of people who really didn't like it. Here is one example. While not well written, and obviously as a slight to the author in question, the comments alone make it worth reading. Truly hilarious.

Also, Dark Hollow has been optioned and will become a film. News is pretty scant on the movie, but here are a few links to check out if you're interested. Imdb, Brian Keene's Homepage, and director Paul Campion's MySpace page. Whether this movie will actually see the light of day is still up in the air.

PBH.