Review – Deathless

Let me first go on record by saying I have been a fan of the zombie genre since my first viewing of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, on VHS, re-watched until the tape wore thin enough that the player could no longer fix the tracking.  (If I lost you there at “tracking”, ask your parents folks)

For me, the zombie apocalypse represents the breakdown of the infrastructure that serves as the backbone of society, turns everything we take for granted on its head, and pushes you outside your comfort zone.  The writer does not take you on a fantastic voyage to some unknown world, where fierce and frightening monsters abound, returning you to normalcy as easily as closing the book (or the app I guess).  Instead, the writer denies the reader that power of separation of fact from fiction, and instilling that inkling of fear, however small, that zombies might just be possible.  That’s the beauty of the zombie genre; it strips away the fantastical nature of scary stories and brings the terror to the reader’s doorstep.

It is generally accepted that, while fun to imagine, vampires and werewolves and aliens just do not exist.  They are just folklore and spook stories; tales to keep little ones in their beds at night for fear of monsters hiding under their beds.  Nothing more.

What if, however, those old legends were not just tall tales?  What if someone in the past meant for the stories to serve as preparation for future generations to be ready for the apocalypse?  In his Deathless series, Chris Fox opens the reader’s mind to the possibility that not only could vampires and werewolves have existed, but what if they served a purpose?  What if they were created to save humanity?

 The Deathless series, currently comprised of 3 books plus 3 companion novellas, caught my interest in its gnarled claws and refused to let go.  It took my obsession with the zombie genre and exploded it in a whole new direction.  Never before had I read the possibility of pitting zombies against werewolves, vampires, super-powered humans, AND aliens!  Just when I thought the story was over, Chris left me on the edge of my seat begging for the next chapter in the story.  I recommend this series to any reader who enjoys fast paced storytelling, visceral more-than-human fights, oftentimes humorous dialogue, and not to mention questioning everything you had ever learned about ancient mythology.

Current books/novellas (in order of the author’s suggested reading):

Deathless

There’s No Such Thing as Werewolves

The First Ark  – novella

No Ordinary Zombie

Vampires Don’t Sparkle

The Great Pack (forthcoming)

Project Solaris

Hero Born – novella

Hero Rising – novella

As for me, I just picked up Destroyer, the first book in Chris’s new The Void Wrath trilogy, and am looking forward to reading it.

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Ash vs The Evil Dead – Review

AshVsEvilDead

 

I am an Ashley J Williams fan.

Growing up in Michigan, Evil Dead was a college movie night staple. Evil Dead 2? Even better. Army of Darkness? I wore out the VHS tape.

I have followed the continuing adventures of Ash in comic book form, through most if not all of the “Army of Darkness v.s.” comics. I’ve followed Bruce Campbell’s career in all its forms from cameos too many to name to starring roles (Brisco County Jr, Jack of all Trades, Xena anyone?).

I guess you could say I was a bit obsessed.

There had been rumors over the years of the possibility of the continuing adventures of Ash, from hints in “My Name is Bruce” to promises of Army of Darkness 2. There was also, of course, the Evil Dead reboot movie. A great throwback to the original series, but without Ash included it was just not the same (even though we got a crowd pleasing “Groovy” after the credits).

Then came the announcement of Ash vs The Evil Dead, a new series on Starz staring everyone’s favorite bumbling hero Ashley J Williams. The trailers were incredible, the casting looked great, and it was to be directed by none other than Sam Raimi. Could it be true? Were we really going to have our appetites for more deadites sated? Would Ash be strapping his boomstick (made in Grand Rapids Michigan) to his back, and plugging his chainsaw back on his arm?

The series premiere of Ash vs the Evil Dead had a lot to deliver, and more to live up to the standards of we salivating fans. And, from my point of view, the show delivered!

We open on a throwback to what appears to be Ash working the straps for his shotgun holster, only to pull back to reveal an older Ash (30 years since we last saw him battling the deadites) strapping himself into a make-shift corset. Living in a trailer, still working in a make-shift houseware store (a bit less impressive than S-Mart), Ash is still the same loveable loser we remember. And, as expected, it only gets worse from there.

Campy effects, horrid one liners, morbidly dark humor, typecast characters, and obvious slow motion lead-ins to jump scares were all there. And I ate them up! I would not have Evil Dead be any other way. Those are a small list of characteristics that drew me to the original trilogy, and they brought me back to the good old days of real, non-CGI film making.

Other throwbacks, visuals, and fan-pleasing moments I need to note:
– Ash’s new hand is “rosewood”
– Wouldn’t want to see Ash driving anything other than his same old 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88
– Lucy Lawless, even though appearing in the premiere for only a moment deliver a great one liner. Part of me still misses the interaction between Xena and Autolycus the King of Thieves.
– Footage from the original movie (in Ash’s recap to Pablo)! Huge problem with Evil Dead 2 finally resolved!
– Evidently the rights to Army of Darkness could not be gained, so we do miss S-Mart, the steel gauntlet, or tales of fighting alongside Arthur.
– Deadites, Deadites, Deadites!
– Attack of the evil deadite doll!

Overall this new series is exactly what a true fan of the originals has been wanting and needing for far too long. This fan in particular is anxiously awaiting the next episode.

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Summer Wind – narrated by BobBoom

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Fear The Walking Dead

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I am a zombie fan.  I would go so far as to say that I have been a fan since “before zombies were cool”.  I credit (blame?) George A. Romero for indoctrinating me into the genre when I was handed a VHS copy of Dawn of the Dead back in my high school days, which must have re-watched until nearly wearing out the tape.  It, of course, only got worse from there.

 

Robert Kirkman is also a zombie fan.  His The Walking Dead comics have been chronicling the zombie apocalypse since  2003.  On October 31st, 2010, AMC debuted the television adaptation of the popular comic series, and a whole new generation of zombie fans were born.  Now ready to premiere its 6th season this fall, the show has gained popularity even with non-zombie fans (I’m looking at you Daryl-a-holics).  The Walking Dead comic continues its publication, now up to issue #144.

 

The majority of the Walking Dead story is told from the viewpoint of Rick Grimes and his small group of survivors.  In both the first comic, as well as the TV adaptation, the apocalypse appears to occur within the blink of an eye.  More specifically, between the gap of Rick slipping into, then awaking from, a coma.  (not-really-spoiler-alert: Rick is a cop who, during a shootout with a band of armed criminals, is shot and hospitalized.  While in his coma, the world fell to the zombies)  The story picks up with Rick trying to find his family, understand what happened, and above all survive.  The missing part of the story, similar to other zombie movies/shows, is “how did civilization quickly collapse under the gnashing teeth of the ravenous undead?”.  Fear the Walking Dead is Robert Kirkman’s answer to that very question.

 

Before the show premiered this past Sunday, in various interviews, camp Kirkman revealed several pieces of information regarding Fear The Walking Dead:

  • The show takes place in the same world as Walking Dead, therefore the same rules apply that have been true in The Walking Dead
  • It focuses on the very beginnings of the zombie outbreak, centered in Los Angeles, presumably around the same time Rick is in his coma
  • The story centers on a dysfunctional family, comprised of divorced male high school teacher, a female guidance counselor, and their children from previous marriages, trying to keep their dysfunctional family together trying to come to terms with the impending fall of society

 

What I really enjoyed about this first episode of the show, along with the record breaking 10.1 million other viewers, was the overall story and environment.  We, as fan of The Walking Dead, are “in the know” this time around.  We know that anyone who dies will rise as a “walker”, we know that only headshots will kill zombies, and we know that society will fall.  It is this list of foreknowledge that gives the show its edge.  Since the characters on the show don’t know what we know, the show is able to build up tension and “gotcha” moments at every turn.  This is played out extremely well, keeping us on the edges of our seats waiting for the inevitable, thrust into the shoes of the characters experiencing first incidents of the outbreak.

 

When I sat down to watch the show I had high expectations to be pulled back into the world of walkers and survivors, but felt it would be nothing more than something to sate my appetite until Season 6 of the “main” show.  Instead, while my appetite is as sated as a walker gnawing on a screaming victim, I feel Fear the Walking Dead is more than just an add-on or spin off.  This show has great potential, writing, acting, and overall takes you on a wild ride through a society threatening to collapse under the crushing weight of the Walking Dead.

 

The edge of my seat is already reserved for next Sunday for the second episode of Fear the Walking Dead, “So Close, Yet So Far”.

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Off to be the Wizard (Magic 2.0 Book 1)

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Off to be the Wizard (Magic 2.0 Book 1) by Scott Meyer.

 

What would you do if you found out your existence was governed by a file on some computer?  What would you do if that same file not only controlled aspects of your life, but the lives of everyone on the planet?  What would you do if you could change that file, and thereby change the world?  Would you make yourself the richest man alive?  Rain fire upon your enemies?  End world hunger?  Or maybe become a wizard?

 

These are questions Scott Meyer poses in his first novel, “Off to be the Wizard”.  Martin Banks, who dabbles in ‘innocent’ computer hacking as a hobby, uncovers a computer program that controls reality.  Through trial and error, he discovers that he has the ability to change his life for the better with nothing more than few measured keystrokes.  Unfortunately for him, his “adjustments” do not escape notice, and he quickly finds himself to be a “person of interest” by the government.  So he does what any self-respecting geek would do in a situation like that, escape to the middle ages to pose as a wizard.

 

Unfortunately for Martin, he finds that he was not unique in his discover, and then must prove himself to be deserving of his new found powers among other wizards.  Or be banished back to a life of normalcy and, you know, having to answer to the authorities.  As the author states, what could possibly go wrong?

 

As an avid reader of Scott’s online comic, Basic Instructions, I was excited to read his first novel.  I found it to be an enjoyable read, full of plenty of geeky references from the 80’s to current time (and the possible future).   It was filled with both witty and dry humor, complete with call outs to time travel, Star Trek, Tolkien, and Apple.  Time travel can be a tricky subject, but Scott handles the possible plot-holes and inconsistencies quite well.  I did not find myself rolling my eyes at his explanations of the workings of the environment, unless, of course, it was the author’s intent.  Even remembering the always “avoid the obvious joke” about staffs or wands.

 

Overall it was a great read, full of both complex and simple characters, and kept me turning the pages (or is that swiping on a kindle?) until the very end.  I immediately picked up the second book in the series (Spell or High Water), hungry to read more about Martin’s adventures as a techno-wizard.

 

I recommend this book not only to support a first time novel, but for anyone who enjoys gaming, geek culture, and as the amazon description states “a light comedic novel about computers, time travel, and human stupidity”.

 

If Scott Meyer reads this himself, well done, and I can’t wait to see what misadventures and unfortunate circumstances Martin finds himself in next.

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Captive Audience

The old man next to Kevan seemed to enjoy the sound of his own voice. For the past several days he droned on that he was a man of the cloth, and how he devoted his long life to the service of his god. How, as one of the faithful, he traveled in pilgrimage to the outer villages of the kingdom. Administering to the sick. Saying prayers for the dead. Helping the poor and unfortunate where he could as his brotherhood had done throughout the ages. His vestment alone stood as a symbol of hope and peace to the less fortunate people of the kingdom. So long as his monastery resided on the king’s land, his order granted him amnesty from wartime skirmishes and disputes.

Unfortunately the Count’s men did not abide by the king’s laws.  When the armed ruffians came to sack the village, this man was rounded up with the rest.  No matter how much he pleaded, no matter how much he scolded the soldiers for accosting a man of the faith, his words fell on deaf ears.  The old fool should consider himself lucky, Kevan thought. That gray cassock hanging loosely on his bony shoulders alone had spared his balding head mounted on a pike. Unfortunately, though, it was not until after he had been grievously wounded that the commanding sergeant took any notice of him. The officer ordered a detachment of his men to pull the holy man up from where he was lying face down in the dirt with a crossbow bolt imbedded in his side, and have him dragged here to his new home.

Kevan tried to find peace in his view of the vast countryside and the remnants of the still smoldering village, and had to admit that he almost missed the old monk’s pathetic stories and ramblings from the past few days.  The old man had just not been the same since falling into unconsciousness from blood loss and exposure, when the crows took the opportunity of his vulnerable state to steal away his eyes.  Since then, instead of constantly praying and begging for release, all the monk did was scream and weep infected tears from those empty sockets.  Kevan feared that soon he would be alone to slowly sway in his own gibbet, awaiting his inevitable end.  The crows kept watch with the hungry eyes of those preparing for a feast.

gibbet

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The Zoo

Greetings lurkers and fellow crazy persons.  I am back again with another book recommendation.

 

Capture

 

The Zoo  is a novel written by powerhouse author James Patterson with Michael Ledwidge.  It has been heralded as James Patterson’s best book ever, an unputdownable, pulse-racing novel.

The Zoo centers on a subject that mankind, as a whole, takes for granted: we are the dominant species on the planet.  We have this idea that it is humans that rule the earth, and all other animals large and small are therefore subjugated by us who walk on two legs.  Humans are more adaptive, smarter and most importantly well-armed.

Then the book challenges us, as the readers, with the question: what if we’re wrong?  What if we are the dominant species only because animals believe we are not worth the effort and likely do not taste good?  What if something in the environment changed, and humans were viewed as prey?

The Zoo is a vicious look at a world where uprisings of predatory animals begin to occur small at first while the general populace ignores the issue as one or two disconnected occurrences, then focuses on how people would react if the issue became a world-wide extinction-threatening event for humankind.

Please note this is not a book for the faint of heart, the authors do well to describe the graphic detail of animal attacks, often times from the point-of-view of the beasts themselves.

The characters are well written, believable, and you’ll find yourself taking sides before too long; be those sides the struggling survivors, the government trying to cover up facts or keep the peace, or the animals themselves.  The protagonist, Jackson Oz, is a young biologist witnessing the brutal attacks first hand spanning from the wilds of Africa to our own backyard in the United States.  Along with the help of ecologist Chloe Tousignant, he fights to convince world leaders of the enormity of the problem before it’s too late.  In the end, the explanation for the apocalyptic event is a little contrived and a bit environmentalist, but is acceptable enough to keep with the overall feel of the story.

I recommend this book for an imaginative, white-knuckle read that will keep you turning the pages until the very end.

 

*On a side note.  There is also a CBS mini-series based on this novel.  I unfortunately felt that the mini-series was too loosely based on the book for me to enjoy, so I will leave it up to your judgement which is better. My recommendation, however, is to read the book and avoid the show.

 

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The Summer Wind

The Summer Wind is a terrible devil

Blowing hard across arid earth.

With the stench of rot, it moves at a trot,

Consuming all within its berth.

 

His face is gaunt and sunken.

His cloak of thread-bare cloth.

Shadowed in a deep black hood,

His grin a deep-gaped swath.

 

Not a whisper as he plagues the world,

A demon with eyes black as coals.

Victims cry out in the darkness

As he slowly consumes their souls.

 

The Summer Wind is a dastardly fiend

Terrorizing as if t’were a game.

He’ll hunt you down, and wear your skull as a crown

Conquest be his whispered name.


Inspired by The Autumn Wind by Steve Sabol

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Narration Author Page

Greetings!

I wanted to share with you something pretty amazing that a fellow writer/blogger/crazyperson Emilio Altermen created recently to help showcase a collection of fellow independent authors.

Every now and again, some great voice talent from around the interwebs choose a story to elaborate through narrations, which are then shared on YouTube.  Not only do these folks lend their voices, but they often times take stories one step further by adding mood-setting music and pictures to further enhance the their spoken words.   In the past, I too have been honored to have some of my favorite stories narrated by these talented folks. (did I mention they were talented??)

What has been created are YouTube “author pages”; giving you the opportunity to easily find, watch, and listen to stories from your favorite authors read by equally (and sometimes more so) talented narrators.

J.L. Rach’s YouTube Author Page!

* Please note that the narrations / stories are credited to my Reddit pseudonym of LordCarnage *

So, you awesomely supportive readers, have a listen to some narrations of my past work; as well as enjoy discovering other fantastic authors and their frighteningly good stories as masterfully read by folks out there who were born with voices fit for telling scary stories around the campfire.

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Max’s Bad Day

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It had been an off-day for Max.

 

He knew that everyone was entitled to days where it seemed as though a black cloud hovered just inches above their heads, but he had taken pride in the fact the he greeted each day with the same level of exuberance.  Max was one of the rare breed that truly enjoyed his life and his job.  That morning, however, found him feeling lethargic and run-down from the moment his bare feet hit the hardwood floor of his bedroom.

 

Nothing he did seemed to improve his day.  After grumbling through a humdrum workday, Max went against his normal evening routine and indulged in the hobby that he usually reserved for the weekend; yet even that weekend activity that usually made life worth living left him feeling ‘off’.

 

At the end of the day, back home alone in his single bedroom apartment, Max considered his reflection in the dirty bathroom mirror.  It appeared that even his steely blue-eyed stare looked out of place in contrast to the depressingly fatigued look of the skin that seemed to just hang off his face.  Even his best and most expensive moisturizers and creams had not restored a healthy, happy looking color to its appearance.

 

With a sigh, Max pulled off the fleshy mask he had taken such care to delicately slice off of that screaming woman’s face earlier in the evening, tossed the gruesome visage into the trashcan, and shuffled off to bed.

 

Perhaps he would feel back to his usual self in the morning.

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