Review of Pilo Family Circus by Will Elliott

August 2, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Pilo Family CircusPilo Family Circus
By Will Elliot; Read by Mark Stephens
Publisher: Audible Studios for Underland Press
Publication Date: 27 May 2014
[UNABRIDGED] 11 hours 5 minutes

Themes: / horror / circus / psychotic clowns /

Publisher summary:

“You have two days to pass your audition. You better pass it, feller. You’re joining the circus. Ain’t that the best news you ever got?” Delivered by a trio of psychotic clowns, this ultimatum plunges Jamie into the horrific alternate universe that is the centuries-old Pilo Family Circus, a borderline world between Hell and Earth from which humankind’s greatest tragedies have been perpetrated. Yet in this place – peopled by the gruesome, grotesque, and monstrous – where violence and savagery are the norm, Jamie finds that his worst enemy is himself. When he applies the white face paint, he is transformed into JJ, the most vicious clown of all. And JJ wants Jamie dead! Echoes of Lovecraft, Bret Easton Ellis, Chuck Palahniuk, and early Stephen King resound through the pages of this magical, gleefully macabre work nominated as Best Novel by the International Horror Guild.

I almost hate to recommend this book because … what does that say about me?

The Pilo Family Circus is both completely creepy and absolutely fascinating. If you like clowns, you might change your mind after this. If you already don’t like them, you’ll probably think I knew it!

Jamie almost runs down an odd-looking clown and quickly finds his life changing forever. He has 48 hours to pass his “audition” and failing is not an option.

With some creativity, he finds himself in a circus that’s strange even for circus standards … and deadly. Monsters lurk in dark corners and out in the open too and you don’t even want to mess with the proprietor of the whole thing.

Then there are the factions, some of whom absolutely despise each other, such as the Clowns and the Acrobats and what happens in the circus, even a death or two, is overlooked for the most part.

Couple the imaginative world-building with a knack for storytelling and a dark sense of humor (you know, where you laugh and cringe at the same time) and you’ve got a book I couldn’t put down.

I know I go into sales-pitch mode when I talk about a book I really enjoyed, but this one’s highly recommended. The audio on this was astounding too. Mark Stephens does a wonderfully creepy job with his Australian accent. Fishboy alone killed me. This character has a high voice, such as when someone inhales helium, and Stephens stuck it perfectly.

This is an unusual book for me to love, but it’s a true love. It’s different and gruesome and somehow I couldn’t put it down. I stayed longer in the car on my drives, I brought headphones to bed when I usual save bedtime reading for my eyes. This is one of those unique books that really stunned me.

4.5 out of 5 Stars (very highly recommended)

Posted by Bryce L.

The SFFaudio Podcast #274 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: Facts Concerning The Late Arthur Jermyn And His Family by H.P. Lovecraft

July 21, 2014 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

Facts Concerning The Late Arthur Jermyn And His Family
The SFFaudio PodcastEldritch Tales by H.P. LovecraftThe SFFaudio Podcast #274 – Facts Concerning The Late Arthur Jermyn And His Family by H.P. Lovecraft, read by Gildart Jackson (this audiobook comes to us courtesy of Blackstone Audio’s Eldritch Tales). This is a complete and unabridged reading of the story (28 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, and Samantha Wikan

Talked about on today’s show:
The story was also published as Arthur Jermyn and The White Ape, Weird Tales, 1921, The Wolverine, the 1980s, “that’s not a big deal”, “our more enlightened times”, Lovecraft’s letter to Weird Tales, Rhodesia, “the Dark Continent”, “our brothers and sister in the jungle”, racism, Allan Quatermain, telegraphing the twist, is Lovecraft making a joke?, a more horrific reading, no Elder Gods, no Dreamlands, atavism and degeneration, great grandmother was a gorilla, miscegenation, bestiality, Dagon, Shadow Over Innsmouth, atavism, losing sanity points, Sir Wade Jermyn (African explorer with a “Portuguese wife” -> Philip Jermyn (a very agile sailor) -> Robert Jermyn (an anthropologist) -> Nevil Jermyn (runs off with a dancer) – > Alfred Jermyn (joins the circus) -> Arthur Jermyn (the poet scholar), Lovecraft became despondent when his family had to leave their home, Lovecraft’s mom said he was “exceedingly ugly”, Lovecraft’s father (died in an asylum), a tainted heritage, fear of degeneration, the ape goddess, diluting the noble bloodline, Arthur was the most unattractive one that was allowed out of the bedroom, Nevil’s siblings, a music hall singer of “unknown origin”, a lack of respect for the lower classes, below or above one’s station, a common sailor, the gamekeeper’s daughter, Winesburg, Ohio, Ray Bradbury’s inspiration for The Martian Chronicles, who is telling this story?, “demoniacal hints”, oppressive science, a future echo to Pickman’s Model, squamous eldritch adjectives, a gentleman in a club, “the gorilla boxing match death”, a smoking jacket holding court, clubman tales, Lord Dunsany, Arthur C. Clarke’s Tales Of The White Hart, Isaac Asimov’s The Black Widowers Club, Supernatural (1977 BBC TV series), “the club of the damned”, blood freezingly funny, “really ugly or unconventionally beautiful”, Arthur’s life story is quite sad, we really empathize with Arthur Jermyn, Victorian society, aren’t we all Arthur?, a lot of people probably don’t like the idea we are related to apes, maybe we should reject it even though its true, Douglas Adams “Earthmen are not proud of their ancestors and never invite them around to dinner”, digital watches, the ape city, hybrids, what of the other side?, S.T. Joshi’s reading, “that last clause is critical”, the white apes as the missing link, “the entire white race”, the only explanation, miscegenation assumes certain things, eugenics, “he married that ape”, “he made an honest ape of her”, the illustration from Weird Tales, how pretty was she?, the community’s contempt, judgements from a group of racist assholes, “that being said I’d rather be a poet than a sailor”, the butler, the servants, the black nanny, “the aged Soames”, the 1993 comic book adaptation by Stephen Phillip Jones, the visitor named “Seaton”, the only one who survives is Alfred, the adaptation goes off on this weird tangent -> The Terror Of Blue John Gap (first published in 1910), Samuel Seaton is in both stories (The Facts Concerning The Late Arthur Jermyn And His Family and The Terror Of Blue John Gap, She by H. Rider Haggard, a more realistic version of that story, Tarzan series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the lost city of Opar (a lost colony of Atlantis), the John Carter books, this story is underrated, the humour and the pathos, not going into purple overdrive, the Jorkens tales, dry British wit, take off the Cthulhu blinkers, Jesse would like Mr Jim Moon to read aloud The Terror Of The Blue John Gap, Blue John (the mineral), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “obviously its insane”, Heart Of Darkness , Henry Morton Stanley, Dr. Livingston, Penny Dreadful is a mash-up of late 19th century horror fiction, Timothy Dalton plays a kind of Allan Quatermain kind of character, Mina Harker, demon possession, “raping their way across Africa”, the Grand Tour, “sending sons to the colonies for hunting, drinking, and whoring”, Sir Wade is the White God, the Congolese natives’ stories are all true, what’s in the box?, two statues?, a subterranean ocean, a fish man?, “I’m your great grandfather boy”, the Spawn of Cthulhu, “Deep Ones can mate with any species”, when we read Lovecraft we do a disservice to force connections to the Cthulhu Mythos, presenting it as a theory, “the locket!”, “what’s in the locket?”, the locket was empty, they threw the locket in a well, interpretations, stopping the spread vs. just being horrified, putting them over the percentage, “they had to make it not be”, having an ancestor delivered to your door, “Sir Wade collected things one wouldn’t ordinarily collect”, what did he bring back?, tending away from the Cthulhu Mythos, Cthulhu plushie, Lovecraft would never have said: “Sanity points?! Great idea!”, The Hound by H.P. Lovecraft (and it’s black museum), Lovecraft used the Necronomicon as “a backdrop and a reference and a flavour”, appreciating the stories as stories, it’s touching!

The White Ape - illustration by William F. Heitman

The Worlds Of H.P. Lovecraft - art by Wayne Reid

The Worlds Of H.P. Lovecraft (1993 Caliber Comics) art by Wayne Reid

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Flesh and Blood by Daniel Dersch

May 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

fleshandbloodFlesh and Blood
By Daniel Dersch; read by Amy McFadden
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 4 March 2014
[UNABRRIDGED] – 7 discs; 8 hours

Themes: / Vatican / vampires / Nazis / horror / romance /

Publisher summary:

A veteran New York City journalist, Claire Hagen has learned not to trust everything she hears. So when her younger sister lands in a mental hospital after claiming a vampire is feeding off her blood, Claire is naturally skeptical. A search of her sister’s apartment convinces her: The delusions are a side effect of the drugs she discovers her sister had been taking.But a deeper investigation uncovers more than Claire bargained for. Why was a man who claimed to know her sister from an online vampire forum shot dead moments after Claire interviewed him? Why are her sister’s symptoms getting worse in the hospital? And why have agents from the Vatican taken a sudden interest in Claire?Consumed by doubt and growing paranoia, Claire barely has time to ponder her next move before a violent confrontation in her apartment changes everything. She quickly finds herself on the run with a mysterious stranger who says he wants to protect her but may not be quite what he seems. Can she trust him?

For a good portion of the story in this novel, I was entertained. But the longer the story progressed, the more detached and less interested I became. By the time the end rolled around, I just didn’t care about the characters. While various portions of the story intrigued me, the narrative’s main flow felt too streamlined, structured, and shallow. I also depart feeling that the storyline was compressed. This is fifty pounds of story jammed into a twenty-pound sack. But Daniel Dersch shows promise, and I will be curious to observe his writing improve. He already does what many of his contemporary counterparts fail to do, which is to have a subject performing a verb upon an object. Dersch’s sentence construction is pleasing, and for what it’s worth, this small attention to good writing practice aided my enjoyment factor.

I felt Clair Hagen was a little too stereotyped. She seems driven to prove her resourcefulness, but appears to yearn for a strong man. The “daddy” references got a little weird, but maybe we can chalk that up to this being a translated work. The chapters in this book denote a change in POV (point of view). At first I liked this alternating split narrative thing that Dersch pulls off. But the longer this unspooled, the shorter the chapters got, and all too soon the shortness of the intervals became a distraction.

Amy McFadden narrates the audiobook, and at first I struggled with her rhythm and delivery. In the beginning, I thought her voice was grating. But the longer I listened, the more I felt McFadden captured the essence of Clair. Somewhere in the middle, McFadden won me over, and I think she does a great job with this audiobook.

Fans of contemporary vampire stories will most likely enjoy this for what it is.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

The SFFaudio Podcast #263 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Colour Out Of Space by H.P. Lovecraft

May 5, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #263 – The Colour Out Of Space by H.P. Lovecraft, read by Donal Buckley. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the short story (68 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Mirko, and Huan Vu (the director of the movie adaptation, Die Farbe).

Talked about on today’s show:
Arkham Insiders, Die Farbe (aka The Color), The Atlanta Radio Theatre Company adaptation, The H.P.L.H.S., Die Farbe gets a shout-out in the Dark Adventure Radio Theater adaptation, the novella/novelette, Amazing Stories, September 1927, science fiction and horror together, The Whisperer In Darkness, the framing story, American soldiers running away from the colour, unjustified punishment, cosmic horror, pre-WWII Germany, the symbology, the endings, mind control, zombie ants, parasites, the science of The Colour Out Of Space, The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast, a pocket spectroscope, how do we see a new color?, discovering a new color, infra-red light, the blind and the colorblind, the black and white, film doing something an audio drama never could, a companion piece to The Whisperer In Darkness, the wasp, Formicula (aka Them!), an explanation for what the colour is, The Voice In The Night by William Hope Hodgson, anthropocentric aliens, an analogy, is The Colour Of Of Space SF?, alien flapjacks, spores, a sentient cloud of gas, “the Horla” (woops I mean the Horta), Star Trek‘s The Devil In The Dark, an alien (in much of SF is really about people), alien aliens, a corrective, John W. Campbell Who Goes There?, The Thing, whose who and whats what, it’s insidious, what will happen when you flood that valley?, Arkham Springs water, fear of radiation, a nuclear contamination story, “the blasted heat” is like Chernobyl, Macbeth, the meteor, dry ice, too creepy for night reading, Lovecraft’s opinion, The Willows by Algernon Blackwood, alien mind control, stealthy listening, the horror in the attic, The White People by Arthur Machen, the comic undercutting in The Dreams In The Witch-House, a mood study, Die Farbe is a wonderful adaptation of The Colour Out Of Space, the changes in the film version, the character names, Robert M. Price, a biblical reading of The Colour Out Of Space, He Am Himself, comets, reproduction, Monsters, cosmic bug spray, expanding your perspective, From Beyond, the running time, the chosen colour, Schindler’s List, you shouldn’t make evil that colour, taupe?, khaki?, a striking contrast, Sin City, color theory, signal colors, Ancient Greece, The Odyssey, “the wine dark sea”, “rosy fingered dawn”, what if my blue is your red?”, science over experience, dark matter/dark energy are placeholder words, science is mostly failure, “not optimistic at all”, if this happened in reality, the way out, The Dream Cycle Stories, going to The Dreamlands, Celephaïs by H.P. Lovecraft, To A Dreamer by H.P. Lovecraft, it’s not horror, The Dream-Quest For Unknown Kadath by H.P. Lovecraft, Lovecraft isn’t only horror, the IndieGoGo page for The Dream-Lands, The-Dreamlands.com, Die-Farbe.com, Gary Lovisi, the matchmaker.

The Colour Out Of Space by H.P. Lovecraft

The Colour Out Of Space - illustration by Virgil Finlay

The Colour Out Of Space by H.P. Lovecraft

Die Farbe

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Seal Team 13 by Evan Currie

April 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

SEAL team 13Seal Team 13
By Evan Currie, Read by Todd Haberkorn
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication date: 15 November 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 9 hours

Themes: / military sci-fi / Navy SEAL / supernatural / horror /

Publisher summary:

It’s been ten years since a mysterious, horrific incident in the South China Sea annihilated a US Navy destroyer and its Navy SEAL team. Only one man survived. Now, the US Navy is determined to put a stop to the new, frightening incidents taking place with alarming frequency. Enter SEAL Team 13, an elite group of soldiers led by sole survivor Harold “Hawk” Masters. Everyone on the team has survived contact with supernatural forces from “the other side.” Will their camaraderie and duty to country be enough to defeat the malevolent undead forces threatening the country? From world-building author Evan Currie, SEAL Team 13 is a dark, riveting, and action-packed tale of military intrigue and supernatural horror.

I hadn’t heard much about this one, but the description convinced me to give it a go. A military group is assembled to take on supernatural occurrences and with my experience with Myke Cole’s Shadow Ops series, which is really only similar in the fact that the military is involved, I thought I couldn’t miss.

Sadly, what started out as a fun romp with the military and monsters turned out to be a cliched and underwhelming frustration.

The Cliches

I don’t outright hate cliches. I think they can be used well and it’s an easy way to get people into the story or characters without having to waste time (i.e. pages) explaining things. The problem I had here was that once you make reference to “it’s like I’m in a movie” one too many times, it starts to pull you out of the immediate story. It’s no longer its own story, it’s someone else’s. And it just plain started to bug me since just about every character had to make mention of being in a bad horror movie.

And I was even impressed that the cliches weren’t so much in the monsters themselves. Obviously there were some monster cliches, but I liked the idea behind the vampires/zombies. Sadly it wasn’t enough.

Why I Was Underwhelmed

One of the big promises I felt that were made early on was that this team was collected to take on the supernatural occurrences in the world. Occurrences is plural right? So, I figured we would get more than one.

Okay, technically there are more than one because of the backstory of the characters, but the team itself only ever takes on one ridiculously long occurrence of the supernatural and that’s the end of this rather short book. Just a couple more would have made this so much better. Let’s see what else they can do. Are they really here for just the one event? It makes the whole idea behind supernatural threats seem much less … erm … threatening.

Longest Drawn Out Fight Scene Ever

This was the kicker. The last bit of the story has these guys throwing just about everything at the “boss” bad guy monster thing. They chase her through the building, then down the road, and it’s always just in the nick of time that she gets away/protagonist gets saved. And then it happens again … and again. I was so done with this scene. There’s tension and then there’s a time when you’ve built up the tension so much it breaks. When nothing has actually occurred in terms of resolution, I just can’t care anymore.

The Narrator

The narrator, Todd Haberkorn, did a good job. He definitely matched the cliches well and did solid work. I can’t say he was my favorite ever, but that may have been the lines he was given to work with as well. It’s hard to say.

Posted by Bryce L.

Review of Code Zero by Jonathan Maberry

April 12, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Code Zero by Jonathan MaberryCode Zero (Joe Ledger #6)
By Jonathan Maberry; Read by Ray Porter
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Publication Date: 25 March 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 16 hours

Themes:  / Horror / Zombies / Terrorists / Covert Intelligence /

Publisher summary:

For years the Department of Military Sciences has fought to stop terrorists from using radical bioweapons—designer plagues, weaponized pathogens, genetically modified viruses, and even the zombie plague that first brought Ledger into the DMS. These terrible weapons have been locked away in the world’s most secure facility. Until now. Joe Ledger and Echo Team are scrambled when a highly elite team of killers breaks the unbreakable security and steals the world’s most dangerous weapons. Within days there are outbreaks of mass slaughter and murderous insanity across the American heartland. Can Joe Ledger stop a brilliant and devious master criminal from turning the Land of the Free into a land of the dead? 

Code Zero, a Joe Ledger novel from Jonathan Maberry, is the exciting direct sequel to Patient Zero.

This is the worthy sequel to Patient Zero.

At one point, Rudy Sanchez says that “this has done something fundamental to the American people.”

I’ll tell you this. It did something fundamental to me.

It was exciting, suspenseful, terrifying, and haunted me in my dreams and at random moments in my day.

And it was satisfying. Very satisfying.

I’m not sure Maberry can top this. Though I’m already looking forward to his next attempt to try.

It’s been six years since Joe Ledger was secretly recruited by the government to lead a combat team for the DMS,  a taskforce created to deal with problems that Homeland Security can’t handle. That story was told in Patient Zero. This was where we met a group of terrorists who had developed a bio-weapon that turned people into zombies.

Every year since then, like clockwork, Joe and Echo Team have returned to battle a variety of seemingly supernatural foes, all developed by villains who are somehow going to make boatloads of cash off of the terror.

The action-packed stories are full of evil super-villains, noble heroes, smart mouthed quips, a smattering of philosophy about “good guys and bad guys” and heart. Lots of heart. All this is told at a roller coaster pace that barely allows you to breathe until you get to the end.

I love them.

In many ways, this book is similar to the rest of the series. Mother Night, a villain you love to hate, is a super-genius anarchist who’s strewing chaos throughout the country over Labor Day weekend. She’s got the DMS’s computer tied up in knots and old evils that were defeated in previous books are now popping their heads up all over the country. Losses are high and the odds are very much against Ledger and his team. We know Joe will win. It’s watching it happen that makes it fun.

It is superior to the other books, I think, because the pacing is more measured and there is more character development. I also enjoyed the flashbacks into the DMS’s years before Joe joined them.

But in one very important way Code Zero was very different for me.

I felt a level of anxiety that was all out of proportion. Maberry is an expert at ratcheting up the stakes until you just can’t see how anyone decent is going to survive the maelstrom. I was used to that. But somehow this felt different. I got a bit jumpy. I couldn’t quit thinking about the horrific chaos during the day when I had to put the book down. Maberry has his finger on the pulse of the evil that Americans today know all too well … that lurks below the conscious level of our lives … violent chaos that can strike without a moment’s notice. Shootings at Fort Hood, restaurants, schools, and more have changed the mood of our country and made Mother Night’s chaos resonate more deeply than usual.

Along the way, he looks at why people choose good or evil. Code Zero is full of people choosing to save the world or burn it down. In most of the cases, the motivation comes down to something that Maberry does not name, but which I will make bold to label: love. We want to know we matter, that we make a difference, that someone “knows” us. Not for our accomplishments but simply because our “selves” matter.

Mother Night gives it a different name, and she may not tidily fall into this definition but, let’s face it, she’s super-villain crazy. I believe that her ultimate fate bears me out. It shows most in Maberry’s final scenario at the end of the book as the answer to Rudy’s statement that the chaos ”has done something fundamental to the American people.

Truly this is a great book, especially for the shoot-em-up genre. It is also probably one that can be read as a stand alone without reading the others that came before.

I listened to the audiobook read by Ray Porter who was superb, as usual, at portraying Joe and every other character along the way. In this book Porter dialed his urgent, driving, delivery down some and thank goodness for that. The action was intense enough without being shoved over the edge of the cliff by a continually urgent tone. Porter also was more nuanced and thoughtful in his reading than I recall in previous Joe Ledger books. If this sounds odd when considering our heroes are fighting off zombies, it actually worked to make me consider the full horror being faced. Once again, kudos to Ray Porter. He’s the reason I always choose audio for the Joe Ledger books.

Posted by Julie D.

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