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Archive for June, 2015

Review: Mercy House by Adam Cesare


Author: Adam Cesare

Publisher: Alibi

Genre: Horror

When Don and Nikki decide to bring the elderly Harriet to Mercy House, an old folk’s home, they do it thinking it is the right thing to do. Harriet herself isn’t as convinced and the trip to the otherwise so tranquil facility turns out to be more than any of them bargained for.

At the introductory dinner for the new guest, one which busies most of the staff leaving a skeleton crew on the rest of the home, something comes over the elderly residents. What starts out as a minor disagreement quickly turns into a blood bath, where the residents attack and kill the staff. The residents seem to have transformed, their broken and diseased bodies becoming stronger, healthier, but also driven by desire. This event, which most of the elderly refer to as The Healing, brings them all back to life, but jumbles their brains, making the majority of them unable to speak coherently. It also affects everyone differently, seemingly depending on what they most desired in their infirmed state.

After the initial bloodbath in the dining room the residents split into factions, all with their own turf and agenda. Amongst them one driven by sexual desire and one led by old army veterans, though most seem to be mindless drones driven by the lust for blood. At the same time only a few of the staff and Nikki survive, trying to stay alive and trying to find a way out. To do so they must traverse the dangers and lethal twists and turns that is Mercy House.

Adam Cesare’s elderly antagonists are not zombies, a fact that is very astutely seen by one of the characters, who tries to defeat them with a modified nail gun, but are more akin to Garth Ennis’ Crossed. Driven by bloodlust, desire or power and with little to no cognitive power, they take pleasure in killing staff and at times each other. To some these horrific old timers might be an original idea and age wise they are, but the type of monster is not new and can in some way be compared to the rage driven figures in 28 Days Later, but more to the previously mentioned Crossed of comic book fame. The unique part when it comes to these figures is that the reader gets an insight into the mind of them. This drives the story along in a very interesting way and gives much needed motivation for the characters.

Mercy House is also very aware of its heritage, something very common amongst some of the best in Horror, frequently referencing earlier works in the fiction and even dealing with clichés. This is evidence that Cesare isn’t unaware of those who came before him in the genre and tries to build on it. His style of writing is easy to follow and though initially slow the book picks up the pace and becomes a page-turner by the end, making the reader truly interested in what is going to happen to both the survivors and the residents.

The downside is that other than desire, whatever it might be, the reader is never treated too much of a backstory when it comes to the different characters. Cesare dips into it at times, but leaves too large holes at times to truly satisfy us. There is a part of horror, especially this type, which often deals with a form of karmic retribution and this is hinted at within various players, but never to the extent that is needed for us to truly care for any one of them.

The language is very visual and those who are well acquainted with horror movies will have no problem picturing the events of Mercy House, in fact it would be quite surprising if this book wasn’t turned into a movie, it has all the characteristics of quite the sleeper blockbuster.

All in all Cesare has managed to write an exciting tale of horror. It is not completely original as it pertains to the monsters chasing various staffers, but the setting of a nursing home and the elderly residents as antagonists gives the readers a fresh take on an otherwise saturated genre. Cesare’s style of writing will please anyone looking for a quick read, yet will not leave readers with that truly scary feeling. Although the imagery is quite brutal and the things that befall some of the staff one never becomes affected by it. That is why Mercy House would lend itself better as a movie and hopefully that is where it will end up, because it deserves to be seen.

C.M. Marry Hultman

C.M. Marry Hultman

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Review: Disintegration by Richard Thomas




Title: Disintegration

Author: Richard Thomas

Publisher: Alibi

Genre: Neo Noir, Crime

On Milwaukee Street in the seedy underbelly of Chicago we are introduced to our main character. A sad, wreak of a man who remains nameless throughout the book. The victim of a life altering event only hinted at initially, he spends his days drinking and self-medicating, sometimes slaking his lust with an enigma of a woman whom we know little of. At times a manila envelope appears in his apartment, a job for him to do.

These various jobs are brutal, murders he must commit where the victims seem to be criminals of a varying nature; the only common ground appears to be that they are not on the police radar. Unlike Jeff Lindsay´s Dexter Morgan this protagonist does not bother with the moral aspect of what he does, at least not initially. His deeds are dictated by the mysterious Vlad, a man whose reach throughout the criminal world of the Second City seems vast, but whose motives are shrouded in mystery.

This nameless antihero becomes very polarizing as the reader is thrown between sympathy and loathing in regard to his actions. Always on the brink of rage he beats a man who is cruel to a dog or guns down a woman driving under the influence. As a reader one follows his slow descent into debauchery, madness and rage until we are uncertain what is to become of him. Everything takes a turn when it is revealed that our protagonist might not be the only killer that Vlad employs and that the events that caused him to end up in his lowly state may not be a coincidence. The tangled weave that has become reality is about to become unraveled.

Richard Thomas, as he often points out, came into writing late in life and Disintegration is his first full length novel. However he has published a myriad of short stories as well as been in charge of a column on literactor, where he discusses the art of writing extensively. His extensive body of fiction spans all types of genres; everything from horror to crime and all with a darkness and gloom as common elements. For those who have read Thomas’ posts on literactor it is easy to see that he believes in what he says. Several of his tips and tricks he has related to the readers are frequently used, making Disintegration a study in how to captivate the reader as well as how to be original in writing.

The readers are treated to fragments of a bigger picture and are left to do their own interpretation to backgrounds, as well as reasons and driving forces. Every time the readers think they know the deal a new event turns it all upside down.

The main character of Disintegration is a man on the brink, having lost it all he is closer to Frank Castle, The Punisher, without the sense of revenge and with a good deal of both Mike Hammer and Sam Spade thrown in the mix.

Richard Thomas has truly created a story that places itself as the next step in the hard boiled thriller. Borrowing from Noir forerunners like Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler and stepping off contemporaries like Warren Ellis he takes the genre to another level.

Disintegration is a great read for those who want to see an original work in progress, but also for those who want to see that noir is alive and well and that Thomas will make sure it stays that way.

C.M. Marry Hultman

C.M. Marry Hultman







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