Category Archives: Horror

Fiction in which events evoke a feeling of dread and sometimes fear in both the characters and the reader. Includes ghosts, monsters, vampires, zombies, supernatural creatures that threaten, the Occult, slasher, survival horror, etc.

Happiness 1 by Oshimi

Makoto Ozaki made the choice to live. Now he has to live with it.

Part 1 of 3
by Shuzo Oshimi
Kodansha Comics
September 2016

A vampire is loose. Makoto Ozaki is a young high school student who goes out one night to get a movie and ends up getting attacked by the vampire. She gives him the choice to live like she lives or to die. He chooses life. The rest of the manga is about Ozaki’s evolution into a vampire.

Previously bullied, now Ozaki fights back and accidentally finds himself in a position of power. He also finds that food isn’t satisfying. In fact, he finds a strong pull towards blood. As relationships change – that’s the main point of this story – and he grows we find a completely different Ozaki than we start with. But there is quite a bit of information that is hidden and surely to be revealed in the coming books. For instance, the cover has the female vampire that converts Ozaki but we see her only twice and we learn nothing about her. If my description of this story was all it was I’d be interested to see how it goes. But it doesn’t.

My main issues are with the unnecessary mature parts of the story. The mature rating of this book is due to the violence (in the vampire scenes) and also the sexuality. In one uncomfortable scene Ozaki masturbates to a PC monitor, taking time to pull down his pants and face the monitor. Fortunately we don’t see anything else. There is also where he get’s the smell of blood from while at school – clearly from girls who are on their periods. I found these distractions to be more young teenager fantasies than good storytelling.

The art is well done, exciting and conveys the story very well.

There are other parts to this story but I’ll not be reading them. The story barely gets going in volume 1 and the extra material don’t excite me.

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Emperor’s Railroad by Haley

emperorA slow moving novella that leaves the reader wanting more.

The Emperor’s Railroad
by Guy Haley
read by Tim Gerard Reynolds
Macmillan Audio / Tor
April 2016

UPDATE: The previous version of this review was based on a copy where there were parts of the audio book missing from the recording. The whole fight with the [SPOILERS] dragon was MIA. [END SPOILERS] It turns out there was a glitch in the audio book format causing a large, important portion to be cut out. If you are missing the fight then delete and redownload your Audible book to fix. Trust me, this new (full) version makes a huge difference in the story and enjoyment thereof.

Without giving too much away, [BUT SPOILERS ARE POSSIBLE] this story starts out with Abney, our narrator, and his mother on the road fleeing their home city, which was overrun by the dead (zombies, but slightly different.) Their wagon hit a pothole, broke an axle and their driver, a postman, has broken his neck and passed away. Into this dire predicament rides Quinn, a knight of the “dreaming city of Atlantis.” Quinn agrees to take the two survivors to a settlement north of Charleston in the Kingdom of Virginia.

Along the way we run into a few zombies, a railroad with carts that are driven by teams of animals rather than steam, and a town with hydro-electricity. [CLEAR SPOILERS] At the end there is a battle with the dragon – who is the physical embodiment of punishment by the “angels.” We are left with a lot of questions in the end.

Where is Atlantis? What are “Angels?” What exactly is the dragon? How do the Angels control the dead and the dragons? Why are there knights with swords when guns exist? Very little is answered here. And in fact, this novella is one of two (later in 2016) intended, it seems, to whet the appetite of this new fantasy world centered on the exploits of Quinn. Like an old fashioned Western film, the hero rides off at the end, but unlike a Western, there is clearly more to this story. [END SPOILERS]

When I read the description of a post-apocalyptic world with zombies, angels, dragons and knights I was intrigued. It’s more than that though. It’s methodical, slow paced and at worst times prodding and at best wistful. We don’t know much about what happens prior to or after this story, but we get an interesting primer into what to expect going forward. As Abney says in his final words, “I know that out there Quinn carried on his search. What was he looking for? I don’t know. It bothered me for years that I never found out. I guess I made my peace with that. Maybe he found ’em. Maybe he didn’t. Whatever fortune did to Quinn, wherever he went and why I’m sure as the good lord is enthroned in Heaven that someone, somewhere knows what happened to Quinn next… if you find out, stop by my grave and whisper it to the earth when you come home. It will be much appreciated.”

Note about the reader (audio book version): Reynolds does an outstanding job on his Virginia drawl and slow, methodical narration. The complexity of his gravelly and at times gentile voice worked really well as the voice of an older Abney. Very easy to listen to.

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Descent by Bonansinga

descentThe Governor is dead. Killed by Lily Caul at the battle for the Prison. Woodbury turns to new leadership as it tries to survive the aftermath.

The Descent
The Walking Dead
by Jay Bonansinga
read by Fred Berman
Thomas Dunne / Macmillan Audio

Lily doesn’t want to be the new leader of Woodbury. Not even with a democratic council by her side. After the losses she’s suffered she wants nothing more than to find a capable leader and settle back into the shadows. But there is a hoard coming – the size of which no one has ever seen – so stepping down isn’t an option yet.

As the survivors in Woodbury divert the swarm a young man travelling alone sees the commotion and follows it back to Lily and her group. It turns out his church group is holed up in a small town, surrounded on all sides by the swarm. Lily makes the decision that to survive they will need all the capable, live humans as they can find and this group could help them so they make out to save Reverend Jeremiah and his flock.

After saving them and incorporating the new group into the settlement of Woodbury it looks like everything is going exactly as Lily would like. She has found a new man for herself – and possibly the family that was stolen from her at the prison – and a new leader for the town in Jeremiah. But not everything is right.

[HUGE SPOILERS] Characteristically, Jeremiah turns out to be a zealot cultist who intends to drink the Kool-Aid, literally, and kill everyone at Woodbury in a dark version of communion. I don’t want to spoil the book for you. Hopefully, you read that huge SPOILERS tag. But in order to understand why I didn’t enjoy this book as much I have to go here. Why are all the Christians introduced in the book – and really in this series – insane cultists? Even Lily’s new crush turns into one in the end. Are there no actual religious people who are good, non-crazy characters? It’s a tired trope. There are so many bad guys in this world already. Adding all the Christians to the list is over-kill.

[SPOILERS STILL] And what’s with another book, another dead lover for Lily? This is the fifth book (four if you combine the Fall set) for Lily and she has had three lovers and all three have been killed. There are a bunch of families in Woodbury who haven’t lost a single loved one. It smacks of by-the-book plotting. Help Lily grow! Have her character develop. Not go through the same things in every book! [END SPOILERS]

I am excited about where the series is headed and I’m glad that the series continues with some of our favorite characters still alive from the original trilogy (quad-igy). I’d like to see more diversity of bad guys, less caricatures and some chances taken with plotlines rather than going back to the same well again and again.

@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Deep Black Sea by David M. Salkin

A team of scientists and sailors plan on living in a 5 story sphere on the bottom of the ocean, at 20,000 feet, next to an underwater volcano, for a year with no way to be contacted by the outside world and where rising to the surface could take days. What could go wrong?

Deep Black Sea
by David M. Salkin
Permuted Press
June 2014

In 2020, a new president is voted in office who believes that instead of focusing on different planets, like Mars, we should focus on the planet we still haven’t fully explored: ours, in the deepest oceans. So he pulls funding from Mars missions and fully funds an ultra-deep water sea lab that is meant to stay under water at over 20,000 feet for a year. He staffs it with the best and brightest from the Navy, NASA, and NOAA. These seven people – a skipper, a ship doctor, a mechanic/ sub specialist, a former top sonar man/ scientist, and three dedicated scientists – were trained and prepared far in advance and selected for their abilities and skills. The problem is that not everyone has the same agenda.

The NASA scientist Ted Bell, upset at being scrapped from the Mars mission determines that this trip is the perfect opportunity for him to do some human experimentation with exposure to a bacteria that lives in the most inhospitable place on the earth, with no oxygen, no food, and a toxic environment like none other – except for deep space. When he purposefully changes the landing site then introduced the dangerous bacteria to a crew member things quickly go downhill.

This book’s set up reminded me quite a bit of many films and books of similar setup: scientists mess with something that maybe they weren’t prepared for leaving the crew in a life or death situation where we know that many if not most won’t make it out alive. Think: the film Deep Blue Sea (1999), Jurassic Park (1990 book, 1993 film), and so on. This is not to say that this is derivative. But this is a tried and true formula to set up character dramas, thrills, and ultimately chills. It can be done really, really poorly or really, really well. Salkin fits firmly into the second category. This is a very taunt, fun read and very well done thriller.

Unlike most horror-thrillers, Salkin’s characters are interesting and their thought process and decision making makes sense and is credible. No “hey, let’s hide in the shed with all the hanging knifes” moments. Characters like Theresa go back and forth between Ted’s view and the other scientist’s views as she struggles between scientific discovery and her abhorrence to Ted’s methods. The main example of over characterizations would be in the relationship between two characters who seem to want to have sex in nearly every scene, and sometimes at both the start and end of scenes, once they start hooking up (no spoilers).

In my opinion, this book is perfectly set up for being made for a movie. It has everything that other survival horror movies has but it’s in a situation that hasn’t been done often or for a while. There have been some movies set at these depths but not many. And the pace of this book is very similar to that of a movie. I read most of it in a single night – not wanting to put it down. Very cinematic.

If you enjoy science driven horror/ thrillers, or survival horror stories this is a very well done book that I believe won’t disappoint.

@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Fall of the Governor by Kirkman and Bonansinga

For the first time in four years there isn’t a new Walking Dead Governor novel this October. Starting in The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor in 2011 followed by The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury in 2012, Robert Kirkman the creator of the Walking Dead has been showering fans of the comics and AMC series with a new novel each October. The controversial decision to split the final book in the trilogy into two (2013 and early 2014) caused quite a bit of negative feedback. Now that we have the whole series complete it’s time to dig deeper into a “trilogy” that had all the makings of a fan favorite.

fallgov1The Fall of the Governor
Parts 1 and 2
The Walking Dead
by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga
read by Fred Berman
Thomas Dunne / Macmillan Audio
October 2013 (part 1)
March 2014 (part 2)

In parts 1 and 2 we find Lily Caul struggling to find her place in the world and with the Governor after her failed attempt to depose him in book 2. What she comes to believe is that a person like the Governor is necessary in this new harsh world. So when outsiders threaten she takes up for Woodbury and the Governor and takes the battle to Rick and the other attackers at the prison. But, and this isn’t much of a spoiler but consider yourself warned in case, things don’t go that way when Lily becomes pregnant and starts to think of the world she wants for her baby rather than simply surviving. When the time comes to take the fight to the prison there comes a moment where she has to decide if she truly wants to continue to follow the Governor or if there is a better way.

fallgov2This series is set in the world of the Walking Dead comic book rather than the AMC series. That’s an important distinction for followers and potential readers as the timelines of each of distinctive and very large plot differences exist. What I found though was that this was not well fit in the comic series and instead formed a new third world. Starting in books 3 and 4, the Fall, where we finally see the interaction between the Governor and our heroes from the comic (Rick, Michonne, and so on) we see even more large differences in continuity. How Rick et al. escape, what happens next, what happens with Michonne and her revenge, the battle at the prison, how it ends, and even how the Governor dies are all different than the comic. While the main plot points that I just wrote exist in both, how they are carried out changes. Without spoiling too much one would only need to look at how Penny is treated in the comics verses these novels, including her second death, to see what I mean. Readers of both will immediately find themselves set aback, saying, “Wait, what?” It’s almost like Kirkman wanted to re-write some of the comic from so many years ago and did so in the novels.

The writing seems weaker than in the first two books as well, although all three seem to be cut from the same cloth when it comes to filling in details. I’m not sure which writer fleshed the details out with overused unusual descriptive phrases but they bug after a while. How many times have we heard about something in the “middle distance?” Or someone “masticating?” Everyone wears “Chambray” clothes. Fences are always “cyclone” fencing. Guns are “Bushmasters.” And describing the massive amounts of killing and gore can be hard but it seemed like every time it was some variation of “blood mist,” “blood splatter,” “blood spout,” or “blood spray” and then substitute “red” or “pink” with the same for “pink mist” and “red splatter” just to change things up. There are even “purple mists” every so often as even the author must have realized the overuse of the colors. Then substitute “brain” or “skull” or “spinal fluid” for a color and you have a whole new set of visuals.

If you take this series as it’s own story and don’t try to fit it into the continuity of the comics you’ll likely enjoy these books as standard zombie fare. If you are looking for more backstory on the comics then I recommend you stop after the first novel, which brilliantly worked through the rise of Philip Blake. The second novel takes a detour with Lily Caul, which is interesting as well, but not necessarily what we may have expected from the series on the Governor.

In my opinion, the series should have ended with Rick and the Governor shaking hands. It would have naturally led directly to the comics and it wouldn’t have had to rehash old battles that we’ve now read, watched and read again – all differently. It would also have naturally fit into the continuity without changing a story that readers love.

But no matter what I say here and however many reviewers bring up the weak writing, the poor decision to split the novels or the discontinuity fans are gonna read these novels. And for the most part fans are going to enjoy them. After all I said above the fact is that I still enjoyed these books myself and if Kirkman and Bonansinga wrote more I’d read more.

A note about the readers: Fred Berman does a great job once again of working through the anger and violence of the Walking Dead books. After four books his voice to me is not synonymous with the Governor’s. He does a good job working with different characters and you can hear and feel the differences.

@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Manifest Destiny #4 by Dingess and Roberts

manifestdestiny4Lewis and Clark are stuck in a fort, surrounded by buffalo-headed minotaur, with vegetable zombies infecting them inside the walls. Their only escape may be back to their ship. But how to get past their enemies?

Manifest Destiny #4
Written by Chris Dingess
Pencils/inks by Matthew Roberts
Image Skybound
February 2014

The fourth issue in this alternative history / fantasy horror series is picking up steam. Not only does it have just enough real history to ground the story, but enough fantasy – just twisted enough – to keep reader’s interest. Last issue we saw an Indian woman attacking the minotaur surrounding the fort. This issue we meet Sacagawea for the first time but with the twist that she is supposed to be pregnant with a child that is somehow very important to the plot.

What I like most about this story is how it’s unclear how the story will unfold but not in the normal we-are-going-to-red-herring-you-to-death way. More like we are actually watching it unfold without explanation and the more we learn the more we want to know more. Well done.

The artwork is well done. The plain dress and earthy backdrops lend credence to the idea that this is a real story; rooted in history. Roberts does a great job with expressions and the pencils and inks are very detailed. The colorist, Owen Gieni, is more a mixed bag. The way he uses colors in lighting is great. They blend well and liven up some blank panels. But the way he uses color in outlines causes some art to fade instead of pop. To be fair this is an issue with quite a lot of current colorists. If you are going to use a heavier shade of the same color, say tan over beige skin color, for one character than you have to do the same non-black outlines on all the pictures on the page. Otherwise, you get a bunch of very strong black borders and then softer, faded borders on other things.(See Invincible Universe #10 for a great example of this.)

Another interesting non-superhero series from Image Skybound reinforcing their stranglehold on niche genre market. It’s definitely worth a look.

Scott Asher is the Managing Editor of He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Ghosted #5

ghosted5When we left off (issue 4) the thief was possessed, the videographers were dead, the group was trapped and surrounded by ghosts and darkness had fallen. Pretty grim, huh?

Ghosted #5
Written by Joshua Williamson
Art by Goran Sudzuka and Miroslav Mrva
Skybound / Image
November 2013

[MAJOR SPOILERS ABOUND] In this issue, we find Jackson fighting with Anderson fighting – really fighting, with guns and knives – as the depth of her allegiance to Markus is fully displayed but not fully explained. The medium, skeptic and the thief all make it out alive after a plot twist towards revenge ends the battle and the storyline.

This is the issue that finally wraps up the “steal a ghost” storyline – and let’s face it, how long could it last anyway? Five issues is probably two too many as it wasn’t a deep or particularly satisfying story. It was filled with gotcha moments and despicable acts that only really took off in issues 3 and 4 when we started to see survival horror aspects come in to play. But then it just ends almost like the story was cut short. Why not continue the story and have the ghosts pick off a few more characters, one after the other, if we are going for horror? Have you ever read a horror story where the characters find themselves in a bind, a few immediately die, then the rest – all the rest – make a deal with the ghosts and then live? Yeah, me either.

One other thing that bugs me about this far too quickly over story is how Jackson is stabbed with a knife that is longer than Anderson’s head and neck are tall through his left back, level with his heart, causing him to fall down stairs only to sit up and continue talking and then somehow at the end has no injury. I’ve reread it. There is no explanation. The whole story feels so quickly mashed together that a lot is unexplained.

Why did the ghosts want to kill anyone since they were just victims of Markus and quickly placated? Why did the ghosts try to hang Jackson in issue 4? Why was there a portal to Hell in issues 2, 3 but nothing else came of it? What was the point of having a skeptic or a thief in the story at all? If the medium could just put the mask on and find out the truth about Markus why didn’t she do it in issue 1? Why would Rusnak become a Maury Povich? But the writer get’s to do whatever they want and while I don’t get it I don’t have to. But I should enjoy it and I really didn’t.

The best and only reason to read this story has always been Jackson. And in the end, we see we may finally get what we want. After the epilogue we see him living out his life six months later on the beach. He’s ignoring his past as a thief avoiding the repercussions of his past. He gets to use his gun. He’s cool. He’s basically a sorta Thief of Thieves lite. Even the artwork – which is more vibrant and cartoony than the dark, grungy look of the first 5 issues – is more enjoyable. I’m actually looking forward to issue 6 and seeing where the story goes. [END SPOILERS]

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Screaming Staircase by Stroud

The_Screaming_StaircaseIf you were to take the mystery of a Brixton Brothers or Young Sherlock book and mix it with the supernatural horror of a series like The Last Apprentice, you would get Lockwood & Co.

The Screaming Staircase
Jonathan Stroud
Disney Hyperion
September 2013

Jonathan Stroud who is known for the Bartimaeus sequence has a new series. Lockwood & Co The Screaming Staircase is the first book in this new scary and fun series. England is faced with a problem. There are ghosts all over the place. As the society tried to deal with the Problem, it was discovered that the abilities to fight these ghosts are strongest in children. So there are many businesses run by kids that help deal with the problem.

Lucy is a new grad of one of the ghostbusting schools. When she gets to London she applies and gets a job with Lockwood & Co and the adventure starts.

This book was scary, suspenseful and fun. I was on the edge of my seat to get to the end and I was very impressed. I have placed this book firmly among my favorite books of the year.

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud. Ages 8-12 | Grades 4-8.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Patrick Tierney is a school librarian in an elementary school in Providence. Reading is his passion. He loves reading new books and sharing with his students. Getting a good book into the hands of someone and seeing them excited to read is what he lives for. He posts reviews of new and interesting Children’s and YA books at his blog.

This book was provided by the author as a review copy.

Bad Radio by Langlois

badradioDuring WWII, Abe Griffin was a member of a special task force that took on the strange and supernatural. One event in particular, however, left its mark on Abe. Now, sixty years later, Abe hasn’t aged a day, is preternaturally strong, and can heal from just about anything. But Abe’s abilities are more than they seem. The same ritual that gave Abe his abilities is being recreated, and the man responsible is determined to finish what he started. All he needs is Abe, and he’ll kill anyone that gets in his way.

Bad Radio
The Emergent Earth #1
Michael Langlois
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
August 21, 2011

Corpses and living people filled with parasites, giant worms, and blood rituals ensure that there is no shortage when it comes to gore in this particular tale. Throw in some psychics and obscure magic and you’ve got yourself a story. Or so you’d think.

But the truth is that this story just suffers from plain old bad writing. Characters are mortally wounded one moment and then they’re fine the next. Nobody even questions the fact that Abe seems to be able to heal from multiple stab wounds in minutes until three-fourths through the story. (Although no explanation is given as to how everyone else is alive and up walking around. All that blood has to come from somewhere.)

The story also has a nasty habit of using any and every lull to drop into lengthy exposition. I honestly almost laughed during one scene where a character was lying on the ground, supposedly bleeding to death and waiting for an ambulance, but manages to have an entire cellphone conversation chronicling Abe’s past.

Even worse is the fact that some of the exposition is literally a repeat of information already shared. It’s as though the characters have forgotten the details of each other’s lives, despite the exact same conversation having happening two chapters ago.

Really, I could go on, but the point is that the book is a mess. There’s already a sequel and I imagine this first book is meant to be part of a series or a trilogy, but I honestly don’t think I could bring myself to read more.

Matthew Scott is the Dark Fantasy & Horror Editor of who describes himself as just another average reader who enjoys sharing his opinion on various books, authors, and whatever else may cross his path.

Graveminder by Marr

graveminderRebekkah Barrow’s grandmother, Maylene, was the Graveminder. Exactly what that meant, Rebekkah never knew, but through most of her youth, she followed Maylene to every funeral and watched as Maylene performed a strange ritual with food and drink. Now Maylene is dead, and Rebekkah has returned to Claysville for the funeral. But unbeknownst to Rebekkah, she’s been chosen to take over the role of Graveminder, which means she has quite a task before her. Starting with finding out who murdered Maylene.

by Melissa Marr
William Morrow Paperbacks
January 17, 2012

This book hovers somewhere between love story and supernatural thriller, but can never seem to decide which it wants to be. As a result, it has trouble committing to either, and the story flounders a bit in the process.

On the one hand, we have Rebekkah and Bryon, an on-again, off-again couple. Byron is in love with Rebekkah, but Rebekkah apparently likes to randomly desert Byron every time they start getting serious. (As in Byron wakes up to find Rebekkah is gone and has moved half away across the country.)

On the other hand, we have undead spirits/zombies wandering around and eating people, and an entire town that is under a sort of magical oath that prevents them from even talking about it.

Where the problem comes in is that neither side is given a chance to truly develop. The magical aspects of the story are heavily downplayed through the majority of the book. Instead we focus on Rebekkah and Byron, and are given several flashbacks through their lives. Unfortunately, the history of their relationships doesn’t paint Rebekkah in a very positive light, and she comes off as flighty and downright cruel as we watch her abandon Byron again and again.

Then two-thirds through the book, the magic comes back full force, and we’re suddenly spending entire chapters in the land of the dead. It’s a bit like reading Romeo and Juliet, and then halfway through it switches to Night of the Living Dead.

Perhaps if the book has been longer, it would have had a chance to delve deeper into both of its aspects. But as it is, I finished the book with more questions than answers.

Matthew Scott is the Dark Fantasy & Horror Editor of who describes himself as just another average reader who enjoys sharing his opinion on various books, authors, and whatever else may cross his path.