Sunday, 27 November 2011
Here's a book that caught my eye. It's well known that I'm a sucker for all things R.E. Howard, so when I received a review request for Bleedover and saw the references to Howard and Lovecraft I had to take a closer look. I checked out the sample on Kindle and was impressed with the clarity and quality of the prose. Regrettably, I still don't have the time to review new books due to editing work and the huge IFR backlog, but the author has kindly agreed to share an excerpt. See what you think.
Excerpt from BLEEDOVER by Curtis Hox
Dr. Sterling answered only because she wanted to tell Corbin to stop calling. He had threatened her so many times before that she almost ignored him. But after hearing his message, she walked to the far end of the atrium to call him back and demand he stop. Masumi followed her, while Alice sat contentedly at the table, examining her ward, giddy over the privilege of looking through Dr. Sterling’s interpolations.
Masumi said, “Are you really going to call him?”
“Yes.” Masumi could see concern on Dr. Sterling’s face.
“What is it?”
Dr. Sterling lowered her phone and pointed. “What’s Alice doing?”
Both women looked past Alice, at a dark, smoky substance pouring from under the stairwell door as if someone were pumping colored dry ice with a high-powered generator. In only a few seconds, the entire vestibule filled, and the stuff began pouring into the atrium in searching tendrils.
Dr. Sterling said, “Alice . . . get up.”
But Alice sat transfixed. They both heard her say, “Something’s coming . . . ”
The material in the vestibule began to swirl, though it stayed mostly within the small space--except for the probing tendrils, which now swayed in Alice’s direction. Two clouds jetted out from the bulky thing and coalesced before the two emergency exits, where they hovered like swirling tornados of ash-filled gas. The sight of such malleable sentience froze Masumi and Dr. Sterling as if they were riveted to the floor. Alice finally rose from her chair in slow motion. Dr. Sterling grabbed Masumi as Alice tried to back up and bumped into a table.
“Alice!” Dr. Sterling yelled.
She began murmuring a prayer to Saint George, the actual saint. She wasn’t Catholic, but she had attended Mass before, mostly out of cultural interest that was now paying dividends. Masumi listened but didn’t register what was happening.
“Alice, please, move!” Dr. Sterling heard herself say aloud.
Alice began whimpering and stammered, “There’s . . . something in here,” as she watched, spellbound.
The combined elements of Towns's lucid media projection began to coalesce before their eyes. This process was different from a full transition, mused the cool, emotionless, scientific part of Dr. Sterling’s mind. Hexcom’s manifestations wouldn’t fully incorporate, she knew. Corbin had only sent her a projection--not as real as the apple, but real enough. It struggled to make the full transition, becoming real for only a few moments before flickering out for a few seconds, only to return again. The thing that flashed into reality defied logic. How it operated within the laws of the world, she had no clue.
You’ve sent us one of your nightmare pets, Corbin.
A smoky tendril extended from the vestibule and became solid. It formed into a tentacle with dagger-like talons on one side and a serrated row of spines on the other. A misty bulk followed the tentacle through the doorway, then congealed at the last minute into the full monstrosity. A massive fifteen-foot creature in human form stood in the atrium. Articulated limbs ending in squid-like tentacles extended from its back. Thick mucus dripped from its sickly gray skin. A long maw of needle teeth extended from a plated, scaled face, whose deep-set obsidian eyes stared directly at Alice. Its appendages flared in unholy aggression. Then it stepped forward.
The battle began and was over in seconds.
“Look . . . ” Dr. Sterling said as two figures emerged between her and Masumi, and Alice.
Alice stood alone, trembling, staring in shock at the horror before her. The next moment, a huge shape solidified out of the air behind her. She turned and saw a knight on horseback with a long steel lance. Lacquered plate armor filigreed with symbols of righteousness glinted in the electric light, and crimson pennons streamed behind it as if blown by a strong wind. The horse, in full panoply, reared once, then charged. At the same time, a man in black military gear formed behind Alice. Stepping to the side, he raised an automatic weapon and fired. The atrium filled with incongruous sounds of medieval and modern warfare.
Corbin Lyell’s demon assassin reacted to the threats of the Saint George and Rick Bauman wards by roaring its annoyance. It batted aside the charging lance, snapping it in two. Then the thing struck with the powerful talons at the ends of three distinct tentacles, and horse and rider crumpled to the floor like smashed piñata pieces. Saint George tried to rise once, then disappeared in a flash and a muted bang. Alice’s sole protector strode forward, cursing behind a flame-spitting submachine gun.
The rounds punched through the demon’s torso in sickening spouts of black ichor. The demon smashed two tables aside as if they were made of balsa. The weapon’s magazine had emptied. In two large strides, it reached the lone figure standing between it and Alice, swiped downward, and took the man’s head from his shoulders. The twin spurts of carotid blood that gushed into the air disappeared before blemishing the place, the body gone before it hit the ground.
“Alice!” Dr. Sterling yelled. “Run!”
But Alice remained rooted.
The demon looked up and found the other targets. Alice just happened to be in the way. With a swat, it struck her in the side and sent her flying across the chamber. Like a flung rag doll, she bounced off a load-bearing pillar under the first-floor gallery.
Masumi and Dr. Sterling watched it come for them.
In the few seconds that passed as the demon-thing plowed a path of destruction through the reading tables, Dr. Sterling understood that her St. George ward had been defeated. She had no defense now. Her bag with the Bastard Buster ward lay on the table where Alice had sat only seconds ago. It didn’t matter--her personal ward would have no effect on this devil thing. Corbin had been right after all. His dream of constructing an actual monster and setting it loose in some contemporary American setting had come true.
She shut her eyes as its bulk filled the atrium in front of them. Both women cowered in each other’s arms.
Masumi had watched the events in silent acknowledgment; she would never be the same. She had been walking a thin line these past few weeks between the rational and something else. Something suprarational was happening, and she was privy to it. And now some creature torn from the pages of a hundred comic books was coming at her. And it was no apparition--it had just destroyed a heavy oak table. She didn’t, or wouldn’t, register what happened to Alice. Instead, her mind latched on to a single thought: I have dishes that need to be done. All this needed to stop, right now, so she could return to her apartment and get her life in order.
Dr. Sterling’s ashen face triggered Masumi’s first wave of terror. Her knees buckled, and both of them fell to the floor. Neither could look up and face what was about to happen.
If you enjoyed the excerpt, why not continue reading the book:
Bleedover on Amazon
Curtis Hox's website (where you can also find links to all other formats)
Thursday, 3 November 2011
The Dead (a Ford Brothers film). Reviewed by Derek Prior
The Dead is a stunningly shot zombie movie with some notable differences. The most obvious is the African setting, but that’s not all. The zombies themselves are haunting and macabre: many were played by locals, some of whom were amputees. They seldom make any noise but are present throughout almost all of the film, often seen in the distance wandering in somnambulistic trances without any of the over-acting that’s usually assocaited with these films. They are understated, and scarily so. However, once they get close they are as gruesome as anything in a Romero film.
At times the feel of the film reminded me of Zombie Flesh-Eaters. Some of that was down to the edits - none of that “blink anbd you’ll miss it” MTV generation editing here. This had the epic feel of late 60s and early 70s movies (think the original “Planet of the Apes”). The vastness of Africa was captured wonderfully, and this only added to the typical zombie existentialist theme of there being no exit: no one ever gets out alive (or do they?)
Rob Freeman does a great job in the central role and there were some terrific supporting actors. The only slight gripe I had with this film was the dialogue. Mercifully there wasn’t much of it, but such lines as we got to hear were rather stilted. The characters were used more as “talking heads” to explain things to the audience, and were always weakest when speaking.
It’s hard to believe this was shot on a low budget. The directors have done a great job generating remorseless tension (another slight issue is that there is no lightness in the film - it piles tension upon tension and never lets go; it’s not an easy ride). The cinematography is first rate and the soundtrack is haunting, evocative, and never obtrusive.
As a zombie movie, this is right up there with the 2005 Dawn of the Dead and the excellent Quarantine. One of the best zombie films I’ve seen, and (dialogue aside) up there with the TV series, The Walking Dead.