In which I review ZOMCATS by Jack Strange, the anthology Tall Tales With Short Cocks Vol. 5 edited by G. Arthur Brown, Ed Kurtz’s The Rib From Which I Remake the World, Barry Napier’s Nests: A Post-Apocalyptic Thriller, and Celebrity Culture by Duncan Bradshaw.
Author: Jack Strange
Publisher: KGHH Publishing
Yes, as a matter of fact, I did make an embarrassing giddy squee-noise out loud when I learned my favorite character from Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse was getting a follow-up book! I admit it, I’m not ashamed. Yay, Henderson!
Okay, and it isn’t just Henderson making a comeback; this one is a sequel setting up for even more in the series. A few of the celebrity zombie chefs managed to survive (well, so to speak) the previous apocalypse, and aren’t ready to give up their plans for culinary carnage.
It’s a problem that has by now spread far beyond the borders of the original outbreak, necessitating some unprecedented cooperation between world leaders and the delicate maneuverings of politics and diplomacy … wait, strike that; … a smug prime-ministerial git and a garish presidential buffoon try to one-up each other as the situation goes to hell.
There are numerous sub-plots running, involving super-mercenaries, national supremacist groups, an unlikely inheritance, spooky local legends, clog-dancing festivities, grave robbers, and disgruntled farmers. But, fun as those are, it’s still Henderson and his growing army of zomcats (and were-zomcats) I enjoyed the most.
Title: Tall Tales With Short Cocks Vol. 5
Editor: G. Arthur Brown
Publisher: Rooster Republic Press
A skim of the table of contents assured me this one would be a slam-dunk … I’ve read and reviewed stuff by most of those people; I’ve met and hung out with many of them; they are some of the most twisted (in a good way) minds and talents I’ve ever run across. Even the names new to me here, I figured, must have shown the right kinds of crazy to end up in such company.
What you have here is a lineup of twenty tales, playing a sort of literary Red Rover, Red Rover with the imaginary lines between horror, weird fantasy, and bizarro. It’s anything-goes territory, sometimes goofy, sometimes gross, sometimes unsettling, sometimes deeply profound.
Profound, and also, in a few cases, profane … the titles alone, from “Creek Slut” and “The Curse of Sidekick Scrotum” to “Gutful of Maggots” and “So You Have A Vagina On Your Face,” should provide clear warning this may not be the book to take with on a holiday visit to meet your significant other’s family (then again, if you were going to take a book called TALL TALES WITH SHORT COCKS anyway, it’s too late for that sort of warning).
If I absolutely had to pick a top fave, I’d have to go with Adam Millard’s “Arachno-Perv,” for reasons of sheer cleverness I won’t go into because spoilers. But I also have to mention Danger Slater’s “Prince Cuddlebug Is Going To F*** Your Wife,” which not only handles the dreaded second-person with deft sardonic wit but then, toward the end, takes a quantum leap into sheer WTF-ery.
“Next Killed My Lake” by Edmund Colell needs a nod, too; next-level surreal and compelling, reading it felt like trying to solve a Rubix cube for the first time without any instructions. And Crystal R. Babb’s bittersweet love story, “The Patissier” … and this is how I end up listing too many faves when they’re all so good!
Title: The Rib From Which I Remake the World
Author: Ed Kurtz
Publisher: Chizine Publications
ANOTHER fantastic book by Ed Kurtz … wouldn’t you just know it … and they just keep getting better and better … it’s almost becoming kind of obnoxious and I hope it keeps up.
This one combines, in a seamless and expert blend, elements of small town horror, traveling carnivals, the mores and morals of the 1940s, and supernatural inside-out bendings of reality. When a sideshow magician unleashes dark forces in the woods, it sets in motion events that won’t end for years, if ever.
But the residents of Litchfield only know that a special new educational program is opening at their local movie theater, a ‘hygiene picture,’ a cautionary tale of young motherhood. Its sensational nature and promise of graphic content serve to pack the house, even as the righteous protestors rally their objections.
The whole thing’s nothing but trouble as far as widowed, disgraced ex-cop JoJo Walker is concerned. Something about the company presenting the film sets off his alarms as soon as they book rooms at the hotel where he works as a detective / security guard. Sure enough, one of them ends up messily dead, while the rest seem completely disinterested.
The show, after all, must go on. And the show has unsettling effects on everyone who sees it. As JoJo investigates, he not only finds himself dealing with the inexplicable, but with unwelcome reminders of his own past.
Shades of King and Bradbury lend subtle undertones, but it’s Kurtz’s mastery of historical fiction that brings the setting and era to vivid, immersive life. You get both the warm veneer of yesteryear romantic nostalgia and the gritty starkness of prevalent bigotry and sexism. The world feels real, which makes its unraveling descent into madness all the more nerve-wrenching.
Title: Nests: A Post-Apocalyptic Thriller
Author: Barry Napier
Publisher: Severed Press
This time, the nukes were only just trying to help. The nukes must have seemed like the lesser evil, the better option. To try and save even some vestiges of humanity and civilization … even if it means destroying the rest.
But honestly, when total doom appears in the form of huge hideous extradimensional eldritch-esque monstrosities, at some point a little nuclear annihilation stops looking quite so bad. So goes the reasoning, anyway.
It even almost kind of worked. The remaining people thought so at first. They thought their biggest problems now would be the usual ones of aftermath survival — radiation, basic resources, their fellow survivors.
Holed up in a house of reasonable safety and supplies, Eric and Kendra and the baby have it pretty good for a while, all things considered. Still, it isn’t the best situation, just the three of them on their own, so when they run across what might be a lead to a possible Safe Zone, they decide to take it.
A mistake? Well, maybe, but a choice they’d have to face sooner or later. They hit the road, and it seems like they might just be in luck when they make contact with another group. Then they learn about the nests, black nightmare distortions in reality, and learn the hard way their troubles are far from over.
Title: Celebrity Culture
Author: Duncan Bradshaw
Publisher: The Sinister Horror Company
Side effects of reading this book may include delirium, disorientation, vertigo, and tangled-slinky brain. And, compared to the side-effects (or, indeed, primary effects!) described in the book, you’re getting off lucky.
Forget your hairstyle crazes and fashion fads, forget the right car or jewelry or neighborhood. Forget designer drugs and wonder diets. Of all the ways people have sought to emulate and imitate their idols or follow the latest trends over the centuries, THE new ultimate status symbol, addictive high, and expression of individuality by way of body modification is …
Disease. The more symptomatic, the better. The more outrageous the symptoms, the better. The more rare or hard to get something is, the more prestigious it is. Red carpet movie premiers aren’t about dresses and suits anymore, but pustules and deformities.
Designing successful, popular diseases is also big business. And, as with today’s celebrity chefs, there are those famous geniuses who rise to the top of their field. Each year, the best of the best are up for a Gehrig award. This year promises to be the most spectacular showdown yet!
A cutting look at society, it reads like a Douglas Adams / Lewis Carroll fever dream; not through the looking glass, but through the petri dish. I could quibble about some sentence structure, semicolon, and apostrophe stuff, but the writing’s packed with vivid unreality-imagery (some very vivid, and not necessarily germophobe-friendly) and knock-you-back turns of phrase.