Tuesday, 23 September 2014

At Hells Gates: Volume 1 - anthology



The forward is thought provoking and heart felt; I adored the reason the charity was chosen.

At the end of each story is a little comment on the story, bio and a few words from the authors. Personally I would have preferred the comment pre the story with the bio and word after, but that is editor’s choice.

Apart from one story which was a little too gothic for my tastes this really is a top notch collection and what a great charity to be assisting. The editors did very well to place the stories in such a fabulous order.

Black Crow by Devan Sagliani:
Poor Tyler, and his girlfriend Emily, he has literally run through Hell to be with her and now they are stuck in the woodshed. They are also surrounded by what seems to be hundreds of crows.

As he flits in and out of a dream state in his exhaustion the reality and dream world mix to give a strange foray into a well known burger bar!

I loved the personality the author gives his characters and those around them, the perfect pre-undead world that DS paints; I really cared about these characters, felt I knew them.

Whilst there is no definitive ending, only mere suggestion at what might happen, which I usually really dislike in stories, I really enjoyed this opening tale.

Exploding Shit Zombies by Stephen Kozeniewski:
Jake likes to call the zombies “sheeple”, their gatherings often turning into clusterfucks!  His weird and wild descriptions of the zombie horde continue as Jake brings his motley survival crew together.

Jake is an interesting person with some grand illusions and intentions, which makes for some grin inducing reading; until the explosions start to occur.  Vera and Chloe are witness the “atomic” explosions and the dead pan writing gives its own shudders as you think you know the death that awaits these two calm sisters who are enjoying a beer in their beach chairs.

When a swollen zombie explodes all over Chloe, Vera tries to explain the digestive system of a zombie, then lots more zombies start to explode and the mental vision just made me start to giggle – try explaining that to your non-zombie reading Hubby!

When they make a run for it and end up at The House with the Senate in session, you can imagine the comment that ends this story!


No Shelter by Lesa Kinney Anders & Matthew Kinney:
Derek is begging for money and food at the traffic lights when the zompoc starts.

Bikers Hawk and Snake are helping out at the shelter when Derek, freshly bitten, stumbles in. As more Bikers arrive to help and Derek “turns” it’s not long before bedlam occurs within the Shelter.

When Snake finally manages to get hold of his policeman brother he gets the full low down on what is occurring. The story continues but felt more like the opening chapters to a longer book.

Whilst I was interested in the story it felt a little cliché for me but the writing was faultless, just a lot of characters to try and keep up with in the melee of an apocalypse.

Ollie Ollie Oxen Free by Shana Festa:
Poor Nursing students Ollie and Emma experience their first patient death. After returning home and having a relaxing night, the morning news blasts at Ollie about “the living dead, cannibalisation and attacks”; she laughs this off as a mid-October scare prank.

However when Muffin the cat brings home a zombie she changes her mind; soon she is fighting for her life, minus some hair.

The descriptions of the zombies were suitably gross and the emotions and terror that SF has Ollie expressing all had a touch of reality to them.

As the slaughter carries on around her, the current storm protects her from the more horrific happenings, but not us the reader as SF continues to describe in lurid details all those horrors.

Reaching her boyfriends office she comes to face to face with the dilemma of the bitten person that is still alive and the fear of those around them; mob reaction seems to rule, but Karma is a bitch.

To say I really enjoyed the ending would be perverse but I would be very interested in reading more from this author and the world she creates.

Nefarious by Stevie Kopas:
Moira and Samson have locked their dead, but screaming, children in their bedroom. Moira’s mind has yet to catch up to the reality of the situation as she tries desperately to care for them, feed them, but she needs her husband’s help to really fulfil this task.

The disgusting disintegration of her mind, the feeding sessions and the final spousal conversation make for riveting reading.

Home Defense by James Crawford:
The zombies in this story have a sense of mischief and as Shawn and the narrator explain how they are shooting the invading party I could not help but giggle at the insanity of it.

When the zombies actually started verbally taunting back them I was totally gobsmacked! A great short, short story packed with fun and mayhem.

Stories from the Apocalypse by J. Rudolph:
Excerpts from a journal; Cali it seems is guilt ridden from ex patients to families she has failed to help.

There were lots of fly by names which made for complex reading and as I never got the chance to get to know them it was hard to care, but for Cali I had some sympathy.

The writing was concise and I should imagine the longer book version would be quite a read as the emotions wrought were quite raw.

Journal of the Undead: The Beginning by S.G. Lee:
Lt George Mitchell is on a “top-secret” army base hospital and is literally thrown in at the deep end tending to wounded soldiers.

When one of his patients sits up after he has pronounced them dead he starts to suspect where he is and what the soldiers are fighting beyond those high walls. Things get more hinky when he not allowed to administer a “special” shot to a bitten soldier.

When the Major finally clues him on the situation Lt Mitchell can only gawp. As weeks then months go by the situation, inevitably, worsens and soon they are over run.

A mix between military, guerrilla warfare, zombies and a personal diary it’s all a rush of action until the end when a little secret is revealed.

Princess and the Flea by Paul Mannering:
At first I could not continue reading this as the animal cruelty described in the first paragraph made me feel sick, not from fiction but fact.

As I flicked through I noticed that not all is what it seems. We are far in the future in this book and strange things are occurring. The final few paragraphs spell it all out.

Well written, thought out and graphic glad I continued.

Hour of the Beast by J.M. Martin:
Vera is struggling with her pregnancy and at odds with her husband.

I did not really connect with the characters or the story as I found the world she lives in a little hard to follow in such a short story. It was all a bit haunting and gothic, not my cup of tea at all.

The author does explain at the end it is a fantasy world but I felt it was too hard to enter in such a condensed way, also not really all that fitting for this anthology so far. Shame really as it was well written just not the genre of story I would usually pick up.

The Err Apparent by Tim Marquitz:
Thrust straight into the middle of some Goth ritual involving chants, sacrifices and lots of black capes and make up, Frank is surprised when this group of wanna-be teenagers manages to conjure up a demon.

When “Calvin Hobbes” from the “FBI” aka Frank from DRAC goes to investigate body no.3 he is set upon by the local Reverend to ensure they snare that local cult Satanist!

Frank is all there with his usual sense of humour and gung ho attitude, until he is made aware that the demon is actually a Manitou, and it’s on a deadly mission.

Lots of action, fun, killings, religious goings on and a few monsters, brilliant little short set in the Demon Squad series world.


Cracked: A Deadland Saga short story by Rachel Aukes:
A little snippet of a zombie infested world from a military unit leaders PoV. There is a lot of militarised speak and if you don’t know the lingo its hard going.

Maz is trying to keep the final three of his thirty five original unit alive and get back to base. The two final paragraphs are so sad.

This is a tiny section of a much larger series and whilst it gives you a great flavour of the writer’s style of itself it’s not really much of a story. However, if you love the military aspect of Zompoc then you will love this.


Undead Britain by Frank Tayell:
A year into the zompoc and Charlotte is a scout for the larger group looking to hide out in the Castle; in the undead world every noise is panic stations and the tension is palpable from the first sentence.

Flashback to the start of the zompoc and Charlotte, her husband and children are trying to prepare for the mayhem that ensues at the beginning. News excerpts give us information on what is going on in the rest of the world, the horrors to come.

Week by week they slowly realise that life has changed and they are struggling to merely survive. Eventually they make the decision to evacuate.

Told in minute detail the pain and trauma faced are excruciating, when the final kill comes it left me feeling bereft; brilliant writing from this author, such skill in building emotion and tension.


The Weight of Darkness by Sean T. Smith:
Sonja and her team, a post-apocalyptic commando team called the Foxes, are hiding out in the Vatican. The apocalypse was over twenty five years ago but the nuclear war was just starting.

Stuck in Europe having travelled by foot from Africa they are trying to reach home in Wyoming, USA. The plague that surrounds them is a new twist on the zombie theme, highly interesting concept.

Having only known survival and not living Sonja is an interesting character that I look forward to following up in this authors series of novels.

The Husband by Jacqueline Druga:
Miriam’s husband seems to have deteriorated and she wants to kill him. She has focus, she has reasons, she has ideas and she has a best friend!

Short, snappy, funny and brilliantly written. Fabulously wicked.

Seth by Jacqueline Druga:
Jena has a sort of second sight gift, not strong and not enough to earn a living by but enough. Whilst waiting to read a local medic in a coffee shop she meets Seth.

With an enigmatic invite she is hooked. During their discussion many strange things are said and done. When Mrs Williams comes for a reading and she is told to hand over the envelope the story truly starts to unfold.

A sad happy ending with a little spooky feel.

The Fertile by Jacqueline Druga:
A strange little story that seemed to have no purpose other than to confuse and amuse, which it did very well! I really like this author and hope to find more of her work.

Welcome to Hell by Sharon Stevenson:
Vampire hunters on Halloween! Shaun and Sarah, siblings that are chosen ones.

With all the normal vamp killing clichés in a supernatural nightclub called Haven, this was like a good Buffy episode.

I love this world the author has created and will be seeking this series out.