Lovers of the undead, gather round for a quirky quartet of tales sure to scratch your necrotic itch.
Here be vampires…and here be zombies. Why should you be forced to choose? It really is okay to love them both.
Enter THE DEADLANDS where one young man finds himself in the epicenter of humanity’s downfall…
Visit STAGNANT WATERS, the mosquitoes are only part of the bloodsucking problem…
Be a witness to THE NIGHT WE DIDN’T GO HOME, and just hope a group of costumed children aren’t waiting outside your door…
And don’t forget your ROAD KILL COUNTING BOOK where possums might be worth ten points, but a zombie can change the game…
FOUR IN THE HOLE awaits.
Unlike an ordinary anthology, a book that combines four tales of this size really doesn’t have the type of presentation that merits a single review. In this instance, I think these four tales could easily stand on their own, so I’ve decided to review each tale separately, rating them based on individual quality and impression.
The Deadlands – by Bill Blume
Reminiscent of a Twilight Zone episode (or the intro to more than one zombie movie) Paul awakes in his hospital room to find no other living soul around and is forced to venture out in search of others. Hunting for a working vehicle, he runs into Philly, a bit of a head-case who fills in the gaps about the devastation surrounding them, what caused it (the Avatar Light) and the resulting Deadlands. Paul seems to be a sort of a neutral character, a lost everyman type, and this accentuates Philly’s eccentricities all the more. The presentation allows us to be curious, and the reader soon discovers that Paul is not as normal as we think.
From here, the story progresses into a series of jarring and mysterious events, with a lot of action (and zombies) involved. While interesting, I found the tale was a little more chaotic than I would have liked. The beginning had a good lead-in/build-up, but I felt as though the amount of information contained within the story would have been more suitable in a longer venue, and the ending didn’t seem entirely conclusive. I enjoyed the story nonetheless and I still consider it worthy of 4 stars.
Stagnant Waters – by Bennie Newsome
This lone vampire tale of the four begins by giving us a look from the vampires’ perspective. Two of the undead are eying what they suspect is a trap – a boy, Scotty, out after hours. The boy’s father comes to his rescue and a battle between man and vampire ensues. At the end of that fight, it is assumed that the vampires have been decimated. This assumption is wrong.
Enter Jayden, a boy terrified of vampires, subject to nightmares and not convinced they are gone. When the vampires return, Jayden is left to deal with them, with the help of his friend, Tunisha and other area children. Little do they know how strange things will get from here.
I really loved this story. It has a cold, quiet suspense, mixed with a good dose of humour that eases you into the tale and then grabs you and shakes you when you least expect it. It’s a fun story, and the twists offered, as well as the delightful ending, makes it all the more amusing, – 5 stars.
The Night We Didn’t Go Home – by G. R. Mosca
Katie and the other kids are on the school bus headed home when their trip comes to a sudden halt because of what they think is an accident on the road ahead. The driver leaves the bus to investigate and comes back the victim of a frightful transformation. The children are now trapped, terrified and unsure what to do next. Their solution? Abandon the bus and set off on their own…
This was a refreshingly original approach to a zombie tale, with a convincing variety of unusual characters and a combination of youthful energy and fear. It had realistic dialogue, good pacing and an enjoyable level of action. There is sufficient gore for my tastes and I was pleased with the ghoulish ending – 5 stars.
Road Kill Counting Book – by Pat Steiner
Tommy, and pregnant Gail are on the road. After Tommy accidentally runs down a dog, he gets out to investigate and they stop for a pee. A run in with a strange boy and an unexpected accident leaves Gail in a very bad position and when Tommy comes to her aid they are beset by zombies. Although they make their escape, Gail is now in labour and Tommy has problems of his own.
I enjoyed the colourful characterization and Steiner’s descriptive style (the zombie scenes were gruesomely gory), but I would have preferred a clearer picture of what was going on. There were mentions of rescues and family members (her Papa included) and zombies, but none of these things seem to come together in a cohesive manner until late in the story, possibly because Gail seemed to be mentally challenged and much of the story was from her PoV. The details become clear towards the end of the tale, via Tommy’s memories – I just would have preferred more clarity sooner. I give this one 4 stars as well.
As a whole I say all four combined rate a 4.5, but leaning slightly more towards 4 than 5. I think stories of this length, longer than shorts but less than a novel, require a careful balance. You need enough story to extend beyond the limitations of a short, without dragging elements of the tale out for too long, but not a story fit for a novel squeezed into a shorter form. Overall, this was a good read.