The Dragon Factory

dragonfactOne of the many pleasures of 2009’s PATIENT ZERO, Jonathan Maberry’s outstanding novel that introduced the character of Joe Ledger, was how the author took an outrageous premise and made it completely credible. In THE DRAGON FACTORY, his 2010 follow-up now available in a new mass-market edition, Maberry amps up the outrageousness factor by several degrees. But again, thanks to his energetic prose and narrative drive, he has us believing it.

Ledger has been approached by ominous government security goons before, but this time, he senses that something is seriously wrong. Rather than comply with their demand to come with them, he distracts them with a few well-placed punches and flees. While on the run, Ledger learns that the U.S. executive branch, currently run by the vice president while the president recovers from surgery, is out to dismantle the Department of Military Science, the fiercely patriotic, but under-the-radar agency for which Ledger works.

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White Knuckle

whiteknuckleWhen he’s not busy writing and directing movies for various major and independent production companies, Eric Red writes horror short stories and novels. His previous three horror novels often incorporated elements from other fiction genres — like science fiction or westerns.

WHITE KNUCKLE, his fourth and latest novel, is also a horror story, but differentiates itself for its complete lack of anything supernatural or extraterrestrial. This doesn’t make it any less horrifying. In fact, WHITE KNUCKLE is all the more shocking and frightening for its realism.

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positiveWhy, you might wonder, would horror author David Wellington write another novel about zombies? After all, he dealt with zombies in his MONSTER ISLAND trilogy in the mid 2000s — long before they became the most popular subject of horror fiction. Then he reminded us how fascinating – and truly frightening – vampires are in his Laura Claxton series (starting with 13 BULLETS), and even resurrected the long-neglected subject of werewolves in a few novels after that (FROSTBITE and OVERWINTER).

So why zombies again? Probably because it occurred to Wellington how few novels are told from the perspective of someone who has no memory of life before the “Zombie Apocalypse.” That’s what sets POSITIVE, his latest, apart from the shelf full of zombie novels.

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Predator One

predatoroneWhat differentiates PREDATOR ONE, the seventh in Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger series, from the earlier titles are is weapons used by the villains. Instead of bio-engineered mutants or contagious pathogens, the villains here wreak havoc using mostly mechanical drones.
But just because these weapons need a little less imagination to envision doesn’t make this latest title any less frightening. In truth, PREDATOR ONE is the most terrifying and intense novel of the series to date.

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Night After Night

nightafterIn her 1959 novel THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, author Shirley Jackson brought a group of strangers together for an extended stay at a supposedly haunted house to have them experience the house, especially at night, and report their individual findings. Now British author Phil Rickman, creator of the popular Merrily Watkins series, repeats the premise – only this time for a reality TV show in his new stand-alone novel, NIGHT AFTER NIGHT.

This contemporary spin is surprisingly effective. But Rickman’s latest is a challenging and often frustrating reading experience due to its reach constantly extending its it grasp.

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The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft

annotatedhpThe stories of H. P. Lovecraft have influenced every author of horror fiction since his death in 1937. As a result, the amount of scholarly work devoted to Lovecraft is unprecedented for a genre author; rivaled only by Edgar Allan Poe, one of Lovecraft’s formative heroes.

So where does a reader longing to know more about Lovecraft’s fiction and philosophy begin when faced with the dozens of critical and interpretative studies and biographies? Thanks to the devoted work of Leslie S. Klinger, an excellent starting point is his THE NEW ANNOTATED H. P. LOVECRAFT.

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The Bughouse Affair

bughouseaffairMarcia Muller and Bill Pronzini, husband and wife, are well-known to every mystery reader. Their prolific body of work as individual authors and a smaller body of work written as a team, all display a smooth storytelling style, an attention to detail when it comes to characters, and a brisk pacing that moves the plot along without a lot of confusing red herrings or complications.

THE BUGHOUSE AFFAIR is the first in a new series set in San Francisco in the 1890s. The protagonists, Sabina Carpenter and John Quincannon, are partners in a private detective agency, and while Quincannon would like the partnership to be even more intimate, Carpenter prefers to keep the relationship on a professional level.

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Broken Monsters

brokenmonstersSince the publication of her debut novel, MOXYLAND (2010), South African-based author Lauren Beukes has established an acclaimed reputation for melding science fiction elements with other genres – most notably in THE SHINING GIRLS, a novel about a time-traveling serial killer published earlier this year.
The driving element in BROKEN MONSTERS, Beukes’s latest, is strikingly less science fiction and more horror. But rather than the supernatural, it is instead the horror humans inflict upon each other when our minds are controlled by a different and more urgent reality. While the narrative structure often works against itself, leaving as many questions unanswered as resolved, it is one of the most disturbing and unforgettable thrillers you’ll read this year.

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The Three

threeWhen you’ve swallowed as many horror novels as I have, you grow so familiar with the varied ingredients used that you tend to focus on a given author’s particular craft in cooking and presenting the same old meal, or get excited by the occasional flourish of a new spice (even if the dish hasn’t been fundamentally altered).

It’s that rare day when someone sets a plate in front of you and in a flash of excitement you realize how wholly unfamiliar the experience is. And when that novel is not just novel but staggeringly good, you want the meal to never end, and you want to call all of your fellow diners to bark that they have just got to try this.

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Whom the Gods Would Destroy

whomgodsDamien’s first strong memory recalls his mother dragging he and his half-brother, Cameron, to a remote forested location. She yelled at him to stay put, handcuffing him to the wheel of the car as she and Cameron walked off together. Damien’s envy and repulsion lock into place at this moment and underscore his narration throughout Brian Hodge’s tense novella. Who is this monstrous woman? And how does a child expressly exiled from familial love find his place in the universe?

WHOM THE GODS WOULD DESTROY, a finalist for the Shirley Jackson award for best novella, complicates that existential angst with echoes of Lovecraft, as Damien’s sense of otherness in his own home is complemented by an increasing dread about what Others might be lurking just beyond our consciousness, trying to find their way in. His first memory ends with him slipping the shackles and wandering into a glade to find his mother and brother circling a man lashed to a tree, the stars wheeling overhead.

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