Sunday, February 24, 2013

REVIEW: Blood Related by William Cook

Meet the Cunninghams… A family bound by evil and the blood they have spilled.

Meet Caleb Samael Cunningham, a diabolical serial-killer with an inherited psychopathology, passed down via a blood-soaked genealogy. Caleb is a disturbed young man whose violent father is a suspected serial killer and mother, and insane alcoholic. After his father's suicide, Cunningham's disturbing fantasy-life becomes reality, as he begins his killing spree in earnest. His identical twin brother Charlie is to be released from an asylum and all hell is about to break loose, when the brothers combine their deviant talents. 

4.5/5 Amazon Stars 

The serial killer genre must be one of the most difficult to write about. Considering that so much research has been devoted to our understanding of these monstrous people who live among us, the killer is not mysterious. We're fascinated by the perpetrators of the most heinous crimes; the killers are granted immortality by the media and our own innate desire to peer into the darkness of the human heart and mind. How can such monsters exist?

William Cook's presentation of a family of murderers, most notably the twin brothers Caleb and Charlie, is a chronicle that charts the evolution (or de-evolution) of a killer's psyche. There is a plot in this novel, or rather, a series of events that result in the book's conclusion (no spoilers here). A revolutionary plot on the manic scale of Charles Manson, a damaged family unit that has been depicted in classic horror films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and House of 1000 Corpses, and the downward spiral of the novel's "good guy" all illustrate the environmental conditions which create such monstrosities. Cook did very thorough research; no stone was left unturned, no cause unexplored.

There are several scenes that may have been more effective if the reader was given a chance to "see" rather than be "told," however, within the greater framework of the novel, which is rather extensive, one can argue that Cook's method only underscore the madness within: there are buckets of gore amid several grotesque mutilations, but all of them are very casually described. Whether from the perspective of a killer who wallows in bloodlust or from files and reports that summarize the grisly murder scenes, the detachment of the prose from the massacre mirrors the mental state of the characters. Descriptions are hardly tense, but rather matter-of-fact.

Grievances with this novel are based on personal preference. As with many serial killer stories, there is a severe lack of an endearing female character. From the perspective of Caleb and Charlie, this is acceptable because it appropriately conveys their worldview; however, I would have liked to see a character contrast with their dark, grimy world. One might argue that a doctor that appears within the pages is this contrast, and the argument is acceptable. In addition, I found some of the information near the end of the novel to be a bit anti-climactic.

Cook knows his material. The contemporary standard for a serial killer novel is, in my opinion, American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis. The fact that I can measure Blood Related against this standard suggests that Cook has accomplished what few writers can with the serial killer story. I've seen Blood Related appear on a few "Best of" lists; I expect Cook to receive accolades for this novel, and future endeavors. 

Why Does a Werewolf Have a Katana?

 A werewolf is sometimes in human form, right?

Like vampires and zombies, werewolves come with expectations: they rely on the phases of the moon to transform into a beast and they're weak against silver. In a werewolf story, we often find the protagonist struggle with humanity while attempting to reconcile its existence as a beast.

With the Japanese Werewolf Apocalypse serial, I've decided to combine Japanese myth with Manga expectations and Takashi Miike-style gore. Werewolves don't need the moon to transform; they're ancient spirits that curse humans, and once the wolf is destroyed, it returns to a lifestream, which is a netherworld of spirit energy, until it randomly curses another human. The werewolves can be permanently destroyed when the heart is destroyed by a silver weapon—one common element I kept from werewolf mythos.

Speaking of elements, these beasts have powers, too. Each wolf possesses wind, fire, water, or earth energy, and each elemental "clan" is represented by an ancient werewolf (there were preceding "representatives," but that's a story for another day).

And then there are the clanless. The scourge of the werewolf species; as long as the elements remain in balance, the world itself remains balanced. The werewolf elementals are essential, and for the most part, they're hardly bloodthirsty beasts. However, the clanless represent chaos, and there are some who believe the werewolf species should rule over mankind in a savage, violent world.

The clanless are hunted in every corner of the globe.

Why does a werewolf have a katana? In her quest for vengeance against humanity, Ritsuko Kita wields a blade with terrible powers, and with it, she can awaken an ancient power to unite the clanless in an apocalyptic war against man.

Let's meet the cast of the first episode of JWA:

Edmund Grant: An American werewolf hunter whose personal vendetta against the beasts give him a taste for violence; once he destroys the last clanless, he will extend his crusade against all of the creatures, though this is against the rules and traditions of the hunter caste.

Takeshi Asa: A college student who is dragged into a werewolf-hunting escapade because his ancestors have served the Society, the group of hunters dedicated to destroying the clanless. Though he received the proper instruction for hunting, he still doesn't believe it. To him, it's nothing more than a silly fantasy, though he is honor-bound to carry out his father's wishes.

Ritsuko Kita: Armed with a mysterious katana, this woman claims allegiance to the fire clan, though her true intentions involve a lust for revenge that can only be satisfied when every human is wiped off the face of the planet.

Sano: The ancient representative of the fire clan, he once created the Society to combat an uprising of clanless wolves that were led by his lover, Amano. Sano once believed in maintaining the elemental balance, but his faith in humanity has been lost. He now languishes in solitude, and many believe him to be dead. 

The first episode is only 99 Cents! 

Let me know what you think! Leave a review to help keep the series going! Episode Two will be on the way very shortly...!!! 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

REVIEW: A Sanitarium Worth Checking Out

4/5  Amazon Stars

This issue of Sanitarium explores the very definition of horror, with stories that analyze our anxious misgivings and our sense of terror when faced with the unknown. Within this magazine, you'll find ordinary people struggle against zombies, witchcraft, ghosts, and madness. There are some other surprises in store that proved quite entertaining, and shocking.

I think the magazine's format is effective. An interesting author interview, some product information, and advice for writers made it a more complete magazine. I think it would be nice to see Sanitarium include a section where classic horror novels are discussed or reviewed; as the magazine grows and expands, I think more content would really strengthen its presence in the market.

For the most part, the writing is clean and the editing is strong, but I thought a couple stories could have used further revision. There is one glaring typo and some minor ones along the way but for the most part, there is nothing to distract readers from exploring the horror that lurks within the pages of Sanitarium.

There were a couple of stories that really stood out to me; there is plenty of talent and creativity within this issue of Sanitarium. I believe this press has a lot of potential, and I believe there are some writers in this issue who I expect to read again.