Hunter Shea – Creature

Author: Hunter Shea

Title: Creature

Publisher: Flame Tree Press

[Advance reader copy, due to be published on September 6th, 2018]

 

Synopsis: The monsters live inside Kate Woodson. Chronic pain and autoimmune diseases have robber her of a normal life, happy life. Her husband Andrew’s surprise of a dream cottage for the summer is the gift of a lifetime. It’s beautiful, remote, idyllic: a place to heal.

But they are not alone. something is in the woods, screeching in the darkness, banging on the house, leaving animals for dead. Soon, the cottage becomes Kate’s prison, and they’ll both be lucky to escape alive.

Review: 

When it comes to horror, the real horror that we may know in our lives, the subject of incurable diseases is absolutely prominent. The pain, the decay of the body, the progressive destruction of our lives and the consequences on the people we love are fuel for nightmares of the highest sort. It’s a living Hell, where both the ill and the caregivers are put in the harm’s way 24/7, with little or no hope for the future. This is the basic scenario for this novel, a premise for one of the strongest married couple ever seen in a work of fiction, two characters that looks ready to break the fourth wall and come to your house (read the interview at the end of the book, it will be quite interesting).

Kate and Andrew are a meta-character of sort, both dysfunctional but bonded by a love so strong that makes difficult thinking about one of them without the other. Their connection is so powerful to trespass even the most difficult moment in the Kathy’s illness and the pivotal points of this book. If nothing else, this novel is a tribute to the concept that love is always the stronger emotion, no matter the odds.

The turning point of this book is the decision of taking a break, a vacation in a cottage near a lake in Maine (sooner or later somebody will explain why so many horror pieces take place in this state). The place is wonderful, the surroundings ideal for relaxing and to ease the pressure on the main characters. But there’s more. Much more. In the darkest corners of the woods lurks something that comes straight out the worst nightmares, ready and willing to take everything from Kate and Andrew.

Once again, we have two well-known tropes here. The house in the woods and the mysterious creature. A combination that always works if the writer knows its job. What makes the difference here? Two different factors, both important. The first is about the craft of Hunter Shea. He’s able to build up tension and pauses, to create a rhythm in the narration that engulf the reader like a vise grip. The latter is about the aforementioned characters, they are so well-defined that the reader will find himself/herself caring for them.

The pros of this book are about the cast of characters, the first-hand knowledge of the complex interaction between the ill and the caregiver in a couple, the strength of the relationship between Kate and Andrew. The horror element is well conceived and masterfully unleashed in the plot.

The cons of this book are about some minor aspects in the final part of the book, related to the actions of the monster. I don’t want to spoiler the plot, but I think that there is too much in the last ten pages or so.

Where to find it: Flame Tree Press , actually not listed on amazon.com

Vote: 08,50 / 10,00.

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Jonathan Janz – The Siren And The Spectre

Author: Jonathan Janz

Title: The Siren And The Spectre

Publisher: Flame Tree Press

[Advance reader copy, due to be published on September 6th, 2018]

Note: in the publisher site, the title is “The Siren And The Specter.”

Synopsis: When David Caine, a celebrated skeptic of the supernatural, is invited by an old friend to spend a month in “the most haunted house in Virginia,” he believes the case will be like any other. But Alexander House is different. Built in the 1700s by a land baron to contain the madness and depravity of his eldest son, the house is plagued by the shadows of the past and the lingering taint of bloodshed. David is haunted, as well, for 22 years ago,  he turned away from the woman he loved, and in sorrow she took her life. Now David suspects she’s followed him to Alexander House.

Review: for an author, especially for a horror author, sooner or later comes a time to create a novel that tackles one of the most practiced topics of this particular field of narrative: the haunted house. It’s a risky business, especially if such author adds to the plate other well-frequented issues like the American folklore and the figure of skeptic main character.

On the pro side, readers are ready and willing to have another story to read in the same old setting, with the memories of previous tales helpful to establish the suspension of disbelief that is the trademark of a successful novel. The cons are about the giants who already took this path. Confronting with the works of Shirley Jackson or Richard Matheson is no easy task. I’m happy to tell you that Jonathan Janz is able to spin a great story, ready to stand proud even in the shadows of such great predecessors.

As usual, the start of the narration is a bit slow, with all the pieces and the main characters that fill their places and set the stage for the disturbing developments that will follow. David Caine, the main character is well rounded and utterly credible in his efforts to stay sane and focused, even when confronted with the darkest part of his past. With him, you will find an excellent cast of believable characters and, of course, one of the most diabolic mansions ever described in a novel.

When this book reaches its full speed, it becomes one Hell of a rollercoaster. I will not spoiler the plot, but I can tell you that you will get more of what you will on your deck. Nobody is safe, and nothing is sacred in this book, the presence of Evil strong in every shadow of this corner of Virginia. The resolution of the main character will be forged in the hardest way, pushing his limits to the max and over. The pace of the plot is fast but not to the point of becoming muddy, you will be able to follow the events until the end.

Not everything is perfect, I have to say. For some of the minor characters, it will be useful to add some space, a bit more of development and/or some scene to bring them closer to the reader. One of the significant action-oriented scenes is a bit cranky, and it kills some tension in a pivotal moment. These are minimum flaws, perhaps due to cuts in the editing phase. Anyway, this novel is well worth reading, you will not be disappointed.

Where to find it: Flame Tree Press, Amazon.

Vote: 08,00 / 10,00.

 

Three little probes and the writing universe

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No, it’s not a fairy tale. What? No, it’s not about some weird experiment in fringe science. It’s a summary of my first serious try to enter in the English-speaking fiction market, with a few things that I’ve learned in the process.

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Left Behind – the last part of the Ghosts Of War series

Ghosts of War_cover 04

This is it. I’ve finally nailed the last obstacles and now, thanks to the Amazon’s busy dwarves, the last installment of my first e-book series is out.

“Left Behind” is, by far, the most ambitious and difficult piece I’ve written in english. It’s a story about war, revenge, action and mayhem – all tied in a single low-price package. C’mon, it’s priced a bit more than an US dollar, no good science fiction can be cheaper than that.

So far, the entire series performed well and I hope that this final story will wrap it up nicely for those who already get the first three ebooks.

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Get ready for Dark Legacy

Time for a self-promotional post, just to remember to everybody out there that there’s a new e-book incoming, hard and fast like any science fiction story should be.

The third installment of my ongoing series, Ghosts Of War, will hit the digital market July 15th, with the focus of the story about a young spaceminer in the Asteroid Belt and his dangerous journey to go back home.

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Punto di non ritorno (1997)

Punto di non ritorno (Orig. Event Horizon) 1997

Regia di Paul W. S. Anderson

Soggetto di Philip Eisner / Andrew K. Walker?

Questa è la storia di un film che aveva tutto per diventare grande ed è naufragato miseramente. Sessanta milioni di dollari di budget (ricordatevi, stiamo parlando del ’97), attori di primo livello come Sam Neill e Laurence Fishburne, una situazione in spazi chiusi che esalta il ruolo dei caratteristi e mette lo spettatore più vicino ai personaggi.
Aggiungete che è una storia ambientata in un futuro vicino, decisamente riconoscibile come conseguenza del presente (un personaggio fuma, c’è un’edizione futuribile di Playboy) o vicina a noi come usi e costumi. Se ci mettiamo anche che gli interni delle due navi spaziali sono fatti molto bene e c’è qualche buon accorgimento tecnico siamo dalle parti dell’ideale per la fantascienza.

Peccato per due piccoli problemi. Il primo è il regista, spesso impegnato in inquadrature a campo lungo poco adatte a una storia che si svolge per il 99% dentro due astronavi, il secondo è il vero handicap: una sceneggiatura idiota. Dalla Rete rimbalza l’idea che la versione originale di Eisner sia stata riscritta da Walker. E’ possibile ma francamente non vedo il miglioramento. Controllando la carriera di entrambi ci sono solo cose decisamente minori con una vistosa eccezione, Walker ha scritto la sceneggiatura di Seven. Sempre da interviste si apprende che Eisner voleva un horror descritto come “Shining nello spazio”. Lo stiamo ancora aspettando.

Spoiler oltre questo punto.
L’idea di base è buona. Una nave, la “Lewis and Clark”, viene inviata a investigare su un segnale di soccorso proveniente da una nave andata dispersa sette anni prima, la “Event Horizon”. Con l’equipaggio c’è uno specialista, il progettista della nave scomparsa.
Il quadro è interessante, nei giro di poche inquadrature e battute l’intero gruppo degli attori viene messo di fronte allo spettatore e si crea il clima giusto per l’avventura. Da subito si intuisce che il dottor Weir (Sam Neill) è il personaggio destinato a condurre lo svolgimento del plot, tormentato dal suicidio della moglie.
La nave scomparsa era dotata di un motore alimentato con una singolarità, enorme fonte di distorsione gravitazionale che doveva letteralmente piegare lo spazio per viaggiare in tempi brevi dal sistema solare a Proxima Centauri. Poco dopo l’inizio del viaggio la nave scompare senza lasciare traccia.
Fin qui tutto bene. Il tempo di mettersi comodi e iniziare i popcorn.
Da subito l’esplorazione della nave si rivela pericolosa, accadono fenomeni che dovrebbero far salire poco alla volta la tensione nello spettatore. Il membro più giovane dell’equipaggio finisce risucchiato in un “buio” prodotto dall’accensione del motore gravitazionale e al suo ritorno deve essere messo in stasi per evitare il suicidio. L’accensione danneggia seriamente la nave soccorritrice costringendo tutti a trasferirsi sulla “Event Horizon“. Da qui in avanti inizia il carnevale. Tutti hanno allucinazioni, tutti sono testimoni di eventi inspiegabili, anche lo spettatore meno intelligente capisce che il film è partito e non ritornerà.


La faccio breve per non tediarvi oltre. La “Event Horizon” è andata in un’altra dimensione, un posto che assomiglia in maniera sospetta all’inferno dei cattolici. L’equipaggio originale si è massacrato a vicenda e la nave è tornata nel nostro sistema solare semisenziente. Perla della situazione: i membri del primo equipaggio, mentre si massacrano in maniera assurda, parlano latino. Americani del ventunesimo secolo che parlano latino, ovvio che accade perché dall’altra parte si parla latinorum, logico come il deficit neurale che si abbatte su chi ha decide di finanziare un film basato su questa sceneggiatura.
Alla fine ci sono dei superstiti e il dubbio, telefonatissimo, di un possibile secondo film. La buona notizia è che il seguito non si è mai concretizzato.

Cose buone dalla melma.
Da questo film discende un bel videogioco, Dead Space, che fin dalla cover cita il film con quel guanto di tuta spaziale che fluttua in assenza di gravità.

Voto finale: 03,00 / 10,00.

Note:
Lewis e Clark erano due esploratori del diciannovesimo secolo, noti per la vicenda della ricerca del passaggio a nord-ovest
Event horizon, orizzonte degli eventi, è la frontiera esterna della zona di influenza diretta di un buco nero (o singolarità). Il punto di non ritorno del pozzo gravitazionale che il buco nero genera.