Tuesday, December 27, 2011

"Temporary Monsters" by Ian Rogers

Temporary Monsters
39 pages
ISBN 9781926611073

I do love me some gritty urban fantasy, so when The Man Eating Bookworm reviewed this novella by up-and-coming Canadian author, Ian Rogers, it caught my eye.

Set in a world in which monsters do exist and the borders between our dimension and a hellish one known as the Black Lands exists as well, Felix is a burned-out private eye with an ex-wife and bills to pay. His latest job has him looking into the background of a movie star who went on a psychotic rampage, in the guise of a vampire, before someone killed him in self-defense--that someone being Felix, no less. Felix soon learns the rising star was not only doing one helluva job as a vampire when he went outhouse crazy in a restaurant, but the movie he was working on in town had him playing a vampire. And when things go wrong with the actor's co-star, who is playing a werewolf ... well, one guess how that turns out.

The world Ian has created here is surprisingly robust when barely using thirty pages to not only set the stage, but tell the whole story. The added twist of a drug that seems to temporarily morph users into monsters of choice is both macabre and original. There's a good payoff at the end with enough of a teaser for future installments. In fact, The Ash Angels is the next story in the Black Lands series, which I hope to read sooner rather than later.

Seeing Canada portrayed as something other than a snowbound land of overly polite syrup-suckers is always welcome, and Ian did a heckuva job layering grime all over Toronto. I'm looking forward to reading what else he has in store for the great white north and abroad.

Friday, December 9, 2011

'Red Penny Papers' (Fall 2011)

I can't remember exactly when it was I discovered Red Penny Papers, but I can tell you it's been a welcome source for short fiction from day one. Stories by Aaron Polson, Camille Alexa, Natalie Sin, and others have provided me with no shortage of creepy, fun stories--and all of them for free.

The Red Penny Papers fall edition presented five short stories from authors who are all brand new to me. "Arkady's Apprentice" by S.J. Hirrons was a rather stirring tale of magic and legacy with a magician, his apprentice, and his son. The side-note at the end of this story, where Hirrons writing instructors apparently dismissed this story as unpublishable. Whoops. That's some writing school.

Next was "So Long, Warren" by Ash Krafton, a devilish mix of noir and the supernatural, which is one of my favorite combinations these days. "Iron Jack" by Mark Rossmore was interesting with its decomposing marriage and the automated servant tearing the couple apart.

"Oni wa Soto" by Sara Kate Ellis would probably be classified as my favorite of the bunch. A story about a devil with a crisis at the workplace. The Japanese setting, along with the undercurrent of dark humor, really resonated with me. Good stuff. And then "Janitors of the Cosmos" by William Vitka finished off the collection. This one could be classified as the strangest of all five stories, bordering on the surreal, as a "god" exterminator roams the universe hunting down various incarnations of deities who still cling to their would-be worshippers.

If you'd like to check these stories out, you find them all on Red Penny Papers' website. I managed to get this in November when Katey the editor pointing me towards an e-book edition--for free! It might still be available, so if you prefer e-books over reading from your web browser, I highly recommend going that route.

Just checked on Smashwords and it's still available free of charge: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/85230

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"King Death" by Paul Finch (Spectral Press Chapbook Vol. 4)

It's pretty hard to imagine the rampant disease and death and quite literally plagued Europe, even the world, during the 14th century. Perhaps the centuries have mythologized the Black Death to a point that it's simply hard to comprehend. Hell, judging by the degree to which the public at large loses their damn minds when the evening news mentions a flu outbreak, a bonified pandemic wouldn't have to hit us physically--the world would be crippled on a psychological level. So think back to a time when our modern medical marvels didn't exist, but an engrained acceptance of the supernatural did. What would that world really look like?

Well, Paul Finch shines a spotlight on one patch of England, as a con man roams the country side exploiting death and superstition by parading himself as King Death himself. Rodric is out to plunder a devastated territory for whatever meager gain he can get. After all, who's going to stop them when everyone is too busy dying?

That's kind of a simplistic summary of Rodric and his motives, and when he encounters and orphaned lad with a chip on his shoulder, Rodric's motives are given a real test.

The story itself weighs in around twenty pages, but that's plenty of time to set the stage and the stakes. Some of the language is a bit of a chore to get through for a dullard like me who doesn't read historical fiction that stretches much further beyond the 18th century. Fortunately, there's a glossary at the end of the book, so a quick glance at that and I was off to the races.

This is the first time I've read Paul Finch's work and walked away impressed, showing Spectral Press has a good eye for picking out short fiction to feature in their chapbook series. Paul apparently has a helluva lot more work out there, so I'm going to have to look up some more of his work down the road.