image005The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is pleased to announce honorees for the 2014 Savannah Film FestivalMatt Bomer and Renée Zellweger will receive Spotlight AwardsAsa Butterfield and Analeigh Tipton will receive Rising Star Awards; and Gena Rowlands will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.  The festival will be held in downtown Savannah, Georgia, and runs from Saturday, Oct. 25 to Saturday, Nov. 1. Hosted by SCAD, the annual event has celebrated cinematic creativity from award-winning professionals and emerging filmmakers for 17 years.

Matt Bomer will receive the Spotlight Award on Sunday, Oct. 26.  He’ll also participate in a Q&A following the screenings of “The Normal Heart,” along with Len Amato and the documentary “HUNTED.” Most recently, audiences saw Bomer star in the critically acclaimed screen adaptation of “The Normal Heart.” Bomer won a Critics’ Choice Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Television Mini-Series and received an Emmy® Award nomination for his role.  His TV credits include USA Network’s “White Collar,” one of the highest rated and most critically acclaimed scripted shows on cable television, “Traveler,” recurring roles on “Tru Calling” and “Chuck” and guest appearances on “Glee” and “The New Normal.”  In addition to Bomer’s success on the small screen, audiences have seen him star in a variety of feature film roles including “Magic Mike,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning,” “In Time,” “Space Station 76” and “Flight Plan.” His upcoming films are “Monty Clift” and “The Nice Guys,” and he is currently filming the sequel, “Magic Mike XXL.”

Asa Butterfield will receive the Rising Star Award on Saturday, Oct. 25 prior to the opening night screening of “5 to 7.”  He was first noted for his performance in “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” which he was nominated for a BIFA for Most Promising Newcomer and a Young Artists Award for Best Performance in an International Feature Film. He went on to star in Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” and was last seen in “Ender’s Game.” He will next appear in “X Plus Y” and recently wrapped up “Ten Thousand Saints,” co-starring opposite Ethan Hawke. He earned the Breakthrough Award at the 2012 Young Hollywood Awards.

Gena Rowlands will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award on Thursday, Oct. 30.  She’ll also participate in a Q&A following the screenings of “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks” and “The Notebook” along with the film’s director and her son Nick Cassavetes. Rowlands made her film debut in “The High Cost of Loving” in 1958. Teaming with husband, writer and director John Cassavetes, Rowlands starred in many productions, including “Staccato, A Child Is Waiting,” “Faces,” “Gloria” (nomination for Academy Award for Best Actress), “Love Streams,” “Minnie and Moskowitz,” “She’s So Lovely,” and “A Woman Under the Influence” (Academy Award nomination). Her other film credits include  “The Neon Bible,” “Hope Floats,” “Paulie,” “Hysterical Blindness,” “The Notebook,” “The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie,” “The Skeleton Key,” “Paris, je t’aime,” “Broken English,” “Yellow,” “Parts per Billion,” and “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks.”

Rowlands has been nominated for two Academy Awards; six Emmy nominations, and one Daytime Emmy; eight Golden Globes; three Satellite Awards; and two SAG Awards. Some of her notable wins include: a Silver Berlin Bear; three Emmy Awards and one Daytime Emmy; two Golden Globes; two National Board of Review Awards; two Satellite Awards; and one Prize San Sebastián.

Analeigh Tipton will receive the Rising Star Award on Saturday, Nov. 1. Tipton’s most recent film credits include this summer’s “Two Night Stand” alongside Milles Teller, “Lucy” alongside Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman, as well as “4 Minute Mile” with Richard Jenkins and Kim Basinger. She most recently wrapped production this summer on Blumhouse Productions’ “Viral,” and this past winter she also completed “Mississppi Grind,” alongside Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn. Her other film credits include “Damsels in Distress,” “Warm Bodies,” “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” On television, Tipton appeared as a recurring character in the final season of HBO’s “Hung” and currently stars on” Manhattan Love Story,” a romantic comedy which premiered this fall on ABC.

Renée Zellweger will receive the Spotlight award on Monday, Oct. 27. Renée Zellweger earned the Academy Award® for Best Supporting Actress in Anthony Minghella’s “Cold Mountain.” For her work in “Cold Mountain,” Zellweger also garnered a Golden Globe Award and best supporting role honors from the Screen Actors Guild, BAFTA, Broadcast Film Critics Association and numerous others. Zellweger earned her first Oscar® nomination for the 2001 feature “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” also earning acclaim with Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA nominations, among others.  The following year Zellweger earned her second Academy Award nomination for “Chicago.” Zellweger took home a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical and others including a SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role. Her other film credits include “Dazed and Confused,” “Reality Bites,” “Love and a .45,” “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation,” “My Boyfriend’s Back,” “Jerry Maguire,” “One True Thing,” “Me, Myself & Irene,” “Nurse Betty,” “White Oleander,” “Down with Love,” “Cinderella Man” and “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.” She has also lent her voice to such animated features as DreamWorks’ “Shark Tale,” “Bee Movie” and “Monsters vs. Aliens.” In 2015, she will appear opposite Keanu Reeves in “The Whole Truth.”

Tickets and passes are available for purchase online at www.savannahboxoffice.com, by telephone at 912-525-5050 or in person at the Trustees Theater, located at 216 E. Broughton St., Savannah, Georgia.

About the Savannah Film Festival

The festival, and the competition, provides students with opportunities as unique as the movies on the screen. It’s a chance for SCAD students to exclusively connect with leaders from the entertainment industry through master classes, coffee talks, lectures and panel discussions and a chance for Savannah, a premier film hub, to promote quality movies produced by independent and studio filmmakers.

Visit filmfest.scad.edu for a complete list of films and screening locations or follow the festival on Facebook and on Twitter @savfilmfest.

 

 

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the-end-in-all-beginningsThe End in All Beginnings
John F.D. Taff
Grey Matter Press, 2014
Trade paperback, 320 pp.
Reviewed by Michael R. Collings

Just under half a century ago, I discovered a personal “tell” that let me know when a performance had touched me deeply. Several friends, all of us college freshmen, had just watched Peter O’Toole’s performance in Lord Jim. As we walked back to the dorm, they chatted—as freshmen tend to do—about art direction, nuances of performance and location shots, subtlety of imagery, and complexity of symbolism…everything, indeed, except the story.

Normally, I would have joined them; any number of late-night conversations intent on solving the problems of the universe had convinced me that I could hold my own with them. But this time there was something different, something odd.

I found that I couldn’t talk about the film.

The story had resonated so strongly with me that to open my mouth and break what had become a powerful and meaningful silence was simply impossible.

That experience—with minor variations—has recurred many times since. When I finished reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings for the first time. When I read John Milton’s Paradise Lost in one sitting as an undergraduate; I was supposed to be studying for a final exam but the story captured me and suddenly I was turning the last page of Book XII and wishing there were more. Listening to the final “Prisoners’ Chorus” of Beethoven’s Fidelio at the Hamburg Opera House near the end of my two-year church mission in Germany. When I finished Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbevilles for a graduate course in Victorian literature. When I finished Stephen King’s It, reading a typescript he had sent six months before the novel was published…and, yes, it was roughly the size of a human head.

There have been more examples over the years, some expected and of short duration; some unexpected and sudden, almost paralyzing in the intensity of emotions generated. But all signaling that I have read or seen something that has changed me and my perceptions of the world in important ways.

The last time it happened, I had just finished John F.D. Taff’s collection of horror novellas, The End in All Beginnings.

By that, I do not mean to suggest that the book should be read as a masterwork of world literature; that would place too much weight on a series of relatively short tales in what many might consider an ephemeral sub-genre…if they consider horror literature at all. And it would be to wrench Taff’s intention in ways that would be unfair to him and to his stories.

No, my experience—my period of quiet, of inability to talk about what I had read (in fact, I am writing this two weeks later)—stemmed from the fact that he elected to tell stories that would matter, that would grab imaginations and direct them to new and unanticipated places.

The first, “What Becomes God,” uses a nicely ambiguous phrase to introduce what initially seems a perfectly toned discussion of life, death, love, loss, and God. Every word contributes to a nostalgic re-creation of childhood lost, of a boy coming to grips with disease and death for the first time. Every word, that is, until the key phrase—“It was the blood”—when everything changes…and what comes after is awesomely horrific (using awesome in its deeper senses) as the boy comes face to face with the consequences of his desires and his prayers.

“Object Permanence” begins in the darkness of nightmare, in much the same universe as “What Becomes God” ended. In this case, a man in an insane asylum endures visions and hallucinations that, had they been real, would have driven anyone beyond the limits of sanity. Chris Stadler’s story embraces horror when he realizes that in the most fundamental ways, his hallucinations had been real, and that the only way to understand them and restore his shattered memories is to confront his home town, the ancient house in which he had been raised, and his great-aunt Olivia, the source of an evil that may be too powerful to stop.

“Love in the Time of Zombies” is an oddity among zombie tales in that one of the three main characters is a zombie—usually such tales use the walking dead merely as set dressing that takes an occasional foray into destruction. The landscape is perfect: a small, isolated Midwestern town a hundred miles from nowhere, in which Durand Evars discovers that everyone is either dead or a zombie. Almost. The sole exception is Scott Gibbons, whose preoccupation turns out to be gaming. The two hole up in a huge warehouse-type store, with all of the provisions and protections they could hope for. Time passes…until Evars sees her, a beautiful young woman—unfortunately a zombie—with whom he immediately forms a distinctly one-sided attraction. And equally unfortunately, he is not the only one to do so.

“The Long, Long Breakdown” is set in the upper stories of a South Florida high-rise some fifteen years after the climate has shifted and drowned much of the world. Florida was the first to go, and since then the narrator and his seventeen-year-old daughter have lived within a circle defined by his ability to row their small boat safely from one ruin to another, collecting medicines, supplies, and most importantly books. He is content to remain as they are, essentially looking backward and remembering; he does not realize that his daughter has no memories of the other world and is instead beginning to look forward, into a future he cannot imagine. They are at an equilibrium in their desires…until she discovers a telescope and, through its lenses, sees the unimaginable. How each handles the revelation is the crux of the story, one of the most powerful in the collection in its simplicity and in it systematic ‘breakdown’ of old beliefs and fears in the face of the new.

“Visitation” crosses genre boundaries several times. It begins as science fiction, as Fenlan Daulk is notified that he has won the annual Galactic Lottery—a two-week stay on Visitation, long known as the most haunted planet in the cosmos. Having just lost his wife, he is stunned at the possibility of seeing her again, and crushed by his knowledge that such things as ghosts cannot exist. Or can they? As his visit progresses, and his story moves into the realm of ghost story and fantasy (or does it?), he comes to discover closely guarded secrets that pass far beyond the temporal grief of one man and encompass the existence of life beyond anything he could have imagined.

In each of the five tales, Taff provides carefully nuanced, skillfully balanced components—storytelling, nostalgia, horror, human emotion—to work from beginnings to ultimate ends…sometimes death, sometimes things far worse, and sometimes something magnificent.

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the-art-of-the-evil-withinThe Art of The Evil Within
Bethesda Games/Dark Horse Books
ISBN-10:
161655570X
October 14, 2014
$28.90 HC, $16.62 Kindle
Reviewed by Jess Landry

Design is one of the most important elements in creating a successful video game. From the weathered look of a scar-laden character to the blood-stained walls of an abandoned asylum, it’s the most minute details that can help a game sink or swim. If The Art of The Evil Within is any indication of the horrors that await players of The Evil Within (the highly-anticipated survival horror video game from Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami), then it’s going to be quite the ride.

This behind-the-scenes coffee table book examines the most relevant characters, locations and weapons of The Evil Within, breaking down the gruesome world into five chapters: Heroes, Villains, Environments, Props and Marketing.

Each chapter title is self-explanatory, with the first three being the most comprehensive. Readers are treated to detailed illustrations of the main characters and villains, from conception to the final designs. Blurbs from Ikumi Nakamura, the lead concept artist, pop up every now and again with helpful insights regarding design choices and rationale, touching upon subjects like how the facial features of a character were refined, how a certain villain blends elements of Japanese and Western horrors, and how the game actually started as sci-fi before survival horror was decided upon.

The Environments chapter features some gorgeous illustrations of the games various locations, the most important appearing to be the asylum, where the designers incorporated a lighthouse into its final product to stand out from other games that use an asylum as a location (Nakamura, in one of her blurbs, even goes so far as to acknowledge that some of the locations featured in The Evil Within are typical to the genre, but states that “typicality was just what made it so appealing”).

The final chapter, Marketing, showcases some impressive poster designs and stills from the game itself before a quick wrap-up message from Nakamura.

The design work featured in The Art of The Evil Within is spectacular; even the most grotesque elements have a beauty to them that should be quite striking in motion. The art book is quite comprehensive with its backstories on the heroes, villains and locations, so it’s best to be looked over once you’ve completed the game (if you intend on playing), as there are a few potential spoilers.

For the gamer looking for an impressive companion piece to the game or the person who appreciates the massive amount of design work a video game takes, The Art of The Evil Within is a beautiful display of graphic elements, from concept to culmination and everything in between.

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case8.500x11.000.inddI TELL YOU IT’S LOVE BY JOE R. LANSDALE & DANIELE SERRA

SST Publications is so thrilled to announce that the cover art and pre-order page for I TELL YOU IT’S LOVE by Joe R. Lansdale and Daniele Serra is now available here.

The book will be officially published on November 24th but you can pre-order a signed copy direct from SST now and we will ship it out as soon as we have them in stock.

All graphic novels bought direct from us are Exclusive Signature Sheet Editions and come with a FREE exclusive signature sheet signed by both the author and the artist.

The book is a full colour oversized hardcover (8 x 11 inches) and is gorgeous! It’s an incredible dark love story by the master of horror Joe R. Lansdale. The story has been adapted and illustrated by the amazingly talented and original illustrator and comic artist Daniele Serra.

Fans of both Joe R. Lansdale and Daniele Serra are not going to want to miss this.

Pre-order your copy today!

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Eternal VigilanceEternal Vigilance: From Deep Within the Earth
Gabrielle Faust
Permuted Press
ISBN:
9781618683526
September, 2014 (Re-issue); $15.99 PB
Reviewed by Jess Landry

When Tynan wakes up after one hundred years of a self-induced rest, the world is a different place; everything the vampire once knew has been obliterated by a war raging for as long as he’s been asleep. An evil empire called the Tyst has taken hold of society and all its technologies, and its ruthless leader Cardone has plans to take his wicked reign even further by bringing forth a heinous vampire god called the Vicinus, threatening the lives of both human and vampire. When Tynan is reluctantly reunited the remaining few of his kind, he quickly learns that his unique abilities to absorb the life force and knowledge of those he feeds upon is the key to stopping Cardone’s plans and saving what remains of the population. But will Tynan fall into place as a hero or will he leave the world he despises to burn?

Eternal Vigilance: From Deep Within the Earth is book one of the Eternal Vigilance series by author Gabrielle Faust, currently being re-released through Permuted Press. Book one sets up a surreal fantastical world that’s rich in description; Faust paints the apocalyptic landscape of Tynan’s journey with lush gothic detail that’s as stunning as it is harsh. The story itself is well executed and no time is wasted in setting up the main conflict, Faust knows where she wants to take the reader and exactly how to get there.

Tynan is our conflicted anti-hero. Faust offers a glimpse into his past, how the choices he made caused a rift between himself and the few remaining vampires in this new world. Tynan, although strong-willed, is incredibly selfish and juvenile. He trusts no one, he’s immature, he hates the world around him and those who cast him out centuries ago. But there is still a tiny piece of humanity left within Tynan. Whether it’s from his aforementioned abilities or from something else, the humanity he so bitterly clings on to and the rest of his flaws make him a more realistic character. It does take a better part of the book to warm to Tynan and his attitude, but as the story progresses, it’s easy to see more admirable qualities start shining through and to picture the hero that may come into play in the sequels.

From Deep Within the Earth is a smart take on an apocalyptic world where vampires and humans must join forces to stop an evil that threatens to end them all. So if dark, gothic fantasy laced with vampires and the fight against technology is your thing (or if you want to start a trilogy with no wait time for the sequels), give Eternal Vigilance a try. You won’t be disappointed.

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Interview conducted by Dave Goudsward

the-weird-companyPete Rawlik’s second novel, The Weird Company (reviewed here), is a follow-up to his Lovecraft-inspired noir Reanimators (also reviewed by Hellnotes).  To mark the launch of the The Weird Company, Rawlik discusses the Lovecraftian canon, the power of allusion, and the difficulties and rewards of creating within a shared universe.

Hellnotes: The Weird Company is your second novel and is a continuation of the story in the first book Reanimators.  In the first book, your focus was on Dr. Stuart Hartwell, introducing him as a rival to Lovecraft’s Herbert West. But your book is not just a retelling of the reanimator saga through Hartwell, Hartwell is witness to many other of the Lovecraft stories. Is it safe to say your concept is that the stories are contiguous, not just standalone stories?

Pete Rawlik: I think you don’t have much of a choice but to accept that these stories are contiguous. The stories are linked by the setting of what I think of as the Miskatonic Valley (Lovecraft Country), often by the presence of the Necronomicon, and by some crossover by characters from one story to another.  In many ways Lovecraft’s Miskatonic Valley stories can be looked at as a history of the area, with the setting as the main character.  I think Lovecraft was world-building, and was even trying to fit his earlier Dreamlands fantasy into his milieu.  I took my cue from that concept and ran with it.  The story of Dr. Stuart Hartwell, who I lifted from “The Dunwich Horror, “happens to parallel that of Herbert West for a very specific reason, and that happens to be The Weird Company.  In developing The Weird Company I wanted to include Herbert West as a character, but his timeline (by Lovecraft and the multi-author sequel round robins) didn’t allow for it.  So I decided to create a character with a similar history and skill set that I could use for my own purposes.  Originally I just wrote some stories to get an idea of who he was, what his motivations were.  Those stories just kept growing and eventually became the novel Reanimators.

HL: How did you establish the chronology used in the stories? Is Lovecraft that linear or is there tweaking involved?

PR: Thankfully most of the work for this was done by the very talented Peter Cannon in his book The Chronology Out of Time which lays out dates in most of Lovecraft’s stories.  In a few places I had to expand on the details and fill in events between dates, but most of the heavy lifting was already done.  Lovecraft is very detailed when it comes to the chronology of his stories and very linear.  He occasionally does flashbacks, but these are usually well marked in the text and easy to spot.  It really made building these details relatively easy.

HL: You don’t just reference Lovecraft’s stories. Is there such a things as canon writers/writings?

PR: I included references to a lot of stories from a lot of different writers, mostly stories that I like or seemed to be able to easily fit in without too much forcing.  I’ve been reading and collecting weird fiction, and specifically Lovecraftian Horror, for more than forty years, and in that time I built up these weird linkages between stories, some of which made sense, and some that didn’t.  There’s a concordance to Reanimators that I’ve written that helps remind me about who came from where.  In this idea I am indebted to two masters of this:  Alan Moore and Kim Newman; they really paved the way for this kind of work.  As for canonical writers and writings that’s a tough question.  There is no list that says these stories are part of the canon, and these aren’t, but there are some divisions that are apparent (at least to me).  For example, most of August Derleth’s work isn’t set in the same universe as Lovecraft’s stories, there are parallels, but subtle clues that tell you these aren’t the same.  Both universes contain an Innsmouth, but in Derleth’s version the influence of the Deep Ones is older than Lovecraft’s, and the timeline for the Federal invasion is different.  Also, Derleth’s universe is more fantastic than Lovecraft’s, with wood carvings and clay masses coming to life or transforming their owners.  Of course the biggest difference is that in Derleth’s version Lovecraft is a character who wrote fiction published by Arkham House which imparts important knowledge concerning the mythos.  Brian Lumley’s stories are rooted in Derleth’s work, and while I enjoy both these authors, I tended to avoid these contributions, though there is an entire chapter inspired by Derleth’s “The Survivor.”

HL: Any authors whose work you wanted to allude to, but couldn’t make fit?

PR: Oh absolutely – tons of people I wanted to include but couldn’t because there was no easy way to fit their creations in. I’m a fan of Ramsey Campbell’s work, but really need to sit down and do a chronology of his stories before I try and work his stuff in.  I have similar issues with Michael Shea and Wilum Pugmire.  I need to see the entire body of work to see how it fits together and where connections might be logical.  As both Campbell and Pugmire are actively contributing to the field it would be presumptuous of me to attempt that to any real depth, although I admit to wanting to have characters visit Sesqua Valley or Goatswood.

HL: The Weird Company continues the story from the first book, but Dr. Hartwell is no longer the narrator. Any particular reason for your choice as the voice of the second book?

PR: I wanted to take the emphasis off of Hartwell for The Weird Company, mostly because it didn’t make sense at certain points in the book, and because Hartwell simply knows too much, he’s jaded.  I needed someone who was new to the mythos and could be told “Everything you know is wrong.”  Robert Olmstead, the narrator from “The Shadow over Innsmouth” is perfect for this, his contact with the mythos is limited, and really open to interpretation, or re-interpretation.  He’s not a mystic or a scholar or a veteran of twenty-five years of living in Arkham, he’s fresh meat and easy to pull in different and unexpected directions.

HL: The first book used “Herbert West—Reanimator” as a starting point. Which story do you consider the starting point for this adventure?

PR: The Weird Company functions as a direct sequel to both “At the Mountains of Madness” and “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.”  It also serves as a prequel to “The Thing on the Doorstep” and has a weird relationship to “Through the Gates of the Silver Key.”  Actually, there are three distinct sequels to “At the Mountains of Madness” in this book.  It’s a story ripe for reexamination, spin-offs and sequels.  There are so many characters, some that lived, some that died, they should all have stories to tell.

HL: You also write short fiction involving Lovecraftian-based protagonists. Are they part of your book universe or are they more apocryphal?

PR:  Early on before I conceived of Reanimators or The Weird Company I wrote some stories that I might not be able to rectify with my later works.  Additionally, some of my stories paint a very bleak and not too distant future. Here, I’m relying on the idea of possible futures as envisioned and mediated by the Great Race of Yith.  Other than these, yes, I’m working hard to try and link up all my stories into one coherent universe, or at least multiverse.  So Reanimators is linked to The Weird Company and to my Professor Peaslee short stories.

HL: You’re also a pulp aficionado and have been known to toss an occasional throwaway reference into the mix, such as cameos by Charlie Chan or passing references to Indiana Jones. Is there anyone in The Weird Company you’re particularly smug about sneaking into the mix?

PR: Actually I’m smug about sneaking a lot of characters from pulp fiction into Reanimators, but I didn’t have as much of an opportunity in The Weird Company.  That said, I have to say that I’m really proud of building the bridge that links “At the Mountains of Madness” with John W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There?” which I have always thought was a thematic sequel.

HL: Is there a third book forthcoming? Or any other Herbert West projects you’re reanimating?

PR: I’m working on a third novel, Reanimatrix, which will follow Detective Robert Peaslee’s investigation into the death of Megan Halsey.  It’s a noir mystery set in 1928 Arkham and I hope to invoke some of the classics of the genre including Laura, Chinatown and The Big Sleep, but mixed with the Cthulhu Mythos.  Also on the horizon, is a book I’ve edited with Brian M. Sammons, Legacy of the Reanimator, which will include Lovecraft’s original story and two long out-of-print round robins, “Herbert West-Reanimated” and “Herbert-West Reincarnated,” as well as other tales both old and new.  This book should be out in time for the 30th Anniversary of the film Reanimator.

Pete RawlikPete Rawlik was first exposed to H.P. Lovecraft when his father read him “The Rats in the Walls” as a bedtime story. He has been collecting Lovecraftian fiction ever since. For more than two decades he has run Dead Ink, selling rare and unusual books. He resides in South Florida. The Weird Company is his second novel to traverse the Lovecraftian landscape.

Amazon Author Page

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Oct
23

This Darkness Light – Book Review

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This-Darkness-Light-by-Michaelbrent-Collings-202x300This Darkness Light
By Michaelbrent Collings
2014; $0.99 ebook; $12.85 trade paperback
Reviewed by Andrew Byers

In a time of a (real-life) global pandemic of a hemorrhagic fever that has been propagated by international air travel, it’s a powerful opening to begin a novel with an outbreak of some terrible new disease killing the passengers of a jetliner.  And that’s just the opening scene.  I have to admit that initially I wasn’t sure how to classify Michaelbrent Collings’ latest: is it a techno-thriller?  Some kind of zombie apocalypse novel?  Now that I’ve read it, I can say that it includes a bit of all of those elements to produce an entertaining supernatural thriller.

Some mild plot spoilers follow.

Good thrillers with overtones of supernatural horror require interesting characters, good and bad, to drive the narrative.  Here we have major characters who include: John Doe, an amnesiac who has survived multiple gunshot wounds to the chest with no lasting damage, and Serafina, a trauma nurse who is obviously in way over her head, as well as Isaiah, a murderous vigilante with a complicated past who has been set on their trail by blackmailers.  The villains – including a mysterious Mr. Dominic who seems to be one of those ruthless, power-behind-the-throne types and some savage henchmen he has on the payroll – are genuinely creepy and the good guys only slightly less so.

Like many of Collings’ novels, THIS DARKNESS LIGHT alternates between deadly, high-stakes action and a darkly humorous tone (interludes of email exchanges between the unnamed and increasingly unhinged President of the United States and an enigmatic figure calling himself X are especially entertaining).  That works well to periodically ease the tension before ratcheting it back up.

As with some of Collings’ other fiction I’ve read, you have to allow yourself to go along for the ride; Collings enjoys placing the reader in circumstances where it’s not entirely clear at first what is going on.  Things get strange, bordering on the surreal, as more supernatural elements are introduced, before they gradually clarify.  What begins as a simple “protagonists being hounded by the bad guys” crosscountry trek becomes something much more than that as the world around them descends into chaos.  We’re not talking about simple crime and disorder either, we’re talking about the nature of reality itself unwinding.  Now *that’s* a great setting for a thriller.

Collings, as usual, displays his knack for depicting fast-paced action sequences: there are some truly memorable gun battles and car chase scenes here.  It also contains some fairly gruesome violence and gore; if that’s your thing, you’ll be right at home here.  It’s also not just goons with guns; what begins in a fairly straight-forward sort of way becomes increasingly supernatural as the plot goes on.

THIS DARKNESS LIGHT is an engaging mix of thriller and apocalyptic horror novel, with religious elements.  It’s a very quick read and recommended for fans of occult, apocalyptic thrillers.

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