Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Husk by J. Kent Messum

HuskHusk by J. Kent Messum
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the future, death doesn't mean the end for everyone, if you have the readies, your memories and your very essence can remain for as long as you see fit or until your computerized sanity finally flips and initiates a master reset. Mapping of the brain makes copying the human mind a reality that is of course exiting and a touch worrying.

Digitization of the brain is a decision that must be made before flat-lining, only for the extremely wealthy is this choice available. A real time copy can be kept alive via computer support and algorithmic programs. A post-mortem can then upload to a husk through a Ouija, a converter mechanism that allows them limited visitations in the flesh. The dead can live in computer generated realities or beam me up Scotty, over to a lifelike robot via a wireless connection.

A husk is a prostitute, hiring out their body to any client with the necessary means, they have to invest in the operation to install the device that allows another's conscience to take control of their body, a risky procedure that not everyone survives. A husk is usually a pretty attractive specimen, it's an illegal enterprise where the dead pick the prettiest and abuse their bodies for a few days. Drugs, sex, the things they crave most and there are no limits nor recollection.

Rhodes is a husk, so is his girlfriend Ryoko, he's chosen a lucrative career selling his body, not being in control of his body or his actions for days at a time and things start to go askew when he starts to get visions, flashbacks and then a woman he's never seen before attacks him in a bar. His perfect life is peeling at the edges, he has no idea what his clients do with him and he starts to realise that it might not all be good.

'My last controlled thought wonders where Winslade will go with my body. I settle down in the recesses of my mind, cocooned by the dark for what seems like ages, unmoving, unthinking. When the dreams finally come they are vivid, like memories playing on a movie screen.'

There's no overloading on the technological aspect of this vision of the future, enough to explain what's needed for the plot and it's full of intrigue. The emphasis is on the characters and that is always a major positive for me. Although there's holographic TV's, fancy guns, cures for cancer, Aids and every STI that a well-used prostitute is likely to catch. Yet people still smoke, drink expensive brandy and travel by car, life doesn't change too much it seems.

Husk is a darkly vivid portrayal of future life, seedy in places, sexually charged, full of power hungry people clinging to an idea of life via a line of program code but things are ever changing, adapting. All told an extremely well written thriller with excellent characterization, plenty of depth and world building that is easily imaginable. Certainly an exciting page turner that you will not want to put down, an intrepid imagination definitely helps and brings a dark mental image of human nature and power that accepts no limits. I really enjoyed Husk and shall definitely seek out his award winning debut novel Bait.

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Voices of the Damned by Barbie Wilde

Voices of the DamnedVoices of the Damned by Barbie Wilde
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I must admit to never having heard of Barbie Wilde before she kindly sent me a review copy of Voices of the Damned and after reading it, I'm overcome with the sense of discovering something new, something horrifically bloody, lascivious and wickedly shocking.

Voices of the Damned contains eleven short horror stories, each story is prefaced by a piece of artwork malefic in origin, provocative and enticing hallucinatory visions. Produced by artists synonymous with the genre, Clive Barker, Nick Percival, Steve McGinnis, Daniele Serra, Eric Gross, Tara Bush, Vincent Sammy, & Ben Baldwin. Published by SST publications in Birmingham and available for pre-order now.

The spine of this collection is three stories set in the world of Clive Barkers Hellraiser, Barbie Wilde played the female Cenobite in Hellbound: Hellraiser II released in 1988, a mutilated visage that inspired the exploration of 'Sister Cilice' in the Cilicium trilogy. Sister Veronica's life was work and prayer, her prayers were replied with a cruel empty silence and so the depraved dreams took over. There was a darkness in Sister Veronica that could not be abated, her sanity slowly slipped away and obsessed with her desires, she continually tormented her wretched body until laced with scars. Finally assigned to the library archives she found an ancient manuscript that allowed her passage into the world of the Cenobites.
'The good Sister's adoration for mutilation, sensation and agony would be legendary, even in Hell.'

The Zulu Zombies takes its origins from Rorke's Drift where in 1879, 150 British Soldiers took on a small army of Zulu warriors and if you've ever wondered how powerful an orgasm you'd get whilst being 'seen to' by a zombie, then Trish will arrest your wonder. John Jones holds unbeknownst to him a container that imprisoned the spirits of the dead Zulu warriors and in a fit of panic he's just thrown it out of the window. Now it's time for a Zulu Zombie calamity, Zombie rape and rituals of spirit trapping proportion. Great fun in a dark and twisted fashion.

In American Mutant the Reverend Billy Bob Bannon is the epitome of the smarmy religious TV personality, charismatic, smooth as silk, he owns a cable TV company and preaches to his adoring flock as the donations come in. About to knock one off while dreaming about his last sexual conquest all those years ago he's woken from his reverie by a cough.
'Holy Roller levitation was not Billy Bob's specialty, but it almost looked like it as he leapt out of bed.'
A woman and child, no, could it be the call girl from his dreams, things slide neatly into place in Billy Bob's mind, ruination and blackmail beckon. But she's giving him the kid, what to do? Damage limitation and much more.

Next up is The Alpdrucke, a weirdly nightmarish tale of demon harassment, sleep deprivation and the offer of help from an old men who seems to know all about demons and their wicked ways. Botophobia sees Lorraine go back to her parents’ house after the recent car accident that killed them both, a surprise awaits when she discovers an underground shelter and a devastating discovery.

Valeska, is a woman, a Seminal who drains the very essence of a man through his sexual fluids, an erotic story that leaves you hanging on every word for a number of reasons. After a kill she's kidnapped by the Sanguines and we take a trip into the history of the Saguine, the blood, the fluid and a powerful race that live somewhere in the shadows. Now this is a vampire tale at its heart, blood drinking, cannibalism and plenty of sex, only without the happy ending you'd normally get.

Joining the erotic horror theme is Gaia, a girl raped in the younger years of her life, she shuns contact unless strictly necessary and when two thieves break into her house, hiding is the last thing on her mind. She lies on the floor, and starts to, you know, do something a little unexpected, but hidden in the most unlikely of places is a knife and guess who's going to feel it glide across their throat.

Polyp is a bit of a worrying creature feature, when Vincent goes into hospital for a colonoscopy, something awakens in his bowels and you might say it objects to the attempted biopsy, it’s not fucking happy.
'Finally, the endoscope came shooting out of Vincent's rectum like a missile, whacking one of the nurses so hard on the forehead that she collapsed.' And then something else, with pretty bad intentions.

In Writers Block, Bartholomew Atkins is going through a bit of a phase, hopefully a trip to Brighton and the Frighteners horror convention can pull him round. Just finishing his wine in the bar before bed, an incredibly attractive woman makes a beeline for him and he's instantly smitten. And when she asks if he'd like to go to bed with her, well how could he say no. This isn't a Misery style fan this is something much worse, dominatrix sex, tied up with no way out and the added ingredient of the Prince of Darkness. Can't go wrong.

Did I like this? no I absolutely loved it, Voices of the Damned is hotter than sex in a sauna, bloody as a severed artery and more twisted than a Zombie's stomach churning acid orgasm. My favourites? all of them, they all seriously rock and they're all as captivating as the old handcuffs to the bed post, and we all know you never want out of them unless you're the guy in Writers Block. If testosterone jumping erotica combined with heart racing fear is your bag of horror then this is just what you're looking for and Voices of the Damned ranks highly in my box of favourites.

Highly recommended.

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The Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes

The Girl with the Deep Blue EyesThe Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes by Lawrence Block
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When private eye Doak Miller goes undercover to catch a woman attempting to hire a hitman to murder her husband, he doesn't count on falling in love with her. There's just the little matter of getting her husband out of the way...

When you get home from work to find a mysterious package containing the upcoming Lawrence Block book on your doorstep, you drop what you're doing and get readin'.

The Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes is a modern take on the classic noir tale of a man falling for a woman and then bumping off her husband, only to be consumed by madness and guilt. Doak Miller is a former cop and a lady's man who finds himself face to face with his fantasy girl. How will he attempt to bump off her husband?

Block's writing is as crisp as ever and there's a lot of sex in this book. It's like Lawrence Block ripped a page from the James M. Cain playbook and thrust it repeatedly into one of his early smut novels. Not only does The Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes read like a sexualized modernization of Double Indemnity or The Postman Always Rings Twice, the character of Doak adds some additional wrinkles I won't give away here. As more is revealed of Doak's true nature, you have to wonder if anyone will make it out alive.

The Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes is a worth addition to the Hard Case Crime Series and everything I've come to know and love about Lawrence Block's Hard Case novels. Four out of five stars.

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