#BookReview of Dargolla by @GodofThunder851 @SeveredPress

Massive monsters have always commanded our attention. Godzilla wasn’t the first beast to stomp its way into mainstream media, but since its arrival, the kaiju genre has flourished. While Hollywood has attempted to take on such stories through Pacific Rim and similar films, indie authors have brought the intensity of such huge creatures into very small perspectives.

In this case, Christofer Nigro explores the arrival of Dargolla, the kaiju for which the book is named, through the eyes of Colin Wilson, a young boy who’s grown up in the post-kaiju-arrival world. He lives in Metroville, a fictional city, with his family. Having grown up in a world where any given moment might be interrupted by a hundred-foot-tall monstrosity crushing the life out of everything that moves, he’s a little bit paranoid that one will show up and destroy his town.

That’s exactly what happens, but this is the basis for all good kaiju stories. From the ashes of society, a hero rises. More or less. Colin’s story is more about survival than heroism, a welcome change from the apparent mandate that the main character of such stories must become a super slayer of some kind. Dargolla, a burrowing, bellowing beast, makes short work of the many humans, buildings, military vehicles, and other signs of life that stand even remotely near its path of destruction.

Dargolla is a novella, meaning two things: it’s a quick, high-action read full of epic pulp violence, and each scene counts double. This makes the fact that the prologue is somewhat long stand out. While great for world building, the opening is packed full of details about the various types of kaiju that have torn up earth, where they’re believed to have come from, and what their arrival has done to the other earth species. In some respects, this is great foreshadowing, such as the mention of psionic/mutated humans, which sets up for two characters later on; in others, this feels unnecessary, such as the mention of “false kaiju” or mutated megafauna, neither of which show up. However, the ending does foreshadow a sequel, so it’s possible this was laying the groundwork for a larger story later on.

Perhaps one of the most effective elements of this story is how quickly destruction or death occurs. I don’t mean this as in, “Wow, it’s been an hour and the whole city is gone,” so much as that even major characters are wiped off the page in just a few sentences. In doing this, the writer uses form, rather than detail, to capture the shock and visceral gut-punch of sudden death. There’s no melodramatic lingering on someone’s final cry of pain, which happens in movies but not real life. The reader only fully registers the character’s death several sentences after the fact, perhaps even stopping to reread the passage just to be sure it actually happened.

This is balanced by a mechanical slowness in other areas. In some instances, the writing becomes clunky or even clinical in ways that don’t quite fit the scene. One instance refers to a woman’s eye as her “ocular organ,” which isn’t technically wrong, but provides an odd emotional distance consider the scene was told from the close third-person of a suburban housewife. Such technical details work really well in some areas, as it gives the story the feeling of a PTSD-ridden survivor’s account, where emotional distance is necessary to the teller’s ability to continue, but takes away from the action in other instances when it gets too detail oriented.

Along the path of destruction, this story provides a bevy of fun side characters, including several soldiers who call out to Odin and Thor rather than God, and a group of higher-ranked military men desperately attempting to play cards despite the constant kaiju-based interruptions. President Trump even makes an appearance, but as a reference—the fictitious version of #46 gets no actual dialogue, and the narration neither supports nor opposes his presidency, allowing the writer to lock the story in time while wisely staying away from political endorsement.

Overall, Dargolla: A Kaiju Nightmare is exactly what the title suggests. It’s a story of mayhem and carnage, where a young boy fights overwhelming odds to survive a kaiju attack and the generally fruitless military attempts to kill said kaiju. Plus, without spoiling it, I’ll say that there’s a twist in the ending that sets up for a very interesting new direction, should the writer continue the story.

Due to its length, Dargolla may feel like the introduction to a larger work, rather than a stand-alone piece, but fans of the kaiju genre—and anyone looking for a hundred and change stories of things exploding—is sure to enjoy this book.

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The Invasion of Fear @ShotgunBlog

Brett McBean, author of The Invasion, recently wrote a guest essay at Shotgun Logic, another great blog. As a horror writer, I make sure to follow a wide array of writing feeds, and was not disappointed.

He says, very astutely, that horror writers should write what they fear. That curious emotion–the one the genre depends on most, the one we’re evolutionarily programmed to need–is formed when we’re very young.

I’ll save the details for an essay, but McBean says he fears a home invasion more than anything else, hence why he wrote a book about one. Me? I grew up the opposite. I was always afraid I’d turn around one day and my home would’ve vanished without me.

What about you? What do you fear? Give it some thought, or share below if you’re feeling brave. It might be the most important question you ask yourself today.

Review of Night Things: Dracula versus Frankenstein by @TerryMWest #horror

Today, I’ll be reviewing Night Things, by Terry M. West, in case the title didn’t give that away. This is a NSFW review on account of some NSFW subject matter in the book, so if you’re easily offended or have a supervisor looming over your shoulder, come back later. Or don’t! Keep reading! Be awesome!

I have to note two things before we begin: One, I reviewed an uncorrected proof, so I’ll be glossing over grammar/style issues, and two, this is a book set in the same universe as several others of his, so it’s possible I missed things that running fans would’ve appreciated.

Onward, to the review!

The snapshot description of this book is as follows (this is part of the description found on Amazon):

Dracula, considered the messiah of the Night Things, builds an unstoppable army as he plots to wipe humanity from the face of the earth. The mysterious New York crime boss, Johnny Stücke (the creation of Frankenstein) wants to keep the peace between the Night Things and humanity. Stücke fears total extermination of his kind, should Dracula unleash his forces on New York.
The fight for the night begins.

…There’s only one problem with this. Roughly half the book isn’t about DvF at all. It’s about Gary Hack, an overweight, heroin-addicted porn director. Granted, it all ties in–Hack shoots a few snuff films where Dracula’s beloved children bite the big one, sparking the war–but there are major parts of the book not directly related to this conflict at all. They’re meant to build up Hack as a supporting character, though he’s ultimately not a sympathetic one.

There are a lot of interesting qualities to this book. The premise, for one: rather than just randomly clashing, the Drac-Frank relationship goes back over a hundred years, to the Fanged One’s adoption of the traumatized creation, enlisting “Primul” in the quest to build up an empire of “night things” (Drac’s rather uninspired name for any non-human entity).

The use of two timelines is another clever way to show both sides to the main baddies. The creature winds up living as a mobster in present-day New York City, where he mercilessly squashes the skulls of those who dare cross him. His relationship to the other, human-led mobs isn’t exactly clear–he says he could crush them all in an instant and has no use for them, but later says he could learn a lot from them–but that’s okay. They’re not really part of this action. The crucial take-away is seeing how ruthless he is in the present, then looking at his gentle past and piecing together how he got so cruel.

West also pays a lot of attention to world building. Readers will get to see all sorts of creatures in action, as well as how they either keep their cover or shout their existence to the world. Creatures involved include a succubus, zombies, werewolves/shapeshifters, witches, and an Egyptian god.

And yet, sometimes all this expansive interest takes the reader’s eye off the meat of the story, leading to flashy distractions. Along the same line, different names are used for each being. Vampires are sometimes called leeches, which is fine, but some werewolves are referred to as ‘shifters’ (as in, shapeshifters, a totally different creature) or furries. “Furries” also appears to be used once in reference to actual furries, making one scene very confusing. There is also a scene where some witches are referred to as necromancers, but they summon demons, not the undead, which isn’t quite right either (however, it is very common to conflate necromancy and demonology).

The only thing I’ll say about the language used is that the characters swing wildly from low-brow slang, i.e. I need some fuckin’ blow, to high-brow diction, like Do not stare into his ruthless, undead eyes. This makes for an inconsistent read, and proofs don’t tend to get edited more heavily than a copy edit, so it’s possible this issue persists.

Lastly, some details are thrown in with little lasting impact. The opening makes a huge deal about Johnny’s musical interests, taking a page or two to discuss how much he loves opera, and one specific classical composition, to make him seem high-class, but this is only mentioned once more in 150 pages. He also adopts a girl with Down Syndrome, but this too is only mentioned once more, and that prompts the mobster skull-crushing I mentioned earlier, making her seem more like plot fodder than a step toward inclusive writing.

I may pick out some flaws, but this was an engaging book overall. Hack may be a generally lousy guy, but at least he knows it, and there’s a refreshing element to his noir-like obsession with self-destruction. Johnny, likewise, is a complex character with some cliche traits and some redeeming ones, and leaves the readers with a reminder that he has some humanity in his many human parts. Dracula isn’t exactly the cool-and-capable vampire of legend, yet seeming a who-knows-how-old creature who is frequently thrown off-guard and subverted was a nice change of pace too.

The summary: Some inconsistencies aside, this was a book with a lot of heart. West clearly has a passion for otherworldly creatures, as shown in the extensive network of monsters into which he drops the readers, and his unusual interpretation offers a nice perspective. A few moments may be more jarring than some would like, but there is humor in these horror-lined pages, and a strong balance between human kind and otherwise. I give this 7.5 stars out of 10. If you’ve got some time and a few dollars, give it a look.

Free Flash Fiction, or Horrifying Horoscope? #writing #bizarro

As a horror writer who has a teasing, tangential relationship to the zodiac signs, I can’t help but be titillated (one of my favorite words, FYI) by any horoscope parody/perversion.

Today, I stumbled across “Flash Fiction Friday: Transmundane Prognostications Discerned From Astrological Phenomena” by Tom Lucas, Metaphysical Dilettante. What that title means is for you to decide.

My sign? “The Abyssal One” (or, The Unknown One), a being doling out ‘justice’ (punishment) to all manner of humans. Not that I’m the violent sort. In fact, I’m a bit of a pacifist.

Although, I do have a pretty strict moral guideline, on certain issues… Maybe Lucas is on to something. Just a little.

Children of the Grave by Alex S. Johnson

Looking for a quick, FREE story to start your day?

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Children of the Grave by Alex S. Johnson

They tramped back from tomorrow into today, born aloft drops from a blinding sun, on rifle-cracks of wind, in the pits of black stars. They came from cracke…

Source: Children of the Grave by Alex S. Johnson

Batman Vs. Superman: Marvel Can Relax…

I tried to see Batman vs Superman today–I really did. Predictably, it was sold out in nearly every viewing, and since I was trying to see it with a friend, I didn’t want to get two separate seats.

I’ve heard a lot about the issues with this movie, and though John Taff sums it up nicely (see below), I think the biggest problem with DC movies, aside from the fetishistic obsession with dark, gritty atmospheres, is a very basic one:

DC seems convinces comics were popular because of what the characters do, but really, we care about who they are. It’s great when Batman fights the Joker in The Dark Knight, but what did it mean for him? …Not a whole lot. Batman went on treating him like any other villain, when in the comics/games, each fight has a major psychological impact.

Take The Amazing Spiderman, in contrast. Peter Parker has to fight The Lizard, a mutant version of a former hero. He pleads with him throughout the fight(s), even at risk of injury, trying to reason with the man. Finally defeating him means taking a major step toward adulthood–and understanding that being a hero means sometimes having to treat every villain, even the people you love, the same.

Even Ant-Man did a great job with this, which was pretty great for such a comedic hero movie. (Spoilers!) When Ant-Man fights The Falcon, and Falcon loses, we get the treat of him saying, “It’s really important to me that Cap (Captain America) never finds out about this.”

Sure, it’s a joke, but it’s also the truth: his reputation, and future in the Avengers, could’ve been on the line if the others found out he was beaten by someone only an inch tall. It’s an honest look into his motivations, and the consequences of even a seemingly mundane fight.

And, honestly, I loved that fight far more than the entire Superman vs. Zod fight at the end of Snyder’s first Superman film. Maybe ole’ Supes was upset about killing the last other Kryptonian, but he sure didn’t seem too bent out of shape about leveling Metropolis.

Don’t get me wrong: I love both studios, and will still see BVS, but if it’s at all like the others suggest, I won’t be surprised. I’m too used to DC to think their movies will show consequences anymore.

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It’s been billed as the Clash of the Titans, DC’s answer to the almost relentless onslaught of Marvel domination, the prelude to the Justice League, the set up for the entire DC cinemat…

Source: Batman Vs. Superman: Marvel Can Relax…