Book Review: Three from Alessandro Manzetti

23263531Every once in a while a collection of short stories comes along that’s not your average read. The Shaman: And other shadows by Alessandro Manzetti mixes horror, supernatural terror and distopic science fiction. This book may be short  it but still manages to pack in 6 stories and a poem. The first entry is called The Mount Meru. The story takes place in Tanzania and centers on a mother and son who are going to a sacred mountain and run into a group of raiders with plans on torturing them. There are more frightening things in the forest than raiders though, as a group of monsters come along to change everything. I didn’t fully understand this story but it was different than anything I’ve ever read and I liked the way Alessandro described everything.

Another story in this book is Regnum Congo which is based on The Picture In The House by HP Lovecraft.  Other tales in this collection look at a futuristic Paris where a Shaman finds missing people with an ancient ritual, a wolf in search of souls, a family who hides monsters in their basement and a neighborhood changed by the apocalypse. I thought some of the stories here were hard to follow but the dark imagery made this book a good read. There are some great ideas here and I found myself wanting more.

I also got another book recently that was co-written by Alessandro Manzetti and Corrine De 23493168Winter called Venus Intervention. This is a collection of poetry which is described in the introduction by Benjamin Kane Ethridge as a nightmare journey. The poems here will definitely give you nightmares as they describe horrors that you usually don’t see in poetry. Its divided into two sections which I liked because both authors have distinct voices and it really showed how different both poets are with Corrine’s more emotional section going first and Alessandro’s darker section following it up.

To demonstrate the difference one of my favorite poems here by Corrine De Winter was What Love Story Doesn’t End In Hell Or In A Whorehouse? I took this poem as being about love going bad, in a few short lines it managed to be funny and tragic and showed that Corrine doesn’t need a lot of words to get her point across and it gave us a dark love story that will stick with you. Going in a different direction, my favorite poem in Venus Intervention by Alessandro is Waiting, which is about a grim reaper looking down on Earth and describing what she sees. This one combines elements of horror and science fiction and paints a darkly disturbing picture. Once again this one was a completely different style of poetry and shows that you can say a lot in just a short amount of space.

23601440I don’t consider myself a fan of poetry. In fact I usually have trouble understanding it, but there were some great poems here that really moved me, such as Habit by Corrine De Winter which states that poetry is everywhere and in every person. Venus Intervention is a work of art and shows how powerful words can be.

The last book I want to mention in this post is Dark Gates-Roads To Hell And Limbo . This is another short story collection that includes two stories each by Paolo Di Orazio and Alessandro Manzetti. The stories here have to do with an apocalyptic future, the gates to hell and what its like to be in limbo. All the literature I’ve read by Alessandro Manzetti lean towards the genre of weird fiction and Dark Gates is no exception.

Alessandro’s two stories are called Lu’Lu and Limbus. Both stories focus on the futurisic slums of Paris. One deals with a prostitute and has a disturbing ending while the other deals with female gladiators in an arena. Alessandro paints a grim version of the future and does a great job of bringing it to life by describing violent scenes and having realistic characters that have seen the worst of society and lived to tell about it.

The other two stories are called Hell and Brain Dama, they are by Paolio Di Orazio and show a sharp contrast to the works of Alessandro. Hell deals with an old man who decides to check out a coffin in his attic. The coffin has been there since he was young and what lies inside just might be the old man’s worst nightmare. I liked how this dealt with the fear of getting older. The next story was Brain Dama, it takes place in present day Rome and gets into some creepy experiments being performed on brains. This was another story with a rather disturbing ending that left me smiling. This was a good anthology with some excellent twists that made me want to find more books by both authors.

The Burning Time and Nightmare Ballad

16112450Things aren’t going well in Hastings Mills. The weather is unbearably hot, a man chased his wife through a street and beat her to death, women keep jumping off a bridge to their deaths and a husband who says he won’t go to church is killed by his wife. Things started to change when two strangers arrived in town. One man, Reverend Cyrus Christian is collecting blood sacrifices to offer the Old Ones in his attempt to release Hell on Earth. Whatever town  he goes to, evil reigns supreme and Hastings Mills may never be the same. The other stranger, John Root is the only one who can stop him but he has troubles of his own and it will not be easy keeping the elder gods from inheriting the Earth and bringing chaos in their wake.

The Burning Time by J.G. Faherty is a classic story of good versus evil in a small New England town. Fans of H.P. Lovecraft will enjoy The Burning Time because it dives deep into the Cthulhu mythos and there is an atmosphere of despair and dread that hangs in the air throughout the book. What I really enjoyed about this book was the character of John Root. John isn’t your normal everyday hero. He isn’t confident in himself and he doesn’t really want to be who he is. He comes from a family who practiced magic and he feels his life purpose is to stop evil because that’s what his mother did.

John has fought many supernatural creatures in his time and he carries all the scars with him. When he sleeps he has constant nightmares and everyday he relieves his failures. Despite his feelings he does his duty and doesn’t complain about it, which is what makes him such an excellent character.

One of my favorite scenes was when John realizes that a boy he is helping looks at him as a hero. Instead of enjoying the fact that someone looks up to him, he wonders when he’s going to fail and disappoint the boy. There was also a good scene where three hell hounds attacked the house that John is staying in that was very well done.

The only bad thing in this book is while the atmosphere is great, it lacks suspense because things get so bad in Hastings Mills that it feels like evil has already won. I think the theme J.G. Faherty was going for though was that no matter how bad things get, there will still be some good. You can’t have good without evil and the battle will always rage on between the two. There were also two main characters that were introduced in the book that I would have liked to have seen become a bigger part of the story.

There are quite a few terrifying scenes in this book. Hastings Mills is  a town where everyone is loosing their minds and there are stories within the story that were disturbing. The Burning Time is a hard-core horror story that takes a close look at a whole town that is collectively loosing its mind and it will have you shaking in fear anytime you see a stranger enter a small town.

17303118Another book I recently read from Journalstone Publishing is Nightmare Ballad by Benjamin Kane Ethridge. Everyone has nightmares but for Luke Rhodes, his two wives  and Luke’s friend Johnny Cruz, they happen during the day when they’re wide awake.  Everytime they think of a certain song, reality twists into a nightmare and people start to die.

It all starts when Luke is teaching a swim class and hears a strange ballad, then a curtain drops and a group of frogmen appear and drown the swimmers. Luke manages to escape but the song is in his head and the effect is spreading to his loved ones. Luke must find the cause of the Nightmare Ballad and put a stop to it before the nightmares spread to the rest of the world.

Nightmare Ballad is a very original horror tale, I can honestly say that I’ve never read anything like it. There are some true moments of terror in this book like when a young girl tells Luke that she just gutted her teddy bear and now she wants to see what it would be like to gut Luke. This book really gets into what each character fears the most and the things that they fear is what most people fear, which makes all the characters relatable.  Nightmare Ballad doesn’t have a lot of violence or jump scares, its more of a psychological horror story that looks at what truly scares us, such as having no control over a situation or being abandoned.

One part of the book I really enjoyed was when Johnny goes to steal some copper from an abandoned building and end up being captured by some people who run a dog fighting ring. The scene was suspenseful without anything odd happening and then the Nightmare Ballad takes hold and takes it to the next level. The action just gets more intense from that point.

The downside for this novel was that the story was hard to follow at points. It got a little confusing on what was real or not real but I still loved Nightmare Ballad for its originality. Also I liked how the author gets into his character’s heads and makes you care for them. Nightmare Ballad is a surreal adventure that you won’t want to put down and you may need to read it again to figure out what it all means.

Limbus Inc.

17162718Are you down on your luck? Are you unemployed? Well the Limbus corporation is here to help. They already have a job that would be perfect for you, all you have to do is call. Of course the job may be to kill things to feed an alien princess or to help an alien creature who enslaves humans find a portal to his home world. Or maybe the job will be to stop a sacrifice that will keep evil from taking over the world.

They may not be glamorous jobs, but at least you will be employed. Then again maybe it would be better to be unemployed. This is the concept behind Journalstone publishing’s anthology called Limbus Inc. Limbus is a shadowy employment agency that finds the perfect job for someone with their back against the wall. That person finds a business card from Limbus and ends up getting the job that is perfect for them in every way. Things are never that easy though and the job seeker is left to face their worst fears.

This book contains five stories and a story within a story from the likes of Brett. J. Talley, Anne C. Petty, Joseph Nassise, Jonathan Maberry and Benjamin Kane Ethridge. If I was going to compare this book to a TV show its kind of like the Outer Limits. Each story is a kind of mix of science  fiction and horror.

The first story is The Slaughter Man by Benjamin Kane Ethridge. It’s about a man who has just lost his job in a slaughter-house and also found out his wife was divorcing him. He’s not sure what he wants and he feels a sense of hopelessness. All that changes when a mysterious woman in a business suit shows up talking about a new job that is perfect for him. I felt the author made a great point about not giving up in a horrible situation and I liked how the main character changed throughout the story.

The second story is The Sacrifice by Brett J. Talley. This one looks at a man who has seen some horrors in Afghanistan and Iraq. Coming home from war he is trying to find some direction in life and is given a job to find a kidnapped girl. The job isn’t as simple as it seems and is not what he thought it was going to be. This was a great horror story with a surprise twist.

The next story is called One Job to Many by Joseph Nassise. This tale takes place in the future and is about a recruiter for Limbus who takes on more than he can handle when he hires a man to travel to different time periods to change the past in his favor. This one was a great time travel story with some interesting characters. It answers the question what would you do if you could change the past.

We Employ by Anne C. Petty looks  at a man who couldn’t be more down on his luck and what he is willing to do to fix it. I thought this story really made a good point about how things are not always what they seem and how your luck can turn around at a moments notice. I also liked the idea of what kind of beings are among us without us knowing.

I liked all the stories in this book but my favorite was Strip Search by Jonathan Maberry. This horror tale follows a down on his luck private detective with a secret, who is hired to find the killer of sixteen women. I liked how the main character changes, I also loved the blood soaked ending and the mythology behind this story.

Limbus Inc. is a great anthology which really gets into what some people fear most. Which is the idea of what your willing to do to support yourself. It then shows you that there are even worse things to be afraid of. Limbus Inc. is a great book for Science fiction and horror fans alike.