BOOK REVIEW: Fat Free Nation by Naomi Downing

Fat Free Nation cover.jpg

Fat Free Nation by Naomi Downing is a compelling indictment of an out-of-control bureaucracy and the unintended consequences of government meddling. It’s also a damn fine dystopian novel every bit as intense as The Hunger Games.

Downing sets the stage of her dystopian world with a quick introduction:

“The year is 2148 and because of the rise of overweight people, our government created a law that everyone must be within a certain weight range. All junk and fast-food has been outlawed but can still be found in the many black markets. All citizens from the age of eight to twenty-nine who are overweight are sent to government-run weight loss camps. Over the age of thirty and overweight is a death sentence. The camps are split into three age groups. Camp One is for anyone ages eight to twelve, Camp Two is ages thirteen to seventeen, and Camp Three is ages eighteen to twenty-nine. If you age out of a camp and are not within the healthy weight range, in other words you can’t go from one camp to another, you die.”

Fat Free Nation is a fast-paced, dialogue-driven story about Jenna, an overweight 17-year-old who along with her twin brother is on the run from the fat police. From the opening, Downing efficiently establishes the relationship between the likable, feisty, book-loving protagonist Jenna and her protector-brother Will.

By the end of the first chapter, the twins are captured in a raid by authorities, including a sadistic bureaucrat named Major, and transported for orientation into a fat camp where failure results in execution.

Jenna enters fat camp weighing 210 pounds, which is 90 pounds over the government’s limit by law for her age. Jenna and Will have been on the run for 10 years, so adjusting to the highly regimented rules of the camp are tough on their free spirits.

The camp reminded me of an extreme amalgam of prison and Army basic training where the instructors enjoy torturing teenagers. Campers are tagged with trackers on their ankles, forced to write truthfully in journals, and given every opportunity to exercise.

I liked how Downing describes Jenna’s attitude when she arrives at her cabin at fat camp.

“The screen door creaked as Jenna walked in, there was no solid door. There were eight beds, four on each wall. As Jenna walked to the one at the end the smell of sweat and blood filled her nose. The door to the bathroom area was open and inside Jenna could see five toilet stalls, a row of sinks, and an open shower area. At the foot of her bed there was a closed door. Jenna dropped her bag onto the bed, wafting the stale odor of dried piss into her nose.

“Charming,” Kasey wrinkled her nose.

“I’ve lived in worse,” Jenna shrugged.

The fat camp boss Major is as cruel of a villain as I’ve encountered in a story. I winced every time Jenna forgot to address Major as “sir” because the omission usually resulted in physical abuse for the heroine. I wondered how much more punishment Jenna could take.

Major is extremely unhinged psychologically. If he finds contraband, he punishes the teens with ten or more lashes of his whip or 24 hours in a sweat box. Disrespect gets a bullet to the face. Escape attempts result in slit throats. Major revels in intimidating and torturing the campers.

My favorite moment in Fat Free Nation is in Chapter 4 when Jenna understands her desire to survive is stronger than she realizes.

“I don’t want to die, Jenna thought, this world sucks but I want to live.”

That’s as raw and honest of a self-assessment as a character can make.

Major’s right-hand woman is Starling, an assistant who follows the sadistic camp leader’s orders to the letter but doesn’t feel any joy about her job performance. Starling shows a surreptitious sympathy for Jenna.

About a third of the way into the story, a tragedy results in a bombshell revelation followed by another stunning disclosure. I’ll stop here to avoid any spoilers, but the rebellious Jenna’s will is tested time and again.

The only issue I had with Fat Free Nation is the final scene — really the final sentence — because I’ve never been a fan of cliffhangers. With that said, the last sentence is a hell of a moment.

Published by J. Ellington Ashton Press and released August 17, Fat Free Nation is a gritty dystopian novella as well as a powerful metaphor for prejudice and government overreach in our own world today.

Perhaps the most telling moment in Fat Free Nation is a scene where rage and vengeance are about to overtake Jenna, but a voice from the past lends her strength.

“I know you’re hurting and want to hurt them, but you can’t. We need to stay the sane ones in this fucked up world.”

That’s not only a powerful reminder to Jenna, but to everybody as we go forward in the highly charged political and socio-economic atmosphere of the 21st century.

BOOK REVIEW: The Crackhouse in the Desert by Dani Brown

The Crack House in the Desert is a horror novel written by Dani Brown and released by J. Ellington Ashton Press on July 4. Kindle length: 133 pages.

The Plot

In a bleak, dystopian America, a man journeys through the desert to solve the mystery of an apocalyptic event.

The Player

Vict is a survivor in a post-apocalyptic world who’s tapped to help humanity unlock the secrets of the past to save the future.

The Review

Is The Crack House in the Desert a metaphor for humanity’s addiction to self-destructive behaviors that destroy the environment? It could be.

Grim and thought-provoking, Crack House is a viscerally descriptive view of the future of humankind and where it could wind up if it continues along a course of drug addiction, environmental irresponsibility, and living without purpose.

Crack House is the story of a man named Vict and his journey to investigate the past to find hope for the future. Living an impoverished life inside a desert shack, Vict is transported by mutant fish people to an underground facility in the mountains where a human enclave delves into ancient medicine and technology to resurrect the dead and to determine what caused the apocalypse.

Vict is surprised to find he’s an expected guest at the facility. His first meaningful encounter is with a woman named Poppy who says cryptically, “We’ve been watching you, Vict. We sent the fish people to collect you when everything was meant to be ready. We know about your dreams. We sent the storm.”

Vict’s dreams suggest he can resurrect dead bodies, which affords him the chance to discover what destroyed most of humanity and created mutants. However, the knowledge is locked away in his memories, but he knows the answer lies somewhere in a place called Arizona.

The strength of Crack House is Brown’s ability to describe her post-apocalyptic world. It’s a desolate, poisoned world full of death and decay. A world where vomit burns holes in clothing. Humans are covered in oozing, pus-filled blisters. Maggots are considered healthy snacks. Corpses are spit to the surface by rainstorms. And women use their bodies in the most unsavory ways to acquire basics like tarps and buckets from men and mutants.

Some of the most gut-wrenching parts of the book are in the first four chapters when Brown describes Vict’s mother.

“His mother couldn’t do much of anything, except smoke her escape as she pried crust away from the spot between her legs, waiting for an entry that sometimes didn’t come at all. She couldn’t even chew on her meth pipe anymore, not without teeth.”

The Crack House in the Desert is dark and dismal, but Vict’s determination offers enough light to brighten the story to a shadowy dusk.

While the ending – specifically the final two paragraphs – of Crack House confused me, I was not confused about Brown’s ability. Her writing is powerfully descriptive, and her revelation of the cause of the apocalypse is surprising and original.

Press Release: Arachnattack!

Arachnattack!

They Called It the Summer of Spiders…


What IS Project 26?

They called it The Summer of Spiders, and though there were those in later years who would later go on to question just how much of what people remembered had actually happened, for those who were there, that summer was one that no-one who lived through it would ever, ever forget…

In the small, sleepy Norfolk market town of Dyreham, something evil has been unleashed. When a crazed scientist unwittingly allows his army of genetically modified False Widow spiders to escape, it isn’t long before the whole town quickly comes under attack from his creations.

Meanwhile, as a local reporter begins an investigation into the scientific research institute known as Greenacres, he soon discovers the spiders are just one small part of a much bigger conspiracy…

Mark Woods is a U.K horror author responsible for the novels Time of Tides, Fear of the Dark and The Go-lem, and one of six authors who contributed towards the creation of the vampire novel, Feral Hearts. 

Arachnattack! is Part of Project 26, P26, a series of 26 books, each one representing a different letter in the alphabet, with each letter in turn represented a horror-related concept that starts with that letter. Arachnattack! can be purchased on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077KBD9QT

Mark Woods can be reached at the following:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mark.woods1

Press Release: Embracing the Darkness by Jeremy Mac

Embracing the Darkness

Dark secrets thought to be long buried are revealed… and even darker desires are awakened.

Preorder available now at https://www.amazon.com/Embracing-Darkness-Jeremy-Mac-ebook/dp/B07858RG13

Releases December 12, 2017

Before heading home for the summer, four college friends plan a weekend getaway in the wilds of Woodland Ire, a vast mountainous forest miles away from civilization. With full access to a plush cabin and a nearby lake – and their own stock of alcohol and weed – the next few days are sure to be a carefree carnal filled blast. But an unimaginable darkness lurks in these remote woods, and soon after it turns their weekend party into a terror-filled nightmare. Dark secrets thought to be long buried are revealed… and even darker desires are awakened.

Jeremy Mac is a multi-genre fiction author with three novels, three novellas, and several short stories and poems to his list of writing credits. His short stories and poems have been published in Horrified Press’s X4 anthology, Devolution Z, Down in the Dirt, Conceit, Ascent Aspirations, The Ultimate Writer, Spontaneous Spirits, The Bracelet Charm, The Enchanted File Cabinet, Transcendent Visions, Struggle, Dead Snakes, Written Rock, and Leaves Of The Poet Tree: Volume 2. An avid lover of sand and sun, Mac has frolicked throughout the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, but he currently writes from Arkansas.

To learn more about Jeremy Mac, visit his Facebook page @ facebook.com/jeremymac.author.

Press Release: Carnival of Chaos by Jim Goforth

Snaring a ticket to this carnival doesn’t ensure fun and frivolity

Threatened, assaulted, and ultimately dismissed from their jobs, a group of disgruntled ex-carnival workers swears vengeance on the sinister new boss responsible for their state. Coercing even the most unwilling amongst them to join in on the revenge mission, the collective wait, biding their time before returning to the carnival grounds under cover of darkness. Plans for regaining lost property and enacting some simple retribution swiftly turn deadly when a series of grisly discoveries are made.

Now, having unwittingly involved them in something insidious and monstrous, this miscreant collective are being hunted by a relentless force. As more people are sucked into the maelstrom, innocent and nefarious alike, they’re all about to find themselves on an escalating nightmare journey into a brutal world of unimaginable pain and perversion.

Snaring a ticket to this carnival doesn’t ensure fun and frivolity. It only ensures carnage and chaos. Survival is not guaranteed.

 

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Jim Goforth is a horror author currently based in Holbrook, Australia. Happily married with two kids and a cat, he has been writing tales of horror since the early nineties. After years of detouring into working with the worldwide extreme metal community and writing reviews for hundreds of bands across the globe with Black Belle Music, he returned to his biggest writing love with first book Plebs published by J. Ellington Ashton Press. Along with Plebs, he is the author of a collection of short stories/novellas With Tooth and Claw, extreme metal undead opus Undead Fleshcrave: The Zombie Trigger, Riders: Plebs 2-Book One and Two, co-author of collaborative novel Feral Hearts and editor for the Rejected For Content anthology series (taking over the reins after volume one Splattergore. He also has stories in both Splattergore and Volume 2: Aberrant Menagerie).

Carnival of Chaos is Part of Project 26, P26, a series of 26 books, each one representing a different letter in the alphabet, with each letter, in turn, represented a horror-related concept that starts with that letter.

Jim Goforth can be reached at the following:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blackmetaljim

Press Release: It Always Bites You in the End by Michael Fisher

Horror Author Intertwines Tattooing Career and Writing Career

When a Washington DC Metro Homicide detective started his shift on a sunny July morning, he was greeted with an unusual victim, an obvious snake bite. Not something normally considered a homicide, but a tattoo on the victim sends him down a path he would never have believed. As the week progresses, an increasing number of unexplainable homicides draws Detective MacCallen ever deeper into a world of tattooed nightmares, terrors enacted in the most gruesome ways imaginable. Can Detective MacCallen stop the murders before they happen again?italways

Michael Fisher, Fish to his friends and family, has worn many hats in his long life. He’s done a little of everything, including US Navy Hospital Corpsman, club DJ, security specialist, psychiatric technician, painter, and currently, father, Mason, author and tattooer, not necessarily in that order. He has a love of ugly Hawaiian shirts. He also bears a passing resemblance to Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski.

Michael is an award-winning author, artist, and editor with J. Ellington Ashton Press. Awards include Honorable Mention for Short Story of the Year 2013 for the Return of the Devil Fly in Midnight Remains, as well as Top Ten Artist and Top Ten Editor from Critters Workshop Annual Preditors & Editors 2014 Awards and Top Ten Author, Artist, Editor, Book Cover, Nonfiction Article and Short Story from Critters Workshop Annual Preditors & Editors 2015. DC’s Dead was awarded J. Ellington Ashton Press’ Editor’s Choice Award for 2015.

“Wonderfully inventive and darkly funny…with a subtle Clive Barker influence… his command of the English language is superb, creating tension and scares from simple and routine situations, the sign of a great writer.” -Stuart Keane

Read more at http://fishinktattoo.com.