Cheap Reads!

12742577Looking for some cheap reading material? Here are two books that you will find on Amazon for 99 cents. The first book is The New Death and Others by James Hutchings. This is a book of flash fiction and poetry that deal with mythology, fairy tales and horror. Most of the stories that are here are less than 1,000 words. They make you think and laugh while looking at the dark side of fantasy. This collection has a little of everything, including monsters who are afraid that people are no longer scared of them, A man longing for the perfect woman and a funny tale of two demons in love.

The first story in this collection is called The God of The Poor and deals with the gods deciding on which one of them will have dominion over the poor. In this story, I felt the gods were a metaphor for how most people think of the poor and it really set the stage for the rest of the book. In the next story called How The Isle of Cats Got Its Name, James Hutchings creates his own mythology.  It is set in the fictional city of Telelee and follows a powerful sorceress named Abi-simiti as she collects all the cats in the city to take to an unnamed island. Her plan is to torture cats as part of a musical instrument that is meant to impress a god. Abi-simiti makes a crucial mistake and the cats have the last laugh. Anyone who is a cat lover should enjoy this one along with another story in the collection called My Cat Is Not Like Other Cats.

There are a few stories in The New Death And Others that I really enjoyed. One in particular was The Doom That Was Laid Upon Fame. In this story the goddess Fame is blamed and punished for giving people who are unworthy fame and fortune, but she finds a way to get out of trouble with help from the seldom heard about fifth member of the four horseman of the apocalypse. Another good one is Weary Love, that is a funny short poem that tells what happens when the god Commerce takes over for Love. Some other stories here that were very similar that I enjoyed was Fame’s Beloved, The New Death and The New God. If you like short stories and poems that are  funny, dark and gives a satirical look at life, you will enjoy The New Death and Others.  There are a lot of good ideas in this book, in particular I enjoyed The stories involving the land of Telelee. I enjoy it when authors create their own mythology and I hope to hear more stories set in Telelee from James Hutchings in the future.

13477103The next book I want to talk about is Sudden Death Overtime by Steve Vernon. If you haven’t gotten your fill of hockey this year due to the NHL strike, this book can help. Hope’s End is a tough little town on the Northern Labrador Coast of Canada. When the weather turns cold, old-time hockey player Sprague Deacon and his three elderly friends set up an ice rink and everyone in town plays hockey. So when a black painted tour bus full of vampires comes to town and people start to disappear, there is only one thing to do, challenge them to a hockey game.

Sudden Death Overtime is a horror comedy dripping with blood that has memorable characters and a lot of action. There is a lot of depth to this short story starting with the opening scene where an older woman named Judith contemplates where her life went wrong and how it’s changed over the years. Judith is lonely and fears death which comes for her in the form of a black bus. Sprague and his friends are also over the hill and the vampires represent old age and death. When death comes knocking  these Canadians do what you do best and play hockey and whats more fun then hockey playing vampires? If your going to have to face death you need to make it beat you at your own game.

Steve Vernon manages to create some great characters in a short amount of time. The beginning of the book is character driven but when the vampires show up on Sprague’s lawn,  it turns to non stop action. There is a lot going on in this book, I like how the style changes midway through and the ending is hilarious. Another thing  I enjoyed about this book is the afterword called Time Out which gives you an idea of what inspired the story. Sudden Death Overtime is a lot of fun and will make you want to read more from Steve Vernon.

The Devil Tree

The Devil Tree by Steve Vernon is an alternate history horror story set in the 1800’s. The story begins with Lucas and his wife Tamsen as they are floating down a stream in a raft looking for a place to settle after having to leave their home in shame. The raft hits a log and the couple is thrown into the flowing current. They are rescued by a man named Duvall and brought to a strange valley which is ruled by a giant Jackpine.

Marcus and Tamsen are nursed back to health by Duvall, his wife Jezebel and their son Cord. The valley seems like it could be a good place to start a new life but the giant tree that stands above the valley has plans for them. Everyone has their secrets and the tree feeds upon their emotions.

That’s all I can say about the story in The Devil Tree because it was a little hard to follow. The characters go through quite a few changes in the story, Duvall is shown as being good, then bad then good again and Lucas also seems to change from good to bad. Tamsen stays the same throughout but we find out that she has done some very bad things in the past. The story is about the characters and because the character’s personalities are constantly changing it makes for a confusing story.

Other things I didn’t like about The Devil Tree was how for awhile it looked like Cord was going to be a big part of the story but then nothing was done with him. I also didn’t like how Tamsen declares her love for Duvall but then acts afraid of Duvall a little later in the story and Lucas doesn’t seem to care. Another thing that doesn’t get explained well was the tree’s power, why it was there in the first place or what it was trying to do. I wondered if maybe the tree wasn’t controlling the people in the valley and they were going crazy because they were the only ones there and it was their guilt about their past that was ruining everything.

Despite my confusion with the story there was a lot I did like about The Devil Tree. I enjoyed how metaphors were used, along with how complex the characters were and I liked how everything was described in the story. The opening where the valley was discovered was beautifully done. I also liked when Lucas and Tamsen’s raft capsized and you see how much they love each other as they fight to survive.

Also if you are into horror there are some gruesome scenes such as the the final battle with the tree and the description of the fight between Lucas and Duvall. The way the characters are all  battling their inner demons was also frightening. This book is very dark, I found myself feeling creeped out near the end when it looks like Lucas has finally lost his mind.

I realize my review here is a contradiction but despite its flaws I found myself not wanting to put this book down. It is very well written and I will want to read more from Steve Vernon. It takes a little while to get going and has some story flaws but The Devil Tree is a psychological horror story that you won’t want to put down.