Hellraiser: Anthology-Volume One

Hellraiser: Anthology-Volume One

The world and mythology of Hellraiser is back. Although we have seen recent Hellraiser comics and graphic novels, this is the first publication to come direct from Clive Barker’s own company, Seraphim. The reason they’ve gone the in-house publishing route is censorship. Barker and his team’s experience with other publishers was a frustrating one. The original vision for stories was diluted and toned down, or certain panels were removed. This anthology promises a new beginning for a more extreme and visceral Hellraiser, as god (?) intended.

The anthology contains eleven stories, one of which is text with a few Clive Barker illustrations, written by Mark Alan Miller. Other authors include Ben Mears, Matt Murray, and Blumhouse’s David and Rebekah McKendry.  We’re brought to Hell, sex clubs, suburbia, and even the Old West with these tales. The book ends with a vibrant gallery of Hellraiser inspired art in different forms. The presentation of the hardcover book is impeccable from cover to cover.

As this is an anthology, there is a variety of art styles and stories. One of the biggest stand outs for its sheer originality is a twisted take on Pinocchio. It’s written by Clive Barker and drawn in the style of a Little Golden Book. It’s complete with wooden boys and Catholic clergy, and is joyfully offensive. There is no shortage of visceral images throughout, and one image in particular that will make any man wince.

I feel that what makes this really successful is not only the originality of the stories, but also the shift in focus back to the every-man – the person seeking the box – and their motivations and relationships. There has been too much focus on Pinhead in recent publications, and not the human drama and desire that summons him. This was what made the original stories and films so appealing. Rather than expanding the universe with new lore, this is a return to the claustrophobic dark roots.

It is for sale exclusively through realclivebarker.com. I’m not going to lie – it’s not cheap. However, it is a price worth paying for such liberated and original content. I flew through the book and it left me hungry for more. The future of Hellraiser is looking stronger and more exciting than ever. Roll on the next volume.

10/10

Hellraiser Anthology Book Trailer

Feral by James DeMonaco & Brian Evenson

Feral by James DeMonaco & Brian Evenson

feral

Blumhouse has been leading the way in horror production lately with big box office successes like The Conjuring, Split, and Get Out. I hadn’t realized that they were lending their name to novels too now. James DeMonaco, the writer/director of the hit, The Purge, gives us Feral, a horror book from the Blumhouse Books stable.

All signs point to it not being a typical school day for Allie. A drama-filled day begins when a sex tape of her best friend is widely circulated. Little does she realize that it will be the last day of school. Things get progressively stranger as the school day continues. Male students are distracted in the classroom and perform incredible feats of strength on the sports field. Slowly, all the male students begin showing strange symptoms, excreting a pus-like mucus substance, and running a high fever. This is the how the end of civilization begins.

A chemical fire released a virus that only affects males. It either kills them or speeds up their metabolism and makes them rabid. It’s an apocalyptic tale, but a change from the usual zombie infection tropes. There is no spreading of the infection. If a feral gets a woman, he will simply tear her to pieces.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the discussion of gender. Nearly all the characters are female. This is certainly something new in this kind of narrative and an enjoyable change. It could be argued that the feral males are a metaphor for rape culture. Males are savage, instinctual, and out of control. There are morally blurred questions asked about what both ferals and women do to try to keep their races alive.

The women are holed up together in a camp. Their interactions and the newly built societal structure is fascinating. There are certain similarities to the dramatic siege narrative of The Walking Dead. The book also weighs individual survival or responsibility against contributing to the group. Allie and her younger sister, Kim, have to grow up quickly in order to survive.

A number of chapters of the book are from the first person perspective of different characters. It’s an interesting way of giving us insight into what different characters feel about one another, without forcing the exposition. The tension of the book comes as much from the interactions of the characters as from the ever present threat of the ferals.

There are plenty of twists and turns and a thrilling climax. Some of the scenes and action set pieces are memorable. It’s full of action, but also thought provoking, bringing up issues and questions far beyond the words on the pages.

7.5/10

Feral Book Cover Blurb

From James DeMonaco, the writer/director of The Purge film franchise, comes the provocative and terrifying last stand of a lone outpost of women in the wake of a deadly pandemic.

Allie Hilts was still in high school when a fire at a top-secret research facility released an air-borne pathogen that quickly spread to every male on the planet, killing most. Allie witnessed every man she ever knew be consumed by fearsome symptoms: scorching fevers and internal bleeding, madness and uncontrollable violence. The world crumbled around her. No man was spared, and the few survivors were irrevocably changed. They became disturbingly strong, aggressive, and ferocious. Feral.

Three years later, Allie has joined a group of hardened survivors in an isolated, walled-in encampment. Outside the guarded walls the ferals roam free, and hunt. Allie has been noticing troubling patterns in the ferals’ movements, and a disturbing number of new faces in the wild. Something catastrophic is brewing on the horizon, and time is running out. The ferals are coming, and there is no stopping them.

With Feral, writer/director James DeMonaco and acclaimed novelist Brian Evenson have created a challenging and entertaining novel of timely horror and exhilarating suspense.

Demons by WD Jackson

Demons by WD Jackson

demons

Demons is the first book in a new series surrounding a detective. With his move to the London Metropolitan Police, Detective Inspector Daniel Graves is unfortunately getting more familiar with seeing dead bodies. A particularly gruesome late night murder falls to him and his partner to investigate.

Catherine is a freelance demonologist, assisted by Marcus. When she sees a local news report about a family who appears to have an evil presence in their midst, she offers her services to remove the demon. Things don’t exactly go according to plan as the bodies begin to mount up and the paths of the demonologist and Inspector Graves come together.

Our main character, Graves, is likeable enough, as are the ensemble of others in the story. None of the others had remarkable personalities except for Catherine, who has more depth than it first appears. I did like the tie-in to the satanic panic media frenzy of the 1980s in England, and references to paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, who are recently back in the spotlight due to The Conjuring movies.

Demons is a little slow in places while we wait for the two threads of Catherine and Graves to connect. When Graves is pulled into Catherine’s case the pace picks up and I became much more engaged. This is where the scares and horror begin. There are some genuinely creepy and panic inducing moments. When there is violence, it is savage and brutal.

There are many aspects of a police procedural in this book. For the most part I enjoyed it. It did drag a bit, as you would expect a real case would. Some aspects of the book work really well, but not all of them. There are plenty of twists and turns and red herrings on the two cases. While it is a great police thriller, the horror potential didn’t really live up to the suggested promise of earlier parts of the book.

6.5/10

Demons Book Cover Blurb:

When a body is discovered in a North London park, Detective Inspector Daniel Graves is tasked with finding the killer. With no clues and no suspects it seems like a dead end. Then another body turns up and this time it looks like it could be his fault. Has his investigation caused the killer to strike again?

As case one gets ever more complicated, a report comes in of another suspicious death but this is nothing like any other Graves has dealt with. All involved are convinced that something supernatural is to blame. A demon.

With two cases on his shoulders and the truth seeming ever out of his grasp, Graves must race against time before both killers, human or otherwise, strike again.

Jackals by Stuart  R. Brogan

Jackals by Stuart  R. Brogan

jackalsIt’s a late night in a sleepy English town’s police station when all hell breaks loose. Jackals begins when three individuals enter the police station and brutally murder and then behead everyone inside. A unique sigil is painted in blood on the police station wall as a calling card and message. This sets the tone for the rest of the story. Visceral violence with sharp instruments, knives, axes, and nailed baseball bats are the order of the day.

We find out our killers work for The Order, a secret society. The Order is an Illuminati that believes in embracing the primitive urges and killing indiscriminately without remorse. The Jackals are small units who carry these tactics out. The thrill of the kill and the hunt leads us to the main plot of the story. Jesse and her husband are out for their anniversary and are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Targeted by the Jackals, Jesse has to play a game of cat and mouse or her hostage husband will be killed.

Jesse is a strong female character with much more fight than the Jackals could ever have expected. Joining her on the wrong end of the chase, we also have cocaine fueled Detective Inspector Class. He’s a policeman with a dark edge who is trying to make sense of the murders. He becomes involved through his own search for Jesse and the Jackals. Class and Jesse make a good team, and the strength and fortitude of Jesse is one of the highlights of the book.

We do get some insight into the characters of the Jackals. They are not faceless killers. Felix, the leader, has to keep control of his team. Especially Denny, who’s a homicidal nutcase, and who even wants to kill his cohorts. Other Jackals come and go. I liked the tense power plays between Felix and the other Jackals, always struggling to hold on to dominance, with the threat always there. At one point we do get a great deal of exposition about the Jackals and those behind them.

The cat and mouse game becomes extensive as Jesse and Class lead a chase across the UK. There is a third party, led by an ex-member of the Order who is also chasing the Jackals. This book is filled with violence, and the Jackals’ mantra of embracing the primitive extends to weapons, so lots of blunt force and sharp instrument trauma fills the book.

There is a twist in the tale, some unexpected shocks, and there is definitely room to expand on the Order in future books. Overall this is an enjoyable read, but more in the action realm with horror elements than the other way around.

7.5/10

Jackals Book Cover Blurb:

From the aftermath of a brutal massacre at a rural police station two survivors leave behind a swathe of bodies and a cryptic sigil painted on the wall in blood. A disgraced Detective Inspector begrudgingly starts to investigate the crime scene but as the facts begin to emerge the trail appears to lead into the highest echelons of power making the policeman himself the next target. As the conspiracy spirals ever deeper and with no-one to trust, both prime suspect and policeman are forced into an unlikely alliance to prove, not only their innocence but the existence of a force so ingrained into our society it could rewrite the very fabric of human nature.