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Mama's Boy by Fran Friel (2006 Insidious Publications.  Read more about the author and the book here.

     Man, Fran Friel is something else.  Just when you think you have yourself a good grasp of the names and faces and works of the rising hot lava flow of literary talent accumulating out there these days, out pops another one, another something else, a writing entity fresh and exciting that has his/her own voice and is different from the rest in good ways.  A presence whose existence I'd only become aware of not too many months ago from the time of this review.  To me, Fran Friel

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(All reviews copyright 2004, 2005, 2006 by Nicholas Grabowsky and Diverse Media, all rights reserved.   All book cover images are owned by their respective owners and used by permission.)

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 is like the little round stone I lost my footing over when my shoe kicked into it on my sojourn across a pebble-ridden garden path.  I picked it up and found it was a sparkling jewel.

     So I put it in my pocket.

     If you're looking for something else and you crave horror literature, Mama's Boy is what you want.  The way Fran writes is something else, unlike most writers rising to the surface of notoriety having previously rarely written anything at all.  Her prose is blunt yet casual, the story is essentially a derivative of the boy/mother relationship gone psychologically awry dating back to Ed Gein and Bloch/Hitchcock's Psycho, but it's told with blissful originality and you can digest it all in one sitting.

     It leaves you feeling dirty, stunned, wanting to shower it all off, like the feeling you get when the credits roll after a deeply disturbing film (the way Adrian Lyn's Jacob's Ladder made me feel, for example).  This is Fran's first book, though she's had plenty of practice in the craft with an eye-widening number of editing and writing credentials under her belt.

     I wonder why I hadn't heard of Fran's work before, but that makes me wonder why she hasn't started her career until recently, because I know she would've done well years ago had she taken herself seriously as a writer earlier on.  But we all have to start somewhere.

     I guess that's what makes Fran something else, her work something exceptional.  When you hold this kind of ability inside yourself for a long while, eventually when it's time to release it it's like letting loose a stream of fireworks into the night sky.

     Mama's Boy is something else, and if you read anything else, I suggest this highly for the seasoned horror reader and those willing to dive off the deep end of psychological thrillers..

     After all, wouldn't you put a jewel in your pocket if you came across one down your path?

     I'd put this jewel into your night time reading roster.  I dare you.

      Steve Dean writes in his author's bio/description at hadesgateforums, "In a former life I must have been one of the idle rich, as I seem to fit into the former very well, though the riches have yet to show up."  While although it is perhaps true that Mr. Dean still waits for riches, the idle part is pure rubbish.  He has conceived and executed a first novella, an undertaking which requires one to be anything but idle, and the end result is wonderfully

Sevenacide/ Phase II by Robert Shuster (2000, 2006 Sevenacide Publishing)  Read more about the author & book here.

Soulkeepers by Steve Dean (2006 Hadesgate Publications, UK)  Read more about the author & book here.

     I chose to review these books together for reasons being that they are both by the same author and I favor one over the other.  So there's a little black and white here.  Black and white, coincidentally, are the colors of both the cover of Sevenacide and the Sevenacide t-shirt I've worn every week since Robert Shuster

     and I swapped a few items when I first met him.

     Now, I'm pretty certain Robert would have me favor Phase II, a pet project of his that he's very excited about, and his most recent to date.  It's a science fiction/horror mixture with the premise of all humanity being destroyed under the decisive military direction of a galactic committee bent on colonization.  Their planetary genocide was Phase I, and Phase II (hence the title) marks the beginning of extraterrestrial inhabitation, where the alien military sends forth its elite to personally survey the smoking aftermath of the world's end.  When they land on what has become of Earth, they find that what became of us is that we're all zombies.

     The living, flesh-eating dead.

      Alien-flesh-eating dead.

     And we're not to be fucked with.

     Damn good premise, but Robert, no matter how long it took him to execute the final draft of this story into sellable material, was a little too hasty in presenting it and I plead for him to take time to flesh out the characters and paint the novel with juicy visceral poetry, the kind that makes a good story a superb novel or novella.

     On the other hand, Sevenacide is the one that I favor, and I give Robert some hard words about Phase II in hopes he'd inject the tale with the same astounding on-your-own-level layman storytelling he'd accomplished with Sevenacide, a witty attribution to a compilation of seven short stories published a few years back.

     Each tale is told under the predominant element of the rugby game, and while I personally was never a fan of the game it's a uniquely and refreshingly dominant theme.  We have roadside vampires, vengeful zombies, a chilling fountain-of-youth fable, an impressive story of Irish little people and the ale that was meant for them but stolen by a drunk American.

     I wear my Sevenacide t-shirt with pride, and I suggest you take a read.  Phase II can be huge.  Those of you willing to take a gander, please do.  I suspect if Robert, who is an excellent writer (and great character actor, so I hear), takes the book to the next level, and does to it what he did with Sevenacide, this would be two separate reviews you'd be reading here.  That's for sure.

brilliant, making for a fun and intelligent read.

     Soulkeepers takes place in a world not unlike our own and from that perspective it would be in a time frame of about several hundred years ago, though its elements subtly reflect the science fiction era of a medieval otherworld.  A Brotherhood exists which governs the people of a primitive land where to any outside observer appears prosperous and orderly.  The secret to the society's success lies with a group of warlocks at the top of the social status ladder who make it a point to entrap the essence of every citizen's at birth by means of a simple ritual, making them emotionless, docile yet productive, obedient, and incapable of crime.

     In the surrounding forest terrain there exists our main characters, a very young man with his soul intact and a zest for adventure, an orphaned young lady with a unique gift and a disrespect for authority, and a primate companion who adds a refreshing spunk to their exploits and comes in handy when things go awry.

     The way Dean writes is flawlessly entertaining, and Soulkeepers promises the reader a great time with an underlining profound morality to boot.  Steve Dean may think himself to be idle, but continues the act of writing to a degree where there is much more to come from this author, who one day may very well find himself rich too, because of it.