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Contagion by Jason Gehlert (2007 Stonegarden.net  Publications.)  Read more about the author and the novel  here.

     Jason was doing a signing at the World Horror Con in Utah, early Spring of ’08, when I was first introduced to both him and his Contagion.  When I was finally able to read it and afterwards finish reading it, his book had accompanied me to a car dealership waiting room, a McDonald’s, my Sunday job/office at a youth mentorship program, a Walmart parking lot, my house, my parent’s house, my friend’s house, a pharmacy waiting room,

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(All reviews copyright © 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 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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an Amtrak train, and a Shell station car wash. Not that it’s a lengthy read….this was one of a handful of novels I needed to read and review during a period when I had too many books submitted to me and too little time to review them, so I made the time. But it’s also a testament to how I wanted to keep going back to it as soon as I possibly could because I wanted to see what happens next. There is also a truth to the theory that where you read a book effects how you absorb what you read, coupled with your frame of mind at the time.

     I had a multitude of feelings about this book as a consequence, and as a consequence to that, had a helluva time trying to put it all together here. I must begin with what element all those feelings had in common with, and doing so brings us back to wanting to see what happens next, that factor. For an author to tie a lasso together, wave it around in the air and rope you, and then pull you in, is a medal of honor in the accomplishment category when you’re a writer of any story. I understand that this work was originally an internet blog written over a period of time, and that could have contributed to the formula that gave Contagion its pace and ability to engross.

     At its heart is a simple African jungle zombie adventure. Take a yet-to-be-world-renown medical doctor and his medical doctor girlfriend and drop them into a remote South African jungle. They’re on a search for a very distinguished M.D. who’d gone missing trying to develop a vaccine for a nasty nightmare supervirus known to locals within the colony he resided with as the Devil’s Disease, a cross between Ebola and Leprosy. Once exposed to it, both your mental and physical state rapidly deteriorates to the point that you exhibit extreme zombie-like qualities, and many characters find out about this factor up-close and personally. The United States Government knows about it, too.

     But this work’s most appealing elements are its characters, the social situations between them, and the confounding circumstances which make them tick. This isn’t necessarily a zombie novel, but a solid character novel that builds tension and generates an atmosphere that envelopes the reader in a claustrophobic jungle world…..as long as we’re in that jungle….where the whole zombie/disease factor is a constant antagonistic force that wouldn’t be so menacing if it weren’t for the mechanics Gehlert utilizes to make his characters and their relationships to one another so vivid and full of personal issues. Sometimes Gehlert struggles with poetic description and certain sequences could be better polished, other times his words flow perfectly, and the action is juicy and plentiful and well-executed, builds and moves with fiery momentum.

     A word to the author: when the character of Doctor Forsythe is exposed to the disease, he becomes a lost soul…..but with Sturgis, when he succumbs to insanity, he turns emotionally inside-out, like his real self and lust for fame didn’t need any help from some zombie disease to push him over the edge, eventually. Dantu was kind of a reflection of him in the end.

     Jason Gehlert is also the author of Carnie Creek, The Woodsman and the Quiver werewolf series.
 

Flashpoint by Frank Creed (2007 The Writers' Cafe Press.)  Read more about the author and the novel  here.

 

   Well here we go:  speculative Christian Science Fiction taken to such an extreme that the fibers of contemporary Christian beliefs are integrated into every aspect of plot and storyline, becoming preachy, yes, but the fact that they are meshed into the situations and storyline in a futuristic environment adds character, that’s for sure, aside from its message. 

     I became familiar with Magus Press/David Montoya at the World Horror Convention in Salt Lake City about a year ago from this writing, where I was graced with this tight little book of 89 double-spaced pages to review.  It features only three stories by three authors, and takes about an hour to read, depending, of course, on your reading rate.   I truly enjoy short collections like this one, just because........

Other Things, Other Places edited by David G. Montoya (2007 Magus Press.)  Read more about the authors and the book  here.

Creed brings to the plate a meticulously implemented series of events of our very near future upon the basis of how things are going on in these current times, taking on a biblical theme ala the Left Behind series, but taken away are the stereotypical end times chronology of events that you’d find in the sermons of many preachers…..you know, that point A to point B scenario of the Rapture first, a succession of fulfilled prophecies second, the Anti-Christ’s rise to power, that sort of thing.  Here, as another reviewer put it, is a more Matrix kind of premise that mixes political climate with the computer age.  That’s not to say the whole biblical apocalypse isn’t part of the scheme…..after all, this is part of a series…..it’s just that it’s not the case with this work.

     This vision incorporates a unified global government that outlaws radical religions such as Christianity and sends Christians to places where they get their minds corrected to where they can be placed back into conformed society again once they’re rehabilitated.  The ones keeping the faith have gone underground and fight the establishment with its own technology and a extremely heightened awareness of the one true God through a technological process that makes their eyes gold in color.  When they confront the establishment in very action-packed gun-shooting all-balls-out episodes, the “Body of Christ,” as the Christian terrorist underground movement calls itself, implements upon their adversaries non-lethal firepower, putting their human foes to sleep rather than killing them.   

     A young brother and sister are catapulted into a situation where, after finding themselves immersed with the underground Body of Christ, being Christians as well whose parents end up getting captured by law enforcement and sent to brain-washing establishments to become reformed, become prominent fixtures in their militant pro-Christ movement to such an extent they become virtual legends and make the government’s top-something most wanted list.

     This sucker is way too preachy for me, with scriptural insights inserted into the storyline that could have been better integrated by Creed some other way…..I know not how, because there’s almost no further room for preachiness and the book would explode in your face and ooze all over your hands as you read it in regards to its abundance of religious persuasion even if a majority of it was indeed shrouded in some way.  That aside, it’s impossible to see any other way around Creed’s liberal dosage of expression of faith and its integration so deep into this vision.  Like I said, it gives it character, character like you wouldn’t believe.

     Isolating and addressing the author’s ability to tell a story though, Creed has proved himself more than a capable writer by this work alone, and I believe this piece of his that I’m reviewing here will be a signature book for him in his blossoming career and forever.  It’s executed with that distinct sort of author personality that makes one able to tell it’s Frank Creed who’s writing, versus multitudes of other authors who have yet to achieve the distinction between one writer and another.

     Being preachy about one’s faith ain’t all that bad, however, this coming from a believer myself who tends to metaphor everything with writing material less family-friendly.  The real deal here is that Frank Creed writes well, and two sets of readers will really dig this work:  both the Sci-fi die-hard and any single church-going believer in the country.  In this regard, Frank Creed has potentially got it made, just gotta keep going at it, and he’ll get it, sure as the end of the world.

 

 

......well, you know.....sometimes you want to read some good fiction but don't want to tackle some heavy-weight epic-of-a-thing you know will require a good couple week's worth of reading just yet, and here we have a threesome of very enjoyable tales to gulp down in one sitting like a tasty lunch which leaves you feeling like yeah......that was satisfying.

With Montoya as Editor, we have a boy who befriends a benign swamp-like "Skunk-ape" who has a balls-out brawl with an evil beast determined to send a backwoods community straight to hell (delightfully written by Matt Staggs), a modern-day Jesus addicted to heroin (by David L. Tamarin), and a cool and eerie Voodoo vengeance fable that I particularly liked by John Dimes.

Great stuff, and awesome stuff coming out of Magus Press.