Free Fiction Friday

I guess this may be the strangest entry of Free Fiction Friday to date because neither of the offerings are fiction (in fact, one has nothing to do with reading at all).  I think the pairing of suggestions complement each other in such an obvious and profound way that I couldn’t help but share them with you.  On one hand we have a man (or a God or Satan, depends on who you ask) who seems to be in the “Autumn” of his life as he grapples with his own mortality in a very real and genuine way.  Conversely, we have a 16 year old who is just discovering love and angst and is turning that into some amazing music.  Together these two pieces can be strung together to illustrate the sheer beauty of possibilities that life has to offer.  I don’t want to get too dramatic, so I’ll stop now and present to you this week’s installment of Free Fiction Friday.

First off we have a piece by Brian Keene.  This is a throwback to an old blog that Brian used to keep called Hail Saten.  Hail Saten was an amazing place to read about the inner working of the industry and Brian masterfully scoured his foes and celebrated his comrades.  It was written with a take-no-prisoners attitude that few could ever hope to pull off.  Today, Brian is posting a piece that is very similar in style to the Hail Saten stuff.  It is very personal but even non-Keene fans will appreciate the heart and soul found in every word.  Take a moment to check it out.

Read Brian Keene’s “The Apathy of Autumn” here

Now for something a little more unorthodox – I stumbled upon a musician who goes by the name of Zoo Kid.  Zoo Kid is a 17 year old from London who is making some of the most interesting music I’ve heard in a long time.  He combines some the lo-fi sounds, blips and glitches commonly associated with New Wave to create one of the most unique sounds I’ve heard in a while.  Now, I’m sure you’re asking why I would even bring this up in a literature review site, right? Well, Zoo Kid’s lyrics and music lend themselves very well to reading.  In fact, the last two books that I’ve read have had Zoo Kid as their soundtrack.  I encourage all of you to take a listen and hear for yourself.

It still blows my mind that this EP was released when he was only 16!

Check out zookid.bandcamp.com for more.

Free Fiction Friday

Time for another round of Free Fiction Friday.  For those of you not in the know, Free Fiction Friday is a feature where we search the internet in an attempt to bring you the very best free genre fiction available.  Today we have three of the biggest names in the genre including some free stuff from Stephen freakin’ King so let’s have at it!

First up we have some free fiction from Stephen King.  In anticipation if King’s new release, 11/22/63, Simon and Schuster will be releasing seven audiobook samples every Monday and Friday through October 24th.  The first is up and, I have to be honest,  Craig Wasson (FULL DARK, NO STARS & BLOCKADE BILLY)  sounds awesome!  Check it out!      

Our next piece of free fiction comes from one of the biggest names in the genre, Brian Keene.  Brian has been offering a serial novel called DELUGE on his site for months now.  This is a thank you to fans that have fallen on hard times and can’t afford to pick up new books.  DELUGE is available every Friday on Brian’s site.  On a side note, Brian has announced that once DELUGE is over he will be giving away a second free serial novel called DEAD AIR.  Rock!

James Newman has posted his entry into Shock Totem’s Flash Challenge for free on his site.  This is important for two reasons: 1)James Newman is one of the best authors working in the genre today and 2) Shock Totem is a criminally slept-on publication that should be read by every genre fan out there. Here is the story and here is the Shock Totem site.

Enjoy and have a great weekend!

To Fight With Monsters by Michael Oliveri and Brian Keene

A one-shot comic based on a short story that appeared in 4×4 by Mike Oliveri and Brian Keene? Drawn by American Manga artist Ben Dunn?

YES PLEASE!

When humanity rapidly devolves into a monstrous state, teenager Rick Donovan joins his fellow townspeople in makeshift trenches to defend their homes. However, the monsters may already be among them…

This story reeks of modern horror in its themes and intense, unbridled sense of… wrongness… if I may use that word. The subject matter at hand is brutal, and so far from what one would automatically thing this little story is about. It is, in fact, about monsters – but who and what the monsters are is left completely to the reader to find out. In fact, I’d say that that there are more monsters present in this than the average reader would admit. It’s just a matter of opinion as to how you would define the word.

As for the storytelling aspect of this comic, the line is completely blurred as to who wrote what part, and whose idea was whose. Oliveri and Keene are both experts in the field of spinning an intense yarn, and yet both have their own immediate voice. These differences are blended brilliantly in the short story, and even more fully realized in the comic book format.

As stated above, the subject matter in quite strong. Even I had to take a moment to wonder how these two authors could bring themselves to “go there”. It’s no wonder that these two are so well respected in the horror genre. They’re ballsy, daring, and unafraid to bring the story to a level that will make the reader uncomfortable, if only to make him look inside his mind, and try to figure out where exactly he stands.

The art in this issue is incredible. Ben Dunn really does a killer job with the inks, bringing every squirm worthy moment to the front. The reader absolutely no choice but to confront the horrors within, right there on the page. In all, I’m really impressed with the whole thing.

As for where to get it, you can grab yourself a copy from Antarctic Press, online retailers like Things From Another World, and your local comic book store. Or, y’know, you could just ask me. I have 3 extra copies.

——————————————————————

So here’s how we’re going to do this. There are two ways to win:

– First, I want you to go grab yourself a copy of Mike Oliveri’s The Pack: Winter Kill at Amazon. Do that, and I’ll send you a copy of To Fight With Monsters for free! (You’re going to have to email me proof of purchase in the form of a receipt or Screenshot of your finalized purchase). Remember, there are only 3 copies… so act fast.

– Second, well… you’re going to have to fight it out with the Facebook fiends. That’s right. “like” our facebook pages, and you could win a copy of this badass comic.

Again, there are only 3 copies to give away. So act fast. The first choice will automatically get you a copy. The second…we’ll, like I said, you’ll have to fight it out.

Winners will be announced when the copies are gone. The entire Dreadful Tales Staff will be gone until August 3rd, so hold tight. Send us an email, and we’ll get back to you when we return.

C.

Entombed by Brian Keene

Your life is in shambles.  Your wife left you.  You have been reduced to giving tours of an abandoned military complex to fat-cat tourists.  You hate Will Farrell. If you are Pete then this is your life.  Well this was your life until Hamelin’s Revenge brought every stinkin’ corpse back to life with an insatiable urge to consume flesh. This is Entombed.

From CamelotBooks.com:

It has been several months since the disease known as Hamelin’s Revenge decimated the world. Civilization has collapsed and the dead far outnumber the living. The living seek shelter from the roaming zombie hordes, but one-by-one, those shelters are falling.

Twenty-five survivors barricade themselves inside a former military bunker buried deep beneath a luxury hotel. They are safe from the zombies…but are they safe from one another? As supplies run low and despair sets in, each of them will find out just how far they’re willing to go to survive.

The story takes place in the same universe as Keene’s superb novel, Dead Sea but there is no real correlation between the two stories other than setting. The main difference between Dead Sea and Entombed is the scope.  Dead Sea played out on several stages with Keene showing us the carnage as the undead ripped through Baltimore and contrasted that with the isolation and hopelessness of the open sea. Entombed only utilizes one setting (and a very small one at that.).  The entire claustrophobic story takes place in an abandoned military bunker.  The once grand bunker is now a tourist attraction- an afterthought.  All of the resources needed to survive have been replaced with props- no food, no weapons and no medicine.  The only thing that occupies the bunker is a deteriorating group of shabby humans and a terrible sense of defeat.  It is with this in mind that the remaining survivors decide to turn to each for sustenance and survival. They decide to have a lottery, Shirley Jackson style, to determine who will become their first meal.  Unfortunately for Pete, he opted to watch a little bit of Aqua Teen Hunger Force in the bunker’s film room instead of attending the lottery and, wouldn’t you believe it, his name was chosen.

Keene takes us on an extreme trip as we begin to see the layers of sanity slowly peel away from Pete’s mind through the first person narrative.  Once Pete realizes that he is about to be slaughtered, flayed and consumed, he goes on the offensive.  He takes full advantage of the sparse setting and limited tools in an attempt to save his life.  There are some truly inventive deaths in the pages of Entombed as Pete uses forklifts, makeshift Molotov cocktails and random tools in his quest for survival.  Pete slowly spirals out of control with each killing but it is not overt, oh no, instead Keene takes a very subtle approach.  This is where Keene’s talent as a writer comes into the mix.  He explores the nuances of insanity.  There are a few occasions where Pete hears slightly maniacal laughter before he realizes that the god-awful noise is coming from him.  At first he is frightened but he slowly begins to embrace his current mindset.  A lesser writer would have flipped the switch  in Pete’s mind and, all of the sudden, he is crazy.  Lucky for the reader Keene’s Pete is handled with a great deal of precision and has quite a bit in common with King’s Jack Torrence.  The insanity feels genuine and, as a result, the character becomes completely frightnening.

Entombed has everything you would expect from a Brian Keene novel- fleeting moments of laughter, buckets of gore and an overbearing sense of despair   This is not a lighthearted affair and the reader knows, that no matter what happens inside the bunker, there is no hope because of the undead masses roaming outside.  This is really the strength of Entombed.  In the back of our minds we know that every atrocity committed within this bunker is , ultimately, meaningless because there is no such thing as a survivor when all of humanity has turned on itself.

Despite the link to an undead world, Entombed is not a zombie novel.  It is so much more.  Entombed is a story of survival and madness.  It examines the darkest nook of the human condition and exposes it for all to see.  The story is so frightening because it is so believable.  The reader can see themselves being in this same situation and making the same situation.  Once again, the we are treated to a tightly told story in which Keene proves, once again, that he is the champion of the genre.

 

You can catch up with the latest Brian Keene news over at his website

 

Dead Sea by Brian Keene

Brian Keene is the undisputed king of the modern zombie novel.  The Rising and City of the Dead are the standard to which all other zombie tales should be held to.  Keene is a very rare talent and he certainly deserves every last word of praise that he has received for breathing new life in the zombie genre. 

With that said, there is a book that often gets overlooked when discussing Keene’s contributions to all things undead.  That book is the masterpiece known as Dead Sea.

From DeaditePress.com:

The city streets are no longer safe. They are filled instead with the living dead, rotting predators driven only by a need to kill and eat. Some of the living still struggle to survive, but with each passing day, their odds grow worse. Some survivors have fled, frantically searching for a place to escape, even briefly, the slaughter around them. For Lamar Reed and a handful of others, that safe haven is an old Coast Guard ship out at sea, with plenty of water between them and the zombies. These desperate survivors are completely isolated from the dangers of the mainland. But their haven will soon become a deathtrap, and they’ll learn that isolation can also mean no escape!

Simply put, Dead Sea is the best undead tale ever told. Is that too bold of a statement?  Absolutely not. Keene wields words with fiery aggression as he pulls the reader into the hell that the Baltimore Inner Harbor has become.  He throws us in the midst of the undead hordes with no regard for our well-being.  His descriptions of the various Baltimore neighborhoods are enough to make us feel the flames tickling our feet as the characters seek refuge from the growing undead masses as well as a city that is being engulfed in a massive blaze.

Keene’s strength really lies in his ability to craft well rounded characters who have a unique voice and perspective.  The best example of this can be found in an exchange that takes place between Williams, a college professor, and the hero, Lamar.  The two are discussing what motivation there is to keep living in world that has been overtaken by death and hopelessness:

“My Mother always taught me to be proud and never surrender.”

“I thought as much. And that is a very fine and noble lesson.”

“Doesn’t apply to everybody, though.”

“No, it doesn’t.  Others may be motivated to keep fighting because they simply don’t know what else to do.”

“How about you, Professor? What keeps you going?”

“Me?” He laughed softly. “I think I’m like many others. I think we continue to fight because an element of our collective unconscious demands that we do so.  Even at my age.”

“What’s a collective unconscious?”

 Keene effortlessly inhabits each of these characters with seamless fluidity.  Although the characters are polar opposites (at least on the surface) he is able to explore the minor nuances that help to make each character memorable.  It is incredibly rare to find an author who can write varied perspectives with such ease and believability.

Keene’s well-crafted characters are also used to incorporate some social commentary into the proceedings.  He tackles the subject of racism and homophobia in a masterfully subtle fashion.  Our hero is Lamar. Lamar happens to be black man.  Lamar also happens to be gay.  Keene uses Lamar to expose the dirty side of human nature.  The hateful side.  There are points in the novel where the reader wonders if the survivors are any better than the blood thirsty ghouls that they are trying to escape from.  During these moments the reader is able to examine their soul as well.  Turning over ever stone to see if that hatred can be found in them.  Again, this is not your typical zombie yarn.  This is something so much more.

Dead Sea is defined by its well crafted characters and the crushing sense of dread that oozes from each page.  There is no happiness here, just death and futility.  This book is not about the dead coming to life, but instead it is the examination of the living who are condemned to life. It is a mirror that we are forced to hold up to our own faces and ask, “What are we really living for?”

The Rising and City of the Dead are in-your-face stories that defined the modern zombie novel.  At its core Dead Sea is still a well-told zombie novel, but it is also the work of a matured writer. A writer who is comfortable delving a little deeper into characters and themes. A writer who has mastered his craft and has the confidence to display his talent for all to see.  Dead Sea is the best zombie based novel of the modern horror era.

You can catch up with all things Keene at his site. Also, check out the Dreadful Tales review of the sequel to Dead Sea, Entombed.