Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Double Barrell Horror Vol2

There is currently a Good Reads giveaway running for the Double Barrel Horror Vol. 2 anthology!  Double Barrel Horror Vol. 2 is a fantastic anthology featuring two stories each by 6 writers: John Boden, Simon Dewar, Patrick Freivald, Chad Lutzke, Karen Runge and M.B. Vujacic.

Like the dual blasts from a sawed-off shotgun, these twelve stories pack a brain shredding wallop that kept me turning pages as fast as my fingers could tap the screen. Pint Bottle Press has outdone themselves with this second volume of twisted tales from six of horror’s most talented storytellers.”Shane D. Keene, ‘Shotgun Logic’ and ‘HellNotes’

Head to the Link below (or click the cover above) and enter to win one of two copies of the anthology!

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/254032-double-barrel-horror-volume-2

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In conjunction with a 5 year anniversary sale from Books of the Dead Press, the anthology is currently selling for 99c on Amazon.com.  http://www.amazon.com/Suspended-In-Dusk-Ramsey-Campbell-ebook/dp/B00NIE6E2S/ref=zg_bs_157061011_2

Please consider checking out the other Books of the Dead titles many of which are free or reduced to 99c. There are some fantastic books by amazing authors. You wont regret it.  http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_2?_encoding=UTF8&field-author=Books%20of%20the%20Dead&search-alias=digital-text&sort=relevancerank

I’ve been busy of late doing promotional work for the anthology and along with the sale this has achieved some success.  For a while at least Suspended in Dusk was the no.1 best selling #horror anthology on Amazon.com.  This is great news for the authors whose stories are within the collection.

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There have been a few good reviews of Suspended in Dusk of late. My personal favourites were the review on Lurid-Lit.com and one of the reviews on Goodreads.com

But besides the buckets of gore, blood, creep and crawl these stories present smarts. There are morals hidden beneath the piles of bodies and in back of the winding spirits; modern parables all for our times that set this collection above most of the recent anthologies being hawked today.

This is a solid investment of your time and eye sight.

1. http://www.lurid-lit.com/2014/12/book-review-suspended-in-dusk-edited-by.html

The cover is exquisite. The editor did a good job selecting the content authors, and the editing is of high-quality. The roster contains talent from all over: Australia, UK, US and South Africa, which has a healthy pulse of fresh voices. Overall, I suggest this to any horror author, because chances are, there’s a story within tailored to your liking. As Jack Ketchum states in his introduction—”You’re in good hands here.” More from Simon’s editing desk, please. Call me greedy.

2 . https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1065595300?book_show_action=false&page=1

In coming days we should have news of the print run of Suspended in Dusk. I know there are a few people out there at least who are hanging for a paperback version, in which case you’ll be able to pick one up in the early new year. I’ll update with more info when it’s available,

Other News:

I am currently in the process of planning the next project and will have news in coming days once it’s all be ironed out with the publisher. Hopefully will have news early next year.  I can only hope that project #2 is as well received as Suspended in Dusk has been. What a privilege this has been for my debut editing gig.

Wishing everyone a Happy Christmas, Hanukah, or holiday season.

Now that Suspended in Dusk has been in the wild for a while, reviews are starting to roll in!
Up on Amazon.com are 12 reviews, 9 of which are 5 Star, 3 of which are 4 star.
I’m super excited that the stories I chose and loved so dearly are being well received by Readers.

You can check out the reviews here: http://www.amazon.com/Suspended-In-Dusk-Ramsey-Campbell-ebook/product-reviews/B00NIE6E2S/

Forgive me for shameless preening, but I’m dying to share my favourite of them here with you:

They’ve been saying for over forty years that horror’s dead. I bet they’ve (‘they’ being either blocked horror writers or the reader equivalent of Mary Whitehouse) been saying that ever since the genre erupted nearly two centuries ago in the Gothic imagination of a precocious seventeen year old Englishwoman. Though to be accurate, horror fiction has existed since anxious humans first learned how to communicate.

I love it when the naysayers are proved wrong. Simon Dewar’s new anthology, Suspended in Dusk, is a celebration not only of the far-reaching range of horror, but of its world-wide appeal. As an editor Mr. Dewar possesses the catholic tastes of the much-missed Karl Edward Wagner, who loved Jamesian ghost stories as much as he did vampires, werewolves (both had to have some original twist), and modern body horror. Quiet co-exists with graphic, urban with rural, ghosts with splatter. Dewar also possesses a keen eye for quality.

Nineteen stories for £2.58 is a pretty fine deal, too. Though not every theme is to my taste, there isn’t a duff piece in the lot; if you’re a zombie fan this book will put you in dead heaven. I really enjoyed Jack Ketchum’s entertaining introduction which is also a bit of a horror history lesson. All the stories are beautifully written but my favourites included, in no particular order, Alan Baxter’s tender and furious elegy; Karen Runge’s creepy do-gooders; Sarah Read’s awful sun-drenched paradise with its neat end flip; Tom Dullemond’s space oddity, the kind of story that lends itself to repeated readings; and a study in terror from the magnificent Ramsey Campbell, who, after over four decades in the business, still packs a powerful punch.

Despite being American-born, I get tired of horror fiction being Americentric, as so much of the really disturbing stuff doesn’t come from American pens. I’m thrilled to see great horror literature emerging from a variety of countries, as I am to see an anthology that boasts, for a change, a list of names that are new to me. Long may these trends flourish – it can only be good for both writers and readers. I look forward to seeing the future offerings of this very talented editor.

This is the kind of glowing endorsement that I never even dreamed of receiving for my first anthology.

If you haven’t checked out Suspended in Dusk, give it a try. You won’t regret it.

S.

I’m very excited by the review of the Suspended in Dusk anthology that just went live over at The Horror Bookshelf blog, run by Rich Duncan. (See here)

Rich concludes the review with the following:

I loved Suspended In Dusk because while some of the authors that appear in the anthology are familiar to me, I was also treated to some new writers who I had never heard before. I think there is no better feeling than discovering new authors that capture everything you love in a story and Dewar’s stellar anthology offers up plenty of those opportunities to horror fans. This is Dewar’s first entry into the anthology world and I think he nailed it. He brought together an impressive cast of authors and crafted one hell of an anthology despite numerous setbacks along the path to publication. I will definitely be looking forward to Dewar’s work in the future, both as an editor and an author. I highly recommend picking up Suspended In Dusk and giving it a read!

Rating: 4.5/5

This is exciting stuff and a great vindication for myself and the authors who put a lot of hard work into crafting their fantastic stories.

 

Led to the Slaughter is a werewolf tale by Duncan McGeary, published by Books of the Dead Press in early 2014.  This was the first novel I’d read by Duncan and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I thorougly enjoyed it.  The story is a spin on the historical events surrounding the Donner Party and the claims of cannibalism which surrounded their ill-fated expedition to California in the mid-19th century.

The Reed family seeks to travel west across the country on the Oregon Trail so  that the father, John Reed, can start a new job in California and the family can make a new life.  They join a caravan party lead by Jacob and George Donner, who are, unbeknownst to all, werewolves on the way to a clan meeting to decide the the dwindling clans among the realms of men.  The tale is one of a harrowing and oppressive journey for caravans through inhospitable lands. Before they reach their final destination, many die of exposure, famine or violence. You really get a sense of what it may have been like to be one of those colonial settlers forging a path out West.  I suspect a lot of time and effort went into researching this novel and it’s really paid off.  Hat’s off to Duncan.

The story is, mostly, told from the perspective of Virginia Reed, by way of her diary.  Diary entries of others, including John Reed and Charles Stanton, flesh out the story and give a great picture of the over all group and the adversities they’re going through and how they’re coping with the arduous journey and their various confrontations with the Donner Party werewolves.

Virginia Reed is a fantastic character.  A young teenage girl with real hopes and fears, she stoically faces a host of challenges at every step. The girl is stubborn as a mule and a real fighter, yet finds love and romance along the way and manages to put some of the men back in their places. She’s a fantastic character with a strong and endearing voice. You can’t help but like her and she’s a pretty badass girl.  If you like strong female characters, Virginia Reed is your girl.

I found the overall style of writing to suit the time period of the story.  Character’s voices seemed consistent and consistent with the time period as well. This really helped paint a

While there are certainly plenty of action scenes and violence in the book, its  not over the top or too graphic, and combined with the strong focus on Virginia Reed as one of the main protagonists, I get the feeling that this actually a Young Adult horror novel.  Or at least, many teens would probably really enjoy this novel, as much as us adults!

My only regret is that I didn’t have the time to read this story in one hit and had to spread it over a few weeks, due to new family additions and my editing commitments.

Duncan Mcgeary is a solid author, who shows a real knack for weaving not only weaving a dark tale but weaving for us real people and real events.  I can’t wait to sink my teeth into his Vampire Evolution trilogy, also recently released by Books of the Dead.

You can find Led to the Slaughter on Amazon. It’s available in ebook and paperback:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IJQR190/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb

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One of the great ironies of me being a systems engineer is that I’m generally really slow on the uptake when it comes to new technologies.
Generally speaking, I find what works, I master it, and then I incrementally add to it or tweak it. I’m usually the last to take on new tech or jump into new things like social media. Perhaps it comes from the fact that I”m often learning so much new technology and applications in my work life that I militantly resist doing it in my own personal life outside of work.

The company that I’m working for is a Google partner and makes use of Google Drive as shared space in the cloud for collaboration and to store business documents, etc. Using the Google Drive application which we install on our work laptops we’re able to syncronise a folder on our laptop with one in the cloud. When I write a new business document and save it in the folder it’s instantly uploaded to the cloud. If someone else updates that document, the change is automagically synchronised to the copy in my Google Drive folder on my laptop. This is pretty neat, and very handy for a distributed work force that is scattered across a number of different client sites.

When I started writing, I found myself juggling document versions of stories across multiple devices and things got pretty messy. For instance, I’d work on a story on my laptop during my lunch break at work and have to email it to my gmail account, and then download it at home so I could work on it that evening on my desktop PC. More than once during this convoluted process I lost data that I had to rewrite. So this got me thinking— why don’t I use Google Drive for my own writing? So I looked into it. I soon discovered that, out of the box, you can’t have more than one google drive account running on the same machine and you have to purchase third party software to enable this. Because I needed google drive on my work laptop for work purposes this ruled that out.
That’s when I remembered DropBox.

Like Google Drive, DropBox provides you a chunk of online Storage (5GB!) and client software you can install on your PC and phone (android/apple/etc) which allows you to syncrhonise a folder on your device with your storage on the cloud. This is freaking awesome. I put all the docs for my current writing project, and all my stories, into a folder on my PC and edit and save them there.  When the client notices a change has taken place to the files in the folder on my PC, it synchronises the folder with the cloud storage and the newly updated files are instantly available on all my other devices for viewing/editing/transmission.

I can also make files and folders within my dropbox available as a URL to other people. This is handy when you’re working on a collaborative project such as a short fiction anthology. For example, I could tell my writers “hey, grab the final proof of the anthology from my dropbox: http:\\simonsdropboxlink\” and they’d be able to jump online and instantly access it. And your stuff isn’t only accessible if you have the software client installed on your device You can access your cloud storage via the DropBox.com website just like you would webmail and all your files will be there ready to download. This is fantastic if you’re on a kiosk machine, or at a friend’s place and want to download some of your work but don’t want to (or are unable to) download the client onto the machine or device you’re using.

So what does this mean for me as a writer and editor? It means that I”m always working on the right version of my story and my story is always available no matter where I am or what device i’m using. As an editor it means that the edits I’m doing of other people’s stories are always saved, and always accessible. So far, I’ve performed the entire editing of the Suspended in Dusk anthology out of my DropBox—where I’ve been able to store all the stories, contracts and other information centrally. It has been truly invaluable and has definitely increased my productivity. More importantly, I’m more than certain its stopped me from losing data or losing important paperwork that I would’ve otherwise lost if I was juggling documents between multiple devices. As a writer there is nothing worse, nothing more heart-wrenching than data loss

There are a dearth of options out there for cloud providers, from DropBox to Google Drive, to Microsoft Skydrive and Apple iCloud. The following article discusses some of the offerings out there and I strongly urge you to take a look:

http://www.theverge.com/2012/4/24/2954960/google-drive-dropbox-skydrive-sugarsync-cloud-storage-competition

Each of these will operate slightly different or offer different features or different amounts of cloud storage, but the basic principles are the same and so is the benefit you can recieve in adoption.

Simon.

therats

This is one of the seminal works of the renowned and recently deceased James Herbert.  I had the pleasure of listening to the audio book version of this story, which was read by Gareth Armstrong.  Gareth Armstrong is a fantastic audio narrator.  Of late he has been performing some of the audiobooks for The Black Library in their Horus Heresy series.  I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered his narration of The Rats.

The Rats is a story about an invasion of London by malevolent 2ft tall rats with a hunger for human flesh.  It follows the path of a school teacher called Harris and his experience throughout the ordeal of the invasion and the conclusion of the horrific ordeal.  Harris is a believable character and thought I didn’t really feel myself rooting for him (with the exception of the school scene) he is well drawn, likeable and sympathetic.

One thing James Herbert did really well is give you an insight into the average people of London during the invasion, and many of the chapters are really “slice of life” sub-stories which show the grizzly demise of one or a number of London’s citizens.  This, for me, was one of the best aspects of The Rats because James Herbert skilfully paints these characters as real people and makes you sympathise with them or care about them even though you know they’re about to have their eyes gnawed out a page later.

Some of the social commentary about public housing, poverty, sanitation, etc was very poignant and really made me think.

This is a great story and well written and in the hands of a skillful narrator such as Gareth Armstrong it is a delight to listen to in the audio format.  I wouldn’t say its a truly terrifying read. Creepy and  a bit gross.  His depiction of violence scenes is tasteful and restrained (when compared to splatterpunk etc).  There is no wonder that it is one of the great works of horror in past century and it’s no wonder that James Herbert was a bestseller and master author.

The ending was blatantly left open for a sequel.  Normally I don’t like it when this is done without any subtlety but I cant complain too much because the novel was totally awesome.  Herbert also wrote two sequels to The Rats, which I can’t wait to read in future.   I found some of the sex scenes or descriptions used in the sex scenes to be slightly awkward, but it didn’t really detract from the over all work.  For a story that was written in the early 70’s it has aged really well and is still a fantastic read 40 years later.

I’d consider this a must read for any horror fan or fan of apocalyptic themed fiction.

4.5 stars.

S.

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I recently had the pleasure of reading Wool by Hugh Howey. My wife bought it for me after the shop assistant at Dymocks suggested it.
The story is set in a dystopian world where everyone lives in an underground silo we follow the the paths of several characters, the main protagonist being a lady by the name of Juliette.  Dragged from obscurity in the Mechanical department, located deep in the silo, Juliette is railroaded into becoming the Silo’s sheriff.  Things go pear-shaped when she discovers the I.T department’s dirty secrets and she’s banished from the silo into the toxic wasteland outside.  She discovers that life does exist outside her home silo, that there are other silos and in the end stages daring return to her home in an attempt to free it from the dictators that have assumed power there.

For the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I felt the world building was fantastic and the characters were well visualised.  Juliette was a very strong and capable character, but had her flaws and weakeness as well and I found myself rooting from her.

Where GRRM killed off the initial hero of his series and I could barely continue to read onwards, Hugh Howey basically does the same thing and it didn’t ruin the story.  I think this was achieved by the fact that he’d generated enough interest in me about what the silo was and what secrets were to be uncovered, that I could withstand having the first person I invested myself in killed off very early.  Kudos, Hugh.

The book deals with typical dystopian themes of societal control, control of information, etc and does so well but nothing Hugh Howey does is particularly revolutionary there.

The weaknesses I found in this novel were  largely around poor writing of action scenes and what I felt was a bit of a deus ex machina ending.

The eyes through which the major battle scene in the novel are viewed are not even close to those which would show the most adrenaline-pumping or emotional view for the reader.  This momentous event in the story could have had a much greater effect for the reader if it had been delivered from a different point of view.  In addition, much of the action seemed glossed over .. as though viewed from afar.  Effectively it was being viewed from afar, but this had the resultant effect of removing much of the impact for me.

As for the ending,… I guess it was plausible, however I feel it is very much deus ex machina style ending.  I didn’t really buy it 100%.  Effectively, the day is saved by a character who has been off screen for 90% of the novel until that point who suddenly decides to have a change of heart based upon overhearing a radio conversation. He then turns on the guy who got him his job and who has been grooming him for a leadership role and sides with the woman who he knowingly sent to her death previously so he could steal her job.  If this character, Peter Billings, had spent more time on the page and there had been more reason for the reader to not just seem him as an opportunistic evil goon but rather as a reasonable and genuinely good but mistaken guy, then I would’ve found more realistic. Given what we did know about Peter (knowingly sending innocent people to their deaths for material gain etc) his change of mind at the end of the story is a bitter pill to swallow.

If I had to give it a rating out of five I’d give it a 3.5-4 stars.  It’s a great book and a great read and I do look forward to reading Shift and Dust, but I feel it was let down by the ending and poorly written action.

The Ten Books …

Posted: December 14, 2013 in Reviews
Tags: , ,

 

So I bumped into a writer/editor and spec-fic fan recently by the name of Alexis A. Hunter.  On her blog she took her turn at a game where people went through 10 of their favourite books which made an lasting impression on them.  I figured I can play this game too, so here is my 10.  Thanks Alexis.  Let me know what you think, peeps!

The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
My father read this to me when I was 4-5 years old. I loved every minute of it and it was my first exposure to fantasy, outside of fairy tales.  It was also my first exposure to a sprawling epic story, and it open my eyes to wonder. LotR Definately played a part in my life-long love of speculative fiction. I remember being really sad when Frodo was going  to Mordor by himself and I had a bit of a cry and Dad and I had to take a break from reading. No shame.  What a fantastic memory.

Three Men in a Boat – Jerome K Jerome
Read through this with my father at a young age.  Spent many nights literally in tears we were laughing so hard.  Can’t express the sheer hilarity of this book and the amount of enjoyment I got out of it. There is something of the characters in this book in all of us. This really is the funniest book written in the english language. Ever.

Hell House – Richard Matheson
We’ve all heard a haunted house story.. either around a campfire, in a book or in the movies.- hands down this is the scariest of all of them.  From the freaky seances to the poltergeist rape scenes, this genuinely terrified me on some level.  Also, Matheson clearly did a lot of research into spiritualism and mediumship before writing this so its masterfully done. A must read for horror fans.

Genesis – WA Harbinson
Possibly the best UFO novel ever written. It’s Sci-fi, it’s Horror, it’s alternative history.  With tonnes of real world events from history (cia/govt investigations into Ufos etc)  weaved into the tale, it has a ring of authenticity that is unmatched.  The way he went about weaving things like Roswell, Project Bluebook, the “Washington Invasion” etc into his narrative was masterful and instructional for writers. Genesis is a thrilling and exciting read with fantastic characters and it really makes you think “what if…”

The Horus Heresy Series – The Black Library (Multiple Authors)
In the grim darkness of the far future – There is only war. Mankind is ruled by a benevolent demigod dictator who sends his genetically engineered super-sons and their gene-forged trans-human legionaries out among the stars to unite the human diaspora and repel ravening hordes of aliens and daemons.  It’s cosmic horror, its scifi, its fantasy.  There’s big boom-boom guns, magic and psychic powers. You just can’t top this shit.

West of Eden – Harry Harrison
An alternate history tale where dinosaurs never became excinct and continued to live and evolve alongside humans. With the all the pep of a inter-species war of extinction, a coming of age tale and a thimbleful of romance -West of Eden has something for everyone. Another book that really made me sit and think “What if..?”

Off Season – Jack Ketchum
I’m not sure this is my favourite of Jack’s works, but honestly this story smashed me for six.  The sheer graphic horror of this book, is amazing. The grand-daddy of splatterpunk novels, Jack took the in-your-face horror of movies like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and translated it onto the written page for the first time. The only way it could’ve been more disturbing is if he actually penned it in human blood.  A harrowing and disgusting survival horror tale that unfolds over the period of 24 hours, with ferocious inbred cannibals pitted against holiday makers and a near-retirement police officer. An truly amazing writer – also highly recommend his other seminal works such as The Girl Next Door.

The Shadow over Innsmouth – HP Lovecraft
The grandfather of Cosmic Horror, HP Lovecraft was a racist fossil with some very bad writing habits.  He could tell an amazing tale though and, in the case of The Shadow over Innsmouth, he excelled himself.  A young sight-seeing travels to a town where he must flee from the inhabitants are half-men half-fish worshipers of an ocean dwelling god called Dagon. It’s creepy as hell and, through the use of various interlocutors, Lovecraft takes the reader through a story spanning well over a century. The audiobook version found in “The Dark Worlds of HP Lovecraft” read by Wayne June is truly terrifying as are Wayne’s rendition of Lovecraft’s myriad other stories.  Highly Recommended.

Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle
Ok Ok, so Sherlock Holmes was a character and not a book, but i’ve read all of the novels and short stories and I can’t name a singular favourite. While Holmes and Watson were both relatively one dimensional characters they were still
fantastic and Sherlock is, hands down, one of the great characters in English literature. In addition, the impact the stories had on English literature ( they were the first real “serials” ever, I think) cannot be underestimated.  The Sherlock Holmes tales are like detective mystery cut with crack cocaine. Thrilling and addictive, possibly mind altering.

The Wheel of Time – Robert Jordan
From a young age I’d wait eagerly for each new book to come out as I made my way through this series. I’ve never, EVER, spent so much time theorising what may have actually happened or what my have occurred in a novel or series of novels as I have with this.  From the fully realised world, to the languages, to the maps, to the cultures, to the magic system. This is one of the examples of fantasy world building around.  I love some of the characters, I hated some of them so much I wanted to hurl the book across the room – but each and everyone one of them was real, like a living breathing person on the page.  I’m not sure I’ve ever loved another series before like I love the wheel of time, and I’m not sure I ever will.

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I recently had the fantastic opportunity to listen to the audio version of “In The Tall Grass” by Stephen King and Joe Hill.

This is a novella and its a short but very creepy ride.

Basically the story involves a young pregnant girl Becky Demuth, on the road for a vacation with her twin brother, Cal. She’s going through the process of deciding whether or not she’ll keep the baby or put it up for adoption. They pull off the highway to investigate the sound of a young boy crying out for help from a field of very long grass.  They quickly find themselves disoriented and lost and are separated and confronted by various denizens of this field.

This is a ripping read, or listen, and a great way to pass an afternoon or evening. The audio version, narrated by Stephen Lang, is well read.  Some audiobook narrators, frankly, suck. Stephen Lang does not but nor does he give certain scenes the sense of urgency that truly good narrator would have.  I found the voice of the young boy to be particularly annoying but I guess it fit in well with the story, especially when Cal exclaims “Fuck the kid!” and starts his desperate attempt to get out of the long grass. I guess, perhaps, that I was thinking “thank fuck that kid was annoying, get out of there!” more than I was worrying about safety of the characters

This story has the feel of some of King’s earlier stories, such as “Children of the Corn” but I felt that some of the punchier moments in the story were almost definitely Joe Hill’s handiwork. I could be wrong though!  Guessing who wrote which parts was definitely part of the fun of reading this collaborative piece.

The story is, in some respects, something that we can all relate to. Everyone knows the feeling of someone calling out for help. Everyone knows the kind of disturbing primal fear that ensues when you’re lost, and most of us have been disoriented or lost in a nature setting (forest/bush land/etc) at least once in our lives. There is something in this story that everyone will find compelling.  There’s also something in this story that most people will find repulsive as well.  I wont go into details but the story is slightly gorey and the ending is a tad sickening. Its certainly no splatterpunk or bizarro bloodbath, there are a few scenes of intense violence and a final ungodly act which is the icing on the cake.

The story starts slow and builds up to a bang and has an outro/epilogue which makes you think “oh god no..” and, in a way, leaves itself open for a sequel, even.  I can see this one being made into a pulp horror screenplay and a B grade direct-to-video movie one day.  This is good, old fashioned horror.  *thumbs up*

Worth a read or a listen and most horror fans will enjoy the tale.
I spent a lot of time wondering which bits Stephen or Joe wrote and what the father-son collaborative process was like.

Get it. Read it. Enjoy it.