Posts Tagged ‘Grey Matter Press’

eiabadvance_panelcover

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Grey Matter Press

Length: 319 Pages

John F.D. Taff’s The End In All Beginnings was easily one of my most anticipated reads of the summer ever since it was announced in late April by Grey Matter Press. The collection of five new novellas from Taff made its debut at this years World Horror Convention  months before its late summer scheduled release date, but I was unfortunately unable to attend. I thought I would have to wait a few more months to snag a copy, so I was ecstatic when Grey Matter Press made a few of the autographed Special Advance Edition copies available for order on their website.

The cover of The End In All Beginnings describes the novellas as “emotional horrors” and I think that term sums them perfectly with their focus on themes like love, life and death. The collection’s first story, “What Becomes God”, is a perfect introduction to the emotional wringer the reader is about to go through. Focusing on a boy named Brian, “What Becomes God” is a heartbreaking tale that shows the lengths a person will go to in order to try to save their friend. Taff does an excellent job of capturing childhood in this story, detailing how Brian would spend all day outside until dinner during the summer playing kickball, exploring the woods and generally spending the entire day hanging out with friends. The story grabbed me immediately because these scenes reminded me of how I spent my childhood and Taff captures that feeling of magical freedom perfectly.

Even without the dark twist toward the end of the story, “What Becomes God” is pretty terrifying. I was telling my wife about the story (before I made it to the story’s plot twist) and she said something along the lines of “That doesn’t sound like horror, I thought you said it was a horror book?” While everyone is entitled to their own opinion as to what constitutes horror, my immediate response was what is scarier than facing death at a young age and being powerless to do anything?

One of the things that makes The End In All Beginnings such a great collection is Taff’s ability to take familiar horror creatures and inject new life into them with brilliant twists. “Love In The Time Of Zombies” is an absolute must-read for any zombie fan as Taff manages to break new ground while still keeping the blood, guts and everything else people love about zombies intact. Taff also blends in some science-fiction with “Visitation”, a powerful story that puts an original spin on the traditional ghost story.

Picking a favorite from The End In All Beginnings is virtually impossible, but if I were forced to choose right now, I would have to go with  “The Long, Long Breakdown”. Detailing the life of a father and his daughter in a post-apocalyptic Florida in which flood waters have devastated the area, Taff paints a portrait of a parent-child relationship that instantly reminded me of the emotional narrative of one of my favorite novels, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. While the post-apocalyptic setting will appeal to fans of the genre, the real power comes from the portrayal of how even when society has changed forever, the dynamic between a parent and their child remains the same.

This is truly one of the best collection of novellas I have read in a while and will definitely be in the running for one of my favorite reads of the year. I feel like this collection will not only appeal to horror fans, but could interest readers of just about any genre. So, whether you are looking for introduction to the world of horror or are already a seasoned horror fanatic, you will definitely want to give The End In All Beginnings a read!

Rating: 5/5

Links

John F.D. Taff’s Official Website

Grey Matter Press’ Official Website

Order The End In All Beginnings – Special Advance Edition (These are limited and come signed by the author, so order one soon before they sell out!)

darkvisions2

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Grey Matter Press

Length: 320 Pages

Dark Visions – Volume Two is the companion piece to the 2013 Stoker Award nominated Dark Visions – Volume One and features 14 more stories that explore the dark corners of the imagination . Now, if you have already read my reviews for the stellar first volume and Ominous Realities, you already know that I am a huge fan of Grey Matter Press and the anthologies they have released. I decided to dive into Dark Visions – Volume Two the same way I approached the other anthologies in Grey Matter Press’ impressive library of dark fiction – completely in the dark and avoiding the individual story summaries that give clues as to what to expect. The main thing I love about these anthologies is each story begins in a very realistic manner, drawing the reader in with the comfort of the familiar. As you read each story, however, you just know something terrifying is lurking in the shadows and the blind journey into each story’s dark twist is an exhilarating thrill-ride.

If you would like to follow the same journey, all you need to know is that Dark Visions – Volume Two is a diverse collection of highly entertaining and well-written dark fiction that comes with my highest recommendation and will be a welcome addition to your horror library. That being said, if you are the type of reader who can’t resist flipping ahead in a book and skimming a few passages before you start reading, allow me to introduce you to my favorite stories from this excellent collection!

“Moonlighting” by Chad McKee is the story of two New York City stockbrokers who seemingly have everything they could ever want, yet they feel bored by the mundane routines of their everyday lives. That all changes with the introduction of “The Game”; a dark series of objectives that begin with little more than a location and a time. “The Game” adds the jolt of excitement the two characters have been chasing, but at what cost?

“Moonlighting” is a thrilling story that while utilizing a mysterious group, focuses more on the evil that lurks within the characters. I loved the intricacies that went into building the background of “The Game” and the group known as “The Men With No Faces”. I expected the organization as being the main source of evil, but McKee’s portrayal of the participants and their motives make the story even more frightening. Sure, they are given instructions and monitored by guards at first, but the participants ultimately make their own choices and those choices are the sources of horror that drive “Moonlighting”.

“The Elementals and I” by C.M. Saunders is a unique story told from the perspective of an executive for a  pharmaceutical company who manufactures drugs that are supposed to combat psychological illnesses. His company develops a drug called Pirifinil, a drug which was supposed to improve cognitive function and reduce fatigue. The drug had all the makings of a huge financial breakthrough because who can resist the allure of becoming a better version of themselves? However, the human trials uncover a side effect of Pirifinil that has horrifying consequences for those who take the drug.

I was absolutely riveted by Saunders’ story of psychological horror and immediately thought of all the drug commercials that list side effects that seem as bad, if not worse, than the ailments they are supposed to prevent. Saunders takes this unsettling side of the pharmaceutical industry and uses it to create a truly creepy story that blurs the line between what is real and what is being caused by the drug. There is one question that has been nagging me since I finished “The Elementals and I”: I wonder what it would take to convince Saunders to reveal The Elementals’ explanation of what killed the dinosaurs!

David Murphy’s “Water, Some Of It Deep” is an atmospheric tale that derives its strength from Murphy’s excellent characterization and depiction of the rocky friendship between the narrator and Henry. “Water, Some Of It Deep” is a chilling read because it serves as a reminder that evil is not always easy to detect, sometimes it lurks within the person you would least expect.

Grey Matter Press editors Anthony Rivera and Sharon Lawson once again use their uncanny ability to discover engaging stories that have a universal appeal to dark fiction readers. Keep an eye out for their upcoming releases The End In All Beginnings (a collection of five new novellas from John F.D. Taff) and the recently announced Equilibrium Overturned anthology, you won’t want to miss these titles!

Rating: 5/5

Grey Matter Press’ Official Website

List of authors and stories featured in Dark Visions – Volume Two

Purchase Dark Visions – Volume Two on Amazon

darkvisions1

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Grey Matter Press

Length: 256 Pages

Submitted by the publisher for review

Dark Visions – Volume One is one of the first anthologies released by the stellar horror publishing company Grey Matter Press. A few weeks ago I posted a review of their latest, Ominous Realities, and mentioned that they are putting out some of the best anthologies around. After having just read Dark Visions – Volume One, I still stand by that statement. Edited by Anthony Rivera and Sharon Lawson and nominated for a 2013 Stoker Award, Dark Visions – Volume One contains thirteen horror short stories that immediately grab your attention and refuse to let go.

I am a huge fan of horror short stories because I love seeing an author build a complete world full of vibrant scenes and characters in such limited space. It builds tension and keeps you turning the pages until you reach the final conclusion, often leaving a sense of ambiguity that allows the story to linger long after it is finished. Dark Visions- Volume One delivers all of the best traits of the format and a diverse selection of authors to create a must-read collection.

Just like Ominous Realities, this collection features writers that I already enjoy and writers that I have not heard of before. There were a few stories from the writers I discovered in Dark Visions that really stuck with me in a profound way and I wish were novels instead of short stories (though that’s just me being greedy).

Jeff Hemenway’s story, “The Weight Of Paradise”, is an absolutely stunning story and ranks as one of my more recent favorites. The story focuses on Alfie, a man who was diagnosed with leukemia and near death before his scientist girlfriend Sophie discovers a cure. While the discovery helps cure him of his disease, it has horrible consequences for everyone involved.

I can’t speak for the author’s motivations for writing the story or his inspiration, but this story instantly made me think of a certain type of horror monster as soon as I read it. Alfie and his friends share some remarkable similarities to these monsters, but there is a fresh and horrifying twist that makes their origin unique (if I am right in my assumption). The story itself is well-written and engaging, but it is the ending’s emotional sucker-punch that really makes “The Weight of Paradise” shine.

“Second Opinion” by Ray Garton is probably the scariest story I have ever read involving writers since Joe Hill’s “Best New Horror”. Garton wastes no time in grabbing your attention by starting his story with a simple yet horrifying question – “Do you know what it’s like to cut up your best friend with a hacksaw?”. What follows is a haunting recollection by an author named Greg, where he explains just what drove him to murder his best friend. What really scared the hell out of me with this story was the fact that it was, for the most part, plausible. Garton throws in a dash of the supernatural, but most of the story is something that could realistically happen in real life. I always wanted to be a writer, but after reading Garton’s tale, the prospect scares the shit out of me!

Milo James Fowler’s “What Do You Need?” is the haunting story of a man named John who wakes up in a mysterious room devoid of any windows, doors or other means of escape. There is little in the room except basic necessities, an ominous television broadcasting nothing but static and a telephone. The telephone does not seem to work in any capacity until finally a voice asks, “What do you need?” There is no other communication from the person on the other line, despite John’s multiple requests for answers, just the same phrase every single time he picks up the phone.

I loved “What Do You Need?” for its psychological elements. I couldn’t even begin to imagine being trapped in an inescapable situation, and Fowler does an excellent job putting the reader into John’s shoes and conveying the desperation someone would feel in that situation. Another reason I probably connected so much with this story is it had the atmosphere of a classic “Twilight Zone” episode and that is one of my favorite TV shows of all time.

Brian Fatah Steele’s “Delicate Spaces” focuses on a small group of paranormal researchers who are drawn to the Rayburn Hotel in order to investigate the numerous reports of unexplained phenomena that occur there. Most of the incidents seem to occur in the back hallway of the hotel where two mysterious items are stored. The items in question are a decorative mirror and a tapestry with an abstract design that hangs on the wall directly opposite the mirror. Most of the sightings that originate from the Rayburn Hotel occur when visitors look at the tapestry in the reflection of the mirror, causing them to see things that are not really there. Many of the sightings are seemingly harmless, until a woman says she sees an army in the tapestry and flees the hotel.

After not experiencing any of the alleged activity during their stay, one of the researchers decides to conduct a last-ditch experiment in the hallway with low-frequency generators. This experiment leads to the shocking revelation of what exactly is occurring at the Rayburn Hotel and it is definitely something you will not see coming. I don’t usually get scared that easily, but after reading “Delicate Spaces”, it is only a matter of time before the events of the story wind up in my nightmares!

I also loved “Mister Pockets” by Jonathan Maberry and “Show Me” by John F.D. Taff. These stories were the ones I was looking forward to reading the most when I first received Dark Visions and they were every bit as good as I hoped. This is an absolute “must read” anthology chock full of scary tales and you are guaranteed to find at least one new author you will love!

Rating: 5/5

Grey Matter Press’ Official Website

List of authors and stories featured in Dark Visions – Volume One

Purchase Dark Visions – Volume One on Amazon

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Grey Matter Press announced today that a special Advance Edition of John F.D. Taff’s The End In All Beginnings, will be available at this year’s World Horror Convention which is set to take place May 8 through May 11 in Portland, Oregon. The collection contains five new novellas from Taff that “explore the painful, emotional horrors of life, love and loss through the ages”. They will be limited in number, so if you are attending the convention make sure you snag a copy, otherwise you will have to wait until July or August like the rest of us! Unfortunately I will not be able to attend the convention, so I guess this gives me another reason to be jealous of those who are going and/or people who get to live in an awesome city like Portland.

The titles of the novellas included are “What Becomes God,” “Object Permanence,” “Love in the Time of Zombies,” “The Long, Long Breakdown” and “Visitation”. Grey Matter Press has outdone themselves again with this one; the cover looks amazing and rumor has it each story was assigned a tarot card illustration, which is a pretty cool idea. Taff is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers (I only recently discovered his work, but so far everything I have read of his has been outstanding). I strongly encourage those who are attending to grab a copy of this, whether you are already a fan or not, because it is sure to be an outstanding collection!

Check out Grey Matter Press’ press release to learn more and see what Jonathan Mayberry(!) had to say about The End In All Beginnings.

ominousrealities

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Grey Matter Press

Length: 331 Pages

Ominous Realities is the brand new anthology from the awesome people at Grey Matter Press and serves up 16 extraordinarily written tales that fall within the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres. I must say when I was contacted by Anthony Rivera of Grey Matters with an offer to review the anthology, I jumped at the chance. These stories, despite their variety of styles and genre classifications, all have one thing in common – giving you a glimpse at unique post-apocalyptic scenarios.

While many of these stories may not be horror in the traditional sense, there is no doubt that the futures depicted in each one of these stories is quite horrifying in their own way. What makes these stories just as scary (or scarier) than your traditional horror fare is that in most cases, these scenarios could actually happen.

William Meikle’s “On The Threshold” is the first story that details such a possibility. Meikle’s story focuses on the trials of two scientists named John and Connon as they attempt to use a high-powered lab, a wealth of resources and their staggering scientific intellect to create their own universe from nothing. Their goal seems relatively harmless – an endeavor to study the origins of a universe and whether the rules of ours would apply – all in the name of science.  Do the aims of John and Connor sound familiar? Well they should, as we are currently conducting an experiment with the Large Hadron Collider built by CERN for startlingly similar purposes. After reading the frightening experiences contained within “On The Threshold”, it raises the question: Should we be manipulating forces we do not fully understand?

Ken Altabel’s story, “Doyoshota”, is another story that while not necessarily based in our reality, draws information from a puzzling real life phenomena. I have always been fascinated with unexplained phenomena of all kinds and can honestly admit to spending countless hours trawling Wikipedia pages and falling down the rabbit hole of links contained within each article. UFO’s, hauntings , “The Bloop” and countless other cases have all captured my interest. Altabel’s story draws inspiration from real-life reports of a phenomena known as “The Hum”. This phenomenon is categorized as a low-frequency sound that is often described as a persistent buzzing. What makes The Hum so unique is that it cannot be easily explained away since it is a constant occurrence and has been reported all over the world. Altabel’s story explores this mysterious phenomena through the eyes of a University of Rochester audiologist sent to the town of Doyoshota, Nevada to investigate the potential cause of the noise along with other scientists. At first, the noises are not taken seriously and the residents that report them are portrayed as eccentric, to put it mildly. However, as the character begins to hear the hum himself and witnesses the mental degradation of the biggest skeptic – Air Force psychologist Guy Patterson – it becomes clear that “The Hum” is real. The character slowly begins realizing the origins of The Hum, and not only is it absolutely terrifying, it offers a very logical theory for the origins of the phenomena.

Gregory L. Norris’ story “Third Offense” is set in a world that seems to have been spawned from the tendency of press outlets to create content more impressed with “clicks” and “reach” than actual substance and eye implants that resemble  a supercharged version of Google Glass. Hugh A.D. Spencer’s story, “John, Paul, Xavier, Ironside and George (But Not Vincent)” is a surreal take on an apocalyptic scenario in which roving clouds of nanobots lay waste to civilization.

Although most of the stories contained in Ominous Realities fall outside of the traditional horror genre, there are a few tales that come directly from the genre. “Angie” by John F.D. Taff  focuses on the lives of Dennis and Angie, a divorced couple who are trying to survive the zombie apocalypse together. I absolutely loved this story and it was a unique take on the zombie genre that offers frightening and grim look at the realities of the walking dead roaming the streets with an emotional dynamic that is every bit as interesting. It is obvious to see they still care about each other and that love is proved in a final twist ending that was both sweet and incredibly horrifying.

My favorite story from the anthology has to be Bracken MacLeod’s stellar contribution, “Pure Blood and Evergreen”. MacLeod tells the story of Pyotr cel Tinar, a youth who is held in a prison camp after the New Republic rises to power and destroys his village as part of a cleansing process. It is not clear until later in the story that Pytor may not be what he seems, but even then you can’t help but feel horrified by the nightmarish conditions he was forced to endure. This was the first story I have read from MacLeod, but I think it is safe to say I am now a fan for life!

Grey Matter Press has done a phenomenal job with Ominous Realities and in my opinion, they are putting out some of the best anthologies in the genre. While you may not be a fan of every story, there is enough variety here to ensure that you will find something to enjoy and may introduce you to some new and extremely talented authors. This is a “must purchase” anthology for any dark fiction fan!

Rating: 5/5

Links

Grey Matter Press’ Official Website

List of stories and authors featured in Ominous Realities

Purchase Ominous Realities on Amazon

thebellwitch

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Books of the Dead Press

Length: 266 Pages

I discovered John F.D. Taff’s newest novel The Bell Witch completely by chance while browsing Amazon’s bestseller list for horror. People always say you should never judge a book by its cover, but the sinister looking cover (which I later found out was designed by one of my favorite authors Kealan Patrick Burke) is what immediately grabbed my attention. Intrigued, I decided to check out the synopsis and once I learned it was based on The Bell Witch Haunting, that was all it took to have me hooked.

John F.D. Taff’s novel focuses on the Bells, an early 19th century farm family from Tennessee who are haunted by an entity known only as the “Witch”. The entities arrival at the Bell homestead causes the Bells to fall into chaos as they are plagued by odd sounds, occasional bouts of violence and unrelenting taunts. The hauntings are limited to the home at first and the Bells think that if they just ignore the disturbances, The Witch will go away. The domineering patriarch of the Bell family, Jack Bell, refuses to allow his slaves into the house and places a ban on speaking about the disturbances to prevent others in the town from finding about the entity. However, the Witch foils these plans by making an appearance at the local church and announcing its presence to the entire town when it interrupts the church service.

While the Witch torments all of the members of the Bell family and other people who cross its path, it focuses much of its energy and hatred toward Jack. It frequently tells him and his family that its main purpose for existing is to make Jack suffer and that before it leaves it will kill him. The reason its anger falls mostly upon Jack is one of the novel’s central mysteries and is directly related to what The Witch is and why it has decided to  torment the Bell family.

As a former history major, huge fan of documented hauntings and all things paranormal, I absolutely loved The Bell Witch. Many familiar with the Bell Witch Haunting will take issue with the artistic liberties Taff has taken with the legend and feel disappointed it doesn’t strictly adhere to the events reported to have occurred. However, I applaud Taff for making the history of the Bell Witch his own because it adheres to the spirit of the legend. The two definitive texts on the legend were published 60 and 75 years after the alleged events. Who is to say those writers did not take liberties of their own? Besides, Taff’s liberties with the Bell Witch story make for a truly unique origin story for the Bell Witch.

It is also important to note that The Bell Witch is not an all out fright-fest, so if that is what you are looking for, you may be disappointed with The Bell Witch. However, if you can appreciate an atmospheric ghost story that leans more towards “quiet horror” territory, you will fall in love with this novel. That isn’t to say the book doesn’t have its truly frightening moments, though. There is a pretty creepy possession scene that horror fans will love and Taff does an incredible job of adding quick shots of terror through the Witch’s actions. The action occasionally lags, but overall The Bell Witch is an outstanding take on a uniquely American ghost story that I would highly recommend.

Taff recently announced a new novella collection for Grey Matter Press titled The End in All Beginnings and two rewritten novels titled The Exterminator and The Orpheus Box for Books of the Dead Press and to say these are highly anticipated would be an understatement.

Rating: 4/5

Links

John F.D. Taff’s Official Website

Books of the Dead Press

Purchase The Bell Witch on Amazon