Saturday, April 30, 2022

 Come Ye And Worship At. . .

The Altar From Space

I was attracted to The Altar From Space by Radar DeBoard, as the premise centers on the repercussions that follow when folks who should know better mess with things they shouldn’t. And we’ve all seen the films where this happens. Where commonsense screams at the intrepid heroes and heroines to do one thing – and gosh-darn-it – they go and do the exact opposite. . .

Oh, the fun that ensues.

But what happens when such fun and frolics unfold in the depths of space?

Let’s find out:


Talisha Martinson and her crew respond to the distress signal of the SS Revelation, only to discover that nobody is there. It quickly becomes apparent that something monstrous is lurking aboard the SS Revelation, and it's not going to let anyone leave with their life.machines?


So, the scene is set. Talisha Martinson and her crew are about to head home after a tour of duty serving as spaceborne maintenance & repair mechanics, when they receive a distress signal from the SS Revelation out in the Malestromos sector. The thing is, the distress signal is so short and sweet that there are no details for Talisha and Co to prepare properly. All that they know is that the Revelation is some sort of exploratory vessel that recovers relics and other objects from distant planets before bringing them back for proper analysis.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. . . THAT sounds a bit dodgy. Alien artifacts. Unknown origins. Ship that’s gone dark. If we were on the Jupiter 2, the robot would be waving his arms and shouting, “Warning! Warning! Danger, Wil Robinson!”

However, the bounty of 6 million credits to take a look serves as a great incentive for Talisha’s merry band to overlook any possible danger and get stuck in. Especially as they are also offered a further 6 million-credit bonus if they manage to get the Revelation repaired so that it can continue with its mission.

Of course, they proceed, posthaste, to the stricken vessel only to learn that it’s nothing but a ghost ship. One where the ghosts must be poltergeists, judging from the amount of bodies and bits of ship floating about in the vacuum outside. Undeterred, Talisha and the team head inside, where they quickly discover the damage is deliberate – ie, sabotage – and that someone, or something, has made quite a mess.

What that mess is, exactly, you’ll have to find out for yourselves, as trying to describe it here would give advance warning and spoil some major plot points. Buuut, if you think Event Horizon meets The Thing while on a trip through Cowboy Bebop country, you’ll be on the right track, as you’ll be in for a no-chance-to-catch-your-breath extravaganza of megalomaniacs on the loose, freaks running rampant, and ‘its behind you’ moments. 

And of course, the inevitable consequences of doing too little, too late.

All in all . . . great fun!

 Blackgate Fantasy Review


A Hybrid's Tale

“Cambion: the half-human offspring of the union between a human male and a Succubus, or a human female and an Incubus.”

 A Hybrid’s Tale is the latest offering by Andrew P. Weston. It’s a short, fast-paced novel set in the realm of “demondim,” and is the first book in his new series, The Cambion Journals. It’s “billed” as Occult Horror, but it’s much more than that. Weston skillfully blends and cross-breeds genres: supernatural horror and science fiction, fantasy and mythology, and a modern-day, action-packed thriller. It’s also a story of love and devotion, and something of a dark and sexy detective story, as well. This is a twisted game of cat-and-mouse — a frantic hunt and chase spanning continents and other dimensions.

I waited in the shadows

And thus, the story of Augustus Thorne, begins.

Born a Cambion — a half-demon, half-human hybrid — and cursed by a terrible hunger he can barely control, Augustus Thorne spends his long and lonely life hunting and exterminating any Incubi and Succubae he can find; they’re demons, of course, psychic vampires gifted with near-immortality and extraordinary powers. But who and what Augustus is truly after is his father, Fanon, the Incubus who raped his mother, Rosemary, in the year 1759, and getting her pregnant. Rosemary was then ostracized by her family and her village. She was pregnant and unwed, and they considered her a whore. Augustus was born in 1760 — born without a heartbeat. But he was alive; a hybrid, a Cambion. Mother and son soon moved on, and she loved and protected him, nurtured and taught him to be human, and from her, he had the innocence all children possess. Weston paints Augustus in such a way that he is quite a likable human, a charming and persuasive bloke with a quick wit who can make the ladies swoon.

However, for all his inherent humanity, Augustus is still part demon. Succubae and Incubi feast on the souls, on the lust and on the desire of their victims. They feed and they kill — they have to kill. Augustus can sense the scent of an Incubus, as well as the histamines of the Succubae. And he, too, must feed on humans, but he does not kill: he is not a killer, and the unholy cravings he suffers and must satisfy scare him half to death. This conflict between his human and demonic halves is a cause of great consternation for Augustus, a true struggle between the two halves of his nature, and is the heart of this story. We see that his human-half is all important to him, due to the mother he so loved. His vendetta against his father is a highly personal one, for he wants nothing more than to avenge his mother for the nightly degradations Fanon made her suffer, and for what his paternal heritage turned him into. He comes across as a fairly nice guy, but when forced to defend himself, we witness the awesome, demonic powers he was born with: not only the powers of an Incubi, but with the added powers of a Cambion. Paranormal, supernatural powers. He is like no other living being.

Rosemary, Augustus’ mother, kept diaries of their lives, of her relationship with Fanon and all that she suffered at his hands. There is a wealth of history and information within the pages of her diaries, and guided by her written memories, Augustus pursues Fanon down through the centuries and around the world, driven by the need to avenge his mother, to destroy Fanon for what he did to her. He also wants revenge for himself, for Fanon made him what he is — a hybrid of demon and human, and then later abandoned Augustus and his mother. (I know, I have already stated this fact.) But as the hunt goes on for his father, Augustus soon realizes that things are not as they appear, and the revelations he uncovers are mind-boggling. For if he wishes to confront his father, he must first learn more about his own unique heritage, and the awful circumstances that led to his creation. Not only does Augustus seek vengeance against his father, he has also sworn to hunt down and destroy any Incubus and Succubus he can find. The trouble is, doing so might just cost him his humanity, which is the one thing that sets him apart from the rest of Demondim.

Augustus soon discovers that there are others searching for his father, namely, the Forge: Succubae and Incubi assassins who hunt Fanon for their own personal and political reasons. Early on in the story, when Augustus picks up his father’s trail, he encounters a gang of Forge assassins and this leads to a wonderful battle royale. Now we learn more of the powers that not only Augustus wields, but the powers the Succubae and Incubi have at their command: flying in hyper-time; ESP, skirring, which is teleportation, only much faster; phase-shifting, where they can hide objects in hyperspace; and the ability to heal themselves, to name a few. Question is, will Augustus and the Forge become enemies or will they join forces and become allies? There is more to Augustus and his Cambion heritage than he knows. There are hints of what he is and why the Forge becomes interested in him, but these secrets and so much more aren’t revealed in this first volume of The Cambion Journals, and Weston ends this volume on a cliff-hanging note.

Written mostly in 1st person, as narrated by Augustus, this is a story of Demons and Fallen Angels. Weston’s prose is smooth, crisp and quick-moving. His dialogue is witty and informative, his characters solid and real. We get a great sense of Augustus’ personality, attitude and sense of humor, as well as entry into his thoughts and emotions. And during his quest he meets and seduces Colleen, a stunning and highly-sexual flight attendant, with whom he makes a deeper connection. If love is in the air for Augustus, Weston is not telling us. And in my mind, I’m thinking that Colleen may be more than she seems, something Augustus does not even suspect. But whether or not my hunch is right remains to be seen.

There is one paragraph that caught my attention early on and still lingers in my mind, where Weston describes in simple, poetic imagery, the beauty of falling rain:

Caught in the moment, Fanon watched, entranced, as a thousand fingernails drummed against his windowpane, staccato heralds to the aqueous procession now threading its way down the glass toward a sill already beaded in translucent pearls.

If you like well-plotted, fast-paced thrillers with plenty of action, if you enjoy occult horror and the paranormal, and the other genres I mentioned earlier, I think you’ll enjoy this one.

Besides A Hybrid’s Tale, Andrew P. Weston is the author of a number of novels, including Hell BoundHell Hounds, and Hell Gate (all reviewed here at Black Gate, so check out those links), which are set in the Heroes in Hell shared-universe series.

Friday, April 29, 2022

A Hybrid's Tale Review By
N.N. Light Book Heaven

My Review:

On the hunt to seek revenge against his father, Augustus can't quench his thirst for his heart's desire. Augustus is not your average being. He's a hybrid of sorts: half-demon, half-human. Alone and craving a particular brand of demon, he hunts and devours incubi/succubae. The more he feeds, the hungrier he becomes. What he truly wants is to track down his father and make him pay for what he did to Augustus' mother. Reading his mother's journals spurns him on to enact revenge. As he tracks his father, truths are uncovered, and his world comes crashing down. Before he can face his father, Augustus must learn all he can about his own heritage and his powers. Obsession can be deadly, especially when it comes to the truth.

A Hybrid's Tale is an enthralling dark paranormal fantasy worth your time reading. From the beginning, Augustus captivated me. Never has a character sent chills down my spine who I also rooted for. The descriptive narration is classic Andrew Weston with details galore so the reader can submerge into the story. The world-building is impressive and intricate with a dark vibe woven throughout. The plot moves at a good pace with plot twists I didn't anticipate. There's a mystery going on and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Andrew Weston has surpassed himself in his writing prowess and I look forward to reading the next book in the series. If you love dark fantasy, you're going to want to read A Hybrid's Tale. If dark paranormal fantasy is your reading jam, you'll love A Hybrid's Tale. Brilliant from start to finish, A Hybrid's Tale is unforgettable. Highly recommend!

My Rating: 5 stars
Buy Link

Thursday, April 21, 2022

 This is No Christmas Carol

Dead of Winter Review

Dead of Winter

It’s often said that the best fiction is built on a foundation of truth. And in Dead of Winter, Angus Houvouras manages to do just that by expanding on the well documented premise of the Nazi penchant for pushing the bounds of scientific and medical experimentation, without any regard for the consequences.

So, bearing that in mind, just take a quick look at the blurb:


The Third Reich has created an undead Nazi killing machine. Can a handful of American soldiers prevent this seemingly indestructible monster from escaping the POW camp and prevent the research of a crazed doctor from turning the world into a battlefield of bloodthirsty bioengineered machines?


Short and sweet, eh?

And cunningly understated too, as Houvouras initially introduces us to the story in 1949 – as told from the point of view of an investigator – hunting down those responsible for the many atrocities committed by the Third Reich during the Second World War. A subtle strategy, as this opening character is extremely thorough. He’s resilient. And his actions are portrayed using the flavor of a noir murder-mystery detective novel.

A clever move, for it not only draws you in from the outset, but sets the mood for what’s to come very nicely . . .

And for THAT we then take a trip back through time, to eastern France in 1944. The German army is in retreat, leaving certain bases and installations vulnerable to capture and exploitation by the advancing allied armies. And the master planners of the Third Reich are worried, because they’ve been abusing their power and treating the people they’ve oppressed like cattle, experimenting on them, and using foul means to achieve unholy results.

When a U.S. army unit is charged with clearing the hamlet of L’hiver, they have no idea of the horrors that await them, for a secluded facility just outside of town harbors dark secrets. Oh yes, the Nazis have tried to destroy all trace of the diabolical machinations taking place there . . . but they weren’t thorough enough, and when the U.S. army moves in? Let’s just say, what they find is as alarming as it is hard to believe. And the death count starts to rise, because how do you kill something that just won’t die?

You’ll find out, in an engaging, well-paced story that hooks onto the ‘echo’ inside – you know, that part of us that ‘just has to find out’ what happens next – and leads you along toward a finale back in 1949, containing a twist that is oh so sweet. . .

A great example of how to end a thriller properly.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

 Mosey On Over To My Review Of. . .

Ghosts of Crimson Hollow

As my followers will have discerned, I’ve been mixing my reading list up a bit lately. Dipping my toes into genres and sub-genres I haven’t really tried all that much in the past. Crossover novels; straightforward horror thrillers; mixed genre. And the reason for that is quite simple: Enjoyment!

Although I’m an avid sci-fi, fantasy and paranormal buff, I’ve been missing out on whole worlds of fun. So I thought I’d take my adventures that one step further, and try something that mixes the spirit of freedom, individualism and adventure of a western, with the nail-biting, crawling up your spine suspense of a horror. And the Ghosts of Crimson Hollow by Jon Dobbin fitted the bill quite nicely. Here’s the blurb:


Jim Colton is a loner living on the outskirts of the dying town of Crimson Hollow. Content in his ways, Colton lives off the land with no one to keep him company besides his trusty horse, Bill. That all changes when he meets archaeologists Basil Forsythe and Alice Green.

Hired as a guide and guard, Colton leads them to a local wonder— a large sinkhole made of red rock. There the archaeologists begin their exploration, and people start dying.

Problem is, the dead don’t stay dead.

With a handful of survivors, and the town of Crimson Hollow in danger, Colton is faced with the choice to either be a leader and take a stand or leave them all to die.

Either way, Colton is going to be haunted by the ghosts of Crimson Hollow.


Cool eh?

Think of the cowboy legend, Shane, set down in a Legend of Sleepy Hollow situation, with all the blunt realism incorporated within the 2017 revisionist Western, Hostiles, and you’ll capture the mood of Jon Dobbin’s adventure quite nicely. Because, believe me. This is one tidy adventure you won’t want to miss.

What I particularly enjoyed about this story is that it was soundly constructed, well thought out, and simply delivered in a style and language that allows you to immerse yourself in Jim Colton’s life. As well it should.

Colton is a loner. A survivor who lives a solitary life, fending for himself in the wide expanse of a land can be as much an enemy as it is your friend. While out hunting one day, he does a good deed that turns into something of an obligation. An obligation that ends up dragging him into all sorts of trouble.

How so?

Well, when you’re used to a maverick lifestyle, the sudden arrival of devious treasure hunters; naïve damsels in distress; foolhardy hangers-on who are not only too trusting in their duplicitous boss, but totally unprepared for the dangers ahead can cause quite the headache. Especially when they seem determined to ignore local knowledge regarding cursed caves, and forge blindly ahead, delving into things best left alone.

And when things do eventually go belly up, a town full of disbelieving folk isn’t the best place to be when your life’s on the line. So, how does Colton dig himself out of this mess?

You’ll see, in a rather entertaining adventure that leaves you feeling as appreciative of the fun you’ve just had, as you are of the eventual outcome. (No spoilers).
On a personal note, I was also intrigued, in a strangely reminiscent way, about Jim Colton’s character. And that’s a good thing, as every author wants to leave their readers wanting more. So, roll on the next Jim Colton adventure. It's as much dastardly fun as you can have with your hat on!

Amazon Review

Sunday, April 10, 2022

 The Beast From Beyond

The Beast From Beyond

I don’t know about you, but I’m attracted to stories that stand out as unique. And while I do have a preference – you know, a style, a theme and a genre that I always seem attracted to – I also like to keep my eye open for those examples that differ from the norm.

And ‘different’ is what you get with Sam Phillips’ The Beast From Beyond, Book 1 of the Dead Sun Chronicles.

Here’s the blurb:


The sun is dying and with it the Earth. Ryon Barker is a young man aboard a ship fleeing into the unknown abyss of space, but where exactly are they heading? Inter-dimensional demons lurk in the shadows beyond reality, waiting to guide Ryon and the ship towards a horrifying destiny no one is prepared to confront. As the Beast looms in his waking nightmares and terrifying visions haunt his fevered mind, Ryon must navigate his parent’s high expectations for his future while living up to his own hopes for love and purpose.

But how will he overcome the cosmic forces which seek to use him as a pawn in a game bigger than reality itself?


Our story develops from the perspective of Ryon Barker. A young man who, for all the wrong reasons, stands out from the rest of the crew. His mother just so happens to be the ship’s captain. His father is the chief medical officer. And Ryon himself? He’s something of a social misfit who doesn’t fit in. He’s ‘complicated’ and has a tendency to avoid everyday challenges by overanalyzing everything and procrastinating. This makes him come across as an obstinate whiner. Don’t get me wrong, he has a small circle of friends. But even they are irritated by his attitude, because, instead of making any attempt to integrate himself into the sterile environment and routine aboard the ship, Ryon holds them at arm’s length, preferring the solitude of the engine room over the company of friends.

And that’s a problem, because the engine room is where the void drive is housed, a physics-warping dynamo that wreaks havoc on human physiology. As you can imagine, Ryon soon falls ill, and succumbs to a malady that is more like an invasive infection that exotic radiation poisoning.

An apt analogy, for as the infection spreads, Ryon finds himself able to peer through the veil separating the real world from what lies beyond/within/without, making him question his grasp on reality, and reminding us of an old adage: when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you . . .

Only in this case, it speaks!

Eerie, insidious stuff.

I will admit that it took me a while to adapt to Phillip’s writing style, but once I had, I was able to progress at a comfy pace and relate to how the story arc was developing. And it develops well, containing insidious, classic sci-fi elements that help reveal what’s going on inside Ryon’s head as much as it lays the foundations for what’s to come. And I get the feeling the crew of this ship had better hold on.

Spacefaring spookiness.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

 See My Smashing Review Of. . .

The Girls Who Break Out

Having reviewed The Girls Who Come Back – the opening chapter of The Beyond series several weeks ago, I was itching to find out what happens next, in The Girls Who Break Out.

Here’s the blurb to set the mood:


Kate, Caro, and Darcy are very special girls. They used to be dead, and now they’re not, but they are trapped in the Institute. Dr Kerry Sullivan, Kate’s mother, brought them back. Now she’s poking around inside their heads. And they don’t like it, especially Kate.

Kate starts to turn the girls against their keepers, making Kerry’s job even more difficult. And, as if Kerry doesn’t have enough to do keeping the girls in check, another crisis erupts threatening the future of the Institute and her work. When Kate learns their time might soon run out, she and the others form a plan to escape. Caro and Darcy don’t want to hurt anyone. But Kate doesn’t feel the same way. She’s getting out. Even if it means there will be blood.


So, it would seem that all is not well in the world of Kate and Co, and they’re determined to change the playing field so that it suits their particular needs more readily. The trouble is, to do that, they have get out. And rightly so. The powers-that-be seem to have had enough of their antics, and, suspicious of the girl’s real motives and condition, are now intent on pulling the plug. Lives are in danger . . . But whose lives? And from where does the real danger originate?

Yes, events are beginning to spiral out of control within the institute, and everyone – living AND dead – are becoming embroiled in a situation that is as much cat and mouse as it is a game of chess. One wrong move and the hunters become the hunted.

But how to pick a side when the Beyond is determined to interfere?

I rather enjoyed this second installment of the series. The mood becomes far more menacing; the pace more frantic; the threads binding everything together, even more intriguing and complex than before.  And that’s a good thing. Because it’s often said that we are our own worst enemy. Do you see? We writers have to exploit that when it comes to storytelling. Authors need to bait their readers and trigger those parts of their imagination that conjure up all sorts of what-ifs and what-was-that’s? Yes, we have to squeeze their emotional triggers, because only then will we increase the tension and suspense in the minds of our audience. And L’Erin Ogle manages to achieve this quite well, as I couldn’t help but become involved in the fates of the various characters portrayed, while trying to work out what they Beyond might be, and what it is, exactly, that drives it. So kudos there.

And better still . . . there’s more to come.
(And I promise you, no mirrors or windows were hurt in making this review)