Wednesday, April 26, 2017

"Old Virginia" by Laird Barron

"Old Virginia" by Laird Barron 
This story came out of the collection "The Imago Sequence" by Laird Barron. 
This was the first story I've read by Laird Barron.  I was really impressed with his style and writing.  He is definitely imaginative and tells a great story.  I will be looking forward to reading more of his stories and collections. 
This story was about a man named Roger Garland.  He was a decorated military officer and now was working security for the "Company", black ops, most likely CIA.  He was approached by a man of very high standing named Herman Strauss to do a final security job before completely retiring. 
The job was supposed to be a simple babysitting job.  Supervise a crew of security guys while two scientists did some research in a remote cabin owned by Strauss.  Roger was not so easily duped into thinking it was just a simple babysitting job and asked a few more questions. 
He found out the job was for a project called MK Ultra.  A covert operation that was testing mind control, clairvoyance, remote viewing, and other things.  The scientists would be working with one patient for a week and then they would come back with the data.  Roger didn't really like the sound of what was being proposed, but decided to take the job against his better judgment.  
One morning after waking up at the cabin he went outside to take care of some business and noticed that the tires on the truck were slashed.  Someone wanted him to know they were there and didn't want them going anywhere.  He told the news to his trusted friend Hatcher and they devised an action plan. 
The next morning the crew set up a perimeter and fanned out.  They looked for tracks and anything out of the ordinary.  Unfortunately they found nothing suspicious.   That made Roger all the more nervous.  He didn't know what was out there and he didn't like it. 
Now Roger wanted answers.  He went to the scientists, Riley and Porter, and demanded some information.  Porter didn't want to give anything up.  He was tight-lipped about the whole operation.  Roger knew a few things about it though.  He wasn't in the dark.  Roger let Porter know that he wasn't in the dark and demanded to know what was going on at the cabin that was so important. 
Finally Porter broke down.  He told Roger that if he wanted to see what was going on to follow him.  Roger obeyed and they both went behind the secure metal door where the tests were being done.  What Roger saw there scared him bad.  He wished he hadn't seen what he saw and couldn't figure out how all of the testing and information gathering connected with what was behind that door. 
Roger needed more information, but since Porter didn't like Roger he wasn't going to get anything more out of him.  Roger tried to get some information out of Riley and succeeded.  What he found out just confused him more.   
He had a bad feeling about what was going to happen.  He ended up having a good reason to feel that way.  The end of the story really took off into a trippy haze of what the fuck just happened! 
This story was taking place during the cold war, with the Communists and America.  There was palpable worry picked up through the writing.  The conflict of the Reds was a nice touch to the story.  I don't the story could have happened without that conflict.  That conflict really added some suspense.  Was there a traitor in their midst?  Were they found out?  So many different conclusions could be drawn. 
The beginning of the story was a bit slow.  The story picked up steam in a slow and steady pace.  As we were being introduced to the main character of the story the story was just sort of going along.  Then it seemed out of nowhere the story just took off.  The final part of the story was like 0-60mph.  Wow it turned quick. 
The end was a almost dream like.  It was a spooky and scary and downright trippy.  I couldn't imagine what it would be like to be in that situation.  A great spooky story for your local conspiracy theorist!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"Extraction Request" by Rich Larson

"Extraction Request" by Rich Larson 

This story comes from the anthology "The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Vol. 2" edited by Neil Clarke. 

This is a story about a squad leader, named Elliot, and his squad.  Elliot is the squad leader of the team that was flying through the air of the planet.  He is also the squad leader addicted to pain killers.  Although he tries to hide this fact from his squad many of them notice the changes in him.  He's not fooling anyone. 

The squad was flying through the air of a planet when they hit a smart mine and went down.  The planet was covered in large swathes of fungi.  Fields of it for miles.  Small amounts of flora, but pretty much just the fungi all around them. 

They went down pretty hard, but with only one casualty.  Beasley was pretty much sheared in half, but still coherent.  He sent out a ripple to the squad.  Each squad member saw the flash of light on their optic visor that allowed them an up or down vote on whether Beasley could terminate himself by allowing the nanobomb implanted at the base of his neck to explode.  With pity in their eyes, they all upvoted and watched Beasley slump over dead. 

Elliot had the crew start trying to do what repairs they could.  Elliot had someone send up a drone to see what they could see from the sky, but kept it low to not hit anymore smart mines.  He also had someone setup a perimeter security module called Cyclops. 

There didn't appear to be any danger or threats nearby.  No signs of life where anywhere on the radar.  They did find neat piles of bones, but no context for what they were or why they were there.  It could mean nothing, or it could mean that something they couldn't see was out there. Last Elliot knew is that the message was sent to headquarters and that the extraction request should be fulfilled at some point in the near future.  All they had to do was wait it out. 

That night is when all hell broke loose.  Cyclops went off and the squad jumped into action.  Just in time to see the fungi coming to life and pulling away one of the crew members.  Firing bullets didn't do anything to the creature and went right through it.  They ended up losing the crew member that night.  Now they knew who the enemy was, and what the piles of bones found where.  The fungi was alive.  it was deadly.  And they were stuck there to wait for extraction.  If they made it that long. 

This story started off with a bang and just kept going.  It never let you stop and take a breather.  During the few parts where there wasn't action, the anticipation of what was coming next grabbed a hold of you.  You never knew what was around the next corner. 

The writing was superb.  The writing flowed easily and had a good pace to the story.  I'm usually not a huge fan a military science fiction, but this story was great.  I couldn't wait to see how this story ended.  I had to know. 

Overall, one hell of a story.  Rich Larsen did a great job with everything about this story.  From the writing, to the style, to the story, to the description, to everything.  You felt as if you were transported to another world and whatever was out there was going to get you.  Great Job.

"Filthy Movie: An Extremely Sadistic Short Story" by Wade H. Garrett

"Filthy Movie: An Extremely Sadistic Short Story" by Wade H. Garrett 

This was a stand-alone short story.  The story was written for a project called "The Devil's Guests" by Matt Shaw.  The project was a novel that had chapters written by different authors introducing characters into the story for the serial killer to off.  This short story was the result of what Wade Garrett wrote for the project.   

The project ended up cutting 2/3 or more of his story and heavily edited the rest of the work.  Since the story was essentially gutted down to nothing Wade Garrett decided to put out the full version of the story and make it available to read unabridged.  That is the story I read. 

This story came with a warning of extreme violence, sadistic tendencies, and just horror taken to the extreme.  This warning is what piqued my interest.  I had to see what a story was about that came with a warning label.  Let's just say that the author didn't disappoint.  This story was extreme. 

A couple, Duncan, and his lover, Christie, rented a hotel room and started to get hot and heavy with each other in bed.  As they were in the throes of love in walked a man named Henry.  He owned the motel the couple were staying at.  With him he brought an old fashioned style VHS camcorder and a tripod. 

Duncan jumped up to ask who the hell this man thought he was when Henry pulled out a knife and swiped it across Duncan's chest.  Duncan and Christie got the idea that he meant business pretty fat. 

Henry had the couple move the mattress.  Under the mattress was a wooden platform of sorts with shackles at the top and bottom of the bed attached to cables.  Henry had both of them secure the shackles around their feet and ankles.  Once he was sure they were secure, his fun was about to start.  That also meant that Duncan's and Christie's lives were about to be changed forever. 

Henry showed them 2 wheels that he had created.  One wheel had different sexual acts written on each pie piece that the spokes of the wheel created.  Things like titty fuck, anal, eating balls, etc., where some of the acts written on the wheel spokes.  One the second wheel in each spoke pie piece where their names, Duncan and Christie.  One name in every other spoke, with the other name taking up the rest of the slots. 

Each person, Duncan, or Christie, had to spin the first wheel to find out what sex act would be performed.  Then they would spin the second wheel twice.  The first time to find out who the sex act would be done to, and the second time to find out who would do the actual sex act.  For example, Duncan could spin the first wheel and land on titty fuck, and spin the second wheel, find out he would be titty fucked, and then the second spin he would find out that Christie would be doing the titty fuck to him.  As you can see this game can go wrong very quickly.  And what kind of extreme horror story would this be if that game didn't go horribly wrong? 

The point Henry explained to them was that he wanted to make a movie.  Only he would watch the movie, it was a movie just for him, but he wanted the movie to be dirty.  He wanted the movie to be exciting.  Even after Duncan and Christie fucked in front of him that wasn't dirty enough.  The game would spice things up a little bit.  And so it did. 

This story was extreme.  If you are offended by violence, or torture, sex, or even rape, this is not the story for you.  Heed the warning of the author and editor of the story.  They are not just coming up with fiction to sell a book.  They are telling you the truth, so be forewarned. 

I found this story to be quite intriguing overall.  I also found it quite a bit far-out there as well.  I mean no one said we were going for realistic horror with the story, but I didn't feel this would of met that criteria.  It was gruesome and sadistic, but just to far off from being "believable." 

Now with the suspension of disbelief at hand, I let myself fall into the story.  It was very easy to get into this story.  It was like a train wreck.  I could see what was going to happen, but I couldn't look away, I didn't want to look away.  I wanted to see every bloody, sadistic, sex game act played out. (Not sure what that says about me...)  The author went into great detail of the acts of the game. 

There was one point where the imagery was so vivid and detailed that I felt like I wanted to throw up.  I actually felt my gag reflex kick in.  That's some good horror there.  That's some good writing and description. 

Looking past the story and what is depicts is what lies underneath.  What makes it tick.  The writing, the structure, the description, this story had all of that.  I felt the writing style flowed easily and after a couple minutes you never even realized you were reading anymore.  Nothing flashy or showy, just down to earth writing. 

The description was also very good for this story.  The author did a great job at showing what was being done.  At the same time of showing what was being done he made you FEEL what was being done.  That is a tricky bit to the writing and he pulled it off quite well. 

A well written, and descriptive story.  A good horror story, above the top, but it was a scary as hell ride.  The ending had a fine conclusion.  I felt it was a bit cliché with the ending, but I don't think it hurt the story any.  In fact in the very last few paragraphs of describing what was being done, I actually laughed a little trying to picture Henry wearing what he was wearing.  It was so sick it was comical.

Monday, April 10, 2017

"I Have Been Drowned In Rain" by Carrie Vaughn

"I Have Been Drowned In Rain" by Carrie Vaughn 

This story comes out Beneath Ceaseless Skies magazine April 2017, issue #223. 

This was a fun little sword and sorcery story.  It has been awhile since I've seen sword and sorcery in short form.  The story was a great little romp, just long enough to give a quick scene of what could be a great novel. 

A party led by Jared, a knight, is stuck on the banks of the sea.  It is pouring rain and there are no ships that are going out into the water at this time of the day.  They have to find a ship and sail across the sea, but the catch is, all without getting caught. 

The party consists of a knight, Jared, a thief, Baerd, a magician, Aldis, a princess, Mariana, and Kat.  Kat is special.  Kat is a mystery.  No one knows anything about Kat.  Kat was found in an alleyway being abused by three men when Jared spotted her and saved her.  She joined them as a type of maiden for the princess, but also acted as a waif, and a servant of sorts. 

Kat said mysterious stuff like she knew something the others didn't.  She was always aloof at the same time.  Like she wasn't altogether there.  She stayed quiet, but when she talked it made everyone stop and take notice.  Like when Kat told everyone that "rain is death." 

Rain is death just went along with how Jared had been feeling.  Jared had been having a bad feeling since they arrived at shore.  He was so close to finishing his quest, but there was just something in the air he couldn't put his finger on.  Were they being watched?  Was the princess's identity not secret anymore?  Was someone following them waiting for them to sleep?  Was there a traitor in there midst?  Jared just didn't know and he hated the feeling of not knowing, but he trusted his gut. 

When nightfall came and it was time for bed Jared set up a watch during the night.  Everyone would take turns.  Aldis offered to take first watch and Jared went to lie down for the night.  Jared didn't think he would sleep, but he must have been more tired than he thought.  He fell right to sleep.  Something he wished he wouldn't of done.  Something he didn't see coming, or did he? 

I really liked this story.  I love sword and sorcery and this was a nice bite-sized story.  The story was a nice little scene length and introduced quite a bit for the shortness of the story.  To me I wished it had been a longer story.  To me that means it was a good story. 

The author does delve a little bit into what started the quest and some information as to why the quest needed to be done.  You weren't left wondering why the quest was being done.  That made me hungry for more because I wanted to see how the quest ended. 

The ending was satisfying considering that it was a short fiction work.  With the knowledge that it was meant to be short fiction I could understand the ending.  However, I still wished it had been longer.  I would of loved to see how the rest of the story developed.  There was so much rich story going on that the author could have expanded on things a bit more, but again, short fiction.  Get to the point, and tell the story. 

Overall, I could see this being a seed to a new novel.  Of course everything turns into a series now a days, but I would like to see a stand alone novel with this story.  Fun stuff! 

All That Robot Shit by Rich Larson

"All That Robot Shit" by Rich Larson   All That Robot Shit was first published in Asimov Magazine, August 2016,  issue  ...