August 26, 2015

It’s a real pleasure to review DEVIL’S POCKET by John Dixon. Proud of the disclaimer for this review, which is that John’s a friend of mine and somebody I admire a great deal personally.

The novel is the sequel to PHOENIX ISLAND, which won John a Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Association. In that novel, Carl Freeman, an orphan teen who’s always getting into fights to stomp bullies, is given an option by a judge: go to jail, or go to a rehabilitation camp called Phoenix Island, a boot camp for troubled youths. Carl arrives on the remote tropical island to discover it’s far more than what he was led to believe. Phoenix Island is a brutal Darwinist hell in which only the strong survive to be trained as mercenaries. Soon, Carl is forced to fight for himself and his friends or die trying.

In DEVIL’S POCKET, Carl has survived his rebellion and is now playing along as the camp commander’s protege, his strength and senses boosted by the implantation of an experimental chip that makes him virtually invincible. Commander Stark sends him as part of a team to participate in the Funeral Games, a secret no-holds-barred fighting competition with massive stakes. There, Carl will struggle with his chip’s impulses, rediscover lost friends, and struggle against the true power behind Phoenix Island.

PHOENIX ISLAND impressed me with its pacing. You could tell John was once a boxer, as his style of writing has a jab-jab-jab-punch rhythm that keeps you reading. In DEVIL’S POCKET, John offers the same easy-to-read, page-turning style while demonstrating more confidence and maturity as a writer. He offers all the elements one expects from a winning thriller but without the predictability.

Looking forward to the next installment in the series.
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August 26, 2015

FEAR THE WALKING DEAD offered a lot of promise. Most zombie movies show what it’s like after the end of the world. I’m always curious about what happens during the apocalypse–how the normal suddenly shifts into a nightmarish new normal. It’s why I liked WWZ even though it was bankrupt of character development and had the emotional impact of a block of wood. The zombie set pieces in that film were incredible. FEAR THE WALKING DEAD takes on that territory–what happens when everything goes to shit.

In the pilot episode, we’re introduced to a somewhat dysfunctional family consisting of two teachers living together, each with their own families. Most of the episode revolves around establishing the characters and their lives, letting us see the normal. A good deal of the plot in the pilot episode centers on a son (played by an actor who is likable but seems to be channeling Johnny Depp sometimes) who’s an addict and witnesses a fellow addict turn into a zombie. By the end of the episode, it’s clear something horrible is going on, but nobody really understands it.

So far, FEAR THE WALKING DEAD isn’t living up to its promise, but rather doubling down on it. The apocalypse is coming.

I enjoyed the episode but had a hard time connecting with it the way I did with its cousin show THE WALKING DEAD. I appreciated the slow burn with the show spending time developing the characters, which was a necessary step to establish stakes. I’m happy to wait for action. But it felt more TV than THE WALKING DEAD does, if that makes sense. It had the right things in the right places, but aside from a few scenes that popped, it lacked heart. A lot of the dialog and situations felt contrived or wooden to me.

Not saying the show sucks, but so far, I give is a B or B-. I am very curious about where it’s going to go next once the world starts to crash down around everybody’s ears.

August 24, 2015

THE INFECTION WARMy zombie novels THE INFECTION and its sequel THE KILLING FLOOR, two of Permuted Press’s most successful titles, are back in Permuted Platinum and slated for release as INFECTION WAR: BOOKS I & II through bookstores everywhere January 19, 2016.

Permuted Platinum is a program delivering select Permuted titles to distribution through retail stores like Barnes & Noble. The titles were originally slated for release this year but were dropped. After some conversations with the company’s ownership, they’re back in.

I’m really excited about this release. The books went through a thorough edit and polish for the new edition, and with distribution through Permuted’s partner Simon & Schuster, they’ll be available to many new readers.

As for a third book, I’ve got a stack of projects in front of it, but I’m hoping to revisit the brutal world of THE INFECTION in the future. Stay tuned.

Thanks, Permuted Press!
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August 21, 2015

Trailer for new AMC post-apocalyptic series THE BADLANDS, about a warrior and a boy who journey through a feudal world seeking enlightenment.

I say post-apoc because the show appears to be set after the collapse of civilization, a world in which a new feudal society has sprung up from the ruins.

An interesting spin, but I’m not sure if this one grabbed me.

August 19, 2015

Just signed up for the Living Dead Convention in Portland November 13-15.

Hope to see you there!

Click here to learn more about this new horror con and to sign up.