A Handful of Shorts

PlaguePlague
Lisa C. Hinsley
Pocket Star Books, December 2013
ISBN 78-1-4767-3336-4
Ebook

From the publisher—

A new strain of the bubonic plague is diagnosed in London. Before it can be contained it spreads through the population, faster and deadlier than anyone could have imagined. Three weeks is all it takes to decimate the country.

Johnny and Liz are devastated when their young son, Nathan, starts to show symptoms, but Liz phones the authorities anyway, and a few hours later the army arrives and boards up their house.

Now Nathan is dying and there is nothing they can do to help him. Hours pass like weeks as their little boy grows weaker and weaker. All Liz wants is for them to die with some dignity, but the authorities refuse to help. Then their Internet and phones stop working. Cut off from the world and stuck inside their house, the family tries its best to cope—but there is nothing they can do to stop the lethal epidemic.

Plague by Lisa C. Hinsley is a pandemic-based thriller in which a mutated strain of bubonic plague hits London and races through the population in three weeks. The core of the story is what happens to a young family when the government, in its zeal to stop the disease, quarantines the neighborhood, and maybe much more, but then the military and the scientists disappear.

The most vibrant character is Liz, who is the quintessential mother figure determined to do whatever she can for as long as she can. Along with Liz, I felt the fear when her house is boarded up by the government and there is little to hope for.

I happen to be very fond of this kind of story that revolves around a natural disaster or pandemic and, while this novella is a bit reminiscent of other such novels, it’s really well written and held my attention from beginning to end, wanting to know if there would be any salvation.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2014.

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The Missing Remote of the ApocalypseThe Missing Remote of the Apocalypse
An Afterworlds Short Story
Afterworlds 0.5
Barry Hutchison
HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2012
Ebook

From the publisher—

A prequel to the comedy fantasy The 13th Horseman, “The Missing Remote of the Apocalypse” sees War, Famine and Pestilence bounced around the Afterworlds due to circumstances beyond their control. They come face to face with a surprised demon, visit the lair of Sedna the She Cannibal (they’ve never met her before, but everyone says she’s a right cow) before finally winding up somewhere worse than they could ever have dreamed…

Why does Pestilence hate Tuesdays? Who gets to be the pink Hungry Hippo? Who’s the guy wearing bunny slippers and a leopard-print dressing gown? Most critical of all, where is the doofer?

Need I say more? Well, I suppose I could but you can find the answers yourself for FREE on Mr. Hutchison‘s website right here. Let this little short story introduce you to the master of mayhem that is Barry Hutchison 😉

Kinda sorta reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2014.

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Charmed I'm SureCharmed I’m Sure
World of Pax Arcana
Elliott James
Orbit, September 2013
ISBN 978-0-316-25345-1
Ebook

From the publisher—

When Tom Morris encounters a naked man walking along the interstate with no memory of how he got there, the smart thing to do is drive away. The only problem is, Tom Morris has secrets of his own. Like the fact that he comes from a long line of witch finders, monster slayers, and enchantment breakers, or that his real name is Charming. John Charming.

This is one of four shorts written in the universe of Elliott‘s novel, Charming, an urban fantasy. John Charming comes from a long line of monster hunters. In this short story, he runs into a wila, sort of a nasty-tempered and mesmerizingly beautiful nymph, who has been collecting and disposing of, in gruesome ways, hapless human men. Mayhem ensues when our hero sets out to end her fun. Lots of fighting, man versus monster, a touch of humor here and there.

Charming seems to be a bit of a cross between Jack Reacher (mystery thriller series by Lee Child) and Atticus O’Sullivan (The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Some might think the full-length novel should be read first for a better understanding of Charming but I didn’t feel that way; this just makes me want to read more and I will be doing so posthaste.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2014.

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Apocalyptic Organ GrinderApocalyptic Organ Grinder
A Hydra Dystopian Novella
William Todd Rose
Hydra/Random House, June 2013
ISBN 978-0-345-54914-3
Ebook

From the publisher—

A fatal virus—a biowarfare experiment unleashed on an unsuspecting world—has reduced the once-mighty United States to a smattering of tribes dueling for survival in the lawless wilderness. The disease-free folk known as Settlers barricade themselves in small villages, determined to keep out the highly contagious Spewers—infected humans who cannot die from the virus but spread the seeds of death from the festering blisters that cover their bodies.
 
Tanner Kline is a trained Sweeper, sworn to exterminate Spewers roaming the no-man’s-land surrounding his frightened community. As all Settlers do, Tanner dismisses them as little more than savages—until he meets his match in Spewer protector Lila. But when hunter and hunted clash, their bloody tango ignites a firestorm of fear and hatred. Now, no one is safe from the juggernaut of terror that rages unchecked, and the fate of humanity hangs on questions with no answers: Who’s right, who’s wrong . . . and who’s going to care if everyone’s dead?

This is SUCH a cool book for those like me who love post-apocalyptic fiction.  What’s left of society has devolved into the most primitive existence and two clans are pitted against each other. The Settlers are as healthy as possible in a world of limited hygiene and medical skills while the Spewers are diseased and infectious, not welcome among the Settlers or anywhere nearby. The Spewers are the new version of Typhoid Marys and literally could destroy the little that’s left of humanity.

Still, the two groups have managed to co-exist by keeping their distance but that will all change when Tanner meets Lila and sees for himself that the Spewers are not just carriers of pestilence and, yet, can’t bring himself to believe they deserve any compassion. The increasing tension and anger that affect both sides is palpable and I found myself drawn to Lila as much as to Tanner but deciding which faction is more deserving of survival is a question still roiling in my mind. Mr. Rose has presented a conundrum that may not have any easy solution, leaving his readers much to think about, indeed.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2014.