Category: Anthology

Anthology: At Hell’s Gates by Various Authors

At Hell's Gates by Various Authors(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

When evil overflows from the deepest, fiery pits, the battle will be At Hell’s Gates…Whether you are a zombie aficionado, or you feed on horror, there is something for everyone. We’ve summoned some of the top Zompoc authors, masters in horror, and even some new talent to strike fear into even the most jaded soul. Dare you look, let alone approach, the dreaded gates?

Each skillfully crafted vignette showcases previously created worlds in the individual author’s works. If you’ve ever yearned for more back story or ached to learn what happened to a peripheral character; your wait is over. But, as they say, “Be careful what you wish for”. Once it has been seen, you cannot go back. And once infected; there is no cure.

This collaboration is in honor of the brave men and women in our Armed Services who willingly lay down their lives for our freedom. Words could not possibly express our undying gratitude, so we have banded together, doing what we do best, to show our appreciation. All proceeds from the sale of this anthology will go to The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, a non-profit organization whose sole purpose is to serve wounded soldiers and their families. This is for you, those who have truly been…At Hell’s Gates.

[Full disclosure: I was contacted by one of the authors and received a free ebook from them in exchange for an honest review.]

I don’t normally post anything on Remembrance Day out of respect, but I thought this was the perfect book to review as all proceeds go to The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.  You can’t pick out a more worthy cause than that.

As you guys have probably picked up on by now, I’m not a big anthology fan.  Usually there’s one or two stories by authors I know and like and the rest aren’t very interesting or are pretty poorly written.  There have been a few exceptions, but I generally try to avoid reading anthologies for just those reasons.  I was a little skeptical reading this anthology because I’d never even heard of any of the authors, but the blurb intrigued me enough that I decided to give it a go.  This isn’t just zombie fiction, after all; it also includes stories with other horror elements like vampires and ghosts.

I have to say that I was just blown away by this anthology.  There were so many amazing stories in it that I find it hard to name all of my favourites.  And in all honesty, I don’t think I could name a story that I actively disliked.  There were some that I felt were ‘meh’ but none that I thought were bad and shouldn’t have been included.  All of the stories were well written and well-edited, so much so that I have added several new authors and books to my enormous to-read list.  Sharon Stevenson’s story Welcome to Hell and Seth by Jacqueline Druga in particular stood out to me.

At Hell’s Gates is a very well-edited anthology.  I think I caught maybe one typo in the whole thing, but it’s more than that.  The stories were very well put together so as to make the anthology flow.  There was a large variety of stories and the order was rotated so that you didn’t have two intelligent zombie stories one after another or a run of three quasi-military survival group stories.  Seeing as I read the whole anthology in one sitting, I particularly appreciated this attention to little details like making sure there was a wide variety of stories and that similar themes were spaced out well.

In this anthology there are intelligent zombies, traditional Voodoo zombies and modern Walking Dead-esque zombies.  There’s really something for everyone and even if you don’t like zombies, there are plenty of stories that focus on other horrifying creatures like vampires and ghosts.  And you certainly can’t deny that the anthology goes to a good cause.

So go out this Remembrance Day and get some excellent new reading material while supporting our troops.

I give this anthology 5/5 stars.

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Zombies: More Recent Dead by Paula Guran

Zombies More Recent Dead by Paula Guran(Cover picture courtesy of Prime Books.)

The living dead are more alive than ever! Zombies have become more than an iconic monster for the twenty-first century: they are now a phenomenon constantly revealing as much about ourselves – and our fascination with death, resurrection, and survival – as our love for the supernatural or post-apocalyptic speculation. Our most imaginative literary minds have been devoured by these incredible creatures and produced exciting, insightful, and unflinching new works of zombie fiction. We’ve again dug up the best stories published in the last few years and compiled them into an anthology to feed your insatiable hunger…

[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

I’ve been suffering from a severe case of Walking Dead withdrawal for a few months, so I figured that I might as well get back into that zombie kind of mood with a new anthology from some well-known authors.  Jonathon Maberry, Neil Gaiman and so many more authors that I actually like were included in this anthology.  Where could it go wrong?

Apparently, almost everywhere.  This is a non-traditional zombie anthology, which I knew when I requested it.  All of these zombies are either thinking zombies or just kind of dead shells of their former selves come back to life.  I don’t mind reading about these types of zombies.  It’s a newer (more terrifying in some ways) take on a creature that is a little over-hyped by pop culture.  Of course, being that people are people, sometimes they would do disgusting things with these zombies: have sex with them, make them servants, etc.  It’s sad to see that my faith in the worst impulses of humanity is still justified.

Except, by the end of the anthology, I was really, truly struggling to finish it.  This is not a long book, by the way.  It’s only 480 pages and it should not have taken me so long to finish, but I really had to force myself to keep reading about 2/3s of the way through.  Why?  Because, for the most part, it was boring.  Most of the stories, even by authors that I really liked, were quite boring.  Yes, they showcased the new type of zombie very well but some of them didn’t seem to have a point (or a plot) and still others were so boring that you forgot how the story began by the time you got to the end.  It’s not like I have a short attention span, either.

None of the characters really stood out for me here and even though it’s only been a week since I read this, I couldn’t really name more than two or three of them.  This anthology just did not pack the punch I’ve come to expect from authors like this.  In the end, I was more disappointed than entertained, which is not something you want when you’ve just read through almost 500 pages.

I give this anthology 3/5 stars.

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Anthology: Tales of Ancient Rome by S. J. A. Turney

Tales of Ancient Rome by S. J. A. Turney(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

A collection of bite-size stories of varying styles all based in the world of ancient Rome. 12 tales of the ancient world, plus a bonus tale to finish.

The second edition contains two new tales not told in the 1st. Laugh, cry and shudder at:

Hold The Wall – Hadrian’s wall in the last days of the western empire
Vigil – A comedic tale of firefighting in Rome
*NEW* Rudis – A champion gladiator fights his last fight
*NEW* The Discovery – A Roman trader makes a surprising find in distant China
The man who bought an Empire – The lowest point of Imperial succession
Trackside seats – A slave helps his blind master at the circus
How to run a latifundium – A cautionary tale of estate management
A Reading – What does the future hold in Judea?
Exploratores – Trajan’s scouts on the trail of Dacian warriors
With a pinch of salt – A comedic tale of food in Claudius’ Rome
The Palmyrene Prince – Rome’s eastern border tells grim tales
Temple Trouble – A tale of the early days of Fronto (of the Marius’ Mules series)
Bonus tale: Aftermath in the Ludus – A fun finish.

As you guys probably know from my reviews I don’t actually read all that many anthologies. They’re just usually not my thing unless they’re from a writer I really love.  Still, I decided to download Tales of Ancient Rome for free on Amazon one day because I figured I had nothing to lose and at least something to gain.  I mean, I love ancient Rome.

So overall, how was the anthology?  Pretty good, actually.  Turney managed to span quite a few different periods of time in the Roman Empire, from the reign of Claudius to the last days of the empire as it was being torn apart by invaders and civil wars.  I always like a little variety in an anthology and this one certainly delivered in that respect.

Most of the stories were pretty solid.  They’re quite short but they’re nice little slices of Roman life.  We have everything from the viewpoints of foreign princes to slaves and each character has a distinct outlook on life.  Some stories are more humourous than others but pretty much all of them are interesting.  One of my favourites was Rudis, the tale of the gladiator in his very last fight before his freedom because the ending was so unexpected.  He was a fascinating character, even though he didn’t get much page time.  Temple Trouble was laugh out loud hilarious and it actually makes me want to read the full length series in which that character features.  He would certainly get into some interesting situations!  There were some weak stories like Ludus but most stories were pretty good.

As for historical accuracy, I was quite impressed.  Turney knows his stuff and all of the little details he puts into his writing makes it better.  He has a good grasp of the wide span of Roman history and although it would be a little hard to orient yourself if you’re not familiar with Roman history, I quite enjoyed the stories because I picked out little clues as to the time period.  If you know sort of a general outline of Roman history you should be fine with Tales of Ancient Rome but if you’re a newcomer I wouldn’t recommend the anthology.

Basically, Tales of Ancient Rome (Volume 1) was a solid anthology.  It wasn’t the best I’ve ever read and there were some weaker aspects to it but overall I was quite impressed.  I certainly got more than my money’s worth out of it and I’d recommend it to my fellow Roman history enthusiasts.  Best of all, it’s free as a Kindle or Nook ebook.

I give this anthology 4.5/5 stars.

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