October 30, 2015 · 9:06 pm
When Jughead’s old pal Hot Dog is hit by a car, the distraught teen takes him to Sabrina and her family to bring him back to life. While her aunts refuse, Sabrina is moved by Jughead’s plight and taps into some dark magic to bring Hot Dog back to the land of the living.
Apparently all the copies of Pet Semetary were checked out before Jughead decided to this. Because while Hot Dog does come back, sometimes dead is better. Before you know it, Hog Dog has unleashed a wave of zombie terror in Riverdale — and wouldn’t you know it, on the night of the big dance!
Afterlife with Archie is a hybrid of the squeaky clean stories of Archie, Jughead and company and the gritty, over the top horror of The Walking Dead. Reading that sentence, you might think these are two things that won’t go well together. But instead of being jarring, the two pieces fit well together, giving us a band of survivors that we know and can root for all while watching their world go to hell in a hand basket as several familiar faces become zombies and begin attacking.
And yet for all the humans who did in this collection (and there are a few), it’s interesting that the death that readers may feel the most is Archie’s beloved old dog pal. Heading home to check on his parents, Archie comes across the zombie Hot Dog and looks doomed, only to see his old pal step in to save his life one last time. The use of thought balloons to narrate Archie’s pal’s internal monologue and thoughts about saving his beloved master are moving at first, turning tragic as the zombie virus consumes him and he turns on Archie.
I won’t lie and say I wasn’t more than a bit moved by this moment and the emotions that this comic taps into. I also won’t lie and say I caught every nuance of the storyline because I’m not necessarily familiar with every character and cliche from the world of Archie comics on display here.
But none of that matters because this collection of five issues works well as a homage to both the tropes of Archie and horror stories.
October 29, 2015 · 11:04 pm
The last two installments of All Good Things: A Star Trek podcast have celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s third season.
This is the season when Next Generation came into its own and helped the franchise soar to new heights. It also has the greatest cliffhanger in television history capping off the season. (“Mr. Worf..fire!”)
To discuss this season it took Barry and I two episodes. We discuss each episode and give you our top three episodes from the season. We did put “Yesterday’s Enterprise” and “Best of Both Worlds, Part One” into the Hall of Fame and took them off the table because, quite frankly, we’d rank them one and two and then have to do lots of honorable mentions.
So tune in to Episode 53 and Episode 54
and find out why we love this season so much.
October 28, 2015 · 1:58 pm
As we get ready for Trick or Treating Saturday night, I am taking this week to look at a variety of spooky things. So I figured for today’s Way Back Wednesdays (hosted by A Well Read Woman), I’d look back on something from pop culture that chilled me in my younger days and left an impression on me.
I’m a big fan of old time radio, especially the old time comedies. I was introduced to old time radio by the Star Wars radio dramas. They used to air on my local NPR station Sunday evenings and that would lead into a show called the Big Broadcast. The Big Broadcast was a couple of hours of vintage radio shows that aired each Sunday night. Among those in the regular rotation were The Great Gildersleeve and Suspense.
The good thing about old time radio is that it allowed your imagination to fill in the gaps. The bad thing about old time radio was that it allowed your imagination to fill in the gaps. This is especially true when it came to scary or suspenseful shows since my imagination is far better than television or a movie could ever hope to be.
Which brings us to the episode of Suspense for today, “Dead Earnest.”
The set-up is fairly straight-forward. A guy named Earnest is a catalpetic. This means that he can appear to be dead even if he’s not. Earnest has a medical bracelet detailing his condition and carries a note in his pocket. But when he’s almost hit by a car and suffers an attack, he’s separated from both. What follows is an edge-of-your-seat story as various people find the note and other pieces of Earnest’s wardrobe and we wonder if Earnest will be actually killed when the people at the morgue go to embalm him.
This episode really got under my skin when I first heard it and listening to it years later, it’s still a good study in how to build tension and suspense.
Suspense broadcast the story several times with a variety of casts during its run.
If you want to hear the story, the good news is that most old time radio is in the public domain, so you can download and enjoy it. The Escape and Suspense web site has an entry on the episode and a couple of versions you can download and enjoy.
October 27, 2015 · 9:00 am
Time again for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish). This week it’s a Halloween-themed freebie. So, I thought I’d look at the top ten memorable stories by the master of horror, Stephen King.
- Cujo. The second novel by Stephen King I read, this one offers scares a-plenty. The tragedy of the family dog who goes insane due to rabies and becomes a lethal killing machine held my attention and just wouldn’t let go. White knuckle, scary good. I listened to this one on audio book a few years ago to see if it can still frighten me. It did. I refuse to see the movie version because I figure it will either a)not hold up to the pictures created in my head or b)it will and scare my pants off.
- Pet Semetary. And maybe not for the reasons you think. Yes, the concept of things coming back from the dead and being not quite right is disturbing. But for my money, the scariest moment of the book is the flashback to the youngest son running out in front of a semi. King paints a vivid picture of a father’s desperation to save his son and it’s arguably his most unforgettable passage.
- Misery. If you’ve only seen the movie, you’ve really not experienced this one. Yes, Annie does horrible things to Paul in the movie, but it’s nothing like being there in the bed with Paul as she does these things. Again, it’s a case of my imagination creating a far more vivid picture than any movie ever could.
- Bag of Bones. King just finds a different gear when it comes to writers facing demons or haunts. This one is no exception. The story of a haunted writer ushered in a second renaissance for King. If you haven’t read it, you should.
- The Shining. King’s story of one man’s descent into madness. It starts off slowly, building and building until everything just shatters. The final fate of Jack Torrance in the book is both horrifying and heartbreaking.
- The Library Policeman. Part of King’s Four Past Midnight collection, this one is scary if you’ve ever had an overdue library book.
- The Mangler. It’s a short story by King and while it may not be in his upper pantheon, it still unnerved me. I think part of it was that it was better related to me over a campfire by a youth group leader.
- The Dark Tower: Wizard and Glass. From the beginning, we know the romance between Roland and Susan Delgado is doomed to tragedy. What we don’t know is just how tragic is can be. This flashback novel fills in the details, giving us a glimpse at the young Roland and his romance with Susan Delgado. King invests us in the romance and the characters, making her death have that much greater an impact on you once you get there. I may have cried a bit reading the section when she meets her fate.
- It. King’s mammoth novel is one that I loved when I read it and still love to this day. I read it in a few days, confined to bed with a stomach bug. Maybe this helped ratchet up the horror a bit. Honestly, I’ve seen the mini-series and it can’t hold a candle to just how good this book is.
- Gerald’s Game. While not considered a classic King novel, this one still held my attention when I first read it. Two consenting adults (husband and wife) are spicing up their love life a bit when he dies, leaving her handcuffed to the bed. What follows as she works to escape is utterly memorable and horrifying.
October 26, 2015 · 1:56 pm
Kicking off the week with Musing Mondays (hosted by A Daily Rhythm).
This week’s random question asks: Do you read any horror, or something scary, in honor of Halloween? Why, or why not?
A couple of weeks ago, I talked about an audio version of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Telltale Heart that I dubbed onto cassette from my local library that I listened to a lot when I was much younger. It was narrated by Vincent Price, who had the perfect voice for the story and I really enjoyed it. I used to listen to that a good deal during the lead-up to Halloween.
These days, I read a lot of scary and horror stories all the year round (big Stephen King fan), so I don’t necessarily go out of my way to read them as we lead up to Halloween. But this year, I’ve read a couple of things that have a supernatural element as we get ready for costumes and candy.
Part of this was my TBR pile is scary big and needs to be whittled down a bit. And part of it was that I wanted to read something with a scary element for Halloween.
October 21, 2015 · 1:35 pm
Whenever I’m asked by new Who fans for a good starting point to watch classic Doctor Who, I don’t point to “An Unearthly Child” but instead to Robert Holmes’ classic fourth Doctor serial, “The Ark In Space.”
Not only does the story kick off a great run of stories, but it comes from an era this is (arguably) the most consistent and best in the entire fifty plus year run of the show — classic or otherwise.
The story includes a minor call back or two to the previous installment, but for the most part it’s a self-contained horror story set in the near future. Promising Harry a quick trip to the moon to prove the TARDIS is what the Doctor says it is, our trio instead ends up in the far future thanks to Harry’s twisting the helmic regulator a bit too much. The Doctor, Sarah and Harry arrive on a future space station that is home to the final remnants of humanity in suspended animation waiting their chance to awaken and begin the conquering the Earth again. But something has gone wrong and humanity has overslept.
What’s gone wrong is the Wirrin, an insect race that can survive in deep space and has journeyed to the ark seeking our humanity. The Wirrin are also driven to survive and are looking for a new home — and the ark and the Earth look like just the right place to get started. Continue reading →
October 13, 2015 · 3:44 pm
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish) asks us to ponder which authors we’d like to see collaborate on a book. Here’s my list.
- Stephen King and Joe Hill. This father/son combination would either be the greatest thing since sliced bread or completely unreadable. But it’d be fun to find out.
- Garrison Keillor and Mark Twain. Two American humorists and two of my favorites. I’d love to see what they could come up with.
- Robert Holmes and Steven Moffat. My favorite classic Doctor Who writer with my favorite modern Doctor Who writer. Both have shown the ability to take the ordinary and make it scary. I can only imagine what they’d do if they teamed up.
- Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. I believe somewhere in heaven, these two are already working on a book together.
- Raymond Chandler and Michael Connelly. I think the mystery fans of the world would lose their collective minds over this.
- Charles de Lint and Jim Butcher. I love their urban fantasy and can only imagine what a collaboration would be like. Like King and Hill, it’d either be great or a complete trainwreck.
- Sarah Dessen and Sarah Ockler. If only because I love a good teen angst novel while running. These two write great teenage angst novels with believable characters and I think their two styles would dovetail well.
- Robert Whitlow and John Grisham. They both write legal thrillers (or have in the past). I think they would be great together.
- Brandon Sanderson and George R.R. Martin. If only because I think Sanderson would get Martin to finish the next installment of A Song of Ice and Fire sooner rather than later.
- Laura Lippman and Elizabeth George. Like others in the list, this could either be wonderful or colossally bad. But I’d still love to to see it.
October 9, 2015 · 8:02 pm
Murder was easy. The tricky part was getting away with it.
Doak Miller is a retired NYPD cop spending his golden years in sunny Florida. He keeps himself in the game a bit by occasionally doing favors for the local sheriff’s office.
His latest assignment is wearing a wire to incriminate a woman who wants to do away with her husband. But it just so happens that that woman in question is the girl of Doak’s dreams and not only does he help her to not incriminate herself, but he begins a relationship with her that leads to his working out just if and how the husband should be killed.
The latest entry in the Hard Case Crime series, Lawrence Block’s The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes is everything that a reader has come to expect. A sexy cover, a hard-boiled protagonist and a fem fatale. The fact that Doak is carrying on affairs with not only the title character but two other women only helps to underscore his role as the noir lead.
Told in quick chapters, Girl is not for the faint of heart. This novel is an homage to pulp fiction at its best — lurid, quick to read and full of all kinds of graphic details that aren’t normally discussed in polite company. If you’re squeamish about adults acting like adults (for good and bad), then this book probably isn’t for you.
At multiple points in the story, Doak takes in a few classic noir films that have people trying to get away with murder and always getting caught. These sequences seem to be Block calling upon a shared vocabulary for this type of story and it helps us see how he’s trying to not only pay homage to it but give it a bit of a new twist in this story.
Not for the faint of heart, The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes is gritty, raw and compelling.
I’ve not read a lot of Block’s previous works but after reading this one, I’m intrigued to look at his extensive back catalog and see what other gems are there.
October 7, 2015 · 3:03 pm
Picking up six months after the season finale ended last year, “The Man Who Saved Central City” gets the second season of The Flash off to a solid start.
The episode had to do a bit of heavy lifting by not only resolving last year’s massive cliffhanger but also putting the pieces into play for season two. It’s interesting to note that the show doesn’t pick up right away and tell us how Barry stopped the vortex over Central City last year. Instead, we see flashbacks to it while getting a look at where everyone is now — both physically and emotionally. Continue reading →
October 6, 2015 · 1:40 pm
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish) asks an intriguing question. What are the Top Ten Bookish Things You Wish You Could Quit (Or Have Quit).
As usual, my responses will be varied.
Bookish Things I’ve Quit
- Dean Koontz novels. Because of the proximity of his last name, Koontz’s novels were often near Stephen King novels in the bookstore and/or library. My parents shared one of his books with me in high school and I really enjoyed it. And for a while I read more of Koontz and would read his new novels as they were published. Which led to my reason for giving up Koontz — every time I read a new novel of his, it felt like I’d read it before. It’s not that his novels are all the same, but they all feel the same when I’m reading them. So, I eventually stopped reading him and haven’t picked up anything he’s done lately. It probably helped that I didn’t care for the Odd Thomas series.
- Expecting the movie/tv version to be as good as the book. This one is a difficult one for any bibliophile and it’s been especially difficult for me. And while I probably haven’t completely divested myself of this habit, I hope I’ve mellowed a bit on it. I realized that books only have the budget of my imagination and that there may be things in the novel that pique my interest but won’t necessarily translate well to the screen or make into the screenplay. And that’s OK. I’ve accepted it and tried to stop complaining too much. (Side note: This helped me enjoy watching The Martian. It also cropped up when I caught a few minutes of Pet Semetary on cable last week and was reminded that I didn’t like that adaptation because one sequence from the movie barely scratched the surface of how riveting, horrifying and memorable it was in the novel.)
- Reading all the Doctor Who/Star Trek novels that are published. I love a good tie-in novel. They’re the chewing gum of books for me and can be a pleasant palate cleanser. But as the years have gone along, I’ve become a bit more selective in the ones I read. Part of it is that there are simply so many tie-in books published for my two favorite shows that I don’t necessarily have the time or funds to read them all. And part of it is that some of the Trek novels have created their own canon beyond the end of the series and movies and I’m hopelessly behind on them.
Continue reading →