Wednesday, April 23, 2014

When Horror Speaks, The Darkness Listens...
Audiobook Reviews by Anthony Servante

Nightworld: The Adversary Cycle, Book 6
[Unabridged] [Audible Audio Edition]


Written by F. Paul Wilson


Narrated by Christopher Price



"This is the way the world ends…not with a bang but a scream in the dark.

It begins at dawn, when the sun rises late. Then the holes appear. The first forms in Central Park, in sight of an apartment where Repairman Jack and a man as old as time watch with growing dread. Gaping holes, bottomless and empty…until sundown, when the first unearthly, hungry creatures appear.

Nightworld brings F. Paul Wilson’s Adversary Cycle and Repairman Jack saga to an apocalyptic finale as Jack and Glaeken search the Secret History to gather a ragtag army for a last stand against the Otherness and a hideously transformed Rasalom" (Amazon).



Clocking in at seven hours, forty-four minutes, and fifty-four seconds, Nightworld, the audiobook, finalizes the Adversary Cycle series that started with The Keep in 1981, the story of NAZIs fighting off an evil presence at a small castle during World War Two. That presence triggered a "dreaded epiphany", Wilson's words for an inspiration that turns a simple story into a complex one and the woe that follows the author who is at the mercy of the muse to write it. 

The Paperback Edition

And 'complex' is the perfect word for the AC series, which to this day continues with the Repairman Jack series, the Repairman Jack: Early Years Trilogy, and assorted short stories that make up the "Grand Unification" theme that connects Wilson's books to the AC. Nightworld wraps up the series, but Wilson continues to find "epiphanies" to connect more of his non-AC books to the AC. 

First Repairman Jack

But I digress. This is not a review of the novel or the series. We are here to discuss the audiobook of this classic story, and I use the word 'classic' in all modesty, because I think it is one of the Top Ten Horror books of all time, if not thee Horror Book of all time. So, does the audiobook live up to the novel? That's the question.

Rasalom Returns

Nightworld is one of those books that should not be heard without having first read it. Christopher Price has a pleasant enough voice for the story narrative, but as a hardcore fan of the AC series, I have developed a voice in my head over the reading of the complete series, a voice that F. Paul Wilson's prose help to create. From The Keep to The Tomb, The Touch, Reborn, Reprisal, and finally Nightworld, Paul's prose and story-telling voice was how I heard and "saw" the tale unfold in my mind's ear and eye. It is almost a letdown to hear a new voice telling the story, even as professional as Mr. Price's voice is at narration. 

The turning point for the AC

I've spoken with Paul on several occasions and have heard him tell anecdotes over the years. Even then he spoke with that prose-y voice. I'm sure I'm not the first and won't be the last who won't wonder how the audiobook would have sounded had Paul read the narrative himself, capturing that voice in his own head that sent the signals to his fingertips to tap on the keys that would write the words in ink, retelling the story with the same inflections, voice cadence, and tonal shifts that were in his mind's eye and ear. And I'm sure there's a reason out there explaining why Paul chose not to narrate the AC books, even if it was just Nightworld. I should have followed up on this reason before writing this review. But alas...

Dat Tay Vao

What I did enjoy with the Christopher Price reading was the pronunciation of those names (Dat-tay-vao, for one), names I have been mispronouncing for years. We see the words in ink for a long time (I've read Nightworld three times, the only book I've read more than twice) and imagine a pronunciation, and it sticks with one throughout the series. I was pleased to hear the correct pronunciation of the names of characters and events. Still, Price's voice interpretations were entertaining, but Glaeken sounded a bit too old and Repairman Jack a bit too ordinary. But how should they sound? I suppose I should tell you an anecdote at this point. In Peanuts, the comic strip, Lucy is at the podium honoring Snoopy. She says, "He isn't much of a dog, but then, who is?" That's how the interpretations should sound. Meaning, of course, that Price gave an enormously adequate narration of a fantastic book, and I am honored to have heard his reading of one of my favorite books. But I didn't so much hear the book as I heard another interpretation, one that invited comparisons as I listened. How would Anthony Hopkins have read it? Or Samuel L. Jackson? Price did the best possible job he could to tell the story, but Nightworld was way out of his depth, and he couldn't do it justice, but who could? as Lucy might ask rhetorically.

A Rakosh

Well, for this reader, to answer the rhetoric question: No one could do it justice. Maybe not even F. Paul Wilson himself. But now that I've finished talking for myself as a hardcore (and jealously selfish) fan of F. Paul Wilson's work, let me set aside my favoritism and speak to the first-timers looking for a good book to listen to. If you haven't read Nightworld, or any of the Adversary Cycle books, you would be able to follow this story and enjoy the enormity of the tale, filled with monsters of every size and shape, and the world of mankind on the brink of extinction. The epic tale is captured by Christopher Price in his amazing reading, and when I allowed my prejudices to slip, the narration was spot-on. An easy reading that allows you to flow gently on a suspension of disbelief and hit walls of fear and dread as the story unfolds, as the nights grow longer and the days shorter, as the creatures from the "Otherness" crescendo in fierceness with the lengthening darkness. The reading captures the urgency and maintains the suspense as we wait for each dawn and experience the same dread as the characters who understand that the evil Rasalom is on his way, the ultimate creature that combines all the Hells and all the Devils of all religions into one single malevolent entity. You will know fear. Because that's what Nightworld brings. 

A Chew Wasp

So, as a fan of the AC series, I appreciated Christopher Price's valiant effort to capture the epic tale for hardcore fans, but we are voracious and insatiable for the Grand Unification. However, acquainted readers and first-time readers of the AC series couldn't choose a better audiobook to begin with than Nightworld. Even as you listen to the ending of the series, you will be introduced to all the parts of the AC, and then you can work your way backward towards The Keep, or forward to the Repairman Jack series. Either way, read the book aloud to yourself or listen to the Christopher Price version. Just leap into Nightworld, feet first. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

OCULUS (2014) 
Directed by Mike Flanagan. With Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff, Rory Cochrane.

A Film in the Dark
Movie Review
by Anthony Servante


Ten years ago, tragedy struck the Russell family, leaving the lives of teenage siblings Tim and Kaylie forever changed when Tim was convicted of the brutal murder of their father. Now on his 21st birthday, Tim is released from psychiatric custody and only wants to move on with his life; but Kaylie, still haunted by that fateful night of their father's death, is convinced her mother and father's deaths were caused by something else altogether: a malevolent supernatural force unleashed through the Lasser Glass, an antique mirror in their childhood home. Determined to kill the evil force in the mirror, Kaylie tracks down the mirror, only to learn similar deaths have befallen previous owners over the past century. With the mysterious entity now back in their hands, Tim and Kaylie soon find their hold on reality shattered by terrifying hallucinations, and realize, too late, that their childhood nightmare is beginning again..


Although I've included the summary above, it only superficially covers the plot, so allow me to review how I saw things. The movie begins with the final meeting between Tim Russell and his psychiatrist, played by Miguel Sandoval; Tim tells the doctor of his dream where he fires the gun that kills his father. Cut to the doctor telling the hospital board members that this dream is the breakthrough that he's been waiting for in his treatment and that Tim should be allowed to leave court-ordered medical custody, that he is no longer a menace to society. Tim is released and his sister, Kaylie, picks him up from the hospital.

After unsuccessfully trying to convince him to move in with her and her fiancee, Michael, Kaylie takes Tim to a cheap hotel room. This tension between the brother and sister is important to the storyline because Tim believes the version of events as he saw them in his dream, the version that convinces his doctor to release him from custody. He believes he has been cured of the false memories of that fatal night when his parents were killed, supposedly by him. But Kaylie insists to Tim that he made a promise, they both did, that they would never forget that night and how things really played out; they promised that when he was released from the hospital, that they would kill the entity that resides in the mirror.

One of the Mirror Inhabitants

At this point she tells her brother that she's located, purchased, and secured the mirror. She tells him that he needs to clear his head of the brainwashing that the hospital did on him, that they have work to do. This work includes placing the mirror in a secured room with video cameras to capture the mirror's actual moves, for the Lasser Glass, as it is known, can cause its victims to hallucinate as a defense mechanism. Thus, Kaylie has placed a giant springed weight that will come crashing into the mirror if its timer is not reset every twenty minutes. The mirror attacks its victims by siphoning their energy: dogs dehydrate to death, plants dry up, and, of course, the humans hallucinate (think mirages in the desert). With this set-up, it seems like the kids should finally get their revenge on the mirror; only, Tim still believes that it is just a mirror and that he actually committed the crimes he was hospitalized for and thinks his sister is the crazy one.

Preparing the Cameras

In one of the creepiest scenes of the movie, as the siblings argue about the mirror, Tim storms out of the room followed closely by his angry sister. But when they look back into the room with the mirror, they find all the cameras have been rearranged, poltergeist-style. Kaylie replays the video and as the siblings argue about the mirror, the playback shows them rearranging the cameras themselves. We, the movie audience, saw what they saw, an argument; so when we see the playback, we are just as surprised as they are. The crowd I was with gasped in shock. The mirror was protecting itself. Tim then realizes that his original memories, the ones before the doctor medically altered the way he remembered the events of that deadly night of his arrest, are the real ones. And then the flashbacks begin.

Tim and Kaylie Older and Younger Selves

The movie is a series of flashbacks focusing on the events leading up to that fatal night, interspersed with the events of the older siblings trying to trap the mirror into revealing its evil inhabitant. They bring a dog and dozens of plants to track the mirror's power to siphon energy from the living things to measure the growing length of its progressively parasitic capabilities. We watch how the mirror took over the family house when they were kids in flashbacks as we witness their plan for vengeance unfold in the present now. This is the set-up of the first half, and a fantastic one at that. 

The Present and the Past Collide

But then there's that second hour (the movie clocks in at an hour and forty-five minutes). As the mirror gains more power from the siblings, the dog, and the plants, it begins to reveal itself, but like any good parasite, it has a great defense mechanism. It begins to defend itself even as Kaylie turns on more and more electronic gadgets around the house to stay one step ahead of the mirror. But soon the victims that the Lasser Glass has absorbed over the years (Kaylie gives a detailed account of the mirror's past) begin to leave the mirror and wander the house. And whenever the brother and sister are separate, usually in different rooms, where the hallucinations lead them, they are vulnerable. Soon, even the flashbacks come to life in the present now and the kids run into their older selves in the house, and vise-versa. The battle of the younger siblings has coalesced with the battle of their older selves with the same mirror in different time-lines. 

The Mirror's Inhabitants Emerge

By this time, we should be shaking with fear for the two sets of siblings. Instead, we, the audience, are subjected to the same hallucinations as the brother and sister. It doesn't work. It is confusing. That scene with the playback showing how the mirror defends itself was crucial and should have be repeated throughout the movie to let the audience know what was real and what was the defensive hallucinations of the Lasser Glass. Only in the climatic finale do we see this "playback" device used again to show the strength and weakness of the mirror. We are lost in flashbacks, or are they hallucinations, and rather than care about the battle between the siblings and the mirror, we are trying to figure out what is real and what is not real. And we just give up.

Apple or Lightbulb?

For example, there is a great scene where fresh light bulbs are being placed in the strong lamps placed around the house as the mirror can drain the electrical power and toss the house into darkness when it suits its purposes. As Kaylie places the apple she's eating next to a burnt out bulb, she lifts the apple but bites into the lightbulb. Her mouth is filled with broken glass and blood. Tim enters the room and asks her what is wrong. Then she has the apple in her hand and her mouth is uncut. What? The mirror would have had her cut herself; it doesn't play pranks--it is malevolent, not tricky. Without any sense of evil, we figure the "horrors" happening to the siblings can be retracted at any time by the mirror, prankster that it is. And with the pranks and confusing flashbacks, the movie can't maintain the terrific set-up of the first half of the movie. There is no battle. It's a knockout for the mirror as soon as the fight begins.

The Purge: Anarchy

Last year, The Purge had a similar letdown, but I thought the political satire held together the slasher aspects of the film. With the advent of giving the fans what they want, The Purge: Anarchy promises to lean towards the gore and violence and let the political leanings play second fiddle. In Oculus, more gore and violence was needed to show the battle that was promised in the first half of the movie. Why show us all the technology when it disappears from the second half of the movie. The siblings are supposed defend themselves from the hallucinations, not the movie-goers. 

Mother and Daughter

I really liked this movie. On Rotten Tomatoes, the movie received a 78% critics approval rating, while the audience approval was about 50%, ironic when fans tend to rank higher with horror movies while critics are less wowed by the gimmicks of today's horror (found footage, alien abductions, maternal ghosts, and so on), but they took a shine to this use of flashbacks to double the thrills. I guess it takes a more cerebral mind to follow the logic of the second half of the movie. I wasn't up to the task. Maybe with multiple viewings, I'll see what that 78% saw.

The Fatal Night

As I left the theater, two women who had just seen the movie asked me what I thought. I said that the first half was great, but the second half fell apart. They responded, Good, then we saw the same movie. As for you, my readers, I do recommend this one, but pay extra close attention to that second half. And if you figure it out, let me know what I missed, because I think the Lasser Glass got the best of this critic with its defensive hallucinations. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Chimera Poetry: An Appreciation

by Anthony Servante

Click here to visit Chimera Poetry

The Chimera is a multi-headed creature that has been described in many ways by many cultures. To some, it is a combination of reptile, lion, and goat; to others, it is a dragon, lion, and ram. For Jaye Tomas, it is a melding of art, words, and friends, and the occasional troll.

I discovered the Facebook group by accident. I traced a picture back to its source and found myself at this magical place with mesmerizing graphics and enthralling poems. I immediately sought out the leader of the group, and to my amazement, found that it was Jaye Tomas, one of my favorite poets and a friend on Facebook, in that order.

Next, I asked her if she'd like to talk about Chimera Poetry with my readers (who may as well be her readers as her poetry always attracts big hits for the Poetry Today column). She agreed, and here we are. I posed a few questions for Jaye and let her write her own column about her poetry page.

So, let's get to it. Without further ado, here's Jaye Tomas.

Jaye Tomas

How did the idea of Chimera Poetry come to you, as opposed to your text only poems?

Well, as in most things I did it backwards. I did the page first as a showcase for my poetry. A place to collect and display them all in one area. I envisioned having a convenient spot for a few, supportive friends and family (you know, the ones who HAVE to like you) where they could come to see the latest scribbles and give opinions. I never saw it growing like it did, never anticipated strangers liking and sharing it. It has both humbled me and made me a bit bolder. There has been a certain amount of “trolldom”, but the Internet is a breeding ground for that unfortunately. Mostly, however, there has been a tremendous show of support and affirmation extended. The kindness has been overwhelming. Meeting and making connections with other poets and writers has also been invaluable, the sheer talent out there is unreal. Joining the online poetry groups is a great way of honing your own talent while helping other people. A good group will offer writing positives; critique (constructive not destructive) and guidance. And that makes me work harder, extend myself more. It makes me willing to put more of myself out there, on the line. It has been a good experience personally, a way of building my confidence and developing my craft at the same time.

Where do you get the artwork? They are haunting pieces. I often just look at the art and then go back and read the poetry. Do you pick the art for your poems or for the art itself? Or a combination of both?

The artwork is truly a double edged sword. I think it adds to the poetry, to the overall affect - but there is always the chance of it overpowering the writing. People are visual creatures and some will like the pretty picture while passing over the poem itself. It’s difficult when someone comments about the “great painting” and says nothing about the verse I just dragged kicking and screaming out of my head and on to the paper. A conundrum.

I find it....oddly enough....on the Internet! I spend a lot of time finding the right image. I have to feel that "click". I was surprised how long it sometimes takes to find the artist name to be able to properly credit the images.

Most of the time I find something to match AFTER I have written. Occasionally I will see an image that hits me like a ton of bricks and inspires me on the spot. Lente Scura is one who does it to me allllllll the time. Sorell too. Unique and amazing artwork on a consistent basis.

Do you find a big difference between writing from a source (the artwork) for inspiration and writing from the muse alone? How does the poetry differ from different sources of inspiration, if in fact it does?

Not really. My muse is a loud mouth, nagging, insomniac with an abysmal sense of timing. Write or die.

I don’t know how it differs really, very hard to say. What the artist creating a painting or photo is seeing might be light years away from what my perception of it is. It's very subjective . In one case ("My Shroud") the artist paid me the highest compliment ever, saying that they were “…taken aback on how clearly you saw it’s meaning and how you were able to communicate it via words.” It really doesn't get any better than that.

What future do you see for Chimera? Is it evolving? I’m new to the page, so maybe I missed the beginning. Was it different than today?

You haven't missed that much! The Facebook page hasn’t been there that long - since June 2013. The blog since August. I think it has evolved because all things do really. Not from any conscious decision on my part. I am a little more comfortable now, not so worried that something is too long, or too short, or too…..“me”. I have laid out the truthful person, the truthful questions and pain I deal/dealt with. People respond to that truthfulness I think.

Or….in the case of my darker, more paranormal pieces….they just like monsters. Heh..heh…

As for the future, I hope to keep adding and growing. To advertise my Very First Book being published soon would delight me. Watch that space!


Poetry by Jaye Tomas

Marionette ~

He comes to you in shadow

and in secret

not quite seen

a calm confident voice

whispering your insecurities

chiseling away

erasing parts and replacing them

doll face

with crimson painted smile

broken bits of heart

old letters and faded photos

bound into a body



about by jerky marionette strings

he has remade you

in his vision

and you don’t know how to feel

with someone elses broken bits of heart

The Moon Smiles ~

Check the small print one more time

before you sign the deed

the marketplace may not be buying

what you think you’re selling

in this place of instant freeze dried aspirations

where every chicken seeks to be chanticleer

and all full moons rise with smiling faces

dreams and delusions are separated by a line so thin

that the angels dance across it when tired of the pin

no ring to rule, no drink to make you larger

to swim in the water of Lethe

may deaden your fears

for awhile

but feeds them too

until grown so large they become master

and cringing, you look to the sky

to see that the full moon still rises smiling

it never was just for you.

Within the Dragons Dream ~

Molten gold runs through me warm as blood and lifts my wings

spreading with thunder

and power like the lightning storm

to be within the dragons dream is to be wrapped in scarlet and memories of a mighty fall

the shock of plunging

plummeting cloud clad

the wind may whisper adversary

but I scream my defiance back into it

and let my wings carry me

to farseen mountains where even the air is strange

my heart and my resolve hardening

as the fire kindles in my veins

the scent of gold and blood lures me

sings to me in siren tones

and I will go where that song leads me

full of heat and spice and shining like a morning star

resplendent in gemstone armor

as terrible and beautiful as the crimson dawn

I will remember who I am

and I will fear no living being

for dragons do not bow

Tattoo ~

I pull the darkness from the air

feeling it sink into my skin

my blood

swirling as ink through my veins

surfacing in the patterns and runes and markings

that my yearning called from the other planes

the other levels

the unseen

the unknown

the deliberately unremembered

tattoos rise in beaded symbols of power and love and loss

of belief

a call across obscured spaces

and times

calling to some not awakened yet

and to those who have slept forgotten for long years

I am a living archive, a breathing record of my tale

it is not enough to tell my story

I want to become

I need to become

my story

expanding with darkink and consciousness risen

like a tidal wave, I pull more

and I rise, imprinted

still calling

unfolding into all I am

and will be

knowing not how it ends

or what transformation this journal will require

but for now

the writing of it is sufficient

and the ink soothes and spreads deeper into

the worlds

under my skin