Alternative Worlds: Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Reviews

03rd April 2015

Fantasy and sci-fi book reviews

Alternative Worlds is a science fiction and fantasy book review site, written and published by accomplished reviewer Harriet Klausner. For more information, please check the About page.

Please feel free to use the links below to navigate to book reviews alphabetically, either by Author Name, or Book Title, or else use the main left-hand links to main genres, or most recent reviews.

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Latest Reviews

April 19, 2013

Zombies Don’t Forgive-Rusty Fischer

Filed under: Author: F,Horror,Title: Z

Zombies Don’t Forgive
Rusty Fischer
Medallion Press, Apr 1 2013
ISBN: 9781605426365

After the insane Zerker zombies attack left most residents of Barracuda Bay dead (see Zombies Don’t Cry), three sane zombies (Maddy, Dane, and Stamp) flee town. Their plan is to hide in plain sight from the Sentinel enforcers who demand they face justice. Three months since they went underground, the fugitives mix in amidst the Normals of Orlando; obtaining positions at the Great Movie Monster Makeover show.

Stamp relishes this new environment as he seems to have a different girl each week while Maddy and Dane prefer to stay safe. When Stamp meets enigmatic Val who insists on no pictures, Maddy and Dane become concerned that his girlfriend may be an undercover Sentinel.

The latest amusing Living Dead Love Story continues the zombie misadventures of kill first and ask questions later. Maddy and her two cohorts star in this tale once again primarily targeting the teen crowd, but other zombie-maniacs will enjoy the thriller too. The fab four seem fully developed as Val is devilishly delightful and Stamp an impish trouble magnet; while Maddy and Dane turn to one another. Fans will not forgive Rusty Fischer if he does not provide us with more zombie fever.

Harriet Klausner

August 4, 2011

Zone One-Colson Whitehead

Filed under: Author: W,Horror,Title: Z

Zone One
Colson Whitehead
Doubleday, Oct 18 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9780385528078

Now known as Mark Spitz, he wanted to live in Manhattan after witnessing the lifestyle of his Uncle Lloyd vs. the boredom of his parents who proved reincarnation exists having done the numbing drill for the zillionth time. He assumed law school was the ticket to New York, New York though his grades were lacking; selling high end coffee to the rich and wannabes is not the way to swim to the gold. Instead the Last Night Plague became his avenue as he joined the clean up crew and became known as Mark Spitz of the Omega Unit.

On orders from the government VIPs in a safe opulent green zone in Buffalo, the army reclaimed Zone One, everything below Canal Street. The leaders push the American Phoenix Rising renewal highlighted by the upbeat song Stop! Can You Hear the Eagle Roar? Spitz and the other Omega Unit civilian volunteers conduct a dangerous building by building search for the infected living dead in Zone One. Three days of search and destroy has left Spitz on the brink of lunacy; that will be dubbed by the psychology department as Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder.

Using the zombie craze as a means, Colson Whitehead writes an intriguing brilliant satire that lampoons Manhattan and by default America. The story line focuses on volunteer exterminator Spitz who over three days goes from gung ho to burn out. Timely with the recent debt fiasco, assault on public workers to pay political tabs and the middle class financial depression, this terrific complicated American allegory is summed up by the protagonist’s father: “things will be even worse than they are now.”

Harriet Klausner

June 12, 2011

Zombies Sold Separately-Cheyenne McCray

Filed under: Author: M,Fantasy,Title: Z

Zombies Sold Separately
Cheyenne McCray
St. Martin’s, May 24 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312946432

In Manhattan Nyx the hybrid Drow-human Night Tracker suffers from nightmares that seem real. Meanwhile as her team has two new recruits replacing those who died in combat (see Vampires Not Invited), she and her unit visit a horrific mass murder site. Something ripped apart body parts thrown everywhere and that unknown beast masticated leaving teeth marks as if dining on the flesh. Nyx knows what the monsters are, having met them when she was five years old and they killed her older brother.

As more brutally murdered bodies appear, Nyx finally meets the gruesome enemy, Zombies. However, she never moved passed her childhood trauma and is unable to fight. Her superior and former lover Rodan wants to remove her from team leadership, but she angrily accuses him of dissing her. She goes to discuss zombies with her father King of the Otherworld Drow who gives her insight to repel the undead invasion though she may be too late to end the infestation at a time when a supreme sorcerer threatens Earth.

The latest Night Tracker urban fantasy is an exhilarating thriller as the heroine struggles with two major adversaries and her personal childhood bogeymen being one of them. When the story line focuses on either the Zombie invasion or the Otherworld Sorcerer power surge, the tale is superb. When the story line focuses on Nyx’s romantic interludes with NYPD Detective Adam Boyd and new team member Colin the dragon, the novel decelerates as these subplots feel intrusive when time is running out on the Big Apple. Still sub-genre fans will enjoy Nyx takes Manhattan.

Harriet Klausner

March 7, 2011

Zombies! An Illustrated History of the Undead-Jovanka Vuckovic

Filed under: Author: V,Horror,Title: Z

Zombies! An Illustrated History of the Undead
Jovanka Vuckovic
St. Martin’s Griffin, Mar 15 2011, $17.99
ISBN: 9780312656508

Perhaps the most popular Zombie fever advocate is movie director George A. Romero who began the current craze with his classic Night of the Living Dead in 1968. Since then Zombies are a feature of comic books, novels and movies. However, though this terrific reference book devotes about Zombies in the recent decades, the fun in this collection is the less known earlier periods. Thus the first four chapters are insightful and fascinating as the roots in Haiti, the literature of Poe and Shelley; the early films like the Living Dead and of course the Romero flesh feasts. Ironically though the slaves whispered of the dead walking at night, it is in the late nineteenth century the first zombie mania became an American public phenomena due to the work of journalist Patrick Hearne. The next wave is kicked off by EC comics, Romero and the Spanish zombie invasion. Finally there is choices when one enters Zombieland as readers will enjoy being on the menu due to the graphic illustrations enhancing the engaging historical look at peeling flesh via all types of multimedia sources; just keep hand lotion handy.

Harriet Klausner

February 6, 2011

Zombies Don’t Cry-Rusty Fischer

Filed under: Author: F,Horror,Title: Z

Zombies Don’t Cry
Rusty Fischer
Medallion, May 1 2011. $9.95
ISBN: 9781605423821

Maddy Swift is just an ordinary teen; content to stay in the shadows unlike her BFF Hazel who wants to join the in-crowd of Barracuda Bay. She has a crush on Stamp and hopes he will ask her to go with him to the Fall Formal Dance. On her way to meet Stamp, lightning strikes Maddy. When she regains consciousness, Maddy realizes she has no heartbeat and is not breathing. She concludes she has turned into a zombie; and learns so has some of the mean teens in her class.

She is taken to the Elders and Sentinels; they warn her to follow the rules of only killing the insane zerker zombies. Bones and Dahlia try to convert Maddy into a zerker. However, Dane and Chloe mentor her to keep her from turning into a zerker as she struggles to adapt. With her two friends, Maddy becomes resolute in stopping the zerkers who has a weapon to prevent the trio from succeeding in that they possess Stamp. She can kill the teen she cares about, change him into a good zombie with her bite if she wins the fight of her enimies, or let him change her into a zerker.

This “Living Dead Love Story” targets the Twilight teen crowd, but other zombie fanatics will enjoy the thriller too. Flashes of humor such as the zombie rules of orders and becoming zombies by a lightning strike brightens up for the most part this dark tale. Maddy adapts to her life change perhaps too easily, but this is partly due to her inner goodness. Still readers will wonder whether she joins the berserker side to be with Stamp, gets her beloved to join her team, or either (or both) dying permanently.

Harriet Klausner

January 27, 2011

The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse-Steven C. Schlozman, MD

Filed under: Author: S,Horror,Title: Z

The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse
Steven C. Schlozman, MD
Grand Central, Mar 25 2011, $19.99
ISBN: 9780446564663

A zombie plague has been turned loose upon the earth, but the disease is not natural as it is man made. The research has turned people into NGH, No Longer Human. This leads to medical researchers on a remote island dissecting and experimenting on captured zombies seeking a cure with the belief that NGH types are classified as monstrous beasts who live to feed endlessly on human flesh.

Nuclear bombs fail to end the spread of the epidemic. Meanwhile on the coral atoll Bassas de India between Madagascar and Africa, a research center has been established to find a cure. Led by renowned zombie expert Dr. Stanley Blum and Dr. Blanca Gutierrez, volunteers have come to help. They conclude that the disease works similar to catching the flu with prions playing a key role. They believe they are closing in on a vaccination, but abruptly they seem to have vanished. However, Dr. Blum’s The Zombie Autopsies’ journals have been found and under review by the World Health Organization; as time runs out on Homo sapiens remaining the dominant species on the planet.

As Z books go, The Zombie Autopsies is a truly gruesome horror medical thriller; not so much due to someone creating the disease, but more because of the inhuman experiments on humanoid bodies by scientists mindful of Dr. Mengele and the Nazis. Although the reader will understand the despite attempts to save humanity, the scientific saviors lose what makes a person human while conducting their research. Dr. Blum and the Z crew put the faces to the tale as he knows he will never leave the island as he regrets what he believes he must do while fans will have to decide whether the zombie is a monster or sick grandma as this is a chilling, vividly gory thriller.

Harriet Klausner

June 17, 2010

Zombie Moon-Lori Devoti

Filed under: Author: D,Fantasy,Title: Z

Zombie Moon
Lori Devoti
Silhouette Nocturne, Jul 1 2010, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618385

Samantha Wagner wants to save her best friend Allison from the evil doctor. The madman is changing people into zombies that he controls. She has little hope of succeeding and in fact fears she will instead become another converted lost soul, but will not give up the fight.

Samantha believes she has a break when she meets werewolf zombie hunter Caleb Locke who lost his beloved family to the voracious zombie horde. She fools him into leaving with her. However, Caleb quickly figures out Samantha’s ruse and gets her to confess why. He agrees to try to rescue Allison and others about to be changed, but is unable to persuade Samantha he should go it alone. As they work together, they fall in love, but he fears her reaction to learning what kind of monster he is

Zombie Moon is an exhilarating urban fantasy romance that takes off from the opening gun when the lead couple meet while encountering zombies by a dumpster and never decelerates as the pair risks their lives to try to save Allison and his “monsters” from a lunatic. Samantha and Caleb are courageous soulmates dedicated to their respective cause. Fans of zombie romantic suspense thrillers will appreciate this terrific tale as Caleb knows his inner monster recognizes just who Samantha is to him, but also believes revealing what he is will kill him because she will leave horrified by his revelation.

Harriet Klausner

July 2, 2009

Zadayi Red-Caleb Fox

Filed under: Author: F,Fantasy,Title: Z

Zadayi Red
Caleb Fox
Tor, Jul 7 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765319920

Ever since Sunoya was born under an omen of duality either she will be a great enlightener or an even greater darkness bringer. To influence the path, she has been mentored by the medicine man of the Galayi tribe to one day replace him. His mission is to see she goes down the path to help their people. The young shaman sees a horrific vision of the tribe’s greatest artifact the magical Cape of Eagle Feathers that helps keep the tribe safe and thriving as the Seer of the People wears it so he (or she) can see the future. Sunoya sees it bloodied and dirty. Her foretelling means hard times for her people.

However, Sunoya also foresees a hero will restore the cape to its previous glory and restore the tribe back to a better lifestyle. She believes the hero is her second cousin, infant Dahzi. The tribe anoints the baby as their savior and over the years he faces much danger including an envious evil loathing grandfather who along with several others who wants him dead. Sunoya keeps Dahzi safe as both will sacrifice plenty for their people.

This is a fabulous fresh Native American fantasy that fans of the sub-genre will fully enjoy. The keys to the story line are the two heroes as Sunoya and Dahzi struggle with what they must personally give up to save their people. Mindful of Aimee Thurlo’s fine tales, ZADAYI RED is a super thriller.

Harriet Klausner

January 29, 2009

Zombie Queen of Newbury High- Amanda Ashby

Filed under: Author: A,Horror,Title: Z

Zombie Queen of Newbury High
Amanda Ashby
Speck, Mar 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780142412565

At Newberry High School, Mia Everett was on cloud nine as football star Rob Ziggerman had taken her out on a real date several times and asked her to go to the prom with him. However, lately she notices his attention has swung towards cheerleader Samantha Griffin who has made a play for her Rob. Samantha wants to be the Homecoming Queen and believes Rob is a sure shot as the King; thus he must be her date.

Mia panics that she is losing Rob so she turns to her hypochondriac best friend Candice Bailey who claims she has suffered from every disease no one heard of even leprosy from some remote part of the Amazonian Rainforest; she also knows where to find cures in Massachusetts. Candice takes Mia to her special “medical elixir store in a dark alley where they buy a love spell from five century old witch Algeria. Mia casts the spell and turns the student body into zombies who seem to worship her. However, Chase “New boy” Miller informs her that he works for the Department of Paranormal Containment and explains the student-zombies cherish her not to serve her but to serve her (nod to the Twilight Zone) as their first meal unless they can reverse her love spell.

ZOMBIE QUEEN OF NEWBURY HIGH is an engaging humorous middle school fantasy in which the story line never takes itself seriously to the delight of the young audience. The pre-zombie support cast is purposely hyperbole to exaggerate their personalities similar to the film Never Been Kissed. The heroic trio is fully developed with Mia as the affable unconfident teenager; Candice as the likable nutty sidekick; and Chase as the professional by the book zombie hunter. With a nod towards Buffy, fans will appreciate their breezy amusing tale of zombie homecoming king and queen.

Harriet Klausner

November 5, 2008

Zen and the Art of Vampires-Katie MacAlister

Filed under: Author: M,Fantasy,Title: Z

Zen and the Art of Vampires
Katie MacAlister
Signet, Dec 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451225603

As her fortieth birthday approaches Pia Thomason decides to celebrate with a tour of Europe hoping to find a lover’s fling across the pond. Her first stop is Iceland, but for whatever reason people calls her Zorya. Even more mysterious Pia ends up in possession of a light-producing moonstone.

Bewildered Pia finds things turn even stranger when an enigmatic group of weirdoes the Brotherhood of the Blessed Light demand she marry their Sacristan. At the same time ghosts begin to show up claiming she the guiding reaper expected to escort them to the promised land of Ostri. Wondering what else could occur on this trip that makes no sense, the Dark One Kristoff needs Pia to help him enact vengeance on the Brotherhood at the same time he wants to insure she never obtains her full power, which means he must marry her.

The latest Dark One screwball vampire romantic suspense comedy is a jocular action-packed tale. As always in this wonderful zany series, the heroine gets trapped in an out of control frenzied frolic once Kristoff meets Pia. Readers will enjoy this latest biting romp as the escapades never slow down. Katie MacAlister provides some of the zaniest paranormal tales with her Dark Ones’ saga (see EVEN VAMPIRES GET THE BLUES; SEX, LIES, AND VAMPIRES; SEX AND THE SINGLE VAMPIRE; and THE LAST OF THE RED HOT VAMPIRES).

Harriet Klausner

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