Book Review: “VWars: Blood and Fire”


By Stacey Longo


VWars: Blood and Fire is the second installment in the VWars series, edited and co-authored by New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry, featuring such talented writers as Kevin J. Anderson, Larry Correia, Joe McKinney, James A. Moore, Yvonne Navarro, Weston Ochse, and Scott Sigler. The book is set up in a manner reminiscent of World War Z, in which the reader is treated to snippets of the escalating battle between the “Beats” (humans) and the “Bloods” (vampires). No need to worry if you haven’t read the first one (though I do recommend the first installment): the anthology is character-driven, engaging, and sucks the reader in from the first page.

Maberry leads off with “Apocalypse Tango” (broken up into seven parts and interspersed between other stories, as many of the tales in this book are), which introduces us to Luther Swann, an important figure throughout this book. This story maps out what’s going on—families are getting slaughtered, tensions are escalating, and Swann is unable to prevent what appears to be another war against the vampires.

“The Enemy Within” is a solid entry from Yvonne Navarro, who introduces us to Mooney, a vampire uncomfortable with her new status. She becomes immersed in local vamp infighting. Mooney is an intriguing character, and this story will have you hoping that Mooney gets her own novel someday.

Joe McKinney introduces us to thirteen-year-old Ernesto in “Tenochtitlan Will Rise,” showcasing yet another facet of the developing tensions. Through Ernesto, who is just trying to take care of his grandfather, we see how closely war can hit home.

“War Torn,” the piece from James A. Moore, creates an engaging voice in Johnny Lei. Lei is empathetic, and you’ll find yourself rooting for the misunderstood vampire, until he reminds you that first and foremost, he is a predator.

“Suicide Games,” also by Maberry, lets us know that there’s more to fear in this war than just vampires and humans.

Next up is “Solitude” by Kevin J. Anderson, a standalone piece about a veteran of Afghanistan who just wants to be left alone. It’s intriguing and haunting.

Maberry pops back in with “Let God Sort ’Em Out,” in which we’re treated to battle scenes, the internal struggle that our old friend Swann continues to deal with, and the introduction of a dynamic new character, Big Dog.

“Manifest Destiny” is Weston Ochse’s contribution, and showcases the cruelty and destruction of which both man and vampire are capable. Underlying in this piece is a cynical commentary on role the media plays in life-or-death situations.

Larry Correia gives us “Force Multiplier,” another standalone story, this one about the far-reaching destruction the war has wrought.

Scott Sigler is up next with “The Hippo,” a fascinating piece about a serial killer hunting amid the vampire wars. This was probably my favorite story in the book—it finally let the reader get a glimpse of reporter Yuki Nitobe, who is mentioned in several other pieces, plus, it reminds the reader that not all of the monsters in this book are vampires. Humans are capable of some pretty awful things, too.

“La Belle Dame Sans Merci” shows some behind-the-scenes negotiations between Swann and the Crimson Queen, in which we learn that neither side, really, wants this war.

Finally, Maberry concludes with “Monsters in the Dark,” a brilliant character portrait of a vampire that is intriguing, opens up new questions, and leaves the reader wanting more.

Overall, VWars: Blood & Fire showcased some fabulous writers, kept me turning the pages, and got me excited about the next collection. VWars: Blood & Fire is available in bookstores and on Amazon here.

The Birth of ‘Dark Discussions’

The Birth of Dark Discussions

By Philip Perron

If you miss your favorite ESPN show, go get it on a podcast. If you want to hear news from some of the biggest news agencies in the world, you can get it through a podcast and listen to it a day later. Podcasting has been a spectacular if not largely known medium that provides programming for those folks who prefer to listen to their favorite topics when they want and wherever they want.

Though satellite radio has been a great phenomenon where folks are able to listen to an eclectic mix of shows on books, movies, sports, news, finance, and even cooking, niche audiences still may not be fulfilled with what they really want to listen to. What about themes such as video games, gardening, or even something as specific as horror movies? This is where podcasting really has promise. Not only is it free, it requires nothing more than an audio digital device, a laptop, or even a smart phone.

As an avid fan of the arts, specifically books and movies, I was always visiting websites to read about the production of Martin Scorcese’s latest film or the progress of the next Stephen King novel. Then one day I came across an audio review on the film Cloverfield as well as an audio round table discussion about the film No Country for Old Men. Afterwards, I saw that these audio files were also being streamed from Apple’s iTune’s store for free.

Getting programs on my little iPod was a convenient way to listen to programs I wanted to listen to while doing my daily walks in the woods or working out or commuting to work. And with the wide variety of programming available I was able to search for shows discussing upcoming books and movies. And yet even more specifically books and movies within the horror and techno genres.

The interesting thing was that many of the podcasts I listened to were done by amateurs or simply people who did them for fun. Their shows were filled on topics they were passionate about. The discussions were probably the same ones they’d be talking about over a round of beers. They weren’t making any money, they weren’t making any inroads towards a more promising career, they were doing it simply because they loved talking about their focused topic.

Early 2011, I figured I could do it myself. While grabbing burgers with a few guys, I noticed our discussions focused around either sports or genre fiction which included horror, science fiction, fantasy, thriller, techno-thriller, and mystery. And having added a number of genre themed podcasts as part of my weekly listen to-do list, I did my research and started putting together the idea. What resulted was a genre themed topical podcast entitled Dark Discussions Podcast.

Finding two wonderful folks online through various genre themed forums, myself along with Eric Webster, of Ann Arbor, Michigan and Michael Dunleavy, of Port Jervis, New York came together and put together a weekly show on topics that anyone from the New England Horror Writer’s group would be familiar with. Not to be tagged as specifically horror, the tag line “Your place for the discussion of horror film, fiction, and all that’s fantastic” seemed to fit.

The podcast basically focused at first on themed discussions or specific movies. Topics such as a retrospective of the director and screenwriter Frank Darabont as well as the franchise of the Planet of the Apes were some of the early weekly episodes. But also films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and John Huston’s Moby Dick have been a focus. It’s true, we are no experts but our perspectives as fans of genre fiction were as well thought out as some of the genre websites and magazines available. And at the worst, we provide another voice on both obscure works and genre classics.

Some of the inventive ways the podcast has expanded were by being contacted by some folks for reviews and promotion. Horror Realm, a convention every September in Pittsburgh, emailed and offered the podcast passes to their convention. M.J. Preston, the author of The Equinox, asked if we’d be interested in a free copy of his novel to review. However, it was co-host Michael Dunleavy who really got it. While attending Horror Realm 2011 as press, he not only interviewed the film stars of some of horror fans favorite films, but he started interviewing the vendors and independent talent. What resulted was Dark Discussions Podcast helping out folks who need promotion of some really fantastic works that anyone who enjoys horror should know about.

This is where Dark Discussions Podcast in a sense merges with the NEHW group. After Horror Realm 2011, Dark Discussions contacted the folks at both the Rock and Shock and Anthocon conventions and received press passes to attend and promote their events. This is where our podcast became what some would call an unofficial promoter of the folks we met specifically at Anthocon and therefore NEHW. We interviewed such NEHW members as Charles Day, Gregory Norris, and Inanna Arthen. Small presses as Evil Jester Press and By Light Unseen Media, which had tables at Anthocon were also focused on.

So after a year and a half, the podcast keeps going. The listenership grows. And topics as wide ranging as modern novels as Scott Sigler’s Infected and independent cinema as Simon Rumley’s Red, White, and Blue are featured. As an inspiring writer, I know the work folks go through juggling their everyday lives with writing. With Horror Realm come and gone and Rock and Shock and Anthocon coming up, Dark Discussions looks forward to seeing everyone and helping you promote your new and wonderful works. As an inspiring writer, I know the work folks go through juggling their everyday lives with writing.