Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Book Review: Hellscapes Volume 1 by Stephen Zimmer

Horrible, grotesque, disturbing, and I mean all this as high praise for master author Stephen Zimmer's terrifying short story collection, Hellscapes Volume 1. This book is scary and hard to put down. I personally enjoy the topic and Zimmer's approach is well-crafted to deliver the terror one would expect to encounter in the worst place imaginable.

I have enjoyed several of Stephen Zimmer's epic urban fantasy novels in the Rising Dawn Saga, though I started with Undying Light and would recommend any new readers begin with Exodus Gate and go through chronologically because there are so many pieces to that great series. My favorite work of Stephen's is the first book in his Dark Sun Dawn Trilogy, Heart of a Lion, the story of Rayden Valkyrie but that is a review for later. 

Hellscapes 1 is great for the reader who is looking to test their mettle and see how terrified they can get without putting a book down. The first story, Blood Dreams, throws you right into the chaos so you know what you are in for. I felt this tale was a perfect choice to begin the journey into the depths of hell. This prolific writer does not let up throwing one thing at the poor, yet deservingly evil, character of Helen Carville, a bigwig in her day. Stephen does such a imaginative job creating a compelling back story for each of the characters visited in the collection and this is one of the strengths of his writing.

Some notable moments that will stick with me and haunt me for a while are the awesome zombie scenes. His description of the gore and destruction of undead bodies is deliciously disgusting. The Smallest Fish is the tale to find the scenes I'm talking about and Lords of War back quite a punch. 

Another thing I just can't get enough of in Mr. Zimmer's writing are the awesome beasts and creatures he populates his underworld with. I'm familiar with his An'Ki and Avatars from Rising Dawn and in this he provides a more terrifying version. The awesome artwork by Matthew Perry gives a good visual reference but the words bring it alive. 

The one thing I would like to see more of are the questions of morality. The major characters all come from a wealthy, military background and this sends them to hell but surely in this realm there are other reasons to go to hell. I was advised not to stay too long in this place but I kind of want more. Luckily, Volume 2 should be coming out soon!

If you like horror and have a strong stomach, pick up Hellscapes Volume 1. It's easy to find with a simple search but getting a paperback would be best. Stephen Zimmer is the creator of the awesome Imaginarium Convention in Louisville and any reader will want to get their copy signed at this informative and fun event. He also churns out a ton of other great authors' books with Seventh Star Press.  He is one of the most accessible and friendly authors/publishers I've ever met and I think I have more signed copies of his books than any other author. 

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