Book Review: FLOOR FOUR

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floor fourA. Lopez, Jr.
Ace Hill Ink

The old, abandoned Saint Vincnt Hospital is said to be haunted by the ghost of David Henry Coleman, the notorious serial killer known as The Mangler. Coleman died on the fourth floor after being shot by police. For the three Junior High boys, their curiosity gets the best of them as they explore the old hospital, despite “Old Man” Jake’s warning. No one knew of Jake’s warning. No one knew of Jake’s dark connection to the killer and the hospital. And now, on the anniversary of The Mangler’s death, a group of high school kids are planning a private party on the haunted fourth floor. Jake must keep everyone out and protect them from the true evil that lurks on Floor Four.

Another in my extensive list of Kindle edition horror fiction that were free, that I Immediately downloaded after receiving my first eReader, Floor Four is a brief less-than-100 page novella by author A. Lopez, Jr. Unsurprisingly, I was unfamiliar with Lopez, Jr.’s work, as this was my chance to branch out and discover new authors beyond my normal stable of go-to reads. According o his on-line bio on Goodreads, he published his first work–a collection of short stories — in 2011, and has been prolifically writing since, producing short stories, novellas and novels.His signature series is the Night Dreams line, a series of novellas in the supernatural horror vein.

Floor Four was published in 2014. It’s one of those standard Abandoned Hospital Haunted By Ghost Of Serial Killer kind of stories, complete with curious kids, stupid teenagers, and the old man trying to warn them away for their own good, dagnabbit.

That synopsis up there in the italics is only the first part of the story. Had it just been that, Floor Four would have been more of a short story. After the events there, we then focus on one of the three Junior High kids who finds himself haunted by the ghost of the serial killer and his mental spiral into madness. The story does take some twists and turns in ways that weren’t entirely predictable, but for the most part, there’s really nothing in Floor Four that breaks any intriguing ground.


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joe hill strange weatherJoe Hill
William Morrow

Joe Hill’s follow-up to his fantastic novel The Fireman is a collection of four novellas, titled Strange Weather. Of course, being a fan of Joe Hill, I purchased my copy of Strange Weather the same week it was released. But, in kind of a first, I got my copy as an e-book through Google Play. Not that this will become the future standard for my literary indulgences, mind you. Just went with this format for kicks and giggles.

So, four short novels collected in one binding. Let’s dive in and see what came out of Joe Hill’s brain droppings, shall we?

  • “Snapshot”

A successful middle-aged man reminisces back to the summer of 1988, where he runs into a creepy guy with a camera you really don’t want to have your picture taken with.

This was a pretty taught thriller with an object that seems to call back to the Stephen King novella “The Sun Dog” from the Four Past Midnight collection. But, “Snapshot” is far from a rip of that story. The two feature instant cameras that do weird stuff, and that’s where the similarities end. The camera in “Snapshot” is far more sinister. The story also manages to be emotionally wrenching, with the theme of losing your identity and saying goodbye to your past. I also found myself empathizing with the main protagonist, as I too was the fat young teenager back in ’88. What a year. No creepy gangly old men with cameras, though. That I know of.

  • “Loaded”

A disgraced mall security guard shoots and kills the jilted mistress of another mall store manager, a Muslim woman and her infant son shee was carrying, and a young man who witnessed the incident, thinking it was all a terrorist attack. He’s hailed as a hero of the community, everyone praising him, including his estranged wife and young son. Until a reporter from the local paper starts digging for the truth, and the “hero” finally snaps under all the pressure.

“Loaded” is one of those super tense thrillers where the real life terror depicted in the story is only amplified by the real life horror that plays out on the news at home, with shootings seemingly on the rise. Hill did a rather good job with making the antagonist┬ánunced and sympathetic to a point; though in no way do you really side with him, as what they’re doing is despicable, but you can kinda see where he’s coming from. Overall, a very good story that rather pissed me off with the ending, there. Well done, sir. Well done.

  • “Aloft”

A young man’s first attempt at skydiving, to honor the wishes of a friend that died of cancer, results in him getting stuck on a cloud that’s not really a cloud (at least, it doesn’t act like actual clouds do…which is an understatement), and he’s stuck trying to figure out how to get down, and the cloud doesn’t seem to want to let him go.

The fun thing about speculative fantasy fiction is the taking of an otherwise absurd-sounding concept, and spinning it into a yarn that makes it work. “Aloft” does just that, with a concept that sounds more like a comic strip gag — a guy skydives and gets stuck on a cloud. Joe Hill takes this and makes it right engrossing, giving things a nice mystery surrounding his situation, as well as working out some relationship issues.

  • “Rain”

One afternoon in Boulder, Colorado, it begins raining razor-sharp crystalline shards that kills or seriously wounds anyone caught outside in it. This includes the girlfriend of our story’s protagonist, who, soon after the first freak storm, sets out on foot to Denver to try and find her girlfriend’s father to inform him of his wife and daughter’s tragic demise from the freak storm, and try to make heads or tails of what’s going on, and try to survive.

In a note in the afterwards portion of this book, Joe Hill admits to writing “Rain” as kind of a satire of his own post-apocalyptic novel The Fireman. Maybe I’m not smart enough to get the satire part; it’s probably too subtle for a meathead like myself to notice the first time reading. I do, however, recall reading a story in a collection of youth-oriented science fiction stories back in grade school, one that involved a kid playing outside on a planet his human family have settled on, and almost getting caught in a flash storm that rained sharp crystals from the clouds, much like in this one. Only, that story wasn’t as nuanced or, you know, set on Earth as “Rain” is. A lot more plot, a lot more character development, and…well, let’s just say this is probably the best kind of kooky cult types you want to be stuck next to. Give or take singing Genesis songs in the middle of the night.

Once again, Strange Weather manages to solidify Joe Hill as one of my top favorite genre writers in the past ten years. He has one of the most fertile imaginations I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing, and this collection is further proof of that. Highly engrossing, time seems to just fly by as I read this. Highly recommended, this.


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Book Review: FOUR PAST MIDNIGHTStephen King
Viking / Signet

You are strapped in an airline seat on a flight beyond hell. You are forced into a hunt for the most horrifying secret a small town ever hid. You are trapped in the demonic depths of a writer’s worst nightmare. You are focusing in on a beast bent on shredding your sanity. You are in the hands of Stephen King at his mind-blowing best with an extraordinary quartet of full-length novellas guaranteed to set your heart-stopwatch at- FOUR PAST MIDNIGHT.

Four Past Midnight is the second collection of novellas written by Stephen King. Novellas are an interesting thing, really; they’re too long to be considered “short stories”, but not enough of a word count to be considered full-length novels. Though you could probably argue what exactly constitutes a “full length novel”, the point is we have another bunch of Stephen King stories to look at.

Like the Different Seasons collection (and to a certain point, The Bachman Books), Four Past Midnight has four separate novellas written for this collection. Unlike Different Seasons, though, the stories here are all uniformily of the horror/supernatural variety, all designed to give you some spine-tingling sleepless nights. Well, attempt to, anyway. Not that I’m knocking the quality of the stories…well, let’s take a look at what’s inside, shall we?

“The Langoliers”
Ten passengers on a red-eye flight wake up to find that they somehow slipped through a tear in the space-time continuum maybe a split-second or so after normal reality, and try to find a way back to said normal reality before the After-Reality cleanup crew arrives…before everyone goes stark-raving mad, that is…

“Secret Window, Secret Garden”
Kind of a companion piece to the previous novel The Dark Half, a writer is confronted by a rather angry guy from Mississippi claiming he had plagerized his story…only, it turns out to be a bit more complicated than that…

“The Library Policeman”
Sam Peebles has a phobia about public libraries. This is compounded when he has to go to one to check out a couple of books on speech writing, and discovers the new librarian has this thing about feeding on the fear of children…

“Sun Dog”
Fifteen-year-old Kevin Delevan receives a Polaroid Sun 660 instant camera for his birthday, only to discover that it has a glitch of some sort: it only produces picturs of a vicious looking black dog that seems to be trying to break out and do some damage…and Kevin can’t seem to stop taking pictures…

I received my copy of Four Past Midnight as a Christmas gift in 1990, while it was still just a hardback in stores. And despite the length, and the fact that I was only 17 at the time, I read that thing in less than a week. I probably would have read it in less time than that, had I not have to read it around my usual high school work and farm life business. Point is, I more or less devoured it, and the stories still have stuck with me decades later. In case you’re wondering, yes, I have seen the movie versions of both “The Langoliers” and “Secret Window, Secret Garden”, and I’m glad I read them long before I watched them, as the stories are the top two favorites in this collection for me. “The Library Policeman” falls on the “more bizarre but still interesting” side of things (“Chow-de-dow”?), while “Sun Dog” once again takes a bit of harmless nostalgia and makes you afraid of it. Also, it’s the second-to-last Castle Rock story, so there’s that.

Anyway, I rather enjoyed reading this back in the day. I recommend picking it up, as I think it falls in that period where Stephen King was sobering up and getting back to his stride.