99 Cent Review: Twisted Tales of Terror by S.A. Gambino, Edited by Stephanie Kincaid
See what I did there? But seriously,
Twisted Tales of Terror, by S.A. Gambino and edited by Stepanie Kincaid features 12 stories, 6 of them about zombies and more femme fatales than you can shake a katana wielded by a leather-clad badass babe at. Oh, plus one about a demonic clown who takes a day off from entertaining Satan in Hell so he can spend an afternoon in a Chuck E Cheese eating children.
Before I go any further let me describe how I choose the books for my 99 Cent Reviews. I buy a book for 99 cents and then on Amazon where it says, “If you like ‘a,’ you should check out ‘b,’” or “Customers who purchased ‘x’ also purchased ‘y.’” It is a mixture of randomness and Amazon’s suggestions. I don’t single any author out, just a review of what you can by on Amazon for a buck.
It is clear from the outset that Gambino loves Zombies, as well as kickass women. Who doesn’t? Zombies are cool. Buffy is cool. River Tam is cool. Sarah Conner is cool. That in and of itself isn’t a problem. The problem is that Gambino does these tropes pretty much death in this book.
TToT’s fundamental problem is a lack of divergence. I’d call it variations on a theme but there isn’t all that much variation. Four of the stories are zombie survival stories and most of the lead characters are super-hot, sexy badass women. That is not to say there aren’t some good characters here. At least half of the stories feature what could be described as anti-heroes, if not outright villains and this does help to keep the stories interesting, just not enough. Also the writing is very clean. Nothing seems muddled and everything is clear, so Gambino deserves credit where credit is due.
I’m sorry, but there just isn’t all that much more to say about the book. It didn’t really leave that much of an impression in terms of writing style, clean as it was, or story originality. Don’t get me wrong, there are some things I liked about the book, particularly the stories “Zombie Lover” and “Leather Nun.” But I think the story that did leave the biggest after effect was “Extinction,” the books penultimate story. Three people are touring underground water tunnels in New York when they are rocked with explosions and cave-ins. They emerge to find the city in ruins, destroyed in that they learn was a series of meteor strikes. As they go about the process of surviving in the newly destroyed world another larger meteor hits the Earth with all of the grace of a giant foot in a Monty Python animation. “The Earth was demolished in an instant,” is the direct quote. I felt like I’d just been trolled.
Favorite Part: Can I get necrophilia for $1000, Alex? I was either going to go with “Zombie Lover” or “Leather Nun” here, but in the end “Zombie Lover” won out. The image of a woman making love to her reanimated boyfriend, swallowing maggots as they come out of his mouth and into hers? Forget about it!
Opposite of Favorite Part: The repetitive tropes. I’m sorry, but 6 of the 12 stories are about zombies and 8 of them have super hot, sexy badass femme fatales in them. I wouldn’t say they are done poorly over all, but it feels like reading the same story over and over again.
Worth a buck?: I’m going to have to say no. Gambino’s heart is in the right place, but the repetitive nature of the stories kinda ruined it for me. Which is a pity because some of the stories I found to be more original and interesting, namely “A Cure for the World,” “Zombie Lover,” “They Came from Space” and “Leather Nun.”
P.S. I just learned that S.A. Gambino has released “Rellik” which is apparently an origin story for the demonic clown from this book’s story also titled “Rellik.” I may pick it up as “Rellik” was one of the stories in this book that I liked.