Literature

Under Another Sun

Reviewed by Christian

D.M. Siciliano’s Under the Sun is a deceptive piece of work. Featuring a strange female protagonist, Ravynn, the novel veers in differing directions as the plot unfolds. From the first lines, Siciliano is playing on a number of different genres.

Synopsis

“A crack in time saves 99”

But what do those ominous words mean? Ray is about to find out, whether he’s ready or not. His ‘deceased’ twin sister, Ravynn, is warning him of impending disaster, but Ray can’t seem to convince himself, or his wife, that he’s not crazy. But Ray isn’t the only one communicating with his sister. Ravynn’s surviving daughter, Amelia, seems to know things that defy reason, in a time when reason is slowly slipping away. When Ray’s brother-in-law offers evidence of something terrible coming in the form of prophetic journals Ravynn wrote before her death, Ray can’t doubt the truth any longer. The world is falling down. The family struggles to hold themselves together as the world they once knew and understood begins to collapse all around them, leading up to a cataclysmic end. Can Ray save his family in time?

Focused on a family in danger

​It’s unclear how to even classify the book but probably apocalyptic fiction is the most appropriate. In broad strokes, a reader of Stephen King will be in familiar territory with allusions to The Shining, The Dark Tower, and Under the Dome(even the novel’s name echoes King). There are other King books that appear to be present but naming them might spoil the ending. Still, Siciliano is not directly lifting the plot or even themes, but the tell-tale signs of being familiar are all there.

​The question for King as for Siciliano, alas, does it matter? Apocalyptic fiction, whether political (Orwell, Ayn Rand, Alan Moore) or more personal and spiritual (George RR Martin, Pat Roberston), suffers from the dilemma of engrossing us in a large world with many characters or a few. Siciliano favors the latter approach and the story is firmly focused on a family in danger. Ironically, while Ravynn is a constant presence in the novel, Ray, her brother, is the real triumph. His emotions and bearing feel real and believable. To be sure, it is a bit annoying Ray takes as long as he does to put the mystery of Ravyn together. But, the befuddled protagonist is often what any horror fiction has to have at the beginning. 

Some new twists on an old formula​

Unfortunately, the rest of the cast of characters come off as too generic and borrowed archetypes. Nevertheless, the plot progresses at a good pace. The prose style is fairly solid. The cosmic creepiness when it begins to set in is well done. Siciliano is attentive to detail situating many events in California making her apocalypse credible.

​More experienced horror fans will probably guess much of the final sections. But a more beginning and intermediate reader will appreciate Siciliano attempting some new twists on an old formula. The book is not ground-breaking and the twist when it is revealed is fairly clever. But readers will probably divide whether Siciliano’s revelations come off as more too-clever than just clever enough.

Ravynn and her dilemma aren’t as gripping as Martin’s females who also walk the fine line between the spiritual and utterly horrific. Doing stories with a predetermined ending is a tough road anyone dabbling in Chosen Ones and so on will be saddled with and Siciliano (mostly) keeps us on a solid path to the finale. 

A highly recommended read

For a writer who is early in her career, this shows enormous promise and while not as scary as King’s best work does an effective job of keeping the reader engaged and asking questions. It does not have King’s touch of (admittedly, graphic) humor. Yet it also, thankfully, lacks King’s trademark needless gore. The horror when it is doled is pretty proportionate and what one would expect with the world coming to a close. 

If you enjoy the magic wizard – or more witch in this case – category then this book will be eminently satisfying. One or two plot elements will come off as far too convenient; still, on the whole, D.M. Siciliano has constructed a fairly effective construct. Her fiction is far above average but still, frankly, suffers from trying to wow us with secret exposed after secret exposed. A highly recommended read but one should be mild expecting anything truly novel; Under the Sun is a great synthesis of past horror but not the new step the apocalyptic genre needs to revitalize itself.

About the Author

DM is a lover of all things creative. From the moment she could speak, growing up in Massachusetts, she had a passion for flair and drama, putting on concerts for anyone who was even remotely interested (and even for those who were not). A storyteller by nature, she first pursued her young dream of becoming a singing diva while living in Arizona. She soon found that stage life wasn’t the only form of storytelling she craved, so she dropped the mic and picked up a pencil instead. She still hasn’t given up on her diva-ness, and hopes her pencil stays as sharp as her tongue.

A dark sense of humor and curiosity for haunted houses and things out of the ordinary led her down the path of completing her first novel, Inside. Several other projects are constantly floating around in her head and her laptop daily, and sometimes keeping her up much too late at night. Occasionally, those projects are so dark and twisted, she needs to leave a nightlight on.

She now lives in Northern California with her two fluffy furbabies, Cezare and Michaleto.

Want to know more about DM. Siciliano? Check out her website here

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Her Infernal Name & Other Nightmares

Her Infernal Name & Other Nightmares is Robert Ottone’s second collection of horror fiction, and what a collection it is! There’s no specific theme throughout, with a wide variety of topics that should entertain the vast majority of horror fans. Stories covering extraterrestrial life, the undead, gaming, animals, ants and… sugar. The diversity of the topics reflects Ottone’s creative flair and this is evident in every story.

Synopsis

From waking fears to heart-breaking nightmares, this collection of short fiction is a glimpse into the terrors we face every day from the mind of Robert P. Ottone.

In “The Arborist,” a woman hears the mysterious call of the forest.

Five friends exploring an archipelago find themselves set upon by the island’s hungry inhabitants in “The Monitors.”

A young woman confronts the mystery of her infertility in “Kelly Watch the Stars.”

These works are joined by the title novella, Her Infernal Name which is about the cruel intersection of desire and desperation, and many other stories crafted in the hopes of keeping you up at night.

As with many anthologies, the collection contains stories of varying lengths with some just over 4 pages, yet each as impactive as the last. If you are looking for a series of short stories that will give you chills, a sense of unease, or just to satisfy your bloodlust, then this collection is for you.

You can purchase Her Infernal Name & Other Nightmares from Amazon here or Amazon UK here

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Diabolica Britannica

The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly had a significant impact on the world. A topic that will be discussed for countless years to come, many will talk about the death, destruction and havoc that it caused. However, the pandemic is not all doom and gloom. It has also unearthed a long-forgotten camaraderie that we, as humans, possess. Fundraising, compassion and unity has become a way of life these past few months and it doesn’t look set to end any time soon.

The Diabolica Britannica, is another prime example of all of these traits. Bringing together 14 great authors, the anthology is the brainchild of Keith Anthony Baird. The charitable collection offers an immediate incentive to buy, as all profits go to the NHS! If that alone entices you, links to purchase the anthology are at the bottom of the page. But wait, there’s more!

Diabolica Britannica

Synopsis

Diabolica Britannica is a collection of 14 dark tales from the dark isles. It features contributions from the following authors: Adam L G Nevill, Tim Lebbon, Keith Anthony Baird, John F Leonard, Morgan K Tanner, Arthur M Harper, Christopher Henderson, Beverley Lee, Sarah E England, Catherine McCarthy, Stephanie Ellis, Janine Pipe, Sarah J Budd and Alyson Faye.

Horror maestro Ramsey Campbell provides a foreword, giving us an insight into what kind of terror the subsequent pages contain. From there the anthology starts with a hard-hitting tale from Catherine McCarthy and ups the pace with every story from there on! Now, ordinarily we’d focus on the stories that stand out from the rest. Yet, each one is genuinely as good as the last! From beautifully descriptive narratives, to tense, nail biting tales, Diabolica Britannica has it all. Whether you’re a blood and gore ghoul, purveyor of the paranormal or just love a good old fashioned Lovecraftian prose, this anthology is for you!

Overrall, the Diabolica Britannica is a great read for any horror fan. Not only that, but you can also bask in the knowledge that you’re contributing to a worthy cause!

You can purchase the books using the following links;

Amazon UK Amazon US

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Strange Days Anthology

Synopsis

Strange Days Anthology – New extraordinary fiction for extraordinary times. Here are 34 stories and one poem that anticipate possible futures that – with coronavirus currently creating havoc around the world – may not be too far from the truth unless we take our survival as a species far more seriously. The idea for this anthology came to me before the current crisis began and all of the stories published here were written before what would have been considered as science fiction became horrifying science fact.

The range of scenarios depicted here are various, from the fantastic to the frighteningly real, but one thing they all have in common is their quality. These are, to my mind, the best of the best, chosen from about 300 submissions. The 35 authors published in this anthology, spanning a massive 500 pages, represent exceptional talent and ability in the art of the written word. Immerse yourself, if you dare, in frightening worlds that span the extremes of literary horror. Read these extraordinary stories, from some of the most imaginative minds around. There are no reprints here, just outstanding and very relevant fiction. I hope you agree. Trevor Denyer – Editor

Find Out More

At 511 pages the Strange Days Anthology is certainly one that will keep you occupied. Made up of 34 stories, you’d think there’d be some similarities of themes, style or content, but surprisingly there’s none! Each story is a unique portrayal of the writer’s creativity and the themes included range from the bizarre to the down right terrifying!

We’re talking everything from butterflies to monkeys, car journeys to flights. Some contain creepy, sinister plots, whereas others are downright gut-wrenching (literally in the Hungry Mouths story!) There really is something for everyone! Check it out and be sure to let us know your favourites.

You can buy the book here

You can read more about other available anthologies at;
www.midnightstreetpress.com

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Graveyard Billy Synopsis

Graveyard Billy is a cat with an extra special gift: he can see and communicate with the dead. When the unthinkable happens and Brighton’s “Graveyard Killer” murders Graveyard Billy’s owner, Piper, the small black cat is left alone in the world. Living feral in Woodvale Cemetery with nowhere to go, Graveyard Billy isn’t alone for long. The spirit of a recently deceased girl –Kelly Minter – attaches herself to the cat and makes a deal with him: If he helps her get back home to see her family one last time, she’ll help him find the spirit of Piper – and maybe even discover the creature responsible for her death.

The odd couple embark on their mission, relying on one another to get by: Graveyard Billy, the living cat, planted firmly in reality; Kelly Minter, the human ghost, stuck in that in-between place of life and death, both searching the South Coast of England for the answers they seek in life with the help of the inhabitants of the secret world of the dead. But the “Graveyard Killer” is still at large, and while he lurks no one, living or dead, is safe… ALL proceeds from Graveyard Billy will go to cat rescue charities on the South Coast of the U.K Between Brighton and Worthing

Sounds like a great book for the horror/cat lovers out there. Especially when you consider all proceeds going to cat charities! There’s even a trailer to tempt you…

If you’re interested in buying the book, you can find it on Amazon here

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