Ghostland – Duncan Ralston

Ghosts are real.

If you want to visualise the gorefest that is Ghostland, imagine the ectoplasmic mayhem that would have ensued if Jurassic Park had been populated by ghosts instead of dinosaurs. Featuring such haunts as a prison, an asylum and Garrote House, home of “the Most Terrifying Man in the World”, and 300 ghosts (at the beginning of the book) ranging from former prisoners to an evil sex nun, the promised fun of this amusement park quickly descends into a “concerto of chaos”.

Putting their knowledge of “All Things Horror” and gaming skills to the ultimate test are Lilian Roth and Ben Laramie. Ben has serious physical health problems and Lilian’s thanatophobia, a result of a trauma she experienced four years ago, add to the potential dangers these former best friends will be facing.

Joining them on what may be their final day as corporeal beings is Dr Allison Wexler, Lilian’s therapist. Having your therapist along for the ride is not awkward at all …

Exposure therapy has never been so intensive!

“What’s the worst that could happen, right?”

You do realise you’re one of the main characters in a horror novel, don’t you Lilian?

Don’t bother trying to form any emotional connections with any of the breathers who decide that opening day is a good time to visit this amusement park. Chances are they’re going to be the recently deceased before they get their $40 ticket price worth of scares.

Usually when I read horror stories I tally a body count but there’s just no point here. Even if I counted all of the bodies I tripped over along the way, I would have missed dozens of them. Not as many people died in front of me as I had hoped but I did get to witness the results of a fair amount of the carnage as Lilian and Ben attempt to navigate their way out of Ghostland, hopefully with heartbeats.

This is what happens when you mess around with things you can’t possibly comprehend.

I haven’t had this much fun anticipating footnotes since Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. While the “Know Your Ghosts” guide occasionally only repeated the text in the chapters and didn’t seem necessary, I enjoyed the majority that provided additional information. I expect they’re going to be useful in the sequel. Incidentally, if Ghostland is ever made into a movie, I’ll be there for the ride.

At times it felt like there were an over abundance of similes and I simply shook my head when our lambs to the slaughter took the time to locate toilets on the map. If all hell was breaking loose and I had to use the bathroom I doubt I’d risk my life further by detouring to find a public toilet. A few question marks appeared over my head as I was reading, including when Dr Wexler contradicted herself about how long Lilian had been in therapy for, but they are essentially quibbles in what was a fun bloodbath.

My disappointment came when, after such a build up, I blinked and missed most of the final battle. Maybe I’ll get to enjoy the hopefully bone snapping, blood spurting, organ squishing climax in a flashback scene during the sequel but right now it feels like a crucial chapter was accidentally deleted.

Favourite phrase:

“You cain’t be alive. You ain’t got a head.”

You can download a free copy of the short story prequel, The Moving House, when you subscribe to the author’s website. There’s also a Ghostland website to explore.

Please keep your head and hands inside the ride and enjoy your time at Ghostland, the most terrifying theme park on earth!

description

Content warnings include mention of death by suicide and paedophilia.

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Shadow Work Publishing and Victory Editing for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

People are dying to get in. The ghosts will kill to get out. 

Be first in line for the most haunted theme park in the park in the world – Ghostland! Discover and explore hundreds of haunted buildings and cursed objects! Witness spectral beings of all kinds with our patented Augmented Reality glasses! Experience all the terror and thrills the afterlife has to offer, safely protected by our Recurrence Field technology! Visit Ghostland today – it’s the hauntedest place on earth!

After a near-death experience caused by the park’s star haunted attraction, Ben has come to Ghostland seeking to reconnect with his former best friend Lilian, whose post-traumatic stress won’t let her live life to the fullest. She’s come at the insistence of her therapist, Dr. Allison Wexler, who tags along out of professional curiosity, eager to study the new tech’s psychological effect on the user. 

But when a computer virus sets the ghosts free and the park goes into lockdown, the trio find themselves trapped in an endless nightmare. 

With time running short and the dead quickly outnumbering the living, the survivors must tap into their knowledge of horror and video games to escape … or become Ghostland’s newest exhibits. 

Featuring an interactive “Know Your Ghosts” guide and much more, Ghostland is over 400 pages of thrills and terror!

Carnival of Fear – J.G. Faherty

I was looking forward to a fun B grade horror experience with this book and that’s mostly what I got. It’s almost Halloween and ‘Carnival of Fear’ is in town for one night only. Advertisements promise

Terror! Blood! Mayhem! Monsters, Ghouls, and Murderers! Experience the agony of the damned!

and

The World’s Most Terrifying Haunted Mansion! Enter At Your Own Risk!

They’re not lying!

Several groups of high school students are amongst those who are inside the Castle of Horrors at midnight when hell begins to literally break loose on the town of Whitebridge.

“It’s not like a regular haunted house. There’s only one exit, and you can’t get out until you go through all the rooms. You can do them in any order you want, except for the last one. That’s where the exit is.”

The characters are so clichéd that they’re essentially caricatures. You’ve got the jocks, the cheerleader, the nerds and the goody two shoes. I eagerly anticipated a lot of the characters’ death scenes from our first meeting, particularly those who spouted derogatory homophobic, racist, ableist, misogynist word vomit. I was also keen for the date rapist to be dispatched with the ample blood spatter he deserved.

I had planned on keeping track of all the deaths in the book in order to provide a body count in my review. There were so many that I decided to make up rules about which deaths could be included. They had to happen on page, so no dead bodies that were stumbled upon once they’d already started cooling, and I had to know their name for them to count. Before I made it a third of the way through the book I had already reached double digits so I decided to abandon my tally and just sit back and enjoy the bloodbath instead.

I grinned as B grade horror glory unfolded in front of me. There were some really entertaining over the top deaths. I witnessed a Jason Voorhees/Leatherface mashup, scenes from Alien and every alien invasion movie ever made, witch trials, Frankenstein at work, werewolves and zombies. I was really enjoying being ringside but then, just before 70%, I almost stopped reading. I’m all for slasher bloodshed. I’ll happily cheer on decapitations, limbs getting twisted off bodies, disembowelments and impalements, especially when they happen to a character I love to hate. It’s all part of the fun of B grade horror.

However, the story stopped being fun the moment the vampires started raping at whim. Both male and female characters experienced this, with some rapes happening in full view of the rest of the characters. I hesitated in the beginning when one of the main characters was described as a date rapist but tried to ignore this and simply looked forward to their demise. The story lost me at the first gratuitous sexual assault and while I continued reading until the end, I never got the fun back.

This may not impact on the enjoyment of the story for other readers but personally I felt the topic wasn’t dealt with sensitively at all and didn’t belong in the book in the first place. Its inclusion transformed Carnival of Fear from a fun Halloween read into something I would no longer recommend, which is a shame because the rest of the book was entertaining. Without those scenes I would definitely recommend it to people who enjoy B grade horror.

I may have missed something but it seemed like the castle rules changed after midnight. Early on we find out that in order to enter the final room you have to have already completed every other room. There isn’t a single character who enters every room after midnight, yet once at least someone has survived each room those who are left are all allowed to enter the final room.

This book would benefit from a proofreader and some further editing. Some of the writing was fairly crude and there are quite a few typos that hadn’t been corrected in the 2015 version I read. For example, ‘lightning’ is spelt correctly twice. I found it spelt ‘lighting’ once and ‘lightening’ four times. Some repetition also stood out, including “like a shark eats a seal” in chapter 8 and “Like sharks attacking a seal” in chapter 18.

Content warnings include sexual assault and a school shooting.

Thank you to NetGalley and Victory Editing for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The Halloween carnival seemed like the perfect way to spend a Friday night, but when a group of teenagers find themselves trapped in the haunted mansion, they learn the awful truth about the carnival, and the demons that run it. Now they’re trapped, fighting their way through a maze of torturous attractions where vampires, werewolves, aliens, and other monsters come to life, eager for human blood. As the body count rises, friendships are made and lost, and unlikely heroes emerge. The final showdown takes place in Hell, where the ultimate battle between good and evil will determine their fate. The Carnival of Fear – the price of admission is your soul!