Helter Skelter by Bryan Cassiday (Book Review)
Plot: Evildoers run riot across the sun-drenched Southern California landscape in Helter Skelter. Zombies, vampires, and other wicked creatures wreak mayhem and carnage in these shocking horror short stories by Bryan Cassiday. Not all of these tales feature supernatural creatures. Some of the evil creatures are human–perhaps the most terrifying creature of all. These stories defy logic, yet they obey their own inexorable logic of fear.
My Review: I like “Anthology” movies and books, but I haven’t seen/read many. Normally when I watch or read something these days its because I want to, or I’ve been asked to check something out. For this novel, I was asked to read it and review it by the author. Here’s a breakdown of each story with my thoughts & rating, and then an overall review of the book as a whole.
The Dead of the Night: A story about a guy who thinks he’s been bit by a Zombie. During the course of the next week he discovers his neighbors are being murdered one by one. I “got” the ending of this story. But I thought it ended poorly. I saw it coming a mile away. But that wasn’t the bad part. The bad part was that there was ZERO emotion during the whole story. It felt like a run-on sentence. 2/5
Lamia: This story had potential. There were a lot of people in the story to explore. But instead it felt like a rehash of the film “Bordello of Blood” it dealt with a group of teenagers who went to a Bordello that was full of Vampires, most die and the sole survivor seeks the help of his shrink. 2.5/5
It’s For You: This story involves a teenager who is getting prank calls. In the end she’s being harassed by someone close to her…who obviously wants to “take advantage” of her. 2.5/5
The Green Parrot: I had no idea where this story was going, and by the end, I still had no idea what was going on. I don’t know if it was poor editing or what. But there felt like there were sentences that didn’t end, and in some places it felt like a whole scene had been skipped over by accident. The story is about a man who’s having a bad day and has a killer headache. He goes out and buys a parrot to make himself feel better, only his girlfriend pays more attention to it then to him. He gets angry when the bird calls him a pervert so he kills it. He mails the dead body to his girlfriend, who gets pissed but then forgives him, and he gets another parrot. Same thing happens. In the end, he’s driving and gets stopped by the police. It seems like here there are a few pages missing, as the story continues normally, and its like “what on earth just happened?“ I was also wondering why he had the headache, as it seemed like it was going to have a lot to do with the story. 1/5
Blindman’s Bluff: This is the story about a blind man who takes matters into his own hands when an intruder breaks into his apartment. I probably would have enjoyed this story more if it was easier to understand. A lot of it was descriptions of what the old man was doing to protect himself, and I ended up losing all interest. It was also annoying how the author kept repeating the main characters name over and over again. I noticed that he did this with a couple stories. 2/5
Room 208: A college student in need of some money, goes and takes part in a Psychology experiment, where the people ask him to kill the president of the college. This story had some potential, but felt flat and boring to me. 2/5
Black Dog: A poor woman and her son take in a puppy. A year later the puppy has gotten so big and that she can’t afford to feed it anymore. She tries to find a home for it and decides its more humane to tie it to two trees out in the middle of the road for a car to hit it then to let it go wonder around on its own. (Um, more humane would be to let it free in town and someone would have taken it in, or how about a no kill shelter?) The story was probably one of the hardest for me to get through only because of the animal cruelty parts. There was obviously so much more that could have been done and the woman takes the stupid route (like most of the characters throughout this whole book). 2/5
The Undertaker: This story seems like one of those “been there done that” ones. Business isn’t booming at a mortuary so those that run it end up killing off a bunch of people so they can make a lot of money. I actually did enjoy this one, but again it seemed a little stupid because these guys are killing off so many people and not really hiding it (people keep dying after having dinner there) so from the get-go you’d think a bunch of people would have been suspicious. 2.5/5
Shambles: I had no idea what was going on with this story. It was all about projected images from other people, and it was just confusing. I have to admit that I ended up skimming through some of it because I didn’t like it and felt it didn’t make much sense. The ending was the only interesting part because it got gory. 1/5
Kiss of Death: This is a story about a guy who keeps asking a waitress out, and keeps being denied. The girl keeps saying weird stuff to him randomly. But the guy keeps going in, asking her out, saying no. So he hires a private detective who finds out something interesting and if you pay attention to the clues its pretty easy to figure out what’s going on here. I liked this story. Like the rest it could have been better but it was decent. 3/5
Snakebit: This is the story of a guy who gets bitten by a snake in the dark at his apartment. He rushes to the hospital to get help, only they can’t help him unless he figures out what kind of snake it was. This is one of those stories where at the end something “shocking” happens. But really its not shocking, its kind of like “wait what just happened? What’s the point” 1/5
Confessions from the Grave: A couple police officers find a recorded tape of confessions at the scene of a death. A politician has been killing women to “get off”. The ending was a little predictable. The cops kept saying the tape and death scene was disgusting, and I envisioned more then it actually ended up being. Overall it wasn’t a bad story, I just expected more from it. 2/5
The Invisible Enemy: This is an average Zombie story. Nothing really all that special about it. 2/5
I got really fed up with the editing of the ebook. As instead of using quotes there were all these odd characters like – and || . I finally went back to the original file on my computer and realized that when Amazon.com converted the PDF file to a Kindle file, it got all wonky. So while it was not the author/editors fault, it was super annoying. I wish I had realized it earlier cause I could have tried fixing it. It just made it really tough to get through the book.
Also as far as the editing goes, it seemed like a thesaurus was used way too much. The writing was simple and for some stories there seemed to be random words that just felt out of place and in some cases I was baffled as to what they meant – I was reading it on a Kindle so I could look them up but it got very annoying to keep doing it so eventually I gave up. I also got very irritated with the overuse of peoples names. For example in one paragraph with 3 sentences the characters name would be used like 1-2 times in each sentence.
The stories “almost” felt as though they were like a “Scary Stories to tell in the Dark” sort of story. They were obviously adult, but the subject matter felt juvenile and not written as well as Adult material would have. I would not recommend this book for children though!
Overall: With a little tweaking this book could be sort of like a Tales from the Crypt sort of novel. The stories really reminded me of that feeling, but just fell a little short. I really expected this book to be horror stories, and I didn’t find them to be horror really. The writing is a little weak. I felt like I was reading a fan’s account of a few different horror movies meshed together. The writer (and the stories) definitely have potential, but I was interested in a good horror book, and these didn’t really feel like horror to me.