Book Review – Sangre: The wrong side of tomorrow by Carlos Colon

About Sangre: The wrong side of tomorrow

The harrowing saga of Nicky Negron’s tortured soul continues as the inner and outer demons shadowing Newark, New Jersey’s undead vigilante have no intention of letting him rest in peace. Knowing his paranormal existence can only lead to complications, Nicky tries not to draw too much attention to himself. This becomes difficult as he learns that he has captured the interest of an unrelenting federal agent. Suspected of being an assassin for a South American drug cartel, Nicky finds himself dealing with the exact kind of scrutiny he’s been trying to avoid since he was turned almost thirty years ago. It complicates matters even more when Nicky is confronted with another undead presence that is threatening to commit atrocities to the children of a friend Nicky had sworn to protect. This pits the foul-mouthed night stalker, Nicky Negron, against the most horrifying monsters – both the human and non-human variety. An absolute rollercoaster of a novel, Sangre: The Wrong Side of Tomorrow delivers even more suspense, insight, laughs, and emotional wallop than its predecessor. Nicky is back! See you on the other side…

My Thoughts

After a newspaper clipping relating a spate of beheadings in Brooklyn, including a drug dealer and a domestic abuse suspect – the reporter noting a new trend in gangland murders across the USA – Sangre: The wrong side of tomorrow opens with a scene on a public bus in New York on a hot August day in the 1960s as a young Nicky Negrón observes his surroundings and reflects on his life. Nicky is off to Alexander’s department store; he’s missing his little sister, Dani, and his relationship with his mother in the protracted aftermath of Dani’s death.

Skip forward to Nicky as he is now, as his genetically resistant undead self, having battled the evil vampire, Simone, in the first Sangre novel (if you have not read Sangre: The Color of Dying do so now because you are missing out on a terrific read. Although Sangre 2 can be read as a standalone) Nicky finds himself having vivid memories that could only belong to Simone, who he believes he had slayed. Apparently not. Terrified she is out to take full possession of him, he seeks the help of Dr Gunder, an epidemiologist turned vampire researcher and investigator, a doctor seeking to avenge the death of her son. What unfolds is so thoroughly entertaining it can be read in one sitting.

The story jumps back from time to time to Nicky’s past, providing a rich insight into the motivations and depth of his character. A deft catch up of Sangre 1 and Colon dives straight into the action. The attention to fine detail and small observances – the sweat, the smells, the settings – while never overplayed evoke in the imagination a gritty, urban vibe of working class life, especially for the Hispanic community: Nicky’s family are from Puerto Rico. The pace is fast in a four-to-the-floor read, slowed only by the reflections of the main character as he wrestles with his one inner nature and attempts to justify his less noble actions. I really enjoyed Colon’s utilitarian take on morality – the greatest happiness for the greatest number, or in this case, the least harm to the least number – as Nicky is compelled to feed on the blood of others. The author’s empathy for Hispanic culture shines through, as does his understanding that good and bad is never clearly defined, that life is filled with compromises, that sometimes a purely good choice is not an option and that forgiveness is possible. The novel is enriched by the theme of mothers and their bond with their offspring. A theme that plays out through the juxtaposition of Nicky’s own mother and her attitude to him, with the other mothers in the story.

In all, a thoroughly pleasurable and intelligent read with broad appeal that reaches beyond the confines of the horror genre. Highly recommended.

Find you copy of Sangre: The Wrong Side of Tomorrow on Amazon

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Book review: The Unknown by Phil Price

About The Unknown

It happens every year. A select few disappear, never to return.

From The Falkland Islands to the Himalayas, Puerto Rico to England – people are vanishing without trace or explanation. A young man who’s lost everything stumbles across an ancient secret.

Can he unlock the mystery? Will he find those who need him?

…can he escape the Unknown?

My Thoughts

I rarely read fantasy/horror, but when I stumbled on The Unknown I decided to try it out. I was surprisingly entertained and even didn’t mind the vampires, which is a real credit to Price as I would normally stop reading the moment they appear. Writing with exceptional imagination, Price has a knack for luring his readers into his story world.

There can be no doubt Price ticks all the boxes of the genre. Strange and spooky happenings in far flung lands. A preternatural child with glowing yellow eyes. Vampires. Doors into other worlds. A looming sense of dread. And a black cross edged with silver on a black rope chain. The scene is set for a seriously creepy read.

Good characterisation, and Price is at pains to endear his protagonists to his readers. Effective world building is critical in the genre and Price has crafted a realm that is at once enchanting and menacing and convincing. I certainly lost myself in it.

After an engaging set up, The Unknown is filled with dramatic tension, with new plot lines and twists and plenty going on to hold the attention. Very well thought out, The Unknown is a visual feast and a gripping read. I would recommend to all who enjoy dark fantasy.

Deep Diving into the Occult

For years I’ve been hiding a dark lamp of hidden knowing from public view for fear of being misunderstood. Thanks to the encouragement of my peers, this is set to change. On Sunday June 10, 2018, 4pm, I’m giving a forty minute talk at Continuum: Melbourne’s Speculative Fiction Convention on Representations of the Occult in Fiction, and I’m giving that talk from a particular standpoint. It’s one of deep understanding from the point of view of both an occult practitioner and a scholar of Western Esotericism.

Neither of these things make me an expert in this vast field, other than perhaps in my tiny little quarter of it. Whole books have been written on defining Western Esotericism alone and identifying the various currents. As for representations of the occult in fiction, this is another vast topic worthy of a PhD and I’ll only have time to touch on a few examples and open up a conversation, one that reaches into the unknown, the inexplicable mysteries of life, and leaves us pondering the ancient wisdom tradition that arises out of that place.

The talk has me dwelling on how I represent the occult in my own writing. All my novels to date contain an occult theme, one in particular, A Perfect Square , a dark mystery that explores various approaches to drawing on occult knowledge in the creation of art. As for my other novels: Asylum‘s plot is driven by a palm reader’s prophecy, the backstory of The Drago Tree is laced with childish occult dabblings, The Cabin Sessions is overshadowed by a Blood Moon harbinger of doom, and The Legacy of Old Gran Parks concerns a supernatural curse. So I guess it’s about time I started talking publicly about this stuff!

I’m a very private individual and I’m easily overwhelmed by crowds. For those reasons, I’ve never been to any sort of convention, and certainly not given a talk of this kind ever in my life. It’s a privilege and I will be giving it my best shot. If you are going to the Continuum convention, I hope to see you there.