The Horror Zine Review
Comes a Chopper
by Bryan Cassiday
Publisher: CreateSpace (June 3, 2014)
Comes a Chopper
by Bryan Cassiday
Review by Scott Urban
I’m always excited to learn about the work of an author I hadn’t read before, especially one who shares my interest in horror and the macabre. This provides me with a new pool of gory fiction I can dive into, wallowing in the blood and viscera. I experienced this maniacal glee while reading COMES A CHOPPER, Bryan Cassiday’s third collection of stories, following BLOOD MOON and HELTER SKELTER. Cassiday is also the author of the Chad Halverson zombie apocalypse series, beginning with ZOMBIE MAELSTROM, and the Nick McQueen espionage thrillers, beginning with THE KILL OPTION.
Cassiday’s stories begin by introducing a usually likeable character who quickly finds himself in unfortunate or even inexplicable circumstances. There’s just enough explication to set the scene without over-florid descriptions. As readers, we empathize with the hero and feel a jolt in our hearts when the weirdness creeps in. Cassiday is endlessly inventive in coming up with new threats to unsettle the lives of his protagonists. These can range from a cell phone that demands murder and won’t take ‘no’ for an answer, all the way to an encounter with a shop owner who can make wishes come true, but at a horrifying cost.
My favorite stories are those in which Cassiday plays with questions of shifting personalities and identities. In “Through These Eyes,” the main character receives an e-mailed video depicting him commit a vicious murder. But he can’t remember killing anyone, and he can’t figure out the source of the video. Even worse, he finds he can’t interact normally with the world around him. He embarks on a journey that spirals into madness – or does it? In “The Sand Stalker,” Vince, a would-be actor forced to wait tables to pay the bills, believes he’s being followed by a serial killer. But when he finally catches a glimpse of his stalker, he feels like he’s looking into a mirror. How can a homicidal maniac be wearing his face? These stories feature an engaging surreal atmosphere, almost Borges-ian in tone. Neither the protagonist nor the reader is quite sure what is going on. Each has to interpret the shifting reality for himself.
Several of the stories are set during a zombie apocalypse. “I like to see how my characters react under pressure,” Cassiday told me, “and I can’t think of anything that generates more pressure and more duress on people than a zombie apocalypse.”
In the best of these, “Infestation,” our hero Sully is doing his best to make it through the day. Everything is more complicated for him because he’s gone blind. As if that weren’t enough to deal with, Sully soon finds himself harboring a hysterical couple fleeing from undead creatures who want nothing more than to consume their warm flesh. As the tension mounts and the electricity fails, Sully discovers he might be better off facing the zombies rather than the argumentative pair sheltering behind his apartment door.
I’m a fan of old-fashioned ‘weird menace’ stories, which used to be published in pulps such as DIME MYSTERY and TERROR TALES. There simply aren’t enough stories featuring robe-wearing, knife-wielding devil-worshippers these days. Luckily for you and me, Cassiday includes them in several stories in this collection. I won’t tell you which ones, because part of the fun is not knowing when they’ll jump out of the shadows.
I share Cassiday’s sentiments when he tells me, “Horror stories can provide commentary on contemporary society by showing that society is not as stable as many suppose…the horror is that society (and the daily ritual of your life, for that matter) can collapse at any moment, wreaking havoc and anarchy.”
These stories force readers to ponder what they would do, faced with similar circumstances – and any fiction which forces us to think is worth the reading.
With COMES A CHOPPER, Bryan Cassiday serves up sixteen blood-soaked canapés. Once you’re done with these appetizers, you’ll be ready to move on to the main course, his full-length zombie and espionage novels.
You can buy the book HERE
About the author
Bryan Cassiday writes horror books and thrillers. He wrote the Chad Halverson zombie apocalypse series, which includes ZOMBIE MAELSTROM, ZOMBIE NECROPOLIS, SANTUARY IN STEEL, KILL RATIO, and POXLAND. His short stories have appeared in anthologies, such as "Horror Society Stories Volume One." He lives in Southern California. Visit BryanCassiday.com and Facebook.com/bryancassiday.author.
About the reviewer
Scott Urban lives amid southeastern Ohio’s mist-shrouded forests and occasionally writes things down. His most recent collection is God’s Will (Mad Rush Books), available through the bookstore at Lulu.com. By day he works with troubled youth and by night he sleeps in an Amish farmhouse, which isn’t haunted—yet.