Monday, January 24, 2011

Book Review: Sha’Daa: Last Call

Sha’Daa: Last Call by various

From the tag line description~Once every ten thousand years, the veils between the planes of reality grown thin. Evil things, lurking just beyond the light of day scrabble and claw their way through the veil and seek to overtake the Earth. For 48 hours, all the stands between utter destruction and the innocent citizens of the world are a handful of courageous men and women.
And one unlikely hero - a salesman known only as Johnny.
Sha'Daa: Last Call is the second book in the two book shared-world anthology series from Michael H. Hanson and his team of world-class authors.

I love the apocalyptic, supernatural concept. In addition to the twelve tales are interludes where we get to know Johnny, 'the salesman' a little better as well as Bak and Maribel, the proprietors of the the Triple-Six Tavern. I believe Michael Hanson the godfather of Sha'Daa wrote these in addition to his two contributing tales. Some of the interludes grabbed my attention more than others-I especially liked Bak meeting H.P. Lovecraft, the suggestion of the door you sometimes see in bars (and sometimes don't), as well as a big confrontation between Johnny and some very bitter demonic gods toward the end.

Edward F. McKeown edited and contributes two tales to Last Call the opener - I Kill Zombies, is a bit tongue in cheek and while I feel like I know what McKeown was going for it didn't really grab me, but his next yarn Chapter 7. Hellbeast does. Some troops in war torn Iraq, driving a tank recovery vehicle and with the help of an Italian reporter must defeat a ravenous Jinn. Whereas I thought 'I Kill Zombies' was kinda juvenile, 'Hellbeast' struck me as brave-the actions and dialogue were unexpected, the morals touched on by this tale really surprised. How many tales have you read with an Al-Quaeda member performing something noble?

A Question of Faith by Arthur Sanchez and As You Sow... by Paul Barret chapters 2 & 3 respectively, are openers as well because the Sha'Daa is just getting warmed up. Each has the common man overcoming terrible odds-and as always Johnny is there to barter and prod something to help at the last minute.

Chapters 4 & 8, The Road Forsaken and Iron Girl are by Michael H. Hanson. 'The Road Forsaken' is a quintessential Twilight Zone of a tale-I love The Twilight Zone. The mystery has been building for ages and the reveal at the end was terrifying. 'Iron Girl' pits a Iron Man triathlete against a vengeful volcano god/demon of Hawaii. It was pretty gruesome but I liked the indomitable will of the handicapped protaganist.

In the Chamber of Skulls by Sarah Wagner has a Native American angle with the closing of a demonic gate. The Voyage of the Eris by T. Anthony Truax has the launch of a super ship and the chess match of a demon lord and archangel.

Silent Hunter by Deborah Koren stood out to me as probably the most entertaining submarine story I've read since the Hunt for Red October - granted Koren's sailors are dealing with a Leviathan rather than a Ramius.

My pal Bruce Durham's tale Deathstalk is next. Members of the Canadian Navy find a seemingly deserted ship and are somewhat taunted by Johnny as to the nature of things. I liked the references Bruce sprinkled in relation to other tales especially 'Silent Hunter'. This was a scary one, with a demonic portal in the bowels of the ship and the dedication/sacrifice of the team. I had to wonder at how Bruce might have turned this into a Mortlock tale~but that's another tangent. Oh, and the very, very end of this one-excellent! Bruce leaves you wondering about things just right so that the story sits with you long afterward.

Reach in the Acid by Jordan Lapp, is probably my favorite tale in the collection. The hostile futility of investigating the disappearance of personnel on the moon strikes me as frightening-again with the Twilight Zone type scenario here. Jordan sets Johnny up as a little colder, perhaps more hostile and sinister than I think Hansen envisioned but still it works very well.

The Four Horsemen by James I. Wasserman rounds out Last Call bringing the demonic denouement whole. A detective investigates four agents of destruction and finds herself in the jaws of the Sha'Daa.

Johnney Perkins, (who I am familiar with from his work on the Rogue Blades Entertainment covers) beside doing the cover here, also contributes a black & white pic for every tale inside.

Overall an entertaining dark fantasy apocalyptic horror thrill ride. You can get a copy here.


Charles Gramlich said...

I had not heard of these books. Looks interesting.

David J. West said...

Thanks Charles, there may be the right amount of pulp action, horror and such that you quite like.

Bruce Durham said...

Nice review, David. 'Hellbeast' and 'Silent Hunter' were two of my favourites, too. I was intrigued by your comment re: converting my story into a Mortlock tale. Hadn't thought of that. But now that you mention it...

David J. West said...

No problem Bruce. I just saw it as something that could have been...

Elizabeth Mueller said...

Hmmm, interesting. It drives me crazy to read several books bound between one cover, I don't know why. Great review, David! :)

♥.•*¨ Elizabeth ¨*•.♥

Anonymous said...

Thanks Elizabeth. These are all pretty short stories, so its just a collection.