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Hi Everyone!

Long time no see! If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you a) found the site through a google search or blogroll link, or b) are trying to find me for my work at If you haven’t heard, that’s my new home now. Though, “new” probably isn’t the best descriptor anymore. I started with MMORPG as a columnist back in 2013 covering a wide range of MMORPGs, then focused in on RIFT, while spearheading the official podcast. When my son was born, I switched off to become the resident RPG columnist. Over the almost five years I’ve been part of the team, I discovered a deep running passion for hardware and peripherals and made it my mission to build up that side of the site. That hard work paid off and I was made the Hardware Editor, handling virtually everything on that side of the things while still doing the occasional RPG, MMO, or VR review.

If you’re with a company and finding this, sorry about that. It’s not the easiest to find my contact information on the site. I’ve added it to the sidebar, but you can reach me directly at:

If you’re interested in what I’m doing these days and how I’ve found myself  the owner of fifteen mechanical keyboards this year, give me a shout over at


The 7 Best Space-Themed Slot Games

Slot games today are out of this world. We don’t just mean they showcase cool bonus features and awesome 3D graphics. We mean you can now find slot games that are literally set out of this world, on foreign planets and in galaxies far, faraway.

Here’s our pick of the 7 best space-themed slot games on the market. They’re packed to burst with aliens, stars, rocket ships and astronauts. You’ll find them ready to play at all the best online casino sites, so go check them out.

# 7: Stars Awakening

Blastoff into space in Stars Awakening. This slot game’s a good shout for those dreaming of winning the big bucks. Every spin provides up to 243 different ways to win and gives you the chance to land a Giant Planet Symbol. These symbols can eclipse up to 3 reels at once, making huge 5-of-a-kind winning combinations possible.

# 6: Alien Hunter

We’ll admit the graphics look a bit dated compared to other slot games on the market. But the abundance of bonus features makes Alien Hunter well worth a spin.There’s an Egg Hunt Bonus where you crack open the eggs of extra-terrestrials for prizes. Plus, there’s a really neat Hunting Bonus. This lets you shoot and trap aliens for cash.

# 5: Cowboys & Aliens

Based on the 2006 comic book, Cowboys & Aliens shows you what happens when a spaceship crash lands in the Wild West. The graphics are awesome, retaining something of a comic book feel. But the best thing about this slot isn’t how it looks – it’s the Alien Attack Bonus. Kill the extra-terrestrials intent on destroying planet earth and you’ll be rewarded with generous cash prizes.

# 4: Astro Magic

Whether you’re big into astrology or not, Astro Magic could set you on the path to future riches. This slot game is designed around the 12 constellations of the zodiac and comes with some pretty shiny bonus features. There’s an Instant Bonus where you can find immediate access to Free Spins and Win Multipliers, as well as a Galaxy Bonus starring a 4,950-coin jackpot.

# 3: Astro Babes

Join forces with Bonny, Roxy, Violet, Betsy and Gwen. These 5 intergalactic beauties are the stars of Astro Babes, a 100-payline slot game. Each babe has the power to create a Fully-Wild Reel to help you find more winning combinations. There’s also a decent Free Spins Bonus, where you’ll be blasted into hyperspace with up to 50 free hits of the spin button.

# 2: Space Wars

Get involved in the battle that’s been raging between the inhabitants of two different planets for centuries. Space Wars is a slot game offering 40 bet lines of action and a promising 96.8% RTP. Our favourite feature of the game is the Cloning Pod Re-Spin Bonus. Watch winning symbols get sucked into the Cloning Pod, before being duplicated and shot back out onto the reels as they’re re-spun. Chances are this will create some nice winning combinations.

# 1: Starburst

No doubt one of the most popular slot games of all time, Starburst is a cosmic force to be reckoned with. It boasts fast-paced yet incredibly simple gameplay,making it ideal for new and seasoned slot players alike. There’s no aliens to speak and only one real bonus feature – but this feature it’s so awesome you certainly won’t be left wanting for more. Every time a Starburst Wild Symbol lands on the central reel, it expands and lock in place before generating a free re-spin. This should help you win bigger and better cash prizes.

How Much Is Too Much When It Comes To Luck In Tabletop Games?

There has been something of a resurgence of tabletop gaming in recent years. Video games are more accessible than ever before on consoles, computers and mobile phones but instead, more and more people are swapping the laptop for the tabletop when it comes to gaming. Titles like Settlers of Catan, Risk and Days of Wonder’s Ticket To Ride have all grown in popularity in the last few years attracting players old and new.

There are now thousands of new tabletop games being released yearly, each with their own set of rules and playing intricacies. Player skill and game knowledge will have an impact on every single one of them but one thing which varies greatly is the impact of luck. Luck can take many different forms in tabletop gaming but perhaps the best-known example of all is the use of dice.

The roll of a standard dice six-sided dice creates six different scenarios for the game to enter into. That only increases if a game has additional die and items such as random chance cards. Some games involve very little luck such as chess and go, while others involve far more acts of chance like Monopoly and Battleship.

The latter titles are certainly more popular than the former which is why so many game designers use luck in their titles. Luck-dependent games generally tend to attract a larger and more diverse player base than their skill-dependent counterparts. There is also a far greater chance of excitement when luck is involved. Random acts of chance can create incredibly unique situations as games adapt to the entropy of a dice throw. This is why games giants like Hasbro prefer luck-dependent titles. A game is almost inevitably going to be more successful financially if, for example, every member of the family can play from the moment it is unboxed.

But that’s not to say that luck is a guarantee of excitement. There’s a reason why the 2009 Channel 5 show Heads or Tails – a game show in which contestants could win money by simply guessing the outcome of a coin flip – didn’t become a smash TV hit. For a game to be truly successful it must attract both casual mainstream players and a devoted, core following. No tabletop gamer wants to sit around for hours on end and guess the outcome of a flipping coin because the luck shouldn’t outweigh the skill. That is more common in children’s board games but for more mainstream titles, the better players should typically win more often than the worse ones.

So, an element of compromise is needed. Games need to have enough luck to attract a larger player base and keep things exciting, but not so much that the better players are just as likely to lose as the worst. Perhaps the best example of this being utilised in a tabletop game is poker.

The classic card game has seen a marked rise in popularity in recent years but generally has a reputation as a game more about luck than skill. Even traditional gambling companies like Betway have introduced video poker into their online games range, following in the footsteps of the popular rise of this well known land based game. Poker and Las Vegas have historically gone hand-in-hand but the game is about far more than which player draws the best cards. Poker has an incredibly high skill ceiling but the luck of the draw is one of the main reasons why the game is so exciting as a spectator sport. The World Series Of Poker attracts big viewership figures for ESPN in America because fans know that one card can change everything.

This can be seen when it comes to the popularity of tabletop games in more mainstream places. The games which often draw the most attention are the more luck-dependent titles like Kosmos’ Settlers of Catan and Z-Man Games’ Pandemic. These two have certainly more mainstream press from sites like The Independent while the titles which depend far more on skill and game knowledge than luck have not. It’s one of the reasons why a game like Risk is more popular and better known than a similar but far less luck-dependent title like Days Of Wonder’s Small World. Can a tabletop game really be considered a success if it only caters to a small audience?

So, the inclusion of luck is clearly an important part of a tabletop game’s success. Chance creates exciting and new possibilities and as a result, broadens the appeal of a title. However, that comes with risk. There’s a reason why chess is a more popular pastime than rock-paper-scissors and that’s because more serious players lose interest with games that reward luck over skill. It’s difficult to strike a balance between the two extremes but many games including poker have achieved the feat.

The Evolution of Grand Theft Auto (Infographic)

Can you name many games that surpassed a billion dollars in 72 hours? Didn’t think so, but we bet you can name one. Grand Theft Auto 5, the most recent (albeit now 5 year old) entry into developer Rockstar’s action packed crime series broke every possible record there is on its release, pushing an already hugely popular franchise to the very top. Beginning its journey as a humble, quite poorly designed top down action game, the series has come on leaps and bounds. This infographic courtesy of the team over at Paddy Power online gaming sites

Let us know if you’re a GTA fan in the comments!


Best Minecraft Skins

Life is full of limitless possibilities – and so is the world of Minecraft. You can choose any skin you would like your character to wear and it often can be rather a daunting prospect. In a game that allows you to become practically anyone – no matter whether it’s your favorite superhero or a movie character, there is a skin available for every single person to use. That is, if you know where to look, of course. If it’s your desire to download a Harley Quinn Minecraft skin then you should go and do so! And if you seem to be lost for choice, then this selection of some of the best Minecraft skins we could find on the Internet! So when you want to evolve past your default skin and become something interesting and new, something that perfectly fits with your personality, we are here to help you with that. With these, you would try to step into the shoes of a mythical creature or a famous meme, you would be able to cosplay your favorite cartoon character or just scare the snot out of your friends.

To be honest, it couldn’t get any easier. All you have to do is pick the skins you would like to have and find them on a website that has them! Then you would have to download them on to your computer, log in to which has an option of uploading a custom-made skin on the Profile page. Then, the next time you boot up your Minecraft game, you will be dressed to the nines in your fancy new attire!

Gumball Machine 

We are not completely sure why y, but this one surely gets us laughing. You can basically run around Minecraft as a giant gumball machine. How cool is that?!

Darth Vader

Star Wars fever cannot be left out of this list. We figured it would be absolutely cruel if we hadn’t included the ultimate villain of our lifetime!


What time is it? Adventure Time! With this skin you will be able to adventure around the world of Minecraft as Finn. Slamacow!


How awesome is the fact that you could be Jesse from Minecraft Story Mode? Ridiculously awesome!



Are you a Minecraft noob in search for some luck in your play? Well, this skin has got you covered then!


Business Creeper

You can clearly see that this skin means business. It is the most perfect way of giving your opponents a bit of a fright, so go on – take on the world of Minecraft by only wearing this skin!

If Batman is your ultimate childhood hero, then you would definitely enjoy putting this skin on. Or at least you could show off and tell everyone “I’m Batman.”

There is hardly anyone who does not love a good old minion. With this, you can pretend to be one of these cheeky little critters loved by every single child on this planet when you’re running around building stuff.

Iron Man

Who wouldn’t love a nice dose of Marvel in their life? Well, this Iron Man skin will surely give your player some serious ‘tude.

Which are your favorite skins? Don’t forget to tell us in the comment section!

Virtual Tabletop Face-Off – Roll20 Vs. Fantasy Grounds

Guest article by Cohen of the PC Gaming Guru

In recent years, tabletop gaming has experienced a bit of a renaissance – or, at the very least, a surge in popularity. This is partially due to web shows like Critical Role bringing the beauty of tabletop gaming into the public sphere.

There’s no longer a major stigma against sitting down with your friends to talk in funny voices and roll loads of dice for hours on end. Tabletop RPG players are no longer geeks who live in our mother’s basement… Well, for the most part, anyway.

Funnily enough, that’s exactly how I felt about D&D players prior to trying it for myself – as someone who plays primarily video games (mostly single player RPGs like the Witcher 3), it always seemed like a strange hobby to me.

But I’m getting off topic. The point is, I’ve since changed my mind, and come to absolutely love all things tabletop gaming!

With games like Dungeons & Dragons (And various other systems) becoming more and more popular, it’s only natural that in today’s fast-moving culture people would begin looking for alternative ways to play. After all, finding a group in real life can be hard, if not impossible in certain parts of the country. Seriously, if you live in a rural area, are you really going to drive 2 hours out of your way to play D&D every week? Probably not.

Enter virtual tabletops – online platforms that seek to emulate the experience of sitting around a table roleplaying it up with friends. While there are plenty of ways to play tabletop RPGs online, two of the most popular (at the moment) are Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds – both vastly different platforms that offer vastly different experiences.

Being that I’m actually playing in a fairly long-running virtual campaign right now (7 months now), I’ve experienced both of these platforms pretty extensively. Our group first started out with Roll20, and then migrated to Fantasy Grounds after a few months.

But that’s enough background. Let’s get to the meat and potatoes of this post – the comparison itself!

I’ll be covering each platform individually, going over several key points such as the cost (if any) and a few of my personal thoughts on both platforms. But first, a quick description of both platforms.

What Is Fantasy Grounds?

Fantasy Grounds is a virtual tabletop with a lot of extra features and content that set it apart from Roll20. Whereas Roll20 focuses on simplicity and functionality, Fantasy Grounds offers ridiculous amounts of customization, a beautiful interface, and plenty of optional supplements and rule books that can be purchased. However, it has its pros and cons, like any other platform – but more on that later.

I would say that Fantasy Grounds seeks to immerse its players more fully in their gaming experience.

Once you get used to the interface, accessing various menus is a breeze – your character sheet, party notes, and even magic items can all be organized into handy windows – not to mention the fact that your entire interface can be customized based on what you’re doing. For instance, when creating a new character, you simply hit the “Create PC” button which then switches all of your sidebar buttons over to ones that are more appropriate for creating a new character (Refine this paragraph once you’ve gotten into FG)

What Is Roll20?

Roll20 is another virtual tabletop, but it lacks the sophistication of Fantasy Grounds. Instead, it focuses on being as user-friendly and straightforward as possible. It also tries to be a one-stop shop for all things D&D-related.

Tiles, tokens, etc. can all be purchased from Roll20’s store, groups can be found using Roll20’s on-site LFG functionality, and each game can have its own mini-forum for players to create topics and discuss things (Should they choose to do so).

The Comparison

Pricing – Winner: Roll20

This was an easy win for Roll20, being that it’s totally free! Aside from buying completely optional battle maps, Roll20 doesn’t lock any of its features away behind a paywall. While this comes at the cost of a more limited interface and set of features in general, the lack of any up-front payments reduces the barrier to entry quite a bit. This makes it ideal for people who are looking for a quick, free way to jump into a game with friends online.

Fantasy Grounds is a paid platform, with both monthly and one-time pricing models available. There are 3 main tiers of Fantasy Grounds – Demo, Standard & Ultimate. I won’t go into the details about all of the pricing models here (There’s a LOT to cover), but you can read about it on the Fantasy Grounds website.

The gist of FG’s pricing, though, is that there are 3 tiers – Demo, Standard & Ultimate.

Demo players are only able to play in Ultimate-hosted games, but it’s free for them to do so.

Standard players get access to everything Ultimate players do (Tokens, battle maps, rulesets, etc.) but they can only play games with other Standard or Ultimate players – in other words, unless you shell out the extra cash for the Ultimate tier, everyone in your party is going to have to pay for a Standard membership.

Ultimate players get access to a ton of tokens, battle maps, and all major ruleset books and data libraries, but the big attraction here is that they can also host games for players of any service tier – including demo players. This means that you essentially only need one player (Probably the DM) to pay for an Ultimate membership, and the rest of the party can play in his or her games for free!

Finding A Game – Winner: Roll20

Another easy win for Roll20. Roll20 offers an on-site LFG system, where you can create your own custom profile and list some of the things you’re looking for in a game. You can filter open games by communication medium (Voice, text-only, video, video+voice), ruleset (5E, 4E, or something completely un-D&D related) and experience level (whether or not they accept newbies).

Fantasy Grounds, on the other hand, lacks this functionality entirely.

Fantasy Grounds comes in the form of a program, and it does not communicate with any major databases or servers – in other words, there is no “LFG hub” available. You will have to find players through more traditional means, such as the LFG subreddit, or various other RPG group-finding platforms. This may not necessarily be a “con” for some people (As it can be difficult to find the right group even on Roll20’s platform), but it’s worth mentioning.

The Interface – Winner: Fantasy Grounds

This is one area where Fantasy Grounds absolutely takes the lead. The interface is highly customizable (By the DM and the players), easy to use (Once you get over the initial learning curve), and really helps immerse you in the game.

The leathery background, parchment-like menus, dialogue boxes, and even the 3D dice (Which can be tossed around your virtual table at will) all serve to make Fantasy Grounds a real joy to use. All in all, Fantasy Grounds offers a more complete and hands-on interface.

Fantasy Grounds allows you to drag gear, spells, weapons and various other things directly from their in-program rulesets and books to your character sheet, where it automatically calculates the effects of everything for you (Including weight and encumbrance). Being able to drag a new spell directly from Fantasy Ground’s spell list to my character sheet, and then instantly use it (If I so choose), is amazing.

Now, on to Roll20.

Roll20’s interface is by no means bad, but it is limited. While you can create character sheets and access basic rules (Such as spells and spell descriptions), you’ll still need physical (Or paid digital) copies of things like the Dungeon Master’s Guide or the Player’s Handbook to play effectively. People can manage without, of course, but it might slow down the pace of the game. The fact that Fantasy Grounds handles all that for you is pretty nice.

The downside of Roll20’s interface is just how tedious it can be to set everything up. Spell descriptions and effects, armor, weapons and their functions must all be entered manually – Often requiring you to constantly flip between your Player’s Handbook or DMG outside of the game. This disconnect between playing the game and flipping through rulebooks can be quite a chore, and can really break your immersion at times.

However, as with Fantasy Grounds, you can set up battle maps, filled with custom tiles and tokens – or go the “theater of mind” route and do away with tokens and maps entirely!

Playing The Game – Winner: Fantasy Grounds

Fantasy Grounds also has the advantage here. As I’ve stated a couple times now, interacting with the Fantasy Grounds interface is an absolute pleasure – it’s as simple or as complex as you want it to be, and the 3D dice are way better than Roll20’s.

The DM can download a whole host of user-created plugins  (From the forums) that can change the look and feel of the game, while also adding more features and options for players and DMs alike. Plugins can add mood lighting (Warm screen tint for campfires, or a hazy green for bogs or swamps), in-game calendars with important events marked down and even in-game music (Without needing third-party software!). Not bad!

Beyond that, though, playing the game from the player’s perspective is very solid. As I stated above in the interface section, you can simply drag spells and equipment from the books to your character sheet – since the stats and values are automatically transferred for you (Though you can edit them at will for custom stuff), you just drag a little dice button into the chatbox, and voila! It calculates whether or not you hit, as well as how much damage you do. It does this by checking your rolls against the monster’s AC, and any resistances or invulnerabilities it might have.

It does this via complex, interactive battle maps and automatic turn trackers (With optional timers for more hectic encounters). The turn tracker is all about automation. It automatically removes health from an enemy (or player) when someone lands a hit, adds effects like poisoning or burning, and does a few other neat things as well.

I never thought I’d steal a quote from Bethesda’s Todd Howard in an article about Dungeons & Dragons, but, to put things simply – “It just works.”

Roll20’s gameplay flows nicely, too, but it focuses more on being very welcoming to newcomers and more streamlined in general. Unfortunately, the fact that it is so simplistic means that a lot more burden is placed on the DM. Keeping track of NPC health, gear and status effects will all remain manual processes.

As such, it’s not so much that Roll20 is lacking features – after all, all Roll20 is seeking to do is to bring the experience of playing D&D with a group of friends to the virtual world. Since manually keeping track of stuff has been the DM’s job for decades, I can’t count the lack of the automation and ease-of-use of FG against Roll20. But it’s certainly not a plus, so Fantasy Grounds wins by default here.

Final Verdict – Tied

At the end of the day, both Fantasy Grounds and Roll20 appeal to different audiences, and neither is objectively better than the other.

Roll20 offers a free platform that is easy to use. I would say Roll20 is primarily geared towards casual players or people who simply can’t afford to spend money on their tabletop gaming (Which is perfectly understandable, especially when you consider the cost of dice and books). The major drawback of Roll20 is that all of the complicated aspects of the game remain complicated for the DM.

Fantasy Grounds is geared more towards intermediate groups or just people who want to take the game a little more seriously in general. The fact that it automates so many processes leaves more room for the actual playing of the game – RPing, strategizing in combat, and interacting with the world the DM has created. The drawback of Fantasy Grounds is the price, and that the learning curve is a bit high, to begin with (though you get used to it after a couple sessions).

The best thing to do is to simply give them both a shot! If you shell out $10 for one month of FG’s Ultimate membership, that’s plenty of time to get a feel for the platform and see if it’s the right fit for you and your party. And since Roll20 is free, testing it out is as easy as signing up for a free account and starting up a game!

If you’re not reading Rant On Rob, you should be


Greetings, Game By Nighters! Just popping in to give a sterling recommendation to my friend and colleague, Rob Lashley’s new gaming blog: Rant On Rob. If you don’t know Rob yet, you surely know his work. He’s been writing excellent columns and reviews for (and now GameSpace!) for some time. He’s also done a bunch of videos, podcasts, and produced a ton of other content. I’ve also had the pleasure of hosting the Game On podcast with Rob for a couple of months now. He knows his stuff! Give him a click, check out what he has going on. If you like it, he has a YouTube channel too. Add him to your readers and sub lists. You won’t regret it.

Dungeons & Dragons Has Found New Homes Online

There have been some huge RPGs and MMOs over the past few years and some of these have seen devoted followers group en masse to witness the games played by the best at eSports events – the annual BlizzCon convention alone attracts 25,000 fans coming to watch WoW, Hearthstone and Warcraft world championships. All the titles that are expected to be huge such as Mass Effect:Andromeda and Horizon Zero Dawn should pay homage to the granddaddy of them all, Dungeons & Dragons. Some might be surprised to know that the original
fantasy RPG is still going strong and there are some new ways to play this classic online.

Dungeons & Dragons: Treasures of Icewind Dale

Never missing an opportunity to develop their gaming around a popular theme, it’s no surprise that the team in charge of bgo slot games has not overlooked the best-selling RPG and is showcasing Dungeons & Dragons: Treasures of Icewind Dale. By combining slot game mechanics with the fantasy adventure theme bgo have found a natural fit and you really are on a quest to avoid pitfalls and collect a jackpot. In this game you take control of adventurers Drizzt, Wulfgar, Catti-Brie and Bruenor and you’ll dispatch monsters, roam through frozen caves, encounter lots of swordplay and sorcery and combat a gruesome dragon. It’s an interesting spin on the classic formula and has proven to be popular with those looking to get a D&D fix while they wait for their Dungeon Master to create a new campaign. bgo have tapped into the increasing demand for role-playing and fantasy games by creating a whole slots section dedicated to myths and legends, with titles such as Lancelot, Medusa 2 and Nordic Heroes likely to appeal to fans of the fantasy genre.

However this online casino isn’t the only one working to connect slots and RPG as has developed Scatter Slots with RPG elements and Tower Quest developed by Play’n Go will also be a noticed by RPG fans.


Roll20 is a handy suite of simple digital tools that allow you to move your favourite tabletop fantasy RPG online for the benefit of Dungeon Masters planning quests and connecting players. There is a whole online community available to help you make the transition with tutorials, blogs and forums, but it’s a very simple system to get started with.

Roll20 is really just an aid to enhance the storytelling and gameplay is still dependent on the creativity of the dungeon master, but the virtual tabletop, background music, dynamic lighting and character sheets all augment the experience. The critical part of playing D&D is being with your companions on the journey and the voice and video chat options are great and support Google Hangouts. Those who don’t have a group can also easily join an adventure and there are other games to play such as World of Darkness and Pathfinder.

IMG_7648 by majcher, on FlickrIMG_7648” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by majcher

Fantasy Grounds

Fantasy Grounds can be expensive, but is officially licensed and will provide you with all the pre-loaded content you need to embark on an epic quest with your friends. The Dungeon Master will install the application and select the game system and rule set of choice, which will come with some basic library modules of spells, abilities, monsters and items. Then there are masses of downloadable content to be selected by the Dungeon Master, which although pricey, adds hugely to the gaming experience and doesn’t take away from the necessary storytelling. For the players it is simply a matter of connecting with the session, reviewing your saved character sheet and progress, and entering the map to move your token, roll the die and initiate attacks. With lots of modification options and a mammoth online community, this is the option for the more serious D&D gamers.

D&D is still going strong and the move online has simply enriched the gaming experience and provided powerful tools for connection and storytelling. Many are even playing the game over Skype as the best thing about it is that all you really need is a little imagination.

Book Review: Little Heaven by Nick Cutter

little-heaven-9781501104213_hrLittle Heaven is the latest, and perhaps greatest, horror novel from the mind of Nick Cutter. Like many readers, my first encounter with Nick’s work was with his fantastic debut, The Troop. Even having finished that novel a good four months ago, scenes from it still bubble up from my memory from time to time and make me uncomfortable all over again. That’s a testament to how unsettling his work can be, and I’m not the squeamish sort.. The Deep, his sophomore release, was also creepy to the core. Reading those books, I recall thinking that, while perhaps not as deep or complex as other writers whose names get dropped in discussions of great modern horror, they read like really, really well done horror movies; they’re page turners, at points pushing you on to see what will happen next and at others to see just how dark things can possibly get.

This novel was no different. Having not read The Acolyte, I can’t compare it to that book, but I can say without reservation that Little Heaven stands up to the high horror standards set by those novels. On my personal ladder, I would go so far as to say that it goes so far as to challenge The Troop for Nick’s best work.

[Mild Story Spoilers to Follow — everything is general, but if you want to go in completely blank, skip past this part]

The story follows three mercenary’s across more than a decade as they face terrible evil that has come home to roost. When I read the description, this setup didn’t excite me much since mercenaries inherently feel a little one note to me; macho, grim, militaristic. You get the picture. I was happy to see that’s only partially the case. By breaking the story between multiple time frames, Nick is able to develop these characters into interesting, flawed, human beings. By the back third, only one of them is still the chilly mercenary-type and even he has a thaw by the end.

Much of the book takes place far in the New Mexico wilderness, which adds a wonderful sense of isolation to the events of the story. This is a Cutter tale, so you can safely go in knowing that there are monsters and they are wholly evil. It must have spoke to the inner woods lover in me that I found these events much more creepy because so much of it took place removed from society in the woods. You can also assume that things are going to get gross at one point or another, and they do, but I found most of it was in service to the story and not simply to skeeve the reader out [there is a scene toward the end of The Deep with sausage links that struck me as pure, 100% gross out].

Nick has a way of description that gets under your skin and creates images that hang in your mind. Here, you see that with both with both the supernatural and the natural. Many writers craft scenes that are haunting in the moment and then fade into the ether. Little Heaven has at least six that I don’t think I’ll be forgetting any time soon, when most books struggle to create even one. They way he describes The Long Walker or Cyril at the fence or Eli at the window (I’m being intentionally ambiguous)… they’re images that are horribly vivid. And that’s why Nick Cutter’s books feel like really great horror movies. You can see these things. Nick gives you just enough to paint a good mental picture and expertly lets your mind fill in the blanks to wonderful effect.

That said, Little Heaven falls short in the same way that The Deep did: there’s just not enough character development in the supporting cast. We’re treated to a good amount of scenes for our three main protagonists and our villain, but the rest are painted fairly thinly, which robs some of the event of their weight.

I also felt that the protagonists didn’t quite develop enough throughout the novel. When you meet them, they’re bad people. When you leave them, they’re still bad people, but aren’t completely unlikeable anymore. The story seems to want you to root for these three, but then never lets you forget for long that they’re terrible people who’ve done terrible things. They even question whether they think they’re worth saving. Cutter never quite redeems them enough to make them truly sympathetic. If the book wasn’t so insistent on how terrible they are, I think they would have been easier to connect with. This would have been a major problem, but there is an underlying current of debts paid throughout the text, so even if they’re never truly relateable, it’s easy to see that they want to be better, and here that’s enough.

[Now leaving minor, maybe not even spoiler territory]

I was very excited when I discovered Little Heaven was on the way and even more so when I was approved for a galley in exchange for an unbiased review. It more than lived up to my expectations and has solidified Nick Cutter as one of my favorite new horror authors. He consistently brings the dark and pulls no punches. Little Heaven kept me enthralled, and I can’t wait to see what this author does next.

The only downside to getting a galley so early is knowing the next book is so, so far off.

Book Review: Death Follows by Cullen Bunn

Death Follows is unapologetically dark. Based on the title and cover art, I expected this, but it even surprised me. Having never read Mr. Bunn’s work before (this graphic novel is based upon a short story), I went into the tale not knowing what to expect. I left feeling unsettled because of it, so I’ll refrain from many spoilers here. Some will be unavoidable, however, so be warned.

Still with me? Good. The basic outline of the story looks something like this. On a farm in rural North Carolina, a farmer, his pregnant wife, and two young daughters do their best to live a happy life taking care of their animals and crops and school work. Until Cole arrives, wandering alone down their empty road, looking for work. To the girls, he looks frightening. To their father, he looks like a man down on his luck.

Well, all is not as it should be with Mr. Cole and before long, the dead, literally, start stirring. It starts small but Death Follows quickly expands into a full-blown rural horror.

I enjoy the stories like this, those that don’t rely on gore so much as the unseen; stories that lean on terror instead of torture and the easy gross-out. Death Follows doesn’t disappoint there. And once things take a turn for the creepy, they don’t let go.

The writing of Cullen Bunn is well done. I read the relatively short graphic novel in two sittings and didn’t want to put it down either time. There is a sense of foreboding that supersedes even the supernatural elements, which is answered in a culminating ending that is unexpected and, frankly, packs a punch. Many horror stories pull the punch and let the reader sit a little easier knowing that the evil is settled. Death Follows pulls no such punch. When the story ends, you’re left feeling slightly ravaged.

Which, quite honestly, has kept me thinking about Death Follows long after I would have moved on. from most other stories. It is brave in its unflinching willingness to make you stare into its black pool. I don’t know if its possible to enjoy an ending like this because I don’t think enjoy is the right word. But good horror leaves you with that lingering unsettledness that has you questioning what you just read.

Death Follows does that. I would not recommend this book for the squeamish and would caution anyone that Death here really doesn’t let up. But if that doesn’t scare you away, there’s a good that this might be a book you would enjoy.


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