June 22, 2015

-- Review -- Cracked Sky by Ben Eads

Cracked Sky is an emotional tale for anyone with children, but, if you have a daughter, like I do, it is especially moving. A parent's most horrid nightmare is the loss of their child, something I don't particularly want to think about, but most of us do at some point. Eads forces us into that world, making us feel as if the unthinkable has happened.

And that's what makes this story (and the writer) great.

If there is a shortcoming with this tale, it's with the length. I wanted more.

For all the parents out there - hell, for anyone that wants an insight into real loss, do yourself a favour and pick this one up.

 I'll sure remember it for quite some time.

August 30, 2014

Horror Talk Book Review - Topsiders

Here's another wonderful review by Gabino Iglesias over at Horror Talk (review contains spoilers):

Written by Scott Tyson
2013, 182 pages, Fiction
Released on December 3rd, 2013


When Topsiders kicks off, teenage brothers Mathew and Guy both have a crush on Claire, whose parents are good friends with their parents. The families are spending some time together during a holiday, but instead of focusing on having fun, the adults are planning something they're trying to keep from the youngsters. The grown ups leave the kids alone, hop on a boat, and enter an abandoned house by the edge of the river. Unfortunately, their adventure quickly turns into the most dangerous situation they've ever been in. When the parents fail to return home, the three youngsters decided to go looking for them, and that might just be the last bad decision they make.

This is Tyson's debut novel, but nothing about it seems amateur. The author takes his time setting the pieces of the puzzle in place and allowing the reader to become familiar with each character. While they're not all likeable and the cracks in Mat and Guy's parents' marriage soon become evident, more than enough rapport is built so that when the violence, mayhem, and death come, there are some emotions involved. Also, for a first novel, this has superb dialogue and Tyson demonstrates a knack for both great spatial descriptions and gore.
Strangely enough, the beauty of Topsiders is that it's horrible in many ways. For starters, the narrative is infused with an almost palpable teenage aura that will make most readers nostalgic for that part of their lives, but then all that innocence is shattered. Also, the story transitions from what feels like a creepy adventure where some kids go find their parents inside a spooky house to a visceral, bloody story where ugly underground creatures savagely rape, mutilate, and kill humans while said humans run around in a dark cave like trapped rats.

Despite all the things Tyson gets right, his decision to eschew a positive finale is what truly places Topsiders in must-read territory for horror fans, especially those with a taste for brutality. Instead of a teary ending full of hugs or a heroic last minute rescue, everything that can go wrong goes wrong, and then things get uglier. There's no way to explain the last third of the book in a way that won't give away too much, so I'll just say that, once underground, the line between human and monster starts fading away and the ending packs more than one surprise.

Too many authors suffer from what I call Final Girl Syndrome, a condition that forces them to infuse every narrative with sufficient hope, or at least a survivor that beats all odds, in order to leave the reader with a good taste in his or her mouth. Scott Tyson's Topsiders is not like that. It is an entertaining bloodfest full of tension, fear, and violent behavior of more than one type. It's also a great start to Tyson's career that places him on the radar and will surely have many readers asking for more. Topsiders delivers a gradual descent, both metaphorical and literal, that obliterates any sense of optimism, and that makes it a great novel.



July 6, 2014

Shattered Ravings - Topsiders Book Review

Matthew Scott Baker has posted a wonderful review of Topsiders on his website, Shattered Ravings, and on Goodreads.

Check it out!

When it comes to horror in general, there are many avenues through which terror can be unleashed. One of my favorites is via old, abandoned houses. Who has not lived in an area with at least one ramshackle building for which stories and legends abound? With TOPSIDERS, author Scott Tyson gives readers yet one more reason not to venture into these dark, foreboding structures. But things are never as simple as they sound…and this book will thrust you deep into a nightmare of epic proportions.
If you are not familiar with TOPSIDERS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of LegumeMan Books:
An abandoned house by the edge of the river. Uninhabited for decades. A secret as old as time itself. A truth hidden from the topsiders. But that’s about to change. When all the adults suddenly disappear, Mathew convinces his older brother that something is very wrong. Their search leads them to a place they never knew existed. A place that will have them question everything they knew about life. Soon, the truth.
This is one of those books that is perfect for a movie or a miniseries. As the events unfolded throughout the pages, I kept visualizing each scene in my mind. These visions came complete with an eerie soundtrack and even creepy camera angles. This is definitely a testament to the talent and imagination of the author.
TOPSIDERS is written well with flowing sentences and minimalistic descriptions. Instead of calling out every leaf on every tree or using paragraph after paragraph to describe a single scene, Tyson lets the reader’s mind do the world-creating. I particularly enjoy this style of writing, as my own mind can conjure up images more vivid than even the most adjective-infused prose.
The characters within the story are complex and emotional, just like people in real life. The reader laughs with them during goofy moments, and then cringes with them when embarrassing situations arise. This camaraderie the reader feels with the characters intensifies the tension when terrible things start happening. As a result, the immersion into the story is deeper and more satisfying.
The horror in the story is top notch, and I found myself nervous while reading certain sections. Tyson builds tension with ease but never lets up once the plot starts moving. And when all hell breaks loose, grab something to hold onto; the thrill ride of an ending will leave you breathless.
If I were forced to find a flaw with TOPSIDERS, I might mention that the strained relationship between Bill and Judy is a bit too strained to be realistic. With as acidic as Judy is towards him, I don’t see Bill staying, even if he is a beaten-down man with no backbone. This is the only point that stood out to me, however it is definitely needed for the story, so I cannot devalue its merit too much.
Regardless, TOPSIDERS is an excellent read and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good scare. Tyson is definitely a force to be reckoned with when it comes to horror, and I can’t wait to see what he does next. The book is available now in a variety of formats; pick it up for sure.

June 13, 2014

Australian Shadows Winners - 2014

Congratulations to all the Australian Shadows winners! 

Novel: 809 Jacob Street - Marty Young

Edited Publication: Baby Teeth – Bite Sized Tales Of Terror - Dan Rabarts & Lee Murray

Collected Works: The Bone Chime Song & Other Stories - Joanne Anderton

Short Story: Caterpillars - Debbie Cowens

Paul Haines Shadows Award for Long Fiction: The Unwanted Women Of Surrey - Kaaron Warren

June 11, 2014

Topsiders - Review from Horror After Dark

Just received this amazing review from Paul at Horror After Dark

He had these words to say:

When you review books for a blog every so often you put your hand up for something suspecting it won’t really be all that good, but the author has taken the time to submit it for review, so it’s rude not to give it a try, and besides if you want to keep your name on the reviewing roster you better take one for the team every once in a while… Such was my sentiments as I picked up Scott Tyson’s debut novel Topsiders. It didn’t hurt he was a fellow Aussie, but the blurb gives away very little, and the cover art didn’t really grab me, so I kind of shrugged my way into it, thinking at least it wasn’t very long.
A day or so later, I’d completed my one hundred and eighty degree turn and was wishing there was a whole lot more of Topsidersto go round.
I was quickly drawn into Tyson’s world of a family staying with their well-to-do friends for a holiday, and soon stumbling into something that they never could have imagined. Tyson takes his time establishing his characters in the first half of the short novel – which makes it much easier to empathise with them when they’re put in harm’s way – paying particular attention to 14 year old Matthew and his less than courageous father, Bill. Matthew has a real thing for the slightly older daughter of the other family, Claire, but has to vie for her attention with his older brother, Guy. Meanwhile (in what amounts to a welcome twist on a familiar genre trope) the parents of the kids are getting themselves neck deep in a mess that Bill has qualms about from moment one, but against his better judgment, goes along with …
And that’s about all the plot rehashing anyone should need. Part of the beauty of Topsiders is the way in which Tyson builds the tension in sure-footed, deliberate steps, but without showing his hand too early. Wondering what the menace is within the house adds a creep factor that considerably aids the read, until said menace is let off its chain and proceeds to carve through the characters in a fashion that should please most who enjoy a bit of bloodshed. Technically, the writing is crisp, assured and the dialogue has a realistic edge to it that assists in bringing the characters to life.
In terms of areas for improvement, one set of characters has a marriage that is so caustic it’s a wonder paint wasn’t stripped from every wall they happened past, with one half of said couple especially vindictive and nasty. This read as a bit over the top and could have been scaled back to seem less melodramatic.
Regardless of this, Topsiders is highly recommended to those who enjoy short, easy to read and gripping horror novels, and should especially appeal to fans pining after early Richard Laymon  (even if the word “rump” barely gets a mention here).
4 Abdominal Wounds for Topsiders.

June 9, 2014

Australian Shadows Awards - 2014

The shortlist for the Australian Shadows awards was announced last week, and I'm proud to say my debut novel, Topsiders, was chosen as one of three in the novel category. 

Here are the finalists:

Undead Kelly, by Timothy Bowden

Topsiders, by Scott Tyson

809 Jacob Street, by Marty Young

Other categories included:

The Paul Haines Long Fiction Award:

Soul Killer, by Robert Hood

The Home For Broken Dolls, by Kirstyn McDermott

The Unwanted Women Of Surrey, by Kaaron Warren

Short Fiction:

Nip, Tuck, Zip, Pluck, by John Paul Fitch

Fence Lines, by Joanne Anderton

The Nest, by C.S. McMullen

Caterpillars, by Debbie Cowens

The Dead Way, by JC Hart

Edited Publication:

Midnight Echo 9, by Geoff Brown

A Killer Among Demons, by Craig Bezant

Baby Teeth - Bite Sized Tales Of Terror, by Dan Rabarts & Lee Murray

Star Quake 1, by Sophie Yorkston

To be included in any of these lists is quite an honour, and I congratulate all of the finalists. 

The winners will be announced this Thursday 12th June @ 9PM.

April 15, 2014

Topsiders: Review

There have been numerous reviews of Topsiders, but few as detailed as this one from Amanda J Spedding

I thought I would share it here, but be warned, there are spoilers for those who have not read the book.


I very much enjoyed this read but I’m going to begin this review with a disclaimer.
It’s fair to say quite a few of my reviews will have a disclaimer of sorts; as a writer, I have a lot of writerly friends and colleagues who pen the genre I love reading, so there’s bound to be cross-overs from time to time. Scott Tyson falls into the cross-over category. While I’ve worked with Scott on another project, I was not involved with either the pre or post-production of Topsiders. Yes, that is me mentioned in the acknowledgements, but that was for providing general advice of a writing/editorial nature. My only knowledge of the Topsiders story was based solely on the back-cover blurb. I did not receive a free copy of the book – I buy the books that fill (overfill?) my shelves, and do so gladly.
Okay, now that we have the disclaimer out of the way, let’s get on with this review. Oh, and big-arse spoiler alert here: I’ll be talking about the end of this story so if you don’t want to be tainted look away now…now I said! Stop peeking through your fingers!
Topsiders is a tale of twos: two worlds, two families, two journeys and two protags. Told through the eyes of father (Bill) and son (Mathew), we follow each as they embark on separate (though intertwined) quests into an abandoned house by the river. You know this isn’t going to end well.
The story started a little slowly for me; the small glimpses I had of the goings-on in the house made me want to be there, not reading of the dynamics between the adult-couples, or the jostling hierarchy of 14-year-old Mathew, his just-older brother Guy, and love-interest Claire. Don’t get me wrong, the characters are well-drawn and believable, I just wanted to get into that house… or rather, beneath it.
As we’re told this story from two points of view, we know that overly-cautious Bill isn’t so keen on investigating the house, but provoked into doing so by his estranged wife Judy, and lured by his lust for family friend Helen (despite Helen’s husband Phil), Bill plunges into the darkness of the house. When the parents go missing, Mathew, Guy and Claire (Helen and Phil’s daughter) head up their own search party.
Tyson does well to flip between the two parties. Access to the world below is through a tunnel hidden behind a picture in the bathroom – our first glimpse of this is done remarkably well, which only heightened my belief that we needed to get to this point sooner. The tunnel is creepy, and you know they shouldn’t enter, but they do (as we’ve all done things we know we really shouldn’t), and here we really see Bill’s cowardice come to the fore.
Mathew and Claire soon follow suit, determined to find their parents and the now-missing Guy. Tyson creates tension here, and his use of monsters-hiding-in-darkness fear is done very well (sometimes what is unseen is more frightening that what is). Bill, now alone, is at a crossroads – he’s seen (kinda) what lies below and he wants out, but Mathew’s arrival forces Bill’s hand.
Once both arrive at the heart of the monster’s home, the horror of what really lies beneath is shown in its total brutality. There are parts of this story that aren’t for the feint-of-heart, but I liked that Tyson didn’t shy away from brutality – this is a horror story and horror happens.
Once in the cavern, we’re shown the true heart of all involved: the monsters, Bill, Mathew and Judy. Tyson shows us that sometimes there’s not a lot of difference between those that live below and the ‘topsiders’. It’s a hard ending, but there’s a truthfulness to it that made the story all the more enjoyable. There’s a Laymon-esque quality to Tyson’s story – a collision of worlds that is honest in its brutality. I don’t want to spoil the ending of this story, but let me say that Tyson doesn’t soften that blow but delivers it how it must be delivered.
My main issue with the story was its slow beginning, and I think part of that goes to the world Tyson’s created beneath that house – this is where the true story lies, and I think the relationships explored at the beginning could well have been given to the reader while the topsiders were underground. I believe it would have amplified their dynamic. I wanted more of that world, and those trying to survive in it (monster and topsider alike), especially when you take into account that last chapter.
Tyson has left this open for a sequel, and given the point of view of that protag, I would gladly read it.
On a Goodreads scale, I give this a 4 out of 5 stars.