Friday 11 September 2015

REVIEW: Stephen Kozeniewski - The Ghoul Archipelago

Genre: Horror / Zombies
Publisher: Severed Press
Publication Date: 16th Oct 2013
Pages: 360


A copy of The Ghoul Archipelago was sent to Confessions of a Reviewer by the author Stephen Kozeniewski in exchange for an honest review. This is said review.

Stephen Kozeniewski’s second novel. I was really excited to get into this one after reading his debut Braineater Jones a few months ago. I absolutely loved it and was hoping for more of the same. You can read the review of it here. This one also has zombies. That’s about the only comparison it has. It’s a totally different style of book. Was that good or bad?

Henk Martigan is the captain of a freighter sailing through the Curien Islands in the South Pacific. His cargo is not exactly what you could call legitimate. It never is. While he is at sea, the world has ended. An army of very hungry zombies has overrun the earth, leaving nothing in its wake.

While he and what is left of his crew battle pirates and ghouls, a three way battle is also raging to take over the islands and ultimately, the world. Probably. This battle is between a genius inventor of a virtual reality collar (or his he), a sinister missionary who seems to have developed a cult worshipping the ghouls rather than the Lord and a ruthless President elect and Admiral of a fleet of American warships recently arrived in the area.

Martigan then gets a distress call from others trapped on mainland US and puts everything in place to go rescue them and bring them back to the more favourable South Pacific.

He only has to survive the three way battle and all should be fine. Oh, and the ghouls!

Braineater Jones is probably going to be very high up my end of year list for fav books I have read in 2015. It was unique and wonderfully funny as well as scary.

The Ghoul Archipelago unfortunately did not have the same effect on me.

To be honest I don’t know where to start. I’m confused. To be honest again, that is probably my biggest negative about this book. I spent a lot of it confused. There are about three or four different plots all on the go at the same time. In the beginning I found them very hard to follow until it started to become clear, about half way through, what was actually happening and where it was going to go. This really annoyed me. The main reason for that was because Stephen Kozeniewski is a fantastic writer. I love his style. It’s totally different to practically anything I have ever read in the zombie sub-genre. That’s why I like it so much. Each individual plot in this book was the same. Very well written. They just didn’t gel together very well for me and that frustrated the hell out of me.

Characters wise, there are tonnes of them. In the Martigan scenes you have his crew. It’s a mix and match of various egos all thrown together in a confined space. None of them really seem to like each other, even though some are family. Martigan himself was not what I would call a natural leader. Mutiny was afoot throughout much of the story. Again the scenes jumped between characters a lot and confused me. In the genius inventor, Rand, scenes, this was easier to follow. There was really only him and his assistant Eve. There was a lot of hostility between these two which was a bit hard to understand why initially, but they worked very well together. The faux President and his Admiral were even easier to follow. They were basically power hungry fools out for their own gratification. The Reverend was a bit of an enigma. Should have been following the Lord but seemed to be following the evil more.

As far as how the characters were written? Mr Kozeniewski makes people up well. For the most part they all did work together in their own scenes. There were no standout heroes or villains for me that made you either love them or hate them but they were all well written.

And now for the plot. No idea. I have finished the book and I am none the wiser as to what I just read. Now I’m not sure if maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind for this book or maybe I just didn’t grasp the subtle little hints to explain what it was all about but it just didn’t work for me. Once or twice I did think I had it sorted in my mind but it then jumped on to something else that seemed totally irrelevant to the rest of the story and put me back to square one.

Putting all of that aside, the writing is still wonderful. Stephen Kozeniewski has a talent for writing stuff that is totally different from what anybody else writes in the genre. His ideas for using zombies are fantastic in both Braineater Jones and The Ghoul Archipelago. There was a distinct lack of the humour in this one that I found in Braineater Jones. Although I can’t let this disappoint me because it is a totally different story, I did miss it.

If you like books were the writing draws you in and keeps you there, stuck in an atmosphere that you can almost see and smell, then Stephen Kozeniewski is the author for you. It just didn’t work for me in The Ghoul Archipelago. Too confusing.

To summarize: a story about ghouls taking over the world. Not your stereotypical zombie story. You never get that with Stephen Kozeniewski. This one I found confusing but still extremely well written. Confused? Well all I can say is that, sometimes, when a story within the book doesn’t do it for me, I can still appreciate the way it is written. This didn’t totally do it for me, but I know there will plenty of you out there that will love it.

The confusion for me brings the rating down. I am putting this book in the TBRFAST (To Be Read For A Second Time) pile. Maybe on the second pass through it will click with me. For that reason the score is bang in the middle.

General rating:

★★.5 Disappointing for me.

Horror rating:

★★.5 See above.

If you would like to help support Confessions of a Reviewer then please consider using the links below to buy The Ghoul Archipelago or any other books from Stephen Kozeniewski or indeed anything at all from Amazon. This not only supports me but also lets me know how many people actually like to buy books after reading my reviews.


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Book Synopsis:

After ravenous corpses topple society and consume most of the world’s population, freighter captain Henk Martigan is shocked to receive a distress call. Eighty survivors beg him to whisk them away to the relative safety of the South Pacific. Martigan wants to help, but to rescue anyone he must first pass through the nightmare backwater of the Curien island chain.

A power struggle is brewing in the Curiens. On one side, the billionaire inventor of the mind-control collar seeks to squeeze all the profit he can out of the apocalypse. Opposing him is the charismatic leader of a ghoul-worshipping cargo cult. When a lunatic warlord berths an aircraft carrier off the coast and stakes his own claim on the islands, the stage is set for a bloody showdown.

To save the remnants of humanity (and himself), Captain Martigan must defeat all three of his ruthless new foes and brave the gruesome horrors of...THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO.

Stephen Kozeniewski (pronounced "causin' ooze key") lives with his wife and two cats in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor's degree is in German.

And for more about Stephen, visit his site or find him on social media:

Website - Facebook – Twitter – Goodreads – Amazon Page

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