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on May 9, 2012
This review (written by me) originally appeared on the Innsmouth Free Press blog.

I took one look at the cover of Tim Waggoner's newest novel, Like Death, and had to read it. An eyeless monster screams into the darkness, revealing long, sharp fangs and a tongue reminiscent of a proboscis. In what strange and horrifying world could such a creature exist?

As it turns out, "strange" and "horrifying" barely begin to describe what goes on in Tim Waggoner's fertile imagination. Like Death is creepy, then terrifying, then truly disturbing. Some of the sequences made me squirm in my seat. As a warning: Quite a bit of the violence is sexual in nature, so if that sort of thing is a trigger for you, you might want to avoid this book.

If sexual violence is right up your alley, however, then welcome to the weird world of Like Death. Our protagonist, Scott Raymond, is a true crime writer. I can hear you saying now, "Another horror novel about a writer?" - but bear with me. Scott Raymond is different. As a child, he was the only survivor of the brutal massacre of his entire family. Trouble is, he blocked out most of the memory, so he has no idea who killed his family or why.

Since then, Scott has managed to eke out a fairly normal existence. He even had a wife and son, but things have been getting weird lately, and his long-suppressed violent impulses are surfacing. He blames the crime writing, but something much darker is at work in Scott's life. The book opens with Scott's move to Ash Creek in an effort to reconnect with his estranged wife and son...and also do some research on the recent abduction of a little girl for yet another true crime novel. But what Scott finds in Ash Creek is more than he expected. Strange occurrences become more frequent and, eventually, Scott wonders about his sanity. Hallucinations ensue, until he feels like he's trapped in a nightmare he can't escape. Horribly, the truth is actually even darker than Scott can imagine!

The first half of this novel is a slow burn. Waggoner takes his time with dream sequences and conversations and characterization, sometimes describing scenes down to the very last detail. Scenes were sometimes a little slow for my taste. The second half of the novel, however, is the payoff for all the time invested in strong characters and a really creepy setting. The truth is finally revealed and it's pretty satisfying after so much buildup. Armed with the truth about the very nature of reality, Scott must battle his own demons in order to save those he loves. That sounds cryptic, but I really can't tell you more than that without giving away the mystery that makes this book such an entertaining read.

Be assured, however, that Waggoner pulls no punches. Just when you think that he might spare the protagonist some misery, he doesn't. Nearly everything horrible you can imagine happens to Scott Raymond in this novel. But the ending is satisfying, wrapping up all the loose ends and involving all the sundry characters (and monsters) we met along the way. More importantly, it's an ending that's about as happy as it can be for a man who endures so much horror. Even in the darkest depths of Tim Waggoner's imagination, there's still hope, and ultimately, it's that which keeps us reading along with Scott's difficult, sometimes harrowing, journey. And in that, the book does not disappoint.
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on November 18, 2012
Like Death: I'm not 100% certain as to why the book was called Like Death I think perhaps the PR guy thought 'Completely insane' or 'Mentally damaging' wasn't appropriate. Even something relating to darkness or evil would have been a bit more appropriate in my opinion.

Don't rush into this story if you can't handle gore and horror. Don't rush into it if you can't stand constant WTF moments. Don't rush into it if you don't like talking/reading about killing, screwing, blood, guts, and all other manner of darkness.

This book was certainly all of those things; it was deep in the world of a sick mind (Scott Raymond's, the main character). There was a lot of sexual innuendo mixed in with the horror and gore; everything, even the most trivial things seemed to be tinged in debauchery and innapropriate sexual encounters. Take for example the murder of Scott's family (which is in the books blurb), the young Scott sees his dead mother partially naked, due to ripped clothing, from where he's hiding. It did get a little, dare I say it, boring, tedious, same-same.

There were things I did enjoy. Some of the craziness was absolutely unexpected. I liked that feeling of being completely thrown off balance by a twist in the story. I also found the ending to be a bit odd, but I felt that it was a good ending to this truly strange book.

I didn't feel creeped out by this book. I wanted to. Some of the scenes were heading down that path, but I didn't feel the tension, I didn't feel goosebumps on my skin or the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. This left me feeling a little disappointed.

One final thing, I was very disappointed that the marvellous creature on the cover wasn't in the book. I stumbled across the original artwork on DeviantART and thought it was AWESOME! I wanted to see how it was used in this horror setting, I was unhappy that it wasn't utilised.
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on January 14, 2014
Review copy

Apparently, Like Death, is not a new book. It's just new to me and I couldn't be happier that the folks at Apex Publications are putting it back out there in both paperback and ebook formats.

The opening paragraph sets the tone and is just a sample of things to come. "Huddled beneath the kitchen table, knees drawn to his chest, he crouches with hands balled into fists, jammed against his ears, kneading them as if he might cut off the screams by grinding cartilage and flesh to a pulp. It doesn't work; the screams come through just fine."

The entire opening sequence is like a punch to the gut and like a prize-fighter that finds his opponents weakness, Waggoner just doesn't let up.

If you've read any of my previous reviews, you probably already know I like my horror to be a bit disturbing. Gore doesn't bother me, violence is OK, even the occasional bloodbath is fine. But let me tell you, there were times that some of the subject matter made me downright uncomfortable and it wasn't this...

"His abdominal muscles bucked and the cords of his neck pulled wire tight as his digestive system prepared to initiate an emergency purge. But before he could bring anything up, he felt the gentle touch of spider legs making their way deeper inside him, and with each inch farther they traveled, the need to vomit subsided a little more. Within moments he no longer felt the urge to puke at all. His stomach muscles unclenched, he stopped trembling, and his temperature returned to normal. More, he felt a growing sense of well-being. Not only was he alright, but the entire universe and everything in it was honky-dory, a-okay, and peachy-keen."

There are times in Like Death where the line between reality, dreams and hallucinations becomes razor thin, the story telling is raw and you will get to the point where you will just learn to expect the unexpected. In three words, I loved it.

OK, it's not for everyone. It's certainly for mature readers and if you're a part of what we used to call the Moral Majority, please steer clear. But if you love horror that knows no bounds and pulls no punches, then plop this baby right on top of your To Be Read list. You can thank me later.

Like Death is available right now. You can get details here from Apex Publications or you can order online now at Amazon.com.

What are you waiting for? I can't recommend this one enough.
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on May 9, 2012
An engaging, briskly-paced read, LIKE DEATH takes the tropes of the suburban-idyll thriller and injects them with a wealth of bizarre imagery (arachnophobes take note!) and memorable characters. The reality-bending twists Waggoner throws into the mix, while grounded by a believable, sharply-drawn cast of players and the mundane details of everyday reality, helps offset the queasiness that sometimes comes with novels about child abduction/murder. The result is an imaginative dark fantasy that should easily appeal to fans of suspense, speculative or otherwise.
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on May 5, 2015
Very entertaining book. I enjoy horror more but this one kept me very interested.
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on May 17, 2015
I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up this book. From page one it was mercilessly gripping! Just when you think you might have figured out what is going you realize you didn't.
Tim takes you on a journey into the minds of his characters in a seemingly non-existent world. The worlds blend together on a plateau superseding the imagination. Not only is Scott's sanity tested to the limits, yours will be as well. (Evil grin)
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