The Hematophages – Stephen Kozeniewski
I entered a world these past few days that I have not entered before. My experience with science fiction/horror for years was a child’s memory of “Hello my baby, hello my honey, hello my ragtime gal…” Enter center stage, a mini alien tearing open a guy’s stomach from Space Balls.
Yes, I honestly thought this was incredibly disturbing and horrific for years, until I actually saw the real thing. Once. And never again.
So, I was a bit shocked as I began reading this — not just because this is a genre I have worked very hard at pretending does not exist, but also because I felt I was reading something from a completely different author.
Absent was the usual sarcastic humor that twists and spans throughout the story from Kozeniewski. Instead, this was dark. Not dark funny. Just dark, with a hearty side of tentacle porn. It brought images of HR Giger’s artwork to mind.
So, considering this is a genre that gives me nightmares, I will concede that it is quality work. It is dark, disturbing and carnal. I have to say I feel oddly closer to the writer, for no other reason than perhaps there was something raw about this story that I feel exposes a vulnerability? A kink? Or reminds me of someone from my past? I don’t know, maybe all three, but this was an excellent, gruesome creation. And even though I was uncomfortable for the duration, and I am sure that it will haunt me for longer than I care to admit, I accept that it is well-written and a welcome addition to its genre.
Synopsis: Doctoral student Paige Ambroziak is a “station bunny” – she’s never set foot off the deep space outpost where she grew up. But when she’s offered a small fortune to join a clandestine salvage mission, she jumps at the chance to leave the cutthroat world of academia behind.
Paige is convinced she’s been enlisted to find the legendary Manifest Destiny, a long-lost colonization vessel from an era before the corporations ruled Earth and its colonies. Whatever she’s looking for, though, rests in the blood-like seas of a planet-sized organism called a fleshworld.
Dangers abound for Paige and her shipmates. Flying outside charted space means competing corporations can shoot them on sight rather than respect their salvage rights. The area is also crawling with pirates like the ghoulish skin-wrappers, known for murdering anyone they can’t extort.
But the greatest threat to Paige’s mission is the nauseating alien parasites which infest the fleshworld. These lamprey-like monstrosities are used to swimming freely in an ocean of blood, and will happily spill a new one from the veins of the outsiders who have tainted their home. In just a few short, bone-chilling hours Paige learns that there are no limits to the depravity and violence of the grotesque nightmares known as…THE HEMATOPHAGES.
THE MAN BEHIND THE STORY:
Stephen Kozeniewski lives 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 is in German.
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*I received a free copy of each story in exchange for an honest review