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Review by Anniek
Mason is on his way home from a vacation he should have spent with his girlfriend. Instead of being a married man he's now single again. He slept through most of the flight and when he wakes up he notices that the other passengers and the flight attendants have gone blind. Even the pilots have lost their eyesight and as soon as the stewards know that Mason can still see he's ushered into the cockpit. Luckily planes nowadays can pretty much fly and land themselves. Mason has no clue that the flash of light in the sky will change the world forever. What would you do when the world is filled with monsters? How far would you go to survive?
Mason still has a week off from work and he chooses not to be a part of everyday life. He lurks behind closed curtains and refuses to watch television. When he finally goes outside of his apartment again he can't believe what has happened in the meantime. People have gone mad and have turned into blind savages who rip apart every living creature they can get their hands on. Mason needs to adjust fast if he wants to make it out of the city alive.
Mason isn't your typical hero. He actually doesn't really care about anyone anymore. He's cynical and is only looking out for himself, that is until he spots a young girl who is trying to escape the monsters as well. Mack is infested by the virus and is blind. She does have exceptional hearing and wants to find her aunt Sarah. Mack touches Mason's heart and he feels a strong need to keep her safe. Because of Mack I saw the real Mason and I admired him for his courage.
Stage 3 is an exceptional story about surviving in a world that has gone mad. I loved the uniqueness of the story. It's so different from the other zombie stories out there and I was glued to the pages. Ken Stark has put a lot of time in his characters and it's easy to feel close to them because of that. He makes it clear that the infected are not the only ones to look out for. Stage 3 is scary and the reason people turn into the undead made my bones chill. This story kept me on the edge of my seat and I look forward to reading more about Mason and Mack.
If you love to read about zombies in a post-apocalyptic world that is unique and refreshing you'll love Stage 3.
About Ken Stark
Ken was born in Saskatchewan, but has called Vancouver home for most of his life. He was raised on a steady diet of science fiction and disaster movies, so it seems right that his first published book series be about the zombie apocalypse. In his spare time, Ken tries to paint like Bob Ross and play poker like Doyle Brunson, but results suggest that he might have got it all backwards.
1. Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I grew up in the suburbs of Vancouver, Canada, and have been writing stories since as far back as I can remember, but after the discouragement of a few rejection letters in my teens, I decided to keep all future writing to myself and went on with life, eventually winding up in the armoured car industry. Flash forward a few decades, and whether it was the advancing years or simply too many stories bouncing around in my head, I knew that it was finally time to pursue my dream for real, and I've never looked back. I also love to paint, but that's a more recent passion, so it has to take a back seat to my first love.
2. What makes your heart beat faster?
Well, I'm pretty laid-back, but there are a few things that can always get the blood boiling. Any kind of cruelty to animals will do it. Knowing that we can't agree to stop destroying our planet does it, too. And I think we all have at least one phobia that we carry around for no good reason, but I can't tell you what mine is just in case Orwell was right about Room 101.
3. Which horror monster do you fear the most?
It's fun to be scared by vampires and ghosts and assorted creatures from the netherworld, but the scariest monsters for me are always human. We've had plenty of examples in our own lifetime of otherwise normal, everyday people doing the most horrific things imaginable, and considering the numbers of daily interactions we all have, chances are most of us have actually laid eyes on a real-life monster at some point in our lives. Think about it; your next door neighbour might be a psychopath. The nice guy who coaches your kid's soccer game on the weekends could have a dozen bodies buried under his house. The man who looks at you out of the corner of his eye at the grocery store might just be sizing you up for a skin-suit. Knowing that, how could Mothra or Roboshark possibly compare?
4. If the zombie apocalypse would happen today, what would you do?
I like to think I'd cope, at least for a while. For the first few days, I'd do what I would do in any natural disaster. If my home was intact, I'd hunker down and ride out the initial storm. After all, surviving a zombie horde is one thing, but surviving a mad panic in a city full of desperate people is quite another. I'm not sure what I'd do after things died down (pun intended), but it would definitely involve getting out of the city. There's a lot of wilderness around Vancouver, so I guess I'd fall back on my boy scout training and hide out on a mountainside somewhere. Getting there might turn out to be impossible, but hopefully I'd go down swinging.
5. What's your favorite horror movie?
The Exorcist, most definitely. It might not be the scariest movie I've ever seen, but it really does stand alone. Great story, great acting, great special effects…. It was a benchmark in movie-making, and it's just as good today as the day it came out.
6. What's your worst nightmare?
Oh, that's a good question. I only wish I could give you a good answer! The truth is, I never remember a nightmare for long. I might wake up with a vague memory of having been pursued by some unknown thing, but it'll all be gone a few seconds later. The only exception is a dream I had recently about the zombies from my own books, and I only remembered that one because it was so funny to think that I actually gave myself a nightmare.
7. If your book was made into a movie, who would play the lead characters and why?
Honestly, if that day ever came, I'd be so thrilled that I'm sure I wouldn't care one way or the other. Quite often, a writer will have an actor in his head to help visualize the character, but I had no one in mind while I wrote the Stage 3 books, so I'm wide open. That being said, someone mentioned Jake Gyllenhaal to me a while ago, and I had to agree that he would be just about perfect as Mace. And then someone else suggested Elizabeth Olsen as Sarah, and I fell in love with the idea. So that's my dream cast. I have no clue who would play Mackenzie, but I'm sure there's a child actor out there who'd be perfect for the role.
8. What inspired you to write horror stories?
We are all a product of our environment, and nothing shapes us quite as much as what we absorb in our formative years. When I was growing up, there was a war in Vietnam no one really understood, nuclear missiles were pointed every which way, and it seemed that every movie and TV show of the day reminded us that armageddon was coming, so it's no surprise that my writing tends toward the dark. But it goes deeper than that. I realized early on that fear is an incredibly powerful emotion. It is evolutionarily hard-wired into our brains. I could even argue that a healthy sense of fear if what kept us alive as a species. So if I can tap into even a tiny bit of that raw, primal fear then I will have affected the reader in a very fundamental way.
9. What do you like the most about the horror genre?
As a writer, it lets me go anywhere. I don't have to stick to reality, and I don't have to obey natural laws. I can create whatever monster I want, and if I do it right, I can make it believable. Vampires and mummies and zombies run counter to everything we know, but if the story is well-constructed, a child's voice deep down inside the reader will say, 'I know monsters aren't real, but I'm sure they exist'. What other genre lets a writer get away with that? And as a reader, nothing affects me quite as much as a well-crafted horror story. I devour books from all sorts of genres and I enjoy them all, but a good scary story sticks with me for a long time. I barely remember what I had for breakfast, but I can recall every creepy detail from the Poe and Lovecraft stories I read 30 years ago.
10. What can we expect from you in the future?
Nightmares, hopefully! I will continue the Stage 3 series as long as I'm able, but I have other things planned as well. I'm just putting the finishing touches on a book called Arcadia Falls, and I have several short stories that I want to get out of my head and onto my website. I have a couple of short stories on my website now, but I want to keep them coming as a kind of thank-you for anyone following my work.
Two very lucky readers of With Love for Books will receive a signed paperback copy of Stage 3.