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Terror World

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TERROR WORLD, by Cath Lauria, is billed as a Sci-Fi/Horror Novel centered around the undead as one of the formidable foes the diverse alien crew sent to explore the planet Sik-Tar must face.

When you picture Zombies in this book, it is a vague version of something similar to THE LAST OF US and not those in THE WALKING DEAD, which makes for an interesting and, at times, intense read …

‘Scientist Dizzie Drexler [They/Them] is on the mission of a lifetime … The dig looks like a dud until they stumble across an ancient spaceship filled with arcane tech.’

‘What could possibly go wrong…?’

Thank you, NetGalley and Aconyte Book, for providing me with an eBook of TERROR WORLD at the request of an honest review.

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Deep in Coalition space a seemingly dead world, Sik-Tar, broadcasts a call for help. Has broadcast a call for help for millennia. Cadian eccentric Ix-Nix-Six, has listened to this call for decades and finally has the opportunity to investigate, assuming at least that he can convince the Coalition to allow it or even work with a member of the Seethe. Sik-Tar holds secrets. Deep veins of a fuel source as potent as it is dangerous and valuable beyond belief. A horrifying mold that drags the dead back to horrible, ravenous life and seeks to corrupt the living to further its spread. And the ship itself, the source of the distress call, something that cannot have been built by modern technology, even among the Seethe. Something that has to have come from the future.

Looking at Cath Laura’s foray into the world of Zombicide Invader, Terror World, I dig the idea of zombies in space with a bunch of different aliens having to work together to try and survive. The way the xeno threat built up was handled quite well too, with fits and starts and temporary solutions found. But I also feel like the time travel aspect mentioned in the blurb wasn't quite blurb worthy. As is, it feels more like a way to close out the book with this big reveal and the idea that the adventure will continue rather than a fully worked in part of the plot.

It also felt like it kept Ix-Nix-Six away from a lot of the actual plot, his own mission, seemingly to save the reveal despite blurb giving it away. Like we see Dizzie and their junior researcher Corinus interacting with the ship and the other crew members. We see Grayson and Mason working together, plotting how best to keep each other safe, how to stay together. Divak bristling and trying to throw her weight around as the only proper fighter of the crew. Six is there on and off, but it is weird that I remember more of Mason's left arm being a character than I do Six.

The matter of the ship being from the future also makes the whole matter of this expedition being doomed from the start feel retroactively less. Which is funny considering this is a zombie story. But there is this brilliant moment of self-sacrifice, of self versus nature, of choosing who to stand by. But then the reveal of this time loop show that that already happened, has probably already happened many times as part of what brought everyone to the ship in the first place. This is the first time the characters, and reader, are experiencing all of this but somehow, even knowing about the time travel aspect ahead of time, it puts a damper on it all. This has all happened before and worse besides. The moments matter, but they feel faded in retrospect.

That all said, I love the contrast of Dr. Corinus Lifhe, psychic prey animal and general nervous wreck, and the scary warrior alien, Divak, who talked a big game about her prowess in a fight but was ready to cut and run as soon as the first really big xeno showed up. That contrast of informed species traits and the way individuals react once the pressure is on. I loved Grayson and Mason's us against the world deal and the bits of backstory we got for them. The grim and gritty feel of how growing up in the slums, so poor that Mason’s cybernetics are all custom because they could not afford to take him to a doctor. How excited Dizzie was to finally get to actually research the thing they are an expert in versus their horror building as they try to continue their research in the hopes of slowing this all down or finding a way to understand it. Dizzie being an adorable puppy of a human being when they get the chance to actually study the extremely dangerous fuel source their research has specialized in was fantastic, I loved it, no notes there. Even the lead up to the big time travel reveal is really well done with an excellent balance of tension and visceral horror.

Terror World is a good story with an ending lets it down pretty badly. Which is a shame because I really enjoyed Lauria’s writing and would love to see what she does with other stories. Another Zombicide Invader novel or, based on some of the sensory details in Terror World, an Arkham Horror novel could be really excellent. I feel like her writing has a lot of ideas and details that could be a lot of fun to chew on. Despite my latching on to one aspect of the story here, the book was fun and I do feel like it deserves a four out of five.

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The second novel in Aconyte Books’ Zombicide Invader range (zombies in space!), Cath Lauria’s Terror World offers another fun, horror-tinged slab of sci-fi action which sees a disparate, multi-species team brought together to investigate an ancient distress signal on a remote world. In true SF zombie fashion, when they arrive on Sik-Tar the team discovers an ancient spaceship full of strange mysteries and unanswered questions, which soon turns into a deathtrap when the long-dead bodies of the original crew start coming back to life in horrifying fashion. Before long, what began as a scientific mission becomes a frantic scramble for survival in the face of rampaging alien-mold-monsters (otherwise known as Xenos) and a fracturing team.

If you’ve read Tim Waggoner’s Planet Havoc then you’ll have a good idea of what to expect here – a small group of characters who mostly don’t trust each other, forced to try and work together simply to survive and get off the planet they’re stuck on – although this is a bit less militaristic than Waggoner’s novel. The focus here is more on scientific exploration and inter-species cooperation (or otherwise), with a full third of the main cast thinkers rather than fighters: human scientist Dizzie Drexler and her nervous assistant Corinus (a psychic Centauran), and insectile Caridian historian/explorer Ix-Nix-Six. For Dizzie in particular, the potential risks pale in comparison with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for hands-on fieldwork. There’s still plenty of action of course, particularly where Thassian mercenary Divak is involved, but to begin with at least the emphasis is on exploration and adventure.

The first half or so of the book, in which the team is assembled and the initial explorations take place, arguably provides most of the highlights as the various personalities in the team try to find ways to coexist while blatantly distrusting each other. The two remaining team members, the Bane brothers, consistently steal the show: tough, quick-thinking older brother Grayson and his cyborg sibling Mason, whose detachable limbs each contain their own independent brains (Lucky Lefty, Mason’s left arm, is particularly fun), deserve their own novel they’re such good characters! Inevitably things take a turn for the worse as monsters make their presence known and the fault lines within the team start to really show. Again, like in Waggoner’s book, the Xenos are more aliens than traditional zombies, and while the small cast means there aren’t that many characters for the Xenos to eat…they still prove pretty dangerous.

It’s worth saying that tonally as well, this is less of an outright horror story and much more of a science fiction adventure. There are a few moments of grotesquery with the Xenos, but they’re relatively few and far between, with the darkness coming as much in the shape of suspicions and mistrust brewing within the team as anything violent. There’s no need to know anything about Zombicide in advance, as this gives you everything you need to know in order to enjoy it as a standalone story, although an interesting choice towards the end hints at the larger scope that exists elsewhere in the setting. Look elsewhere, then, if you’re after a really gory zombie novel…but stick with this if you’re looking for something fun and (relatively) light, with a breezy pace and tone and a small cast of really entertaining characters.

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We've had some great books in the new Zombicide line recently. There have been some good traditional zombie stories set during modern day, Last Resort and All or Nothing, the fun fantasy story Age of the Undead, and the futuristic sci-fi horror Planet Havoc. The latest book returns us to the distant future for another Zombicide: Invader novel, one which sees a small group of explorers heading to a remote planet to investigate an ancient signal.

Terror World follows a handful of new characters, the first of these being Ix-Nix-Six, a Caridian, an insectoid alien from a distant part of the galaxy outside of human controlled space. Having been granted permission to travel into human space by his superiors, Six approaches the human coalition government, requesting the opportunity to investigate a remote world within their borders. This world, Sik-Tar, has been transmitting a signal for the last thousand years, one that Six's people picked up long ago. Even more intriguing, the signal appears to be Caridian in origin. The Coalition agrees to let him investigate the planet, but sends a group with him to keep an eye on him, and investigate the possibility that Sik-Tar might be home to the powerful fuel source Xenium.

The human scientist Dizzie Drexler, and their friend and colleague, the Centauran telepath Corinus, are sent along to lead the expedition and search for any signs of Xenium on the planet. A Thassian mercenary called Divak is assigned to the team for their protection, and a pair of human brothers and theives, Grayson and Mason, are hired to help out thanks to their particular set of skills; and Mason being an incredibly adaptable cyborg.

The small team head to the remote planet and find a huge Caridian ship on the surface, one that's been there for centuries, and has been mining the Xenium deposits on the planet, refining them into a never before encountered liquid form. However, the team's presence on Sik-Tar seems to awaken something, the deadly mould infects and transforms living matter, turning them into the deadly Xenos creatures. With the long dead crew of the ship returning to life as monsters, the team are left fighting for their lives.

I compared the first of the Zombicide: Invader novel to being like Aliens. It featured monstrous alien creatures that were zombies in how it animates the dead and infects the living, but are closer to aliens than traditional zombies. The book also had a base under siege type story, and featured a lot of action. In comparison, this book is a lot smaller in scope, and feels more akin to horror stories like Alien, and Event Horizon more than anything else, thanks to the small group being picked off one by one whilst on a remote mission hoping to discover something amazing. There aren't as many characters, virtually none of them have weapons, so there's not ass much running and gunning happening here. Instead, we have the ever mounting dread of waiting for something awful to happen.

The book doesn't jump straight into the action, it takes its time setting up the characters and the locations, letting the reader get attached to the people before anything bad happens to them. With a small cast of characters it's easier to spend this time with them, to expand upon them and make them more than just stock characters of 'scientist', 'soldier', and 'thief'. Each of them ends up being much more complex than they first appear, with even the bloodthirsty warrior woman ending up being more complex than she really has any right to be.

This time spent setting things up and slowly introducing small elements doesn't just mean that we get the chance to know the characters though, as it also slowly increases the tension. This is a Zombicide book, we know something awful is going to happen. It's not a question of if, but one of when. As such, as the characters are slowly exploring the ancient ship, searching around for answers as to how it got there and what happened to it, the reader is waiting for the other shoe to drop. You know that the monsters are coming, and that wait is a horrible one. By the time the monsters do arrive it feels like something of a relief; though the characters then end up in incredible danger, and the tension begins to increase in different ways.

One of the things that I really liked about the book was that this wasn't a group of soldiers or mercenaries or bounty hunters armed to the teeth and ready for action. These are mostly scientists, they're people who aren't used to having to fight, and who don't have weapons. The situations aren't going to be resolved by shooting your way through Xenos or blowing things up, and requires the characters to start thinking smart, to have to come up with plans and strategies to just keep their lives going a few more hours.

Cath Luria manages to keep things tense throughout without it ever feeling completely overwhelming, and part of that is by having smaller character moments scattered throughout the narrative. Things get to slow down for a moment and we get to really see how the characters are reacting to this and how its effecting them. This focus on the characters ended up greatly improving the book for me, and allowed the horror of what was happening to really hit home.

Overall, this ended up being a very different kind of book from any of the other Zombicide novels we've had, not just the other Zombicide: Invader entry. The book ends with a mystery, one that's partially answered, and yet still has a ton of room for it to be able to mess with your head a little. It makes you wish that the book continued on, and that all of the answers were given; which for me is a sign of a really great read, where you don't really want it to end and you just want more. Hopefully we'll get more book in this series by Cath Lauria, even if they don't continue on from this one, as this was such an enjoyable reading experience.

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[Blurb goes here]

A new installment on the Zombicide Invader stories, this is a fun read, nothing more than that, though.

Dizzie Drexler (They/Them) is a human scientist, working alongside Corinus, a Centauran telepath. Emphasis on the word "Telepath". For the last five years, both have been investigating Xenium, a new fuel source. They suspect there's a link between Xenium and a mold that seems to turn other planets' indigenous species, into blood thirsty Xenos: zombie-like monsters intent on killing and absorbing other living beings.

Enter Ix-Nix-Six (Six for short) a Caridian from the Glorious Hegemony, a more advanced civilization that keeps to itself and tries to avoid other races. Six travels to the Coallition, since he detected a Caridian distress signal coming from a distant planet inside Coallition space: Sik-Tar. A meeting among members of the Coallition decides to let Six explore the barren planet. He'll have to take other guild members with him. Dizzie and Corinus, to conduct studies, a mercenary for protection, and two convict brothers...for "reasons."

When arriving to Sik-Tar the ragtag group finds a derelict ship filled with advanced tech. It's a Caridian ship. It soon becomes obvious that the now gone crew was mining Xenium.

A few hours latter, Xenos appear, and all hell breaks loose.

Going into the book, to be honest, I wasn't expecting an amazing story. I've read Planet Havoc, not bad, but not great either. Terror World was no different. It was action packed and it was fun, but easily forgettable.

Now (and I'm truly sorry), it has to be said: the they/them pronouns when referring to a single character, get confusing really fast, specially when said character is not by...themselves. It even gets confusing for the writer. Let me explain: Dizzie and Corinus are good friends, Corinus reads minds. So, why would Corinus be confused by some other character (Mason) who thinks of himself in plural?

When reading, the they/them pronouns constantly break the rhythm of the read, at times forcing you to go back a few paragraphs to find out if "they" is in reference to one character, or about a group of them.

Most of the characters are just there to get killed in fairly interesting ways, that much is obvious from the start. The reader might not know the order of the killings, but it is too easy to guess who will die and who will survive.

To me, the most interesting character was Mason, a cyborg who has (five, I think?) brains. His left arm has a mind of his own, and when in mission, it easily side tracks, and ends up in trouble. Unfortunately, he's portrayed as flat as a cardboard cutout, most of the characters are.

So, my two cents: if you like the board game and are into the books, you'll like this one. If you're looking for a fun, fast paced, no-brainer read, I'm sure you'll enjoy Terror World.

Thank you for the advanced copy!

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Dizzie Drexler (they/them) is a scientist studying Xenium, a rare and valuable material that is much coveted by the Galactic Coalition, who funds their research. Unfortunately, where there is Xenium, there most often is also a mold that turns those who come into contact with it into deadly monsters with a taste for living flesh. Dizzie, along with their grad student Corinus, are the ranking experts in Xenium and yet still have not come into close contact with it or even visited a planet with Xenium deposits. All that is about to change, however, because an alien named Ix-Nix-Six has a mission on a planet with high levels of Xenium and is willing to fund an expedition, provided Dizze and Corinus come along. With a particularly nasty bodyguard and two criminal brothers, the mismatched squad plans to explore planet PK-L, find the origins of a mysterious signal, and hopefully learn enough about Xenium to safely begin mining it.

Unsurprisingly, things go very wrong very quickly. Trust Lauria, though, to make impending doom a rollicking good time. When the ancient dead rise, the research crew reacts in ways consistent with the characters, if not in ways that are likely to leave anyone alive on the planet. Divak, the bloodthirsty bodyguard, could (and probably should) be the villain here, but her willingness to sacrifice the others to keep herself and her dreams of a promotion and a harem alive is authentic and even understandable. Grayson and Mason consider this adventure just another job, and so when it goes south their unwillingness to risk each other in the slightest makes sense. The dialogue is also top-notch, from the expository (the nature and abilities of the diverse alien species making up the Coalition) to the hilarious asides (Divak confusing eagles with beagles and taking offense at being referred to as "eagle-eyed" nearly made me fall out of my seat). Some timey-whimey weirdness aside, Terror World is straight-up horror comedy that will make you wonder why you haven't read more tie-in novels.

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My first review of 2023 and thankfully I fully enjoyed it! Even though it is a new year the same house-keeping applies. My reviews are always 100% honest and my own opinions. I will try to never fully spoil a plot. This particular copy I was given access to a copy to review as part of a book tour and also via netgalley. #TheBookNetwork #AconyteBooks #TerrorWorld #CathLauria #Zombicide #ZombicideInvader

Terror World is a brilliant tie-in horror novel that brings the world of the boardgame to the written page. It’s gritty, violent and if you enjoy a good sci-fi survival fun. Terror world sees “Time and space are under threat when a monstrous new alien zombie threat emerges, in this horror thriller from the riotous Zombicide Invader boardgame

Scientist Dizzie Drexler is on the mission of a lifetime: exploring a strange planet named Sik-Tar, in the company of a mysterious alien crew. The dig looks like a dud, until they stumble across an ancient spaceship, filled with arcane tech. What could possibly go wrong? Everything: opening the spaceship activates an unimaginable horror: a form of ravenous mold which possesses the skeletons that litter the spaceship with the desire to kill, spread, and consume every living thing. While fighting these undead terrors, Dizzie and their team delve into the spaceship’s mysteries, and soon realize that such monstrosities could only come from one place: the future.”

Cath Lauria clearly knows her way around a good horror thriller because this ticks all the boxes and then some. The rag tag alien crew are a delightful mix of clashing personalities which often add more trouble to the growing threats around them. Despite knowing that all hell will break loose eventually Lauria builds the novel as a sort of a hard sci-fi. We collect the crew members and begin to get glimpses of their personalities and in some cases motivations. Of course we are just waiting for something to go wrong and when it does that’s when the fun begins.

The writing is fast paced and pairs perfectly with the genre of horror, gore and action. Of course being a ‘zombie’ horror novel at its core some of the tropes we have come to expect are present, for example it’s a sure fact not everyone is getting out alive. Despite knowing this I let myself get a bit too attached Mason and Grayson even though I was sure what would happen. Even with knowing a lot of the characters wouldn’t survive I personally felt that we do get to know the characters and their personalities, I don’t believe they were just there to fill a plot device or tick a box of say ‘the fighter’, ‘the scientist’, ‘the coward’ etc although some of the characters clearly display these archetypes they each have their own personalities that make or made them memorable long after I finished reading. On the subject of characters I particularly liked the diversity of the cast and found that despite the main protagonist using they/them pronouns it was easy to follow and know who was who. A sign, I hope, that we could see even more inclusive protagonists soon.

The novel itself has some pretty tense and graphic moments, but I found this made it all the more enjoyable and memorable – it is a zombicide tie in after all. The description of the Xenos and the monstrosities the mold makes or taints are wonderful. I very much, as well as Zombicide Invader of course, got vibes akin to Dead Space or a little of Event Horizon but that is just me. As always no real spoilers from me but the ending was perfection as well, I’d actually love to see a sequel or prequel to this novel in the future!

If you enjoy the Zombicide Invader games, a good space/sci-fi horror or just horror in general you are bound to love this.

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Title: Terror World: A Zombicide: Invader Novel
Author: Cath Lauria
Published: 2023

Through Netgalley I was given the chance to read an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

For full disclosure, I have never played zombicide, the board game series that inspired this a story. With this in mind, I might not have been the audience that this book is targeting. That being said, if you are the audience that this book is aiming for, then you’re certainly in for a ride! The cover and title ‘Terror World’, already give an impression of what you can expect and the book delivers exactly.
Scientist Dizzie Drexler is sent out, together with a crew, to uncover an abandoned spaceship on a remote planet. The crew consists of a telepathic centaur, two thieves Grayson and Mason, and an alien bodyguard Divak. The expedition is funded by the secretive alien Ix-Nix-Six. Once there, horror ensues and zombies quickly appear.
This is the kind of story that you need to be looking for: people stranded on a remote planet, horror, zombies, science fiction. It’s written for fans of these board games. The story really gets underway about 2/5th of the book. Overall, it’s a satisfactory story. It is quite entertaining if this is a particular type of fiction you’re looking for. The story reads easily and there’s a diverse cast of characters.
There are references to the alien races featured in the board game zombicide invader, while also providing more background for several of the alien races and organizations involved. Some of the characters are more developed than others. Personally, I had hoped for more content from Mason, a cyborg. Each of his limbs has his own mind and there are even a few chapters written from the perspective of Lefty, his left arm. The only drawback is that I would have liked more closure from the ending. Several of the questions are left unanswered, although it could be the potential setup for a sequel.
Overall, I enjoyed reading the book.

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Terror World by Cath Lauria just didn’t entertain me as much as I had wanted. The premise is intriguing and I thought it would make a great story. However, the characters were bland and the plot just kind of lingered and didn’t really go anywhere entertaining enough. I wish I could say I enjoyed this more.

Thanks #NetGalley and #AconyteBooks for letting me read and review #TerrorWorld

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This one fell flat for me. The characters are meh, the plot was meh, the writing was ok, but seemed hyper focused on people’s pronouns to the point the sentences were getting confusing…. Just say their name in reference at that point.
It’s interesting that it ties into the games, but I’ve never played those either.

Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and Aconyte Books for a copy.

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Terror World - reads as it says on the tin! especially if you are one of a motley bunch of aliens all trying to survive each other let alone the local environment on a remote ordinary plant Sik-Tar ( 'a moist bug hole of a planet ') with a huge supply of a mysterious short supply rocket fuel. Full of terror, evolving Mold, resurrected bugs, (yes those pesky zombies) -. The Magnificent 7 vs Zombie bugs, a very novel read, great characters even if they are alien, believable science, very nasty creatures and death with a sprinkle of time travel thrown in what more could one wish for. All part of the wider Zombicide world (board game world). Read it at your terror.

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Cath Laria does a good job with Terror World.This is a pretty basic horror scenario with an insidious terror, little chance of rescue, factions, hidden agendas, and violence. The author livens it up with a non-binary lead, alien viewpoints, and some actual science fiction that isn’t just a veneer. No one writes a game fiction magnum opus but this is fast-paced and good fun.

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This was another great entry in the Zombicide series, I was invested in what was going on and loved the game from the beginning. The characters were well-written and did what I was hoping they would. Cath Lauria has a great writing style and I had enjoyed the Marvel books that she wrote.

“That’s… huh.” Mason tilted his right hand so the sensor in it could see Dr Drexler. It could only see them in UV light, unfortunately – he really needed some work – but it was better than nothing. “That’s a great idea.”

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