Short, pulpy fun. Effective, evocative writing, very vivid and visual. And a twist ending (which I'm not sure I totally understood LOL, but enjoyed neShort, pulpy fun. Effective, evocative writing, very vivid and visual. And a twist ending (which I'm not sure I totally understood LOL, but enjoyed nevertheless). Still, this little diddy is a definite recommended read that's available for FREE from your preferred book retailer. This flavourful free taste has only whetted my appetite for more Xane.
A reclusive couple's power goes out and they are forced to use their scarce survivalist supplies to live off the grid.
Sometimes I can be too damn liteA reclusive couple's power goes out and they are forced to use their scarce survivalist supplies to live off the grid.
Sometimes I can be too damn literal for my own good -- and resistant to anything mind-bendy, trippy, weird, or otherwise Weird. That one sentence plot summary above (not to mention the snappy title and awesome cover art) had me salivating to get my hands on this Grindhouse novella. I love any kind of a survival story, especially if you throw in off the grid and possibly end of the world elements.
Survival makes strange bedfellows of us all. It brings out the best (and worst) in us. It makes allies of enemies and makes us kill (and sometimes possibly eat) our allies. For dramatic purposes, survivalstories are the sweetsweetsiren song in my wheelhouse.
This story? Well, it's kind of false advertising in a way. It *is* a story about a couple losing their power, and it is *sort of* about a couple trying to live "off the grid" but it is in no way a literal interpretation of these things. This is not a survival story.
If anything, it is much more a dark, grotesque psychological exploration of paranoia and our often tenuous relationship with reality and our construction of it. Any other time, and *that* could have been in my wheelhouse too, it's just I was expecting (due to my own penchant for literalness) a grabby, clawing "oh my god the water's turned off and our cupboards are bare" survival story and what I got was an unsettling, weird, examination of one couple's descent into Hell? madness? bad hygiene? a horrible toxic marriage? a fifth dimension?
Normally, I love it in the shadowy, shaky corners of The Twilight Zone, it just didn't work for me here. Effective, evocative writing though!!! Kudos for that. And some fairly, squishy, glucky, squirmy scenes for those who appreciate things of an effluvium nature. ...more
I picked up this book with the initial impression that I was in for an urban fantasy *Available today!*
All hope abandon, ye who enter here.
I picked up this book with the initial impression that I was in for an urban fantasy piece in which Hell (and angels and demons) would play a role, but that some of the story would inevitably take place in a concrete, corrupted human city. But no. This is full on, 24/7 Hell, all the time Hell, everything Hell. There is no reprieve. And very little hope. The hope is so miniscule you need a very expensive microscope to see it.
So yeah. Hell. In as much technicolor, cinematic horrorscape that you probably can't handle. Seriously, it's brutal. Claustrophobic and suffocating. Unsworth's painstaking, meticulous world-building of this feared and unknown domain is impressive to say the least. He spares no detail and isn't shy about unleashing buckets of effluvia, viscera, despair and derangement. This isn't your paranormal fantasy version of Hell where the Demons are sexy anti-heroes brooding about looking for bodices to rip open. Noooooo. These are deformed, mutated, merciless beasts seeking out any hole of any body to violate, and throw in some torture on the side for good measure.
Unsworth creates a Hell populated by innumerable species of Demons of varying size, hierarchy, power and cruelty. In this devilish brew, forsaken humans doomed to suffer Hell's torment, must co-exist. They are Demon slaves. Mere chattel. With meaningless jobs and tasks to perform in the ever present threat of Demon violence.
Thomas Fool is one of those humans, and one of Hell's Information Men. Normally, Fool's job consists of looking the other way -- of NOT investigating Hell's crimes. But when a human corpse shows up with its soul entirely gone, Fool is pushed into an investigation he is not ready for. He must learn his Detective's trade fast before whatever is consuming human souls turns its appetites on all of Hell itself.
This is a book extremely dense with description, and understandably so because the author has cut himself out a big job to build Hell and its fiery inhabitants from scratch missing no detail, no matter how small. There is A LOT of narrative exposition to move the story and action along too. Dialogue is minimally used. And that means the book can read heavy and slow in parts. You have to be patient with it and soak up the landscape. Let it unfurl in your mind and agree to stay with it until the tale is done.
Now that the book is done, and I've laid it aside, I find flashes of it continuing to haunt me -- certain scenes appear to be burned onto my retinas. I can't unsee them. This is a dark book, but for those seeking a dark fantasy set in the darkest and most fearful place, then you might want to give this one a go.
A free copy was provided by NetGalley in exchange for this review.
There's a buzz book for the summer - you might have heard of it already -- The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes. Featuring a time traveling serial kille There's a buzz book for the summer - you might have heard of it already -- The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes. Featuring a time traveling serial killer, it has huge potential for a beach read thriller, but I don't know. Despite enjoying the main character, I felt it was missing something and my overall reaction after reading it was lukewarm.
This book on the other hand is much more to my liking. Probably closer to three and a half stars, it's an easy four in my books because it features all the elements I adore -- suburban New England setting, family secrets and lies, prepubescent girls doing naughty things with tragic consequence. It's an "all grown up and looking back" story as the adult tries to untangle the mysterious events of a dark childhood summer. It's a dual narrative that flips back and forth in time -- from the summer of 1979 to the summer of 2003. There's mood and atmosphere and dread and intrigue. It's a voyeuristic look into the oft-twisted and inappropriate shenanigans of life in the 'burbs.
Sadie is a pushy, bratty kid, with razor sharp smarts and a vivid imagination that's only going to get her into trouble. Her mother is a domineering, manic depressive drunk who isn't going to be there for Sadie when she needs her the most. Out of boredom and as an act of rebellion, Sadie hatches an elaborate ruse to amuse herself and her best friend. It's the summer of 1979 and her victim is the neighborhood outcast, a young girl with a miserable home life. The consequences of this cruel prank will have a tragic ripple effect.
Sadie grows up. The memory of that time is locked away in a deep, dark corner of her mind. She has a husband and two beautiful children. But sorrow has found Sadie. She is grieving her miscarriage and in this vulnerable state, back walks the boy she crushed on as a young girl. He's all grown up and stirring up more than the overwhelming sexual attraction she feels for him. Sadie begins to think about that summer long ago, seeking truth to all the unanswered questions she's lived with her entire life.
For a debut novel, The Longings of Wayward Girls (great title) shows a lot of promise. In the best ways, I was reminded of Megan Abbott's The End of Everything, and Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects. Author Karen Brown is on my radar now and I will definitely be seeking out more of her writing.
This book has everything I love -- a Southern setting, secrets, family tragedy, religious zealotry run amok, and strong narrative voices. If I had reaThis book has everything I love -- a Southern setting, secrets, family tragedy, religious zealotry run amok, and strong narrative voices. If I had read it, it would have been an easy four stars. But because I listened to it, and the audio version is one of the best I've ever heard, it's getting five stars.
This is a debut novel -- is it flawless? No. But you know what? I didn't care. I don't think you will either. I got so swept up and carried away by the story I was being told I was living it. I was right there in that small town watching it all go down with a flutter of anxiety in my stomach, and a lump of sadness in my throat.
What really made me love this story as an audiobook is that we have three narrators read by three different readers-- 1) Jess Hall, a precocious nine year old who has a penchant for spying and will eventually see something he wishes he hadn't that will change his life and the life of his town forever 2) Adelaide Lyle, a feisty old woman who has born witness to much of the town's history and dark secrets and 3) Clem Barefield, seasoned Sheriff with a painful past who must confront the evil that has taken hold of his town like a cancer.
Getting the story from these three very distinct voices and points of view is fantastic. It makes what is essentially a simple and straight forward story feel richer, more layered and emotional. I loved the reader for the Sheriff. What a fantastic performance. That voice married to the author's prose is a match made in heaven. In the best ways it reminded me of Tommy Lee Jones's performance in No Country for Old Men.
A Land More Kind Than Home is set deep in the heart of snake-handling country where you better hope that when the preacher arrives in town, he ain't the devil in disguise.
Read this book -- and if you do the audio thing -- listen. You won't be able to stop, I promise.
And since I have a thing for book trailers, this one does a great job of capturing the edgy, southern Gothic mood of this novel that's so portent with revelation, betrayals, and tragedy.
The very short and dirty review for this collection could be -- when it is good it is very, very good. But when it is bad it is horrid.
I did not love The very short and dirty review for this collection could be -- when it is good it is very, very good. But when it is bad it is horrid.
I did not love all these stories equally. In fact, several verged on epic fail for me. Which is not hard to do. I am probably the worst reader of short stories. However, those that did work sent me into such shuddering, paroxysms of delight there are no words to express my infinite admiration. My favorites worked so exquisitely on a sub-atomic, cellular level that I immediately wanted to catch a red eye to Vegas and marry them no questions asked, no pre-nup, with Elvis Presley looking on curling his lip in approval. Thank you, thank you very much. My five stars is the only way I can think of to reflect that boundless joy. Is it for every story? Absolutely not. But I have no problem letting those five stars stand.
My first introduction to Kij Johnson was in June 2011 when I read her short story Ponies. It tickled something very profound in my imagination and gave a real goose to my pleasure center (at least the part of my brain that perpetually craves dark and disturbed). Funny thing is, I picked up this collection based solely on the cover and title. I didn't even notice that the author is the very same author who had impressed me with her little diddy about prepubescent girls and their pet ponies. When I finally put the two together in an "a-ha, duh" moment, saying I was pleased would be quite an understatement.
Kij Johnson is a bit of a mad scientist in her approach to storytelling. There is folklore, magical realism, science fiction, fantasy, fable, myth and legend. That sounds messy and confusing, and it should be. It should be a disastrous, alchemical experiment that blows the whole meth lab sky high. But somehow she makes it work, each story its own landscape playing by its own rules. She blends things in ways that made me think of how van Gogh saw sunflowers and starry nights. Even where I floundered, and did not appreciate the final destination, her prose ran like silk across the neurons of my brain, stroking them into a blissed out reader high.
Kij Johnson is on my radar. I will most definitely be keeping my eye out for more of her strange and wonderful words.
My two favorite stories of the collection are available online for free:
Ponies: If you haven't already, read this weird and deranged tale about youthful female rites of passage and the more brutal realities of fitting in. This is a macabre spin on the innocence lost theme delivered with cutting precision that slices deep.
26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss: This one made me laugh with its whimsy and weep with its melancholy. I don't even know how to describe everything it made me feel actually. Aimee becomes the proprietor of 26 monkeys and a series of circus acts. Her biggest trick is that she makes all the monkeys vanish onstage. Where do the monkeys go? She does not know. All Aimee knows is that they return to her a few hours later bearing little trinkets from wherever they have been. The ending? Perfection in eight little words.
Honorable mentions must go to:
Names for Water - a phone call from unknown origin that whispers like water. I don't know if everyone will love the resolution here, but it gave me goosebumps.
Fox Magic - an Asian-themed fable about love's blindness. A fox falls in love with a man and lures him away from his human life.
Dia Chjerman's Tale - short, almost purely science fiction tale with apocalyptic overtones. There is a vibe of dread here that I really grooved on.
At the Mouth of the River of Bees - I'm usually not one for magical realism (sometimes I'm not even sure if I'm applying the term correctly), but there's a real dreamy quality to this one that almost hypnotized me. A woman follows a literal river of bees to its mouth. What will be waiting for her when she finally gets there? I'm thinking pet owners (and dog lovers) will find this one especially poignant. ...more
I've never read anything by Ambrose Bierce and this was a great place to start. It is a very immediate, visceral sort of story that's all about the seI've never read anything by Ambrose Bierce and this was a great place to start. It is a very immediate, visceral sort of story that's all about the senses. There is nothing like being so close to Death that you can reach out and shake his hand to bring everything into sharp focus. Bierce's vivid prose captures the desperation and drive of a man about to be hanged, who may just be given a second chance after all. It's a story filled with dramatic flair and urgent energy. Thanks for the rec, Stephen!
Whoah ... just ... whoah. I sense there is much beauty and truth contained in this story, the understated power of which danced across my neurons and tickled my neocortex several times, with mischief and brilliance and wild abandon. I also sense this story is just a hair's breath -- achingly -- out of my reach. Several times I thought I had it -- right there -- right on the tips of my fingers only to feel it slip away like wisps of smoke or melting snowflakes. The language is vibrant, pulsating and vivid. While the landscapes remained strange and unknowable to me I was still taken there -- even when my brain resisted, my body responded.
My reading brain itched to discern knowable patterns and logic, it craved narrative. There is a story here, but it is wrapped in the coda of fairy tale, folklore, mythology, and philosophy -- an enigmatic exploration of what it is to be human -- to be alive -- to love, to remember, to be family. If human is feeling than do feelings make us human? Does it have to be all or nothing? Human or machine? Perhaps there is room for something else ... something other. Valente is not offering up any trite or definitive answers, and the reader will have to make up his or her own mind.
There is an abiding melancholy that ebbs and flows over this entire story. Something terrible has happened, there are hints, but it is also hidden and unknowable, especially to Elefsis. She/he/it has suddenly and violently been removed from Ravan only to be forcefully "merged" with Neva -- who has no choice "because there was no one else". Neva explains to Elefsis:
I have always been spare parts. Owned by you before I was born....I know it was like this for you, too. You wanted Ravan; you did not ask for me. We are an arranged marriage.
As for Elefsis, she/he/it forms a unique and binding relationship to each family member during their tenure as host. It is a transformative, organic, chemical and mechanical cleaving that is "lost" to Elefsis with each inevitable human death.
When I became Elefsis again, I was immediately aware that parts of me had been vandalized. My systems juddered, and I could not find Ceno in the Interior. I ran through the Monochromatic Desert and the Village of Mollusks, through the endless heaving mass of data-kelp and infinite hallways of memory-frescoes calling for her.
And then there is the unexpected loss of Ravan:
But Ravan was with me and now he is not. I was inside him and now I am inside of Neva. I have lost a certain amount of memory and storage capacity in the transfer. I experience holes in myself. They feel ragged and raw. If I were human, you would say that my twin disappeared, and took one of my hands with him.
This isn't an easily accessible book shall we say, and I don't think it was written with me in mind. I'm not the ideal audience and I struggled to reach into the story and have it reach into me. But gosh damn, it is beautiful and unique and it's made me wonder and consider and ponder. That's pretty awesome. ...more
Hope, I've discovered, is a sad nuisance. Hope is a horse with a broken leg. ~The Gods of Gotham, Lyndsay Faye
New York City, 1845. Helped by an explo
Hope, I've discovered, is a sad nuisance. Hope is a horse with a broken leg. ~The Gods of Gotham, Lyndsay Faye
New York City, 1845. Helped by an explosion of combustible saltpeter, a great fire has once again decimated Lower Manhattan, claiming the lives of four fireman and 26 civilians.
Across the Atlantic, a terrible potato blight is beginning to take its toll, and shiploads of desperate, starving Irish pour into the city despised for their race and religion. Despite having traveled so far, work and food continue to be scarce commodities. Gang violence is commonplace as Dead Rabbits clash with the infamous Bowery Boys.
The city forms its first police department. The men are greeted with a mixture of fear, hostility and suspicion. Pinned to the men's chests is a roughly cut copper star.
Welcome to Gotham, where the streets of Five Points are plagued with filth, prostitution, spilled blood and political corruption. Children are left to fend for themselves hunted by disease, hunger and predators who will draft them into a life of thievery or sexual exploitation.
The Gods of Gotham is historical fiction at its best -- filled to the brim with vivid characters, authentic dialogue, and a sense of place so strong you can taste it in the back of your throat. As an audiobook, it is a marvel, drawing you in, caressing your ear, transporting you back in time.
In one fell swoop, Timothy Wilde is left unemployed, disfigured and penniless. In an attempt to save his brother from utter desperation, Valentine gets Tim a job on the newly drafted New York City police force. One fateful evening walking home to his modest lodgings atop a bakery, Tim crashes into a young girl clad in a blood-soaked nightdress. She is frantic, almost delirious, and murmurs "They will tear him apart." And so Tim is pulled into a tangled and depraved web of conspiracy and unholy murder. It will change him irrevocably, as the streets of New York hold their own council and wait to see what the remaining 19th century has in store.
I loved this story, everything about it. Timothy Wilde is a great character as is his vice-ridden, brawling brother Valentine and the prickly relationship they share, weakened by years of mistrust and animosity. Little Bird Daly, just ten years old, is memorably precocious and heart-breakingly real, a symbol of the abominable acts perpetrated on orphaned children in the years before the law started to identify and protect them in earnest.
And New York City -- how grand and tawdry and exciting and perilous you really are. You've been romanticized as often as you've been vilified. You are notorious, legendary, epic, and any story set in your streets must be all of these things too or become lost in your long shadow. The Gods of Gotham is that story. You two are well-met and well-matched. I cannot wait to return.
***For anyone interested, BBC America has created the series Copper set in 1860's New York featuring a young Irish cop tasked with policing in the Five Points. I haven't seen an episode yet, but you can bet I'm going to give it a try....more
Solid collection of unsettling and weird (with a capital W) short stories. First, I want to put a plug in for Crowinator's review here. It was her rev Solid collection of unsettling and weird (with a capital W) short stories. First, I want to put a plug in for Crowinator's review here. It was her review that brought the book to my attention and made me want to read it. I also love how she breaks down all the stories and gives you a chance to figure out if this collection is for you or not. And hey, the best part? If you feel like taking a chance, the ebook is on sale right now for 0.99 cents. That is some serious bang for your buck. What have you got to lose?
Love the title and the cover. These things should never be underestimated. Each on their own has the power to persuade readers to read. I find the big publishing houses are getting lazy of late, or they've stopped caring, or they've sacrificed their creative marketing departments to save on the bottom line; whatever the reason, most of their covers suck or at the very least are uninspired. But the smaller, independent presses? They know they are fighting for their lives and our attention and dollars. Proof is in the covers, and in their willingness to approve some pretty audacious titles. Evidence please? Book covers are clickable.
I don't even need to know what these books are about to want to read them. But maybe that's just the magpie in me.
J.R. Hamantaschen has great titles that almost tell a story in and of themselves. He's also got the patter of Weird down without being overtly obnoxious about it, or coming across as trying too hard. Yet these stories feel modern and young, so much so that some of the awkward word choices just felt right anyway in spite of themselves. Like any small press/independent work, it is rough in places and could do with some editorial spit and polishing, but overall it reads very clean.
The author has a unique and distinctive voice that excels in creating unsettling and/or haunting images. Crowinator refers to the writing as "cryptic and suggestive" and I agree. The stories are more about allowing the reader to think the worst, providing our imagination an opportunity to flex its muscles.
More than titles or prose, what really made these stories hum for me were the ideas behind them. A good story idea that hasn't been regurgitated a thousand times in a thousand different ways is hard to come by. Hamantaschen must have a tree growing in his back yard where he can go pick one off it any time he chooses. My favorites:
Endemic: a nasty little story about rape and misogyny and the creation of a device to ensnare men in the act. Mixing sci-fi elements with that twist of horror and Weird, this story becomes the next evolution of To Catch a Predator.
A Parasite Inside Your Brain: I loved this one just because the idea of something crawling inside my head and laying eggs there creeps me out more than any other concept. This is a nice riff on the classic Night Gallery episode, but with a very different outcome. In a more serious way I find its dealing with depression and perhaps questioning whether your doctor always knows best a refreshing angle.
Come In, Distraction: I can't put my finger on what I enjoyed so much about this one, and I can't really talk too much about it without ruining the surprise. I guess I loved the slow creep as it builds to its reveal. This English wanker -- is he exploiting, or is he being exploited in turn? I would say both really. The subtleties work here extremely well, but I longed to know more...(view spoiler)[the outbreak in England sounds so far out and monstrous, I could barely get my head around it, those loooooong arms (shudder). Here's where your imagination has to flex its muscles. (hide spoiler)].
Sorrow Has Its Natural End: this one worked for me only because it tapped into my other primal fear, which is going blind. I have bad eyesight as it is and have worn glasses since childhood. I am remiss in my checkups and have floaters that could indicate a high risk of retinal detachment (wow, I just made myself sound really sexy there, didn't I?) This story is about a guy whose retinas detach in both eyes making him nearly blind. But he has a lead on a cure.
Jordan, When Are You Going to Settle Down, Get Married and Have Us Some Children?: okay, I have to include this one because the idea is so extreme, outrageous and funny in a dark and horrible way. There's a Seinfeld episode where George is out on a date with a woman in her apartment and finds himself really needing to go number 2. But her little bathroom, with no buffer zone, is not going to give him the privacy he knows he will need. This story is that situation except with unimaginable results.
There Must Be Lights Burning Brighter, Somewhere: great title, the longest story in the collection, and my favorite. The set-up is three desperate, frightened people hiding out in a closet from some unnamed threat. As the story progresses it is revealed how they ended up in the closet, what they're hiding from, and how they escape. Survival will come at a high price. This one gave me the heebie-jeebies.
This review can also be found at Busty Book Bimbo. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I'm actually shocked by how utterly and completely this book frustrated and bored the hell out of me, how crushingly disappointed I am by t* 1/2 stars
I'm actually shocked by how utterly and completely this book frustrated and bored the hell out of me, how crushingly disappointed I am by the whole affair. I mean, this is John Wyndham for Chrissake -- author of The Chrysalids and The Day of the Triffids (both of which are all levels of awesome).
This? This just pisses me off. It's made me want to make my Jules face -- yeah, I got one ... what of it?
I mean, you have GOT to be fucking kidding me. How does such a fantastic idea in the hands of a gifted writer turn into such tepid, meandering ruminations on ethics, philosophy, the human condition and God himself. Rather than action or character development we are treated to long rambling speeches that go nowhere by characters we could care less about which add nothing to the story's drama nor our enjoyment of it.
The only reason this book didn't get slapped with one star is because it contains an awesome premise -- a staggering golden nugget of an idea alluded to in its clever title -- that has gone on to embed itself in popular culture influencing many authors and filmmakers since its original publication in 1957. The Children of Midwich are phenomenally creepy, the ramifications of their existence fraught with peril presenting a terrible, terrifying dilemma. I can dig that. British filmmakers dug that very thing and turned it into the unnerving and unforgettable classic Village of the Damned (1960).
Do yourself a favor -- skip the book, watch the movie. Now how many times in a life do you get to say that?
Stealing a man's wife, that's nothing, but stealing his car, that's larceny. ~The Postman Always Rings Twice
If Noir can be said to have a cold, blac
Stealing a man's wife, that's nothing, but stealing his car, that's larceny. ~The Postman Always Rings Twice
If Noir can be said to have a cold, black heart it’s Postman that provided the juice to electroshock it into a beating, breathing existence. It is without a doubt one of the most important crime novels of the 20th century (of any century really) and has gone on to influence entire generations of writers and filmmakers. As a debut, it shocked, titillated and disgusted, banned upon publication in Boston and in Canada. Before I even knew anything about this book, or the films that were based on it, I adored that title. To this day, it remains one of my favourites.
What Cain accomplishes in just a mere 100 pages is impressive. He finds the voice of the common man, and the dark and dangerous shortcut to greed, lust, and violence. More than anything, Cain understands how easily man is corrupted, how easily he can corrupt others, like an infection. And I use “man” here in the generic sense encompassing both genders, because when it comes to villains and black hearts, Cain is an equal opportunist.
Entire books and dissertations have been written about Cain’s women – the good, the bad, the rampant sexism, the alleged misogyny – whatever. Cain’s characters don’t bleed political correctness that's obvious – what they are is a symbol of their time and circumstances – hewed from harshness, beacons of egocentrism, proprietors of antisocialism. The women like to be smacked around a little (it helps get them in the mood), and the men are only too willing to oblige the ladies in that regard. Men aren't asking for what ought to be freely given, and should it be denied to them, why... they'll just take it anyway, won't they?
Based on all of this, Postman easily garners five stars, so why am I only giving it four? My only hesitation stems from this: I just didn’t enjoy it as much as Double Indemnity. Neither Frank nor Cora drew me in to quite the same extent that Walter and Phyllis did – the former are cold, dislikable and a bit icky, whereas the latter duo are fascinating in their terribleness and villainy. They are even sympathetic in their own messed up way … whereas Frank and Cora felt like reptiles crawling on their bellies, sniffing for a blood meal. Plus, Phyllis is simply an awe-inspiring, terrifying creation – a walking, talking sociopath before the term was even widely known. She is quiet, sexy, subtle and deranged -- I love her.
Having said that, Postman is lean and mean hard-boiled pulp fiction and you gotta respect that. It’s not shy about going for the jugular with absolutely no foreplay. But Cain doesn’t need it, requiring so little time and so few words to get the reader foaming at the mouth -- when he’s ready to go, so are you. This is a must-read, but you know that already. ...more
These two short novellas are quite disturbed (and disturbing in turn). It is writing that you can either despise or admire, but you absolutely cannot These two short novellas are quite disturbed (and disturbing in turn). It is writing that you can either despise or admire, but you absolutely cannot ignore or remain unmoved.
My first introduction to Pablo D'Stair was with his collection of four novellas entitled: they say the owl was a baker's daughter (an outstanding piece of work which amply earned all five of my stars). The novellas appearing in baker's daughter are psychologically driven, representing a searing examination of human paranoia and anxiety. I loved them all.
"The Unburied Man" and "The People Who Use Room Five" however -- great titles by the way -- are much harder to love. These are tales of body horror, physical grotesquerie, and metamorphoses. Upon finishing, I am convinced D'Stair is not only scatologically obsessed, but could conceivably be David Cronenberg's long lost love child. If you are only familiar with Cronenberg's later Oscar nominated films such as A History of Violence and Eastern Promises then you are missing out. Cronenberg is the crowned godfather of Canadian horror. His lasting influence and contribution to the genre overall cannot be overestimated. Love him or hate him, you cannot ignore him (sound familiar?) If you've seen any of the following -- The Brood (1979), Videodrome (1983), The Fly (1986) and Naked Lunch (1991) then you will understand where I'm coming from when I make comparisons between he and D'Stair.
While you could easily fling the adjectives sick, gross, unnecessary, self-indulgent meandering at both of these stories (and they would all stick), I also found the writing inexplicably compelling and engrossing. There is raw talent here that is undeniable. D'Stair creates atmosphere thick and unsettling, so much so that as a reader you never know what to expect understanding fully that you are in completely unfamiliar territory. There are no identifiable landmarks. This is unbroken, heretofore untrodden terrain. I will leave it up to you to decide whether or not the author should have left it as such.
Who the hell is Pablo D'Stair? What kind of a mad maniac is he anyway? Jesus wept. The four novellas brought together in this collection represent som Who the hell is Pablo D'Stair? What kind of a mad maniac is he anyway? Jesus wept. The four novellas brought together in this collection represent some pretty messed up shit, but the writing (as unpolished as it can be at times) represents the REALDEAL people. There is a palpable energy to the prose and a paranoia that drips over everything that cuts so deep like acid it will unsettle you in ways I can't even begin to describe.
First of all, I think it is important to establish whether this collection is for you (because I will be the first to admit it certainly isn't for everyone).
1) If you require prose that has been put through the editorial rock polisher to produce a perfectly smooth reading experience, then this collection might be hard for you to swallow. There are misspelled words, missing words, made up words and the like, that sporadically pop up. As for myself, this kind of thing usually jars me, taking me out of the story. What can I say? It works here. Whether intentional on the author's part or not, D'Stair's narrators use a stream-of-consciousness style and the "broken" words and sentences perfectly capture minds on the cusp of breaking. You could just see it as sloppy and one of the drawbacks of ill-edited self-published fiction. I think in this case you would be missing the point though.
2) If you derive much of your reading enjoyment from having all your questions answered, than this may not be the collection for you. Each novella deals with a narrator who has become "unhinged" shall we say, causing said narrator to act out in very real and unpredictable ways. We don't know why, they don't know why. There is no rumination on the dark heart of man or any such thing. Shit happens and then it's done. There is none of that satisfying resolution that comes with the linear progression from unexpected chaos to the reestablishment of order. All four endings will leave you with more questions than answers, that I can promise.
3) If graphic descriptions of bodily functions like vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea and excess saliva make you queasy than this book is probably not for you. You have been warned.
Okay, if you have made it this far into the review and you're still with me, what comes next is the best part. D'Stair plumbs the depths of human paranoia and anxiety, the overall result an exceptional effort that's as unshakable and easily as memorable as Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart. I'm not shitting you.
These are stories about following and being followed -- about fear of discovery and the siren song of confession. I think Megan hits it perfectly when she writes: "I could see these characters come to life, to the point of waking up at 3 am and thinking one of them might be shuffling around in my bedroom closet." These stories are so steeped in paranoia, that your brain will succumb to the itchy fingers of paranoia as a result. You will be like Michael Douglas' character in The Game, where everyone around you is suspect and a possible threat.
I'm also going to throw out two other cinematic gems that these novellas caused me to think about: Memento and Jacob's Ladder. The former because of the stream-of-consciousness narration by an untrustworthy and possibly delusional narrator; the latter because of the sensation of absolute mindfuck (pardon my French).
Okay, I'm beginning to feel paranoid that this review has gone on too long. One more thing before I wrap this up though; I would never have even known of this book's existence if it weren't for Jacob first bringing it to my attention. When Jacob gives anything five stars I perk up and pay attention. When he said he needed to "gather his brain chunks back together" before he could write a review, reading this was a foregone conclusion (though he tried to warn me!)
Eyes adjusting to the dark, I looked at the closed door to the room, half expecting the knob to jiggle, for there to be some pock-marked face behind the opening, a face as large as a train station clock...
...thought about my hand to the peephole of thirteen, someone's eye to the other side of the hole, only a door thick of wood separating their blinking lash from my sweating palm.
...it seemed if I could stay awake I could bear it, but if forced to wake to it I'd disintegrate utterly, whatever crumb of me was left moistened, pulped, mawed and gone.
It was hard to remember when all the earth hadn't been thrown to the sky.
This is my first Lansdale but I've known about him for quite some3.5 stars
It was hard to remember when all the earth hadn't been thrown to the sky.
This is my first Lansdale but I've known about him for quite some time. He's one of those authors who mixes up genres in crazy, imaginative ways and writes equally strong across the spectrum of storytelling styles (including gobs of graphic novels). I know him as a horror writer because his name always shows up for the Bram Stoker Awards and he just received the Horror Writer's Association Lifetime Achievement Award. I also know him to be the author of the novella "Bubba Ho-Tep" (available from Amazon for 0.99 cents!) If you haven't seen the film this inspired, don't wait! It has Elvis and JFK in a nursing home ... and an ancient Egyptian mummy!
All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky (great title) doesn't have anything so wild and wacky as all that. In fact, it's a quiet little novel, short and sweet, a coming-of-age tale set during the Dust Bowl of the 1930's. Hardest hit is Oklahoma, resulting in such a huge migration of desperate people from that state they became known as "Okies" (a derogatory term, not one of affection). But this isn't The Grapes of Wrath -- it's much closer to O Brother, Where art Thou?
Three young people (Jack, compulsive liar Jane and her little brother Tony) find themselves in dire, tragic circumstances -- with no family left, no home, but a stolen car, they hit the road to seek out something better. Along the way, they become entangled in some dangerous circumstances, but also make friends in unexpected places. All the while, their journey is laced with adventure and humor. I had already started thinking about "O Brother" and then Jane explains to Jack: "We're like Odysseus" and I laughed, because the whole premise of "O Brother" is that it's Homer's epic poem "The Odyssey", set in the deep south during the 1930's.
Like the Coen brothers movie, All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky is having fun, but at the same time there are moments of poignancy and underneath all the shenanigans, there is a sobering portrait of hardship and desperation.
When the wind wasn't blowing, the starving grasshoppers was coming at us in a wave so dark it blacked out the sun. And the rabbits. So many rabbits. Everything became a big mess of whirling sand, starving rabbits, and buzzing grasshoppers.
I think Steinbeck would have enjoyed this story very much....more
This book ::flails helplessly:: How do I begin to review these raw and ruthless stories and do them justice? I probably can't ladies and gents, but IThis book ::flails helplessly:: How do I begin to review these raw and ruthless stories and do them justice? I probably can't ladies and gents, but I want to try goddammit. Frank Bill's collection of crazies and crimes in southern Indiana deserves that much at least.
This is prose that sings -- not with the sweetness and harmony of a Mama Cass, but rather a whiskey-soaked growl and feverish screech of a Janis Joplin. It's jagged, fragmented, and toothsome; at any point ready and able to tear a chunk out of the reader and leave him or her panting and bleeding like the sordid cast of cutthroat characters that populate the pages of these 17 inter-connected stories.
The stories piece together a harsh portrait of poor, scrabbling, backwoods people -- where victims become victimizers, and the brutalized do their fair share of brutalizing in return. As Frank Bill weaves together his tales of madness and mayhem, he is not interested in telling mere exploitative snapshots of gratuitous violence; his carefully crafted stories resonate with gritty themes of PTSD, poverty, domestic violence, addiction, greed and corruption. Each story flashes bright and fierce, a powerhouse on its own, but when melded with its brethren, the sum definitely becomes more awesome than the parts.
Frank Bill is writing Southern Noir and making it his bitch. This is Quentin Tarantino meets Cormac McCarthy. For certain Frank Bill convinces his readers that his Indiana landscape is also no country for old men. How is this for a descriptive simile: Jagged marrow lined his gums like he'd tried to huff a stick of dynamite. But when he stuttered into Medford's ear he sounded like a drunk who had Frenched a running chainsaw.
This isn't a collection to love per se; it certainly won't leave you with the warm and fuzzies. It will shake you up and smack you around a bit though, and you definitely won't forget it easily. It also made me green with envy over how easy Frank Bill makes it all seem. What he accomplishes isn't easy; if it were we'd see the likes of this kind of writing more often.
Iris kept driving. Turned onto the county road, glanced over the field and acres of cedar, saw the smoke rising above the land. He reached over and rubbed Spade between his black ears, not knowing where he was headed, but knowing he wouldn't stop until he was several states shy of the crimes in southern Indiana.
Guh! This book ... (flails helplessly) ... it is a gut puncher, heart-wrencher. Franklin is a poet, his prose sings, his characters walk off the page,Guh! This book ... (flails helplessly) ... it is a gut puncher, heart-wrencher. Franklin is a poet, his prose sings, his characters walk off the page, and he puts the reader into a time and place that absolutely resonates with a vibrancy and brutal honesty all its own.
I was so sad -- so emotionally invested -- that I found the reading painful to bear at times. Franklin's descriptions of human isolation and loneliness are so raw and uncompromising I forced myself to take breathers between reading sessions. I don't think this is a book meant to be read in one gulp; it is made up of so much complexity and depth that it's better to sip from its well, savor what you've tasted, and then go back for more. The water can be frigid cold, and if you drink too much too fast you're bound to get excruciating brain freeze.
This book had me at hello: it's set in the American south, it features the mess of family dynamics, and secrets big and small stalk its pages. It is a coming-of-age story and at its center are two boys -- Silas and Larry. Their lives intersect in ways neither could have predicted, and one of them must carry the pain and punishment of that connection his entire life. It is a heavy burden, but I will say not without redemption.
I love Larry Ott -- not only is he a die-hard Stephen King fan, despite years of being ruthlessly cast as town pariah, Larry quietly goes on about his business. He is not consumed by bitterness, or enraged by the unfairness of the abuse that has been heaped upon him. That takes a strong man, and this is what probably made me the most sad is that Larry doesn't know how great and kind a man he really is. Beaten down first by his father, then by the town, he is prevented from discovering his true qualities of inner strength and dignity.
Read this book. It is beautiful. So very sad, but beautiful.
And because they are so good, and do the novel such justice, I will refer you to the reviews of Stephen and Kemper.
First line fever: The Rutherford Girl had been missing for eight days when Larry Ott returned home and found a monster waiting in his house....more
Cormac McCarthy is a goddamned poet with some mad, kick-ass storytelling skills. Speechless for the moment. Brain is goo. Please stand by.
This book brCormac McCarthy is a goddamned poet with some mad, kick-ass storytelling skills. Speechless for the moment. Brain is goo. Please stand by.
This book broke my brain. On the surface, McCarthy is weaving a modern day western aptly soaked in blood and ruthlessness, where the line between hero and villain is sharply drawn. On that same surface, what we have is a cast of archetypes – the weary sheriff who has stayed too long and seen too much; the everyday man living right until he is undone by greed; the young and dutiful wife committed to “standing by her man” no matter what; and finally, the relentless villain who will cut down any and all who cross his path.
That’s on the surface.
Even if you only read the book for that tale it is an awesome and rewarding one – tense, violent, dark, oppressive. Who will live? Who will die?
But as you read, your brain is going to want to do a lot more thinking about the story; in fact, the story will demand it. Those archetypical characters will demand it too. Like a hologram, just shift them a few degrees to the right or left and they become much more nuanced than you first thought, showing other angles and deeper reflections.
Who is Anton Chigurh? A blood-thirsty villain? an amoral badass? a demented sociopath? ... yes, yes and yes. But he also walks through the story doling out justice Old Testament style. There is that Biblical quality to him. You’ve committed your sins, and now the reaper has come a-calling. Not for vengeance, not for his pleasure, but for justice. There is a debt to pay that is non-negotiable. Chigurh does not like loose ends. There are “rules” to death and dying. But that is part of his mad psychology (and his hubris).
Chigurh's character made me think about free will versus destiny. What are the choices any man or woman makes to get them to the exact moment he or she is now? Is it all random or has it been predestined all along? I’m not sure what Chigurh believes; he is definitely an enigma on this point. (view spoiler)[Certainly if Carla Jean had called the coin correctly, Chigurh would have let her live. He seems to deeply respect the other “laws” at work around him. The moment that Llewellyn takes the money, his fate is sealed. There is nothing from that moment on that will ever deter Chigurh from collecting on Llewellyn’s death. That debt must be paid. It is non-negotiable. What is negotiable is Carla Jean’s life: if Llewellyn had returned the money as requested, Chigurh would have let her live. (hide spoiler)]
There is a randomness to his killing philosophy in the sense that like the proverbial Hand of Death, there will always be innocent bystanders. “Innocence” does not compute, nor is it ever a factor. Bad things happen to good people all the time, even when you’re minding your own business you can be violently drawn into someone else’s.
I love Carla Jean. She is a heap of contradictions: innocent but knowing, vulnerable but strong, naïve but wise. She is loyal and loving and though she finds herself in a heap of trouble, does not buckle under the pressure. (view spoiler)[Her confrontation with Chigurh is my favorite scene of the entire novel. I find it heartbreaking. This is an innocent facing death. It’s not fair, it shouldn’t be happening, but it is. Chigurh offers her a faint hope with the coin toss, but even that does not pan out for her. What breaks my heart the most about her death is that she went out of this life believing Llewellyn did not love her, that he had betrayed her. (hide spoiler)] Llewellyn is a good man. I don’t believe it was naked greed that makes him run off with the money, but a hope for a better life, an easier life for him and Carla Jean. I think he is a man filled with love and a lot of the choices he makes in this novel he makes thinking only of his young wife and the life he wants to give her.
I love, love, love this exchange between the two of them that comes early on in the novel; as subtle as it is I think it screams volumes about their relationship. For me, it reads as such a tender and playful moment.
Where have you been all day? Went to get you some cigarettes. I don’t even want to know. I don’t even want to know what you all been up to. He sipped the beer and nodded. That’ll work, he said. I think it’s better just to not even know even. You keep runnin that mouth and I’m goin to take you back there and screw you. Big talk. Just keep it up. That’s what she said. Just let me finish this beer. We’ll see what she said and what she didn’t say.
This novel made my head explode with questions. McCarthy gives the reader a lot to ponder and chew on, but there are just as many places where McCarthy is mute and leaves it up to the reader to do all the work and come up with some answers, and, as in life, answers are not easy to come by. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I wanted to read this gorgeous book again before the sequel's November release, and went with the audio version just to hear the sumptuous prose aloud I wanted to read this gorgeous book again before the sequel's November release, and went with the audio version just to hear the sumptuous prose aloud. Laini Taylor's epic narrative has swept me up in its arms and carried me away for a second time, despite knowing all of its secrets. I just lost my mind over this book when I read it last year, and I didn't think it would be possible to recapture that initial gush of adoration, but here it is. I'm completely ga-ga all over again.
The fabric of this story is conjured up out of the very elements themselves -- air, fire, earth, and water. And love. For love is an element. The real love story for me here is not shared between Karou and Akiva -- star-crossed lovers of mythological proportions -- but rather Karou and Brimstone. Ah, Brimstone. You are fierce and a monster in the eyes of many, but to Karou you are protector, mentor, father. You may have the head of a ram, but you have the heart of Atticus Finch. You are righteous and wise and honorable. You carry the burden of your dark magic on your broad shoulders so that your Chimera race may survive against the onslaught of the Seraphim, but deep in your soul you carry hope, for the future, for peace. For who else but the Wishmonger can truly know the power of hope over mere wishes?
This second time around I am truly dazzled by the rich world-building Taylor gives us, all wrapped in her sensuous prose. Her imagination is boundless, her ability to show remarkably vivid. (view spoiler)[The land of Elsewhere, the Chimera life and its legends and magic. Brimstone the Resurrectionist, using stolen, ill-gotten teeth to craft new bodies to hold the souls of the dead within them to live again as revenants. The Seraphim -- warrior angels of utter perfection, as beautiful as they are cruel, blinded by arrogance and a steel determination to bend the Chimera to their will. The conquered and the conquerors, the Chimera monsters and the Seraphim angels locked in a 1000 year old battle of poisonous hatred, mistrust, exploitation, humiliation. It is slavery, colonialism, invasion, conquest. It is terrorism and freedom fighter. (hide spoiler)]
And Karou. Sweet, soul-searching Karou. With your blue hair and unanswered questions. Who are you? What are you? You ache for answers, and when they arrive they rip your world to pieces and tear away all that you have come to know and love. My heart breaks for you. But I hope. I hope that all is not lost.
***Original review -- November 2011*** Once upon a time, an angel lay dying in the mist. And a devil knelt over him and smiled. ~Daughter of Smoke and Bone (2011)
So. Much. Love. for this book I don’t know even know where to begin. Let me start by saying how happy it made me, how much pleasure I soaked up from each and every page. A lot of this I'm sure has to do with my healthy obsession with Angel lore (and not the airy-fairy, sparkling emo-kind, but the towering, frightening, blood-soaked other-wordly soldiers, beautiful in their grace, terrifying in their mercilessness).
One of my favorite films is The Prophecy (1995) starring Christopher Walken (and Viggo Mortensen as Lucifer!). This movie captures exactly what is so awe-inspiring about warrior Angels:
Did you ever notice how in the Bible, whenever God needed to punish someone or ... needed a killing, he sent an Angel? Did you ever wonder what a creature like that must be like? A whole existence spent praising your God, but always with one wing dipped in blood. Would you ever really want to see an Angel?
Laini Taylor’s angels are not part of a familiar Christian tradition, but nevertheless are recognizable as creatures of iconic, staggering beauty, mystery and grace (and always with one wing dipped in blood). They are ruthless, unthinking, unfeeling, arrogant in their righteousness, cruel in their certainty.
In other words -- awesome.
In this epic fantasy of worlds colliding, magic, fire, a thousand year war, deep hatreds and monstrous creatures, Taylor weaves a spell on her reader that is truly irresistible. I was enchanted, enthralled, and totally swept up and away -- giddy, delirious, and greedy, never wanting the story to end.
There is so much emotion and pain contained in the pages, so much fear, and love and hope that it will squeeze your heart, make your pulse race and your fingers grip the book for dear life. Part of the magic is Laini Taylor’s GORGEOUS prose. If ever a book deserved to sit on a shelf entitled “prose that sings” it is this one. In one of my updates I compared Taylor’s words to precious stones or black velvet – you will want to drape yourself in them. I know I did. I can’t wait to listen to the audiobook version just so I can hear those words read aloud.
I’m floundering now, and rambling, so I will leave you with READ. THIS. BOOK. Read it!!!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more