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 se...moreI'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!
4.5 stars. This totally KICKS ASS. Love the story, love the characters, love the graphic representations of the vampires and zombies. Gruesome and gor...more4.5 stars. This totally KICKS ASS. Love the story, love the characters, love the graphic representations of the vampires and zombies. Gruesome and gory yet it all looked so gorgeous cast in deep reds, oranges, blacks and blues. I also thought the story carried well - not highly original mind you - but the delivery is filled with genuine moments of tension and terror. I was especially pleased and surprised by some of the more emotional aspects of the story.
These vampires are vicious and merciless yet with a style and intelligence that's intimidating. They can think and plan and execute. These are not brooding, pouting, "conflicted" emo vampires, yet I appreciated that some of the newly turned are haunted by their human memories and the memory of feelings they can no longer feel. Not so grandiosely tormented as Rice's never-ending "whining" Louis from Interview With the Vampire, but still, enough to make these vampires a little more complicated, a bit more rich, than your average blood-sucking creature of the night. There are clans, and rivals, and rogues, and plenty of innocents caught in the cross-fire. Drama!
The zombies are sad and heart-breaking (I always seem to find them so - except for Danny Boyle's zombies). The FVZA zombies are very similar to the ones I've seen in The Walking Dead series (I haven't read the graphic novels, so I'm only basing that on Darabont's interpretation). The zombies are shambling and starving, haunted and lost. They ramble and feed, yet there is a hint, always just a hint, of some long lost memory of what they used to be. Romero's zombies treat the mall like Mecca; these zombies hold onto music. It's a nice touch and plays very effective in the story.
First of all, there are some fantastic four and five star reviews available that really sell the merits of this book's accomp...moreOCTOBER COUNTRY 2013 - #1
First of all, there are some fantastic four and five star reviews available that really sell the merits of this book's accomplishments in mood and story. But it's this review that most closely captures my reading experience of it.
What can I say? I like my horror to hit the lizard part of my brain, rather than the mysterious, atmospheric-laden kind that's literary and beautiful, yes, but misses my lizard brain altogether and goes right for the higher thinking part. I'm not opposed to literary horror -- some of it can be quite effective and evocative -- but it's not my favorite, it's not what I seek out, and it's not what I tend to remember. The best horror combines the elements of both, succeeding not only in a literary sense, but in attacking that primal part of our brain that feels and reacts rather than thinks and considers.
I want to provoke an emotional, even visceral, reaction in my readers. Making them think as they read is not my deal...if the tale is good enough and the characters vivid enough, thinking will supplant emotion [only] when the tale has been told and the book set aside.
As a reader of horror, that's the experience I'm seeking first and foremost. I want to be made to feel on an instinctual level of 'fight or flight'. The cerebral stuff is for another time and place.
Aspects of The Sorrow King tickled my lizard brain, but like Elise's time spent in the Obscura, or Steven's long midnight walks, it's more a tale constructed out of dreams and moods, colors and sounds. Don't get me wrong -- things really do happen, frightening things accompanied by disturbing imagery -- I just feel like I spent too much time in my head while reading this one, and not enough time looking over my shoulder for the monster creeping up behind me. (less)
Wow! What a darkly disturbing yet strangely delightful romp of a book. Last Days is a marvelous mash-up of hard-boiled detective noir, literary myster...moreWow! What a darkly disturbing yet strangely delightful romp of a book. Last Days is a marvelous mash-up of hard-boiled detective noir, literary mystery and straight-up horror that never comes across as messy or confused. Evenson's prose is sooooo tight; not a single word is wasted, the narrative action propelled along at a break-neck pace, every other chapter ending on a nail-biting cliffhanger, the dialogue smart, snappy, and at times very funny. I blew through its 200 pages in no time at all, and I bet you will too.
It's easy to draw parallels to the noir greats here, but since I just finished reading several Cain novels I will repeat what I wrote in my review for Double Indemnity because it applies just as well here:
It all starts with a delicious chill up your spine, your eyeballs riveted to the page, your breath held, the "gotta know what happens next" monster rattling the bars of his cage....[Cain's] ear for dialogue is enough to make grown men cry and women purr. It's sharp, with staccato beats and primal rhythms.
In his wonderful introduction [which you read after or you will be entirely spoiled], Peter Straub compares Evenson’s snappy dialogue to not only the Marx Brothers and the “patter of 1930s” vaudeville and burlesque, but to comedic teams like Abbott and Costello and their “Who’s on first” routine. Even with all of the dreadful mutilations and creepy fanaticism running through the story, there are unexpected moments of brilliant levity which made me grin and snicker. As I found myself grinning and snickering, I was reminded of The Pilo Family Circus, another great piece of writing not to be missed that's a genius blend of genres containing the blackest of humor.
But now a short word on the dark heart of Last Days, because in some respects what we have here is a non-supernatural horror novel. At times, the story flirts dangerously close to parody: it's so over the top in places that you can't help but wonder if Evenson is just pulling your leg. No he's not. If you're not careful, he just might cut it right the fuck off. There's something so unbelievably creepy and sinister to me about the lopping off of body parts (either against one's will or voluntarily). Several films that come to mind are: Boxing Helena (dreadful!) and the Asian flick Audition (chilling!). And who could ever forget poor old Lawrence being forced to hack through his own foot in the original Saw movie? (bloody brilliant!):
"He doesn't want us to cut through our chains. He wants us to cut through our feet!"
Evenson takes the essence of this celluloid horror and transforms it into something grittier and more nuanced. There’s a depth to Kline’s descent into a dizzying maze of mysteries. We are as in the dark as he is, as frustrated and frightened. Something sinister is afoot (no pun intended), and madness lurks around every corner.
Finally, I want to give a shout out to Maciek and his spectacular review without which I never would have picked up this book, and that would have been my great loss. (less)
This is how they looked: three dead girls propped up in three straight chairs.
The suspicion didn't just go away. It just slipped back to wherever it hid.
Wow. What a meaty and cerebral read -- textured, layered, nuanced. It is a quiet novel that takes its time to carefully contemplate on its subject. And what is its subject? Despite the title, not the disappearance and death of three young girls, not really. Solving the crime, locating the victims, is secondary to the examination of a small town under siege marinating in fear and gripped by suspicion. Dobyns takes a microscopic approach and in rich, solid prose draws a detailed portrait of a townspeople succumbing to the worst of their prejudices and paranoia. It's excruciatingly intimate and painfully honest.
At times, I was reminded of Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle. As with Jackson's novel, Dobyns is able to disturb and unsettle me with his insight into dark hearts and the secrets humans keep. What is that stranger sitting next to us on the bus hiding? Our neighbor? Our friend? Our lover? What impulses lurk behind expressions of devotion and fidelity? What impulses do we see when we look in the mirror? Most of us will never act on them, but they lurk there nevertheless. Waiting, for a crack, for a moment of weakness.
I liked how the first person point of view not only kept me in the dark for much of the novel, but kept me off-kilter and suspicious too. Like the town's inhabitants, everyone became a suspect for me as well, including the narrator himself. I did not trust him. I was never able to satisfactorily confirm his reliability. I was on my own, unnerved and watchful, plagued by feelings of dread, outrage, and melancholy.
Don't let the sleepy start in a sleepy town fool you. This book has teeth. For me, no one writes the mad psychology of small towns better than Stephen King. Dobyns makes a helluva case though. Fans of Donna Tartt's The Secret History may also enjoy this. (less)
GR friend Maciek recommended this book to me, and I highly recommend that you check out his most awesome review that does a brilliant job of capturing...more GR friend Maciek recommended this book to me, and I highly recommend that you check out his most awesome review that does a brilliant job of capturing this book's strengths. As for me, I knew very little about it save from what I could vaguely remember from the movie that's over ten years old now.
It's hard for me to classify this novel as anything other than "an experience". Parts of it are fun and breezy, others dark and depressing. Still others surreal and uncomfortable. It has adventure. It has epic creep. It has mind-bending elements that keep you off-kilter. The trick is that no matter what is happening or not happening on any given page, I was totally engrossed the entire time. Every time I came back to the book after a break BAM! I was right back on the beach, real life immediately falling away.
The buildup is slow and meticulous, yet never feels unnecessary. Garland concentrates on the minutiae of beach life to draw us in and make us more than just a voyeur, but a participant. It is a potent intimacy that allows us to see beach politics for what it really is. The descent as inevitable. The ending perhaps not all that surprising.
I love stories that delve into the mechanics and realities of group psychology. Who emerges as leader? As sycophant? As outsider? As threat? Remove any group far enough away from the rigorous checks and balances of "civilized society" and it's astonishing how quickly our moral compass can become "askew" at best, outright busted and broken at worst. Given enough time under the right stressors, humans can justify just about any aberrant behavior as necessary and essential. It what makes us so dangerous in war. (view spoiler)[The ease with which Richard is able to smother the long suffering Swede is chilling. He does it not out of an abiding empathy to end someone's pain, but to clear an obstacle to his escape plan. Jed won't leave if the Swede still breathes. Richard doesn't want to leave without Jed (which has more to do with Richard's ongoing obsession with Vietnam war movies and "leave no man behind" sentiments rather than real friendship). Ergo, Swede must die now. It makes me really wonder what Richard would have done if he had caught up to Karl before the surviving Swede was able to escape with the boat. (hide spoiler)]
Life on the beach did not repulse me, but I do not long for that kind of existence and cannot relate to that desire to cut oneself off from society, family, friends, history. Much of the novel reads like a dream, because once you enter into this way of life, your day to day melds, blends and becomes very dreamlike. Time is fluid and driven by the sun rather than timepieces or calendars. The characters - while fleshed out - are not knowable because they are not even knowable to one another (or even themselves). They are first names. They are nationalities. They are how many fish did you catch today. They are the last game of soccer, the last game of Tetris on Game Boy, the last joint twisted up and smoked. I would find that very lonely and off-putting. But I can also see how it can infect you, get into your bloodstream, and that once you found yourself "in it", you wouldn't want to leave. It would feel normal, and safe, and right and something to fiercely protect at all costs. Losing perspective is a frightening notion. But it happens, and when it happens it's too late. You don't know you've lost perspective, because you've lost perspective. See how that works?
There is an emotional element missing for me here because of this. I long to connect, and feel connected to characters and that just doesn't happen. That's the nature of the story and the ruthless and methodical way in which Garland writes it. I can respect that. Plus, Garland chooses Richard as the sole narrator. We just don't know how reliable he is, and we can only see the characters through his eyes, a very limited viewpoint indeed. The other aspect I'm left to ponder is (view spoiler)[the lack of sexuality. There are hints of people who have paired off, and the unrequited attraction Richard feels toward Francoise, but that's it. On a secluded beach of young, vibrant people at the peak of health and curiosity, why is this sensual component missing? Did Garland just not want to deal with it, or is it a deliberate omission? That part of coming to the beach and giving up so much of yourself means sacrificing that carnal element as well. As if you've been neutered, or given a chemical castration. Perhaps? I don't know. But I did find it odd and it left me scratching my head. (hide spoiler)]
My backpacking, hostel-sleeping days are behind me, and I don't miss them one bit. I wasn't an adventurous traveler even then. Much more cautious and boring than I would ever repeat now. The exotic seeking travelers, desirous of something completely alien, remain completely alien to me. I don't get that compulsion. But I wish them the very best on their epic adventures. Steer clear of the isolated lagoons and beach heads though. Perfection is an illusion, and a siren song. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
After reading Kemper's awesome review I knew I'd be getting to Preacher eventually -- now after having read the first volume I'm left wondering why th...more After reading Kemper's awesome review I knew I'd be getting to Preacher eventually -- now after having read the first volume I'm left wondering why the hell did I wait so long?!
It's bloody, gory grit and gasoline pulp Texas style, with demons and angels and a possessed preacher, an Irish vampire and a supernatural gunslinger known as the Saint of Killers -- who reminded me instantly of Roland Deschain crossed with Randall Flagg.
Something has gone very wrong in heaven: a terrifyingly powerful entity (the offspring of an angel and a demon known as Genesis) has escaped to earth and binds itself to a mortal man -- Jesse Custer (redneck preacher of a small Texas parish). Jesse needs answers fast as the dead bodies start to pile up around him and the po-po are hot on his tail. Joining him on his quest (and evasion of the law) will be his ex-girlfriend Tulip, and a ninety-something year old Irish vampire called Cassidy.
There's a vicious serial killer on the loose too just to keep things from, you know, getting boring.
The word from up on high is that God has left the building. Literally. Fucked off and left humans to fend for themselves. That's not going to stand for Jesse, and he's decided it's time to smoke God out of his hiding hole and get some answers. Maybe even a little payback, who knows? I surely don't, but I can't wait to find out.
Yeah so make no mistake: this thing is profane. It's violent. But there's an energy and an aliveness running through the story that's absolutely addictive. I can see why this series has stood the test of time (and will continue to do so I'm sure).
But don't take my word for it: in his introduction to the series Joe R. Lansdale calls Preacher "scary as a psychopathic greased gerbil with a miner's hat and a flashlight and your bare asshole in sight." Heh heh. An effective metaphor to make any butt clench up I'm sure. But this is what really got me:
Because there is only one PREACHER, a tale out of Ireland, dragged through Texas with a bloody hard-on, wrapped in barbed wire and rose thorns.
If that doesn't make you want to pick this series up then check your pulse, because you just might be dead.
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...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 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"]>(less)
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. (less)
It seems I'm always late to these things. Humans of New York had long existed as a blog with tens of thousands of loyal followers by the time I discov...moreIt seems I'm always late to these things. Humans of New York had long existed as a blog with tens of thousands of loyal followers by the time I discovered this book. It was a thrilling discovery all the same, and better late than never as the saying goes.
When I found out about the book I checked out the blog immediately starting about 10:30 at night. At 2 am I was still riveted. I literally could not stop looking. It's since become one of my newer addictions/obsessions. It appeals to the people watcher in me, to the girl who truly believes the right picture can be worth a thousand words, and the small town Canadian who imagines New York City as the epicenter of all that is gritty, inspiring, crazy and authentically human.
I think HONY is an inspired project by a beautiful mind. History told through the photographic lens has always been one of our most powerful, evocative mediums since its invention. I also love that Stanton has tried to put these photographs into some sort of context by the very human questions he asks of his subjects (and the illuminating -- sometimes heart-wrenching -- answers he receives).
If I'm ever stranded on a desert island, I want my copy of HONY to keep me tethered in some fundamental way to my human life and what it means to be human. (less)
Just on originality alone this book gets full four stars all fat and juicy -- I also had a rollicking good time reading it being that it's so goddamn...moreJust on originality alone this book gets full four stars all fat and juicy -- I also had a rollicking good time reading it being that it's so goddamn funny in parts and running on high-octane adrenaline in others. It's such a mish-mash of genres it left my head spinning in places, but at its core, after you strip away all the fun bells and whistles, this is a "noire-ish" hard-boiled detective story. There's an anti-hero on the run, trying to solve a mystery before time runs out, there's a best friend, a couple of beautiful women, some double-crossing and betrayal (and oh yeah, a few talking kitchen appliances thrown in for good measure!)
The wonderful thing about Smith's take on this "traditional" plot, is that he takes it to a whole new level and delivers it up with some crazy twists. The devil is in the detailed world-building. The "mystery" itself is pretty standard fare, it's the unraveling of it that's so very entertaining. And I really liked the characters, an unexpected bonus for a book that's so pulpy and plot-driven. The chemistry between Hap and best friend Deck is so very awesomely awesome -- Butch and Sundance worthy.
Smith's writing style is snappy and irreverent very much to the point. Here is one of my favorite examples:
Up until then the situation I found myself in had merely been disastrous. Now it had sailed blithely into a realm where adjectives didn't really cut it anymore. It would have taken a diagram to explain, one showing the intersection of a creek and some shit, and making clear the lack of any implement for promoting forward propulsion. Deck stared back at me. "You're fucked," he said.
Now what's not to like about that? :) If you're not completely sold, I would highly recommend you check out Stephen's fantastic review here: he will convince you where I have failed and make you fall over laughing to boot!(less)