I'm a self-identified horror addict and veteran of the genre. It takes A LOT to rattle my cage. This book? It is an unholy abomi SWEET UNHOLY JEBUS!!!!
I'm a self-identified horror addict and veteran of the genre. It takes A LOT to rattle my cage. This book? It is an unholy abomination - a dark, seething morass of gore and human depravity. It is not a fun read. But if you are so minded, it is a keenly compelling and profoundly disturbing one.
And now a word about this book's parentage. What unhinged mind gave birth to such a darkling monster?
There's this Canadian author Craig Davidson. You may have heard of him. He is a wonderful literary writer who has been nominated for prestigious awards, and one of his short stories has even been adapted into a critically acclaimed film. But Davidson has a dark side you see -- an alter ego that hijacks his more literary proclivities and pushes his writing into macabre and horrific territory.
Meet Nick Cutter, one of the most exciting things to happen to horror in the last decade. And he's CANADIAN. So just when you think we're all nice and polite and spend our days drinking Tim Horton's coffee and playing hockey, think again.
About being Richard Bachman (Stephen King's too short-lived alter ego) King quotes the late Donald Westlake referring to his very own alter ego Richard Stark: "I write Westlake stories on sunny days. When it rains. I'm Stark." For Davidson, I like to imagine the same rule applies. Sunny days he writes as Craig -- when it rains, Cutter takes over the writing room and anything goes. Anything.
But here's the twist (are you still with me?): before there was Cutter, there was this guy Patrick Lestewka -- and let's be clear here -- he makes Nick Cutter look like Mister Rogers. In fact, I think when Davidson realized he had this sub-id consciousness living inside of him -- this psycho "other" -- it scared the living shit out of him so much that he created Nick Cutter TO KILL Lestewka in an act of self-preservation. Who knows what would have happened if he hadn't? It doesn't bear pondering.
Lestewka had to die. Unlike the late, gone too soon Bachman, we will NOT mourn his passing. Instead we will breathe a sigh of relief, for it is a terrible, grotesque landscape in which he maneuvered, where he beckons us to come play, where the light never shines, where all hope is gone, and cruelty is the only currency.
Back in 2014, I shared a Q&A with Nick Cutter on my blog. I didn't know about Lestewka then, and now really wish I had because I would have loved to have gotten Cutter's take on the guy -- maybe even a confession of murder of the pseudonym! Ah well, there's always next time. ...more
I don't know how to describe the mad, dark, mash-up genius contained in the pages of Nick Cutter's upcoming release The Acolyte -- but I've found myse I don't know how to describe the mad, dark, mash-up genius contained in the pages of Nick Cutter's upcoming release The Acolyte -- but I've found myself in a similar state of speechlessness with other titles released by the incomparable ChiZine Publications. Their motto is Embrace the Odd and embrace it they do with abandon. ChiZine's book covers alone are enough to send this bibliophile into paroxysms of delight. Here are a few of my favorites:
ChiZine has also recently gotten into the graphic novel game and I adore this cover too:
Let me wrap up the fangirling over cover art to conclude that ChiZine is a wickedly weird and dangerous publishing house ruthlessly seeking out unique voices in speculative fiction. There is nothing safe or sanitized or boring about them. And while I'm not always in the mood to enter into the wacky landscapes they pimp, I'm very grateful that they exist, and very proud that they are Canadian.
Fans of either or both of those books should not expect the same kind of story in The Acolyte. I'm not surprised it was ChiZine who published it for him because it is an odd, intense mixture of horror, police procedural, dystopia, and noir. It is violent, contemplative, thematic, and disturbing. It's not a book you 'enjoy' or 'savor': it is one you endure and survive.
And that's all I'm going to say about it. Read the plot summary if you want, but it's not going to help prepare you for what lies in wait in its pages. If you are feeling adventurous and brave, and want a taste of something not so mainstream that will take you off the beaten path into a darker part of the forest, then by all means take The Acolyte home with you.
An advanced reading copy was provided by the publisher for review....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.
I've been a lifelong fan of horror and the older I get, it seems to me the harder it's getting t ***Now Available!***
Save your last breath to scream
I've been a lifelong fan of horror and the older I get, it seems to me the harder it's getting to scare me and to get my hands on the good stuff. One positive thing about this sad development is that it's forced me to venture out into other genres and try new things and find new loves. My first love however -- my one true love -- will always remain horror. It's in my DNA (literally probably because my parents were huge fans of things going bump in the night). I was weaned on the stuff, and on the stuff I shall die.
Why am I rambling thus? For a fan with such an unquenchable appetite for these matters, discovering newcomer Nick Cutter is the equivalent of venturing to the end of the rainbow and having a leprechaun hand you over his pot of gold. I'm so gobsmacked and excited by my good fortune (our good fortune) that I'm still in a bit of a dizzy fangirl spin. The only thing that could make this any better would be if this discovery heralded an ushering in of a whole new Golden Age for horror the likes of which not seen since the '80s. Yes? Please? C'mon now!
Well, whatever the case, Nick Cutter is doing his part penning two terrifying tales in two years, written to make grown women scream and grown men wet their pants. He's got the horror cred down; you don't have to read him too closely to see that he too was weaned on the stuff and inside his writer's heart beats the heart of a horror geek.
Reading The Deep I was put through quite the mental and emotional ringer. Between its covers some of my most vulnerable pulse points of fear were ruthlessly exploited. I was reminded of Sphere, The Thing, Event Horizon, and Alien. There's body horror that's going to remind you of early Cronenberg. And just when things start to feel familiar and you think you have a handle on it all, Cutter veers the story off into an angle of Weird that's psychologically trippy and very Lovecraftian in execution. And while this story is going to remind you of a lot of other things, it is still going to shock you and lay you down and have its way with you.
Nick Cutter is a pseudonym for a talented author who can write a mean literary novel and win prizes for them. But I'm selfish and insatiable. Now that he's ventured over to the dark side I want him to stay here and to play here forever, and ever and ever. Yeah, I'm a smitten kitten alright.
A free copy was provided through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Check out my review of Nick Cutter's debut fright fest -- The Troop.
This is a high three. High being the operative word here because the meth fumes wafting from its pages are strong enough to transmogrify the reader in This is a high three. High being the operative word here because the meth fumes wafting from its pages are strong enough to transmogrify the reader into a slavering crystal junkie. Buyer beware. If that's not enough, the uncompromising and relentless violence as well as the suffocating pall of dysfunctional rural living are such to jar anyone's safe suburban sensibilities and make you glad you're a city rat.
Matthew McBride is a welcome addition to the Rural Noir / Hick Lit crowd -- (i.e. Daniel Woodrell, Tom Franklin, Donald Ray Pollock and Frank Bill to name my favorites). McBride situates himself on the spectrum somewhere between the gorgeous prose of Woodrell and Franklin and the harsh chainsaw vernacular of Bill and Pollock. It is to McBride's disadvantage however, to be keeping company on the shelf with such esteemed writers who have proven their mettle. His inexperience and exuberancy to tell rather than show only serve to highlight some of the novel's weaknesses.
For all of that, there are singular awesome scenes in these pages, and the last forty are some messed up, edge-of-your-seat stuff. I will definitely be checking out more from Matthew McBride. ...more
It puzzles me -- and sometimes frustrates me to no end -- how or why some books get categorized/released as Young Adult. These days it seems the label It puzzles me -- and sometimes frustrates me to no end -- how or why some books get categorized/released as Young Adult. These days it seems the label has become so loosey-goosey all that's required is that there be a teen protagonist. Content, language, themes -- all of the meatier, important elements of any book are blithely ignored in the rush to market and movie deals.
There are definitely books that walk the hinterland -- the very, very outer reaches of YA and upon reading them you realize that there's way more 'Adult' in the pages than 'Young'. On any given Sunday it shouldn't really matter ....except for when it does. In the case of Scowler it makes me think about how many people will ignore it and miss out turned off by its YA label, and then it makes me think about the young teen readers who will lack the emotional maturity and mental resilience to process such a dark and disturbing tale.
Yes, it's that good and that dark. Patriarch Marvin Burke is as chilling and disturbing a villain as any I've encountered and belongs in the pages of a Frank Bill novel. The language is vibrant and pulsing -- a living, breathing thing:
The cracks in the dirt now yawned to proportions slutty with thirst...
There it was. A miracle, really, finding this speck of bone in a world of dust. There was a brown spot of blood on the tooth's root, and to Ry it seemed the encapsulation of the bum deal of life: a once-perfect thing plucked and bloodied and tossed to the dirt.
I had originally shelved this as 'horror' but am now removing it because while Scowler is horrific in parts, it has much more in common with realistic, gritty fiction that has a psychological underbelly.
Is it wrong to be totally fangirling over such depraved and bloody storytelling? Probably. But fuck it. I'm not going to apologize. PREACHER is like n Is it wrong to be totally fangirling over such depraved and bloody storytelling? Probably. But fuck it. I'm not going to apologize. PREACHER is like nothing else I've ever read or seen, crossing boundaries of decency and good taste while at the same time offering up compelling characters and kickass world building.
This volume brings together two very different storylines each with its own sense of brutality and redemption. The first half is the revelation of Jesse Custer's twisted and blood soaked past, a family tree steeped in abomination and cruelty, abuse and murder. It's anything but pretty, as heartbreaking as it is frightening and sickening. Having met evil incarnate Grandma L'Angelle and her trusty sadistic sidekicks Jody and T.C. I can say with all honesty I'd rather take my chances dining with Hannibal Lecter or spending the weekend with Leatherface.
The 'Angelville' subplot has a distinctive backwoods, Southern Gothic meets Deliverance vibe that reminded me a lot of today's redneck noir or hillbilly lit. It's gritty realism shot through with supernatural elements that play as straight and normal. None of those elements, including appearances by God and The Duke himself feel out of place or ridiculous. They're seamlessly woven into the story's patchwork without any self-consciousness whatsoever. They belong there, just like the Genesis entity riding Custer's ass imbuing him with the power to bend minds to his will and words.
Custer's ex, Tulip has a much more defining role in this volume. Actually, she's pretty awesome; I just hope she turns out to be more than just Jesse's snuggle bunny. The vampire Cass also returns in all his drunken Irish glory injecting much needed comic relief. The scene with the cat and the toilet made me howl. Bad kitty!
The second half of this volume is quite the departure from the first, introducing a whole new cast of characters including a super secret religious group known as the Grail (think Da Vinci Code) and a pasty white, rich lunatic who could pass for Caligula calling himself Jesus De Sade. If the first half is rural The Walton's meets The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the second half is all urban decay and hedonism. It's the last days of Sodom and Gomorrah in 20th century America and Jesse Custer is all tangled up in the thick of it, whether he wants to be or not.
And oh yeah, he's still got that bone to pick with God, now more than ever.
Do I want more PREACHER? You're goddam right I do.
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 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.
First of all, when Stephen King goes out of his way to blurb a book, I pay attention. About The Troop he says:
"This is old-school horror at its best.
First of all, when Stephen King goes out of his way to blurb a book, I pay attention. About The Troop he says:
"This is old-school horror at its best. Not for the faint-hearted, but for the rest of us sick puppies, it's a perfect gift for a winter night."
I'm a sick puppy! Right away, I perk up like one of those Pointer dogs on the scent. Secondly, the book description refers to The Troop as Lord of the Flies meets The Ruins. Oh yeah! You just pressed two of my book buttons right there. I'm lighting up and going off all over the damn place.
So yeah, Stephen King is not lying or exaggerating. This book IS NOT for the faint-hearted. It's for the sick puppies -- it will make you squirm and gag and cringe and hold on for dear life. It will also creep you the fuck out and make your skin crawl off in self defense. Your skin may never speak to you again actually.
I usually run an image free zone in my reviews, but for this book, I'm hoping a picture speaks a thousand words.
Here are some of the faces this book made me make:
Get the picture? I'm a horror veteran, and let me tell you, this book scarred me. There are scenes I will NEVER forget. If they invented brain bleach tomorrow, it still couldn't erase the shock and ewww and WTF? from my mind.
Five stars for totally creeping me out and giving me a raging case of heebie jeebies. I could not put this book down and I will be recommending it to other sick puppies. Plus, I actually CARED about the characters. Newt!!! And perhaps (view spoiler)[having one of the boys turn out to be a bonafide animal torturing sociopath is a bit of overkill, but so what? I admire the author's commitment to grab you by the throat, full-throttle storytelling. (hide spoiler)]
Nick Cutter is a great pseudonym for a horror writer. Let's hope we hear more from him in the future.
A free copy was provided by the publisher through NetGalley for an honest review.
This review has been posted at Busty Book Bimbo where you can also find my Q&A with the author Nick Cutter. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Even though this is my first Tony Burgess read, I'm not exactly a Burgess virgin. He's a bit of a cult figure in Canada, thanks largely in part to the Even though this is my first Tony Burgess read, I'm not exactly a Burgess virgin. He's a bit of a cult figure in Canada, thanks largely in part to the iconic zombie flick Pontypool, based on his novel Pontypool Changes Everything. Confession time: I've seen the movie (it's brilliant), but I never got around to reading Burgess's book. Or anything else by him either. Until now.
Sweet Jebus. I was dimly aware of his reputation as a gore master, a mad splatter genius who frequently pushes boundaries of decency and sanity every chance he gets. It's a reputation well-deserved. Reminiscent of another iconic Canadian's early work -- David Cronenberg -- Burgess delves into body horror in such a way to disarm the reader and distress the shit out of you.
It's not a mere gross out that's easily dismissed as senseless pulp either, but an exercise in relentless brutality that leaves you mentally and emotionally floundering. In a lot of ways, reading The n-Body Problem reminded me of Kafka's The Metamorphosis because I was left feeling similarly shuddering and sad. (view spoiler)[The narrator's fate as an armless, legless torso mummy wrapped and encased in glass is a metamorphosis that leads to much the same kind of alienation and dehumanization experienced by Gregor Samsa. Except the ultimate fate of the narrator here is so much worse, if such horrors can indeed be quantified. (hide spoiler)]
This isn't a book I would easily recommend. It's Grade A disturbing, and very much not nice. I repeat: This is not a nice book. It doesn't want to hold your hand, or stroke your hair. Or make you laugh and feel better about life's absurdities. It wants to show you something very dark and nasty, about humans, about death, about our fear of death and extinction. Approach with caution -- and a very strong stomach. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Holy moses, I just knew I was being set up in the last volume. I knew it!!! My momma didn't r
Holy moses, I just knew I was being set up in the last volume. I knew it!!! My momma didn't raise no fools.
But that hurt. A lot. You'd think I'd be so numb by now that nothing would really get past my defenses anymore but apparently I can still be shivved, right in the back and fall to my knees screaming. (view spoiler)[Watching Glen go out like that was brutal. It really tore me up. (hide spoiler)]
This new baddie Negan is a real piece of psychotic work. He makes the Governor look like a misunderstood, tree-hugging hippie who just wishes the kids these days would stay off his damn lawn.
Where can the story possibly go from here? (view spoiler)[Watching Rick break was tough. I know he's told the community they're rolling over...for now, but he's obviously got something else planned. That last panel when he sends Jesus to follow the baddie back to Negan's camp to spy and gather intelligence tells us that. Living as slaves is no option. Something has to be done, and you can bet it's going to involve A LOT more bloodshed. Even if Rick's group triumphs against all odds over these animals, what would they have really won? Won't there always be another Governor or Negan around the corner? Wiping the zombies off the planet is an easier task I figure than neutralizing all the psychos. (hide spoiler)]
Bottom line, this book has *a lot* to recommend it: it is a dark, dream-like, post-apocalyptic landscape with sharp turns and compelling plot twists. Bottom line, this book has *a lot* to recommend it: it is a dark, dream-like, post-apocalyptic landscape with sharp turns and compelling plot twists. I experienced a few moments of genuine shock (remarkable for a jaded reader like myself) and not once did I ever want to stop reading. I just had to know how it was all going to come out. The only way to really know if this book is for you is to go on this journey with Zoe, our narrator, and see for yourself.
This is one of those books that when I finished it, I sat for a moment and didn't know quite what to do with myself, pondering "what the hell did I just read?"
Zoe is a difficult narrator to get to know. She speaks and thinks in metaphors and similes (more on that later). Part of her story is constructed of remembrances of things past -- the THEN -- the other half is told in urgent tones of events unfolding in the moment -- the NOW. While Zoe's story is sympathetic, it took me a long while to warm up to her, even when the only religion she has in this dead and deformed new world is to hold on to the last remnants of her humanity. This means rushing in to "do the right thing" even when the choice to do so is stupid, dangerous or even meaningless.
But her compulsion brings some interesting people into her fractured life, and some monsters as well.
About those metaphors and similes? This is probably what irritated me the most about the book, for if a strong-willed editor had cut half of the flowery phrases from the myriad of thousands to choose from I could see myself giving the novel four stars no problem. Unfortunately, all of the "like a" and "as a" sentences often took me right out of the story, standing out like heavy oak coffee tables that you stub your toe on in the middle of the night (see what I did there?)
Not all of the language in this book makes you want to howl and curse in pain. Some of it is quite beautiful, poetic, startling even. It creates a pall over the story, a tension and a mystery. Zoe's dreamlike narration made me feel like I was moving through heavy water. When the jolts come (and they do, trust me), they really bite you because you've been lulled into a state of complacency.
I did warm up to Zoe eventually, and I keened for a happy ending. White Horse is the first book of a planned trilogy, but the good news is, it ably stands as a complete and satisfying story for those readers wary of committing to yet another series. ...more
The first time I killed someone I wasn't paid for it. ~Something You Are, Hanna Jameson
Meet Nic Caruana. Actually, you better hope you never meet Ni
The first time I killed someone I wasn't paid for it. ~Something You Are, Hanna Jameson
Meet Nic Caruana. Actually, you better hope you never meet Nic Caruana because if you do it likely means you are in for a world a hurt: perhaps some disfigurement...creative mutilation...and only if you're really lucky, a quick death.
Nic is your average English bloke just trying to make a living on the mean streets of London's underbelly. He's not a psychopath, but he is a murderer for hire. He's done some very bad things that he doesn't really feel all that bad about. He can be brutal, detached, ruthless. But he remains human and interesting and sympathetic. He is estranged from his normal, suburban parents, his junkie sister, and a war hero brother flying helicopters in Afghanistan.
Nic was a good kid until something very bad happened to him. Now he isn't good any more.
To all my crime loving GR friends out there, this is a fresh new voice in the genre to make your toes curl. It's noir that's black as night, with pages that bleed violence so in your face you can hear the bones cracking. The dialogue is sharp as razor blades, not only moving the plot forward at an adrenalized rush, but constructing flesh and blood characters right out of the ether one word at a time.
And are you ready for this? In a genre that's predominantly male territory, Something You Are was written by a slip of a girl who drafted Nic's story when she was just 17 years old. Now she's an old maid at 23, but she's got at least two more London Underground books drafted and I can only hope we see them sooner rather than later.
I will warn off more sensitive readers: this book features a lot of graphic violence and is set firmly in London's unforgiving, unsentimental crime scene of amoral people breaking all kinds of laws along with a shitload of bones. But goddammit, it's pretty damn fine storytelling. A punch to the kidneys, an uppercut to the chin, and I think I'll have an Irish whiskey and a fag now, thanks very much.
Holy shit snacks, people. This book is intense!!! I need a moment to compose myself. But there will be a review.
I was already familiar with Frank BilHoly shit snacks, people. This book is intense!!! I need a moment to compose myself. But there will be a review.
I was already familiar with Frank Bill's writing after surviving a close encounter with his debut -- the short story collection Crimes In Southern Indiana. Upon finishing those stories, my only thought was: "Jesus Christ, this man is a lunatic" -- and then immediately, "I want more!" For sure the stories are raw and unpolished, and perhaps a little too overeager to tell rather than show, but there is also an urgency, a ferocity to the writing that refuses to be ignored. It's so in your face that at times it feels like an assault. I loved it!
So you can bet when I heard this guy was about to publish his first novel I became very afraid, and very, very obsessed with getting my hands on it to read it.
Usually my eyes tend to glaze over and ignore most book blurbs because they always seem so generic and at their worst, sycophantic. But at their best, book blurbs can capture in a few short phrases the very tail of the beast itself and show you its face. As much as I loathe the majority, there are some that do their job so well, they deserve to be recognized along with the book they're blurbing. I only say this now to emphasize that Bill has attracted the attention of authors I love and respect and if you're not going to listen to me when I say this guy's the real deal, then maybe you'll listen to them:
Donnybrook is vivid in its violence, grim in its grimness. It reams the English language with a broken beer bottle and lets the blood drops tell the story. -- Daniel Woodrell, (Winter's Bone)
With action like a belt across the face and vivid prose like a stroke up the neck, Frank Bill's astonishing novel...renders you punch-drunk. Here's the writer to watch: mad, bad, and dangerous to know. Megan Abbott, (Dare Me)
I also like this one by Bonnie Jo Campbell: "Don't poke this book with a stick or you'll make it angry." And trust me -- you won't like this book when it's angry. Goodreads friend Jacob writes in his review:
something this good should be illegal, because the act of hunting down a banned copy and hiding from the censors and morality police to read it is the only goddamn way it could get any better. Donnybrook is a relentless, no-holds-barred, total fucking mind-fuck of endless violence...
Yeah, like that. But now you're looking at me tapping your foot impatiently saying: "Yeah, but what the hell is this book about?" I could give you the plot summary lowdown -- about bare-knuckle fighting in the backwoods of Southern Indiana, about desperate family man Jarhead Johnny Earl who's going to steal a thousand dollars to cover the entry fee into the infamous annual Donnybrook tournament.
Then there's meth-making brother and sister Angus (nickname Chainsaw) and Liz who put the F.U.N. in family dysfunction. They've just lost their last batch of dope and are determined to recoup their losses, no matter who gets in their way, even if it means each other. Like any great rural crime story, you've got the steely, determined deputy Sheriff following a trail of dead bodies into a trap he has no idea lays in wait for him. Last but not least, there's Chinese "collection agent" Fu, who's about as badass a dude as you're ever going to meet. He is awesome.
This mad, manic mélange of murderers, misfits and miscreants will eventually descend upon the Donnybrook -- a three day stint of brawling, booze and drugs run by a man named McGill, who makes the Governor from the Walking Dead comics look like Mr. Rogers. But it's not about the final destination folks, but the journey to get there, and (to quote one of my favorite movie taglines ever): who will survive and what will be left of them. Reading this book I couldn't help but be reminded of the lucid insanity of some of Tarantino's best work -- the ensemble characters, the multiple plot threads, and how it all comes crashing together in the end with defined, divine purpose. Hells yeah, people. This is the good shit. Heisenberg grade blue.
Frank Bill is a writer you want to watch. You can find out more about him at his blog House of Grit or follow him on Twitter @HouseofGrit. And as my mama always told me -- never trust a man with two first names.
a post-apocalyptic zombie soap opera, where the soap is made out of lye. The story is harsh -- almost nihilistic in its way -- extremely violent, and peppered throughout with characters hooking up in almost sure to be doomed relationships.
Now, after wading through another 1068 pages of Compendium 2 I can't say much has changed.
Other than the fact I'm completely, utterly exhausted from all the carnage and devastation.
Seriously guys, when this series goes dark side it does not fuck around. It is bleak goddammit, B-L-E-A-K. Surviving the zombies is the easy part; it's all the crazy, fucked-up, out to slice and dice you and take what you have humans with Grade A mental issues that Rick's gang has to worry about the most. It's one tragedy heaped upon one depravity after another. And what does it do to a person to take on the savages and repel them? End them? Mutilate them? It's certainly changed Rick from the man we first came to know in the first few issues. It's most definitely changed little Carl (who is starting to creep me out a little bit truth be told). In some ways, all the survivors have been carved into new animals by forces beyond their control.
It's good. It keeps the pages turning most of the time, but it can become positively grueling and yes, even a bit repetitive at times, over the long haul. Especially if you're a pig like me and devour the story in huge non-stop helpings. (view spoiler)[The big shocker for me this time was Carl getting half his head blown off. My jaw literally dropped open. But then he survives, and I mean, nothing against the kid, but I felt cheated. I felt like Kirkman was out and out cheating. That's the kind of thing that happens on soap operas all the time and we roll our eyes. I'm surprised there wasn't an "experimental" brain transplant tried or some such thing. (hide spoiler)]
What's more, I find myself missing characters introduced in the television show -- namely Carol, Daryl and even Merle. It really sucks not to have those guys around and I find the story is suffering from their absence. Michonne however, continues to be kick-ass and delightful. She is the saving grace of this entire series character wise if you ask me, reminding me of Agent 355 from Y: The Last Man series. I like Glenn too, but I find Maggie really whiny most of the time. I should be more forgiving I suppose considering everything the poor thing has been through.
So the series is not without problems. By issue #96, it's starting to repeat itself and Kirkland needs to get serious about wrapping this baby up. Go out on a high note, man. Some are already saying you've stayed too long at the party. The goal should be for the narrative to remain fresh and bloody and vital. The gore should still feel wet on the pages. Unfortunately, it's starting to feel like a limping, dessicating zombie. I've given it my all, I've suspended my disbelief where I had to, and I would argue this remains required reading in the genre; however, let's end it. It's time. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Yowzers, this is some pretty sick, disturbing shit, but I'm not going to label it 'torture porn'. The Fallen Boys avoids that fate by offering: 1) a s Yowzers, this is some pretty sick, disturbing shit, but I'm not going to label it 'torture porn'. The Fallen Boys avoids that fate by offering: 1) a solid story that takes its time to unfold and 2) strongly developed characters who I spent pretty much the entire novel scared to death for their safety.
The tension throughout the story is coiled and lethal. While there are a few uneven parts where the momentum lags for a bit and seems to meander, overall it is a pacing that builds, and builds and continues to build towards a crashing climax. At times I couldn't move my eyes fast enough across the page just to get to the next scene and towards some sense of light and hope. Let me end the suspense right now -- there is no light and hope. I'm sorry if you think that's spoilery, but I want you to know what you're up against before you pick it up. This book is unrelentingly dark and damaged and absolutely merciless as it moves towards its final destination. I also loved that there were a few twists thrown into this story that I didn't quite see coming.
The ending -- argh!!!!! (view spoiler)[Did everyone have to die? Really? Throw me a bone here. I was SO UPSET at the utter carnage. Even Marshall dies, right? The rats get him. What a way to go! Oh wait, we should assume there is one survivor: When Jenn Kyoto stumbles out of the forest and meets Joe he takes her to the police station. I don't think he would have done that if he had killed her or was going to kill her. So amen, one survivor. (hide spoiler)]
While not quite as strong as these horror classics of the same ilk, this book could keep company with The Summer I Died, The Girl Next Door, and Let's Go Play At The Adams'. That is the highest compliment I can pay, believe me. If you have the stomach and nerves for dark, damaged and desperate, this is the book for you. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...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.
Yowza, wowzers, and woot! woot! This book -- a mad collaboration from four horror gods (small 'g') -- is this cat's meow (or as they say where I comeYowza, wowzers, and woot! woot! This book -- a mad collaboration from four horror gods (small 'g') -- is this cat's meow (or as they say where I come from -- it's all that and a bag of chips).
It was going to take a lot for this book to impress me for the simple reason that vampires of late have become...meh for me. As monsters meant to inspire horror they have been done to death it seems. Not to mention they have suffered an incredible disservice in recent years both on film and in print (yeah, I'm looking at you Ms. Meyer). There just hasn't been anything really new or fresh tried either. It's either you're sparkling and pouty and misunderstood, or it's waaay back to the Stoker tradition of a debonair, aristocratic abomination that abhors garlic and crucifixes.
Don't get me wrong: I haven't always felt this disillusioned. I love 'Salem's Lot and I am Legend. I went through a huge Lestat phase in my early 20s. The Lost Boys remains one of my favorite movies of all time, and I love Steve Niles' re-imagining of vampires in his graphic novel series 30 Days of Night (the movie is pretty kick-ass too).
Despite that, I've stopped 'looking for love' with vampires. Even del Toro's The Strain underwhelmed me. So I had doubts with this one, I really did, but thanks to two awesome reviews filled with squee here on goodreads by Stephen and Daniel, I decided to throw my doubts aside and dive in.
This is about the most self-indulgent fun I've had in bleems! Draculas hits just the right note of gorror-ific combined with pee your pants scary that's doused with a gallon of can't help but giggle here even though that's beyond messed up and so wrong (I can't tell you how many times I cringed and burst out laughing at the same time (view spoiler)[1. the balloon animals made out of intestines, 2. the baby eating its way out of mom's stomach, 3. all the scenes involving self-mutilation, cannibalism and auto-cannibalism. (hide spoiler)] Remember the first time you ever saw The Evil Dead? Oh yeah baby, that's what I'm talking about!
So yeah, this book is tremendous fun, awesomely gory, written with a frantic energy that keeps the pages turning. Another thing worth praising is the way this novel is a completely mad mash-up of a whole bunch of horror elements; it's like the authors took vampire stories, along with zombies, werewolves and aliens, threw them into a blender and spit out this mish-mash of pure chaos and entertainment. I recognized about 100 shout-outs to other books and movies, but at the end of it all, this book stands as its own original. The authors tried things here I don't think I've seen tried anywhere else. The way the teeth are described though made me think of this from 1985's Fright Night: c'mon, gimme a kiss!
The ensemble cast is fun too, and added a lot to the story's enjoyment. If it weren't for such a large cast and getting to know the group -- I loved that the narrative kept changing pov -- it just would have been a ho-hum affair about a bunch of lunatic infected running rabid through an enclosed space (which has been done a 1000 times). Not only do we get pov from the good guys, we get the story from the side of the infected too. I really appreciated that and the decision to do so added great entertainment value. Highly recommended!!!!!!
P.S. I paid three dollars for the eBook and there's really no way to express how much bang I got for my buck. The eBook also contains mega extras that make this title worth so much more. My thanks to Stephen and Daniel on this one. Ain't goodreads grand?
P.P.S. Stephen, I am a woman of my word. You have earned yourself a shelf, sir. :)
This review also appears at Shelf Inflicted.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This is my second go-around with this sprawling, epic compendium in preparation for tackling the follow-up. I'm so glad I did a re-read because thereThis is my second go-around with this sprawling, epic compendium in preparation for tackling the follow-up. I'm so glad I did a re-read because there was a lot I had plain forgotten and much more I had gotten tangled-up with the television series. Only reading the source material again, did I realize just how much the producers of the show actually changed from Kirkman's comic. The fundamentals of the story are essentially the same, but the devilish details have undergone quite a makeover. I have to say, as much as I'm a fan of the comic, most of the changes I approve of and in some cases, even prefer.
Carol's character is much more likeable and awesome on the small screen (certainly not as needy and neurotic as comic book Carol). The invention of Daryl (my favorite on-screen character) and his uber-violent, redneck brother Merle (played oh-so-convincingly by Michael Rooker), have been magnificent contributions to the ensemble cast.
(view spoiler)[I definitely prefer Lori's on-screen death (grisly and upsetting as it was), to the comic's quick gut-shot death (even though that was quite shocking in its own way with little Judith in her arms). I'm glad they didn't put Dale and Andrea together in the show, though I do wish they hadn't made Andrea so unlikable. Her character in the comic is kick-ass and great. On the show? Grrrrr... I want to smack her most of the time.
It remains to be seen what they will do with Michonne's character but I'm glad the show did not go as dark and disturbing as the comic with what happened between her and the Governor. That was some sick shit I did not need to ever read or see. Loved how the show handled it overall. Television Michonne seems more together and not as damaged. She's not talking to voices in her head either (at least not yet). (hide spoiler)]
The Walking Dead launched in the fall of 2003 and shows no signs of wrapping up. Kirkman has created a post-apocalyptic zombie soap opera, where the soap is made out of lye. The story is harsh -- almost nihilistic in its way -- extremely violent, and peppered throughout with characters hooking up in almost sure to be doomed relationships. Because really, no one is safe, and you come to terms with that pretty quickly. Kirkman is not fucking around here. He has a vision and you just know it’s going to involve a lot of gore and heartbreak. No one should feel safe with zombies gnawing at the door and the world collapsing in on itself -- and you will not feel safe reading this series.
Rather than take years to ingest this story -- painstakingly patient -- issue by issue -- I gorged unapologetically over a gluttonous three days. This 1088 page compendium weighs nearly five pounds, and it was a bitch to maneuver in bed at night, but to get so much of the story so quickly was worth it. I’m not one of those people that can eat her chocolates one a day; quite often it’s the whole box in one sitting stomach ache be damned! This first compendium collects up to issue #48 (Book Four in hardcover or Volume Eight in soft).
The Walking Dead is archetype apocalyptic zombie horror. The story gripped me, shook me, unsettled me and left me panting for more, but make no mistake, there is nothing original here (at least not yet). The zombies are your average grasping, gnawing, slow-moving creatures seen in any Romero movie. The survivors are shell-shocked, hardened, weary and a bit mad (as you would expect). At the collapse of civilization as we know it, people begin doing whatever they have to do to survive, and that ain’t always pretty. The strong begin preying on the weak, and when the worst of human nature begins to reveal itself, survivors realize the zombies are the least of their problems in this new world order.
I thought a graphic novel about zombies cast in black and white would look dull and lifeless on the page. I now think color would have been overkill in this case, detracting from the story. The art is simply outstanding – emotions and action, both subtle and in your face, are captured perfectly. The violence is extreme and I was not prepared for that (don’t ask me why). It takes a lot to shock me these days, and there are sequences that did just that. (view spoiler)[Totally did not see the rape and torture of Michonne coming. I really thought there would be a last minute reprieve / rescue. And if I didn’t see that coming, you know I didn’t expect Michonne to turn the tables on the Governor and mutilate his body. Gruesome stuff! But very well-presented. It felt earned not gratuitous. Lori’s death, along with the baby, shocked me too. Like holy moses batman, that was intense and so unexpected. (hide spoiler)]
While the unrelenting nature of the story appealed to me, I cannot say I’ve fallen in love with any of the characters. Don’t get me wrong – these are well-developed, flawed beings whose actions and motivations seem all too real. However, for me, there is a coldness present that prevented me from really warming up to anyone, even the “hero” of this story, Rick Grimes. I felt the same way when I read Stephen King’s The Stand – epic story by a master, but no character stole my heart.
This won’t keep me from reading on in the series though, because I HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. Everything ends on such a OMFG note that I felt assaulted and struck mute. Sweet. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Okay, let me be up-front about this ...no bullshitting ... Endurance is some sick and twisted shit. Some of the sickest and twisted-est shit I've readOkay, let me be up-front about this ...no bullshitting ... Endurance is some sick and twisted shit. Some of the sickest and twisted-est shit I've read in a very long time. BUT ... and this is an important "but" folks ... Endurance is also solidly written, sublimely creepy in parts, with characters you can root for and other characters you can hate. And that's what saves this novel from the unsavory pit of mere torture porn.
In a recent documentary, Stephen King makes a very interesting point about graphic violence and horror. This is how he distinguishes 'torture porn': there are times when we are reading/watching to see the monster killed, and there are other times when we are reading/watching to see the monster kill. It may seem like a nebulous distinction, but I think he hit the nail right on the head. That's why the latter makes us feel so dirty; King refers to it as "morally queasy".
In most horror, we want the monster to be slain, we want the good guys to prevail. Bad shit can happen along the way, but the monster should not become the hero. We root for the victims, we do not root for the sick motherfucker and the pain and carnage he/she/it is inflicting. That's the difference between the first movie in a franchise, and the last movie in a franchise; in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, Freddy is the monster and we want him stopped. By number 5, we're there to see what kind of sick shenanigans he can come up with next, knowing full well that the victims are now fodder to support his starring role. Suddenly, he's the guy we're cheering for (well, sort of, but I hope my point is clear).
Don't get me wrong, I'm just as guilty as the next person. I've watched all the SAW movies as each has degenerated more and more into gratuitous violence. But none of them will ever be as satisfying as the original, when I really, really wanted those two guys to survive and slay the monster (before Jigsaw started getting top billing and the best trailer).
More to the point (and I've said this many times before), I don't scare if I don't care. Give me characters I can care about and suddenly I start fretting for their well-being and safety. I don't want to see them hurt (no matter how imaginatively), I don't want them to die. I want them to survive and for the monster to be slain.
Endurance has a surprisingly large cast of characters for this type of story, and I actually liked them all. I wanted them all to survive and I definitely wanted these freakazoid, in-bred monsters tormenting them to be stopped. There is nothing original here (it’s got Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Wrong Turn all over it, not to mention an unforgettable X-Files episode called “Home”), but Kilborn still manages to give it a nice, ruthless twist of his own. The devil is in the details, yes?