This was a really cool story idea and a fun read. I'm a huge fan of classic horror, particularly really creepy ghost stories. While this is aOverview
This was a really cool story idea and a fun read. I'm a huge fan of classic horror, particularly really creepy ghost stories. While this is a modern published book, it has a favorably classic vibe. The ghosts in this book are portrayed in the most harmful of ways. They aren't just shades who have forgotten they are dead and harmlessly roam the world of the living. Instead, they have great potential for injuring and even killing humans. As a result of the "Problem", a huge rash of ghost hauntings that no one can explain, a group of organizations have been created to confront this issue. Because children have heightened senses and abilities to perceive the ghosts, they are used to do most of this dangerous work, under the supervision of adults.
Antony Lockwood has decided to cut out the middleman. He started an agency of his own, with no adult supervision. His one partner is George, but he interviews and takes on Lucy as an assistant. Lucy has a troubled past work experience in the north, where most of her crew were killed in a haunting that turned out to be worse than it seems. She decided to take off on her own and ends up in London to find a place with the big ghost-hunting agencies. She has gone from agency to agency, rejected as an employee, but finds a home with Lockwood and Co.
Each child has distinctive abilities. Lucy is able to hear the dead, and she also can touch things and feel the emotions of the person who owned the object. Lockwood can see death glows (where people were violently killed) and has very keen eyesight for spectral information. George is a superb researcher. Together, they make quite a team. However, the government agency who oversees hauntings has it in for them, because they don't like the idea of children going off on their own dealing with ghosts.
Lucy forms a strange connection to the spirit of a murdered girl (a fifty-year-old unsolved murder case) in a local house. They barely escape her vengeful ghost alive, but the house is burned as a result. The resulting fine and bill from the owners could put them out of business. When a wealthy industrialist hires them to investigate his very dangerous haunted mansion, they can't say no. Even if the whole situation seems mighty fishy.
I listened to the audiobook, narrated by British actress Miranda Raison (she was on MI-5), and her voice was excellent. She has good pitch, and is talented at modifying her voice for both male and female voices. Also, able to convey anger, menace, age, pomposity, and humor by varying her voice. Each character sounds different. I would recommend listening to this, because it feels even more eerie in the audio form.
The writing is very good. I am a big fan of juvenile/middle grade stories because they are imaginative and are designed to keep a readers interest (young readers tend to have a shorter attention span). I especially like the ones that demand the attention of the reader, and stimulate their curiosity and intellect. Such is the case with this book. Stroud had taken the tried and true subject of ghosts, and given it a unique spin. I love the fact that he has created plenty of fictional references from the leading ghost hunters of the original time of the inception of Ghost Hunting. The kids consult these books and apply the crucial knowledge gained to do their work and keep themselves alive. Not only does Stroud add layers to the concept of hauntings, he gives it his own spin, with the idea of things like 'ghost-touched' and "death-glow". I also like how he elaborates on the various accoutrements of ghost-hunting and protection against ghosts.
The tension is very well done. The encounters with ghosts build in such a way to keep the reader on the edge of her seat. Each encounter is progressively more scary, and the trio's experiences in the haunted manor is not something you'd want to read before bedtime. It's kind of freaky and disturbing to think that children are put in these dangerous situations, while adults sit by on the sidelines and stay safe! But the kids are best equipped to see the ghosts, so they can act quicker and more decisively in hauntings.
I definitely recommend "The Screaming Staircase" to fans of ghosts literature of all ages. I think this book is intelligent enough to satisfy both an older and younger reader, and as I said earlier, it has a nice old school ghost story vibe that would make the Patriarch of the genre, MR James proud.
This book was a pleasure to read. The atmosphere is so classic Victorian and Gothic, the humor hit the mark, and while I wasn't sure about how successThis book was a pleasure to read. The atmosphere is so classic Victorian and Gothic, the humor hit the mark, and while I wasn't sure about how successful using real-life writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and playwright Oscar Wilde as a crime-solving duo would be, it turns out to be perfect. Wilde's wit was exactly what I expected and Doyle is just as lovable as his creation. I definitely recommend this book to those who are Victoriana-inclined, and who like classic/Gothic horror.
A good tertiary addition to the Baltimore graphic novel series. Readers who love classic horror fiction can't help but enjoy this series, and this oneA good tertiary addition to the Baltimore graphic novel series. Readers who love classic horror fiction can't help but enjoy this series, and this one just cements the classic horror sensibility of the work by Mignola and Golden. Forgive the pun, but they are a bit of a Golden Team for me. I think their writing is seamless where I can't figure out which part Mignola wrote and what was written by Golden. The artwork is sober and dark in color, matching the unrelenting darkness of the literary tone of the stories. Baltimore is a lone hunter who travels with one goal in mind: finding Haigus, the vampire who turned him and destroyed his family. Along the way, he will destroy evil he encounters. His relationship with God is complicated. He still calls him Lord, but he has a palpable anger towards Him. Baltimore seethes with it. He shakes his fists at God, but doesn't curse him. He only asks that he be left alone to seek his vengeance. To my mind, God manages for him to be in the right place at the right time, a fierce warrior against darkness and evil creatures of all kinds. I am not saying I like an invincible hero all the time, but I appreciate how Baltimore always ends up in tight spots where I would expect him to be a goner, but he manages to survive, even if he adds a few more scars to the landscape of his body and face.
It's hard to rate this as a good book, in the sense that it's not at all feel-good. It's very depressing in a lot of ways. The vampire plague has left destruction in every place, and all manner of foul creatures prey on the humans who manage to survive the plague and aren't turned into vampires. So, no, it's not an uplifting read. However, the writing and the artwork are beautiful and has a penetrating effect on me as I read. An excellent example of how successful the graphic novel medium can be for storytelling. And since I don't get to read much Gothic/classic horror, lately, it satisfies my palate for the stories in a quick reading format, and the art-lover/artist in me.
I'm ever so grateful that I am able to get this from my library. These volumes would cost a pretty penny to buy new.
So, yes, I do recommend it to readers who aren't averse to a dark read. It's violent and at times visceral, but not at all over the top or graphic. As I said earlier in the review, it has the Gothic and Classic horror sensibility that any fans of 18th-early 20th century horror will appreciate.
Although rather gruesome, I think this would appeal to fans of classic horror, such as Dracula and The Were-Wolf. Quite dark and morose, so be warned.Although rather gruesome, I think this would appeal to fans of classic horror, such as Dracula and The Were-Wolf. Quite dark and morose, so be warned.
Joe Golem and the Drowning City is a lovely sort of homage to HP Lovecraft and the Jewish golem folklore tradition. One wonders how they can exist togJoe Golem and the Drowning City is a lovely sort of homage to HP Lovecraft and the Jewish golem folklore tradition. One wonders how they can exist together harmoniously in the same work, but Mignola and Golden do exactly that.
New York City is a very different place from the one we know and love in this book. Some sort of ecological disaster turned half of the city into what is essentially a Venetian-like, water-logged environment. Downtown flooded, and those who lived there are cut off from the denizens of Uptown and forced to fend for themselves. Like humans are apt and known to do, they adapt to a semi-aquatic lifestyle, living on the top floors of the taller buildings, constructing bridges and mazeways between buildings and using watercrafts to navigate the flooded streets.
This novel is initially about two of its citizenry: An elderly magician named Felix Orlov, who can communicate with the dead, and his unofficially adopted daughter, fourteen-year-old, redheaded, former street kid, Molly McHugh. Their somewhat harmonious lifestyle is brutally interrupted when strange, inhuman creatures abduct Felix, failing to capture Molly when she is saved by a big, rough-looking man named Joe. Joe is special, more than they realize initially. His colleague is the ancient British gentleman, Simon Church, a man who has adapted his failing organs with mechanical parts (added a steampunk-like flair to the story). He also uses a mix of science, machinery, and magic to monitor the supernatural barometer of the city. He happens to detect a very large spike in activity the day that Felix is kidnapped, and Molly teams up with them both to find out what happened to Felix and to save him and save the world in the process.
This is a rather solemn tale. Joe's past is very tortured, and along with Simon's regrets about the past, and Felix's special legacy, the storyline is fairly dark. Molly is a spunky and energetic young woman, who's seen more bad things than a person of her age should. She has trouble trusting, with good reason. We feel her pain as she is helpless against forces that pull the man who is as close to a father to her as any man could be away from her by events beyond their control.
In addition to the somber tone, the Lovecraft-type storyline adds a cosmic horror to the story. While I am personally a bit alienated by Lovecraft's concept of an ancient, extra-dimensional cosmos and its denizens (which are indifferent to our moral concepts and even our right to exist as humanity), Mignola and Golden add an emotional context that makes this typical idea more relatable and almost heartfelt.
One of the downsides to this book is the villain truly never feels invincible or formidable. He comes off more as a petulant child who is playing with matches (dabbling with magics and science far beyond his ken), than a disturbing force for evil. He felt like a paper tiger, which is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. I need a villain who is truly formidable--one that I question if the hero will be able to prevail against. His creations were disgusting, and while repulsive and off-putting, they don't add much in a positive way to the creepy tone of the book.
Despite being somewhat disappointed with the villain, I was drawn to Joe's character, his painful struggle, his search for identity, and the integration of past and future. I also liked Molly. She feels like 'me' in the sense that she is the everyday person put in bizarre and non-ordinary circumstances. I think a good weird fiction tale needs that kind of protagonist.
Mignola just does it for me, with his stories and his creations. His collaborations with Golden have been unilaterally successful so far, and I add this one to the list. I hope to see more of Joe Golem and Molly McHugh, and more of the Drowning City. Recommended to weird fiction readers, and avowed fans of classic horror motifs and loving homages....more
I wish I'd had time to read this during the past Christmas season, because it would be perfect to get a reader into the mood, and to reinforce the deeI wish I'd had time to read this during the past Christmas season, because it would be perfect to get a reader into the mood, and to reinforce the deep meanings of this beloved holiday.
Mr. Kirch is on point with the meaning of A Christmas Carol in this novella, and he lovingly does homage to it, while he takes the story forward in time to a family that very much needs to be reminded about the importance of family and love.
For a while, I was quite worried. I cried bitter tears, but I kept hope alive in my heart that Marley would do his magic to help little Kathy, a young girl with two bickering parents who often forget she's around. Kathy, Marley, and Tobias make this story, while parents Dan and Beverly make for some frustrating moments. But one of the most important truths of Christmas holds true here, that love is a miracle. A light that can enter into the darkest abyss, and its miraculous ability to change a human heart will ultimately triumph over the most hopeless of situations.
I enjoyed this story very much, and I recommend it to readers who love A Christmas Carol, and readers who like modern gothics and horror that bring to mind the classics in these genres.
Thanks to Donald Allen Kirch for the opportunity to read Marley-The Other Christmas Carol.
This nifty collection of stories by Daniel McGachey is just what a fan of old school horror stories deeply in the vein of Montague Rhodes James (who hThis nifty collection of stories by Daniel McGachey is just what a fan of old school horror stories deeply in the vein of Montague Rhodes James (who has rightfully been called the master of the ghost story) would clamor for once they have exhausted all the MR James out there on offer, or just as an adjunct to their classic horror reading. My tastes in horror are definitely in the old school vein, and I love when I am able to find newly written stories and novels that showcase the old school styles. My friend was kind enough to lend me her copy of this book, and I have spent the better part of this week and last reading and enjoying the stories on offer.
It goes without saying that this wouldn't appeal to readers who don't like the old school way of telling a story, and a reader who gets bogged down with antiquated description and language. However, if you are a big reader of classic horror, as I am, I think that you will find it enjoyable.
Admittedly, there were a couple of stories that were a bit on the dry side, and I found my attention wandering. But the truly scary, atmospheric, and just downright disturbing stories made up for it. I didn't try to read this one at night, except for when I read it one night on the elliptical at the gym. Yeah, that gave me a few creepy moments on the way home. Honestly, I would avoid reading this one at bedtime, because McGachey manages to get you where you live. For instance, he gave me that squirmy feeling of guilt at my penchant for loving tales of the macabre. Some might think it unsuitable reading for a 'good Christian'. I don't really think that intellectually, but there is a story that makes you wonder if you really should spend so much time looking into the dark, unless you want the dark to pay you a visit. Yeah, that's a disturbing thought. Not enough to put me off these types of stories, though. Just enough to raise some goosebumps.
I definitely have to give Mr. McGachey an A for his ability to write in the classic horror vein very authentically. I have read many stories from the Victorian and Edwardian periods with exactly the same language and style. He also develops atmosphere flawlessly. And I love his deft skill with a frame story, and how his stories seem to tie together in this volume. I liked Dr. Lawrence as his intrepid occult detective character, who reminded me of a more scholarly Kolchak. With the only negative being that some stories were a bit dry, I can't help but give this one a solid four stars. I will be looking for more of his stories to read in the future....more
Goodness gracious, I am super late writing this review. My schedule just exploded after the middle of October, and I had no time. Because it's been neGoodness gracious, I am super late writing this review. My schedule just exploded after the middle of October, and I had no time. Because it's been nearly a month, I don't have the best memory of all the plotlines. But I promised I would write a review for every book I read, so better late than never, and my review will be of the more general sort.
I was fortunate to find this at my library and it fit very well thematically into my October Scare Fest reading. I enjoyed it overall. It's an odd little book, no question about it. I would consider it a bit of a pastiche to the famous literary figures of Dracula, Frankenstein and his monster, Sherlock Holmes, Merlin-type druids, and the Wolfman. I rather enjoyed that about this book. What I loved the most is that the narrators are the familiars, or animal companions of the human (or humanlike characters). They all strike up a strange sort of friendship driven by mutual interest and that old adage that drives too many middle grade friendships, especially among girls: better to be friends with someone than to have them as an enemy.
The story's chapters are broken down into each one representing a day in October. They are getting ready for some very important magical event that will have seemingly profound consequences. It sort of reminded me of the Highlander movie where the various characters are pairing off against each other, but this was more of a semi-good versus evil sort of standoff. Just my take. Forgive me if I am way off here. I didn't quite understand all of that, but I don't think it was as important as the unfolding paranormal mystery as various human (or humanlike) characters start to be picked off, one by one. The main character is a dog, who is the familiar of a male wizard. He's an endearing narrator. I liked how he plays dumb dog when necessary, but he's not the average canine (I truly feel some dogs are incredibly intelligent, so don't assume I'm picking on dogs here). I liked his wry and atypical friendship with a cat, who is the familiar of a witch. Along with the fact that their humans are striking up a courtship that may not end well if they end up choosing opposite sides. There is also a bat, rat, snake, and owl character. I'm sorry I don't remember all their names. I do remember the snake's name was Quicklime, so go figure. Strangely enough, the humanlike character who was most developed was Larry Talbot. Classic horror movie buffs will recognize that name as that of the Wolf Man. He did have the tragic vibe of the character in the movie, but he was quite likable.
This book isn't that deep. I mean it's a short book and probably has some hidden meaning, and I think a very prominent satirical tone that some readers will pick up on immediately. It's not super scary, it's a bit. Enough to make for a nice Halloween read.
I'd say this one is worth tracking down if you can find it at your library. Unfortunately, it's out of print.
A good read for this time of year. And fun for animal lovers like myself....more
Dark Gods is a collection of novellas that bring to mind something that I could imagine HP Lovecraft writing if he was a baby boomer. Or maybe that isDark Gods is a collection of novellas that bring to mind something that I could imagine HP Lovecraft writing if he was a baby boomer. Or maybe that isn't quite right. Because I think T.E.D. Klein has a subtle, grounded approach that distances him from Lovecraft's style in a crucial way for this reader. Klein seems to eschew melodrama, and Lovecraft embodies it in his writing. The similiarities to Lovecraft lie more in his overall fatalistic viewpoint and his character choices. I had to say I wasn't quite comfortable with the way race is handled in these stories. Characters are labeled far too quickly by race and ethnicity, also by social status. That definitely made me think of how Lovecraft would view the melting pot of NYC in the modern age. I want to say that this was done on purpose. That these characters in the stories are people who don't see the world in a rosy way. They don't look past skin color, ethnicity, or social status. They are way too disenchanted, too immersed in the world's darkness to see things in a higher way. The worldview also brings to mind Lovecraft. His fatalistic view of the world, in which doom is certain, in which goodness cannot prevail, and mankind is merely going through the motions. And then there are the references to those in the know when it comes to the occult and the arcane, those who have pierced the veil. The doomed fate of those who seek to know more than they should. That's here as well.
How is this different from Lovecraft? Well, I touched on that in the writing style. Mr. Klein has a smooth writing style, a modern (well at that time, which is like the late 70s/early 80s or so?) feel to his work. His ideas might bring to mind some of the pulp notions, but they are entirely his own. I'm not much for the dark, sure doom approach when it comes to horror, but for that type of story, he writes it well. Mr. Klein has a way of building atmosphere in a very subtle manner. Before I know it, I feel my stomach tighten with unease, just by a mere sentence. Things seemed normal and 'okay', and suddenly there is that suggestion of dread where I didn't see it before. And before I knew it, the point of no return had passed for the character in the story. Maybe he didn't intend for some aspects to be funny, but they were. I guess it's my weirdo sense of humor at work, because I laughed out loud at some parts, and then I almost shuddered at some other part.
What I thought about each story
"Children of the Kingdom"
This story was just kind of twisted. Some aspects were pretty sick, but kind of absurd, in that way that has you wanting to laugh until the idea that this is not played for laughs hits you. It's not so funny if you're actually in this story, and this utter weirdness is playing out around you and involves you in ways you really don't want to be involved. This story makes me think that Klein writes in a subversive way to bring race relations to the reader's mind and to make one consider how absurd racism (largely due to unfounded fears behind it) is. In this case, the main characters fear the blacks and what they seem to represent (seen as the arbiters and cause of social decay) in the neighborhood. What they should fear is lurking in the sewers, and they aren't black, and hardly even human. They are a primitive version of humanity that could care less about race, other than furthering their own once great civilization. This was an eerie and disturbing, like a stomach ache, story.
"Petey" seems to be a look at the Yuppie drive to 'have' and to 'flaunt' what one has. In this case, George and Phyllis have gotten a huge mansion way out in the boondocks for a song, and they throw a party to show it off. Actually they got the mansion for a 'steal', and they will find it's going to cost a lot more than they bargained for. Klein shows just how different his writing is from Lovecraft, even with a story that could have come out of the master of horror's imagination. In this case, this story is so subtle, it takes some careful reading to look for the threads of threat and horror. (My personal opinion is that Lovecraft is not a subtle writer) They are there, but the social commentary seems to be more of a focus in this story. However, careful reading assures the reader that they are not mistaken about the wrongness of it all. This is definitely a horror story. I felt the ending was too abrupt, and that disappointed me. But it was a good story overall.
"Black Man with a Horn"
Definitely a story that could have come out of the pulps with the fears of the Yellow invasion and the antiquated views towards black people (bestial, subhuman, you name it), also that fear of native/tribal cultures. This story felt the most like Lovecraft to me, and probably in the ways that make his stories hardest to read as far as racist elements. What I liked about this story is that the narrator is a contemporary of Lovecraft, who was seen as a protege of Lovecraft instead of a respected colleague. That smarts, and you find out more than once as you read the story. He views the world through an aging lens. One gets the impression that his views on race are expected for a man of his age, even if they made me uncomfortable. This one is a double-edged sword for me, as I liked the pulpy feel, although not the undesirable aspects (see above sentences) of pulp literature. You have an idea of what's going on here, but there's still an ambiguity to the threat. And when the story ends, that is a huge component of the unease that is left behind. It's as though you can only see what you have seen, and no more, without losing your grip on sanity. That's very Lovecraft right there.
This story was the most interesting, and the most disturbing one in the collection. Heavy shades of black magic here. It makes one afraid of what lurks in your imagination. Could I create something with this malevolent force behind it? On one level, I could wonder if it's Nadelman's very lack of positive belief and optimism that created the spark that brought this creature to life. If religion is seen as an opiate, could it not also serve as a protective force against something much darker, much more detrimental to mankind? Instead of belief hurting, maybe belief could protect. And its absence opens a doorway to a dark force that hates all good in the world. When this story concluded, I felt that fear like a weight on my back that it left behind.
Dark Gods is a good book to read around Halloween. It will have you reaching for lighter fare afterwards, though....more
For some reason, I grabbed this graphic novel from my library, thinking it was the second in the series. I read this right after I finished Seed of DeFor some reason, I grabbed this graphic novel from my library, thinking it was the second in the series. I read this right after I finished Seed of Destruction, and I have to say I liked this much more. Maybe because of the short story format and the use of different folklore legends. As I've said before in my reviews of Mignola's work, I love his appreciation and encyclopedic knowledge of folklore from all over the world. As a person who is an enormous life-time lover of folklore, mythology and fairytales, I am endlessly charmed by modern writers who plumb the depths of existing folklore traditions and explore those in their work. I share Mignola's interest in the darker folklore and also his appreciation for the Gothic and Classic horror story. He mixes these snippets together into a whole that brings a respectful homage to all and creates something new as a result.
Mignola starts off this collection with a charming story called "Pancakes," in which a young Hellboy experiences pancakes for the first time, and the demons of hell mourn because they know they have lost his loyalty. Pancakes will always trump over ruling in hell. You have to laugh at that!
I had never heard of St. Leonard of Limousin, a folk story about a hero who fights a dragon and where his blood drips, lilies grow. Mignola does a nice twist on this, in "The Nature of the Beast," where Hellboy (with some help from St. Leonard himself) wins the day.
"King Vord" taps into the Norse legends when Hellboy gets sent to Norway to help out an old friend of Professor Bruttenholm, and is both dark and amusing. Be careful what you wish for!
"Goodbye, Mr. Tod," is a nod towards Lovecraft and spiritualist belief in manipulating ectoplasm. I didn't have very strong feelings towards this story.
Hellboy is the narrator through frame stories that revisit dark folktales from as far away as Japan, such as the story "Heads" in which Hellboy spends the night in the house of very strange hosts who have a tendency to lose their heads. Nobody knows how to scare a reader like the Japanese, or so it seems. I am too much of a coward to watch the Japanese horror movies, but here is a nicely chilling story for me to enjoy in that tradition.
Readers of Le Fanu's "Carmilla" will appreciate "The Vârcolac" as it looks at Eastern European vampire legends and has a scene that stood out for me from reading "Carmilla."
My favorite story was "Box Full of Evil", a pure horror story that features the Hand of Glory folk legend and some really evil people who think they can make deals with devils and come out on top.
I have to give this one five stars because it captivated me and had me writing down the various legends to look them up. That's always good when a book makes me want to do research on the background material used in the stories. A very enjoyable read. ...more