This is a crazy book series, but I like that about it. A lead character who is a sorcerer whose body is skeletal. A thirteen-year-old girl who stays oThis is a crazy book series, but I like that about it. A lead character who is a sorcerer whose body is skeletal. A thirteen-year-old girl who stays out all night fighting evil creatures and sends her reflection to school as a stand in. Heinous, and I do mean heinous villains who don't mind exploding people, along with psychopathic assassins with Southern accents who can dig through the ground and who have a favorite straight razor. Yup. That's what this book is about.
I think that this one is a lot more dark, violent and disturbing than the first book, so I'd definitely warn a parent to read it first before letting a kid younger than twelve read this. The narrator was great. I loved his accents and how he makes these very strange characters stand out. I like his intonation for Skulduggery, rather sarcastic and one of those people who really don't panic. If he does, then you're in trouble. I enjoy his relationship with Valkyrie/Stephanie. She talks to him kind of disrespectfully, but it doesn't bother him. He treats her as an equal.
There were loose ends tied up from the first book that really needed tying. Even a cameo of sorts from Valkyrie's deceased uncle who left her his house and fortune. The sorcerer world grows bigger and more complicated in this book, and Valkyrie has cause to think about the life she's chosen as the descendant of Ancients who has decided to fight the good fight. She realizes how much time she's missing out with her family.
This book is just plain weird. If you don't like weird, pass it by. If you have strong opinions on what young people should read and that list includes violent books with sorcery, monsters and psychopathic characters who have no qualms about harming a 13-year-old girl, then you won't care for this. But if you like fun, weirdly humorous, quirky, sometimes scary, and sometimes creepy crawly books with not a small degree of wish fulfillment for tweens (and messages about empowerment for young girls), then you might like this. ...more
This promises to be an interesting read for fans of TV shows like "The X-Files" and "Fringe." It's a little bit of both, I think. It has a racial/ethnThis promises to be an interesting read for fans of TV shows like "The X-Files" and "Fringe." It's a little bit of both, I think. It has a racial/ethnic diversity that I really appreciated. The leads include Doctor Randal Horne, whose decision to use a trial drug killed a patient out of arrogance and an unchecked desire for scientific inquiry without regard to the needs of the whole patient. He's gone on a walkabout and tapped into the interesting questions of the world that doesn't always adhere to strict scientific inquiry. His companion is the ghost of the woman whose life he inadvertently ended. A strange case brings him back to the United States. He works with a NYPD detective and two doctors from the CDC to solve the case of a corpse with an invisible head. From there, it's a segueway into more baffling scientific cases.
I liked the artwork and the story ideas. I'm sure I could poke holes into some of the science if I delved too deep, but I won't. I like the idea of a graphic novel series that follows in the path of weird case of the week shows I love so much. You have a good mix of characters: the scientist who was forced to open his mind; the older pathologist who is by the book and detail-oriented; the tough female cop who isn't close-minded to strange phenomena, but she's not too much of a believer; and the smart alecky younger doctor who provides a little comic relief. By the end of this graphic novel, there is hope for a procession of weird cases for the team to solve.
I'll be happy to follow this series as long as my library keeps new volumes on the shelves....more
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 found this on the clearance rack at Half-Price Books (go clearance rack!). I picked it up because of the Karl Edward Wagner and Manly Wade Wellman sI found this on the clearance rack at Half-Price Books (go clearance rack!). I picked it up because of the Karl Edward Wagner and Manly Wade Wellman stories. Those two stories definitely met my expectations. I found it enjoyable reading overall. This is horror and weird fiction, and the "new terrors" mantle is appropriate. And it isn't the screaming scary kind of horror. It's the 'that's kind of messed up' horror, which is infinitely more chilling to this reader. This was one I read during the day and I was glad I did. These stories gave me that uneasy feeling I don't want to go to bed on, much like an overly full stomach.
This book has the first story by Robert Aickman I read, "The Stains." When I think of him now, I will think Refined British Gentleman writing, and definitely weird fiction. Nothing that I've heard about him from fans has disagreed with this description. I found that Ramsey Campbell is also a bit on the refined side, and more sinister, but equally weird.
Like most anthologies I've stumbled across, this one encouraged me to seek out more works by most of the writers included in this genre. Probably not a good thing for my pocketbook, but a great thing for my horror collection.
If you can find this and you like modern classic horror (horror from the mid-century and up to the 70s), I'd recommend picking it up, especially if you find it for a good price at your neighborhood used bookstore. Recommended.
Donald Allen Kirch writes an effective short story here, with the appeal of the old school macabre tales of terror and the unknown. His gift for humorDonald Allen Kirch writes an effective short story here, with the appeal of the old school macabre tales of terror and the unknown. His gift for humor is evident, as I found myself chuckling at some of the main characters observations and actions, even though some of it was a bit on the irreverent side. Humor aside, he expertly maintains that sense of dread that a good horror story gives this reader, where I know something bad is coming, and it ain't good. The idea behind this story was very interesting, and there was enough ambiguity that brought to mind the old school ghost stories where I didn't quite know everything that was going on for most of the story, and maybe not even completely at the end. Added to that were a couple of freaky and just downright wrong images that I need scrubbed out of my impressionable, visual brain!
The sinister tone of this story sticks with me, and gives me that lingering feeling of unease and alarm that makes me such a inveterate reader of tales of terror. That makes this a successful read. I liked this story a whole lot, although I didn't quite feel like my idea of justice was done. Of course, I can see that there were seeds with Father Donavon that led him down his unfortunate path. However, this hopeful reader always wishes for the moment of clarity that causes the doomed person to come to their senses before it's too late. But oh well! You can't always get what you want. And the reader can take some comfort in knowing this is just a scary story, and you can turn off your Kindle and go back to your less frightening real life existence. At least until your urge for a good scare brings you back.
Write faster, Donald! I need more scary stories to read!
This story has me thinking and wondering. It starts out as one thing, and then turns into something else.
What I liked:
*The creepy guy that made everyoThis story has me thinking and wondering. It starts out as one thing, and then turns into something else.
What I liked:
*The creepy guy that made everyone think of something dead or like a gross worm or something. It made me laugh, but also made me shiver. *The narrator's sweet relationship with his artist model. How it meant more to him than could admit, because he felt he was not a good man, and because of his lost true love. *The imagery of the story, filled with symbolism that I will ponder and will cause me to reread this story again soon. *The ambiguity of the implicit threat of the night watchman. *So many unanswered questions. How does it all tie together??? *The romanticism throughout this story. Not just in a love story way. But in the use of language. *The clear, infectious writing style that has a biting edge of humor that is still fresh after so many years. *The narrator, who is both a deep romantic, and a true cynic.
I'm scratching my head over this one, and mourning the quick, although effective ending. And Chambers was considered a hack, pulp writer in his time? That's sad to me. Glad I have finally read this story! ...more
I quite liked this story by Arthur Machen. I liked the air of mystery, but harrowing menace he created. Apparently the doctor's experiments in piercinI quite liked this story by Arthur Machen. I liked the air of mystery, but harrowing menace he created. Apparently the doctor's experiments in piercing the veil had some very bad effects. There was a subtle element of dark sexuality in this story, handled very elegantly. I like that much is left for the reader to discern in this story. Many of those people who see what should have been left hidden don't live long afterward, and I was encouraged to draw my own conclusions about that horror they were exposed to.
I think that Mr. Machen will make fans of weird fiction very happy with this story. There's enough description to get the mind going, but at the same time, it's done discreetly. He seems to tap into a bit of Greek mythology, yet takes the story in a novel direction. He hints at the dark, depraved, and sinister, but never sways from a cultured, refined tone. Unlike Lovecraft, Machen doesn't go for an overdramatic, hysterical tone. No, he stays discreet, but I still felt the hairs on the back of my arm raise and I wondered what those poor people had seen that drove them to the edge of madness and beyond. Even so, I still felt I had some questions about the nature of evil as revealed by this story. Not enough to see "The Great God Pan" for myself though!
The Great God Pan might not appeal to all tastes, but I found it a worthy read for fans of classic horror and weird fiction done in a very refined, dreamy manner.
Fungus of the Heart is a short story collection that is rather aptly named. The stories do probe into the mysteries of the human heart, although theirFungus of the Heart is a short story collection that is rather aptly named. The stories do probe into the mysteries of the human heart, although their subjects are not necessarily human. However, they show emotions that humans would be intensely familiar with. The fungus part of the title represents the weird, strange, perhaps even unpalatable edge hinted at in many of these stories. I like that Mr. Shipp was able to capture that dichotomy between being a monster--so alien on close examination--and inside, so identifiable, nearly ubiquitous, like fungus is in our world.
Not exactly stream of consciousness storytelling, but quite free-flowing and non-linear story structure, often leaving me scratching my head mentally, trying to figure out exactly was going on in the stories. They begin and end at seemingly random moments, but there is a feeling of closure in most, at least for the moment. Not a full resolution, but enough conveyed to give the reader the feeling that whatever Mr. Shipp wanted told about that particular story ends up on the written page. Beauty might not be what Mr. Shipp was going for, but I did see beauty in these offerings. The open, honest emotions flowing through them, and the highly visual and sensory imagery appealed to me, although he does go to some dark places here. These offerings ponder the highs and lows of life: love, loss, war, rage, alienation, fear, identity, all those things, and more.
The imagination exhibited here was impressive. I would love to sit down with Jeremy Shipp and ask him what his source of inspiration is. How he is able to fearlessly put down on paper what must wander through his mind, and do it in such a way as to avoid pretentiousness. There was never that sort of feeling as I read. Merely honesty, a sharing of himself with the reader. That’s pretty brave and fearless, because people aren’t kind to each other when a person opens himself up to others for examination. I definitely admire him for doing this here.
Although I didn’t always ‘get’ the stories, I got them on an emotional level, and that’s what spoke to me as I read Fungus of the Heart. Mr. Shipp has a way with short stories that will lead me back to him, probably in the near future. I think fans of Caitlin R. Kiernan would like this collection.
**spoiler alert** Algernon Blackwood has been on my list of classic horror/weird fiction writers since I discovered my fascination with these old, and**spoiler alert** Algernon Blackwood has been on my list of classic horror/weird fiction writers since I discovered my fascination with these old, and often lost, gems that fell in the cracks of classic literature. I have read his biography on Wikipedia.org, and he seemed like an interesting fellow. I bought a couple of his volumes for my collection, and added more to my Kindle. A few years ago, I attempted to read The Willows in an anthology, and it just wasn't our time to get acquainted. Thankfully, the Classic Horror Lovers group voted on reading this short story as a group. For, I found it to be a very good story.
Nature fascinates as much as it terrifies. I'm a nature girl. But, let's face it, I'd be almost helpless were I stranded in the wild. I like to watch "Man V. Wild" and "Survivorman", and I collect my survival guides to prepare for the coming apocalypse, the 'what if' scenario in which I have to live on the land. But, this surburban girl would be in for it, were she in the shoes of these men in this story, which is why I stay my butt at home.
Intrepid fellows (or nowadays gals, as well) who venture into the wilderness may face a mental crisis in which they lose their reason when faced with the powerful force of the uninhibited, unclaimed isolation of the wild. They may start to go crazy, and think they see things, which cannot be real. But, why, I ask, did it happen to a seasoned woodsman first, and not the naive, inexperienced young Scottish student who had accompanied him? The reason is, there is a force that lurks in the wild. The natives know to fear it. It is the Wendigo.
I admit I laughed at a few parts. Not because the writing was bad or because it was cheesy. I think I needed the release of a pressure valve. Also because, It seemed terribly bizarre to think that some wild force could essentially kidnap you, force you to run so fast your feet caught on fire, and your eyes bled. So fast, your feet burned away, to be replaced by the animal-like ones that it has. A force that could assume your very form and masquerade as you to your companions--perhaps waiting for its chance to snap them up too. Okay, it makes me shudder just writing that.
This story is pretty creepy in parts. Algernon Blackwood uses language in such a way to evoke this emotion. He paints a clear picture of the beauty of the wild, and the sinister creature that lurks within. The erudite would try to dismiss its existence, like Simpson, and his uncle, Cathcart. But the deeper part of a man, the pure, instinctual survivor, knows better than that. To know and to understand is to fear that force, the primal creature that defies explanation: The Wendigo.
A word of warning to those who like to venture into the unknown wilderness: Take great care when you go into the wild. Guard your eyes and your feet well. Don't let that fire go out for one second. Look carefully into the face of your companion. The Wendigo lurks out there.
I'm glad to have read Mr. Blackwood, and I am eager to explore more of his singular tales....more
Laird Barron clearly knows how to unsettle his readers. If there was a universal theme of the various stories in this book, it would be that every sinLaird Barron clearly knows how to unsettle his readers. If there was a universal theme of the various stories in this book, it would be that every single story was unsettling, albeit in different ways.
Mr. Barron evokes memories of reading Caitlín R. Kiernan, HP Lovecraft, Arthur Machen, and even Algernon Blackwood in his tales in this volume. He finds the fearsome in such diverse subjects as the entities from beyond, the power of guilt, the overwhelming and uncomprehensible enormity of the natural world, and lets not forget, the darkness of the human heart. He even has shades of black magic and the diabolical in his stories. I would hesitate to compare him to the comparatively gentle horror stylings of M.R. James, other than the subtle nod to MR James in the antiquarian/bookish leanings of some of his characters. He's a bit more overt in his horror methodology than Mr. James. For all that, he never steps over the line into 'gruesome' and 'debauched.' Indeed, there are moments when sex and violence intertwine closely until they are hard to separate. Fortunately, this is done adeptly and with a subtlety that one such as I (who is admittedly quite squeamish of the combination of the two) didn't feel that she'd stepped into a no-woman's land where she felt she could no longer keep her feet traversing on the path into the dark world of horror that he creates in his stories.
This is a volume best not attempted at night. Even in the cloudless, startlingly bright, azure-skied and sun-washed landscape in which I read, I still felt those stirrings of unease that a good horror work should birth in its reader. This book is equally successful as weird fiction. I had that feeling that I didn't quite get what was going on--that there were questions unanswered, and the 'fearful unknown' was hinted at, and maybe I didn't want to go through that door that Barron leaves barely cracked.
Occultation and Other Stories exists in that gray area between modern-styled horror and the old-fashioned gothic horror that I prefer. And this was successful. I was not alienated in that I found the subject matter too extreme, too shocking, too overtly unpalatable for my tastes. Instead, this caused that shuddery feeling that I can appreciate, although some of the stories made me feel like I needed a sponge bath to remove the miasma of the dark, unfriendly organic, and somewhat visceral arena I had ventured into. But that is horror, my friends. Admittedly, I prefer my horror with an emphasis on the atmosphere, the shivers, and less on the repellent. But horror does have to take us out of our comfort zones, to make us feel unsafe, and Mr. Barron knows how to do that.
Recommended to readers who want to go to that dark, uncertain place for a few hours. ...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