This is the last of the R.L. Stine books I found at my mom's house, and within a few pages, I was already prepared to not like it as much as the otherThis is the last of the R.L. Stine books I found at my mom's house, and within a few pages, I was already prepared to not like it as much as the others. It gets off to a really awkward start but then, to my surprise, it also gets a lot more gruesome and a lot more weird than any of the others have up to this point. It kinda undoes all of it in a twist ending that can be seen from a mile away, but in the mean time, it's a pretty fun ride....more
This was part of the pile of YA R.L. Stine books that I found at my mom's house, and also part of Stine's Fear Street series, though, aside from someThis was part of the pile of YA R.L. Stine books that I found at my mom's house, and also part of Stine's Fear Street series, though, aside from some place names that I was probably supposed to recognize, I didn't have any difficulty reading it without knowing anything about Fear Street.
In spite of reading like it was maybe aimed at a slightly younger audience than the other two books I read, this one was a lot bloodier. With an I Know What You Did Last Summer-ish plot straight out of a 90s slasher, and a higher body count than either of the other books, it also got a little gruesome in spots, at least for a book like this. There is, for instance, a chapter titled, "Where Is His Head?"...more
This was probably the best of the pile of non-Goosebumps YA R.L. Stine books that I found at my mom's house, even if the twist is about what you'd expThis was probably the best of the pile of non-Goosebumps YA R.L. Stine books that I found at my mom's house, even if the twist is about what you'd expect. The writing, as with Call Waiting, is short and sharp, with lots of short sentences and paragraphs that are only a sentence or two long. There are fewer fake scares in this one than in that one, though, and the peril here is more real. Plus, I gotta be honest, that's a pretty great cover....more
I recently found a pile of old R.L. Stine books at my mom's place. Not the Goosebumps stuff, but some of his YA books for high schoolers. I decided toI recently found a pile of old R.L. Stine books at my mom's place. Not the Goosebumps stuff, but some of his YA books for high schoolers. I decided to read them partly out of curiosity, and partly because I needed something low-stress during a busy couple of months, and found myself enjoying them more than I expected. From this handful of books, I can see why Stine was such a big deal. The writing is short and sharp. Lots of short sentences, lots of short paragraphs. Nothing fancy, but propulsive.
This was a weird book to start on, though, In spite of its When a Stranger Calls-ish premise, there's actually very little peril in this book, and the back cover plot doesn't really get going until the last third. Also, every chapter ends with a silly cliffhanger that's intended to make you catch your breath, but always gets explained away as a joke or misunderstanding in the first sentence of the next chapter. The book equivalent of a cat scare in a movie....more
I'm trying not to be too hard on this book, but this one really left me feeling cold. I'd honestly probably only give it two stars except that then I'I'm trying not to be too hard on this book, but this one really left me feeling cold. I'd honestly probably only give it two stars except that then I'd feel bad for it. It's not just the switch of artists from Ben Stenbeck to Peter Bergting--there's nothing really wrong with Bergting's art, but Stenbeck was a favorite of mine, and this just doesn't have the same power for me--it's just that this story felt like an awful lot of anticlimax for something that should have been a very big deal. We'll see how Empty Graves pans out, but this may be the end of my love affair with the Baltimore comics......more
I wanted to like this more than I did, because Corben, who is always phenomenal, has been doing some of the best work of his career lately (see SpiritI wanted to like this more than I did, because Corben, who is always phenomenal, has been doing some of the best work of his career lately (see Spirits of the Dead for a real good example), and this thing was often creepy and had at least one really great monster, but never really came together for me. I liked that it took on the racist and sexist elements of Lovecraft's writing in a way that felt almost like parody, but again, I don't know that it ever completely delivered on that take. As always, Corben can draw corpses and crumbling buildings and gnarled sticks better than pretty much anybody. ...more
This is gonna come off as harsh, but I'll be honest, I read this just a few days ago and am already struggling to remember much about it. Which is weiThis is gonna come off as harsh, but I'll be honest, I read this just a few days ago and am already struggling to remember much about it. Which is weird, because this is a really epic installment in the B.P.R.D. saga, with some really big stuff happening, but it just didn't hit like it should. I wonder if, when I come back to this down the road, I'll feel differently.
Part of the problem is that Laurence Campbell's art, which is good, still just doesn't quite work with the universe the way many of the other artists do. But there's something else. Pretty much since the Hell on Earth saga in B.P.R.D. started, I've felt like the stories spend too much time spinning their wheels. A lot of stuff happens, and it's huge and sweeping stuff, but it never really feels like it really moves the hands on the clock ahead by much. Which is a weird thing to say, and weirder still to pin down, and I wonder, again, if I'll feel differently at the other end of this whole thing, when I look back over the Hell on Earth saga as a whole......more
It is a rare treat indeed when a book comes along that manages to not only live up to the hype, but also still take me by surprise in a dark alley. YeIt is a rare treat indeed when a book comes along that manages to not only live up to the hype, but also still take me by surprise in a dark alley. Yet that's exactly what Matthew M. Bartlett's Creeping Waves does. Weird so weird that it rubs its hunched shoulders up against Bizarro fiction, while still maintaining a constant tone of writhing horror, Creeping Waves spits occult blasphemies like a curb-stomped man spits blood. Less a short story collection than a grotesque, frenzied fever dream of a mosaic novel, filled to the bloody brim with carnality and the charnel house. Bartlett writes like a man in the grip of a vision, when he writes like a man at all, and not just a pile of worms in a man-shaped suit.
So spin your dial all the way down to the left, and settle in for Creeping Waves. You're listening to WXXT, the razor blade in the apple of the Pioneer Valley......more
Ostensibly an ode to the Italian cannibal film genre, Adam Cesare's stunning debut is as much Hollywood Boulevard as it is Cannibal Holocaust; a lovinOstensibly an ode to the Italian cannibal film genre, Adam Cesare's stunning debut is as much Hollywood Boulevard as it is Cannibal Holocaust; a loving nod to exploitation film that never dips into exploitation itself. I was, of course, already a fan of Cesare's work from some of his later volumes and stories, but I figured it was high time to go back to the beginning and see where it all got started. I'm glad I did....more
At its best, Scott Nicolay's writing conjures the effortless and enviable atmosphere of great weird manga, and nowhere is that more true than in his DAt its best, Scott Nicolay's writing conjures the effortless and enviable atmosphere of great weird manga, and nowhere is that more true than in his Dim Shores chapbook after, which leavens the proceedings with a solid grounding in time and place, in this case the New Jersey town of Seaside Heights ("The Town That Fun Built") in the immediate aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. Maybe I'm seeing connections where none exist, but the desolation of the book reminded me, at times, of Kazuo Umezu's The Drifting Classroom and the monster called to mind the giant caterpillars from the beginning of Rodan. Not to mention the potent (as always) cover and interior illustrations by the great Michael Bukowski....more
Don’t let how long it took me to finish reading T.E. Grau's debut collection throw you; my reading schedule has been all screwed up lately, and variouDon’t let how long it took me to finish reading T.E. Grau's debut collection throw you; my reading schedule has been all screwed up lately, and various things kept coming along to interrupt the process, and, frankly, I didn’t want to rush things. I wanted to savor each story, at least a little bit, and these aren’t the kinds of stories that you want to read while you’re waiting at the doctor’s office or something. These things require a certain amount of ceremony. Reading The Nameless Dark is the kind of thing that feels like it needs to be done right.
Like a lot of contemporary horror authors–myself included–Ted wears his influences on his sleeve in these stories, and if you know me at all, then you know that I think that’s for the best. While several of the stories in The Nameless Dark got their first printings in Lovecraftian anthologies, and often default to some familiarly Lovecraftian ideas, the more telling influences often come from other places, notably names like Bradbury or Barron. But as I was reading, I was surprised to find that my mind kept coming back to King, as in Stephen. Not that these are necessarily Stephen King-ish stories–with the possible exception of “Beer & Worms,” one of several stories in this volume that have that added bite of an E.C. Comics-style twist in the tail–but rather that almost all of the stories in The Nameless Dark partake of King’s affinity for normal people who aren’t so normal, and unusual people who are maybe more normal than they appear.
While the Lovecraftian trappings, when they come, may seem familiar, they never feel faded, always given a new life, a new immediacy that elevates them above the crush of Mythos mimics out there. Nowhere will you find anything as simple as a string of Yog-Sothery or a “and they were all fish people!” ending. Instead, even the most familiar tale is invested with a beating human heart that brings grit and breath and blood and bone to the lofty cosmic horror conceits. See hallucinatory stories like “Return of the Prodigy” or the dynamite collection-ender “The Mission” for perfect examples. And then, just to show that Grau is capable of taking the Mythos and turning it on its ear in some different way, there’s a story like “The Truffle Pig,” which was one of my first exposures to Ted’s writing back when we shared a table of contents in Ross Lockhart’s Tales of Jack the Ripper.
In fact, I was already familiar with several of the stories in The Nameless Dark before I ever picked up this volume. Besides Tales of Jack, I’d shared anthology space with Ted in The Children of Old Leech and Cthulhu Fhtagn! So I knew that I was in for a treat, but I still found new surprises, and new stories to love. I think my favorite piece in the whole book is one that, unless I am mistaken, is original to this collection, and is also the one that opens the volume: “Tubby’s Big Swim,” a story that is darkly humorous, full of heart, and with a voice that only Ted could manage.
But you don’t have to take my word for it: The Nameless Dark was just this very afternoon nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award for best collection! ...more
The Hellboy in Mexico stories remain some of my favorite Hellboy tales, and while I had most of them elsewhere, it's really great to have them all inThe Hellboy in Mexico stories remain some of my favorite Hellboy tales, and while I had most of them elsewhere, it's really great to have them all in one volume, especially with new author notes and chapter break illustrations. ...more
I really wanted to like this one more than I did. Big Trouble in Little China is one of my favorite films, and Eric Powell seemed a decent fit for theI really wanted to like this one more than I did. Big Trouble in Little China is one of my favorite films, and Eric Powell seemed a decent fit for the material. Unfortunately, in spite of all the words of praise slapped all over this volume, I found it to be a big disappointment. Jack Burton's ex-wife stories were all pure Powell, and the art by Brian Churilla was suitably over-the-top and cartoony, but that's about all that worked. The dialogue and characters all fell flat on the page, and worst of all it falls very badly victim to the major sin of movie sequels: relying way, way, way, waaaaaaaay too much on jokes and lines from the original movie. ...more
Eric Powell has a knack for a certain kind of tall tale, which is on full display here. And while Kyle Hotz's art takes a bit of getting used to, it'sEric Powell has a knack for a certain kind of tall tale, which is on full display here. And while Kyle Hotz's art takes a bit of getting used to, it's a perfect fit for the gloppy subject matter of these stories. ...more
Can a book be both a lot of fun and a bit of a slog? If so, Fingers of Fear is that book. When the good folks at Valancourt reissued it, I knew I hadCan a book be both a lot of fun and a bit of a slog? If so, Fingers of Fear is that book. When the good folks at Valancourt reissued it, I knew I had to pick it up from the back cover copy, specifically, "Ghosts stalk the corridors, and Seaforth awakens to find a mark made by a human mouth on his neck. Is there a vampire, a werewolf, or something even worse, at Ormesby?" Seriously, how could I not read that book?
And there are lots of moments when it hits notes exactly as high as that bit of back cover copy would imply. Unfortunately, the book is also about twice as long as it needs to be, the extra supplied by long digressions on the part of our very verbose narrator about what other people are thinking and feeling, and the various virtues and vices of women in general. (Perhaps not too surprising for a narrator who starts the novel penniless and only recently have gone through a divorce.) While these somewhat rambling accounts occasionally yield moments of uncanny frisson, they also tend to slow the action down a great deal.
Still, there's plenty to like here. Besides the whole ghost/vampire/werewolf angle, there are all the other staples of the old dark house genre, including secret passages, hidden murders, and portraits with eyes that follow you. What's more, some of the ultimate secrets behind the Ormesby household are a little more lurid than you might imagine in a novel from 1937, and the backdrop of the Great Depression provides a surprisingly solid foundation for a Gothic tale. ...more
Do I need to convince anyone at this point that Harrow County is a particularly brilliant new bit of backwoods horror? If you've liked previous stuffDo I need to convince anyone at this point that Harrow County is a particularly brilliant new bit of backwoods horror? If you've liked previous stuff from Cullen Bunn, you'll like this. And Tyler Crook does some of the best work of his career. I particularly liked the flaming ghosts. (I always like flaming ghosts.)...more
I have to admit that the B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth books aren't doing it for me as much as most of the rest of the Mignolaverse gestalt has (including pI have to admit that the B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth books aren't doing it for me as much as most of the rest of the Mignolaverse gestalt has (including previous B.P.R.D. titles). This isn't because they're doing anything wrong--they're doing a great job at what they're doing--what they're doing is just of less interest to me than most of the other stuff that Mignola and co are putting out.
That said, this volume primarily explores the evolving character of Johann, who is evolving in fascinating ways that bode awesomely for the future. I love where this volume ended up, and am looking forward to seeing where it goes from here. I'm just not as heavily invested as I am in other Mignolaverse titles like Hellboy and the B.P.R.D., Abe Sapien, and, of course, Hellboy in Hell....more
Is Wax a supernatural shocker or a murder mystery or something else entirely? Based on some of the other Goodreads reviews I glanced at, your mileageIs Wax a supernatural shocker or a murder mystery or something else entirely? Based on some of the other Goodreads reviews I glanced at, your mileage may well vary based on which of those you expect, and which you want. So let me say, without any further spoilers than this, that while there are plenty of horror flourishes when describing the Waxwork itself and its haunting figures, there is never really a horror or supernatural element to Wax.
As to whether it's a murder mystery or something else... I'll leave that to your judgment. What I will say is that Wax is a delightfully charming and twisty story from an author better known for the novel that inspired The Lady Vanishes. Following the adventures of rookie reporter Sonia Thompson, newly arrived at the town of Riverpool to work for the Chronicle (or "Crocodile") as several characters call it, the book is filled with witty exchanges and lots and lots (and lots and lots) of subplots and loose threads that never feel like they can possibly all tie up together anywhere near as neatly as they do.
And while some people seem frustrated by the lack of an overt supernatural or horror angle, the Waxwork, with its grim history and and atmospheric descriptions provided more than enough of a chill up the spine for me....more
A weirdly stilted and rambling narrative voice mars what could otherwise be a strong novelette--stretched out to novella length instead--of the uncannA weirdly stilted and rambling narrative voice mars what could otherwise be a strong novelette--stretched out to novella length instead--of the uncanny. Still manages to hit some particularly effective moments, especially in the end....more
A fairly delightful Gothic tale that inspired the 1973 Amicus film And Now the Screaming Starts! (which remains one of the best titles around). FengriA fairly delightful Gothic tale that inspired the 1973 Amicus film And Now the Screaming Starts! (which remains one of the best titles around). Fengriffen is a little less lurid and a little less unpleasant than its cinematic counterpart, whether that's a plus or a minus, and it also eschews the crawling hand angle, though makes good use of some severed fingers in its place. A quick and atmospheric read in the "learned men dismiss a woman as hysterical, inadvertently enable a much worse tragedy" vein, with plenty of wonderfully Gothic descriptions and some surprisingly proto-Ligottian takes on psychology and humanities place in the grand scheme of things: "The mind is a descendant of the thumb and the vocal cord, and a malformed child it has always been, a mistake of evolution with the unique ability to bring its own extinction."
The lovely folks at Valancourt Books have released a nice edition with other stories by the author, though the one I read was an older hardcover that just contained Fengriffen......more
The long-awaited follow-up to Ross Lockhart's Book of Cthulhu 1 & 2, Cthulhu Fhtagn! deviates from those previous volumes in that it is composed of all-original fiction inspired by the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, rather than a mix of new fiction and (mostly) reprints, as in the Books of Cthulhu. What it shares with its predecessors, however, is Lockhart's aptitude for picking excellent stories from across the vast and tonally varied range of different approaches to Lovecraft's mythos. There are stories in Cthulhu Fhtagn! that treat Lovecraft's ideas with deadly seriousness, rubbing shoulders against jokier tales, and stories that use the Mythos as window dressing to tell a story in a different genre altogether. And more than a few tales that start out looking like one of those, only to veer off in a most unexpected direction before the end. Some focus tightly on specific Lovecraft stories, while others partake more of the atmosphere or themes of Lovecraft's writing and leave the Cthulhus and Necronomicons by the wayside. My own story "The Insectivore" owes as much to Ray Bradbury as it does to Lovecraft.
As with the previous Books of Cthulhu, there is no better source to find the best of the breadth of what's being done with Mythos-inspired fiction than Lockhart's volume. From the science fiction of Richard Lee Byers' "The Body Shop" and Wendy Wagner's "The Long Dark" to G.D. Falksen's delightful detective pastiche "The Curious Death of Sir Arthur Turnbridge" (which sadly takes a turn for the worse in the last few lines, but it otherwise a joy). Gord Sellar's follow-up to "The Doom That Came to Sarnath" almost feels like it was filtered through a Miyazaki lens, while Molly Tanzer & Jesse Bullington deliver a personal favorite, detailing the exploits of Sir Peter Cushing, Vincent Price, and Ingrid Pitt as they pit themselves against a Lovecraftian plot. Other standout pieces include T.E. Grau's "Return of the Prodigy," "Assemblage Point" by Scott R. Jones, and of course Laird Barron's bizarre and psychedelic "Don't Make Me Assume My Ultimate Form."
As with any book that spreads its wings as wide as this one does, some stories will appeal more to each person than others, depending on your taste and what you like in your Lovecraftian fiction. But for a sampling of some of the best the sub-genre has to offer, you couldn't do much better. ...more
It's difficult to imagine a book aimed more squarely at my wheelhouse. Frankenstein's monster in the hollow earth, battling weird crabs and mutated diIt's difficult to imagine a book aimed more squarely at my wheelhouse. Frankenstein's monster in the hollow earth, battling weird crabs and mutated dinosaurs, tangling with hollow earth people and weird Victorians. All written by Mignola and illustrated perfectly by my favorite of the various non-Mignola artists to try their hand at his pantheon, Ben Stenbeck. So this one gets a five star rating from me, even though I can definitely see a number of places where it could have been improved, especially for outsiders to the entire Hellboy mythos, who will probably feel pretty at sea in what would at a glance seem a perfect standalone volume.
The first installment ties back to one of my favorite B.P.R.D. stories, while the later ones bring in threads from throughout the Mignola gestalt, and also generate new ones that will likely be explored later. As a standalone, it is probably lacking. As a beautiful piece of layered pulp to fit into my favorite pulp world, it is sublime....more
I was lucky enough to read this book in manuscript form. The first of two long-needed all-women Lovecraft anthologies--both funded by Kickstarter, botI was lucky enough to read this book in manuscript form. The first of two long-needed all-women Lovecraft anthologies--both funded by Kickstarter, both of which I backed, both of which funded nicely, showing the demand for this sort of thing. The second, Dreams from the Witch House is coming from Dark Regions Press and editor Lynne Jamneck soon.
This volume shows that not only is there a demand for Lovecraftian stories by diverse writers, there's a wealth of great material to be mined there. Filled with solid stories, this attractive volume also boasts some delightfully different artwork, with Lovecraftian illustrations in a looser and often more anime-inspired style that opens up the book and works remarkably well.
With standout stories from Jilly Dreadful, Angela Slatter, E. Catherine Tobler, Gemma Files, Molly Tanzer, Selena Chambers, and many others, this is a book that belongs on the shelf of any fan of quality Lovecraftian tales!...more
Nightbreed seems--like many of Clive Barker's stories and adaptations--ripe for more tales, but these just felt tired to me practically before they haNightbreed seems--like many of Clive Barker's stories and adaptations--ripe for more tales, but these just felt tired to me practically before they had even begun, more's the pity. ...more