Like Shirley Jackson, Helen Oyeyemi's writing focuses on small moments of terror and wrongness, the creeping horror of something gone bad beneath theLike Shirley Jackson, Helen Oyeyemi's writing focuses on small moments of terror and wrongness, the creeping horror of something gone bad beneath the surface. White is for Witching is a neo-gothic brooding ghost(ish) story about a British girl with pica, the need to eat chalk and other inedible substances, and the familial house that may or may not have something to do with her disorder.
Written in at least four voices (the main character, her twin brother, her lover, and the house), the book is a challenging read, especially the beginning, which is very difficult to get drawn in by. But if you stick it out, it's worth it. I wasn't sure I could get through it for the first 15 pages or so, but when I finished the last page, my first thought was to start over and consume the story a second time to re-experience it and catch all the little details I might have missed....more
As always, Bloch is a skilled writer. However, too many stories in this anthology hit too similar a note... setup and then a twist! Haha! The techniquAs always, Bloch is a skilled writer. However, too many stories in this anthology hit too similar a note... setup and then a twist! Haha! The technique gets old by the end of the book, and thus this collection is best read one story at a time, over time, as opposed to all in one sitting. Doled out in smaller portions, like vitamins, the stories are a lot more enjoyable.
A lot of the plots will seem a little too "familiar" and predictable to horror fans, but to give Bloch credit where it's due, they were a lot more original at the time he wrote them.
As Bloch was a member of the Miskatonic Round Table, as it were, any collection of his writing must contain at least two stories of a Lovecraftian bent for fans of that genre. This collection is no exception, but the inclusions are more in flavor than in a dictionary of the Cthulhu mythos, and in face are subtle enough to name no names other than an offhand reference to R'lyeh.
Favorites of mine:
* Betsy Blake Will Live Forever: I really liked this one's ending. You could see the plot twist coming a mile away, but the last few lines really made the story work for me.
* The Baldheaded Mirage: A simple science-fiction horror story, but the stark images it evokes stayed with me long past the end.
* A Matter of Life: If this wasn't a Twilight Zone episode, it really should have been....more
Supernatural is a role playing game based on the monster-hunting world of the television series by the same name. It is clearly targeted for and markeSupernatural is a role playing game based on the monster-hunting world of the television series by the same name. It is clearly targeted for and marketed at people who like the show, which follows a pair of hunters, Sam and Dean Winchester, as they travel around the country fighting with vampires, demons, zombies, ghosts and more.
Things I liked:
Supernatural more than adequately captures the show's sense of adventure and danger. It is well-written, clear, and easy to understand, and is organized in an intelligent, structured fashion. Hooray for the glossary, index, and little paragraphs at the end of each chapter telling you what the next step is. This would be a great starter RPG for folks new to the concept.
I'm not deeply versed in the Cortex System, but the rules seem relatively well thought-out and balanced. They are also clearly aimed at cinematic role playing -- that is, rules that try to evoke the feeling that you're in a movie or television show. I applaud this; I'm a little tired of games that requires graphs, charts and calculators to resolve combat.
The system for encouraging player creativity with Plot Points is also well done, with built-in controls to prevent hoarding and encourage participation. I also like the use of different dice to allow greater and greater chance for success while still keeping your luck with the dice important. (Frankly, seeing a system that uses more than just d20s pleases my little dice-hoarding gamer heart.)
In many ways, Supernatural feels like Hunter: The Vigil if the World of Darkness had a little more hope in it, more of a scary adventure game with monsters than a game of true supernatural horror. And you know what? That's okay. Sometimes I don't always want my RPGs to be full of doom, existential ennui and soul-crushing despair. This setting seems fun, and that appeals to me. It also seems easy enough to ramp up the action and drama to actual horror if that's more your cup of tea.
Things I didn't like:
* I didn't like the cozy way it talked to everyone as if they were True Fans of the show. If I wasn't familiar with the Supernatural TV series, it might well have felt a little alienating. As a fan of the show, it felt a little condescending. However, it was probably written with younger readers in mind, and as such, this is a relatively minor quibble.
* I actively hated the art director's decision to include still shots from the series. It ends up looking more like Teen Beat than an RPG, and threatens to evoke the feeling that you are expected to just pretend to be the show's main characters rather than playing out your hunters in that world. Which is a shame, because it's not true; the book gives you lots of options for making unique individual concepts. Ultimately, the photos are distracting and annoying; inked illustrations of the same scenes would have been much more effective.
(I found the photos so annoying I contemplated buying a PDF version of the book so that I could use Acrobat to manually remove them. Please, publishers, if you go for a second edition, get an artist to recreate the scenes. It will make this book's appeal broaden significantly. Mind you, the photos are still 100 times better than Cyberpunk 2020's disastrous choice of doll illustrations, but that's not saying a whole lot.)
* I didn't like some of the grammatical mistakes I found, some of which were intentional but others of which probably weren't. The tone of the writing clearly was meant to emulate the loose, informal tone of one of the show's two main characters, Dean. Ultimately, however, I found myself wishing they'd chosen the slightly better spoken tone of the other main character. Still, this is a relatively minor complaint.
Things I would like more of:
* Actual monster stats that aren't based on the TV show's monsters. The most likely audience for this game is people who have already watched the whole TV show. Given that, I'd like to see things to spring on them that they haven't encountered before. However, there's a supplement out now about monsters, so I expect that's where I'll find these....more
A very good introduction to the major genres of Japanese horror cinema and their historical genesis, marred only by the author's brief assertion thatA very good introduction to the major genres of Japanese horror cinema and their historical genesis, marred only by the author's brief assertion that the American film Silent Hill was in any way a great horror movie....more
After reading "Portrait of the Author as a Young Psychopath," I went out looking for more of Ed Lee or Elizabeth Steffen's work. I found this book. AfAfter reading "Portrait of the Author as a Young Psychopath," I went out looking for more of Ed Lee or Elizabeth Steffen's work. I found this book. After reading it, it became clear to me that everything I liked about the earlier book I'd read must have been contributed by Elizabeth Steffens. Very disappointing.
The best words I could use to describe this book, and indeed much of Lee's writing, have already been said by Tim Krider in his review of this book for the City Paper:
Reading Lee puts you in instant and uncomfortable touch with the conservative, book-banning guardian of decency deep within yourself. What I want, reading Lee’s description of a hillbilly sodomizing an old woman’s colostomy stoma, or two nuns urinating through catheters into a priest’s mouth and urethra, is not just not to be reading it anymore--a wish I could easily grant myself by closing the book--or even just for nobody else to want to read it, either. What I want is for it not to exist.
This is a troubling thing for me to want. I’m a First Amendment hard-liner. I don’t like feeling squeamish or priggish or square. It places me in the uncomfortable position of those humorless cranks who call my own work "sick"--a label that’s always seemed, to me, like a more reliable indicator of the critic’s own repression than of the artist’s pathology. This is not an easy reaction to provoke, and it’s some sort of testament to the raw power of Lee’s writing.
I did find myself, to my concern, getting gradually desensitized to the violence as I forced my way through The Bighead, so that by the time a character was heaved off a cliff with a rope tied around his genitals so that they popped off as he plummeted to the rocks below, I was like, Ehh. In the end, my main objection to these scenes is that although they’re upsetting, they’re not frightening.
[Added in 2015] Revisiting this review years later, I feel the need to add that especially when dealing with shocking or controversial content, the payoff has to be equally big. It's like telling jokes about rape or race or pedophilia - no topic should be off-limit for humor, but the more questionable the topic, the bigger the payoff has to be in the punchline. The same is true for horror - the more horrifying and traumatic the content, the better the story needs to be to carry that load. And unfortunately, with The Bighead... the book's climax just wasn't satisfying enough....more
Halloween is my favorite time of year, so I was very excited to see this anthology. Unfortunately, it didn't really live up to the promise to me. It'sHalloween is my favorite time of year, so I was very excited to see this anthology. Unfortunately, it didn't really live up to the promise to me. It's not that it's a bad anthology... it's just not really a Halloween anthology, to me....more
As always, Barker is a more than able wordsmith, and he writes a good, solid story.
But the problem with Mister B. Gone is that the conceit he's usingAs always, Barker is a more than able wordsmith, and he writes a good, solid story.
But the problem with Mister B. Gone is that the conceit he's using - a demon trapped within the pages of the book is speaking to you and telling you his life story only works to a certain extent. The danger with writing in the second person - e.g., "As soon as you heard that word, your blood started to quicken" - is that if the reader's blood is not in fact quickening at that moment, suspension of disbelief becomes labored. This is sadly often the case with this book.
The quality of Barker's writing would merit four stars, but the above problem coupled with a relatively predictable ending bring it down to three stars.
If you are going to give this as a gift, I highly recommend you anonymously abandon it on the recipient's doorway or in his or her mailbox. Having this book appear on our doorstep as it did - a gift from our landlords - tremendously aided the conceit....more