Lindqvist has done it again - creating a quiet epic set on Domaro, an island in the archipelago along Sweden's coast. Instead of fueling ahead with hoLindqvist has done it again - creating a quiet epic set on Domaro, an island in the archipelago along Sweden's coast. Instead of fueling ahead with horror tropes and usual devices, he focuses on his characters, who are desolate, lost, unforgiven, real. Lindqvist takes his time with them, paints their shortcomings & desires via history and myth, and in the end, it's what makes this novel four-stars.
The often used, and sometimes misappropriated term, 'quiet horror' could apply here. Like Lindqvist did with zombies in his 'Handling the Undead' here he changes the direction usually traveled by the genre and creates a rural drama that dances the line between a ghost story and a tale of cosmic horrors beyond human perception. And one thing, he writes of loss with such eloquent skill, avoiding the melodramatic flourishes than turn the prose purple. Sweden's answer to Stephen King - yeah, we've heard that one before. Lindqvist is in his own category, and this novel shows why. It'll make you look at the ocean a little bit differently, that's for sure....more
An energetic ode to horror pulp traditions, this collection of Schow's 1980s fiction doesn't pull any punches. While at times a bit too cheeky, there'An energetic ode to horror pulp traditions, this collection of Schow's 1980s fiction doesn't pull any punches. While at times a bit too cheeky, there's something for every type of horror fan. Whether it's zombie pimps, killer roaches, pulp writers touching the void, or sleazebag punks tailing a vengeful ghost, 'Seeing Red' has no shortage of the amped-up grue that fed the 'splatterpunk' era of supernatural literature....more
I'm not sure this collection of interviews lived up to my expectations. While practically every name from the 1980s Golden Age of Horror fiction is inI'm not sure this collection of interviews lived up to my expectations. While practically every name from the 1980s Golden Age of Horror fiction is included within these pages, the interviews don't truly enlighten the process on what makes their novels and collections so horrible, so frightening, so memorable. Most of the writers do divulge their some of their writing methods and writing schedules, and at times, they enlighten the reader on what scares them. But after getting through the halfway point, I felt like all the interviews blended into one. Really, I think a far more interesting way of getting to know the author (and most of them would probably agree) is to read their fiction and take it from there.
Of course, some of the writers give wonderful insights to their genre, but unfortunately as a whole, not enough. I guess I wanted more of a precise approach to specific works, dreams, nightmares, that kind of thing. There are some interesting insights into the 'quiet horror' vs 'splatter-punk' arguments that were happening in that decade, and also some good advice for the aspiring horror novelist, especially from Joe Lansdale and Charles Grant. Whitley Strieber comes across a bit defensive in light of his writing the 'Communion' books, which in a way, distanced himself from the genre. J.N. Williamson keeps it light and airy and doesn't take himself too seriously, while Dennis Etchison waxes on the philosophical importance about the genre. King and Straub give some good banter, and Ramsey Campbell as always, enlightens.
A small step up from the 2nd installment, 'Doom City'. This time the fictitious Greystone Bay is given a sharper focus -- 'The Seaharp Hotel' is an elA small step up from the 2nd installment, 'Doom City'. This time the fictitious Greystone Bay is given a sharper focus -- 'The Seaharp Hotel' is an elaborate and stately old hotel along the ocean, and every story here takes place in the rooms and hallways beneath the gabled roofs. There are far too many stories of the aging character coming back to Greystone Bay -- to die, or on the run from some guilt-ridden past -- and halfway through the collection, the reader may stiffen up with boredom as the story lines become repetitive and somewhat empty. However, there are some nuggets. Nancy Holder's 'Ami Amet Deli Pencet' is a moody thriller about amnesia, and spirits submerged deep in the watery graves of one's subconscious. Holder has a knack of conjuring surreal images without over-flourishing the language. Steve Rasnic Tem's 'Aquarium' shows the authors mastery of subdued horrors, things seen from the corners of the eye, and by the end, the reader feels unsettled but really can't pinpoint why. There are some pulpy renderings here that are solid. Thomas Monteleone's 'No Pain, No Gain' is a bluntly lurid tale of parasites and the grue associated with symbiosis. Al Sarrantonio's 'The Coat' adds to the 'possessed garment' tale and keeps the darkness in the right places. Besides the mediocrity and one-note blandness to some of these tales, it is required reading for the 'Greystone Bay' quartet. The next and final book is 'In the Fog' and I have the inclination that this one will return to the widescreen form of the 1st....more
This is the 2nd installment of the Greystone Bay Chronicles quartet put out by Tor paperbacks in the 1980s. Edited by the masterful editor/writer, ChaThis is the 2nd installment of the Greystone Bay Chronicles quartet put out by Tor paperbacks in the 1980s. Edited by the masterful editor/writer, Charles L. Grant, this 2nd book pales and withers compared to the first, 'Greystone Bay'. This first collection painted this haunted New England seaside community with tales of historical horrors, inward landscapes of broken psyches, tales of curses seeking out the wrong-doing through a vengeful thunderstorm or a creeping fog, and shorts full of pulp-inspired grue. However this 'Doom City' reads like a first draft - the tales just don't seem to gel, and when a horror is hinted at, it seems to get lost in the same fog that cloaks the bay day in and day out. I'm not sure if Grant laid down his mode of 'quiet horror' too much, but I must admit I was bored with most of the stories.
I'm not much of a fan of vampire fiction but two of the best tales in the book dealt (or hinted at) with the bloodsuckers. Nina Kiriki Hoffman's 'Waiting for the Hunger' is an understated gem, full of lush atmosphere on the outside, yet inwardly and meticulously obscured. Galas Elfandsson's 'An Overruling Passion' pulls the reader into the desperate mind of a New Yorker coming to Greystone Bay to win back his wife from her odd family. On a similar note, Kathryn Ptacek's 'Dead Possums' is a sad tale of a father trying to win back his wife and daughter from a left-wing cult. And Thomas Sullivan's 'Prayer Wings' has some sinister images that expose the unlikeliest of winged insects as the antagonists.
Despite my feelings towards 'Doom City', I'm still looking forward to reading the next one, 'The Seaharp Hotel'. My faith in Charles L. Grant has not been tarnished....more
Written by Alan Ryan during the start of the Tor Horror line, which back in the beloved and crudely-neonized 1980s, covered the paperback shelves in tWritten by Alan Ryan during the start of the Tor Horror line, which back in the beloved and crudely-neonized 1980s, covered the paperback shelves in the horror sections of so many stores (in my case, a Waldenbooks, where I’d stand as a young teen and ogle the lurid covers and those shimmering raised fonts that boldly highlighted the title as if borrowed from the Las Vegas strip), this novel is so minimally written, so restrained and tempered, that it makes the work of Charles Grant not only seem ‘quiet’ but downright mute. The prose is the equivalent of Weight Watchers, as Ryan seems to be aware that adding stylistic flourishes and deep ruminations of character will only fatten the page count, and not really accomplish much for the story. Even chapter size is stripped to a minimum, some merely a half a page long, and the longest being about five pages. But while it may appear that there is nothing to the novel, there is a growing sense of doom from page to page, a subtly menacing unease that grows as it moves ahead toward the climax. And don’t get me wrong, there actually is some outward terror – c’mon, floating clowns playing in the snow, looking at families through ice-caked windows, doubling over in laughter and walking on air through the blizzard. Yes it is a horror novel, and it isn’t a waste of time.
Sans metaphor, time shifts and multiple narratives, Ryan creates a highly economical tale about a circus train invading a small upstate New York town during a freak blizzard which locks down the inhabitants and makes them easy prey for an evil presence, led by a ringmaster adorned in the black top hat and the cape. It’s all up to the young sheriff incapable of handling all the chaos, and the old doctor who senses something wrong right from the get-go, to put an end before the whole town disappears off the map in a white-wash of snow. Okay, I admit it sounds standard horror pulp fare, but stick with it. It’s all atmosphere with this one, but instead of relying on the tricks of the trade, Ryan really keeps things simple, and relies on the reader’s imagination (yes, the ‘I’ word) to paint the landscape and scope with creeping dread. Of course, he doesn’t leave us completely void of description, and when he does, it is in restrained doses, describing the wind, the starless sky, the snow changing direction as if sentient. Horror readers are not going to get overflowing grue and outright ‘in your face’ horrors, nor are they going to get the epic widespread panic that many 80′s novel strived for, and lesser times, achieved.
While reading this, I was aching for more suspense, more descriptions of the invasion. I wanted more incidents of the villagers encountering glimpses of the clowns – I wanted to be chilled to the bone, fucked with (for example, checking out my window to see if a pale-faced clown was floating there), but I was simply teased with all the tension the book alludes to but really never fulfills to its potential. All in all, Ryan turns out a solid horror novel. And especially if like tales of seclusion by way of winter storms, then this is a future read for you. Perhaps as an appetizer to other works of ‘winter horror’, King’s ‘The Shining’, Ramsey Campbell’s ‘Midnight Sun’, and Peter Straub’s ‘Ghost Story’....more
What one desires, and expects to happen in a book can be illusory at best, and what actually happens in the pages can be like a puzzle without gain –What one desires, and expects to happen in a book can be illusory at best, and what actually happens in the pages can be like a puzzle without gain – words, motivations, characters all lost on the reader. Suspense becomes secondary. Nuance loses its aim and the ambiguities turn the text towards a head-scratching detour where the narrative encounters a brick wall.
T.M. Wright’s ‘The Island’ is one of these books. Everything element is present – a gold mine of horror trademarks. We have a house in the lake, one in which broke free from its hold on a small island shore, and is now a haunted relic submerged below the dark waters. We have characters from the big city trying to lose themselves in nature, with hopes to find some inner peace; yet in the end, only encounter something alien, something cold and distant, something hungry. We have the widow waking at midnight, and who finds herself chipping away at the ice with a pick-axe, as if to free something from its seclusion. We have a new mother holding her child and wondering why it always so cold to the touch.
T.M. Wright does well conjuring up some great images.
‘The ice around the hole heaved upward; first the woman’s shoulders, then a long, naked arm appeared above the surface of the ice. Her mouth opened still wider, the way the mouth of a snake opens wide to accept its prey.’ Great stuff, but the way in which characters and talk to one another leaves something to be desired.
Unique to the genre, Wright has created a novel about indirectness, a failure to communicate. Maybe Wright is intentionally showing his characters talk in obtuse angles – marbles in the mouth. Maybe it is the cold permeating from the lake that makes everything vague, indistinct – marbles in the mind. There is something buried under this book, something that makes it completely unique from other horror books at the time. But while it tries to rewrite the ghost story in a dream-like, unclear state, the result in the end is a bit sloppy.
Do I recommend the book? Yes. Do I hold it high in the horror canon? Not necessarily. I’ll remember some of the vivid images Wright has painted here, as well as the promise I felt reading the first few chapters. But by the end, there are no clear lines, and while what can’t be explained – the supernatural unknown to the minds of the living – the tension falls wayside and the book becomes a muddled array of promising horrors. ...more
What we have here is a frustrating short novel about two characters who really aren’t that likable, or interesting. Their mistakes, their desires, theWhat we have here is a frustrating short novel about two characters who really aren’t that likable, or interesting. Their mistakes, their desires, the futures they envision; all these elements are clearly put to the page, but their internal whining tends to make the reader feel that they, like many middle-aged boomers who fall into the ‘woe is me’ trap, become rather unappetizing. Not really much happens in this one, and at times, it feels as though this is only the shell of a novel, not fully realized. I’m not saying O’Nan is a bad writer. He’s far from it. Read his ‘The Night Country’, a fascinating, emotional ghost story that captures the melancholic and heartbroken that reads somewhere between Ray Bradbury and Charles L. Grant.
The climax of this novel, dare I say, had me yelling a litany of obscenities. Unlike a few friends, I tend not to throw books across rooms, but I must admit, I was disappointed and briefly had the urge. So overall, for those of you who like well-written disappointments, you may just like this novel. And if you yourself are 45+ years old and are contemplating ditching your significant other, then maybe this novel will make you reconsider....more
Kind of a fizzling wet fart of a haunted house novel. Per blurbs, and Matheson's reputation as a solid horror scribe, I expected to climb the 'Mount EKind of a fizzling wet fart of a haunted house novel. Per blurbs, and Matheson's reputation as a solid horror scribe, I expected to climb the 'Mount Everest' of haunted house novels, but in the end, it felt like I walked a straight level line through cliche, jargon, soap-operatic dialogue and comical attempts at degradation. The set up is simple and straightforward - 4 people paid $100,000 each to stay in the haunted Belasco house in Northern Maine, a house with a reputation of murder and mayhem, orgies and crude ceremonies. But once the gears get grinding, I felt I was in an ABC daytime drama circa 1970, soft-focus candlelight and odd wood-block knockings behind the stage door. After a haunting moment in the beginning, things take a downturn. We have the set ups of a great haunted house - the theater, the pool, the steam room, the chapel (complete with Jesus and a huge evil phallus) and corridors leading nowhere. But Matheson eschews the atmosphere, which I think is the 'essential' method here at bringing horror to the light, and ultimately, setting up unease for the reader. I wanted to ruminate and get lost in this house, but forced back to the stage set, where it felt like the characters read their lines off giant cue cards. Midway through, I thought that the gruesome parts would elevate the novel. Perhaps? Not so. We have comically purple-prosed scenes where the medium, Florence, beckons the love of a ghost, only to be raped and beaten by the ghost, and what does she do afterward, sticks around to win back his love, only to be beaten and raped again. Basically, the characters are rather asinine here. They talk about theories, they walk through doors and check on each other (constantly), and many times they say they must leave immediately BUT not before they check ONE more thing. Jesus.
If for one thing, 'Hell House' can be read as a nice trip through pulp conventions given the Grade-B Gothic touch - but in the end, it really is a R-Rated version of 'Scooby Doo' complete with an egotistically-challenged, green-eyed, dog-fanged ghost (who I tried my hardest to think as scary, but all he came across as was a Hanna Barbara spectre complete with gravelly voice and stilts for legs to make him look taller). Gothic pulp aside, it's not much a horror novel. Shirley Jackson and Stephen King knocked it out of the park with their novels, 'Hill House' and 'The Shining'. Reread those instead. ...more
Absurd. Grotesque. Caustic, philosophical, and at times, oddly melancholic. And with all that, 'The Businessman' is still kind of a letdown.
Disch is aAbsurd. Grotesque. Caustic, philosophical, and at times, oddly melancholic. And with all that, 'The Businessman' is still kind of a letdown.
Disch is a master at dripping acid on the American fabric - whether a novel set in a futuristic prison or ghetto, or a short story set in the stars where an American astronaut is in orbit watching the Earth flare up from nuclear attacks. His fiction always floats and bends between many genres, but this novel, 'The Businessman', is his stab at more conventional horror. At least that's what the book jacket tries to say.
This novel is as horribly uneven as it is uniquely fantastical. It is a madcap meditation on the afterlife, using the suburbs of Minnesota as the stage. A scumbag of a husband has murdered his wife after she left him for Las Vegas. A year later, his wife's mother is dying of cancer, and he awaits her death so he can inherit her wealth. But the daughter comes back from the grave as a spirit in vengeful limbo. But instead of haunting her murderous husband, she has sex with him and soon becomes pregnant with a demonic halfling. This halfling has the power to transcend body and it ruthlessly attacks in the form of a terrier, a heron, a child. This spirit is the timebomb to the story, and gore-flecked insanity ensues because of it. Add in the ghost of John Berryman, the poet who can't make heaven because he committed the sinful act of suicide by jumping off; Jesus in a blimp; a frog arguing with a tree spirit, and in the most ridiculously wonderful image, a spirit animating an old lawn jockey in what is the most bizarre and hilarious scene in the book.
I just wish Thomas Disch pulled out the tongue from his cheek and let the narrative take its course. You can tell he sees these characters as puppets to mock the afterlife, religion and what humans see as 'doing good' in a mundane world. He brilliantly tackles it, but at points, his intellectual banter (nudge, nudge method) loses its luster and I felt I wanted to lose myself to the narrative. Still, a damn good book. Just not up with the par of his masterpieces ('334', 'Camp Concentration' and the collection, 'Fun with your New Head.')...more
Along with Dan Chaon and George Saunders, Brian Evenson rounds out the contemporary trio of short-story authors treading the genre lines between horroAlong with Dan Chaon and George Saunders, Brian Evenson rounds out the contemporary trio of short-story authors treading the genre lines between horror, comedy and the literary. Compared to Chaon and Saunders though, Evenson overpowers the reader with stories heavy with bleakness, no matter how suggestive they read at times; and his scenarios where characters pass over into landscapes (both cerebral and tangible) and barely come back the same are as uniquely bizarre as they are carefully constructed. These are stories of the straight-jacket, the daydream that unknowingly turns into a nightmare, and the idle, everyday moment suddenly gone ripe with supernatural dread. These are stories where the ghosts come in many guises, whether inside a psyche ward, a halfway house on the borderlands of dream and reality, or in the minds of somebody who is a psychopath but will try their best to make the reader feel otherwise.
The reader can see Flannery O'Connor's crude gothic sensibility in 'Barcode Jesus', where a Wal-Mart becomes the target of a jobless wino's righteous Godly wrath. Kafka is clearly an influence in tales like 'White Square', a police procedural veiled in the fog of one suspect's madness. Evenson mocks and celebrates Borges in a tale like 'Moran's Mexico', a mad inquiry about a fictitious travelogue and the double-edged lies it exposes about its author.
But the real high points of the book are 'The Prophets', a backwoods allegory to Lovecraft's 'Re-Animator', only with a far more hilarious result. And the selection, 'Virtual', is a truly haunting piece that rivals the best in the last century of horror. At times, the story of a father pretending his life is 'normal' is strangely humorous and depressing, but as it devolves into the commonplace, we realize that things are not as they seem, and in this ambiguous world, Brian Evenson is a master....more
The duo of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips nearly hit this one out of the park. As a horror and crime combo, the Cthulhu mythos is given the hardboiledThe duo of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips nearly hit this one out of the park. As a horror and crime combo, the Cthulhu mythos is given the hardboiled treatment. This isn’t high Noir, Jules Dassin and Patricia Highsmith, but it isn’t one-note either. When you throw in the Elder Gods of Lovecraft and mix it with 1950s noir, I'd say this first volume succeeded. There’s grisly murders, police corruption, a femme fatale with a secret past, and a plenty of well-drawn panels that rekindled my faith in the art of contemporary graphic novels. This first volume really does set the table nicely. Surely, the shit hasn’t hit the fan yet, but I can’t wait to watch how it all unfolds towards an inevitable apocalypse....more