I first came across the author S.P. Miskowski when I read her really rather excellent short story A.G.A. in an issue of Supernatural Tales. So I thoug...moreI first came across the author S.P. Miskowski when I read her really rather excellent short story A.G.A. in an issue of Supernatural Tales. So I thought I'd try her novel Knock Knock, particularly as it seems to be doing rather well for itself, getting nominated for the Shirley Jackson award and everything.
Knock Knock uses a familiar horror novel device - that of setting a novel firmly in one small, American town and telling of an evil that affects multiple generations in that town. In this case the setting is Skillute, a backwater American logging town, and the novel begins in the Sixties and progresses to the modern day. Miskowski uses this setting to great advantage, both as a realistic backdrop and as a place where it seems quite natural tall tales and superstitions would spring up. The story tells of three female friends from Skillute, and how a childhood pandering to one of these local superstitions brings an old evil back... I mention they are all female purely because this seems to me a novel very much written from a female, feminist perspective - ideas about women, pregnancy, and children drive the plot, although that's not to say there aren't some sharply drawn male characters too. In this sense it's quite original, and it gives the book an structural and thematic coherence that underpins the disturbing and grotesque events brought about by the girls unintentionally awakening an evil spirit.
This is a slow-burn novel, with the significance of certain events at the start of the book not being entirely clear. In this way the tense, oppressive atmosphere builds - Miskowski is great at generating eerie imagery, particularly when describing the woods and forest around Skillute. When the scares come, she can do more with a single, stark line than most authors can in pages and pages of poorly written gore.
If I had one issue with this book, it was the nagging feeling that all of the character's actions didn't matter that much in the end - that the disturbing events of the book were preordained no matter what they did, and that they were just caught up in it all with no agency or control. (I think this is a perfectly legitimate way to approach a short story, but maybe for a novel some sense that the characters actions might affect the outcome is needed.) A minor gripe, but there we are. Knock Knock is certainly worth reading and certainly worth the acclaim it seems to be getting. Even better, I see that S.P. Miskowski is also to release a series of novellas set in the same town, with the first, Delphine Dodd, available now. As I mentioned, one of the great things about Knock Knock is it's setting, so I'll certainly be keen to see what other dark tales are being told there...(less)
I've not really read fiction of this genre since I was a teenager, finding all too often these kind of trilogies (and they always *are* trilogies) see...moreI've not really read fiction of this genre since I was a teenager, finding all too often these kind of trilogies (and they always *are* trilogies) seem to be cliched and generic. Fortunately this series seems to avoid that trap. Some of the characters are a tad familiar, but the author does in a good job in making them individuals; sexuality, of all persuasions, is particularly well handled will out being too overbearing.
The setting is mainly urban, and the story in part describes the machinations of various political factions within it, especially as relates to the refugees outside the city gates in the frozen wastes. In general the author successfully walks the fine line between having the fantasy world resonate with our own, but not being to didactic about it. The plot itself, once it gets going, is fast moving and compulsive.
Oh, and the banshees in this book are a brilliant creation.
As I said, I've not read this kind of fiction for years, so I guess the real test is whether this book would impress me enough to make me buy the second volume.
Simon Reynolds is probably my favourite music critic, and this book doesn't disappoint. Or rather it does, but not because of its writing but it's cen...moreSimon Reynolds is probably my favourite music critic, and this book doesn't disappoint. Or rather it does, but not because of its writing but it's central thesis: music is eating its own past rather than forging into the future... Reynolds writing is exhilarating and erudite though, full of references to music and other art-forms. A self-confessed 'modernist' he still believes cultural theory can be cool, and he proves it (again) here.(less)
I first read Rowan's short fiction in his superb collection Ice Age, a book of stories in the horror/weird fiction mode. The stories in Nowhere To Go...moreI first read Rowan's short fiction in his superb collection Ice Age, a book of stories in the horror/weird fiction mode. The stories in Nowhere To Go are more fimrly rooted in the crime genre, and without exception they are all expertly plotted and stylishly written: Rowan's prose is always clear-cut and effective, and never more so than here.
Of the eleven stories here, my favourites were:
'One Step Closer' - great characterisation in a piece so short, and Rowan's sympathies with the *victims* of crime rather than the criminals themselves is on display in a story of a robbery gone wrong...
'One of Us' - the short story from which his excellent novel of the same name grew. Interesting to read it in its original form.
'The Chain' - quite simply because I did't predict the twist...
'Moths' - a side-order of Ice Age-esque weirdness in amidst the crime. The closing imagery is to die for.
'The Remains of My Estate' - a masterful description of a sink-estate and the loan-sharks who bleed it dry.
'Nowhere To Go' - another one with a hint of the supernatural; possibly my favourite and a great closing story.(less)
I review this from a position of complete ignorance, both of the original Latin poetry of Catullus or of any traditional translation of his works. So...moreI review this from a position of complete ignorance, both of the original Latin poetry of Catullus or of any traditional translation of his works. So this was completely new to me & I enjoyed it a lot. I suspect a lot of of reviews of Catullus will use the word "bawdy" but it certainly fits - the tone is often conversational, lewd, or derogatory. Certainly a mile away from the lyricism that seems to be modern day poetry's default mode (which takes a bit of attuning to).
It's certainly intrigued me to find out more about Catullus, and the Latin poets in general, which I assume was the translator's intention. And I do love the fact that self-publishing has opened the door for projects like this, an obvious labour of love which wouldn't have seen the light of day in the pre-ebook age one feels.(less)
This is a great book, and exceptionally well written. It's essentially a love-triangle story, although a complex, strange, and disturbing one. In its...moreThis is a great book, and exceptionally well written. It's essentially a love-triangle story, although a complex, strange, and disturbing one. In its forensic depiction of emotional states and the dark side of love, it reminded me of some of Margaret Atwood's more realistic stories - high praise. I also liked the author's obvious love of words - the word definitions that headed chapters (which was in character for Claire) and the letters to Virginia Woolf were both great touches. One slight (and I do mean slight) flaw was the central characters yo-yo-ing between two men occasionally got repetitive. But otherwise a great book - recommended to all fans of literate stories.
This is a great novella from Mark West - ostensibly a horror story, it is as much about the dislocation of the death of a loved one, and the resulting...moreThis is a great novella from Mark West - ostensibly a horror story, it is as much about the dislocation of the death of a loved one, and the resulting grief, as it is about the supernatural. Although the supernatural element is there and the book is genuinely creepy in places.
West writes about his character's feelings really well - at times this was a heart-wrenching read. It is paced really well, with no extra fat on the meat of the story, making its bleak story feel even more dark and unremitting. The ending really works well to bring both the realistic and supernatural elements together into a climax that is pitch-perfect, and haunting in more than one sense. (less)
Never really taken to Dickens's novels much, do thought I'd try this. Two of the three stories were good if not great. One just seemed a mass of digre...moreNever really taken to Dickens's novels much, do thought I'd try this. Two of the three stories were good if not great. One just seemed a mass of digressions padding out a pretty weak plot. (less)
Ill At Ease contains three stories by three different authors; the three stories are all dark and focus on the psychology of the protagonists; none en...moreIll At Ease contains three stories by three different authors; the three stories are all dark and focus on the psychology of the protagonists; none end happily although only one seems to feature anything supernatural (depending on how you read it).
Stephen Bacon - 'Waiting For Josh'. A strong opener, this is a well-written story about a man returning to his childhood home town to see his ex-best friend, who is dying. Old secrets are revealed, Some really strong imagery and scenes; my only complaint was it was a tad predictable in places.
Mark West - 'Come See My House In The Pretty Town'. For me, the highlight of this collection - another old friends reunited story, but with a more sinister tone. With its small isolated English village setting, this is almost like The League Of Gentlemen played straight instead of for laughs. If you are afraid of clowns this will do nothing to help...
Neil Williams - 'Closer Than You Think'. A ghost story, or the tale of a man having a nervous breakdown accompanied by strange visions? You decide. Another good story, I particularly liked the way the horror seemed to take place in such mundane settings - supermarket car parks and rubbish tips.
There's also some interesting notes from each author, explaining the inspiration behind each story. Overall a strong collection, and one that will definitely lead me to explore further work from all three writers involved.(less)