I'm always swearing I'm not going to start any new series, but when I read the first chapter of this book, "The Red Empress," included as bonus materiI'm always swearing I'm not going to start any new series, but when I read the first chapter of this book, "The Red Empress," included as bonus material in Unseaming, I was instantly hooked. (Proof: I haven't reviewed Unseaming yet.)
Dark, disturbing, and inventively disgusting, The Black Fire Concerto envisions a post-apocalyptic America where The Storms, otherworldly and deadly, have mutated the land and its people. They also brought magic, new and powerful and sometimes very black. Here there be ghouls -- and worse than ghouls: cannibal cultists and megalomaniac magicians who aren't afraid to harness the horrors the Storms left for their own ends.
This book really is unflinchingly gory and body-horror heavy, but there's also something that is bright and refreshing about The Black Fire Concerto: its two protagonists. Erzelle, a young harpist in servitude as house musician at a gruesome gastronome's club, and Olyssa, the imposing, mysterious traveler that rescues her -- are both women. So rarely do we see women cast as epic heroes that Allen's tale took me by surprise.
And it certainly is something different. When Erzelle joins the majestic Olyssa (think King's Gunslinger crossed with the goddess Athena in a bad mood) on a quest to find Olyssa's missing sister, they face events and obstacles by turns magical and utterly nightmarish. But it's their master-and-apprentice pairing that makes the story pure gold. I don't usually get exerted over lack of adequate female representation in fantasy, but I guess it must be pretty bad for me to react so strongly to seeing it done right.
Not for everybody, and definitely not for the squeamish, The Black Fire Concerto is luxuriously nightmarish dark fantasy, and I'm going to be tapping my foot impatiently for the next book in "The Stormblight Symphony." Now, please, Mr. Allen....more
I never want to comment too directly on these, cause spoilers suck. I will say this: (view spoiler)[ nice job on the time jump/reboot. Watching them gI never want to comment too directly on these, cause spoilers suck. I will say this: (view spoiler)[ nice job on the time jump/reboot. Watching them get settled would of course have been dull. Great reintroduction to everyone in their new roles. (hide spoiler)] So good move there. I'm teetering on a 4.5, but there was one moment, one truly terrifying panel, that pushes it to 5 stars. ...more
After the People Lights Have Gone Off is nagging at me for a review, and I'm not sure what to tell it. When, in his cover-blurb, Laird Barron likens tAfter the People Lights Have Gone Off is nagging at me for a review, and I'm not sure what to tell it. When, in his cover-blurb, Laird Barron likens the book to "a malignant grain of an evil dream," he's on to something. I keep thinking about certain of these stories in a kind of awe at how immediately they imprinted themselves on me, but others eluded or vexed me for reasons that probably say more about me than they do about Stephen Graham Jones' writing.
Let's start with what I loved. I loved that the collection contains gutting new twists on the dusty old vampire and werewolf genres; I loved the fact that two of the stories ("Xebico" and "The Spindly Man") are inspired rejoinders to other weird tales I'm fond of. I loved that SGJ can find the terrifying in the mundanity of a laser kitchen thermometer, an old fruit-crate or a thrift-shop hoodie. And I love that the title piece is looking like one of my favorite haunted house stories ever.
Thematically, though, not much love. There is an awful lot of grieving and coping (badly) and loss of all kinds going on here. In After the People Lights Have Gone Off grief is practically a character. There are stories about lost children, sick children, funerals, dead or sick or broken spouses, and also stories about the horrible deals humans make to keep death's darkness at bay. Though SGJ manages to inject the madness of grief with touches of humor and humanity, the vibe can get pretty heavy in the places most of us would rather not think about, where the terrible truths about loss live.
Maybe my indifference to certain stories, "Snow Monsters" and "Second Chances," for example, is that they didn't really poke my scary spots, as I'm not a parent or even particularly fond of children. (Some people think that makes me a sociopath, but I know they're just envious of all the "me-time" I get.) Other stories, like "This is Love," and "Brushdogs," I'll admit that I just don't get (yet). Both are also about lost children, in different ways, but what vexes me in both cases is the suggestion of repetitive time looping or doubling that I still just can't get my head around. (Which is funny, because I've read them both before in anthologies.)
I know this isn't my most coherent review, and that's because I'm not really done mulling the stories. I have to take After the People Lights Have Gone Off back to the library now, but I'm not likely to be done thinking about it for awhile....more
Very clever, Mr. Weir. I liked this story quite a bit. All things considered, though, the prose could be tighter. "Annie's Day" is a quick, fun read,Very clever, Mr. Weir. I liked this story quite a bit. All things considered, though, the prose could be tighter. "Annie's Day" is a quick, fun read, but it's not Chekhov. You can find it here: http://www.galactanet.com/oneoff/anni... ...more
4.5, really. Langan's byzantine, beautiful prose sometimes distracts me from the plots. (A not surprising quality in a James lover.) I have to think a4.5, really. Langan's byzantine, beautiful prose sometimes distracts me from the plots. (A not surprising quality in a James lover.) I have to think about these some more....more
I really liked this book. I wanted to really love it. It had all the hallmarks of the sort of philoso-satire I tend to enjoy. The idea of an earnest,I really liked this book. I wanted to really love it. It had all the hallmarks of the sort of philoso-satire I tend to enjoy. The idea of an earnest, if a little duplicitous, academic causing a history-exploding breach in the world's major (and most troublesome) faiths is awesome. "The Fifth Gospel," the newly-discovered and translated Aramaic book-withinn-the-book that starts all the hubbub is both funny and humane. The satiric skewering of fanatics (of both the religious and Dan-Brown-loving variety) is snort-aloud funny.
But then, it kind of just . . . ended. The story was complete, I suppose, but the denouement came all in a rush and I was like "wait, that's it?" Maybe I wanted it to be longer because I was enjoying beleaguered (and bewildered) Aramaic scholar Theo's nutty adventures in publishing enormously. But it felt more novella than novel, and I felt a bit cheated of potential deeper content. Leave 'em wanting more doesn't always leave 'em entirely pleased....more
In picking up an older anthology, one runs the risk of already having encountered some of the stories. Unfortunately, I was familiar with about a thirIn picking up an older anthology, one runs the risk of already having encountered some of the stories. Unfortunately, I was familiar with about a third of these (among which are great tales by Laird Barron, Glen Hirschberg, Norman Partridge, and Joe Lansdale), but I picked it up for $1.99 on Kindle, so what the hey.
The good news is, most of the new (to me) stories blew me away. The collection opens with Cody Goodfellow's brilliant and utterly perverse "At the Riding School," of which the less said the better; it hits a good midpoint stride with Richard Harland's "The Fear," an ode to cult horror films and maniacal directors; then introduces an unprecedented apocalyptic event in Tanith Lee's "Black and White Sky"; and closes with John Langan's tour-de-force werewolf tale, "The Revel." (Langan is so awesome he's represented twice: his new-Lovecraftian "City of the Dog," already familiar to me, was nevertheless a chilling reread.) There are also stories about what happens to children who pull the wings off things, a boy who can draw events into existence, and even a couple zombie apocalypse tales that felt surprisingly fresh.
Over all, I find you can't really lose with any of Datlow's collections. She's a maestro....more
A companion piece to Carriger's beloved Parasol Protectorate series, "The Curious Case . . ." concerns itself with the mysterious Alessandro TarabottiA companion piece to Carriger's beloved Parasol Protectorate series, "The Curious Case . . ." concerns itself with the mysterious Alessandro Tarabotti (Alexia's father), and his ever faithful servant, Floote. A charming tale of supernatural espionage and taxidermy in the deserts of Egypt....more