If somebody told you they were reading a book in which Lizzie Borden fights Lovecraftian horrors with her infamous axe, you might snicker a little. YoIf somebody told you they were reading a book in which Lizzie Borden fights Lovecraftian horrors with her infamous axe, you might snicker a little. You might think, "Oh, great. Another historical fiction gag a laSense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Special." I've been awaiting Maplecroft's release for a long while now, mainly on the strength of Cherie Priest's general badassery, but also because for a historical horror and Lovecraft/ian junkie, that's actually an impossible pitch to resist. It could have been ridiculous, and I'd probably have enjoyed it anyway.
Fortunately, snickering is not the order of the day, and the good news is that it's not one bit cheeseball. In fact Priest has crafted a somber and deeply disturbing story of two intelligent women of independent means (and scandalous reputation), small-town mistrust, and a creeping contagion that threatens not only the coastal Massachusetts town of Fall River, but possibly the entire human race. Maplecroft is set in the handful of years after Lizzie Borden was acquitted of the heinous 1892 axe murders of her father and stepmother. Of course there's more to that story than meets the eye, and therein begins the tale.
Despite being written in the oft-maligned epistolary style, Maplecroft moves along at a satisfying clip through the letters and diaries of the Borden sisters, Lizbeth (her preferred name) and invalid Emma, Fall River's stalwart local doctor, and a number of mysterious "authorities," one of whom is a peculiar marine biologist from Miskatonic University. The sense of the uncanny, of things that just should not be lurking right outside the safe home Lizbeth has built for her sister and herself, builds slowly, but plateaus over and over again as escalating events among their friends and neighbors threaten -- once again -- to destroy not only their hard-won independence, but also their sanity.
Dark, uncanny and action-packed (also thoroughly gross and reeking of the foetid depths), Maplecroft would be a thrilling stand-alone New-Lovcraftian creation, though I'll admit I'm pleased to see by the subtitle that Borden and her trusty axe will be back. ...more
Though bleaker than the first book -- if that's even possible -- The Curse of the Wendigo is another cracking adventure in monstrumology from Ri4.5/5
Though bleaker than the first book -- if that's even possible -- The Curse of the Wendigo is another cracking adventure in monstrumology from Rick Yancey. This time, Pellinore Warthrop and young Will Henry trek to the trackless wilds of Canada, seeking a fellow monstrumologist who has gone missing in search of the infamous Wendigo. Their ordeal in the virgin forest nods to a certain other tale of The Wendigo, but this time it doesn't end there: the "curse" follows them home to America, and in its ravening hunger, this beast will leave a trail of bodies strewn across Manhattan . . . some of them belonging to beloved friends. This monster is even more dangerous than the slavering, subhuman Anthropophagi of the first book . . . for the cunning Wendigo not only hunts its prey, it knows its prey, and once you hear it call your name, there is no escape.
Darker, scarier and far more devastating than its predecessor, The Curse of the Wendigo once again serves buckets of blood and viscera, but also engages more deeply with the emotionally scarred monstrumologist, and baldly shows how punishments for our past actions can reverberate on our present. I'd say the themes are actually fairly adult -- the moral weight of guilt, love lost, hope slashed, and aspirations denied sits heavy on the book; even the "victory" is imbued with loss and a sense of failure. Definitely for older teens, who may better intuit the emotional world this book charts.
Though I did miss the slightly quippier tone of the first book, The Curse of the Wendigo is certainly haunting, and beautifully written in a style that would please Mr. Blackwood immensely. I'm fully invested in this series -- cannot wait to read The Isle of Blood...more
What a wonderful, terrible, hilarious, disgusting, compelling adventure yarn The Monstrumologist is! I've never read anything even remotely like it. In a nutshell, here's why you should read this book.
1) The monsters -- Anthropophagi -- are completely terrifying. Savage, headless man-eaters, fierce, fast and thoroughly disgusting, they have inexplicably appeared in a small New England town and embarked on a feeding frenzy. These nasty beasties are a welcome development for horror fiction, which has nurtured too many romanticized monsters of late. You do not want to date one of these fellows, of that you can be sure. On they other hand, they'd love to have you incubate their offspring . . ..
2) The sweet-and-sour relationship between the Monstrumologist himself (who is rather like a bizarro-world Sherlock Holmes on one of his manic benders), and our narrator, the plucky and resilient twelve year-old orphan Will Henry. Will has recently inherited his father's position as the peculiar monster-hunting scientist Dr. Pellinore Warthrop's assistant, and is about to be plunged into the kind of mayhem that would make even professional monster-hunters quail. Before the tale is told Will will see (and do!) unthinkable things in the name of science, and forge himself a new family from the ashes of tragedy.
3) Yancey's writing is wonderful. Densely descriptive without being dull; poetic without being pretentious. Top notch plotting as well. I've seen reviews say it was slow in the middle, but I couldn't put it down at any point. When the action slows down, the character development picks up the slack with sharp, funny dialogue and moments of painful honesty about the human (and inhuman) condition. Also, the feeling of dread that builds throughout, especially in the quiet moments, leads to a spectacular payoff.
4) It's viscerrific! The Monstrumologist may be one of the bloodiest (and brain-iest, and pus-iest, and maggot-iest) books I have ever read. The gore is so over-the-top that sometimes I laughed and cringed simultaneously. I know it's considered a YA novel (and has the Printz-prize sticker to prove it); however I'm pretty sure it would have terrified me as a kid. Granted, I was kind of a wuss, but there were at least two scenes where the jaded, adult me felt the need to avert my gaze and skip ahead because I really didn't want any more detail about the disgustingness happening. (No, no, no, no, NO. A world of no.) You'd better be sure your kid can take it -- I'd read it first, just to be sure.
Grotesque, rollicking and unique fun, The Monstrumologist has made a Rick Yancey fan out of me. I can't wait to get my hands on the second installment, The Curse of the Wendigo....more
If you love Sherlock, you'll find things to like here, but like many anthologies, it's kind of hit and miss. Favorites included James A. Moore's Lovec If you love Sherlock, you'll find things to like here, but like many anthologies, it's kind of hit and miss. Favorites included James A. Moore's Lovecraftian "Emily's Kiss," and Simon Kurt Unworth's exceedingly creepy "The Hand-Delivered Letter," in which Moriarty exacts a quite unexpected type of revenge. ...more
George R.R. Martin writes a lot, having set his hand to everything from television scripts, to short stories, to epic series. Horror, science fiction,George R.R. Martin writes a lot, having set his hand to everything from television scripts, to short stories, to epic series. Horror, science fiction, fantasy, he's done it all. He's also been at it quite a long time. Fevre Dream, the story of a magnificent steamboat, her captain, and the vampires struggling for control of the Mississippi region, is one of his earliest novels -- 30 years old now -- but already his talent for world building was dazzling.
Let's get something straight up front. I can already hear people saying "Vampires? I am so over vampires . . .," and tuning out. But consider: this novel was written ages before the good vampire/bad vampire dichotomy became rote, years before they became rock stars, and decades before they sparkled. Do yourself a favor and try to approach it unjaded, because . . .
Fevre Dream is also fantastic historical fiction, as much about the vanished world of steamboats and their captains plying the eternal river as anything else. Martin's magic way with details transports the reader straight to the Mississippi waterfronts of the 1850s. There we meet the blustering Abner Marsh, owner of the Fevre River Packet Company. Abner has come on hard times; his once-prosperous fleet reduced from six boats to one by the vagaries of fire and weather. And so it is we find him entertaining a too-good-to-be-true offer of partnership from one Joshua York, a mysterious, and very rich, businessman. The offer includes not only the purchase of half the company, but the promise to build Marsh the most glorious steamboat the river has ever seen. The catch? York will of course be in charge, and his retinue aboard . . . And Abner is to ask no questions.
Dubious at first, Marsh is finally seduced by the idea of a steamboat so fast that it can beat the Eclipse, the current star of the Mississippi. And when she's done, it's love at first sight:
The mists gave way for them, and there she stood, high and proud, dwarfing all the other boats around her. Her cabins and rails gleamed with fresh paint pale as snow, bright even in the gray shroud of fog. Way up on her texas roof, halfway to the stars, her pilot house seemed to glitter; a glass temple, its ornate cupola decorated all around with fancy woodwork as intricate as Irish lace. Her chimneys, twin pillars that stood just forward of the texas deck, rose up a hundred feet, black and straight and haughty. Their feathered tops bloomed like two dark metal flowers.
Shrugging off any ominous associations, he names her the Fevre Dream, and the river's finest new showboat sets off with a full load of passengers and cargo, headed first to St. Louis, and on to New Orleans. It's the happiest day of Abner Marsh's life.
It's not long, however, before Abner tires of his partner's secrets and strange behavior. York sleeps all day, requests the Fevre Dream make unscheduled stops and disappears, sometimes for days, delaying the increasingly irritated passengers and, more importantly, spoiling the reputation of his boat before she has had a chance to prove herself. Suspicious, Marsh takes matters into his own hands, searching York's cabin while he is away. What he finds there will thrust him, and the Fevre Dream, into the middle of a decades-long feud between two vampires struggling for ideological control of their species.
It doesn't surprise me to find beautiful passages and sensuous detail in a book by Martin, or complicated relationships and complex reversals of fate. He's a magnificent writer. But it's clear in Fevre Dream that he's still honing certain talents. One of the weaker areas is characterization, which in some cases (looking at you, Abner) is more vivid than subtle. He is not yet the creator of the ridiculously lifelike Tyrion Lannister, and ASoIaF lovers might feel the characters approaching caricature some of the time. (So, really, Fevre Dream only suffers in comparison to his later awesomeness.) It's also hard to read old-school vampire stories with a straight face in the wake of the pop-cultural deluge. But do try to get past it: a 4-star novel from GRRM is probably better than whatever you're reading right now. ...more
Lisa Mannetti's Bram Stoker Award-winning The Gentling Box is pretty much a horrorshow from beginning to end: 1860s Hungary and Romania, gypsy curses,Lisa Mannetti's Bram Stoker Award-winning The Gentling Box is pretty much a horrorshow from beginning to end: 1860s Hungary and Romania, gypsy curses, the blackest magic and some pretty disturbing body horror.
Feeling something like a fairy-tale gone horribly wrong (as they are wont to do), this book clings like a bad dream.
A thoroughly entertaining collection, perhaps a bit less steampunk than advertised, but quite solid as an hommage to classic Victorian supernatural liA thoroughly entertaining collection, perhaps a bit less steampunk than advertised, but quite solid as an hommage to classic Victorian supernatural literature. See my full review here:
All Men of Genius is a charming foray into a developing genre that might be called "whimsical adult fiction." (See also Gail Carriger, Lev Grossman, All Men of Genius is a charming foray into a developing genre that might be called "whimsical adult fiction." (See also Gail Carriger, Lev Grossman, etc.) Drawing on both Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde for tone and characterization, Lev AC Rosen’s debut novel is a sparkling Victorian steampunk concoction of romance, intrigue, cross-dressing, mistaken identity and lots and lots of moving parts – some of them quite dangerous.
When Violet Adams, a talented and visionary young scientist, applies to the exclusive college of Ilyria, she is quite confident of her acceptance. The problem is that Ilyria is an all-male institution, and she has applied under the name of her twin brother Ashton. Can Violet maintain the gender-bending ruse for as long as it takes to prove she (or any woman) is as skillful as any man working in her field? Need I say that complications ensue? If you've ever read Twelfth Night or The Importance of Being Earnest you’ll have a sense of where this is going . . . except you’ll have to add a lot of gears, steam, and creepy subterranean vaults into the equation. (And if you've read neither, it's okay. You'll still enjoy this clever book, and it might inspire you to do so!)
Peopled with lively characters, full of witty banter and romantic mistaken identity, All Men of Genius still has enough dark moments to make it a thrilling steampunk adventure. But don't mistake this book for young adult literature, as despite the book’s comedic tone, some very adult situations are presented without ambiguity: sexual situations (and misunderstandings) abound; booze flows; there is some rather impressively foul language (although it’s mostly from a rabbit); and a great deal of evil-robot perpetrated violence. For sure, this one’s a delight for the all grown-up kids out there, and I’m looking forward to more from Rosen and hope he continues to impress with his unique take on the classics – both literary and sci-fi. ...more