Yeesh. Charlie Manx is back, this time in a ridiculously bloody prequel to NOS4A2, in which we learn the disturbing tale of how Manx acquired The Wrai...moreYeesh. Charlie Manx is back, this time in a ridiculously bloody prequel to NOS4A2, in which we learn the disturbing tale of how Manx acquired The Wraith, and how he built Christmasland. Full of foul language, dirty tricks, long cons, sharp teeth (lots and lots of teeth), righteous retribution, and a higher body count than the novel it's spun out of, The Wraith is one nasty piece of work. I don't think I'd even let the terrible children of Christmasland read it for fear they'd give themselves nightmares.
Of course isn't just Hill's story . . . it's a comic book after all, in which a substantial amount of plot information is by tradition, purely visual. At first when I heard Hill wasn't working with Locke & Key partner Gabriel Rodriguez, I was disappointed. Now I'm pretty sure Charles Paul Wilson III's horrific, splattery, carnivorous, absolutely spot-on artwork is going to haunt my dreams for a good long while.
I try and I try, but I just don't get Ligotti's stories. There, I've said it. I know he's one of the grandmasters, and massively influential, and yet...moreI try and I try, but I just don't get Ligotti's stories. There, I've said it. I know he's one of the grandmasters, and massively influential, and yet . . ..
I don't exactly dislike him, but his brand of existential horror is just not for me. I don't find it scary, merely sort of dreary and enervating. Which is not to say I reject his nihilism -- in fact I agree with his philosophy in many of its particulars, and really enjoyed The Conspiracy Against the Human Race. But what was interesting in that context, often reads didactic in his fiction. Most disappointing of all is that Ligotti only rarely gives me the creeps.
That being said, there's no denying he writes beautifully, and his stories proceed to their gloomy conclusions with a dense, sinuous dream logic which sometimes reads like prose poetry. That alone is to be respected enough for three stars. And I will admit that "The Small People" riveted me in a most uncomfortable way, and discomfort is a key element in good horror. But I'm not sure my discomfort came from the drift into the shabby and uncanny, or from what felt a little like an apologia for xenophobia.
This is a smashing collection. I want to say many things about it -- how each story is well chosen, each completely different from one another, yet al...moreThis is a smashing collection. I want to say many things about it -- how each story is well chosen, each completely different from one another, yet all live in that terrifying, unique universe Laird Barron has birthed -- but no time for thoughtful gushing today. Just wanted to give The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron a big fat 5 star rating immediately. I will better review in a couple of days.(less)
Another cracking good read from Stephen King. This one's a straight-up thriller with no supernatural frills, and generally follows the classic "retire...moreAnother cracking good read from Stephen King. This one's a straight-up thriller with no supernatural frills, and generally follows the classic "retired cop can't let his last case go" template. But thanks to King's wholly uncanny ability to draw rich, humane characterizations -- even for doomed bit players, but most importantly for the crazed titular foe -- it's more memorable than most boilerplate thrillers. Also? Completely impossible to put down.
I have a couple of observations (reservations?): Sometimes, while reading Mr. Mercedes, I forgot I was reading Stephen King. I'm not sure if that's good or bad. Maybe it was the "ripped from the headlines" crimes; maybe it was the lack of anything supernatural, or for that matter, particularly "King-y" about it. Okay, there are a couple of gross-out moments that make you go "oh, right, King." But it definitely lacks his usual touch of the nostalgic/elegaic. It doesn't take much time to ponder. It's nonstop.
In short, King has done his usual out-of-the-ballpark trick on yet another bestselling genre. I'm only going four stars rather than five because I like a little supernatural with my crime, but if edge-of-your-seat-stopping-a-madman thrillers are your thing, welcome to your new summer beach-read. (less)
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. Yo...moreIf 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. (less)
This noir piece of weirdness takes as its touchstone "The Maltese Falcon," a film I have (shock! gasp!) never actually seen. However, that in no way l...moreThis noir piece of weirdness takes as its touchstone "The Maltese Falcon," a film I have (shock! gasp!) never actually seen. However, that in no way lessened my enjoyment of this tale about a creepy residential hotel, a tragic, ghostly love triangle, obsession and blood magic. Meikle has a talent for creating fully fleshed-out characters, who, even in the shorter novella format, invite you to care about their fates. Broken Sigil was so good I wanted it to be longer so I could spend more time in it -- maybe next I'll take on one of Meikle's longer works! (And maybe I'll give "The Maltese Falcon" a whirl.)(less)