I don't know why I've never read Tim Curran before - Corpse Rider is exactly the kind of horror that would have caused me sleepless nights, which I seI don't know why I've never read Tim Curran before - Corpse Rider is exactly the kind of horror that would have caused me sleepless nights, which I secretly loved, had I encountered it in my teens. (The Shining's dead lady in the bathtub prevented me from peeing at night for weeks. Good times.) In In this tale about a young woman who attracts the wrong kind of attention in return for a good deed at a cemetery, Curran conjures pure malevolence in a bloated, oozing sac, and it's delightfully sick. Also vividly imagined and colorfully described - his evocation of pure dread is particularly affecting. Not for everybody, but if you like a splattering of gore and rot with your terrifying haints, spend an afternoon with Corpse Rider....more
After the death of his wife, insurance salesman Oswald Priestly hopes for a fresh start when he moves himself and his teenaged daughter Amy into NazarAfter the death of his wife, insurance salesman Oswald Priestly hopes for a fresh start when he moves himself and his teenaged daughter Amy into Nazarill, a centuries-old hulk of a building newly renovated into "luxury apartments." Unfortunately the renovations haven't entirely effaced Nazarill's bloody past, which lies closer to the surface than either Priestly is prepared for. When fifteen year-old Amy's adolescent (and totally normal) rebellions start to puzzle, then annoy, and finally infuriate Oswald, Nazarill's dark heart begins to beat.
The story is told in alternating narrative voices, and readers are privy to the perspectives of both Oswald and Amy, which begin to warp as the house goes to work on them. While Amy struggles against childhood nightmares come to life, she also becomes driven to uncover the secrets of her new home; put simply, Oswald becomes obsessed with stopping her at any cost. We can only watch helplessly as their lives absorb the taint of old violence from Nazarill's walls.
Nazareth Hill puts me in mind of The Shining, in that it tells of a house that feeds on poisoning its tenants' minds (and fathers in particular), but its vibe is more a a very British old-school ghost story. It relies heavily on a classic slow build of suspense -- strange noises, bad lighting, doors just barely cracked open, and shapeless revenants glimpsed but not-quite seen. All this it does excellently (view spoiler)[Amy's adventures with the first floor in particular were spellbindingly awful for me (hide spoiler)], so when the shocks do come, they are really shocking. OMG-gasp-out-loud shocking.
Where Nazareth Hill falls a star short of perfect is in the unevenness of its characterization: who knew a middle-aged man could write a more nuanced teenaged girl than he could a middle-aged man? Obviously, readers are meant to sympathize with Amy, but it's a shame that Oswald, who starts out as a hapless widower coping with the mysteries of adolescence, becomes an entirely repulsive, over-the-top character. It feels plain lazy to make the heroine's father a total monster; even Jack Torrance retained a shred of humanity to the end.
4 out of 5 stars for excellence in atmosphere peopled by unevenly executed characters. ...more
One of the most consistently good neo-Lovecraftian anthologies I've read, which is not surprising, given Joshi's stature in the field. Under his deftOne of the most consistently good neo-Lovecraftian anthologies I've read, which is not surprising, given Joshi's stature in the field. Under his deft editorial hand the reader is treated to a fine selection of tales spanning close to a century (from 1933 to the present), each of which engages with Lovecraft and his legacy of cosmic horror in a markedly different way, yet as a whole flow and ring tonally true throughout. Not a single story bored me, and I tore through all 600+ pages of A Mountain Walked in about 3 days, but of course I had favorites:
- The now-classic "Far Below," Robert Barbour Johnson's 1939 tale of the brave men who work down in the deep, sunless tunnels to shield the New York subway system and its unsuspecting passengers against an unspeakable evil.
- "The Deep Ones," by James Wade, a chilling and perverse story of telepathic experimentation gone very, very wrong. You probably won't want to swim with dolphins anytime soon.
- W.H. Pugmire's dreamy "The Phantom of Beguilement," in which a suggestive but hazy painting by a mysterious Kingsport artist first attracts, then gradually reveals its true nature to a new owner. Quite lovely, in an elegiac way.
- "Virgin's Island," by Donald Tyson, is about two climbers who dare to scale an isolated and treacherous rock island and come to rue what they find at its summit. This one deftly combines the thrill of an explorer's adventures with chthonic terror. It's archaeology for the damned.
- Mark Samuels' "A Gentleman from Mexico" considers the possible metempsychosis of H.P. Lovecraft, and what it might signify for both the literary world and a cult of fanatics planning to raise his gods.
- Gemma Files' brilliant "[Anasazi]" tracks an ageless and nihilistic race as it invades human consciousness like a poisoned meme, an infection of random violence and eventual annihilation in just one terrible symbol.
- And finally, Caitlin R. Kiernan's "John Four" is a magnificently bleak vision of service in the Temple of the conquering Black Pharaoh, and it conjures the most impressively alien, "other" world in the collection. So many writers are good at the bits where the Old Gods are raised / summoned / awakened / eating your sanity, but here Kiernan masters the infinitely more difficult problem of After.
This collection followed me into my dreams. 5 full stars.
Doyle After Death follows ne'er do well Vegas private eye Nick Fogg into the afterlife, after a small miscalculation with some benzos and a bottle. FoDoyle After Death follows ne'er do well Vegas private eye Nick Fogg into the afterlife, after a small miscalculation with some benzos and a bottle. For Nick, the afterlife is a cheerfully peaceful little town called Garden Rest, which he shares with any number of colorful, but generally harmless, characters. Nick isn't sure how a guy like him wound up in a nice place like Garden Rest, but he's just starting to get his bearings when he meets neighbor Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Yes, that Conan Doyle . . . and the great man is hot on the trail of a murderer (yes, you can sort of be murdered, even if you're already "aftered" -- never "dead"), and takes up the affable Nick as an assistant. Together, the offbeat duo are swept up in the mystery of an afterlife.
John Shirley's world-building is clever, whimsical without being cloying, and it doesn't try to overload a reader in the minutia of its rules. What it does is sketch a lively version of an afterworld with quirks like a Lamplighter called Diogenes, areas where it never stops raining, and neon signs but no electricity. Humans, however, are much the same (Garden Rest's entire populace is unduly interested in whether newcomers have brought any tobacco with them), and in these human frailties lies the plot. Doyle After Death is wholly charming: a fun, fast-moving afterlife adventure.
Quite entertaining and disquieting about 60% of the time. I really enjoyed some aspects of the story, mainly (view spoiler)[the exploration of the Pit and the assault on the house (hide spoiler)] in the first half. Though it eventually comes around again, there is an excruciatingly drawn-out visionary trip through space and time that belabors the story for most of the second part; while the ideas and images therein are sufficiently awesome to trigger that old cosmic horror, it's unfortunately padded, and repetitive to the point of giving one the impulse to skim large sections. (Also, WH Hodgson uses way too many commas, throwing them in at really random intervals sometimes. Even I found it distracting, and I love commas.)
All in all, a mixed experience. I see what Lovecraft liked (deep time, the huge voids of space, the cthonic), but I feel like The House on the Borderland overworks the visionary aspects at the expense of what began as a taut, eerie, weird tale. 3.5 stars...more
Tobler's prose and story are both rich and strange, but The Kraken Sea, a longish novella, might have gained a fifth star had it been, well, even longTobler's prose and story are both rich and strange, but The Kraken Sea, a longish novella, might have gained a fifth star had it been, well, even longer. Fueled by characters you'll remember in a world that feels like the tip of an iceberg, the racing story seems to be over just as the reader is finding her footing. I'm no fan of gigantism for its own sake, but for a change I'm going to say a book could have used another hundred pages....more