It’s only fitting that the author who coined the phrase “steampunk” should benefit from the genre’s resurgence with this reprint of his 1987 title. In...moreIt’s only fitting that the author who coined the phrase “steampunk” should benefit from the genre’s resurgence with this reprint of his 1987 title. Infernal Devices follows the misadventures of George Dower, son of a famed watchmaker who is so ill-inclined towards clockwork devices he apologetically announces he’s the son, not the father when greeting customers at his store. The arrival of an “Ethiope” carrying one of his father’s inventions puts George on a tortuous quest where he must find the Lovecraftian denizens of Wetwick, a hidden London district, flee from the Ladies Union for the Suppression of Carnal Vice, impersonate a clockwork Paganini and avoid becoming a casualty in the war between the Royal Anti-Society and the Godly Army. It’s unfortunate that Jeter’s original subtitle “A mad Victorian fantasy” has been lost, because that’s the best way to approach a book which reads like a Victorian Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (less)
The problem with this book is that it has the wrong title. It should be called something like the Complete Guide to Good and Evil because if you come...moreThe problem with this book is that it has the wrong title. It should be called something like the Complete Guide to Good and Evil because if you come to it expecting information about the Van Helsings of the world, you’re sure to be overwhelmed.
Starting with the philosophy of evil, Maberry and Bashman cover good vs evil in all its forms. So while there are lengthy sections on vampires and vampire hunters (including detailed breakdowns of Buffy characters and a global survey of vampire mythology), you also find Greek mythology, real-life heroes like Erin Brockovich and a list of serial killers.
There’s almost a breathless quality to the writing and you never know if the next page will bring you information on comic book characters, a history of ghost hunting or a survey of pulp fiction. The authors’ enthusiasm spills over from section to section and you can’t help but feel that these two would be excellent dinner guests.
Interspersed between the chapters are pull-out quotes from a wide array of artists, writers, actors and directors and the book is loaded with art including full-color prints in the center.
The book does have a few flaws. Because it contains so much information, an index would have been a wonderful addition. If I’m being hunted by a mokele-mbembe, I’m not going to have time to search this book. There are a few typos – Anakin Skywalker’s name is repeatedly spelled Annakin. There are a few glaring factual errors. For instance, no witches were burned at Salem. And the selection on video games could have used some fact-checking (next time email me, Jonathan!).
Still Wanted Undead or Alive is an eclectic read I highly recommend. (less)
A late season charter is just what Captain Joe Bierden’s bank account needs, even if it means going to Golden Cove. He’s not sure what happened there,...moreA late season charter is just what Captain Joe Bierden’s bank account needs, even if it means going to Golden Cove. He’s not sure what happened there, but it was enough to make the city change its name from Innsmouth. Anyway, Dr. Ward’s excursion to map the caves off the coast seems harmless and the parapsychologists interested in spotting one of the region’s fabled ghost ships are nice enough. But doom comes to the Isabella’s Dreams, when Dr. Ward’s group captures a fish man living in the caves and they take him inland for study.
Deeper by James A. Moore revisits the cursed town H.P. Lovecraft created in The Shadow Over Innsmouth. Unlike the novella, which focused more on the townsfolk, Moore pits his characters against the Deep Ones – fish men – living in the caves beneath Devil’s Reef. Imbued with great physical strength, horrifying anatomy and mental powers, they make for terrifying opponents. Equally disturbing are the ghost encounters which keep happening, from glimpses of sailing ships to warnings from the mouths of waterlogged corpses.
All of which makes Deeper a fun read, but I think Moore missed a few opportunities. First, there’s never a sense that the characters are trapped. After one or two horrific run-ins, I think Captain Joe would have been fine cancelling the trip and issuing refunds as needed. Second, the book takes a detour into action horror at the end, making the horror build-up dissolve in a burst of gunfire. Finally, the book ends on an unresolved plot point which, if it doesn’t lead to a sequel, just seems superfluous. (less)
The Hale family moves to Vermont when Mr. Hale gets a job with Ashton College's Computer Science Center. This means Dennis has to start his senior yea...moreThe Hale family moves to Vermont when Mr. Hale gets a job with Ashton College's Computer Science Center. This means Dennis has to start his senior year at a new school, miles away from his friends. But things are going well for Dennis. He starts dating Janet, impresses his teacher with an essay on Poe, and is one of the few people to actually have a computer at home. All of which draws the attention of the Adrian Furolle -- dark and mysterious, but a misfit because of his interest in fantasy gaming.
Dennis joins Adrian's gaming group as the Imperial Astrologer, in charge of using his computer to determine the best times for sacrifices. As the game goes on, Dennis grows uneasy with Adrian's ability to separate fantasy from reality and the quest -- tied in to Ashton's tragic history -- takes on real world consequences.
The Dark Forces series of books were short horror novels written for teens in the early 1980s. While reading them now counts as a guilty pleasure, it's important to remember that these were terrifying when I read them in elementary school. I remember sharing them with my friends, having the sneaking suspicion that we were getting away with something, and comparing notes the next day about the scariest parts. Why were they so frightening? Because there was no Scooby-Doo trickery here. Supernatural forces were at work and people died.
If Ashton Horror had heavy metal, it would be the ultimate 1980s parents' nightmare. You have kids playing role playing games (Adrian's unique version of D&D stand-in Caves and Conquerors) which leads to animal sacrifice and supernatural possession. In actuality, Adrian's game is more of a LARP -- players wear robes in a cave in order to curry the favor of Lord Mogar, a tentacled snake straight from a Lovecraftian nightmare. There are some genuinely creepy bits, but mostly the book is surprisingly quaint.
Written in 1984, the computer is a strange and wonderous thing. Much is made about Dennis having one in his house and Janet soon asks that Dennis teach her how to play those computer games. A full page is devoted to Dennis connecting a modem to his computer and dialing into an "information base." Dennis loses a half hour in Astro-Catastrophe, an arcade game at the Pizza Palace, leading Janet to say, "It's a woman's lot. If it's not football, it's video games." And their relationship reads more like Leave it to Beaver than Like a Virgin.
Ultimately The Ashton Horror has more nostalgia value than anything else, but it's a fast fun read -- and it's a clear sign that we need more Lovecraft YA.(less)
Cthulhu's Reign focuses on life after Cthulhu's return. Or what's left of it. Necessarily bleak, the stories are also inventive, ranging from Richard...moreCthulhu's Reign focuses on life after Cthulhu's return. Or what's left of it. Necessarily bleak, the stories are also inventive, ranging from Richard A. Lupoff's Nothing Personal and Fred Chappell's Remnants which take an interstellar perspective to the personal Cthulhu haunting Ian Watson's The Walker in the Cemetery.
The concern over a collection like this is that you'd end up reading 15 variations of the same story, but that's not the case. Even though each tale is steeped in horror, Matt Cardin's The New Pauline Corpus attempts to integrate Cthulhu into Christianity, while Gregory Frost's The Seals of New R'lyeh is soundly noir.
My favorite story was Mike Allen's poignant Her Acres of Pastoral Playground about a farmer pretending everything is normal for the sake of his wife and daughter despite the overwhelming evidence that everything has changed.(less)
Lovecraft and comics go hand-in-hand. Even if you haven’t read anything by H.P. Lovecraft, you’ve still been exposed to his works if you’ve read Hellb...moreLovecraft and comics go hand-in-hand. Even if you haven’t read anything by H.P. Lovecraft, you’ve still been exposed to his works if you’ve read Hellboy, Uzumaki or countless other horror titles. Even the DC and Marvel Universes have been plagued by the Lovecraftian combination of cosmic horror and flesh and blood (and tentacle) creepiness.
Against this setting (which also includes many direct adaptations), it’s hard to bring something new, but that’s exactly what Richard Corben does with H.P. Lovecraft’s Haunt of Horror.
Corben digs deeper, presenting stories which don’t usually show up in collections. Even better, many entries draw inspiration from Lovecraft’s poetry. The two stanza “The Well,” blossoms into a 10-page Southern Gothic. Lines like, “Grey with a ground-mist that enfolds and chokes/The slinking shapes which madness has defiled,” provide a nightmarish backdrop for Corben’s black-and-white artwork.
Corben blurs the line between adapatation and interpretation, featuring characters and themes atypical of pure Lovecraft. But Lovecraft’s original text follows each story and, for me, Corben’s work rings true.
Easily the best graphic novel I've read this year. Locke & Key is a disturbing tale about three siblings whose lives are thrown into turmoil after...moreEasily the best graphic novel I've read this year. Locke & Key is a disturbing tale about three siblings whose lives are thrown into turmoil after a vicious attack on their parents. Sent to live in Keyhouse, the family home in Lovecraft, MA, Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode try to adapt to their new surroundings, but youngest brother Bode won't give up his delusion that some of the doors in Keyhouse are magical portals if you use the right key.(less)