I’ve been meaning to read Adam Nevill for a while, and in the spirit of Halloween, I picked up one of his many highly regarded novels–The Ritual.
FourI’ve been meaning to read Adam Nevill for a while, and in the spirit of Halloween, I picked up one of his many highly regarded novels–The Ritual.
Four friends from University strike off into the Scandinavian hinterland to rekindle their friendship while enjoying the majesty of the great outdoors. But at least two of the crew aren’t the athletic specimens they once were, and after an accident gives one a bum knee, they decide to take a shortcut through an uncharted forest. Things get bad when they discover the corpse of a large animal hanging from a tree–minus its skin–and they get worse when they find an ancient idol in a forgotten farmstead. Now something is hunting them, and what started as a camping trip soon becomes a fight for survival.
This is a pretty freaky book, but I came away from The Ritual feeling strangely about it. The novel is in two parts. The first part, I loved. The second part…I felt like it went a little off the rails, thought it redeemed itself toward the end. So I can’t recommend The Ritual unreservedly. Having said that. Nevill is a true talent. His writing sings, and he has a way of pulling you in that a lot of other authors could learn from.
This is my first book by Adam Nevill. It won't be my last. ...more
Jonathan Janz is a name with which I was wholly unfamiliar until recently. Apparently, I’m just about the only one. Janz’s novels are well and often rJonathan Janz is a name with which I was wholly unfamiliar until recently. Apparently, I’m just about the only one. Janz’s novels are well and often reviewed, with people from Brian Keene to Jack Ketchum praising his creativity and bold style.
And yet somehow, I totally missed him. But no more, friends! I’m on the Janz train after reading a book of his I could barely put down–Children of the Dark. Cue the synopsis!
Let’s be honest: characterization is often a weakness in horror writing. Plot and a good hook tend to be the focus, but the characters tend to fall by the wayside. Cardboard cutouts are common, and with most of the characters with little more to do than wait to die, there’s little reason to give them much of a background.
But that’s not Janz’s approach. You know every character in the book in the first five pages, and by the next ten, you care about them, too. And you forget they are supposed to be young teenagers (a good thing, as I generally do not like stories about kids). Even the romance works.
And that’s a good thing, because I feel as though the plot itself is just so-so. It’s not bad, mind you, and the book is a page turner, but more so because I really wanted to find out what would happen to these people. There are some inconsistencies. For instance, SPOILER ALERT, some of the characters are able to read minds. But at key moments, it’s suddenly as if they can’t, with the good guys managing surprise attacks that should never work.
But as flaws go, that’s not exactly a big one. This October, Children of the Dark is exactly the kind of book to set that Halloween mood....more
In case you fell asleep for the last decade, Lovecraft and the Cthulhu mythos are ascendant. In this golden age, we've seen some of the best LovecraftIn case you fell asleep for the last decade, Lovecraft and the Cthulhu mythos are ascendant. In this golden age, we've seen some of the best Lovecraftian novels and anthologies ever put to print. But that comes with a problem--oversaturation, a flood of more-of-the-same, cut and paste, drivel designed only to capitalize on a phenomenon and make some money.
Which is why Autumn Cthulhu is such a pleasant surprise and a resounding success.
I'm not going to do that thing where I go through each story and rate them. Some are better than others, but that's always the case. What's not always the case is that every story is good, and many of them are great.
And I think it is the theme, pulled together by Mike Davis, that sets the stage for that level of quality. Every story is infused with the feeling of autumn. On the hottest day you'll feel a chill in the air when you read this book.
It goes without saying--I recommend this book highly and without reservation. You will not be disappointed...more
Before Graeme Reynolds’ excellent High Moor series, I wasn’t a fan of werewolves. But Reynolds made a believer out of me, and so I’m always on the looBefore Graeme Reynolds’ excellent High Moor series, I wasn’t a fan of werewolves. But Reynolds made a believer out of me, and so I’m always on the lookout for the next big thing in lycanthrope fiction. So when I saw that Glenn Rolfe had penned a book called Blood and Rain and when I saw that it had a giant werewolf on the cover, I knew I had to check it out. I was not disappointed.
It’s been years since the “Full Moon Monster” terrorized the unsuspecting residents of Gilson Creek, Maine, leaving death and destruction in its wake. But time has not dulled the memory of some in the town, including the sheriff who may know more about the true nature of the beast than he is willing to admit. Now the full moon is rising again, and the sleeping beast prepares to awaken. Who will live? Who will die? And who will join the ranks of the werewolf?
There’s little that’s more difficult than to take a known trope and make it interesting and new, but Rolfe pulls it off. And he does so by focusing his efforts on the human characters that are hunted by the monster. By the time the full moon rises, we know Gilson’s Creek. We know the people who live there, who frequent Mel’s Diner, who spend lazy afternoons at the lake. And so when they are in danger, we care. We have a great villain to root against, and heroes to cheer for. Many more experienced, more celebrated writers could learn from Rolfe.
If you love werewolves, you’ll love Blood and Rain. But make no mistake, this is a book that any fan of horror could enjoy. So check it out. And when the full moon rises, lock your doors.
The High Moor saga is one of those rare series where each book is better than the last. Graeme Reynolds is a man who loves his werewolves, but he likeThe High Moor saga is one of those rare series where each book is better than the last. Graeme Reynolds is a man who loves his werewolves, but he likes them visceral and dangerous. If you’re tired of teen angst and sexy wolves, this is the series for you. And Blood Moon is the best yet.
The werewolves have been exposed, and you can imagine the response by the non-wolf public. Our heroes are hunted, not only by the government that wants to understand and take advantage of their secrets, but by the leaders of the pack who blame them for ripping away the veil of secrecy that had protected the other werewolves. At the same time, people who live ordinary lives—except, you know, for once a month—are now targeted for extermination. And it’s all coming to a head where everything started—the village of High Moor.
Heavy, right? Reynolds is no slouch, and he infuses in what could be a standard werewolf yarn serious issues that any reader will recognize. Illegal immigration, terrorism, government overreach and oppression. It’s all there.
The verdict? A fitting ending to my favorite werewolf saga of all time.
I love Ronald Malfi. There. I admitted it. Though it shouldn't come as a surprise if you follow my reviews. His Floating Staircase was haunting. The NI love Ronald Malfi. There. I admitted it. Though it shouldn't come as a surprise if you follow my reviews. His Floating Staircase was haunting. The Narrows? Frightening. And The Mourning House is the single finest piece of modern horror fiction out there today. But here's the thing. Typically, when I read a book I really like, I don't read more by that author. I know, I know. That sounds strange. But I have this fear that the next book I read will be lacking, that it will somehow take away from what I've read before. Greatness, after all, is hard to maintain. So when I picked up December Park, I had concerns. What if it wasn't as good? What if I was disappointed? Oh but my friends, how foolish I was. I had nothing to fear. Well...almost nothing.
December Park is a part of a sub-genre I don't particularly like--the coming of age tale. I don't really enjoy stories about kids, especially teenagers. Not sure why. I know it's popular. But not for me. So I approached December Park with some trepidation. That was the first page. By the last one, I was tearing up. I had connected with the characters in a way I could not expect.
The story is one you are familiar with. A group of kids find their peaceful town under siege by a serial killer who is stalking their own numbers. They begin to realize they are the only ones who can defeat this evil, and they must face it, no matter what the cost. If it sounds like It, that's what I thought too. And the comparison isn't favorable...for It at least. That venerable Stephen King bestseller pales in comparison to December Park.
Put simply, Malfi has knocked it out of the proverbial park again with this one. You cannot go wrong with Malfi, no matter which of his books you decide to pick up. But you could do far worse than starting with December Park.
Wow. I devoured this book, and that's no pun. Some people say zombie stories are a dime a dozen these days, and maybe they are right. But Plague TownWow. I devoured this book, and that's no pun. Some people say zombie stories are a dime a dozen these days, and maybe they are right. But Plague Town takes the old walking dead and delivers the kind of combination of scary, sexy, and funny (sarcastic, if you want to keep the consonance going) that you don't really see all that often. If you like stories of the undead, then this is a must read. If you don't like zombies, it's a should read, cause you might just find yourself changing your mind. Now I must leave you. The sequel awaits!...more
Music has a strange power over us. It can alter our emotions, inspire us to buy things we don’t want, cement a love affair between two people. But canMusic has a strange power over us. It can alter our emotions, inspire us to buy things we don’t want, cement a love affair between two people. But can it make us kill? Is any song that powerful?
It’s a question poets and writers have been asking since the first satyr strung the first lyre. Whether it’s Robert Johnson at the Crossroads, Charlie Daniels and the Devil down in Georgia, or Manly Wade Wellman and John the Balladeer, there’s something undeniable about the power of song. In Mark All’s Death Metal, he shows us just how dangerous that power can be.
The band Penumbra is washed up, the heart of the band killed in a car crash, the members gone on to regular jobs that pay the bills. But when the spirit of their dead band mate returns with music that can capture not only the heart but the soul, the needle is set to a record that might just destroy the whole world.
Robert Johnson's devil at the crossroads might have been terrifying, but he's got nothing on Mark All's Death Metal. Written with a lyricism that will suck readers in and get in their heads like a dark ode to a malevolent rock god, Death Metal grabs on and doesn't let go till the final chorus. A creative, innovative, horror opera you don't want to miss. ...more
We are in a Lovecraftian renaissance, and there are a lot of people who are writing Lovecraft these days. But while you can find a thousand short storWe are in a Lovecraftian renaissance, and there are a lot of people who are writing Lovecraft these days. But while you can find a thousand short stories and anthologies set in the world of the mythos, it's not so easy to find full-length novels. And if you do find them, it's really hard to find a modern take on the Great Old Ones. And that's why Red Equinox by Douglas Wynne is so refreshing--it does both, and it does them brilliantly.
If you are a fan of Lovecraft, Red Equinox is a can't miss. ...more
One of the dangers of being a writer, particularly a horror writer, is that on occasion people read what you’ve written and it freaks them out. You caOne of the dangers of being a writer, particularly a horror writer, is that on occasion people read what you’ve written and it freaks them out. You can see it in their eyes, and they never quite look at you the same way again. You’d think that being a writer would protect you from that prejudice. Then comes along Chantal Noordeloos, who in her author bio describes herself as having a “wacky, supportive husband, and outrageously cunning daughter.” Sounds sweet, right? You might think so, but you’d be wrong, very wrong.
Her Angel Manor is the kind of book that will freak you out, and it does so from the very first page. I’ve rarely read a first chapter that did a better job of grabbing me immediately. There’s no easing you in, no calm before the storm. You are dropped right in, to the blood, the pain, the torture, and the sacrifice. It doesn’t really let up from there.
All told, Angel Manor is an incredible book, a great haunted house story, and a thrill ride from beginning to end. You can’t go wrong reading it, though I also can’t say you won’t regret it… ...more
Sea of Ash is a delightful book, the lone criticism of which is that it is too short. From the first page, Scott Thomas packs this slim tome with a leSea of Ash is a delightful book, the lone criticism of which is that it is too short. From the first page, Scott Thomas packs this slim tome with a level of creativity we are seldom fortunate enough to see. His New England is every bit as rich, as mysterious, as witch-haunted as anything Lovecraft ever conceived. And the story within a story within a story presentation is masterfully delivered.
Sea of Ash is a treat, but I do wish it was longer. There's room for more from Thomas, and while I understand from the prologue that it was always intended to be a novella, I do wish the author had stretched it further. I would have loved to know more, to see more, to understand more.
But that's no reason not to seek this one out. The Lovecraft eZine has made a name for itself as the premier venue for new weird fiction. With this offering, Mike Davis has cemented his role in the genre. The future is bright, both for the eZine and for those of us who love this kind of horror. ...more
Much like the first book in the Southern Reach trilogy, Authority is easy to read, engaging, somewhat addictive, and beautifully written. And yet, I sMuch like the first book in the Southern Reach trilogy, Authority is easy to read, engaging, somewhat addictive, and beautifully written. And yet, I still can't say that I enjoy this series as much as I would like to. I still get the feeling that there's no there there, that I am going to finish the third book and none of the questions will be answered, that the author has created a world too rich, too complex, too mysterious to ever adequately explain it. Authority answered some questions, but no where near as many as I had hoped and no where near as completely as I would have liked. It also seems as though the book is filled with inexplicable decisions/stubbornness by the various characters that seemingly had no purpose but to stretch the plot to where it could be sustained for 300 pages.
I find myself in a strange place with these books. I like them, I really do, and yet the reviews I've written for the first two entries have been somewhat negative (not to mention rambling). In part, I am still reserving judgment until I have read the last book. I am, however, beginning to wonder why these books weren't one or two volumes. Yes, they'd make a long single book--900 or so pages. But I think a good editor could have shortened book two considerably without losing anything necessary, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn the same thing about the third one. Not that much of a big deal--I've never been a fan of editing just for the purpose of editing--but I feel like this series is a somewhat large financial investment given the return.
Anyway, I really am rambling now. To put it more succinctly, these books are worth reading, but something seems to be missing. And I'm not sure I am going to find it. ...more
I sorta wonder if I'll come back to this book after reading the rest of the trilogy and like it even more. You've read the synopsis, so I won't botherI sorta wonder if I'll come back to this book after reading the rest of the trilogy and like it even more. You've read the synopsis, so I won't bother to repeat it here. I will, however, echo what has been said in previous reviews. The book is beautifully written, surreal, uncanny. It's an easy read, and you'll finish it in a few days. But as much as I liked the book, I didn't love it as much as I wanted to. I'm honestly not sure why. The book seemed empty, in a way. Sorta like when you go to a fancy restaurant and the presentation is stunning but there isn't all that much food? I need a little bit more meat and potatoes in my diet. Still, well worth the read, and I am excited about the next one. ...more
I was not at all surprised to find that Chain of Evil is an essential tool for anyone who dreams of writing horror. Dr. Michael Collings has proven toI was not at all surprised to find that Chain of Evil is an essential tool for anyone who dreams of writing horror. Dr. Michael Collings has proven to be a master in his field, and the bits of wisdom he shares are immensely helpful. But I was somewhat surprised to find that this book was so readable, so enjoyable, to the point that even someone who has no interest in writing horror would find it a terrific ride. A must own for horror writers and a should own for horror readers. ...more
To sum it up in one sentence--Jade Sky is a fun novel. It's action packed from the get go and never really lets up. The first in what appears to be aTo sum it up in one sentence--Jade Sky is a fun novel. It's action packed from the get go and never really lets up. The first in what appears to be a series, author Patrick Freivald has obviously put a lot of thought into the world he is trying to build. Because of that complexity, the first few chapters are confusing and a couple border on almost too conveniently expositional, but readers are encouraged to stick with it. Once Jade Sky hits its groove, it's off to the races.
Some may be put off by the violence and the gore, but if so, why are you reading this book in the first place? You know what you are getting, and Jade Sky gives it to you. Frankly, that's why I gave it five stars. Jade Sky does exactly what it seeks to do, and does it well. Is it as good as Freivald's Twice Shy? No. That book was, in my view nearly perfect. The plot in Jade Sky isn't quite as good, and the characterizations pale in comparison. But when toe-to-toe to other similar thrillers? Jade Sky shines.
If you love action, if you love thrillers, if you love a little sci-fi magic, don't let Jade Sky pass you by.
So this is not going to be a loving or particularly in depth review of Neuromancer. It's famous, it's beloved, and there are thousands of reviews thatSo this is not going to be a loving or particularly in depth review of Neuromancer. It's famous, it's beloved, and there are thousands of reviews that will provide you that. I'm giving it four stars because it is creative, well-written, and I am sure when it was published in the early 80s, genre-shattering and mind blowing.
But really, it was more of a three star read for me. Why you ask? Put aside all the trappings, its influence, all that you've heard about it, and it just doesn't hold up all that well. It's filled with jargon, most of which will mean nothing to you. It drags at times. The story line is hard to follow. The ideas of what the Internet is/will become seem hopelessly outdated. And because it has influenced so many other works, it comes across as derivative, albeit anachronistically so.
In the end, finishing Neuromancer was an accomplishment for me. I did not particularly enjoy it, and it was a struggle to complete. Still, it's probably one of those books that everyone should read.