It’s rare that I read a book and think to myself, I could never have written this. Call it hubris, pride...moreNote: I received an ARC copy of The Croning.
It’s rare that I read a book and think to myself, I could never have written this. Call it hubris, pride if you will. It just doesn’t happen.
I could never have written Laird Barron’s The Croning, and I consider that the ultimate compliment.
I’m a naturally optimistic guy, and it shows in my writing. I like keeping hope alive, and so even when I write horror, it tends to have a hopeful tone. The Croning is not hopeful. It is not sunny. It’s dark man, way dark.
Don and Michelle are what I suppose might be the typical academic couple. He’s a geologist who spends most of his time doing boring things with rocks, while Michelle is a globe-trotting anthropologist, searching to the ends of the earth for lost civilizations and ancient, hidden knowledge of world’s beyond our knowing. Michelle’s curiosity threatens to kill the cat, however, as she and Don find themselves in a world of nameless cults that worship the god known by many names, though his friends call him Old Leach.
So that’s the prosaic description. It’s inaccurate. Don’t believe it. In fact, ignore it all together. The book descends into beautifully written insanity from the first page, and it never lets up. Barron writes like Hemmingway might have if he weren’t so boring. (Though I did like For Whom The Bell Tolls, but I digress). The Croning isn’t a novel; it’s an amusement park ride. You read the first sentence and the bottom falls out. Good luck holding on to the end.
But if you survive, you will have experienced something special. A twisting and spiraling descent into madness, The Croning is the kind of book that burrows into your brain and has you jumping at shadows. Laird Barron has managed to create a universe as black and uncaring as any since H.P. Lovecraft. Not for the faint of heart, but if you can bear to step out of the light, The Croning will teach you why all men fear the darkness. (less)
Dark secrets are like dead bodies—sometimes, they refuse to stay buried. It isn’t often I read a book that I have trouble putting down, but the Jokers...moreDark secrets are like dead bodies—sometimes, they refuse to stay buried. It isn’t often I read a book that I have trouble putting down, but the Jokers Club grabbed my attention and wouldn't let go. Gregory Bastianelli is a master at creating rich and fully-developed worlds and then inviting us to explore them with him. In Jokers Club, Bastianelli weaves what is seemingly a straightforward tale—years ago a group of friends were involved in a horrible accident, one that they have kept secret for all their lives. But now, at their first reunion in a decade, they begin to die, killed one by one at the hands of a mysterious assailant. Is one of their members the killer?
Even on its own terms, the tale that Bastianelli presents is rich and detailed enough to make a fine story, but he is not content to let us off so easily. Instead, he gives us a narrator in Geoff who is haunted by both the past and a tumor that is slowly consuming his brain. The story that he tells us—both in the form of his contemporary thoughts as well as his writings about the things that happened when he and his friends were boys—is often uncertain. The pictures Bastianelli expresses through Geoff only adds to the otherworldliness of the book's style, creating a setting where even a stroll down the town boardwalk is a mysterious mystical adventure.
I recommend Jokers Club without reservation. My only wish is that Bastianelli had written more, for when we take the last turn and absorb the final twist, you are left wanting the story to continue.
Brett Talley, author of the award-winning novel, That Which Should Not Be.(less)
Eh. *shrugs shoulders* Shock jock philosophy that fails to be all that shocking. Like a trip to the latest exploitation flick where we find out that w...moreEh. *shrugs shoulders* Shock jock philosophy that fails to be all that shocking. Like a trip to the latest exploitation flick where we find out that we've seen it all before. Did I read every word? No need. As is typical with this type of "philosophy," Mr. Benatar lays out his premise and then spends the rest of the book repeating it, over and over and over. Does he really believe what he writes? Who knows?
It is sad that modern philosophy has fallen so deeply into the nihilism abyss that we literally have a philosopher arguing we should all be dead. Perhaps this is the natural conclusion of Godless utilitarianism. I will take my own nihilistic view, assume that Mr. Benatar is engaged in a brilliant assault on the previously unassailable commanding heights of the predominating utilitarian view, and raise a glass to him for permanently disabusing me of the notion that his brand of quantifiable ethics has any merit whatsoever. (less)
Of all the authors I have read, three have had an indelible impact on me and my writing–H.P. Lovecraft, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ray Bradbury. I will...moreOf all the authors I have read, three have had an indelible impact on me and my writing–H.P. Lovecraft, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ray Bradbury. I will never forget the first time I read The Martian Chronicles. If in my entire career I write one thing even approaching the beauty of “Night Meeting” or the heart-rending tragedy of “There Will Come Soft Rains,” I will consider my life a success.(less)
The King in Yellow is one of the most brilliant--and one of the most disappointing--collections of short stories I have ever read. The first five stor...moreThe King in Yellow is one of the most brilliant--and one of the most disappointing--collections of short stories I have ever read. The first five stories were tremendous, transcendent, stunning. I could not look away. The last few stories were woefully disappointing. It is clear to me that they were added solely to fill out a word count. It's disappointing, but it does not diminish the power of those five stories. Pick the book up and read those stories. You will not be disappointed. (less)
House of Leaves had a profound impact on me, and if in the end I make something out of myself as a writer, I will have it to thank (or blame, dependin...moreHouse of Leaves had a profound impact on me, and if in the end I make something out of myself as a writer, I will have it to thank (or blame, depending on your perspective). Maybe that sounds like an overstatement to you. Hyperbole, perhaps. And in truth, it is. Because that is all you can get from a review of House of Leaves. No one reads Mark Z. Danielewski’s book and comes away lukewarm. They either love it or hate it. Or to be more precise, they do both.
When my best friend showed up at my house with a copy of House of Leaves, she presented the good-sized tome as a gift. “It’s a book about a house that’s bigger on the inside than the outside,” she said with a smile. Such a simple description. A pretty accurate one too, if you want a plot summary. But House of Leaves is so much more. It is a mystery and a psychological study and a horror novel and a puzzle box, all wrapped into one. It is the Lemarchand Box from The Hellbound Heart and H.P. Lovecrafts’s Necronomicon. It is a gift, and it is a curse, for rest assured—there will be times when you will want to quit this book. When you will want to throw it across the room and never pick it up again. But you will. You will because you want to know. Because you are just as curious as Johnny Truant and Will Navidson, and because you know that until you finish, the strange dreams that the book brings will not end…
Now, I don’t expect that this review has made much sense to you. Don’t worry, House of Leaves won’t either. Which brings me to how the book affected me. I hated House of Leaves, in a way at least. I hated it so much that I decided to write a book that was as completely different from House of Leaves as I could make it. One that reflected the older traditions of horror writing, free from the post-modern insanity contained within the pages of Danielewski’s dark masterpiece. In its opening pages, my book, That Which Should Not Be, is dedicated to those who made it possible. In a strange way, Mark Z. Danielewski is at the top of that list.
Why then, you ask, do I find myself recommending House of Leaves to every friend who asks for a good book to read? Because I love it too, and in its twisted and unexplainable pages I find something truly magical. House of Leaves cannot be explained. It cannot be synopsized. It can only be experienced. (less)
American Psycho is probably a book that disappoints a lot of people. Everyone has heard of it, either because of mumbled whisperings about the shockin...moreAmerican Psycho is probably a book that disappoints a lot of people. Everyone has heard of it, either because of mumbled whisperings about the shocking content contained therein or as a result of the well received and now almost iconic film of the same name. And you are supposed to like it. It’s literary fiction—but hip enough that literary fiction snobs turn their nose up at it. It’s by Bret Easton Ellis, and he has three names which means he is either a great author or an assassin. Then you read the book, and things don’t go quite like you expect. American Psycho is weird. Maybe worse, it’s boring at times. Ellis has no problem beating you over the head with his metaphors until you either get it or you are as dead as Patrick Bateman’s victims. But if you stick with it and you can survive the endless iterations of clothing brands and their overpriced accessories, you will find one of the true gems of modern American fiction.
Patrick Bateman is a character of his own creation. A wealth investment banker on Wall Street in the Roaring 80s, Bateman is as much a perfectionist of his own appearance, physique, and apartment accoutrements as he is public persona. But it is all a façade, and a thin one at that. Bubbling just below the surface is a psychopath who makes Jack the Ripper look like Mr. Rogers.
We come to know the true Patrick Bateman through his interactions with his co-workers, his lovers, and the prostitutes he often uses as his demented playthings. If you are looking for a redeemable character, you can stop. American Psycho is about a killer in name only. The true horror is Ellis’s depiction of the yuppie culture in the 1980s. I know plenty of people who do not like Ellis’s style of writing or feel like he goes overboard in some of his set pieces, but no one can deny that he is the master of depicting certain cultural periods or events. American Psycho, while not quite as accomplished as Less Than Zero (in my opinion—many would disagree), is as close to the definitive criticism of 80s yuppie culture as we have. Were it not for the gratuitous sex and violence contained therein, they’d probably teach it in [more] schools.
I’m not going to say I really enjoyed American Psycho. On some level, I did. But I found many of the descriptions to be tedious. I found the plot to be overlong at times, particularly given how little actually takes place. But when taken as a whole, American Psycho, while as far as “for everyone” as a book could ever be, is truly a great accomplishment. 4 Stars (less)
I like Benjamin Kane Ethridge. He’s a fantastic writer, and a nice guy to boot. When I found out I’d be working with him on Limbus, Inc., I decided th...moreI like Benjamin Kane Ethridge. He’s a fantastic writer, and a nice guy to boot. When I found out I’d be working with him on Limbus, Inc., I decided that I would do a little research on the guy, and what better way than to read his latest, Bottled Abyss. I was not only impressed—I was surprised as well.
Here’s the book’s description.
Herman and Janet Erikson are going through a crisis of grief and suffering after losing their daughter in a hit and run. They've given up on each other, they've given up on themselves. They are living day by day. One afternoon, to make a horrible situation worse, their dog goes missing in the coyote-infested badlands behind their property. Herman, resolved in preventing another tragedy, goes to find the dog, completely unaware he's on a hike to the River Styx, which according to Greek myth was the border between the Living World and the world of the Dead. Long ago the gods died and the River dried up, but a bottle containing its waters still remains in the badlands. What Herman discovers about the dark power contained in those waters will change his life forever...
Bottled Abyss is different from your average horror novel. Somehow, both the protagonist and the antagonist turn out not to be who you think they are, and nobody really does what you expect. In fact, there’s not really a bad guy at all. And then, about three-quarters of the way into the story, things get weird on a cosmological scale. What does that add up to? Not only an incredible read, but one that will leave you pondering it for weeks to come—the sign of something like literary genius.
Bottled Abyss is a book I would recommend to anyone who is willing to break out of the ordinary mold and enjoy something truly extraordinary. I don’t know that it is for everyone, but as with most things, that’s the ultimate compliment. (less)
The best part about publishing a book is that people suddenly think of you differently. You are no longer a writer; you're a writer. And then everythi...moreThe best part about publishing a book is that people suddenly think of you differently. You are no longer a writer; you're a writer. And then everything changes. All of the sudden, you have all this cache. “Oh, he liked that book? Well it must be good. After all, he's a writer.” Next thing you know, people are asking you to write short stories for their anthologies. That's how I ended up writing a story for this anthology, Christmas Lites. And let me tell you, was I full of myself. I was the big published writer man gonna do a short story. You can imagine how disgusted, horrified, and downright disappointed I was when I received my copy of the final anthology and realized, alas, not only is my story not the best of the bunch, it's not even in the top five. And hey, I like my story!
Christmas Lites is almost the perfect anthology. If you read an anthology and you like every story you come across, then the editors failed you. A great anthology takes a common thread and twists it and turns it until you can't tell if it is supposed to be a sweater or a jock strap. That's what you get in Christmas Lites. Ghosts and zombies and ninja elves and everything in between. Will you like it all? Probably not. But I can guarantee you there is something for everyone. Given that the proceeds all go to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, I can't think of a better Christmas gift for you or someone in your family. So pick up a copy and give it a read. Who knows, you might even like my story . . .
Brett J. Talley, author of the award winning novel, That Which Should Not Be(less)
One of the advantages of writing a book is that other people send you their novels for free. And since you want to send your books to other authors to...moreOne of the advantages of writing a book is that other people send you their novels for free. And since you want to send your books to other authors too, it behooves you to pay it forward. The only problem is, when you read the book you are expected to write a review. And let me tell you, nothing is worse than telling somebody their book’s not very good. Writing is a very personal thing, and a book is, in many ways, a part of the author. Telling somebody their book isn’t any good is like telling them they’re ugly. It’s unpleasant. Fortunately, that’s a problem I won’t have with J.G. Faherty’s Cemetery Club.
Cemetery Club is the first book of Faherty’s I have read. I know of him by reputation due to his highly acclaimed young adult novel, Ghosts of Coronado Bay. That effort was rewarded with a Bram Stoker Award Nomination. (He lost to Jonathan Maberry, an honor unto itself). So when I opened Cemetery Club, I expected a YA horror romp. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Cemetery Club is a fun but visceral supernatural zombie novel. It’s got plenty of blood and guts for the gore hounds, while keeping that air of mystery and otherworldly dread that those with more refined tastes prefer. Set in the town of Rocky Point, Cemetery Club tells the story of four friends who years before awakened a sleeping evil that seeks to possess and devour everything in its path. Now it is awake again, and only they can stop it.
Cemetery Club reminded me of some of Stephen King’s early works. It has everything a horror novel needs—insane asylums, tombs, crypts, disbelieving police, heroes in need of redemption. And it offers a new spin on the zombie genre.
I recommend Cemetery Club wholeheartedly to fans of a good, fun horror yarn. Faherty knows how to frighten and he knows how to entertain. You can’t ask for much more than that. (less)
Another great piece from J.G. Faherty. People are going to start thinking I am him in disguise, but Faherty's short works, particularly those focusing...moreAnother great piece from J.G. Faherty. People are going to start thinking I am him in disguise, but Faherty's short works, particularly those focusing on children, are chillingly good. (less)