The Shining is one of Stephen King's most famous books. There's a mysterious hotel filled with ghosts and evil intentions, and the Torrance family getThe Shining is one of Stephen King's most famous books. There's a mysterious hotel filled with ghosts and evil intentions, and the Torrance family gets to experience it first hand. Daddy Jack, a recovering alcoholic with a temper, gets hired as the hotel groundskeeper for the winter months. Along with his wife, Wendy, and his son-with-a-special-gift, Danny, the Torrances move in and hunker down. Not long after the hotel wakes up and things go bonky.
This book started out strong, but it lost its flavor somewhere along the way. Jack was a mixed bag character to me, with motivations that were abrupt. Really I would qualify The Shining as a psychological thriller fantasy novel, due to Danny's shining ability.
I dunno. It was okay, and anyone who's seen the movie can't help but watch it and picture the original cast. But if I was ever stationed in a remote location for a prolonged period, this would probably be a bit scarier. As it is, I don't see that happening. Nor do I see me recommending this book too much, either....more
This brings the series up through Issue #96. I'm very strongly considering stopping at #100, or whatever Volume 17 brings us through. Not enough goingThis brings the series up through Issue #96. I'm very strongly considering stopping at #100, or whatever Volume 17 brings us through. Not enough going on to keep me engaged any longer....more
A few weeks ago I received a copy of Apex Publications newest anthology, Dark Faith: Invocations. This book, edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry GordA few weeks ago I received a copy of Apex Publications newest anthology, Dark Faith: Invocations. This book, edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon, is a follow-up to the highly acclaimed DARK FAITH, a book that was nominated for multiple awards within in the genre. Invocations sets out to “explore the concept of faith in a fantastical setting” through various religious and spiritual viewpoints.
As the title suggests, most of these viewpoints will stem from the darker side of faith. I imagined the stories to be heavy, but I had no idea how heavy they would be until I started reading. It’s like watching the most recent version of Battlestar Galactica, in that each episode (story) is so dramatic and heavy that I can only handle one or two at a time. And that’s how I read this anthology, taking a story in with my lunch each day.
My immediate reactions are recorded below for each story. I’ve remained spoiler-free. Boldfaced stories are the ones that I can most recommend. The star ranking follows the GoodReads 5-point scale.
Subletting God’s Head (Tom Piccirilli) – Did not really like at all. A jaded and cynical guy rents an apartment that’s located inside God’s head. Not a great way to start the collection, though it definitely sets the tone for what’s to come. *
The Cancer Catechism (Jay Lake) – Depressing, but well written and thought-provoking. I imagine the author is intimately aware of a life stricken with this terrible disease. Still, very bleak and mostly without a clear conflict (excepting the obvious). **
The Big Blue Peacock (Nick Mamatas) – I’m not sure I know exactly what happened in this story. **
Kill the Buddha (Elizabeth Twist) – The first piece that I’ve really liked so far. This hooked me from the get-go and didn’t let up until the end. Delightful to read and a unique idea. The world is infected and attacked, at least according to some. *****
Robotnik (Lavie Tidhar) – Another delightful and thought-provoking story. I’d like to see this short turned into a novella or something longer. The world created by Tidhar leaves me very curious about everything in it. The melancholic tone was perfectly fitting, too. Great work. *****
Prometheus Possessed (Matt Cardin) – Eh… That would be my immediate reaction. What? That would be my follow-up. This one reminded me of a cyberpunkish noir story, but told in a format that was very off-putting, kind of a second-person omniscient voice. Sort of. Some great imagery, but the overall impact of the story left me scratching my head. **
Night Train (Alma Alexander) – Some nice prose and interesting themes, but this didn’t speak too much to me. A woman is losing her religion on a train… or finding it. ***
The Sandfather (Richard Wright) – Oh. Nice. Absolutely tragic, but a wonderful little tale. This is a bleak story that is all too realistic. The absence of a father leads to an interesting life for a boy. ***** Sacrifice (Jennifer Pelland) – Wow. This was a short and entertaining little piece that fans of a What if… scenario should love. ****
Thou Art God (Tim Waggoner) – Hmm. A second person POV is always fickle, but Waggoner did a pretty good job with this. It kept me engaged, though I felt the tale contrived and familiar. ***
Wishflowers (Tim Pratt) – An engrossing little story with a rich world and an interesting premise. There is a dandelion-like flower that actually grants wishes when blown. What happens to that kind of world? This story is the kind of thing I look for in an anthology. *****
Coin Drop (Richard Dansky) – Now that was rather original. The office vending machine is not exactly what it seems. This was a pretty clever piece, with some familiar tropes but a unique perspective. Fun to read. ****
Starter Kit (R.J. Sullivan) – Another fun little story that provided some thoughts on a common cliché pertaining to Creation. I liked this piece. ****
A Little Faith (Max Allan Collins & Matthew Clemens) – Not really sure why this story is in this collection. The subject matter seems fitting, but the overall feeling doesn’t jive well. A well-written piece that was basically a romp through a waterboarding experience. ***
The Revealed Truth (Mike Resnick) – Started off promising but quickly devolved into something less than I had hoped. Quasi-amusing but ultimately unsatisfying. **
God’s Dig (Kelly Eiro) – Oh. Wow. That’s a speculative piece, and in few words, too! This one left me pondering. A boy hears from God that there’s a present for him buried in the back yard. *****
Divinity Boutique (Brian J. Hatcher) – Hmm. Reminds me of a Lovecraft bit, honestly, but a little more interesting. A man is at a curiosity shop in the market for a new, personal god. ***
The Birth of Pegasus (K. Tempest Bradford) – Not entirely sure what just happened here. Certainly readable, but the impact was lost on me. ***
All This Pure Light Leaking In (LaShawn M. Wanak) – A beautiful little poem filled with a few biblical errors (or false perceptions of clear biblical facts), we have a story of a few friends deciding to summon an angel. ****
Fin de Siecle (Gemma Files) – I couldn’t finish this piece. I read a few pages and had no idea what in the world was going on. Something about an artist and an angel and not sure.
The Angel Seems (Jeffrey Ford) – Hands down the best story in the collection. Reads just like an Old English fairy tale with a proclivity toward the macabre. An angel offers a village its protection in exchange for a small price. This was very speculative and I enjoyed it very much. Makes me want to as Mr. Ford how he came up with the tale. Wow. *****
Magdala Amygdala (Lucy A. Snyder) – Not your typical zombie/vampire SFF story. In a post-plague world nearly all of humanity is infected with a peculiar disease that progresses through four stages of severity. Most of the populous is fine, but a select few aren’t so lucky… or maybe they’re the lucky ones. A fun, if not disgusting, short. ***
A Strange Form of Life (Laird Barron) – Has a noir feel to it. Very dark and quite vulgar. Also quite trippy. The formatting was a bit confusing on the Kindle, but not too hard to get. A story about a guard and a lover at a prison with a very dark history. ***
In Blood and Song (Nisi Shawl & Michael Ehart) – An Arabic infused short story about a fighting ring and the sorcery that goes on around it. Somewhat confusing at first, but quickly attainable, and then again dropping into confusion for the ending. There was action aplenty, though. ***
Little Lies, Dear Leader (Kyle S. Johnson) – This is a fictional story set in a non-fictional place with a non-fictional message about problems in the world. Quite engrossing, yes, but also terrible and ruthless. The tragedy is the non-fiction in the fiction. The concluding paragraphs were jarring and somewhat awkward, but nevertheless appropriate. This piece seems out of place with this anthology in terms of genre. ****
I Inhale the City, the City Exhales Me (Douglas F. Warrick) – This is for the manga lover, Japanese culture lover, video game lover. The story is both meta and not. An American man is being chased by a cowboy, while the city of Osaka is quickly changing into something else. This was a weird piece and kind of misses the “faith” side of the anthology’s purpose. Readable and confusing, but fun. ***
So of the twenty-six stories, there were some real treats. I can’t decide if Jeffrey Ford’s “The Angel Seems” or Kelly Eiro’s “God’s Digs” is my favorite. Both were really great to read and wonderful in their own way. I almost felt like “Wishflowers” would fit nicely into the Dark Tower universe. Elizabeth Twist’s “Kill the Buddha” had a great premise, one that would play out nicely on the big screen.
Dark Faith: Invocations is an interesting anthology. It’s certainly not for the casual reader or the reader desiring lollipops and roses. The stories pack a punch. There are some forgettable works, yes, and some confusing pieces, too, but I’m sure they would resonate with a different reader. All in all, I can recommend this to a Reader who knows what they’re after. Weird, dark, and twisted, Dark Faith: Invocations is a crazy little read.
FTC Thingy: I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for a review. No monies or other goods were exchanged. No illegal cookie trading going on here. Move along. Move along....more
Christopher Priestley's Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror is the kind of book that begs to be read aloud, with a British accent, and in the dark of nigChristopher Priestley's Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror is the kind of book that begs to be read aloud, with a British accent, and in the dark of night sitting next to a roaring fire while an unnatural storm brews outside. This book is an anthology of ghost stories and cautionary tales, all told by the mysterious Uncle Montague to a rather dimwitted nephew, Edgar. Most leave you with a crooked smile after finishing.
Uncle Montague's home is filled with odd collectibles. An old brass telescope. A gilt frame. A small Indian ink drawing that may or may not move. These and more all have a story to tell, and not a one of them is happy. In fact, the words "ghastly" and "terrible" came to mind more than once.
Uncle Montague tells Edward ten tales over the course of the evening. All take place within the frame of Edward and Montague reclining near a fire place in Montague's moody home. Noises break into the frame, setting the stage for something else that may exist outside of the stories. Most of the tales feature young children as their protagonists, and because of this, the horrifying aspects of Montague's tales is multiplied.
Enhancing the book and each story is illustrations in the style of Edward Gorey's Gashlycrumb Tinies. In fact, the stories read as if they were directly inspired and lifted from one of Gorey's panels. David Roberts, however, is the illustrator for the book, and his work is so memorable that I can scarcely think about Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror without thinking of the delightful illustrations.
It's hard to pick a favorite story here, as all were great for one reason or another. I particularly enjoyed the ones below.
"The Demon Bench End" is truly horrible. Young Thomas Haynes is not really a very good boy. For all appearances he is, but truthfully, he's just as bad as anyone else. After a fateful street side encounter with a tinker, Thomas's life forever changes. Largely neglected by his father, Thomas stands idly by while his father and the tinker haggle. Eventually the family parts from the riffraff, but Thomas does not forget what he saw. For the tinker had something Thomas wants terribly bad, and he'll stop at nothing to get it.
"Winter Pruning" is one of the more twisted tales of Uncle Montague's. It's a very traditional child's story. There is an old blind witch that lives miserly at the top of a hill. All day long Old Mother Tallow stands out in her yard pruning her trees, mending the apples. Simon Hawkins, another young rapscallion if ever there was one, decides to sneak into Old Mother Tallow's house one day while she's outside. The witch is supposed to be rich, after all, and he was sick of stealing pennies from his mother's purse. One big score would be all he'd need.
"A Ghost Story" was probably the most lighthearted of the tales, and that could be partially why I liked it so much. Little Victoria Harcourt begrudgingly attends a family wedding, a horrible affair where rain and wind ruins the day. Victoria is mostly scorned by the other girls, and when her most loathsome of cousins Emily begins telling a ghost story, Victoria is almost ready to abandon all pretense of wanting to fit in. I don't want to say much about this story, but I did enjoy it immensely. I smiled like a baboon at the end.
In the end, every story in Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror was exactly what I was looking for. While some are better than others, all are perversely wicked. One can't help but feel a trifle ashamed at the outcomes of these tales, for smiling at the often demise of children. Priestley's stories fit into the vein of the Brothers Grimm, though not as fantastical or folky. There are lessons to be learned beneath these stories, making it a perfect book for adolescents and teens. Even so, Priestley offered a memorable book that's quick to read and perfect for when the Halloween mood strikes. I'll be adding the other installments, Tales of Terror from the Black Ship and Tales of Terror from the Tunnel's Mouth, to my TBR now....more
My relationship with Stephen King is limited. I've read the entire Dark Tower series, and enjoyed it very much. Back in high school I read The Green MMy relationship with Stephen King is limited. I've read the entire Dark Tower series, and enjoyed it very much. Back in high school I read The Green Mile and a short story collection titled Everything's Eventual. I think that's about it. I've had The Stand on my TBR for a good while, but I've never managed to crack it open. So when I received Just After Sunset from my sister last year on a loan, I placed it on my shelf and figured I'd get to it whenever I did. As it turns out, it was sooner than later.
Just After Sunset is King's fifth collection of short stories. There are thirteen stories within, which seems appropriate given the subject matter. I figured the pieces would be horror, but most of them came across as suspenseful or eerie to me, and not a one crossed the line into horror. Okay, maybe one or two, depending on what gives you the willies.
As I did in my review of Neil Gaiman & Al Sarrantonio's Stories, I've written a brief review/preview of each story. (Actually, these are my unedited notes I took after I finished a story.) At the end of each mini-review I've given a rating based on the GoodReads scale. I've boldfaced the stories that I would recommend.
"Willa" - This is a beautiful little piece is about a man named David and his fiance Willa. David and Willa are in a group of passengers waiting for an Amtrak train to come and pick them up from a layover in a sleepy little town in Wyoming. It's late, the train should be there soon, and David notices that Willa is missing. He sets out to find her, only to discover something else entirely. 3.5-stars
"The Gingerbread Girl" - After Emily and Henry's daughter dies in her crib, the couple begins to drift apart. Emily takes up running, to an obsessive degree. Eventually the two separate, and Emily heads to the Gulf of Mexico, to stay at her dad's tiny conch shack while she clears her head. She keeps up her running, more and more each day, until one day she notices what looks like a dead body in the trunk of a neighbors car. This is a pretty standard abduction/escape story that, while exciting, was rather dull and uninspired. It was difficult to read, too, considering I currently have a daughter that's sleeping in her own crib now. 2-stars
"Harvey's Dream" - Janet and Harvey have been married for many years. She's grown rather dissatisfied with life and her husband. As she's looking at his pasty white legs at the breakfast table one morning, Harvey tells her about his strange dream from last night. What follows is uninspired and mostly boring. 2-stars
"Rest Stop" - John Dikestre is a writer working on a new story. At a rest stop late one night, he encounters a man abusing his wife/girlfriend, and John muses whether or not he should interfere. 2.5-stars
"Stationary Bike" - Richard Sifkits, widower and artist, has just been told by Dr. Brady that his cholesterol needs to go down. Dr. Brady gives Richard "the speech" about aging and fats, and eventually Richard decides to buy a stationary bike. At first, riding fifteen minutes was a chore, but as time goes by, Richard has to set alarms to remind himself to get off. For when Richard Sifkit's is on the bike, his mind takes him places that may or may not really exist. 3-stars
"Graduation Afternoon" - Very forgettable and kind of boring. Seems to be written with 9/11 in mind, possibly? About a girl getting ready for a graduation party, planning her future and that of her dull but wealthy boyfriend. 1-star
"The Things They Left Behind" - Scott survived 9/11, but he has horrible secrets, horrible memories, horrible dreams, horrible visions. He skipped out on working that day, and everyone in his company died but two. Scott Steely is a man with survivors guilt and a box full of things that were left behind by the victims: a conch shell, a lucite cube, a mushroom, a whoopee cushion, and some sunglasses. Their arrival is a mystery, and he finds that he cannot get rid of them. This story was wonderfully written and reflective, even if slightly vulgar. 4-stars
"N." - Can a story get inside your head and change you? Can you believe the words of an OCD madman? Psychiatrist Dr. John Bonsaint recounts his testimony and experience with a delusional patient referred to as N. This story is a framed story, where Sheila, John's sister, writes to a childhood friend of John's about the doctor's recent suicide. After his death, John's patient notes were discovered marked with "BURN THIS." Sheila's curiosity got the better of her, and what follows is a strange story that is gloomy and haunting. Reminiscent of House of Leaves, this tale is a great descent into madness. 4.5-stars
"The New York Times At Special Discount Rates" - While getting herself together in her bedroom, grief stricken from the death of her husband, James, Annie gets a phone call. When her husband starts speaking on the other end, life takes an upside down turn. This was a short but enjoyable piece. 3.5-stars
"Mute" - Monette recounts a mysterious confession to a priest. This is another frame story, where Monette's wife's infidelity at age 54 has been found out. Not only has she been cheating, but she's also been embezzling. So when Monette picks up a mute and deaf hitchhiker, he finds the perfect companion to vent to. This was quite an intriguing story. Fun. 3.5-stars
"The Cat from Hell" - Halston is an independent hit man. When an aged and wealthy man offers him a hit for $12k, Halston takes it. When the man says that the target is a cat, Halston shrugs, unconcerned. He's killed plenty of men before, never caring about the reasons behind the hits. He figures the cat's just another target like any other. What he finds is something else entirely. This was a short and fun story, albeit bizarre. 3.5-stars
"Ayana" - A narrator tells his story of how he watched his father's miraculous recovery from pancreatic cancer after a small girl kissed him. From then on, the narrator found that he, too, had the gift of healing, and this story recounts some of what he's done over the years. I found this piece kind of odd and out of key with the others, not really seeming to fit. Plus, there was no action, just a very passive memoir like tone of things that had been done. An interesting idea that wasn't developed enough. 2-stars
"A Very Tight Place" - Curtis Johnson has plenty of hard feelings over his neighbor, named TMF for short. TMF had an electric fence, which killed Curtis' dog. Curtis wants recompense and revenge. This story was exceptionally colorful, filled with so much profanity that my eyes bled, and enough vulgarity that I nearly quit the story several times. I wish I had. This story is absolutely disgusting and gross, and I cannot imagine what Stephen King was thinking when he wrote this. I was compelled to keep going just to see how everything would resolve, even if I felt dirty and wanted to throw up. The premise is that Curtis is lured to an abandoned construction site and left to die in a tipped-over portajohn. 1.5-stars -----
As you can see, for the most part, I was around the 2-3.5 range. The arithmetic mean of these stories is 2.8, which is just below the "I Like It" 3-star rating. The three bolded stories are all very good, and I can easily recommend them. In particular, "N." was a delight to read, and "The Things They Left Behind" was one of the most powerful 9/11 stories I've read. I really loved King's take on that day.
If you're looking for some short fiction, Stephen King's Just After Sunset has some gems, but it has some unpolished stones, too. There was potential in a few, and some were just flat out boring. All in all, I liked the read well enough, but I could have liked it better....more
When I first read Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, I knew I'd read something special. Mike Mignola was telling a lofty story, something grandiose and magWhen I first read Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, I knew I'd read something special. Mike Mignola was telling a lofty story, something grandiose and magnificent. Part of the reason I liked Seed of Destruction so much was Hellboy, yes, but also his friends in the BPRD. In particular, and I think I'm not alone here, Abe Sapien.
With BPRD: Plague of Frogs, we finally see the full scale arc Mignola has been envisioning. Seed of Destruction and Plague of Frogs are inter-connected and work well with one another. Whereas Hellboy makes no appearance in this third volume of the BPRD run, Readers do get to see more of Abe, Liz, Roger, and the rest.
Plague of Frogs sets an apocalyptic tone, as most Mignola things tend to do, and it works well, especially with events from Hellboy in mind. The BPRD is sent to a science lab where something disastrous happened, something related to Rasputin and Nazis and Old Gods. Plus, Mignola is the chief writer with this run.
What follows is a fast-paced run involving cults and frogs, simply put, but definitely much deeper than that. We get to see some of Abe's origin, which was incredibly entertaining and leaving this Reader with thoughts aplenty on the implications of it.
BPRD really hits its stride with this book, establishing an arc that will span several comics to bring to a fitting conclusion. I'm not sure what the future holds for the Bureau, but I'm definitely going to find out....more
I feel like I owe Henry Baum, the author of The American Book of the Dead, a sincere apology. You see, he contacted me early last year about his book,I feel like I owe Henry Baum, the author of The American Book of the Dead, a sincere apology. You see, he contacted me early last year about his book, thinking that it might be something that I would enjoy. I agreed to review the book, but told him that our first child was due soon and that it might be a while before I got to the book. Undeterred, he went on and mailed me a signed copy, scribbling a note on a card wishing me the best of luck with my soon-to-be daughter and that there was "no rush." Then Avonlea came and my reading life was hit.
Finally, at the end of March, I picked up Mr. Baum's book. (I confess, I also downloaded the ebook from Amazon for portability sake, which is currently priced at $0.99 and easily worth it. There's also a free download available through the book's website, linked here) I vaguely remembered that the book was some sort of apocalyptic tale about a struggling author and some strange happenings. As long as it took me to start the book, had I known that I would finish it so quickly I would have started much sooner. (It's an easy enough read to finish in a long afternoon sitting, if you're so inclined, as the book weighs in at just shy of 250 pages.)
It is difficult to describe The American Book of the Dead. The first word I think of is "Meta." Then maybe "weird." It's really impossible to classify it as a single genre, as it touches on almost everything. It's post-apocalyptic, pre-apocalyptic, apocalyptic, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, suspense, religious, satire, and a host of other things. It reminded me a lot of Kurt Vonnegut, though maybe not as deep, nor as funny. A blurb on the book says it's very much like Philip K. Dick, too, though I've not read any of his stuff, so I cannot attest to that.
Eugene Myers is a struggling writer in his 50s. He's making do by teaching a class at a local college. He's bored and depressed and his wife doesn't really love him and he doesn't necessarily love her back. The year is 2020 and the world has gone to hell. Random acts of violence are the norm, and there's little to be done about them. Sex is everywhere, with people copulating on prime time television and not a soul cares. All around him Eugene sees his world and its problems and he writes about his lifeless marriage and whatever he can think of. One afternoon he discovers an online sex video of his daughter. This straw breaks the camel's back, so to speak, and it begins the strange journey of Eugene Myers.
Paralleling Eugene's life is President Charles Winchell. Charles is a Christian Extremist who is bent on destroying the world so that he can rebuild it and enjoy the peace that is prophesied in the book of Revelation. Charles won his presidency on promises that he would save the world, and that's exactly what he intends to do. The man quotes scripture and takes the bible's words a fair bit out of context.
That would be The American Book of the Dead in a nutshell. Baum's writing is smooth and engaging. His story is thought-provoking and provocative. I felt the message was rather heavy handed at times and possibly fueled by conspiracy theories, but never downright offensive. The book progressively grew more surreal, to its advantage, and I never once got bored with the story. However, for all its praise, the tone of the novel was rather matter-of-fact, which took away a lot of the suspense. I'm not saying that there was no suspense, because there was, but I think there could have been more.
Henry Baum's book provided a surreal reading experience, as many things that jump into the Meta tend to do. However, by and large, I think Baum kept a deft hand on the plot, driving it forward with building momentum. Personally I would have enjoyed seeing more of the world and more of its characters, especially in the latter part of the novel. Instead, The American Book of the Dead is a tight, character-centered book that has some urgency in its message. Why? Because Baum's frightening future is something that could easily happen, barring the magical-like things that happen.
If you're in a reading slump and curious to try something bizarre, check out The American Book of the Dead. Even though I would have liked more development with some of the characters and settings, it still was a fun romp through genre-defying madness. And if you've read and enjoyed some Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse Five particularly comes to mind), you should definitely give this a try.
FTC Thingy: I received this book for free from Mr Henry Baum himself. Not in person, mind you, but through a machine of different people it did eventually arrive at my house, autographed and lustrous. Mr Baum did not hypnotize me and force me to write a flattering or positive review, and the opinions reflected here are solely my own. Furthermore, Mr Baum did not include any sort of cookies with my book, so I was under no Cookie Clause, either. ...more
This is possibly the greatest story arc yet in the entire Daredevil Volume 2 run. Good enough that I read 80% of it in one sitting. Good enough that IThis is possibly the greatest story arc yet in the entire Daredevil Volume 2 run. Good enough that I read 80% of it in one sitting. Good enough that I placed this story arc on my "Best of the Best" shelf here on GoodReads. Good enough that I wanted to re-read it immediately, but I didn't just so I could see if Bendis & Maleev could top it.
Decalogue is a 5-part story (issues 71-75) that takes place predominately in the basement of a church. Different people of Hell's Kitchen are gathered for a community meeting to discuss Matt Murdock and Daredevil and whether or not he's beneficial to the Kitchen. It's like an AA meeting, and each of the people in the gathering offer up their own stories of why they are there and what it has to do with Murdock/Daredevil. A theme soon emerges, and it is unbelievable.
Like I said, probably my favorite arc yet. Highly recommend....more
Perhaps the reason I've an affinity for dark & twisted art lies with a trio of books I read as a child. Alvin Schwartz is most known for his collePerhaps the reason I've an affinity for dark & twisted art lies with a trio of books I read as a child. Alvin Schwartz is most known for his collection of folktales marketed towards children. His most famous books--Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones--were some of my most favorite reads as a lad, and when I recently happened upon my personal copy of SS3, I couldn't help but dive in. I went to the library and checked out the first two volumes (not sure why I only have the third?), then promptly drove home and leafed through the pages.
It's impossible to continue without acknowledging Stephen Gammell's defining artwork. In fact, I'm going out on a limb and saying that it's Gammell's work that makes this collection so cherished (and challenged*, for that matter). I love the loose, spindly, flowy lines that add an ethereal feel to each work. Everything has the tone of something horrific waiting to be loosed upon your mind. I would love to see Gammell do some Lovecraftian illustrations. Yes, it is Gammell's work that shines in these books, and they've no doubt affected my subconscious.
Allow me to wax on here. The illustrations are grotesque. Magnetic, whereby they repulse the reader, but attract as well. I feel as if Gammell has somehow captured the essence of a nightmare (or some hell) and then rendered it on us, and, in particular, young minds. Frankly I'm surprised these books are read by kids, as I can easily see them getting utterly creeped out and running for Mommy in the dead hours after midnight. Moreover, as I was rocking Avonlea to sleep the other night, I was reading the books and left them beside her crib after she went to sleep. Keisha brought them to me later as I was brushing my teeth and said, "You can't leave those in there. If I look over there and see 'em in the middle of the night I'd be freaked out."
I guess I would, too. I have this fleeting fear whenever I wake up during the night. With the thick shadows and eerie softglow lights, coupled with the fact that I'm not wearing my spectacles, everything is blurred and skewed. My mind deceives me. My eyes tell untruths and distortions. I see monsters and things unknown in the darkness, sinister and evil, things that would fit perfectly alongside these horrors Gammell's illustrated.
Still, there is more to these books than just the art. Schwartz writes in an easy to understand form, especially for children. To my understanding, the intention is for these things to be read aloud, and working with that assumption, these stories all do well. However, if one looks too closely as the sentences, well, one gets disappointed in the simplicity. It's anticlimactic at times, coming across as uninspired and flat out boring. This is not prevalent, nor is it epidemic, but the way these stories are told is very weak when compared with other folktales. (This seems fickle, as I'm comparing a children's book to adult, scholarly things, but what can I say?) Nevertheless, I did feel like Schwartz dropped the ball several times throughout these three books, but if you're reading them aloud, it's not too bad.
If we look at the folktales and urban legends themselves, then these three books are a treasure chest of them. Each tale spans from 1-3 pages (most falling at just over a page) in length, and because of that, there are a multitude of stories. Many are familiar things, things we all know, things our grandparents swear are true. But there are more than enough unfamiliar ones, too. And to me, digesting a "new" folktale, especially one that's been around for years, is like cream cheese icing on a carrot cake. Delicious.
I appreciate Schwartz listing a bibliography at the end of each book, as it's nice to be able to dig deeper (or see different tellings) for a story. When things are from oral tradition, Schwartz lists people involved, too, or areas he collected from. I also like how there are "alternate endings" or miscellany for the stories listed.
These three books are delightful little reads. There's no doubt that they're heavily responsible for my taking to folktales, as I read these books for the first time in elementary school, but they're also probably responsible for my weakness for dark art. I'm glad to have stumbled on my copy of SS3 the other day, and even more glad to find the library's copies were in the stacks and not checked out. Halloween is the perfect time to read these books, and the RIP challenge just makes it more pleasant. If you've never read the stories Schwartz tells, then you're missing out. But even more, if you've not had your heart stopped by Stephen Gammell's horrid illustrations, you're really missing out. I strongly recommend remedying this as soon as humanly possible.
----- *Not only was this series the most challenged during the 1990s, it was also the 7th most challenged between 2000-2009. I'm assuming ...more
Rick & the Gang are still holed up in the walled city community. Some of the group embrace the community and the somewhat familiar comforts of theRick & the Gang are still holed up in the walled city community. Some of the group embrace the community and the somewhat familiar comforts of the old life. Others are leery of the citizens, their trust in humanity having been failed one too many times. This is a perfect condition for conflict. Kirkman is notorious for throwing out the rulebook, and Volume 14 gets no relief. However, I’ve pretty much stopped being surprised by this series, although I’m still affected by the brutality of the world. All in all, Volume 14 continues the horrifying ordeal of Rick Grimes and his ragtag group of survivors. For fans of the series it’s another great example Kirkman’s world....more
Too Far Gone. From the title of Volume 13, I figured this would deal with Rick & The Gang being "too far gone" mentally to accept and process theToo Far Gone. From the title of Volume 13, I figured this would deal with Rick & The Gang being "too far gone" mentally to accept and process the events of the previous book. Living peacefully in a community again just couldn't work for them, as they had all done atrocities that no sane person could rectify so easily.
In short, my expectations were mostly there. This volume reveals more about the new community and its citizens. How they get their supplies. How it started. Some of its problems. But, like Kirkman is prone to do, there are wrenches thrown into the world of Grimes & Co.
I enjoyed Too Far Gone. Like all of these TPBs, I wound up reading the thing like a pig gobbling up slop. Kirkman's world is hypnotic and brutal, and if you've read the previous 12 volumes, then you know what you're getting with this. I'm interested in seeing what's next. One thing's for sure, though. I don't see this story winding down anytime soon....more