not every tale in here is 5-star flawless, but so many of them are 6- or 8-star amazing, you have to round up. there's a real trick to catching the wh...morenot every tale in here is 5-star flawless, but so many of them are 6- or 8-star amazing, you have to round up. there's a real trick to catching the whole of a reader's interest in a short story, without the longer narrative's space to spin out exposition, and Johnson absolutely has that trick. each of the tales here takes a unique "what if?" and spins it out into uncharted territory, with the human response to the what-if being infinitely more important than any gee-whiz factor. there are themes here (love of animals, especially dogs, self-reliance, perseverance of the individual's dream through adversity), but no repeats.
"26 monkeys, also, the abyss' and the title story are masterworks. highly recommended. (less)
Joe Hill's 'Horns' is marketed as a horror novel, which will turn away people that get antsy around genre fiction, and that's a damn shame. it's a fab...moreJoe Hill's 'Horns' is marketed as a horror novel, which will turn away people that get antsy around genre fiction, and that's a damn shame. it's a fable or an allegory (maybe both) about unusual, horrific, supernatural, unexplained things happening to one broken-souled man, and is a whole lot more human than the "man becomes devil" blurb would suggest. the brief snippet that is chapter one tells you both everything you need to know, and nothing of where it's going:
Ignatius Martin Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke the next morning with a headache, put his hands to his temples, and felt something unfamiliar, a pair of knobby pointed protuberances. He was so ill—wet-eyed and weak—he didn't think anything of it at first, was too hungover for thinking or worry.
But when he was swaying above the toilet, he glanced at himself in the mirror over the sink and saw he had grown horns while he slept. He lurched in surprise, and for the second time in twelve hours he pissed on his feet.
Ig has lead an utterly charmed life, full of easy money and pleasant manners, and a storybook perfect love...right up until he loses everything in all at once in a night he can't explain away. wallowing in his grief, he somehow does "terrible things" and becomes the image of a devil, with his newly-crowning horns bringing out the worst, most vile secrets in everyone's heart. in broad strokes, the story shifts from now to what happened that fateful night, gently building to an inevitable yet totally unexpected crash that left me a weeping mess. laced with every imaginable devil pun ("look at em gooo, look at em kiiiick!), it's a story about love and loss, about how nobody is ever as what you expect, and how golden flashes of good crop up in the unlikeliest of hearts. literary without being pretentious, funny without being slapstick, and horrific in the way that only really awful ordinary people can be - devour this before we have to debate how much worse the movie may be.
The devil knows that only those with the courage to risk their soul for love are entitled to have a soul, even if God does not.
it's best to go into this atmospherically creepy book knowing as little about it as possible: a woman picks up male hitchhikers on lonely st...more4.5 stars.
it's best to go into this atmospherically creepy book knowing as little about it as possible: a woman picks up male hitchhikers on lonely stretches of scottish highway, and they're not seen again. it sounds like a standard horror story set-up, but what's actually going on is much stranger (though a straight-up plot summary would sound kind of silly, so seriously, don't go looking for one). like peeling back layers of an onion, we gradually get to know this lone woman, though never completely, and maybe that's because she doesn't know herself anymore.
it's not a story for the squeamish, especially since it's going to hang out in your brain for a good while to come. genuinely original, and gorgeously written, if you have the stomach for it.(less)
once upon a time in 1845, 129 men set sail in two aging but well-proven exploration ships to try and discover the northwest passage up & over the...moreonce upon a time in 1845, 129 men set sail in two aging but well-proven exploration ships to try and discover the northwest passage up & over the top of canada, thereby connecting the sea route from europe to asia. they spent 3 years locked in the ice of the arctic seas with dwindling supplies and morale, and then...
Simmons spends a leisurely 900+ pages ruminating on the what-might-have-been of that expedition. the monotony of months spent on the unmoving ship trapped by an endless, sterile, frozen forest of razor-edged ice peaks; the primal afraid-of-the-dark fear of seasons without the sun; the depths to which men will sink, trapped like overcrowded rats - make no mistake, this is a horror tale, not a salty Patrick O'Brian sea adventure. the voyage conditions themselves are certainly bad enough, and then the polar bears, scurvy, Esquimaux magic, and food poisoning show up.
'the terror' is wonderfully atmospheric - i felt actually physically guilty when i had enough to eat and a place to read warmer than -75F - at times approaching too much description of the seracs and ice ridges. sprinkled very occasionally throughout are some spectacularly bravura WTF action sequences, utterly memorable whether or not you'd like those particular images lingering in your dreams. yes, it's long, but it's definitely not a slog.
I picked this up years ago at a used bookstore, probably due to its exuberant back-cover blurb: "perhaps the finest novel about werewolves ever publis...moreI picked this up years ago at a used bookstore, probably due to its exuberant back-cover blurb: "perhaps the finest novel about werewolves ever published!" this year's "read 12 grandmasters in 2012" challenge has finally brought it bubbling up to the top of the TBR pile, and while I don't know if it's the best, it certainly is a refreshingly unique take on lycanthropy.
will barbee is an alcoholic newspaper writer, reporting on the return of an expedition from the far east. they arrive with a mysteriously heavy locked box and a discovery that will change the world, if only one of them can stay alive long enough to tell it. a more complete summary would be overly spoilery, and a large part of the fun (and horror) of this story is the unexpected angles in the plot turns.
like plenty of 50+ year old novels, this comes off a little dated. people generally don't dess up for dinner anymore, and the idea of keeping your secretary-mistress in a swank apartment-hotel seems like the seedier side of a b&w donna reed era. the prose is often a little too restrained and mannered: in a way, is is about spiraling into madness, and I think the horror would have been more immediately visceral if it was written a bit messier. that being said, the plot itself and the science (science! in a werewolf novel!) were utterly fresh and accessible. (view spoiler)[huge bonus points for the bleak ending that avoids the reluctant hero's triumphant cliche. cool!! (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
5 books into the series, we finally find out what the hell is going on.
it's a testament to Hill's storytelling that one thought one knew what was goin...more5 books into the series, we finally find out what the hell is going on.
it's a testament to Hill's storytelling that one thought one knew what was going on, having pieced together all the insanity of the keys and the house and the threat right along with the Locke kids... and yet, nope, it was a surprise just how much i was still in the dark... just as much as they still are at the end.(less)
wow, the Locke kids keep getting sneak-attacked by random and bizarre hordes in- and outside the house, yet manage to hold their own, and maybe start...morewow, the Locke kids keep getting sneak-attacked by random and bizarre hordes in- and outside the house, yet manage to hold their own, and maybe start to put together some pieces. but definitely don't read this without volume 5 laying around, because the ending (view spoiler)[omg Bode (hide spoiler)]!!!(less)
the title of Langlois' debut novel never really gets around to making sense, but other than that, we have a very well-written, twisty horror novel.
Ab...morethe title of Langlois' debut novel never really gets around to making sense, but other than that, we have a very well-written, twisty horror novel.
Abe is a WWII vet, and just about ready to die. his wife and most of his buddies have already passed on, and he's not particularly connected to the modern, fast-paced, electronic world. for all that he's withering away on his remote farm, though, Abe isn't an old man: his special-ops team once stumbled onto a dark ritual in war-torn Poland, and he's never aged a day since. the man responsible for that evil ritual was never caught and seems to be active again, so Abe is jerked out of the twilight of his life and back into battle.
rather than retreading some existing horror mythos of vampires and demons, Langlois comes up with a rather original flavor of horrible monster for our heroes to tangle with. bad guys are juicily bad, but the good guys are complex and flawed, and it's easy to care what happens to them. pleasantly surprising, most of the silly cliches are avoided, (view spoiler)[so we don't even have to deal with forced romantic subplots just for the sake of having a contractually-obligated sex scene tossed in, (hide spoiler)] and as an added bonus no cliffhanger ending to set up a sequel! with a muted, dark cover looking a whole lot like John Jude Palencar's work, this is a very well put-together book, especially for something apparently indie-published. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
if the top of the back-cover blurb strikes your interest, go for it: "It’s 1939. The Nazis have supermen, the British have demons."
at the dawn of WW2,...moreif the top of the back-cover blurb strikes your interest, go for it: "It’s 1939. The Nazis have supermen, the British have demons."
at the dawn of WW2, a german scientist's life work comes to fruition. through electricity and brain surgery, he's managed to create a handful of battery-powered x-men capable of changing the way war is fought, though they may not be as much in his control as he believes. in a desperate bid to figure out what's going on and do something about it, the british scour the countryside for warlocks capable of bargaining with lovecraftian beings who demand a blood price for every favor. this is absolutely a "war is hell" type of story - there's a greater good these people are all striving for, but an awful price has to be paid to get there. neatly sidestepping any genre question of sci-fi and fantasy, it's an intriguing mix of both while really being much more of a character study than either one. bleak and realistic, but not gratuitously grimdark, very much recommended for people that enjoy the cold, analytical math of a battle strategy.(less)
with a subtitle "welcome to lovecraft," you expect a book to be creepy and unsettling, and 'Locke & Key' doesn't disappoint. in the after...more4.5 stars
with a subtitle "welcome to lovecraft," you expect a book to be creepy and unsettling, and 'Locke & Key' doesn't disappoint. in the aftermath of their dad's murder, a family moves across the country to the old ancestral manse, which just happens to be full of more-than-the-usual sorts of secrets. there's buckets of blood and a kid that likes to play at being a corpse, but it's neither gratuitously violent or overly gory. joe hill spins a crackerjack yarn, deftly twisting a light touch of the supernatural into what anyone not involved with it would reasonably assume to be a sadly ordinary tragedy. the hype on this book is well-deserved, here's hoping the rest of the tale is just as good. (less)
very dated and more than a little verbose, but both of those faults are fun in their own way.
the little town of midwich all passes out one day, and wa...morevery dated and more than a little verbose, but both of those faults are fun in their own way.
the little town of midwich all passes out one day, and wakes up the next none the worse for wear. a few weeks pass, and it readily becomes apparent that all of the women are pregnant (it being the 50s, there's no talk of not keeping these surprise kids). it's an alien invasion, but done slowly over the years rather than with spaceship landings and lazer beams blazing. worth checking out if the idea of idyllic british countryside banter about outer space takeovers sounds fun to you.(less)
read in a single sitting as per usual...and as per usual, i really wish i had ALL of the books ready to go at one time. it's been too long for me sinc...moreread in a single sitting as per usual...and as per usual, i really wish i had ALL of the books ready to go at one time. it's been too long for me since the last one, and i know i've forgotten some details.
the keys introduced here are really cool, but i think the triumph in the end happened a bit too quickly. the characters are, as always, fantastic, and i wonder if Hill & Rodríguez have a prequel stashed somewhere for the very interesting people shown in the antique drawings of the "history of the known keys" in the back of each book.(less)
it's funny how some things with very good pieces just don't add up to a very good whole. 'nightlife' is a refreshing alternative for those that are si...moreit's funny how some things with very good pieces just don't add up to a very good whole. 'nightlife' is a refreshing alternative for those that are sick of their UF being more about the sexytimes and less about things that go bump in the night - it's very dark, occasionally shading into out-and-out horror territory, and nobody feels the need to stop running from the monsters for a quick roll in the hay. the teen protagonist actually sounds like a teenager, not an adult trying to remember how he rolled way back when. there are real consequences, and there are no guarantees that everyone will make it out unscathed. if that sounds fantastic to you, well, perhaps you should give this one a shot.
i really wanted to like this book for all of the above, for it being a bit different from the routine (i really love UF, but i'm really getting sick of the mediocre retreads), but ultimately, eh, we'll have to settle for merely liking it. that authentic teen voice gets right whiny after a while (GAH it's good to be an adult!), all the truly creepy bits feel cribbed right out of a Miéville novel, and the main character's brother is more shiningly perfect than clark kent. it's also sprinkled with obvious clues that this is a first novel - there were several references to past events that sounded like recollections rather than introductions, and had me flipping back through looking for torn-out pages. an utterly minor subplot that emerged in the last couple of chapters was a far more engaging idea than the main plot had been...and might be enough to get me to read the sequel(s) to see if that ever gets worked out.(less)
one of the oddest repeating themes in the current trend of YA dystopian/post-apocalyptic lit is for the heroine to be an ordinary teenager, wandering...moreone of the oddest repeating themes in the current trend of YA dystopian/post-apocalyptic lit is for the heroine to be an ordinary teenager, wandering through this brave new world of awful with only a vague sense of "huh." horrors pass before her eyes with barely a shrugged shoulder, because "that's the way it's always been," making her inevitable participation in rebellion later in the book that much more inexplicable.
so mad bonus points to Griffin for writing a tale where most all of the characters have been actually impacted by the world being destroyed. Araby Worth, an inventor's daughter, has lived with a population-slaughtering plague since earliest childhood. she's lost both family and way of life, and she's rather shell-shocked, drugging herself into oblivion and wishing for something to change. the apocalypse here is real and visceral and immediate, not some distant "before times" memory, with touches of actual horror instead of gratuitous gore. there are occasional brilliant tiny "what if?" moments ("we'd been wearing masks for so long that i read a smile by looking at someone's eyes") that add wonderful depth to this slim story. if all that weren't enough, Griffin should be teaching a master class in how to do the de rigueur angsty love triangle properly: both male characters are interesting, well-developed, and differ by a lot more than just the color of their hair.
so why only 3 stars? the end, my dears, is a trainwreck. after clipping along as a solid 4-star read throughout, the last 10% or so just thoroughly derails. (view spoiler)[we're subjected to several chapters of aimless running for our lives, in which Araby's innate passivity (the world acts on her far more often than she charts her own course) finally crosses over into annoying. both boys feel the need to display their "rightness" so that we're left with back-to-back moments of true love with the other guy. and worst of all, the book ends so abruptly that if i'd been reading it as an e-book, i would have assumed the file was incomplete. the story would have been nicely self-contained, yet i can only assume it's being stretched out into a sequel/series. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)