Extremely challenging, but well worth it, as are all of Michael Cisco's works that I've read, both in short story format and novels. If you google theExtremely challenging, but well worth it, as are all of Michael Cisco's works that I've read, both in short story format and novels. If you google the author, the phrase "avant-garde" comes up a lot, and that pretty much sums up his style of writing. The Wretch of the Sun is a demanding read, which calls for active reader participation, since he's certainly not going to be handing out answers in a clearly-defined way.
Trying to explain this novel is probably as challenging as reading it, so I'm not even going to try it here. You can always pop over to my reading journal where I post about this stuff for my feeble attempt at a brief summary if you're interested. But what I can say is this: If you get to the end of this book and you say "WTF did I just read," well, maybe Michael Cisco isn't your cuppa. But if you get to the end of this book like I did and think "oh my god, what a creepy story, all the more creepy because he nails it" then go on and read the rest of his work. Cisco is definitely not a mainstream writer relying on standard tropes or same-old same-old (which is a good thing for me), and his writing takes a lot of work and time. But patience is its own reward in this case.
By the way, a very special thanks to the person known as Seregil of Rhiminee at Risingshadow who told me about this book in an online group we're in together here. You were right. I loved it....more
I hate trying to come up with a star rating for this book since, looking at what others here have said about this book, it just goes to show that horrI hate trying to come up with a star rating for this book since, looking at what others here have said about this book, it just goes to show that horror is indeed in the eye of the beholder. This time around, there were far more stories I liked than stories I didn't, and in the latter category, it was pretty much based on personal preference. The few stories I didn't care for go way more into real-life horrors than I care to go in fiction; these are likely better suited for readers who like their horror more on the edgy side than I do. While the writing is not an issue (it's quite good, in fact), the subject matter and especially the level of violence in these particular stories just made for uncomfortable reading. When it comes to this violent, newpaper-headline, too-real sort of horror, I'd rather just say no thank you and move along to something more tame. But that's me.
Looking at the bigger picture, the choice of title for this collection is absolutely spot on, for indeed, the majority of these stories are truly the stuff of modern nightmares. Squirmworthy might also have been an appropriate title, since some of these stories were disturbing enough to the point where I had to put the book down, do something else, and then pick it up again. There's no way I could have read this book in one sitting -- I'm sure that if I had, I'd have ended up with my own collection of nightmares and they still wouldn't have been as disturbing as what's between the covers in this book. It's definitely not for the faint of heart.
I've posted about this book at my reading journal , with a list of stories complete with small one/two -line descriptions about each and no spoilers.
Nightmares is one of those anthologies where there's pretty much something for everyone. The only suggestion I might make for the future is to include more work by authors whose stories don't usually make it into these anthologies. In my very humble reader person's opinion, an anthology should work to showcase the best of what's out there, but when I'm seeing the same authors pop up over and over again in these collections, it makes me wonder who else may be out there whose work may be going unrecognized but who may be just as good of a writer as the ones whose work is found here.
For me this book is most certainly filled with enough quality material that I can easily recommend it to any horror reader. It's a beyond-good collection on the whole, very satisfying and downright chill producing. For me it's a yes.
It's true that I don't normally find myself reading crime novels with a romantiread in June; more about this book, of course, at my reading journal.
It's true that I don't normally find myself reading crime novels with a romantic edge to them; au contraire, I seem to be on a steady diet of dark, no-frills, edgy, psychological, existentialist-bent, noirish, largely obscure and downright gritty, no-holds barred (but always well written!) crime fiction. So, after having read several of these for a while, after having finished some even darker fiction and some even more horrific (because they're true) nonfiction books, I figured it was time to give the old, tired, and probably by-now warped brain a rest. What better way than to relax with some light historical crime fiction? As I was looking forward to a restorative, ahhhh-this-is-going-to-be-just-what-the-doctor-ordered kind of novel, -- surprise! It turns out that Ms. Rizzolo isn't all sunshine and light: On a Desert Shore picks up some definite Gothic tones, there is an horrific crime at the heart of this book, and if that's not enough, there is also the issue of slavery that she weaves most deftly into her tale.
Yes, there are a few sweetish sort of romantic spots in this book (the sort I generally avoid like the plague) but seriously, to her credit unlike many authors I've read, this one keeps them to a minimum; no bodice ripping here. The story focuses way more on the crime and the characters, on London itself, and it's a fun way to pass a lazy reading day. ...more
It's tough to say everything I want to about this novel, because there's so much here worth talking about that I don't even know where to begin or howIt's tough to say everything I want to about this novel, because there's so much here worth talking about that I don't even know where to begin or how to condense my thoughts on this book into a goodreads-sized post. As much as I hate to do this, I think I'll link to my reading journal where I just begin to scratch its surface. No spoilers, and I will not divulge any more than is on the dustjacket blurb.
I will say that despite a few issues with this novel, I was completely engrossed in this book, which isn't really one story but many, and it is most certainly a book I would recommend without hesitation. It's also one where I don't understand the low reader ratings, but to each his/her own.
Having recently discovered Mittelholzer's work (in My Bones and My Flute: A Ghost Story in the Old-Fashioned Manner), I couldn't wait to revisit him aHaving recently discovered Mittelholzer's work (in My Bones and My Flute: A Ghost Story in the Old-Fashioned Manner), I couldn't wait to revisit him again. Luckily, Peepal Tree Press has published a few of his books, including this one. The blurb for Shadows Move Among Them says that while reading this book it is "impossible" not to make comparisons to "the fate of the People's Temple commune at Jonestown in Guyana in 1978." I can sort of see it -- you have in this novel the establishment of a "utopian" community of Berkelhoost where people are free to express themselves in many different ways, but it's a place where the emphasis on "discipline" comes before everything else. It's a good book with a story that takes time to develop but once you're in, you're hooked.
Set on the banks of the Berbice River back when this country was still known as British Guiana, the leader of this community, Reverend Harmston, has developed a philosophy centering on taking life with "a pinch of salt," without having to "nail ourselves down to any set philosophy or flat conventions." Newcomer Gregory Hawke, the nephew of Mrs. Harmston, has come to Berkelhoost seeking a rest -- he's burned out by the war, he may or may not have killed his wife, and he's looking to heal his nerves and seek peace in nature. When he gets there, Harmston's precocious daughter Olivia realizes that the real Gregory hasn't yet appeared, that it's "only his shadow" that is with them. As Gregory becomes more familiar with the family and the way of life at Berkelhoost, he finds himself having to take stock of the meaning of "civilization" (the world he's just left) and "barbarism" as he's confronted with an entirely new set of values here, constructed in such a way as to be a sort of antidote to the problems of the outside world. There's much more of course -- sex, nature, religion, and of course, Guyanese history all have major roles in this novel.
There's a lot of subtle humor in this novel, as well as a growing awareness that even in this utopian oasis, all may not as bright as it seems. Berkelhoost is a not only a place of phantoms and shadows, but it is also a place where contradictions abound. I found it to be an incredibly thought-provoking novel once I started noticing said contradictions and to me this was the big payoff here.
Shadows Move Among Them may not be everyone's cup of tea, but so far, I haven't been disappointed with either of the Mittelholzer novels I've read and there are more winging their way to my house as we speak. I appreciate Peepal Tree Press taking the time to publish his work; there are still some books that haven't yet been brought back into print, but I'm hoping the Peepal folks will consider doing so. His books take time, but are most definitely worth reading. ...more
As someone who loves all crimes and all things darker Victorian, I'd been looking forward to reading this book ever sinc3.5 or somewhere thereabouts.
As someone who loves all crimes and all things darker Victorian, I'd been looking forward to reading this book ever since I discovered it was going to be published. Kate Summerscale is one hell of a researcher for sure -- her books are steeped in cultural, social, economic and historical context so that the reader has a very good feel for the bigger picture stemming outward from the crime in question.
In The Wicked Boy, Ms. Summerscale takes on the story of Robert Coombes, who in July 1895 at the young age of thirteen, killed his mother, closed the bedroom door where the crime was committed, and then along with his younger brother Nattie, calmly went to a cricket match. The crime went undetected for a while, even when the brothers brought an older man, John Fox, into the house to stay with them, and whenever anyone would ask about mom, they were told that she was out of town. When Robert's aunt finally demands to see their mother, and when the bedroom door was finally opened, she was met with "the smell of rotting flesh" and the "form of a woman, lying on the bed, the face covered by a sheet and a pillow." When faced with what he'd done, Robert admits that it was he who had killed his mother because Nattie had "got a hiding for stealing some food, and Ma was going to give me one."
In examining the whys in the case, Summerscale turns to different factors that may have played a role in the reason Coombes did what he did. As just one example, perhaps he was heavily influenced by the stories in the penny dreadfuls he read -- after all, as she notes, they had been occasionally linked by inquest juries to motives behind suicide and murder; the press had noted that they were "the poison which is threatening to destroy the manhood of democracy," and for some reason they were viewed as representative of a threat from the "lower orders." After the author examines the particulars of the case, the law, the trial, etc., she then goes on to argue that perhaps history shouldn't judge Robert Coombes for what he did in July 1895, since he went on to lead an exemplary life.
As I said, it's very obvious that she's researched her story and her people meticulously. I couldn't get enough of the crime itself, trying to figure out why Robert would have done what he did and what Nattie's involvement may have actually been. However, there comes a time when any researcher worth her or his salt has to know what to keep and what to let go when reporting her findings, and that's one of my issues with this book. So much could easily have been left out with no detriment to either the study of the crime at hand or the people involved. For example, from pp 226 through 233 we get a long section on another Broadmoor inmate who played cricket at Broadmoor while Robert was there. Then, through the end of that chapter on 239, more about another young inmate. Interesting, yes, but germane to Coombes' story? I get that she's discussing other adolescents who ended up there, but still, thirteen pages? This tends to happen throughout this book and it gets frustrating after a while.
However, despite my misgivings about the overabundance of what I see as unnecessary details woven into this narrative, I would certainly recommend the book to anyone who has an interest in Victorian true crime. ...more