The Winter Long is so chock full of revelations, and more than a few answered questions, that revealing any of them, would pretty thoroughly spoil the book for you. So, I’ll keep it short and sweet, and deliberately, and probably annoyingly, vague. Sorry about that… I mean, seriously, when you see back cover copy like this:
Toby thought she understood her own past; she thought she knew the score.
She was wrong.
It’s time to learn the truth.
It’s kind of a giveaway that even a vague description of events in the book would be ruinous. I’m gonna give it a try. Toby and Tybalt are enjoying couple time. In fact, they’re enjoying it so much that any expectation of peace can’t possibly be realistic, right? We all know that Toby attracts trouble like white on rice so it’s no surprise when she’s visited by Simon Torquill. Remember him? He’s Sylvester’s twin brother and the charming fellow that turned Toby into a fish (among other things.) He’s desperately trying to tell Toby something, but he’s under a geas, so a big reveal isn’t in the cards. So, Toby and crew go to the best place she knows of to get answers: The Luidaeg. Things don’t quite go as Toby hopes, but she does manage to get a wee bit more info out of The Luidaeg before things go all to hell.
I almost feel like I’m under a geas writing this review, but anyway, another blast from Toby’s past rears, um, its ugly head, and of course, it’s time for Toby to save the day. Like I said, revelations carry the narrative in The Winter Long, and during this journey, Toby will learn some blinding truths about her past, that will have great repercussions on her future, if she lets them. I probably should have just written Betrayals! Revelations! Answers!, and left it at that, so needless to say, McGuire wraps up a ton of plot strings in this one, but as always, a pretty bow tying things up is nowhere to be seen. Seanan McGuire mentions in her acknowledgements that this is the book that all others led up to, that everything she’s done until now was for the sake of getting here. Indeed. What she manages to do is make it very clear how intricate Toby’s story is, and the richness of Toby’s world is a thing of genius. And don’t worry, while The Winter Long clears up a TON of stuff, it’s made clear that Toby’s story is far from over. This is a good thing. The Winter Long is a testament to McGuire’s ability to take so many threads and pull them together into a harrowing, and believable tapestry, and it’s all Toby’s own. While there’s plenty of action, this is one of the most introspective books in the bunch, and of course, another great book in the Toby-verse....more
I know what you’re thinking (or might be thinking): ugh, vampires, soooo done to death (sorry about that). But bear with me, here. We’re talking about Christopher Buehlman, author of Those Across the River, The Necromancer’s House, and Between Two Fires. This man has a very solid history of excellence, so when I saw that The Lesser Dead was a vampire tale, I didn’t hesitate for even a second.
Joey Peacock looks eternally 14, but is actually in his 50s in 1978 New York City. He is, of course, also a vampire. He’s more than a bit cocky, considers himself a ladies man, and loves to look sharp. Well, as sharp as one can possibly look when their home is in the tunnels that run under the city. That’s ok, though, because Joey can glamour a victim in the blink of an eye. He has a family, of sorts, consisting mainly of Margaret (their tough as nails leader), and the elderly Cvetko, who harbors a fatherly affection for Joey. There are others, but they play the biggest parts in Joey’s life (or undeath). By 1978, Joey has fallen into a bit of a routine, and even has a family (mom, dad, son) that he regularly charms and feeds from. It may not be the ideal life, but it’s all he has, and if a bit of ennui has set in, well…that’s about to change. Margaret’s group has always been fairly careful to avoid killing their victims (which they call “peeling”), mainly to keep the cops off their scent as opposed to any real sense of moral responsibility. However, when they discover a feral pack of child vampires that not only kill, but play with their victims like a cat plays with a mouse, they must decide what to do about this very serious problem.
The first half of the book mainly covers Joey’s history with the vamps; how he got turned, the events leading up to that, and a rundown of vamp politics and the occasional turf skirmishes that Margaret takes care of with her signature ruthlessness. Joey’s narration is pragmatic and more than a hint of the 14 year old boy that he once was shines through. Frankly, he’s a bit of a twerp, and very frequently uses his innocent looks (and a high pitched voice) to get what he wants. But…give Joey a chance. Trust me on this one. When he meets the little vamps, he’s actually pretty horrified at what they’ve done, and what they do (it’s really, REALLY icky) but they tell a compelling, and even tragic story, and Joey’s protective side begins to emerge. Margaret isn’t as easily convinced, and she’s determined to get rid of them before they call unwanted attention to the underground colony.
These kids are fantastically creepy, especially the lone female, and if you think Margaret and Co. can be vicious, you ain’t seen nothing yet. There are absolutely no sparkly vamps here, and underneath Joey’s veneer of swagger, there’s a thread of melancholy that’s unmistakable. This book surprised the hell out of me-not at how good it was, because it’s very, very good. That wasn’t surprising at all. I was shocked at how attached I actually got to Joey, and how he managed to make me care about Margaret and the rest of his vamps (she was human too, once, and her story is heartbreaking.) Speaking of heartbreaking, I was blown away at how arresting this book, and these characters are, and how I never could have seen it coming. I’m not going to tell you what “it” is, but suffice it to say it will wow you, I hope, because it certainly wowed me. Buehlman is a master, and his lovely writing only underscores the brutality, and sometimes futility and sadness of these vamps’ lives. They really are doing the best they can with what they are. Think of that what you will, but don’t miss this book. The Lesser Dead is shades of The Lost Boys and Near Dark wrapped up in Buehlman’s very distinctive, very unique touch, and it’s fantastic. This man can’t write ‘em fast enough for me, and I can’t wait to see what he’s got up his sleeve next!...more
I’m betting, if you’re like me, you had a ton of questions at the end of the wonderful ANNIHILATION. If so, you’ll be glad to know that Authority answers quite a few of them. Not all, but a few, and it’s a perfect filling in the sandwich of awesome that is the Southern Reach trilogy. Authority picks up a few months after the disastrous events of Annihilation and the biologist is in the custody of Southern Reach after being found standing in an empty parking lot after returning from Area X’s twelfth expedition. John Rodriguez, aka “Control” has been brought in to replace the missing Director and question the survivors. As soon as he arrives at Southern Reach he encounters pushback from the Assistant Director, who fervently believes the Director is still alive, a scientist named Whitby that may or may not be hiding something, and of course, the biologist, who gives cryptic answers to his questions and seems intent on stonewalling him. He has access to the former Director’s files and her office certainly yields more than a few oddities. He must report to an entity that he only knows as The Voice, but as he digs into the mysteries of Area X, he seems to only have more questions, and not many answers. Soon, things begin to fall apart around him, and he starts to suspect that the forces that are guiding him are much closer to him, and his past, then he could ever have imagined.
For those that haven’t read Annihilation, Area X is a vast coastal area that was inexplicably changed at a time known as the Event, and an invisible border appeared. For 30 years, Southern Reach has been sending in teams of scientists, linguists, psychologists, you name it, to explore Area X and report back with their findings. Some didn’t make it back, and some that did came back…different somehow. Authority explores the aftermath of the 12th expedition, but it’s more than that. Authority is Control’s book, and we get to know him almost as well as we got to know the biologist in Annihilation. If, after reading Annihilation, you expected more of the same in Authority, put that thought out of your head. Authority takes place almost entirely at Southern Reach HQ and gives its reader a tour of an off the books clandestine government agency (with frequent detours into weird territory.) I love VanderMeer’s brand of weird though, and he layers Control’s story with very creepy moments during his research into Area X . This is what VanderMeer is really, really good at: creeping, crawling dread that plucks at your sleeve when you’re not looking and scuttles back into the shadows when you finally get up the nerve to face it head on. Annihilation had some real scares, but Authority is built of subtler stuff, a mounting dread that slowly increases in intensity until culminating in something that I wouldn’t call an end. To me, it was more of a beginning, but, well, you’ll see. Giving away too much would be to ruin this creepy gem of a book. It’s a worthy, if different companion to Annihilation, and while it stands just fine on its own, to read it without Annihilation is to deny yourself a near perfect reading experience. I imagine the author has some great stuff in store for Acceptance, and I can’t wait....more
I shamefully admit that it’s been awhile since I’ve read anything by the wonderful James Lee Burke. It’s all good, though, because Wayfaring Stranger has reignited my love for his books, and I’ll be devouring the rest of them soon enough. Wayfaring Stranger could be called a thriller, I suppose. It’s paced like one at times. But, oh gosh, it’s so much more. Weldon Holland, grandson of Hackberry, is only 16 in 1934 when Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker come blazing through the Holland land after orchestrating the prison break at Eastham. Insouciant in their 1932 Chevy Confederate, they’re a source of instant fascination for young Weldon, especially the feral eyed Bonnie Parker with her beret titled over one eye. In a separate encounter a short time later, perhaps thinking he was protecting his grandfather, Weldon shoots his .44 into the back of the Chevy as it flees. This would prove to be a defining moment in his life. Then we move on to Holland’s stint in WWII in which he and his Sergeant, Hershel Pine, rescue a lovely woman, Rosita, from an SS death camp. Holland subsequently marries Rosita and when Pine tracks him down with a claim of a pipe weld that would never break, and the birth of their company, The Dixie Belle Pipeline Company, in 1946. The following years are good for them, but after a business venture goes south, they have no choice but to accept a loan from an untrusted source, and when Pine’s wife, the spirited and wayward Linda Gail, is “discovered” and introduced to the glittering gutters of Hollywood, it kicks off a chain of events that threaten everything they’ve built and everyone they love.
If you enjoy character driven sagas with plenty of kick, you’ll love Wayfaring Stranger, and if you’re already a fan of Burke’s work, it’s a given. Weldon Holland is a hero, but it’s his quiet way, loyalty, and deep seated morality that make him a standout. His fierce, fierce love for Rosita is enough to make a girl swoon. Enjoy that, because you won’t see me write that very much. I’m not much of a swooner, but good grief, the things he writes about Rosita are beautiful, and he respects and cherishes her in a time when women were sometimes not very respected, at least for anything other than how they looked. Lest you think that Weldon is the strongest character, Rosita is an absolute force of nature, Hershel is a loyal friend, solid and good, Hackberry Holland is very much the lovable curmudgeon, and if at first Linda Gail gets under your skin (oh, how she will), her eventual redemption and hard won strength are a glory to behold.
Wayfaring Stranger has a bit of everything that I love. It’s a grand literary tour of some of the most significant events in American history, and the glamorous parties of old Hollywood and sometimes diabolical machinations of behind the scenes players mark a time thought of as “innocent” which really wasn’t. I’m from Texas, and couldn’t help but revel in a book chock so full of so much amazing Texas history. How was I ever bored by this stuff in school? Maybe I just needed James Lee Burke for a teacher. This book is embodies everything that I think a good story should have, and not only is it a fine story, it’s also a meditation on human nature and our capacity for cruelty, but also the ability of the human spirit to rise above it, to love completely, and to refuse to give into the evil the evil that men, and women, do. Rosita endures some horrendous things throughout the course of this book, and her refusal to give in to those that would hurt her is inspiring, even as your heart breaks for her plight. I savored every word in this big, bold, gorgeous book. I didn’t want it to end, but what a helluva ending it was, certainly worthy of a Golden Age Hollywood actioner (I may have cried, don’t tell anyone.) If you only read a few books this year, make this one of them....more
Fiona Griffiths is bored of the case she’s working on, going over the financial records of an ex-cop turned thief, when another case comes up, and it’s about much more than theft. A prostitute and her young daughter are found in a squalid house, and the manner of murder of the little girl is horrendous. Something about the case captures Fi’s attention, and she begins to insert herself into the investigation any way she can. Focused, intense, and a little strange, Fi is determined to find out who killed this little girl, and the killer may be connected to her current case. A credit card belonging to a very wealthy man, who supposedly died in a plane crash, is found at the crime scene and it turns out Fiona’s thief may have more to do with this case than she initially thought, but he’s keeping things close to the vest. Unfortunately, Fi has a tendency to go off on her own, at the consternation of her boss. As she follows the clues and turns up evidence of abuse and victimization of the most horrifying kind, she also has to confront her own mysterious past.
Talking to the Dead is told in Fiona’s voice, and what a voice! Brilliant, odd, and very self-aware, Fiona is as fascinating, maybe even more so, then the actual case she’s working. Yes, this has all the hallmarks of a procedural, and the desire to see justice done for these women, and especially for the little girl, April, is strong. However, it’s also a study of a young woman still finding her way after a horrible experience with mental illness as a teenager. For Fiona, every emotion, every feeling is a gift, because she went so long without feeling anything. Her struggle to live a normal life (or be a part of Planet Normal, as she puts it) is poignant and bittersweet, and the author keeps you guessing about the origins of her illness until the end. The author navigates Fiona and her world with a deft touch, and yet doesn’t shy away from her willingness to see justice done and go to nearly any lengths to do just that. Talking to the Dead reminded me quite a bit of Sara Gran’s Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, mainly because of the protagonists, but also in how Harry Bingham uses the Welsh setting to contribute much of the mood and heft to the story, while brilliantly profiling a driven woman that is so often at odds with herself and her world. I’m officially a Bingham fan, and will eagerly look forward to his next novel....more
There’s something intriguing yet downright terrifying about a group of people that can employ mind control just with the use of a few nonsense words, but that’s the basis of the superb Lexicon.
When the book opens, Wil Parke is being held down by two men and having a needle driven through his eye at an airport bathroom. He has no idea why, only that he needs to get away. The snippets of their conversation that he can grasp make no sense, and when he finally gets a chance to run, what he witnesses is mind numbing. Soon, he realizes that his life has taken on a whole new meaning, and his captor may actually be his protector.
We then jump back in time a bit to the life of 16 year old Emily Ruff, a runaway who is barely scraping by as a card hustler in San Francisco. She has a knack for persuasion, however, and this is what puts her on the radar of the “poets”, which is what this clandestine group of mind bending folks call themselves. They present an offer she really can’t refuse, since she doesn’t really have other attractive life choices at her fingertips, and so begins her journey. The author takes us through her schooling with the poets and she begins to show a talent that both intrigues and terrifies the establishment, especially the shadowy man that heads it up. He sees a tool in Emily, and possibly even a weapon.
Emily and Wil’s futures eventually entwine in the tiny town of Broken Hill, Australia, which has been completely devastated by a horrific incident that Emily may be involved in. Perhaps most importantly, Will is an “outlier”, who is immune to the powers of the poets, and it may be what saves his life, but what about Emily, and why has he been drawn into a battle that he wants nothing to do with?
I had absolutely no expectations when I began reading Lexicon, but let me tell you, it took about 10 seconds for me to be completely hooked on this unusual and absorbing story. Emily is a strong willed, yet very vulnerable girl whose future falls into the hands of a group that doesn’t have her best interests at heart. She’s very powerful and it’s her struggle with her terrifying power and also with herself that makes her so tragic, and ultimately, so easy to identify with. Honestly, where Emily was concerned, I couldn’t help but make comparisons to Firestarter, which is a good thing. Wil is a bit of a mystery to begin with, but as the narrative unfolds, you’ll figure things out, and if you weren’t already hopelessly hooked, just wait. You’ll need to pay attention, because when the author changes timelines, he expects you to use your context clues to figure out where you are in the course of the story, and if you are indeed paying attention, it’s not hard. I kind of liked this, because it really made me focus on the who and where and kept me in the moment. The scenes in the ruined Broken Hill are very, very creepy, and Emily’s time at the poet’s school will certainly bring to mind X-Men. Those are just comparison’s to give you a bit of an idea of what you’re getting into, though. Max Barry has certainly created something all his very own, and he’ll have his hooks in you in no time. Lexicon is a scary, intelligent, and poignant thriller that defies categorization and more than deserves a look from readers looking for something a bit different, a little beyond the norm, satirically sharp, and just damn good....more
For the first time in more than two years, an expedition (the 12th, the group is told) is headed into Area X. The team consists of four women: a biologist (who narrates), an anthropologist, a psychologist, and a surveyor. They’ve got a few firearms, ample supplies, and each have been given a mysterious black device with a glass covered hole in the middle. If that hole glows red, they are to get to a safe place, immediately. They’ve been sent to Area X to uncover its secrets, and perhaps to explain the (so far) unexplainable. Many teams came before them. Some didn’t make it out, and some did, but were irrevocably changed, and worse. Soon after crossing over the border (under hypnosis), they come across a tunnel burrowing straight down into the ground, but what the unnamed narrator can’t help but think of as the tower. Why she can’t bring herself to call it anything but a tower, she doesn’t know, but when the team starts the descent into the tower, they find something very unusual, and ultimately, terrifying. When the biologist comes in contact with an unknown substance, it begins to change her, and she starts to suspect that Southern Reach, the organization that sent them to Area X, may not have the groups’ best interests at heart.
Area X is lush, beautiful, and completely abandoned, except for the new expedition, or so they think at first. At dusk, the group hears a low moaning that may or may not be animal in nature, and in fact, mounting evidence points distinctly to “other.” Somehow, the biologist knows that the tower is very important, and that eventually she’ll have to plumb its depths, but first, she’s drawn to the lighthouse that features prominently in many of the previous expeditions’ accounts. It’s there that she discovers evidence of shocking violence, and when she finally goes back to the tower, frightening, and deadly, beauty.
Although we never learn the biologist’s name, we do learn a little about her life before Area X, and she soon discovers, within herself, that the control that she’s always been known for is a farce, and it has no place in Area X. In fact, Area X is the very epitome of biology run amok, and yet, for all of its strangeness, it begins to make a chaotic sort of sense to her. The secret lies in the tower, and she knows she must confront it, even if it means her death, and confront it she does, with shocking results.
It’s been a long time since a book creeped me out quite this much. It reminded me a bit of The Ruins by Scott Smith, but only in the sense that the horror of Area X is very organic, and the biologist’s descriptions of tidal pools and the organisms that dwell there only served to heighten my terror and fascination. Annihilation is as much psychological study as it is horror, and horror it most certainly is, of the best kind. Vandermeer’s uneasy narrative has that pull that makes you want to go down into that tower with the team, even though you know that would be a very, very bad idea, and he’s created such a fully realized environment, within Area X, that he could certainly go well beyond a trilogy. This is also horror with a bit of a message, although it’s certainly not heavy handed, but it’s there, and it’s a good one. The lighthouse was what did it for me, ultimately. Yeah, the tower is weird and scary and there are things down there that will cause any sane person to curl up in a fetal position and will themselves to die, but it was the silent testament to violence at the lighthouse that really sent chills down my spine. I don’t know why, but for me, monsters are one thing, but it’s horror with a human element that really gets to me the most. I made the mistake of reading this on my Kindle with a light up screen in the dark, and I found myself jumping at any small noise. So, don’t do that, unless, you know, you like that sort of thing (like I kind of do, I admit it.) This was a short read, but it packs a helluva punch. The matter-of-fact narrative (it’s a journal-and she’s a scientist- after all, and Southern Reach asked for maximum context) actually adds to the creep factor of the story, which is already at a 10, although there are passages of uncanny beauty. However, I still got a sense of her sadness, of her conviction that she had nothing to return to, which of course added a melancholy, even fatalistic tone to her story.
ANNIHILATION is psychological, and organic, horror and mystery at its very, very best, from a master of his craft. Vandermeer’s ability to create wonder amidst terror is awesome (in the classic sense of the word), and I can’t wait to return to Area X in May with AUTHORITY....more
Mark Watney is an engineer and a botanist. He’s also, fortunately, a guy who has a great sense of humor and is naturally optimistic. He’s gonna need that humor and that optimism, because he’s been stranded on Mars after a dust storm leaves him with a punctured suit and a crew that can only assume he’s dead. His crew is devastated and must leave the planet, but, of course, Andy is stuck on Mars with no hope of rescue for a very long time, no way to communicate with Earth, not enough food to last (but with enough disco music to last a lifetime, and plenty of Three’s Company reruns)…you get the idea. Most of the story is told in journal entries by Mark, and it’s through these that I got hooked. Hopelessly, completely hooked. In fact, I suggest that you set aside an afternoon for this one, because you won’t want to put it down.
Ok, so, one of the most terrifying scenarios I can think of has happened to our protagonist, a protagonist that is so immensely likeable it’s ridiculous, and I mean that in the best way. Eventually, Mark is able to communicate with NASA and his plight becomes a national obsession. It takes a long time to figure out how to get Mark home, and even then, it’s a longshot. In the meantime, Mark has to use every bit of knowledge and know-how at his disposal to survive. He journals everything in detail and if you love science, you’ll be in heaven, and even if science is a bit intimidating to you, this book makes it fascinating. The author does a wonderful job of conveying Mark’s unenviable plight without ever making things dark. Bad things do happen, but it’s Mark’s resilience in the face of an unimaginably awful situation that not only makes it more harrowing, but also makes you desperately want him to make it. This book is very reminiscent of Apollo 13, obviously, but is in a league all its own. The conclusion had me in knots. I haven’t been that on-the-edge-of-my-seat, nail bitingly anxious about a book in a very long time, and it’s rare that once I finish a book, I want to run out the front door, waving it in the air, yelling for everyone to buy it. But yeah, it’s one of those. Not to mention that the author has done a wonderful thing here: he’s taken some pretty hard science and made it very, very accessible to everyone! That’s pretty special, at least to me, and I would also encourage parents to hand this one off to teens who may be a little intimidated by science, because it does what a lot of science classes don’t do. It tells you EXACTLY how the science is applicable in real world (and very exciting) scenarios. This book is great. It just is. Read it!...more
Every now and then I discover a new author, and I get really excited. This happened with Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger series and now with Daniel H. Wilson’s Robopocalypse. I’m not quite sure what I expected. Maybe just run of the mill postapocalyptic dystopian fare, with robots run amok? Well, in Robopocalypse, robots certainly do run amok, but run-of-the-mill it is not. Told in snippets of gathered intelligence by Cormac Wallace, a leader of the human resistance, Robopocalypse covers the period of time just before the robot uprising to almost 3 years after, and details, in particular, the struggles of a small group of heroes, from New York , to the Great Plains, and even Japan. The author turns on the creeps full force in this book, and I was reminded at times of early Stephen King. There are truly horrifying moments as the virus, spread by the powerful AI that calls itself Archos, systematically takes over robotics all over the world. I did say there were some creepy bits, yes? Especially spine tingling are scenes where our heroes interact with Archos, who uses a little boy’s voice to communicate. There’s a scene involving a child’s doll that will make the little hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It’s scary enough that robots are rising up and killing humans, but what’s even worse is they are also herding people into work camps in order to build stronger, better, smarter killing machines. This novel isn’t just runaway robots killing humans, although I was reminded of Maximum Overdrive (remember that one?), especially when the cars with smart chips start killing people (and that’s most cars in this world). I fell in love with the characters, and one of my favorites isn’t even human. This book has fairly short chapters, and I found myself thinking “just one more” until I realized I’d read 50 pages.
Yes, there’s tons of action in this book (Steven Spielberg movie in 2013!!), but truly, Robopocalypse is about bravery in the face of staggering horror, and unfathomable circumstances. Like any good exploration of artificial intelligence, it will make you question what it really means to be human, and likens what we choose to do in moments of crisis as the closest we can get to fate, and who we truly are at our core. And the humans aren’t the only ones rising up against Archos…
The author has a Ph.D. in robotics and it certainly shows. Terrifying robots and gadgets abound, and I had no trouble putting myself into the story, right in the middle of the action. Mr. Wilson also deftly handles several different points of view and creates an immediacy that makes the events even more terrifying. This novel takes off like a rocket and bullets you through the story like a runaway train! I loved it!...more
British Sergeant Lester Ferris has been sent to the (fictional) island of Mancreu to ostensibly keep the peace at the end of his career (after a rather disastrous tour in Afghanistan), as the island slowly gives way to waste and chemical abuses resulting in toxic gases that are affecting the wildlife and fauna . This “Mancreu Cauldron” will eventually destroy the island, not to mention leeching toxins out into the ocean into farther reaches, and its denizens have even succumbed to the toxic Discharge Clouds that have caused interesting, and sometimes dangerous, neurological problems. Leaving (that’s a capital L) parties have become the norm as citizens depart for brighter horizons, but there is still beauty to be found in the land, and in the people. For Lester, aside from an unrequited crush on a local scientist, he solves small cases and pals around with a young boy with a penchant for comics and a love of American pop culture. After a brutal shooting by five men in a local bar, resulting in the murder of a friend, Ferris is at loose ends, but is eager to get to the bottom of things, and enlists the boy to be his eyes and ears among the locals. The boy is ecstatic at his chance to be a crimefighter and takes to his new tasks with gusto. Soon, the boy and Lester embark on a mission to strike fear into the killers and what results is…kinda fantastic-comically, terrifyingly fantastic.
For all of his physical strength and considerable experience, Lester Ferris can come off as a bit hapless at times, but really, he’s anything but. He’s plopped on this doomed island, thinking he’ll wait out the inevitable by solving mundane, rather boring crimes and knocking around in Brighton House, but the crimes are anything but ordinary (one missing dog turns into a downright tragedy), and his connection to the boy that calls himself Robin (as an homage to Batman? his real name? ) is unexpected, and yet, as their relationship strengthens, he finds himself entertaining thoughts of taking the boy with him when the island burns, being a father figure to him, and is increasingly astounded at how much he’s come to love this funny, smart boy who talks like American film and hoards comics. With certain destruction looming, the populace grows restless, dangerously so, a gang of thugs has been terrorizing innocent people, and just what is going on with the menacing fleet of ships that gather in the harbor? Can Tigerman save the day?
This book, ya’ll. Tigerman is wrapped in a sort of old-school, boy’s pulp adventure package, but it’s actually a very timely book. There’s some pretty astute observation on how we treat our planet and what the fallout can be for us, the little folk, but there’s no preaching here, and the real meat of the book lies with Lester, who, in the beginning is just sort of existing, not happy or unhappy, but sort of lacking in purpose. It’s in the boy, and also the people of Mancreu, that he finds his purpose, and watching this transition, from slightly directionless, to full-on hero is a glory to behold. There are some phenomenal action scenes here, but for me, it was the quieter moments that made this book so good. The moment in which Tigerman is “born”, in the quiet stillness of a graveyard, is particularly perfect, and it gave me goosebumps (you’ll know it when you read it.)
Tigerman is about the birth of a hero, promises made and promises kept, finding meaning, the freedom we find when we take ourselves out of the everyday, and the fierceness, and heartbreak, of parental love. It definitely broke my heart, but good books have a habit of doing that, and Tigerman is so very, very good. Harkaway’s writing is gorgeous, and this unexpectedly funny, and sweet, and sad, and everything-in-between book will have you entranced. Tigerman is full of win, and roarsome, and wonderful. Don’t miss it....more
I don’t want to live in the world that Mira Grant described in Feed, and now in Deadline.
I don’t want to live in a house that has tiny windows, so that anything about 40lbs can’t get through, or have to endure blood tests at every entry or exit.
I don’t want to never again experience the joy of an open air concert or festival.
I don’t want to not be able to offer comfort to a stranger by giving them a hug, or holding their hand.
I don’t want to live in a world where I might have to shoot someone I love to save them from a fate worse than death.
This is the world put forth by the author, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Almost 30 years after the cure for the common cold turned into hell on wheels, the world is still recovering from the devastation. Some parts of the world will never be reclaimed, and the effects of this disease roam the wilds, seeking to infect and feed. In Deadline, news blogger Shaun Mason is our narrator, and still hasn’t recovered from events that affected him and his team in the worst possible way. When a CDC doctor fakes her own death and shows up, asking for his help, all hell breaks loose…again. He’s now on a mission to uncover a vast government conspiracy that could affect the whole of humanity and will uncover secrets that will certainly change his life, and those he cares for, forever...and he has nothing to lose.
If you haven’t yet discovered this superb series by Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire), then you’re in for a wild ride. Feed and Deadline feature some of the best post-apocalyptic writing that I’ve read, hands down. Not just zombie books, these novels explore the nature of fear in all its forms and will take you on an emotional roller coaster that will haunt you for days after you’ve stopped reading. The characterizations are phenomenal, and the attention to detail is no less than it was in Feed. Sometimes it’s hard to follow up such amazing work, and sometimes second novels in a series suffer a bit. Not Deadline. It’s just as good as Feed, and you’ll find yourself plowing through this 600+ page novel in no time. I missed quite a bit of sleep finishing this one up. Was it worth it? Totally. ...more
Have you read Annihilation and Authority and now you’re ready for some answers? Jeff VanderMeer delivers the answers you want, and much more, in Acceptance, the final book in the Southern Reach Trilogy. This is a hard one to review, because it’s kind of the “big reveal” book, although it’s really not VanderMeer’s style to smack you in the face with shocking revelations. Shocking things do happen, to be sure, but events unfold like one of the deadly flowers you might find in Area X, and you’ll find, while reading, that all the clues were there, in this, and the first two books, and the author wisely trusts his readers to follow the cleverly scattered breadcrumbs.
In Acceptance, we join up with Control and Ghost Bird as they head back into Area X, in search of a team member that Ghost Bird is intimately connected to. The lighthouse keeper, Saul Evans, is a huge part of the story, and his is a poignant and important one, as one of the first to experience the otherworldly encroachment of Area X. The psychologist/Director gets her own story, and it humanizes a figure that seemed a little to the left of human in Annihilation. If you’ll remember, she was manipulating her team, and eventually, as everything fell apart around her, she found herself succumbing to Area X. Perhaps, among the most important things for me, was the mystery of what happened to the biologist, and she has her say as well.
Keep in mind, the border of Area X has shifted drastically, and it seems to be continuing its advance, but what does that mean for mankind? This trilogy is very much about transformation, of the literal and figurative kind, and the author does a phenomenal job in filling out each character’s background, and their motivations. The alternating narrative carries an undeniable sense of creeping dread, a prelude to a quiet apocalypse, but no less terrifying for its subtlety. We learn about who these people were, before Area X took over their existence, and it’s their very human need for answers, at almost any cost, that leads them to their ultimate destination, and sometimes, to their utter doom, although some are caught up in Area X through no fault of their own.
The wild and terrifying beauty that is Area X, and VanderMeer’s ability to create such a rich, immersive, fully realized place, is one of the things that makes these books what they are, and indeed, Area X is a living, breathing character all its own. Area X is the soft rustle of the leaves, a night sky full of alien stars, and the ripples on an ocean as a leviathan breaches the surface, so similar, yet so different from our own natural world. Disturbing and beautiful in equal measure, Acceptance, like Annihilation and Authority, will transport you, and it brings the trilogy full circle. Books like this don’t come around very often, and this is a series not to be missed....more
Roads are washed out, along with buildings, bridges, food and just about every other necessity needed to survive. Mississippi, along with the rest of the Gulf Coast, is a waterlogged mess and it’s been raining for so long that it’s hard for Cohen to remember life before the rain, but he does remember some things, like the beauty of his dead wife and how much he wanted the child that was growing inside her before they were killed during an evacuation. Cohen still makes what passes for a life inside the house they shared, along with a horse and dog, and his regular trips to see his friend Charlie (who has a knack for procurement) for supplies punctuates the lonely days and nights.
On his way home, after one such trip to see Charlie, he encounters a teenage girl and boy by the side of the road who flag him down for a ride. Against his better judgment, he stops to pick them up. Their fumbling attempt to kill him is unsuccessful, but they do manage to steal his Jeep and many of his supplies. He finally makes it home to find it has been relieved of supplies as well, no doubt by the teenagers or others involved with them. He especially feels violated after he discovers that the room that was to be the baby’s has been invaded as well, and makes it his goal to track down the teens and retrieve what belongs to him.
Cohen sets about finding the teens with a single mindedness that is both terrifying and exhilarating, and it almost kills him. Eventually he finds the camp where Mariposa and Evan are, for lack of a better description, being kept, along with Evan’s younger brother, along with quite a few women, some pregnant, by a man, Aggie, who has designated himself their lord and master. If you’re getting a creepy feeling, it’s certainly warranted, because Aggie is one of the creepiest bad guys that I’ve read in a long time, and it’s a wormy, insidious kind of creepy. Aggie sooths his “people” with words of comfort and promises of shelter and food, but once he’s got ‘em, they become mere property. The locks are on the outside of the doors and Evan and little Briscoe are the only males. I’m sure you can get the gist of Aggie’s goals. Once Cohen gets into the mix, though, all bets are off, and Aggie may have met his match. And there’s a storm coming…
I’m willing to bet that once you crack open Rivers, you’ll want to finish it off in one sitting, if only to follow your dread all the way to the end without pause. You will root for Cohen, Mariposa, and Evan, and during their sometimes nightmarish trip through a south saturated in rain, filth, and despair, you can almost feel their constant discomfort and marvel at their strength in the face of such horrendous odds. Michael Farris Smith’s world is a post-apocalyptic landscape of a different kind where there are no supernatural monsters, but instead, plenty of monsters of the human kind. There is also still goodness and decency left, which, in spite of his very rough exterior, Cohen has in spades. His longing for his deceased wife is both beautiful and heartrending and in fact, the narrative is interspersed with vignettes about his time with Elisa, making his grief all the more poignant. Smith’s prose is fluid, much like the landscape, lyrical in its sparseness, and serves to lend a very effective air of impending dread that is unshakeable and palpable. Rivers is one of the best books I’ve read this year. On the surface it is a very effective, and sometimes terrifying, survival story, but for me, it’s a love story that inspired hope, even as it broke my heart. I can’t wait to see what Michael Farris Smith has in store for us next....more
If you’ve kept up with this series, then you know what Miriam went through in Mockingbird. To say that she’s physically and spiritually exhausted is an understatement, but she’s a survivor, our Miriam. When she saves the lives of two young men at the hands of a deranged homeless man, she finds a temporary home, but not paying rent is not a good thing, and her “work” as a street psychic isn’t bringing in nearly enough cash. Soon it’s eviction time, but it turns out one of her roomies has hooked her up with a job in Florida: a man who will pay her $5,000 to tell him how he dies. So, with reservations, but no other options, to Florida goes Miriam, and when she takes the hand of the man waiting for her, she’s shocked to see a message for her written in the man’s blood. Turns out someone from her past is expecting her, and is out for revenge.
So begins Miriam’s journey through the Florida Keys and beyond, trying to stay one step ahead of a killer that seems to be out to get everyone that Miriam cares for, but staying ahead of him proves to be pretty darn difficult, because he always seems to know what Miriam’s next move is. Also in pursuit is a pair of FBI agents that have suspicions of their own and are determined to interrogate Miriam…off the books.
Miriam is her usual bitingly sarcastic, scrappy self (seriously, the girl is like a Timex), but it’s the underlying layer of seething emotional pain, and the desire to do the right, and good thing, that makes her such a sympathetic girl, in spite of her own efforts to make herself as unlovable as possible. She’s torn and ragged and pushes everyone away, but ultimately is desperate for the love that she doesn’t think she deserves. This is part of what makes her surprising reconnection with her mother, who has relocated to Florida, all the more poignant. On the surface, the Miriam books are, at times, unrelentingly grim, but if you pick back the scabs, they’re the chronicles of a very damaged girl on a constant search for redemption while struggling to stay sane in the face of her unwanted physic “gift.” Cormorant, as is usual for this series, delivers action and creeps in spades, but the dim light at the end of the long dark tunnel of Miriam’s life is now just a little bit brighter. Miriam’s story remains an undeniably addictive one, and I finished this in one sitting. Wendig’s writing is better than ever, and this series continues to surprise and terrify in equal measure....more
When Malorie discovers that she’s pregnant, it’s also the start of something else, something big, something terrible. Online people are calling it “the Problem”, and it starts when people see something, but no one knows what it is. No one lives to tell. People are going mad and committing suicide in horrible ways, even attacking others. Malorie and her sister, Shannon, think for sure that whatever it is will be contained, but soon they start doing what everyone else does, tacking blankets and wood over their windows to shut themselves of from outside, where something is causing such chaos. When Shannon finally succumbs to the unknown threat, Malorie is suddenly, terrifyingly alone. When she sees classified ad of survivors welcoming strangers into their home, Malorie decides to try to make it there, and she does. When she arrives she meets the enigmatic Tom and the rest of his small group, who do their very best to make her feel welcome, and as she gets closer and closer to the birth of her child, she begins to care for this little group who she now calls her friends. However, the status quo eventually changes, and what’s outside may not be the thing that they should fear the most.
Good grief, this book. Ok, so, there’s something outside that is causing people to go mad and commit suicide. Because of this, our intrepid little group has to develop ways to do just about everything that requires going outside blindfolded. This means getting back and forth to and from the well, food runs (they’ve got enough food for a while, but it won’t last forever), you get the picture. I’ll tell you, never has a short trip to and from a damn well been so terrifying. The narrative goes back and forth from Malorie’s time with Tim and the group, until her child’s birth, and to four years later, when she attempts to make a long trip down a nearby river for a chance at sanctuary. BLINDFOLDED. I mentioned that, right?
What Josh Malerman does here can’t be easy. He manages to take this idea of a thing, and make it the scariest thing going. Seriously, this is one of the most terrifying books I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot of the scaries. The author relies on your imagination to fill in the blanks, and it’s very, very effective. It’s like the thing you think you see, or think you see, out of the corner of your eye, but it darts back into the shadows as soon as you try to face it head on. There is a pervasive sense of pure dread that pretty much spans the whole of this book, and Malorie’s determination to survive, and not only survive, but teach her kids to survive, is nothing short of miraculous. As dark as things get, though, and they do get pretty dark, there is a possible light at the end of the tunnel, if Malorie can only survive long enough to get there. I read this in one sitting, and can’t recommend it highly enough. What a wonderful, horrifying debut. I can’t wait to see what this author gives us next....more
The Oversight is one of those books that, about two pages in, I knew I was in for something good. It begins with an excerpt from The Great and Hidden History of the World by Rabbi Dr. Hayyim Samuel Falk, detailing the function of the Free Company known as The Oversight of London, specifically in protecting innocent humans from the actions of untoward supranaturals. The Oversight has always been manned by people with both supranatural and human blood, so that they may better understand the kinds of beings that they are sworn to protect the human population from. So it begins that a young girl is brought to The Oversight’s Safe House in a sack, mouth covered and hands wrapped, by a man who has been told that the proprietor of said headquarters would pay a pretty penny for young girls. Sara Falk, head of the last Hand of the Oversight, is looking for no such thing, but she finds out that the young girl in question, Lucy Harker, is much like her, and vows to protect her. Lucy’s arrival, however, seems to be the catalyst for bad things to come, and Mr. Sharp, Oversight sentinel and Sara’s protector (whether she likes it or not), is suspicious of Lucy’s arrival from the beginning. He’s right to be suspicious, because there are those that know that the once hundreds strong Oversight is now only five, and they are looking to not only destroy them, but take for them a key that could shift the balance of power in a profound way. Soon, Lucy is separated from the Hand and tragedy befalls Sara. Mr. Sharp is determined to make Sarah whole, even if it threatens their entire existence, and Lucy must make her way amongst a traveling carnival that hides its own dark secrets.
Victorian England is one of my favorite settings for a novel, especially one involving magical things, of which The Oversight has plenty, and although the setting is wonderful, it’s the characters that make this book a standout: a pair of villains that have many “sons” that they’ve procured from the local orphanages, creating a network of eyes and ears all over London, the creepy Slaugh with which the villains have entered into unholy alliance, a breath-stealer that stalks its unwitting victims in the shadows of an unsuspecting city, and of course, the Hand themselves, consisting of Sara Falk, Mr. Sharp, Cook, Hodge, and the Smith. There are magic mirrors, a golem named Emmett that protects our heroes, and so much more. Fletcher’s London is something I pictured out of a Tim Burton movie, with overhanging gables, crushed together buildings, and precariously uneven skylines, and of course, characters I absolutely fell in love with.
This is a book to be savored, and its secrets are revealed slowly and deliciously, entrenching you more and more into a Dickensian, delightful world. Will our heroes survive such diabolical evil with their numbers so utterly diminished? Will Lucy, so lost and unsure of her past, find a semblance of herself, and will she do it in time to thwart the powers that mean to possess her? The ending settles a few things but leaves plenty open for another book, and I can’t wait to get to know The Oversight better, not to mention go back into the wonderful world that Charlie Fletcher has created. The Oversight is a clever, entrancing, and of course, magical read, with plenty of surprises. Don’t miss this one. ...more
Verity Price is enjoying her relative freedom working as a strip club waitress in Manhattan, while conducting her survey on the cryptids of the area for the family biz, when she meets up with a member of a very old family enemy, the Covenant, who believe that all non-human entities should be summarily wiped off the face of the planet, no questions asked. This infuriates the Price family, who has created a tenuous trust with a large part of the cryptid population by offering support and assistance as well as keeping things safe for humans. The Price family certainly asks questions first, then only kills when necessary, so when Dominic DeLuca appears on Very’s rooftops, setting traps and killing indiscriminately, Very knows there’s going to be a real problem on her hands. Question is, how to handle it? Then there’s that pesky rumor of the dragon underneath Manhattan.
Discount Armageddon is one of the coolest books I’ve ever read. Hands down. I am a huge fan of the author’s October Daye series, so of course I was eager to see what she had in store for us in the new one. Turns out, quite a lot! Her Manhattan setting is mined for all it’s worth, with numerous trips into the underground tunnel systems (not to mention some kick ass fight scenes). Verity’s family is fascinating, as are her co-workers and friends. Speaking of co-workers: to supplement her first love (which is ballroom dancing), and to keep from relying completely on her family, Very works at a strip club owned by a bogeyman named Dave. Very’s a waitress, not a stripper, but you’ll find yourself charmed in various ways by her dancer (and cryptid) coworkers, and Dave is just…ugh. She has a cousin that’s a Cuckoo (so cool), and does her best to protect the city’s cryptids. Too bad Dominic DeLuca’s arrival puts a huge dent in her agenda. During the first half of the book, you’ll want to smack Dominic, hard (so does Very). He’s old fashioned, and has been indoctrinated with just the sort of agenda that the Price family has been trying so hard to destroy. Too bad he’s so darn cute. Unfortunately, they’ll have to work together to investigate the cryptid disappearances and find out just want is lurking in the sewers. You can’t go wrong with anything by Seanan McGuire. Her worldbuilding, characters, everything is superb, and if you’re already a fan of her books, you’ll love this one! If you haven’t discovered her books yet, Discount Armageddon is a great place to start!...more
I’m not new to Koryta’s work, and really enjoyed The Prophet, so I had high expectations for this one. Since I read it in one afternoon, it’s pretty safe to say they were met. I’m a sucker for survival stories, and this is one, but it’s also a thriller that pretty much starts with a bang and doesn’t stop to take a breath. Jace Wilson is 13 when he decides to practice his diving in a quarry in order to make good on an ill conceived bet. He’s worried about the fallout if he fails to deliver on the dive, but when he encounters a dead body in the water, throat cut, after one of his dives, the bet becomes the least of his worries. This is a creepy, creepy scene, and Koryta sets it up perfectly, especially from the perspective of a 13 year old boy. If the body wasn’t bad enough, the two killers actually return, with a hostage, and poor Jace actually witnesses that killing.
Jace is subsequently given a false identity, and eventually finds his way to Ethan and Allison Serben, who run a survival wilderness program in Montana. Ethan and Allison are approached by former US Marshall Jamie Bennett, who had previously taken part in one of Ethan’s survival courses. Jamie gives them the bare minimum that they need to know in order to make a decision: one of the boys in their next survival program will be a witness under a fake name, and there is little to no chance that he will be found in the Montana wilderness. Allison initially thinks it’s way too risky, and Ethan does too, but Allison knows that he won’t say no, that he can’t say no. Soon, Ethan and Allison meets the new group of boys, and off they go, with Allison manning the radio, but with no knowledge of their route this time. One would think that Jace would be safe in the mountains, but these killers are far from ordinary.
Let’s talk about the Blackwood brothers (our intrepid killers) for a minute. Not only do they have absolutely no qualms about killing, and killing a child, no less, but they’re just creepy. The author notes that it’s like they’re in their own little world, and everyone else is just window dressing to be dealt with. They’re as cool, calm and collected as it comes, and very, very capable. As you can guess, a game of cat-and-mouse is afoot, but it’s in the Montana mountains with an advancing forest fire, and it’s a chilling scenario. Jace is a smart, capable kid, though, and he’s got Ethan, Allison, and emotionally damaged former firefighter, Hannah Faber, at his back. Koryta has a gift for smart characters that don’t stretch believability (they’re smart, but flawed, too), and in Allison and Hannah, he’s given us some of the strongest female protagonists that I’ve seen in a long time. Yes, Ethan is manning the survival expedition, but Allison is no wilting violet sitting at home waiting for her husband to return. She’s awesome, and the lengths that she will go to in order to protect those she loves is boundless. I also love a thriller that makes my jaw drop, and this one did it in the third act. I couldn’t put it down, seriously. This is a smart thriller with smart characters and some of the most unearthly bad guys I’ve read in a while. The pacing and dialogue reminded me a bit of peak Koontz (without the SF/supernatural element), and for me, this is a positive. Koryta’s got his own unique mojo, however, and it works, as does just about everything in this book. This is the perfect summer thriller....more
Four planes crash in different places throughout the world. Three children, one from each of three sites, are the only survivors, although there are pervasive rumors of a fourth. An American woman (the only one on a Japanese flight), Pamela May Donald, supposedly survives long enough after one of the crashes to leave a cryptic message on her phone, directed at a certain Pastor Len, that alludes to a boy and “the dead people.” This leads Pastor Len to believe that the children may be three of the four horsemen, and that the end times are approaching. That sounds more simplistic than it really is, though. There is a progression, not only of events, but of certain ideas, that lead to such apocalyptic talk, and a rather odd fervor is created. But, a little should be said about the survivors. All are of a certain age (under 10) and come from fairly different backgrounds, two boys and a girl. Jess Craddock is sent to live with her gay uncle Paul, little Bobby’s grandparents, including a grandfather suffering from Alzheimer’s, takes him in, and little Hiro Yanagida, the son of a brilliant Japanese robot expert, is left with his aunt and cousin. The boy, in fact, communicates only through a lifelike robot that his father has created in his image. If you think that sounds creepy, you’d be right. The story of these three unusual kids is told in book-inside-a-book form, called Black Thursday: From Crash to Conspiracy by Elspeth Martins, and each tale is laid out in quite different ways. Paul and Jess’s tale plays out via Paul’s confessional style voice recordings, Bobby’s by way of interviews of his grandmother and neighbors, and Hiro’s in the form of his teen cousin Chiyoko’s instant messages to a lonely young man, Ryu, that longs to be with her. There’s also a search going on for “Kenneth”, the rumored survivor of the Africa crash. Also in the mix is testimony from the crash investigators and a few others. It makes for a potent brew.
This is a complex book, and there’s really no easy way to sum up the events. I can say that Lotz is an expert in the creepies, but I already knew that (see The Mall, her novel as ½ of SL Grey). For example, Pamela’s plane lands in Aokigahara, also known as the Suicide Forest or Sea of Trees. It’s estimated that up to 100 suicides occur there each year. There are actually signs there encouraging people to reconsider their actions. Like I said, creepy. Hauntingly beautiful, but creepy. Pamela’s last vision before her death includes some of the most unsettling imagery in the book. The kids are certainly a bit “off”, most of all Jess, and Bobby seems to have a miraculous effect on one of his family members. The biggest clue to what’s going on, early in the book, comes from Jess, and her uncle’s suspicion that she’s not the real Jess begins to consume him. His spiral is devastating, but you won’t be able to tear your eye’s away.
It’s not worth your time to try to plug this book into any particular genre. It has horror elements, certainly, and thriller elements, but considering the end times angle, and Pastor Lem’s certainty that The Three are harbingers of Revelations being upon us, it’s also a very clever, and thoughtful exploration of extremism in all its forms, and also our fascination with disaster and its aftermath. Lotz’s character studies are nothing short of fascinating, and if the book’s structure kept me at arm’s length from the characters a bit, that’ s ok, because this book is so damn cleverly put together, and Lotz’s attention to detail is phenomenal. The Three will reward readers in the end, at least it did me, and each little slice of life, and death, that I experienced along the way was a treat. The Three is a solid, absorbing-and yes, creepy-solo effort from a very talented author. Can’t wait to see what she does next!
When we last left my favorite skinwalker in Mercy Blade, there were definitely some strings that needed tyin’ up, so I was eager to dive back into Jane’s world in Raven Cursed. In the 4th book of the series, Jane heads out of New Orleans and back to Asheville, North Carolina to provide security for a parley between the MOC of New Orleans and a master vamp that wants to establish his own territory. Unfortunately, Jane gets way (way) more than she bargains for in Asheville. Rogue weres are killing tourists in horrible ways, and Jane is tasked with taking them out. Easier said than done, especially when Jane feels that she’s responsible for the weres’ rampage.
Strangely enough, this is one of the things that I love most about Jane. Her guilt. Yeah, I know that sounds weird, but she’s such a tough girl; so capable and strong, especially with Beast, that her enduring habit of taking nearly everything upon herself gives her a vulnerability that I can’t help but love. Seriously, sometimes I want to smack her (purely out of love), and say “It’s not your fault!!! You can’t control everything!!”, but I digress… So, there’s the were issue, which really gets bad when she finds out they might be after her best friend (and witch) Molly, and her family. Molly’s hubs isn’t all that fond of Jane for various reasons, so convincing Molly that things aren’t as they seem may prove to be a hard bargain. It really complicates things when Jane finds out that Molly’s sister Evangeline may be dabbling in the dark arts. I really wanted to throttle Evil Evie in Mercy Blade, and it only gets worse in Raven Cursed.
You think there’s a lot on Jane’s plate? There is! But wait, there’s more! Ricky-Bo is in town and is freaking out (understandably) at the possibility of going furry. Doesn’t help that his “mentor” , head of the African were cats, wants to kill him. I’ve always been hopeful for Rick and Jane, and their relationship just gets more complex, and more tender in a lot of ways, as the series goes on. I will admit that Jane and Bruiser’s , ahem, “almost” scene in Mercy Blade was the awesome, (‘cause Bruiser is a hottie, after all), but Rick is where it’s at, and I have no doubt that their relationship will just get more and more interesting as the series progresses. So, there you have it. Rampaging weres, twisty-turny vamp politics, hot shifters (and vamps), some seriously nasty (and witchy) black magic (we’re talkin’ demons here), and Ms. Hunter’s trademark, awesome fight scenes make for a book worth relishing. The Jane Yellowrock series is superb, and they just keep getting better. If you haven’t discovered it yet, I envy you, because you can start with Skinwalker and race right through. If you have discovered it, you’ll love Raven Cursed! This series is a must for any urban fantasy lover!...more
“The most wonderful enchanted things happen here-the most enchanted things you can imagine. I want to tell you while I still have time, before they close the black curtain and I take my final bow.”
If you know anything about the prison system in this country, it’s undeniably broken. There are a lot of people trying very hard to make it better, but it’s an uphill battle, and one that has a long way to go. That said, for a book that puts a magnifying glass to this issue, The Enchanted is a surprisingly hopeful book. I read The Enchanted in one night, and as I write this, it’s still got me near tears, but I digress. The book is narrated by a mute inmate on death row who imagines golden horses snorting and shuffling their hooves beneath the prison and small men with tiny hammers within its walls. A man on the block, only known as York, will be up for execution soon, and a death row investigator, only referred to as “the lady” has come to find out if it’s possible to get York off of death row. Not out of prison, just out of death row. Meanwhile, a fallen priest administers comfort to the inmates and contemplates his own past, and his growing attraction to the lady, as he helps in her investigation. The prison warden, emotionally broken from his wife’s struggle with terminal illness, and weary from his attempts to improve conditions for the men in his prison, must settle for providing small kindnesses to these forgotten men, and in the shadows, a corrupt prison guards pulls inmates strings like those of a puppet, far beneath the well- meaning, but distracted gaze of the warden.
As the lady methodically investigates York’s past, she discovers parallels to her own too obvious to ignore, and begins to identify with this monster that was created by tragedy and circumstance. Her need to reconcile the darkness within herself to the light she so desperately craves becomes all encompassing. Surely her past, things undeniably beyond her control, does not define her, and surely there is wonder to be found, and beauty. Wonder and beauty are not usually to be found amongst the men in the prison, but our narrator manages to find it in the smallest of things and he rises above the ovens that turn the dead to ash, the rotten food that has caused teeth to fall out and bones to turn brittle, the abuses that the stronger heap upon the weak so often, and the infernal machine that deals death from its tubes and dials at the prick of a needle. These are the forgotten, the abused, the mentally ill, and yes, even the evil among us, and while The Enchanted doesn’t look away from what these men have done, and the suffering of their victims, it does reveal the possibility, and necessity, of compassion for those that society has failed; criminal and victim.
“Even if the outside saw another nameless number, even if the mattresses of my life said just another, the warden saw something different. He saw what had been done to me. He saw me. And in that moment, I mattered.”
Among the horrors of a place such as this, there is humanity, and The Enchanted is the kind of book that will change you for reading it, if you let it, certainly for the better. In fact, it made me weep, and as dark as it is, there is hope, and a light at the end, even if it’s hard to see, or imagine. Rene Denfeld’s prose is poetic, and strangely enough, is made even more beautiful by the horrors that it describes. She herself is a death row investigator, so is more than qualified to write a book like this, and what a book. The Enchanted will break your heart in two and leave you the better for it. It’s a brutal, heart wrenching, and even, at times, magical book, and to be able find beauty and hope among such sorrow is an enchanted thing indeed....more
The book opens with Niall Petersen having suspected heart attack by the London Underground, and being saved by a mysterious stranger that calls herself Blackbird. Thus begins Niall's journey into the mystery of Feyre. This book was strange, and by strange I mean that it kept me eagerly turning the pages, even though...not much happens! There is some action, make no mistake, but most of the novel revolves around the developing relationship between Niall (Rabbit) and Blackbird, and Niall's discovery of a vast other world that he never even knew existed. This was so wonderfully written, lyrical even, and the pacing was just about perfect. Not to mention learning all about the Quit Rents ceremony was great fun! It was a charming, magical book, and I am a confirmed Mike Shevdon fan. I'll follow Rabbit and Blackbird anywhere!...more
It’s been 10 years since Caroline (now Sarah) escaped from Jack Derber’s basement of horrors, where she spent 3 years. She’s gotten her degree and is now ensconced in her tidy little New York City apartment, where she can order in, and the doorman, Bob, screens for any unwanted visitors. Plus, there are lots of people in New York, lots of people to hear you scream. A wrench is about to be thrown into her little construct of a life, however, in the form of Jack’s parole hearing. Caroline reasons that the likelihood of him getting out is very low, but it’s there, and she needs to be on hand to testify. 10 years isn’t enough for what Jack did to her, and it’s sure not enough for what she’s sure he did to her best friend, Jennifer, whose body was never recovered and whose death they never managed to charge him for.
Unfortunately, things didn’t quite end when Jack went to jail. He’s been sending taunting little letters to Caroline. In fact, he’s been sending them to Tracy and Christine too, who were the other two girls that Caroline and Jennifer were trapped with. Caroline is convinced they hold the clues to Jennifer’s fate, and she’s determined to find her body and make sure Jack never gets out of prison, but she’s going to need help. She manages to enlist the help of Tracy, who isn’t Caroline’s biggest fan, and against the advice of the agent responsible for Jack’s prosecution, they set out to follow the trail that Jack has left in his letters, as well as the woman he married in jail, but it may lead them right back to the very terror they narrowly escaped from so many years ago.
I seem to have had really good luck with books lately. Recently it was the absolutely superb Night Film by Marisha Pessl, and following that up with The Never List was like the cherry on top of a particularly creepy hot fudge sundae. The Never List is narrated by Caroline, and while she does give us glimpses into some of the things that happened in that basement, for those of you that are squeamish, the author spares us any gory details, which I think was a wise move and actually added to the overwhelming creepiness of the story. There is something to be said about leaving some things to the imagination. While the book is certainly about a charming madman, a professor who enchants his students in the classroom and abducts young women out of it, it’s really about Caroline and her coming to terms about the insular life she’s constructed for herself, and of her need to understand they why of what happened to her and the other girls. Caroline goes wayyy outside of her comfort zone during the investigation, and I found myself wincing a couple of times when they put themselves into some pretty dicey situations. Caroline is nothing if not determined though, and the fiery, brittle, and outspoken Tracy provides the perfect contrast to Caroline’s (in the beginning), timid, borderline OCD personality. In Tracy’s eyes, Caroline is a betrayer, and the author does explain why she thinks this, but don’t expect lots of hugs and smiles at the end of their journey together. They don’t become besties. Instead, there develops more of an understanding between them, of how the experience with Jack shaped them and ultimately made them who they are today.
Trust me, though, I thought I knew where this one was going more than a few times. I didn’t. The suspense is nearly unbearable, and the terror of their situation is very real, and it makes for an edge of your set reading experience. By the way, the Never List refers to the endless lists Caroline and Jennifer made as young girls in order to stave off all manner of bad things: Never leave the door unlocked, never get in a car with a stranger. You get the picture. Those are simplified, and their lists are extensive, and yet, it’s ironic that it’s their very caution that gets them abducted in the first place. You’ll root for Caroline and you’ll cringe at some of the situations she finds herself in, and the twists are stunning. You’ll definitely want to include The Never List in your summer must-read plans!...more
There’s a certain highly skilled Canadian author writing under the name “Nick Cutter” and it’s a rather appropriate name, given that “Nick’s” new book, The Troop, does involve a fair amount of cutting, and I don’t mean the kind involved in a normal Boy Scout outing. Ok, so, we’ll take it from the top. A troop of boys, led by their Scoutmaster, Tim Riggs (a doctor, by the way), is on tiny Falstaff Island for a few days of hiking, camping, and general Boy Scout fun. The problem is, a stranger has just arrived on the beach, and it’s immediately clear to Tim that something is very, very wrong. Actually, “wrong” is kind of an understatement. Something is living inside of the stranger, and it’s just dying to get out and spread it’s rather unique form of destruction. Luckily, for the stranger, Tim and his troop of five boys are the perfect breeding ground for what he carries, and he’s just dying to meet them (sorry, couldn’t help it.)
At first, Tim tries to help the man, but soon realizes that he’s wayyy beyond help. Then Tim starts feeling poorly. Then all hell pretty much starts breading loose as the boys realize that something very terrible is happening on their little island. But hey, it’ll be ok, right? Because their parents will come for them, right? Right?? It’s soon pretty evident that help isn’t coming soon, and there’s a reason for that. The island has been quarantined. Nothing in, nothing out. Doesn’t bode well for our boys, does it.
The Troop is a monster book, but this monster is a bioengineered horror that just won’t stop. As readers, we know this, because the narrative switches back and forth between the boys’ fight to survive, and case notes and newspaper articles about the horrid thing that was created in a lab and got loose via Patient Zero (the stranger). I really, realllly don’t want to get into detail about the “things” because it’s really fun, really creative, and really, really gross. What’s even scarier is that this thing was created to be used as a diet supplement, among other things (this may give you some idea of what their dealing with). Sure, you’ll lose weight. And keep losing it…you get the idea. The hunger is unstoppable. No, this isn’t a zombie book, in case you wondered. What it is, is a rather astute psychological look at what happens when you plop five young teen boys with wildly diverse personalities onto an island and have them fend for themselves. Yep, of course that’s shades of Lord of the Flies, but this is Lord of the Flies with an unspeakable twist. The “monster” is horrendous, but really, this is a great look at humankind’s capacity for cruelty and horror, which of course makes the situation that much more untenable. It also doesn’t help that one of the boys has been waiting forever to let his real personality show, and this is the perfect time to do this (this kid gets creepier than the monster at times, and that’s no easy feat.) Some sly commentary on society’s desire for a quick fix, and Cutter’s disturbingly great talent for descriptives make this a terrifying, utterly fantastic read. It’s not for the faint of heart, though. Nothing gratuitous, but some passages get pretty rough. These passages serve a distinctive purpose, though. Some horrors need to be exposed to the light of day. Nick Cutter has a sick, twisted imagination, but I like that about him, and his first foray into flat-out horror is a must read for those that like their scares smart and laced with some razor sharp social observations. If you’re familiar with “Cutter’s” other work, you know the man can write, but I bet you didn’t know he could pull this off. He can, he does, and I can’t wait for the next book....more
It’s 2044,and 18 year old Wade Watts lives in “the stacks”,which consists of layer upon layer of trailer homes (some reaching 20 high). Steeped in poverty,his only escape is OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation),a virtual world where he can attend school,never get beat up,and has every book,song,or piece of art he could ever imagine at his fingertips. The Great Recession is entering its third decade,and finding a job to help pay for his OASIS travels is pretty much out of the question. Fast food joints have 2 year waiting lists,fossil fuels are dwindling,and the human race is using OASIS more and more to escape from a world that is collapsing all around them.
When the creater of OASIS,the eccentric,80′s obsessed James Halliday,passes away,he leaves a legacy behind:hundreds of billions of dollars,there for the taking for anyone that can find a series of keys and gates within OASIS,and find the Easter Egg at the end. Millions have tried and failed,and years go by with no progress,the game becoming somewhat of a legend,something never to be solved,until Wade finds the Copper Key. When Wade’s crush,a female blogger named Art3mis,also finds the Copper Key,the race is on,like,well,Donkey Kong (sorry,couldn’t help it.)
Wade instantly becomes a celebrity,and others soon begin nipping at his heels,including IOI,a huge conglomerate bent on taking over OASIS and making it their own money making playground,using any means possible,and I do mean any. True gunters (OASIS freaks),are determined not to let this happen,but with vast resources at IOI’s disposal,they are a real threat,and when they make Wade an “offer he just can’t refuse”,his virtual,and real life may be at stake.
Told from Wade’s point of view,we get a glimpse into a future where a virtual world holds more sway than reality,and human reaction is played out inside an 80’s drenched world where old school video games are the norm,and every tiny detail has meaning. Wade has spent nearly his entire existence memorizing facts from Halliday’s manifesto,Anorak’s Almanac,watching hours and hours of 80’s sitcoms,listening to 80’s music,and soaking up anything else that Halliday has deemed important. Ready Player One is kind of like “It’s a Mad,Mad,Mad World” on steroids,and of course,involving millions of players instead of a handful. Yes,Wade’s best friend and crush are avatars,but what is that when you have an endless world at your fingertips,and you can be anything,and anyone,that you want?
One the surface,Ready Player One is a geekfest of the highest order. Children of the 80’s,like me,will thrill at the shear amount of nostalgia that packs these pages,and also at the absolutely wondrous virtual world that the author has created for his characters. The references are a blast,my favorites being a challenge that involves acting out the movie WarGames and a sequence involving a key scene from Blade Runner. Underneath the skin,however,is a story about an insecure,lonely teen that has been raised by a reality that just isn’t real,and who finds out that you really should be careful what you wish for. There’s a heartbreaking love story here too,and some lovely nuance underneath the geek. Ernest Cline’s writing is intricate,sharp and witty,and he delivers a story with plenty of action that will not only excite you with its race to the finish,but also make you think about what it means to be human. The power of friendship and love (even if it’s in virtual reality),and sheer determination are strong themes here,and as you move toward the ending,everything will click together perfectly like Tetris blocks,leaving you pleasantly exhausted and wondering where the time went. Ready Player One is a sci-fi gem you won’t want to miss!...more
“Patient Zero”,by Jonathan Maberry, follows smart-mouthed Baltimore cop Joe Ledger who, after joining a secret government agency, the Department of Military Science, or DMS, races to stop a plague from destroying the country, except this plague makes Ebola look like child’s play. This plague kills you, then re-animates you, zombie-style. Except the "zombies" in this book are not your traditional zombies. The “plague”, is, in fact, a bio-warfare virus unleashed by some of the most terrifying villains in recent thrillers.
Our hero, Ledger, is recruited into the DMS in strong-arm fashion, and is almost quite literally thrown into the fight with a team made up of men with various backgrounds. Unlike a lot of your heroes featured in modern thrillers, Ledger does not have a super secret military background, or even a long military career. In fact, his military career was quite short, however, what talents he does have, he has in spades. I’ll let you read the book to find out just how good he is at what he does.
If you've ever read any of Nelson DeMille's books featuring John Corey (Plum Island, Lion's Game, etc,), Joe Ledger will remind you of him very strongly. He's kind of a guy's guy and is very sarcastic (so you'll laugh a bit), and he gets the job done, very effectively. He kicks some pretty serious ass too, while remaining firmly in the White Hat category. Maberry has done extremely well in fleshing out his characters while simultaneously keeping the action going, which, to me, is not an easy thing to do. Ledger really struggles with the horror of what he's been thrust into, and I would hope anyone (even a kick-ass, tough guy) would.
What makes this book rise above the usual espionage/thriller novel, aside from the zombie aspect, so wildly popular right now, is its superb writing and nearly flawless pacing. Add to that villains that include a greedy billionaire; a modern day, psychotic, Mata Hari, and her equally psychotic, religious zealot husband; a mole, sent to infiltrate the good guys; plus a dash of romance, and you’ve got a book that knocks the genre on its ear and keeps you guessing (and up late) until the last pages.
I give “Patient Zero” an enthusiastic 5 out of 5 zombies, er, stars!...more
Below New York City, among other places, is the Great Below. Is it Hell? Who knows, but what certain people do know is it’s filled with some of the most evil, vile creatures one could ever encounter. For a while, they stayed below, then a door opened up. Now they want what we have above, and they aren’t afraid to take it. The criminals and lowlifes of our society aren’t averse to using what the denizens of the Great Below have to offer, but there’s always a price. In fact, one of the most profitable things to come out of the Great Below is a blue powder that can make a person faster, stronger, and suddenly not blind to the throngs of “others” that roam the streets of New York above. Gangs run the city and Blazeheads roam the streets, which brings us to one of the most fearsome enforcers for the Organization (the central authority for all of the gangs), Mookie Pearl. Don’t let the name fool you. Mookie isn’t a cuddly guy. In fact, he’s a hulking brute of a man, a meat lovin’, head smashin’ guy that breaks legs for a living. He’s not particularly proud of his profession, but he’s awfully good at what he does, and it is what it is. However, when his daughter Nora approaches him with the news that Zoladski, Mookie’s boss, the Big Boss, is dying, and she plans to take over, at any cost, he’s shocked and begins to see his already crumbling world start to topple. He never wanted his daughter to be a part of this world, but she is, and it turns out that she’s much more entrenched than he ever could have imagined.
Mookie soon finds out that the old man’s grandson, Casimir, is to take over when the old man dies, but he’s not ready, and it’s pretty obvious, not only to Mookie, but to others that would love to step in and take over. Weaknesses in the Organization are a bad, bad thing. In hopes of healing the boss, therefore avoiding having to take over, Casimir asks Mookie to head into the great below to find Death’s Head, a pigment that could heal the boss. Mookie is dubious, since its existence is a rumor at best and a fairy tale at worst. In fact, there are supposed to be five pigments in addition to the Blue, and they all do different things. Supposedly. Mookie doesn’t like those odds, but he really doesn’t have a choice. So, into the Great Below he goes.
If you’ve read anything by Chuck Wendig, you know how wonderfully twisted his imagination is, and it’s certainly on fine display in The Blue Blazes. The Great Below is a dark, vast, terrifying place, with things that slither and hiss and goblins, or gobbos, a plenty. And these are NOT your momma’s goblins. They’re nasty, brutal suckers, and you don’t want to see a hoard of them coming your way. Luckily, Mookie won’t be alone in his quest. He teams up with Skelly, the tough as nails head of an all-girl gang The Get-Em Girls, who take roller derby and rockabilly very seriously, and aren’t afraid to smash a few heads. He also finds some very odd, very dead, and very unlikely allies down below, and he’ll need ‘em, because the quest for Death’s Head soon becomes a quest to save his daughter. There’s more action and goo that you can shake a stick at in The Blue Blazes, but at it’s core is the story of a father’s love for his daughter and the lengths he’ll go to in order to save her. Don’t worry, there’s nothing mushy here, but it is rather poignant in Chuck Wendig’s rough way, and as brutish as Mookie is, I kinda fell for the big guy, and hope you will too. You’ll blaze through this one (sorry, couldn’t help it), and I can’t help but hope that we’ll see Mookie again in future novels. The Blue Blazes is something very different, very twisted and very, very good. You’ll have lots of fun-I know I did!...more
Rhoda is supposed to be watching the child of a friend of a friend. Rhoda goes to the Highgate Mall to score cocaine, and when she steps away to collect, she loses track of said child. Desperate not to be turned into the police, she, er, asks (if you call a knuckle sandwich asking) a clerk named Daniel to help her. He claims to have seen the child running through the back corridors earlier, so that’s where they start, and that’s exactly when things start getting very, very weird. Daniel knows these corridors like the back of his hand, or, at least, he thought he did, but soon, they’re hopelessy lost, and something very big seems to be following them. Soon they emerge into a very different mall, where things seem more than a little off: shop employees are chained to their counters by their ankles, everyone seems to have at least one very noticeable gaping wound, and of course, all of the shop names are very different. Rhoda and Dan’s journey seems to be steered by the text messages they are both receiving from an unknown source, but who is sending them, and why, and more importantly, how do they get back to their own reality without losing their lives?
The Mall is the first in the Downside series (The Ward, The New Girl) by the South African writing duo of SL Grey (Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg). Since I was lucky enough to snag a copy of the upcoming The Three by Sarah Grey, I wanted to dive into my copy of The Mall (which has been on my shelf for quite a while), to get an idea of her writing, and I wasn’t disappointed. The Mall is a clever take on the Alice-down-the-rabbit-hole theme, but it’s also much more. The authors did a terrific job of capturing Rhoda and Dan’s all-consuming terror when exploring the depths of whatever hell they’ve seemingly descended into. When they finally get out of those awful corridors (seriously, awful-remember the hospital in Silent Hill?), they must quickly adapt themselves to the new mall, and that means complying with some very new rules. People talk different, they act different, and odd doesn’t even begin to describe their surroundings. Given the strangeness of the Shoppers’ (everyone has a label, you’ll see) clothing choices, I began imagining some of the outfits that Effie wore in The Hunger Games, except take those and add bloody wounds and some pretty outrageous subdermal implants, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what I mean.
Rhoda and Dan actually make a pretty good team, once they hit their stride, and of course they’re forced to work together in order to survive their surroundings. The narrative is told in first person in alternating viewpoints, both Rhoda and Dan’s, and it’s quite effective. Rhoda is about as rough around the edges as one can get, but she has her reasons, and the way she perceives herself has quite a lot to do with what happens to her in the Mall, as does Dan’s dissatisfaction with his bookstore job and life in general, made evident in the book’s opening passages. It’s when they finally reach the mall proper, and find themselves separated, that things start getting bad for each of them (again, their distinctly different outlooks on life have much to do with what happens to them.) I don’t want to give away too much, because that would spoil the considerable fun that makes up this book, but its authors managed to combine very effective horror (with not a whole lot of gore, I must add), with some pretty astute commentary on consumer culture and the lengths that we go to in order to attain a certain “ideal”, whether it be in our careers, our looks, you name it. One of my favorite aspects of this book is the alternate mall’s power to both terrify and amuse, and effective black humor is very hard to do, but they pulled it off. It’s obvious that the authors meant their readers to laugh at some of this stuff, even if you find yourself cringing at the same time. And you will cringe. If you’ve ever wondered at the dead eyed (yet oddly hungry) stares of mall shoppers in their element, this book is a special treat. The ending may surprise you (or it may not), but it’s effective, and the authors only took it as far as they needed to. The Mall is unusual, insidious, very creepy (I mean, come on, when are mannequins not creepy? And what do malls have tons of?), and altogether entertaining (also, the imagery is amazing, I could go on…) If you like horror that makes you think, but also offers up some classic scares, this is a must read.
*The Mall recently became available in the US by Atlantic Books, and The Ward and The New Girl will be available in June and August, respectively. Although, you could do what I did and hit up The Book Depository, because after reading The Mall, I just couldn’t wait.
Night Film has been described as this year’s Gone Girl. Well, I actually haven’t yet read Gone Girl (I know!!), but I know how highly regarded it is so was curious to see if Night Film would live up to that kind of hype. Not to worry, guys and gals. I read the nearly 600 page book in under 2 days, staying up until about 4am to finish, and it was totally worth the lost sleep. Night Film starts innocuously enough, with the death of a 24 year old woman, Ashley Cordova, as mysteries frequently do, but there’s nothing innocuous about Ashley. We’ll get to that in a bit. The book is narrated by Scott McGrath, a somewhat disgraced journalist whose past successes didn’t make up for the monumental blunder he made when trying to get the scoop on reclusive and wildly mysterious horror filmmaker Stanislas Cordova, who also happens to be Ashley Cordova’s father. Scott got a “tip” on Cordova about possible dark doings at the vast Cordova estate, and unfortunately for Scott, he made wild accusations without proving a thing, and was slapped with a slander lawsuit by Cordova. It was a near fatal blow for an investigative journalist who should have been riding the high of an distinguished career. When Scott hears of Ashley’s death of an apparent suicide, he’s eager to resume the investigation that he started, but he plans to keep this one strictly on the downlow, until he has everything he needs to prove that something untoward is going on in the Cordova family, something that would drive the beautiful and brilliant Ashley to suicide.
Scott soon teams up (quite against his will) with a 19 year old coat check girl, Nora Halliday, who claims to have info on Ashley, as well as a small time drug dealer who calls himself Hopper, who actually attempted to assault Scott as he was visiting the scene of Ashley’s plummet down an abandoned elevator shaft to a derelict Chinatown warehouse below. Scott initially sees Hopper as a punk and doesn’t want him anywhere near the investigation, but Hopper seems to have his own talent for investigation, and frankly, Scott could use all the help he can get, even if he may not want it.
Proving to find reliable information on Stanislaw Cordova is nearly impossible. He lives in a fortress of a mansion called The Peak on 300 acres in upstate New York, surrounded by an electrified 20 ft fence. He has filmed all of his movies there, some of which have gone underground and can only be bought on the black market. His fans (or more accurately followers) call themselves Cordovites, hold secret screenings of the movies, and are rabid in their devotion. Surely the creator of such dark films has to be some kind of madman, the kind of man that could drive his own child to suicide? Scott is convinced of it, but he needs proof, and getting it will take him to places he never could have imagined.
With Nora and Hopper on hand, Scott must navigate the dark underworld of Cordova’s followers and his films, learning along the way that whatever demons haunted Ashley, she was a very special girl, indeed, seemingly able to enchant anyone with one look from her depthless eyes. Her beauty is legendary, but as the author illustrates, sometimes beauty can hide such pain, and in Cordova’s labyrinthine, dark, and glittering world of movie stars and secrets, some things are best left buried. One thing is fact: Scott’s obsession is threatening to consume him, and isolate him from everything, and everyone he holds dear, proving that Cordova’s reach is far beyond the lens of the camera.
When I received Night Film, I cracked it open, only meaning to skim the first couple of pages. Don’t do that if you’re not planning to be hooked right away! The narrative are interspersed with realistic newspaper clippings and internet articles that Scott has collected in his research, which I thought was a brilliant touch, and had to keep myself from flicking through those pages before getting to them, but I waited for each tidbit, and was glad I did. It gives the reader some background that might have been awkward coming from Scott himself. Scott is an amiable, rather sarcastic, and jaded, narrator, and of course, during the investigation, he’s tested over and over, forced to question everything he ever thought to be true. I enjoyed Scott, but I fell hard for Nora Halliday. When she first bursts onto the pages, all arms and legs, wild colored clothing, and attitude, she comes off as more than a bit annoying, barging into the investigation, and Scott’s life, with all of the grace of a Tasmanian devil. He soon takes her on as his assistant, and she even stays with him during the course of his investigation, but if you’re looking for romance, you won’t find it in this book. In fact, Scott is still rather besotted with his ex-wife and he adores his 5 year old daughter, Sam. Hopper’s presence isn’t nearly as BIG as Nora’s, but he’s important, and he proves to have invaluable snooping skills. Ashley Cordova is nearly as large in death as she was in life; a wild, brilliant force of nature that makes an indelible impression on whoever she comes in contact with. Night Film is as much about Scott McGrath as it is about the events leading up to Ashley’s death, and at nearly every turn, I thought I might know where things were going, but I didn’t. Not at all. Not even close.
A shadowy filmmaker with an enchanted, and possibly cursed family, black magic, secret parties where the most debauched, and elite, gather, and a beautiful, crumbling mansion that may or may not house countless horrors…it’s all here. The Cordovites insist that after seeing a Cordova film, you’re a changed person. Everything is brighter, colors more vivid, life is richer. Whatever the case may be, Night Film is an intricate, brilliantly written, enchanting, genuinely creepy, sometimes heartbreaking, read, and I won’t be surprised at all to find it on a ton of Best of 2013 lists. It’s an essential for suspense/thriller fans and I won’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone that will listen. Marisha Pessle is a name to remember, and an enormous talent. I can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeve next....more
Cael McAvoy and his friends live in the Heartland, where corn grows in spades, but Heartland’s people can’t eat it. In fact, some would say the corn is alive. One thing is for sure, it fuels everything that the Empyreans need, in their kingdom in the clouds, while Heartland’s citizens survive on scraps, because the land can’t grow anything else. Cael is, however, captain of the Big Sky Scavengers, and they’re pretty darn good at what they do, even if the mayor’s son and his crew constantly try to sabotage them. Life is hard, but not terrible, until the love of his life, Gwennie, gets Obligated to someone else, someone he hates. Soon, however, Cael and his friends discover a patch of fresh veggies and fruit growing amidst the corn, and what it signifies could change the lives of the Heartlanders, but what to do? If Cael thought life was interesting before, it’s about to get downright scary, and it certainly doesn’t help that his sister has run away, leaving him with a father that he feels does nothing to help the family and a mother who is crippled by tumors.
Most of you know by now that I love anything that Chuck Wendig writes, and his first foray into YA is a winner, inside and out. I love the world of the Heartland, where corn will attack you if you linger too long in the fields and the Blight can strike anyone at any time, causing horrible mutations and, sometimes, insanity. If you’re already a fan of his work, you know how good Wendig is at imagery, and it’s on fine display here, in this post- apocalyptic world that echoes, in some ways, the Wild West, but with hoverboards and of course, killer corn. Perhaps among one of the creepiest elements of this book is the Lottery, which one family wins every year, awarding the winner a trip to the sky, to live in promised luxury. Yet, the reader gets the distinct impression that heading to the clouds may not be all it’s cracked up to be, but you won’t find out in this installment. Since Cael’s sister has hitched a ride into the sky, I’m sure we’ll find out more in the next book, but the wait will be excruciating, at least for this reader. If you like your dystopian heavy on the creepy, with plenty of rebellious and strong characters, you’re in for a real treat. This one will appeal to teens and adults alike, and it’s not to be missed!...more