Charles Stross, "Overtime"


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Review: Something Violent

Something Violent Something Violent by Kristopher Rufty
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Review: SOMETHING VIOLENT by Kristopher Rufty

In his acknowledgements, Mr. Rufty credits the crime fiction of Bryan D. Smith as inspiring his own foray into the genre. In no way is Mr. Rufty' s work derivative, but in common with Mr. Smith, both authors create characters in whom the veneer of civilization is so incredibly thin as to be next to nonexistent. I wonder why these individuals aren't obvious to their prey, or at least why they aren't obvious to others of their ilk. Although this may be a function of hindsight, fact is that these characters are human in name only, and just as it seems the lion exists to hunt the antelope, these predators exist only to thin the human herd. But there's just so many of them!

Kristopher Rufty yanks readers along on a ride about as wild as it can be, in a milieu populated by characters of a type we pray never to encounter. Yet never does suspension of disbelief fail. All along we accept his creation (no matter how horrifying) and marvel at his accomplishment.

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Friday, January 20, 2017

ACADIA EVENT by M.J. Preston

Acadia EventAcadia Event by M.J. Preston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: ACADIA EVENT by M. J. Preston

The word for ACADIA EVENT is "exciting"! At first one thinks the focus is crime reaching out to the Ice Road, in Northern Canada. This is an important theme, but far from the only one. The novel interweaves Ice Road trucking, gangsters, diamond mining, science fiction, the war in Afghanistan, veterans' aftermath, and a vein of implacable terror--unavoidable, inescapable, horribly deadly. At 500 pages, ACADIA EVENT is not a one-sitting read, but for sheer excitement, major intrigue, and eyes glued to the page, it's a champion read.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Review: The Night Ocean

The Night Ocean The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: THE NIGHT OCEAN by Paul LaFarge

A stunning and complex novel. THE NIGHT OCEAN is an extraordinary literary contribution to fiction focusing on the life of Weird Fiction icon H. P. Lovecraft. It has impacted me as powerfully as did Jacqueline Baker' s THE BROKEN HOUR, published in April 2016. Both novels vivify, but not idolize, HPL, who as an individual was troubled, often fearful, and certainly not politically correct.

THE NIGHT OCEAN, in its exploration of "truths" in Lovecraft' s life, on a deeper level explores Truth in abstract. Stories founded on hoaxes founded on lies-triggered by revenge? Jealousy? Egotism? Hatred? Love? Along the way we are treated to Pre-World War II Hungary and Canada and New York City, the rise of science fiction fandom, the early maneuvers of famous names in science fiction, the aftermath of a concentration camp, and academia in Mexico City post-World War II. We see the rampage of McCarthyism, anti-Communism, and the House Un-American Activities Committee. An intense theme throughout is reputations--how they are constructed and how they are trashed, both subtly and blatantly. Always underlying all is the 20th century's received views on homosexuality, and the costs for those for whom this is the preferred orientation.

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Review: Dead Liner: A Zombie Novel

Dead Liner: A Zombie Novel Dead Liner: A Zombie Novel by Alex Laybourne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: DEAD LINER by Alex Laybourne

DEAD LINER is a well-written and enticing zombie novel. I emphasize this because I long ago burnt out on the Zombie subgenre and a really good story treatment is required to "wake me up." Such is DEAD LINER. Alex Laybourne capably juggles a sizable cast of characters in a setting of really substantial size--a brand new ocean liner, quite evolved in terms of both technology and comfort, embarking on its maiden voyage. In circumstances of wealth and luxury, the worst one might consider is piracy in international waters. Here, the danger is Zombies. In terms of the implacability and inescapability of the horror, I am reminded of Ruth Ware' s oceangoing novel, THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10, which, like DEAD LINER, terrified me--after all, where do you go when you're already on the ocean, too far from land? I expect sailors of earlier centuries could relate ("Here There Be Monsters").

Mr. Laybourne continues to demonstrate a talent for suspension of disbelief, and an equal talent for fleshing out his large cast of characters, making them realistic, vivid, and often, eliciting readers' empathy.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Review: Blood Of the Tainted

Blood Of the Tainted Blood Of the Tainted by Alex Laybourne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: BLOOD OF THE TAINTED by Alex Laybourne

An engrossing vampire tale, BLOOD OF THE TAINTED at times reminded me of the work of Graham Masterton, both in the specifity of gore and in the imaginative and creative nature of its gory fatalities. Mr. Laybourne allowed me to easily suspend both my disbelief and to enjoy a horror subgenre I don't usually choose.

When an ancient vampire selects a small community for his depredations and havoc, multiple fatalities ensue. At times, the psychological manipulation is as scary as the actual killings, for this entity knows well how to read minds, erase memories, and manipulate humans, turning them against each other. The terror seems unstoppable.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Review: What Waits Beneath

What Waits Beneath What Waits Beneath by Thomas M. Malafarina
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review: WHAT WAITS BENEATH by Thomas M. Malafarina

Seamlessly weaving between a contemporary insular hill community (for all intents and purposes a company town) and the same community in the 1880's, the story line focuses on a family coal mine in Pennsylvania. The Coogan mine is nearly the only source of employment in the late 19th century, and the owner is a tightfisted narcissist with delusions of grandeur. The novel opens in present day, with a group of boys led by the latest Coogan descendant, visiting the abandoned mine to taunt and bully some of the boys. That visit reawakens the legend, more than a century old, of a supernatural creature residing in the mine. The author subsequently weaves in the backstory, and quite terrifying it is.

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Review: Skyships Over Innsmouth

Skyships Over Innsmouth Skyships Over Innsmouth by Susan Laine
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A gently heartwarming yet frightening Lovecraftian tale of the future, SKYSHIPS OVER INNSMOUTH is set 23 years after the "Cataclysm," when all humans unaccountably lost their memories, and subsequently moral fiber. In the first years, many books were burned for fuel, but eventually the younger people realized books contained knowledge of the past, and how to utilize machines. So libraries were preserved and protected, and younger individuals retaught themselves to read.

Scout airships explore the "New wilderness" to locate resources and survivors, each containing a pilot and a scholar. Pilot Dev and Scholar Shay have been a team for about 3 winters (and each desires to deepen the relationship but holds back). Exploring the seemingly completely abandoned community of Innsmouth uncovers the truth about the Cataclysm, betrayal, memory recovery, and a potential future of oppression for humans.

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Review: Dread and Breakfast

Dread and Breakfast Dread and Breakfast by Stuart R. West
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: DREAD AND BREAKFAST by Stuart R. West

Bring on the gore, the violence, the total insanity! The small insular snowbound community of Hilston, Missouri, resembles the small European towns in WWII, huddled near concentration camps, smelling the overpowering malodor, but always, always denying. "We didn't know! We never thought!" Such is Hilston. Rampant psychotic insanity in its midst, and the citizens either play "hear no evil--see no evil" or become part of the assembly line of evil.

DREAD AND BREAKFAST possesses one of the most absolutely convoluted plots I have ever read. Truly I did not see the denouement, could not have imagined its extent. It was stunning, shocking, and superbly twisted. What a novel! 12 stars doesn't begin to praise it. Not for the easily sensitive, but for aficionados of extreme, rock on.

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Monday, January 2, 2017

Review: Our Lady of Darkness

Our Lady of Darkness Our Lady of Darkness by Fritz Leiber
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: OUR LADY OF DARKNESS by Fritz Leiber

A classic horror novel, as well it should be, OUR LADY OF DARKNESS is one of the few stories I consider perfect. My recommendation to aficionados of subtle horror, is to cast yourself into this novel; then, while it traverses your brain pathways and central nervous system, follow it up with Caitlin R. Kiernan' s neo-Lovecraftian masterpiece, "Pickman' s Other Model," pondering its perception of the Dark Lady.

First published in short story form in 1971, OUR LADY OF DARKNESS appeared as a novel in 1977. It appears to be semi-autobiographical, is very emotionally intense, and includes, along with a highly detailed fictional pseudoscience, threads involving H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith.

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Review: Sarah

Sarah Sarah by Teri Polen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: SARAH by Teri Polen

SARAH had me turning pages so rapidly, I'm surprised the Kindles didn't ignite. It's an emotional roller coaster wrapped tautly in some really frightening manifestations. The "good guy" characters are appealing and heartwarming. The "jerk" characters (excepting the "ghost") are less evil than self-centered, narcissistic, selfish, and emotionally blind. Now the ghost: she's in a category by herself, and believe me, she's carved out her own niche and fully fills it. There's gore, but not for its own sake. There's a good helping of medieval morality play here too: do somebody wrong, you will pay, maximally. SARAH was a one-sitting read for me, and I enjoyed it immensely. But I'm thankful it was a daytime read.

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Review: Ghosts for Christmas: Four Stories

Ghosts for Christmas: Four Stories Ghosts for Christmas: Four Stories by Lisa Morton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: GHOSTS FOR CHRISTMAS by Lisa Morton

A collection of four newly-published Christmas stories, beyond routine and well worth perusal in any season, GHOSTS FOR CHRISTMAS will delight while expanding the reader's mind and imagination. Take for example, a "haunted house" tale which entirely upends the trope. Altogether a worthwhile read.

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Review: Scarecrow

Scarecrow Scarecrow by Richie Tankersley Cusick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: SCARECROW by Richie Tankersley Cusick

This is a seriously perturbing horror novel. Fresh from the author's APRIL FOOL, admiring its clean lines, plot twists, and 80's YA horror, I plunged into this (because scarecrows scare me), and the consequence was akin to falling into a deep abandoned well. Throughout the novel I could never be certain whether the horror was due to paranormal elements, or to human psychological disorder. Additionally certain aspects of the story I found quite personally disturbing. The end result is a real frightener that I can't erase from my mind.

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Monday, December 26, 2016

Review: Curtain Call: and Other Dark Entertainments

Curtain Call: and Other Dark Entertainments Curtain Call: and Other Dark Entertainments by Mark Allan Gunnells
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Every story in this superb collection is polished to a brilliant shine. I wonder, why I haven't been reading this fine author so much sooner. (I recently read WHERE THE DEAD GO TO DIE by Mr. Gunnells and Aaron Dries.) Some of the tales included here are outright terrifying ("The Town That Played Christmas For No One"); some are subtly frightening ("Movie Baby" and "Fates" and "And A Former Child Star Shall Lead Them"). Others are heartwrenching ( "Picnic at Bonaventure") or heartwarming ("Curtain Call"); some are cautionary: be really careful for what you wish "I Never Promised You A Rose Garden"). Every one is the work of a master talent.

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Friday, December 23, 2016

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Review: Circus of Horrors

Circus of Horrors Circus of Horrors by Carole Gill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: CIRCUS OF HORRORS by Carole Gill

Don't be fooled into thinking this is a routine, run-of-the-mill, carnival scary. Nothing routine here: CIRCUS OF HORRORS is a very special story, and I'm glad it introduced me to author Carole Gill, an exceptionally talented writer.

Reading this yanked me on an emotional roller coaster. This past year, I've read so much horror, extreme horror, and weird. I've remarked on great plots, unexpected plot twists, good characterization. CIRCUS OF HORRORS certainly brings all that, and additionally, it inspired me to CARE about its characters: the broken, sad, lost, disfigured inside and out. Early along I adopted the "good guys" [by no means are they perfect] as MY family. Fred, his father, and the performers who comprise his family became my family too, and when the evil ones began to plot to entrap and destroy them, I became like a mother bear with a flamethrower. How DARE these evil ones? Leave my adopted folks alone!!

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Review: The Carnival

The Carnival The Carnival by Lisa McCourt Hollar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Surprisingly extreme. Liked the theme and had some satisfying twists.

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Review: Carnival Freak

Carnival Freak Carnival Freak by Billie Sue Mosiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: CARNIVAL FREAK by Billie Sue Mosiman

Life lessons I learned recently from my current perusal of horror: the horror at home is something greater than the horror of war; "freaks" in a sideshow (Diane Arbus notwithstanding) may be milder and less horrifying than the concealed freaks pretending to lead normal human lives. The first I learned from the SUBDUE Series by Thomas S. Flowers, the latter from Billie Sue Mosiman's CARNIVAL FREAKS.

This story illuminates the lives of several characters, some who are members of the carnival, and several gleaned from the audience on a particular evening. I can validly state that some of these "normal" freaks made my skin crawl. And worse, they look like us.

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Review: Bah! Humbug! An anthology of Christmas Horror Stories

Bah! Humbug! An anthology of Christmas Horror Stories Bah! Humbug! An anthology of Christmas Horror Stories by Matt Shaw
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bah!Humbug! Is first of all a charity anthology. Second, it's a wide-ranging collection which is not anti-Christmas but beyond, above, and below Christmas. Some of the stories are subtle horror, some really cross boundaries (and violate taboos). So the queasy of stomach and easily sensitive can just gift it (helping charity), and those who enjoy extreme horror and boundary jumping, come on in.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Review: Whispers: Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft's "The Whisperer in Darkness"

Whispers: Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft's Whispers: Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft's "The Whisperer in Darkness" by Kristin Dearborn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: WHISPERS by Kristin Dearborn

The always perfect author Kristin Dearborn has excelled even herself with this tribute to the Old Man of Providence, H.P. Lovecraft. I truly believe Ms. Dearborn is a reincarnation of Old Grandpa, or she is channeling. WHISPERS extols the anxiety, the fear, the wonder, of Alien Contact. Ms. Dearborn strums every single chord in the panoply of the otherworldly of HPL and of extraterrestrial sentience. She also interweaves some of the most painful and shocking elements of humanity, displaying these against the background of the Otherworldly and Beyond Earth. This is a tale I shall read again and again and again. This is the tale that gave me a series of stunningly vivid and horrifyingly implacable nightmares.

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