Charles Stross, "Overtime"


Friday, October 20, 2017

Review: Sub-basement: A Ghost Story

Sub-basement: A Ghost Story Sub-basement: A Ghost Story by Carol McMahon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: SUB-BASEMENT by Carol McMahon

This story scared me! I enjoyed the setting (a long-abandoned hospital-with secrets), and I appreciated the character development of our narrator Catherine, and of boyfriend Ryan, plus some secondary characters as well. What deepened the story for me was the narrator's psychological issues and background. The ending was different than I had anticipated, and far more scary!

Catherine Is an almost-ordinary college coed, living with long-term boyfriend Ryan, an all-around good guy. She is fascinated with photography, including the old-school processes of film developing, and has a new part-time work-study job at a low-cost clinic, located in the former ER of an isolated hospital abandoned five decades ago. She and Ryan are both interested in the old, the creepy, and the abandoned (sort of freelance urban explorers) and when Catherine discovers some secretive aspects of the hospital's history, she and Ryan are hot to explore--yes, even the hospital's sub-basement, where the caretaker advises she not go.

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Review: The Demon Guardian

The Demon Guardian The Demon Guardian by Neil Davies
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: THE DEMON GUARDIAN by Neil Davies

I found this novel engrossing from the first page, and I had no difficulty empathizing with quite a number of the characters {which does not always occur}. The plotting is taut and the theme quite intriguing (not to mention potentially apocalyptic!). In a tiny English community, laid back and quiet, a middle-aged man, unemployed, depressed, and overeating, begins to hear whispers. Sounds psychological, doesn't it? Not the case. His wife suddenly develops wild urges. Two endearing layabouts discover a mysterious carved stone in the local forest, and call in a university archaeologist with an abiding interest in mythology. Suddenly, all "Hel" breaks out, and I don't mean Hades. Think Norse mythology.

I read this page-turner in one sitting, racing through the pages because I was so caught up. Kudos to author Neil Davies!

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Review: The King in Yellow

The King in Yellow The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: THE KING IN YELLOW DELUXE EDITION (Pushkin Press) by Robert W. Chambers

I first read this short collection 18 months ago, in April 2016, in an earlier edition, and I fell in love with the weird fiction of Robert W. Chambers. As with my first encounters with H. P. Lovecraft, John W. Campbell, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Fredric Brown, and Tim Powers, I was awed and humbled. I recognized the presence of a master. THE KING IN YELLOW tales are every bit as scarifying today as on first read. I say "scarifying," not "horrifying" or "terrifying," because the terror is so subtle, akin to sitting in a darkened house at night, and knowing, just knowing, you are not alone, but not realizing who or what. The terror is in your peripheral vision; just beyond the reach of human hearing. It's the invisible, inaudible scare that arches a cat's back and raises gooseflesh on your arms. It's just around the angle, and it's reaching for your throat.

This Deluxe Edition Is a special new edition and will be published by Pushkin Press in February 2018.

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Review: Paradox Bound

Paradox Bound Paradox Bound by Peter Clines
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review of PARADOX BOUND by Peter Clines

Author Peter Clines unfailingly delivers a vastly imaginative landscape, in every single novel. In 14, in FOLD, and in PARADOX BOUND, he gives readers an unparalleled reading experience: escapism, but not only that. He also stretches our intellects and ignites our imaginations. In short, he molds us into individuals enlarged and improved for having read his work.

In PARADOX BOUND, he introduces us to the concept of "history travel," as feckless but well-intentioned protagonist {and hero} Eli Teague of tiny Sanders, Maine, discovers that yes, Virginia, time travel exists, and you can do it while driving. The Founding Fathers of the United States had a lot more metaphysical grasp than is taught in history books and classrooms. They arranged the creation of an actual, physical, American Dream, which inspires citizens to expand and excel and to live their dreams (just as this novel inspires readers). But the Dream disappeared in 1963, and searchers travel throughout and across U. S. history, hunting it, while the ranks of "faceless men" track the searchers.

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Review: Frankenstein A Life Beyond (Book 1 of 3) The Resurrection Trinity

Frankenstein A Life Beyond  (Book 1 of 3) The Resurrection Trinity Frankenstein A Life Beyond (Book 1 of 3) The Resurrection Trinity by Pete Planisek
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review of FRANKENSTEIN: A LIFE BEYOND by Pete Planisek

In the vein of classics of Gothic suspense, including the original novel FRANKENSTEIN: OR, THE MODERN PROMETHEUS by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, this first volume in THE RESURRECTION TRINITY is atmospheric with all the brooding suspense, gloomy settings, and subtle, implacable horror of Mary Shelley's novel. Not only is the horror present due to Victor Frankenstein's insufficiently considered scientific creation. The author's delineation of character reveal the sorry state of two families seemingly cursed, the Frankensteins and the Tierneys.

I recommend this series for curling up on a cold, stormy, night, with the lights dimmed, or for October reading as we lead up to All Souls' Hallow, the night when the veils are thin, and perhaps monsters roam abroad. Lock the doors, and retreat into the depths of horror and hubris. What hath greedy Man wrought?

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Review: Disturbed

Disturbed Disturbed by Jennifer Jaynes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: DISTURBED by Jennifer Jaynes

DISTURBED, Jennifer Jaynes's fifth novel, is a finely tuned psychological suspense. At first I wondered if I had "gone off" this type of mystery after decades, since I found myself suspecting absolutely everybody. Really! But Ms. Jaynes's intriguing plotting and excellent character studies soon won me over. What's more, she elicited empathy for the real innocents, and she made the story eminently believable, too--which made DISTURBED a winner for me.

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Review: The Changeling

The Changeling The Changeling by Victor LaValle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: THE CHANGELING by Victor LaValle

Occasionally one happens upon a book which draws one through the valley of the shadow of death, or in some cases, through hell. Such is the case for me, for example, when I read about Reconstruction and the Jim Crow Era, or accounts of the Holocaust. I wasn't expecting this to be the case when I commenced THE CHANGELING. I was fresh from my one-sitting reading of Victor LaValle's extraordinary rendering of magical realism and Lovecraftian delight, BALLAD OF BLACK TOM. I remained over-the-moon from it, and then THE CHANGELING (published 2017) wrung me inside out, plunged me into the depths of emotional agony {I'd become too jaded, and no story had affected me like this in an extraordinarily long time.} THE CHANGELING made me crawl through the depths, all the time crying "Why? Why? Why?" which is certainly never an efficient response to tragedy, which just is. What carried me through my emotional grieving was the outstanding quality of Mr. LaValle's writing, and the incredible nuances of the story he tells. Victor LaValle is a champion writer, and I shall continue to seek out anything he ever writes.

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Review: The Ballad of Black Tom

The Ballad of Black Tom The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review of BALLAD OF BLACK TOM by Victor LaValle

I read this incredible, exceptional novella in one sitting, following a Goodreads friend's recommendation in conjunction with his review of Matt Huff' s LOVECRAFT COUNTRY, which I had just finished the day before. I connected my reading of LOVECRAFT COUNTRY with my perusal of BALLAD OF BLACK TOM by reading H. P. Lovecraft' s DREAMS IN THE WITCH HOUSE in between. Both LOVECRAFT COUNTRY and BALLAD OF BLACK TOM vivify ingrained American racism in the 20th century: the first setting in the historically idealized peacetime of the mid 1950's, post Korean War, and the second, in 1924 New York City. BALLAD OF BLACK TOM also reveals America's entrenched anti-immigration fury {an apropos reading indeed}. HPL' s "DREAMS IN THE WITCH HOUSE" also vivifies ethnic bigotry in 1931, mostly against poor or working class immigrants {but unlike the other two books, the author is not reviling, but is likely expressing his own entrenched and unexamined belief}.

BALLAD OF BLACK TOM relates the tale of a young black man in Harlem, an untalented street musician of sorts {oh, shades of Robert Johnson} and rather gifted hustler. But the novella is so much more than history: it is urban fantasy and magical realism, hubris and ego and otherworldly entities. It is simply perfect, and a day later I am still awestruck and speechless. In the words of Tom Petty' s stunning "Mary Jane's Last Dance": "oh my my. Oh h*** yeah."
Oh my, my, indeed.

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My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: Planet of the Dead by Thomas S. Flowers

No two ways about it: love this novella! If you're a zombie lover, you can't help but revel-the author loves this subgenre, and his devotion shines in every sentence. If you're convinced you don't love zombies, or you think zombies are long since overdone, or you believe all that could be said about them has been written: think again, seriously. Just
give PLANET OF THE DEAD a try. Read the first page; when you surface for air, you'll realize you read the whole story.

How can I suggest this? I can because I'm a second-category horror fan: I just don't like Zombies. Really, never have. BUT I raced through PLANET OF THE DEAD absolutely as fast as I could, staying up late because I couldn't bear to wait overnight to finish it. That's the effect on a reader who normally walks away from zombie books. Thomas S. Flowers is the exception. This man writes fantastically, and I continue to metaphorically follow him around as he releases his wonderful literary talent to a grateful universe.

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Review: Lovecraft Country

Lovecraft Country Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review of LOVECRAFT COUNTRY by Matt Ruff

I adore this novel from start to finish. Not one aspect would I alter. Seamlessly interwoven multiple themes and levels of meaning provide hours of thoughtful impact, and the novel will not be forgotten. I recommend it to every individual capable of serious thought. {I only wish those who could most benefit from serious reflection would read and comprehend.}

LOVECRAFT COUNTRY is a wild geographic, philosophical, astronomical, and metaphysical roller coaster experience. Yes, all of that, plus a historical journey, a vivid illustration of America's mid-20th century ingrained racism {horrifyingly eye-opening and grossly disturbing}, a serious and revealing character study, an examination of "natural philosophy" {yes, sorcery}, a study of Lovecraft, and a cautionary tale of the inevitable dangers of hubris and elitism. The novel defies encapsulation, and I consider myself privileged to have read {and to own} it.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Review: Halloween Carnival Volume 5

Halloween Carnival Volume 5 Halloween Carnival Volume 5 by Richard T. Chizmar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Edited by Brian James Freeman
Stories by Richard Chizmar, Lisa Tuttle, Norman Prentiss, Kevin Quigley , Peter Straub

Included in this new volume are a quintology of stories centered around the Halloween theme, though they range beyond that. For example, Richard Chizmar' s "Devil's Night" commences on October 30, "Devil's Night," or "Mischief Night"--the date immediately preceding Halloween. Norman Prentiss' "The Halloween Bleed" (for this reader, the set-piece and foundation of the quintology) postulates, via a pontificating "old-school" academic, that the cultural celebration of Halloween--not just on the day itself, but the conversation, thinking, retail sales, planning, and so forth--bring the nature of Halloween earlier and earlier in the year, so that the concept of Halloween "bleeds" into much of the year. (Although the professor's premise relates to the Dark Arts, I found it pertinent to the "thought is creation" premise: by virtue of so many of us--readers, authors, journalists, children--thinking in Halloween terms--we are striving to bring to pass that "Halloween Bleed" on which Professor Sibley insists.)

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Review: Halloween Carnival Volume 4

Halloween Carnival Volume 4 Halloween Carnival Volume 4 by Kealan Patrick Burke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Edited by Brian James Freeman

Each installment of this wonderful series leaves me with yet more stories that are powerfully impacting. Each installment contains four new stories plus one previously published. Editor Brian James Freeman chooses the cream of the crop for each edition. Every story is a winner: excellently written, and tremendously scary. I recommend the Halloween Carnival series as a top choice when you are looking for October scarefests.

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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Review: Halloween Carnival Volume 3

Halloween Carnival Volume 3 Halloween Carnival Volume 3 by Kelley Armstrong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Edited by Brian James Freeman

One of my most admired aspects of this series is that Editor Brian James Freeman so diligently selects a variety of stories which range beyond the routine--stories whose themes and plots burrow into the reader's imagination to linger on at great length. The stories in this installment (which include Kelly Armstrong and Michael McBride) turned me inside out, inspiring a reexamination of reality as it appears to me.

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

BLANKY by Kealan Patrick Burke_Review & Tour

"In the wake of his infant daughter's tragic death, Steve Brannigan is struggling to keep himself together. Estranged from his wife, who refuses to be inside the house where the unthinkable happened, and unable to work, he seeks solace in an endless parade of old sitcoms and a bottle of bourbon.

Until one night he hears a sound from his daughter's old room, a room now stripped bare of anything that identified it as hers...except for her security blanket, affectionately known as Blanky.

Blanky, old and frayed, with its antiquated patchwork of badly sewn rabbits with black button eyes, who appear to be staring at the viewer...

Blanky, purchased from a strange old man at an antique stall selling "BABY CLOSE" at a discount.

The presence of Blanky in his dead daughter's room heralds nothing short of an unspeakable nightmare that threatens to take away what little light remains in Steve's shattered world.

Because his daughter loved Blanky so much, he buried her with it."

A new novella from the Bram Stoker Award-Winning author of SOUR CANDY and KIN.

BlankyBlanky by Kealan Patrick Burke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review of BLANKY by Kealan Patrick Burke

Accomplished author Kealan Patrick Burke achieves yet a new level in his newest novella. Horror is rife--both the native horror of the human condition, and otherworldly horror (jump-out-of-your-skin, shudder-and-shiver, screeching terror). But the gift this story gives me (whenever the author wasn't scaring me witless) is character evolution. Mr. Burke superbly develops, delineates, and evolves {some would submit "devolves"} his protagonist through a horrifying series of events.

Stephen Brannigan is a perfectly ordinary man: decent, diligent, warm-hearted. A school-teacher in Columbus, Ohio, Stephen is appreciated by students and principal. He marries Lexi and they produce an adorable infant daughter. Then tragedy: infant Robin inexplicably smothers in her crib. Lexi moves out, and Stephen's formerly colorful world fades to various shades of grayness. This is only the beginning of Stephen's evolution, as life first offers him hope, then more tragedy, then obsession, and unending horror.

In the space of a novella length, I was wrung out, given hope, scared senseless, and pondered the meaning of beyond-death. Author Burke reached my heart and rung all its chords.

Born and raised in a small harbor town in the south of Ireland, Kealan Patrick Burke knew from a very early age that he was going to be a horror writer. The combination of an ancient locale, a horror-loving mother, and a family full of storytellers, made it inevitable that he would end up telling stories for a living. Since those formative years, he has written five novels, over a hundred short stories, six collections, and edited four acclaimed anthologies. In 2004, he was honored with the Bram Stoker Award for his novella The Turtle Boy.

Kealan has worked as a waiter, a drama teacher, a mapmaker, a security guard, an assembly-line worker at Apple Computers, a salesman (for a day), a bartender, landscape gardener, vocalist in a rock band, curriculum content editor, fiction editor at Gothic.net, and, most recently, a fraud investigator. 

When not writing, Kealan designs book covers through his company Elderlemon Design. 

A number of his books have been optioned for film.

Visit him on the web at Kealan Patrick Burke

Monday, October 2, 2017

Review: In the Company of False Gods: Lovecraftian Steampunk Horror

In the Company of False Gods: Lovecraftian Steampunk Horror In the Company of False Gods: Lovecraftian Steampunk Horror by Mark Cassell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I wouldn't be surprised if this charming horror novella segues into a sequel, at some future date. "Steampunk Horror" is clearly a subgenre in whose playground author Mark Cassell is invigorated. Not only does he revel in it, he brings it alive and "makes it real." {I know, if I can believe in the Lovecraft Mythos, I can surely acknowledge an alternate probability of steam and mechanisms and clockwork. Indeed.} But my belief is not the issue here; Cassell' s obvious delight in his creation is the point. Speaking of that, creation, invention, and taking pleasure in one's creations are a mainstay of this story. The feckless protagonist, the nearly megalomaniac Lady Greyheron (my favorite), the Automaton, even That From Beyond {my terminology, not the author's} are each wedded to the concept of invention and Changing the World.
We all know, seven decades plus after the first atomic bomb test, that once some doors {or some Portals} are cracked ajar, there's no way to close them again.

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Review: Smiley

Smiley Smiley by Michael Ezell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: SMILEY by Michael Ezell

Amazingly engrossing, this mystery-thriller novel set in West Virginia (with frequent intermissions of backstory from L. A., and remembrances of the protagonist' s early life), is deeply layered. Home-town boy, something of a hot shot in the LAPD (or so his police chief father proclaims) returns to tiny Artemis, West Virginia, nestled in the mountains, after his father's demise. Newly appointed police chief, Garrett soon discovers that although he may be a native of the community, other allegiances run deeper, much deeper. Under the surface of a peaceful small town runs drug abuse and manufacture, and a killer unstopped for decades, and a history of rampant abuse and wanton murder.

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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Review: Collected Halloween Horror Shorts: Trick 'r Treat

Collected Halloween Horror Shorts: Trick 'r Treat Collected Halloween Horror Shorts: Trick 'r Treat by Kevin J. Kennedy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Release Oct. 1

Review: Collected Easter Horror Shorts (Kevin Kennedy and Various)

I've totally enjoyed the first two anthologies in this series COLLECTED CHRISTMAS HORROR SHORTS and COLLECTED EASTER HORROR SHORTS) so I was poised to expect a delightfully horrific romp through the ramifications of horror lovers' favourite holiday. Needless to say, once again, Mr. Kennedy has collated an excellent set of tales to inspire and frighten all of us who love horror well delivered, thoughtful, and scary. I'd like to especially note Kevin Kennedy' s tale of "HalloweenIand," a "traveling" carnival with Lovecraftian tendencies (just read it--you'll see) which we all need to hope never travels to our locale [if it ever visits your town, lock up your pets and your kids and stay home, safe].

Meanwhile, settle in for a rockin' October with a chilled spine as you peruse these tales. Remember, horror writers and storytellers were delivering the scares long before the invention of horror films. So.why not spend your October with books?

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Friday, September 29, 2017

Review: Quiet Places: A Novella of Cosmic Folk Horror

Quiet Places: A Novella of Cosmic Folk Horror Quiet Places: A Novella of Cosmic Folk Horror by Jasper Bark
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: QUIET PLACES by Jasper Bark

I read an earlier version of this fascinating story in.the lovely 2016 anthology GREEN AND PLEASANT LAND VOL. 1, edited by Steve J. Shaw, which collected rural British horror. This version, according to the author's own account, is greatly revised plus expanded.

Those who've read Jasper Bark' s THE FINAL CUT; BED OF CRIMSON ROSES; STUCK ON YOU; and others know that he is a master indeed when it comes to laying out the gore. But you also know, as with THE FINAL CUT, he is equally accomplished playing in the fields of metaphysics. Here in QUIET PLACES, he strums chords somewhat reminiscent of those in THE FINAL CUT, but here he presents a totally British setting. Indeed, I cannot imagine such a tale occurring anywhere but in isolated, insular, rural, small-village Britain, a land where millennia of history drape the region, and heavy upon the head of scions lies history's burden, and the obligation of duty to one's lessers.

My especial thanks to Mr. Bark for including my humble name in his acknowledgements--indeed an honour.

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Review: Money Back Guarantee

Money Back Guarantee Money Back Guarantee by Hunter Shea
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: MONEY BACK GUARANTEE by Hunter Shea

WOW! WOW! WOW! Talk about pageturner! Talk about speed of light reading experience! Hunter Shea continues to outdo himself!

I didn't breathe while reading. I certainly didn't blink. If the world ended, guess I missed it. Nothing existed for me but the characters and plot in this story.

Three truisms here:

If it's too good to be true, it isn't true. Avoid it.

The customer is NOT always right. Sometimes, the customer is dead.

Yes, Virginia, there really are worse bugaboos than multinational corporations or the government. And they're hungry and like to toy with humanity. Beware.

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Review: Infinite Darkness

Infinite Darkness Infinite Darkness by Patrick Reuman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: INFINITE DARKNESS by Patrick Reuman
and Others

The word I most take away from this book is: SCARY. Scary, Scary, Scary. Yes, indeed. Impressively so.
What author/curator Patrick Reuman accomplishes herein is to gently cocoon stories of other authors, within a framework of his own writing. It's not a format I've encountered before, but it works excellently. The reader doesn't have time to repress the fear from one story before launching into the horror of the next. Titled "INFINITE DARKNESS," that is truth in advertising, because darkness both covers and infuses this collection, and rightfully so.

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