Charles Stross, "Overtime"


Monday, January 30, 2017

Review: The Mercy of the Tide

The Mercy of the Tide The Mercy of the Tide by Keith Rosson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review of THE MERCY OF THE TIDE by Keith Rosson

THE MERCY OF THE TIDE is an exceptional literary adventure, a novel that is deep and rich, a literary pleasure. About halfway through, I was reminded of A SUDDEN LIGHT by Garth Stein, a novel which I consider a Best of 2015, as THE MERCY OF THE TIDE I consider a Best of 2017. Both are set in the Pacific Northwest, though A SUDDEN LIGHT occurs in an earlier century. Literate, absorbing, revealing, cutting deep into the characters, both novels bring us their individuals in deeper and clearer ways than the individuals recognise in themselves.

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Review: Jack-in-the-Box

Jack-in-the-Box Jack-in-the-Box by William W. Johnstone
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review of JACK-IN-THE-BOX by William Johnstone.

I believe this is the first horror novel by this author I have read, but it's so definitely impacted me that I'm on a quest to read them all. JACK-IN-THE-BOX is set in Connecticut and Manhattan. The horror is wonderfully implacable and inescapable, as the protagonist discovers much to his dismay. The daughter of a wealthy, hard-charging, Manhattan attorney is, on the surface, a pathological liar, which her father Philip and older brother Phil recognize and acknowledge. Her mother Jeanne, however, is blind to Nora's failings, even to the extent of strongly considering divorce. Imagine any parent who believes her or his child can do no wrong, and is contemptuous of anyone who believes differently, and you'll comprehend Jeanne Baxter.

However, Nora is not only a liar. Nora is the spawn of Satan, and I say that not figuratively but literally. As the story unfolds, we learn that Nora is not an isolated example. The author also weaves in Nazism, both in the Third Reich era, but also in contemporary New York City, exorcism, Vietnam [as past history], and practice of the occult, including black magic. Of course, the eponymous jack-in-the-box is a main character throughout, a depository of pure Satanic evil, which is brought into the story by the protagonist, the ill-fated Philip Baxter.

I found this novel a definite page-turner, and my interest never flagged.

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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Review: Something's Alive on the Titanic

Something's Alive on the Titanic Something's Alive on the Titanic by Robert J. Serling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Robert J. Serling

An absorbing fictional narrative of two expeditions to the sunken Titanic, in 1977 and a followup in 1993, SOMETHING'S ALIVE ON THE TITANC is a page-turner extraordinaire, rife with Titanic history and lore, as well as culture of the Edwardian era. Never dry, it presents the Titanic's story and aftermath in a humanized and vivid fashion. In addition to juggling a sizable cast of characters, the autfhor also extols for us technology and history, cryptography and oceanography. The characters are realistic and true-to-life, most eliciting our empathy, all awakening our emotions and intrigue. For readers who are skeptic, there's a number of cynical or overly rational characters aboard the story's many ramifications to balance the potentially supernatural or supranatural plot themes. The novel admirably succeeds in terms of history and roller-coaster paced thriller.

SOMETHING'S ALIVE ON THE TITANIC was initially published in 1990, and is now reprinted by Endeavour Press in January 2017.

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Friday, January 27, 2017

Review: Single Malt Murder: A Whisky Business Mystery

Single Malt Murder: A Whisky Business Mystery Single Malt Murder: A Whisky Business Mystery by Melinda Mullet
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review of SINGLE MALT MURDER by Melinda Mullet

I totally loved this engaging, intriguing, and delightful debut mystery, first in a series. I read it in one sitting because I couldn't turn away from it. Some years ago I read a Deborah Crombie mystery whose setting included a woman's inheritance of a Scottish distillery [NOW MAY YOU WEEP], so when I found SINGLE MALT MURDER available for review, I leaped to it.

Abi (Abigail) Logan is a photojournalist of war and misery, documenting the evils humans do to each other. Based in London, she is also an orphan at a young age, raised by Uncle Ben, a well-to-do financial analyst who fifteen years ago purchased a whiskey distillery in Scotland. Ben's demise from cancer leaves Abi his heir, and before she can even travel to Scotland, she is besieged by threatening notes. Once she is on the ground in Scotland, sabotage commences at the distillery—at first what could possibly be accidents, but soon escalates to death and arson. Meanwhile Abi is offered several different buyout plans for Abbey Glen, the distillery, and there's much tension between her and some of the employees and townspeople, which only intensifies with the death. Throughout, author Melinda Mullet subtly increases the tension and mystery, but never gives away the plot, so that the denouement is both amazing and for Abi, quite terrifying. I found not a single fault with this mystery and eagerly anticipate further mysteries in this series.

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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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