Charles Stross, "Overtime"


Monday, October 30, 2017

Review: Slithers

Slithers Slithers by W.W. Mortensen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: SLITHERS by W. W. Mortensen

Oh my oh my oh my, I loved this perfect novel. I love a book carrying my imagination into wider realms, and this is exactly what the author has done here. Mr. Mortensen takes the "what if's" common to us all, and for 9 characters, spins out their probabilities. If you've ever been in a "close call, a "near miss," or pondered "There but for the grace of God go I," read SLITHERS. If "What If?" has ever occurred to your mind, read SLITHERS. Curious about "the road not traveled"? Read SLITHERS. I think you owe it to yourself. I can definitely see rereading SLITHERS again and again; and I am off to read this exceptional author's debut novel, EIGHT.

View all my reviews

Review: Monochromes: And Other Stories

Monochromes: And Other Stories Monochromes: And Other Stories by Matt Bechtel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I found Matt Bechtel through his story in the New England Horror Writers anthology WICKED HAUNTS. Right then I knew I was on to something. His story collection, MONOCHROMES AND OTHER STORIES, transported me to I can't count how many dimensions and probabilities. In company with authors Paul F. Olson and Tim Meyer (also New England scribes), Matt Bechtel takes my imagination by its clammy little hand and takes it on vacation to exotic possibilities. Each story is an adventure, into the characters but also inside us. When each story is excellent, it's not easy to pick "favorites," but there were several which especially impacted me:

"The Beginning of the End" turned me inside out and upside down and round about. It's about the length of a flash piece, with atomic impact.
"Last Man Standing": a longer story, with an emotional denouement and an ending I never expected. This one woke me during the night for further pondering.

"A Butterfly Flaps Its Wings,"
"Restore Factory Settings,"
"Cozzy's Question."

Each of these three stories made me proud, inspired, and hopeful, touching my heart in positive ways.

Mr. Bechtel is also gifted at delivering the-ending-you-never-saw-coming. Note "Last Man Standing," "This Story Approved by the American Dental Association," "A Man Walks Into A Bar." But don't rely on my opinions; go read this collection for yourself.

View all my reviews

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Review: Arachnosaur

Arachnosaur Arachnosaur by Richard Jeffries
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: ARACHNOSAUR by Richard Jeffries

I totally loved this suspenseful, adventure-rich, horror-thriller, and this is fantastic praise from a lifelong Arachnophobe! This novel has everything for the discerning reader seeking a heart-pounding ploy, implacable horror, lots of scares, and well-delineated character!

Lest you expect yet another terrorism battled by sterling and stalwart Americans, 2-dimensional good-guys vs. Evil, please do think again! This story has Nature vs. Humanity, Apocalypse potential, death, Gore, good guys, really evil guys--and fully-fleshed characters I really hope return {well, not the bad guys}. The author is a writer of excellence, and he knows his stuff. I so hope ARACHNOSAUR will be the first of many more novels.

View all my reviews

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Review: The Shivering

The Shivering The Shivering by Joseph W. Bebo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: THE SHIVERING by Joseph W. Beni

THE SHIVERING is a truly scary novel, and I gave 5 stars for two reasons: the innovative nature and mode of the horror and its implacability; and the rampant character evolution (and devolution). The character arcs in this story are really precious.

Our protagonist/hero evolves practically continuously throughout the novel (a requirement if he is to be able to face up to the otherworldly shenanigans and also to cope with the changes in practical matters (economic, interpersonal, friendships, legal, and so forth). Like a Timex of the mid-20th century, Mike Russo takes a licking and keeps on ticking. He is a genuinely "good guy" who also has a lot of compassion for others, even those who don't seem to elicit empathy.

Several other characters are delineated in much depth as they "keep on going through them changes." In their cases, though, it's character devolution but the author continues to illustrate it amazingly.

The evil is imaginative, unexpected, and as discovery of it unfolds, shows itself as nearly unstoppable (not to mention arrogant). There's black magic, ceremonial magic, white witchcraft, Nature worship, and then there's Mike himself, in a category all his own. I can definitely see myself rereading THE SHIVERING.

View all my reviews

Friday, October 27, 2017

Review: Don't Bury Me

Don't Bury Me Don't Bury Me by Nick Younker
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Review: DON'T BURY ME by Nick Younker

Author Nick Younker packs so much into this short story: horror; science; political philosophy; history; child neglect; governmental posturing; familial love; voluntary sacrifice; medical marijuana; the supernatural. He could have extended all this to novel-length, but framing it as a short story just makes the impact much more powerful. If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, apparently so is the road to pandemic. Our protagonist spends the story's duration berating himself, but no one can fault his dedication, strength of love, and personal sacrifice to his cause. Spine-tingling, grief-inspiring, heartwrenching, heartwarming, and inspiring, all in one story. Triumph of the human spirit, indeed.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Review: The Wendigo

The Wendigo The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: THE WENDIGO by Algernon Blackwood

Lately much has been made of the bigotry of H. P. Lovecraft: whether it was ingrained, or an externalisation of his rampant fear of the unknown, and whether modern readers should overlook it or eschew his writing entirely. Here in this short piece by Algernon Blackwood, a similar bigotry arises, perhaps even more clearly defined. The omniscient narrator downs African-Americans, North American Indians (the next thing to wild animals, it seems), and even a Quebec-born French Canadian! The civilized members of the hunting party in the Canadian wilderness are clearly and specifically delineated as "white men," who are out of touch with the wilderness and its paranormal elements, while the Indian cook, by nature of being "almost animal," is attuned, and he and the French Canadian are aware of danger in a certain region; though the Indian, of course, is the most aware.

The prose is glorious and the spooky element is frightening, but the bigotry is jarring. I give high praise to the story for its content and excellence in prose. Yet the author sounds that tired ethnic bigotry again at the end. (I must admit that he levels condescension against Scotsmen as well.)

View all my reviews

Review: Tales from The Lake Vol.4

Tales from The Lake Vol.4 Tales from The Lake Vol.4 by Joe R. Lansdale
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: TALES FROM THE LAKE, VOLUME 4. Edited by Ben Eads.

Every single title I have read from Crystal Lake Publishing (many), whether Anthology, single author collection, novella, or novel, has surpassed excellence. Here in the newest Tales From the Lake Anthology are 24 stories of exceptional quality.

"When the Dead Come Home " by Jennifer Loring . I love a story which brings an unexpected ending, a twist, a surprising denouement. I especially love a story which speaks truth to power, which brings revelation to suffering characters so that they can say, "So THIS is what really happened, THIS is the cause of my tragedy; I'm still suffering, but at least I know why, and now I can choose how to act." A story like this brings closure to me as reader.

"The Folding Man" by Joe R. Lansdale. I had first read this quite some time ago, but you know what? Today it is no less frightening. The implacability! Some horrors you just can't escape.

"Go Warily After Dark " by Kealan Patrick Burke. Every thinking human ought to be terrified of war. But even the imminence of the bombing didn't terrify me as much as what's in that basement.

"To the Hills" by T. E. Grau. Oh my. I am all over chills from this story. What a powerful impact. The end of the world is here--or is it?

"Everything Hurts, Until It Doesn't" by Damien Angelica Walters. Very New Weird--in this story, pretty much everybody wear masks, and nobody speaks truth--until it's too late.

"Drowning in Sorrow" by Sheldon Higdon. Almost nobody wins here: not the fish, not the boy Simon, not his mother. Yet the story is so beautifully written, and so heartfelt, and the character evolution is so seamless. Anger can't carry us forever; eventually, like entropy, psychological decompensation sets in. Then we are either able to face what we remember; or we aren't. A terribly beautiful and beautifully terrible tale, this is one of my favourites in this volume.

"Whenever You Exhale, I Inhale" by Max Brooks III. Another favourite. This story reaches heavenly heights, crashes into the depths of Hades, and climbs up yet again. Mr. Brooks puts character behind the face of hate, and may well demonstrate, "Love Conquers All." Beautifully conceived and written.

"The Withering" by Bruce Golden. In a society in which "thought is deed," even imagination can be adjudged heresy. I thought of Galileo.

"Grave Secrets" by JG Flaherty. I adored the Lovecraftian flavour! Finely written, with a definite implacability, nearly inescapable. The illusions promoted by whatever otherworldly forces are present in and around the community of Rocky Point are akin to the glamour used by the Fae, and exactly as effective at trapping the unwary.

"The End of the Hall" by Hunter Liguore. Not your usual haunted house story, but oh how well it all fits together. Heart-pounding and heartwarming.

"Snowmen" by David Dunwoody. Almost dark fantasy rather than dark horror; perhaps even grimdark. A puzzler, which kept me pondering through the story, and after.

"Pieces of Me" by T. G. Arsenault. A forest similar to Japan's Suicide Forest at Mount Aokigawa, but this one empty of bodies. The explanation isn't pretty--but it is implacable.

"Neighborhood Watchers" by Maria Alexander. What a great {scary!} story, especially reading just one week prior to Samhain. We've all heard of, perhaps participated in, "Neighborhood Watch" associations, in which residents cooperate to keep aware of strangers and potential trouble in their area. In this story, the Neighborhood Watch is something else! It's essential, it's lifesaving--and ignored at one's own risk. The entities these neighbors guard against are otherworldly--and they don't play.

"The Story of Jessie and Me" by Michael Johnson. I think sometimes we forget that any apocalypse is going to mean danger. There's going to be death, and killing, and starvation and lack of water, plague, fighting over resources. This story reminds us, but it also vivifies the resonance of the human spirit. Even in an apocalypse, some can exhibit compassion, love, kindness, treating others as important. I came away, not with despair, but with hope.

"I Will Be The Reflection Until The End" by Michael Bailey. Occasionally the world is gifted with an Old Soul, and while the world benefits, the Old Soul, so much more advanced, suffers from human failings but also from environmental damage. All things, after all, are living. This story is a beautiful expression of this principle.

"The Honeymoon's Over" by E. E. King. This story ably combined heartwarming and sad--until the end, when it mutated to frightening. For reasons I won't divulge in order not to spoil the story's impact, I found it personally unsettling. In fact, I thought about it during the night, in between sleeps--puzzling and pondering. Likely I shall not be the only reader so affected.

"Song in a Sundress" by Darren Speegle. Too good to be easily encapsulated, this tale is poignant, encouraging, and definitely frightening.

"Weighing In" by Cynthia Ward. I do prefer my horror implacable (what fun is it if the horror is escapable?) and here the danger takes a form perfect for its setting. I really enjoyed it.

"Reliving the Past" by Michael Haynes. Scary! (quite) Sad! Excellent! "The house that could not die" ....

"The Long Haul" by Leigh M. Lane. Immensely sad. Cryable. Implacability mixed with avoidability: "if only I'd known...."

"Dust Devils" by Mark Cassell. Really wildly imaginative in its construct of horror. Definite Lovecraftian Mythos overtones both in the specific monstrousness, and also in the admonishment between the lines that too much attempt to gain knowledge will drive humans mad...or dead.

"Liminality" by Del Howison. A pointed example of "Pride goeth before a fall," or alternatively, no matter how convinced you are of your own superiority, think again--your pride will cost you--permanently.

"The Gardener" by Gene O'Neill. I was torn between sympathy for the young-boy-who-was, with his sad childhood, and anger and dismay at the adult consequences. Very unexpected denouement.

"Condo by the Lake" by Jeff Cercone. Nothing but sadness coupled with horror here. Well done, and the horror is demonstrably implacable. One of my favourites.

View all my reviews

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Review: Wicked Haunted: An Anthology by the New England Horror Writers

Wicked Haunted: An Anthology by the New England Horror Writers Wicked Haunted: An Anthology by the New England Horror Writers by Scott T. Goudsward
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review of WICKED HAUNTED Anthology by New England Horror Writers

New England Horror Writers covers the state's of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Here in 23 tales (and 3 drawings) are a wide-ranging selection sure to provoke many emotions. Some scared me, some REALLY scared me, others elicited grief and "If only!" and some warmed my heart. I did not read in order, and my list below reflects that.

"Everything Smells Like Smoke Again" by Curtis M. Lawson. I chose to read this story first, as Mr. Lawson was the writer who had introduced me to this volume. His story impacted me immediately, first cutting directly to my emotions, then ripping my soul. Even after I finished, I can still feel it enfolding me in its terrifying embrace.

"We're All Haunted Here" by Doungai Gam. A remarkably polished and poignant story, it elicited grief and sympathy, yet also played chords of hope and inspiration. The conclusion stunned me.

"They Come With the Storm" by Dan Foley. A doomed Atlantic, whose inhabitants persevere despite their knowledge and fear. The horror is implacable, indeed; and despair, grief, betrayal, and hatred are inroads to the terror that never ends. The ending was very unexpected.

"Turn On the Old Victrola" by Tom Deady. Please don't!! The title echoes a 70's Donna Summer song, but no disco joy exists here. That snazzy old Victrola is a genuine antique--and it's haunted, and extremely dangerous.

"Lost Boy" by Bracken McLeod. There are several aspects of this story that really amplified the scare factor for me, but I'm not willing to give those away. I found a lot of empathy for both the main characters: good people, needing to find their way.

"My Work Here Is Not Done" by Nick Manzolillo. The intriguing New York afterlife of Samuel Clemens, a man who maintained his intellect, scientific compulsion, compassion, and journalistic investigation, even post-death--finding and living a purpose.

"Ghost Maker" by Emma J. Gibson. A cynical, jaded, cameraman on a televised paranormal series unexpectedly is confronted with a crossroads decision; then even more unexpectedly, experiences his own otherworldly encounter.

"The Boy On the Red Tricycle" by Dan Szczesny. Heartwrenching, heartwarming, and very spooky. More saddening than horrifying, but horror nonetheless.

""Pulped" by James A. Moore. Talk about reader's hooks, knock-out first sentences, word play. Talk about a tautly-constructed tale so well-tuned it hums. Think Dashiell Hammett strumming pulp noir blues with a driving drum beat.

"Ghosts In Their Eyes" by Teresa Wooldridge. A lengthy, scary prose poem about occult science and black magic, about deceit and lies, betrayal and arrogance. Be careful where you choose to place your elder loved ones; profit-greed is not the only motive at deceitful nursing homes.

"They, Too, Want To Be Remembered," by K. H. Vaughn. So sad, so poignant: a tragic moment in history vifified by unexpected manifestations. This one made me cry.

"The East Boston Relief Station" by Paul R. McNamee. Past bleeding into present, for one fortunate--or unfortunate--patient-to-be in need of immediate relief.

"Murmur" by Jeremy Flagg. A witch in the afterlife, ghosts, remnants, demons, and plague. I liked the sharp twist of the ending.

"Scrying Through Torn Screens" by Patricia Gomes. Short and sweetly poignant, leaving the rest unsaid but strongly perceived.

"The Thin Place" by Morgan Sylvia. So glad I read this story in daylight. One of those turn-me-inside-out-scare-me-senseless stories. Definitely a rereader.

"The Walking Man" by Matt Bechtel. Scary and poignant. "There but for the grace of God," indeed. (Shudder)

"Tripping the Ghost" by Barry Lee Dejasu. I put this one in the category of Weird Fiction (and yes, horror). I suppose there is a market for everything, and these two entrepreneurs have certainly carved a niche for themselves. I definitely appreciated the Lovecraftian flavour.

"The Pick Apart" by Paul McMahon. I do love my horror implacable, and that is exactly what's delivered here. We learn who and why, but we don't know how to change the pattern. A scary, ghostly, tale. Don't read alone at night.

"Mouse" by Larissa Glasser. Traumatically sad. The real horror is humans.

"The Road to Gallway" by Rob Smales. Scary-scary-scary--with a way unexpected really scary twist! Loved it.

"Triumph of the Spirit" by GD Dearborn. Do ghosts remain earthbound, not because of unfinished business or their own desire, but because their loved ones refuse to relinquish? Thought-provoking.

"The Stranding Off Schoodic Point" by R. C. Mulhare. A heartwarming ghost story with a purpose. Endearing characters, deserving of empathy.

"The Thing With No Face" by Peter N. Dudar. Although this is the first story, I left it till last because facelessness has been one of my bete noirs since childhood. I knew this story would scare me senseless. I was right. Guilt can be debilitating, but vengeance can be fatal to body and soul.

View all my reviews

Review: The Strange Case at Misty Ridge

The Strange Case at Misty Ridge The Strange Case at Misty Ridge by David Brian
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I really enjoyed this paranormal novel, set in Northamptonshire, England. Much of what I liked, I can't specify, for giving away the story. So I shall summarize: Jack Keswick is a very happily married man, childless. In middle age he is badly injured in a roadway accident, and undergoes a out-of-body, near-death experience. Eventually recovering, though in near-constant pain, Jack takes up paranormal investigation. A rural homeowner seeks his investigative help for the seeming hauntings in her cottage which are destroying her marriage and family life. When Jack investigates, the actual facts are beyond shocking. I like Jack as a protagonist because he perseveres, despite circumstances stacked against him; and even though at first his mind isn't open to some of the more outre occurrences and suggestions, nevertheless he is intelligent enough to listen and to consider, not closed to a vaster truth. His continuing character evolution and the paranormal and otherworldly aspects made this a very satisfying story for me.

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews

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!

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews

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?

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews


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.

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews

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.)

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews