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Book review

Book review: Cry Murder! in a Small Voice, by Greer Gilman, Small Beer Press
July 30, 2014 | 4:46 pm

The marvelous Small Beer Press, which is producing anything but small beer these days, with two Shirley Jackson Awards this year alone, also produces chapbooks and shorter titles, available mostly as DRM-free direct downloads. One of them is one of the award winners, Greer Gilman's Cry Murder! in a Small Voice, which runs to just 57 pages in the printed version and is also available as a beautifully produced short ebook. One blogger called this simply the best book of 2013. Greer Gilman has a reputation for producing superb work very slowly, and on the basis of this book, you can see...

Book review: The Children of Old Leech, edited by Ross E. Lockhart and Justin Steele, Word Horde
July 30, 2014 | 12:25 pm

This is both a superb collection of dark tales and a testament to the highly developed, involved, and even self-referential status of the new new wave of American horror and weird fiction. For it is a tribute anthology from some of the best writers in the field in honor of one of their most esteemed peers, Laird Barron, who is still very much alive and barely into his fourth volume. The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron might stand in grave danger of being an incestuous lovefest. Is it? Anything but. Who is the man...

Book review: Beside the Seaside, edited by Scott Harrison, Snowbooks
July 27, 2014 | 2:23 pm

Well who'd a thought it: An almost local tourism-level themed anthology confined to a short stretch of English coastline that turns out to be a surprisingly good collection of modern British horror and dark fiction. Of course, it helps if the stretch of coastline you have to deal with is the Yorkshire coast immortalized by Bram Stoker as the landfall of Count Dracula, where the ruins of Whitby Abbey and Scarborough Castle still lour down from the clifftops. Or if you have contributors like Johnny Mains, himself editor of the superb Best British Horror 2014. (His "The Girl on the Suicide...

Book review: The Wine-Dark Sea, by Robert Aickman, Faber & Faber
July 14, 2014 | 8:24 pm

This is one more in Faber's series of reissues to mark the centenary of the birth of Robert Aickman, probably the best English horror writer since World War 2. However, it's not a direct reissue of an original collection from Aickman's lifetime. The Wine-Dark Sea was actually compiled from several other volumes in 1988, seven years after his death, and published by Arbor House/William Morrow in New York with an introduction by Peter Straub. As a summary of his entire work, its eight stories range all the way from 1951's "The Trains" to 1980's "The Fetch," and are a very representative bunch,...

Book review: Every House is Haunted, by Ian Rogers, ChiZine Publications
July 12, 2014 | 6:37 pm

Canadian dark fiction and horror writer Ian Rogers' debut story collection Every House is Haunted comes garlanded with accolades. The book has received the 2013 ReLit Award in the Short Fiction category, and praise from almost every quarter. It's the sort of reputation that makes you hurry to start it to see what's really inside. The whole collection is structured like a house, with sections such as "The Vestibule," "The Library," "The Attic," "The Den," and "The Cellar." This doesn't mean any uniformity of content: The stories are highly diverse, some Lovecraftian ("The Dark and the Young," "Inheritor"), some occult ("Cabin D"), and some plain...

Book review: Nameless, by Mercedes M. Yardley, Ragnarok Publications
July 9, 2014 | 4:25 pm

The very wonderful and much anthologized Mercedes Murdock Yardley raises beautiful children, rides two-wheeled vehicles that would send staider traffic fleeing from most public highways, and writes fabulous horror and supernatural stories and dark fiction. [easyazon-link asin="B00HWLX6RO" locale="us"]Nameless: The Darkness Comes[/easyazon-link] is her first full-length novel, as well as the first volume of The Bone Angel Trilogy. So, dear reader, I guess you've already guessed that this is going to be a positive review. Damn right it is. Luna Masterson, biker-esque chick heroine of the tale, has been seeing demons since she has small. (Why she has been seeing them is one of the...

Book review: Forever, in Pieces, by Kurt Fawver, Villipede Publications
July 5, 2014 | 2:21 pm

U.S. independent Villipede Publications describes itself as "one the finest specialty publishers in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres," and produces not only fine limited editions of work by major horror, fantasy, and science fiction writers, as well as print and ebook publications of some excellent new authors. One of these is Kurt Fawver, whose first collection Forever, in Pieces has been  received with near adulation by some fellow writers and critics, with plaudits like "exquisite in every possible way" and "perfectly balanced between beautiful and vicious, clever and dark" being bandied about. The ebook presentation is ambitious, with diverse fonts and illustrations...

Virtual Unreality looks virtually imbecilic from the cover on in
July 4, 2014 | 2:29 pm

Virtual UnrealityThis is a book non-review, because it's in large part a review of a book cover. And I apologize unreservedly to any genuine worth in the contents that I may have traduced - but I won't hold my breath. Because wouldn't life be wonderful if every book cover in the world, physical or digital, told you unerringly that its contents were crap?  Plus, if you're going to try to stoke a moral panic, you'd better make sure you get it right from the off, or you're likely to wind up looking virtually ridiculous. I is a writer. I tries to be...

Book review: North American Lake Monsters, by Nathan Ballingrud, Small Beer Press
July 2, 2014 | 2:30 pm

Nathan Ballingrud's North American Lake Monsters, from the feisty independent Small Beer Press, has quietly established itself as one of the high points in the new resurgence of American horror and dark fiction, the kind of book that other writers in the genre benchmark themselves against. The nine stories in this collection range from Lovecraftian through vampire and werewolf stories to far less classifiable creations, like those in "The Monsters of Heaven" (winner of the inaugural Shirley Jackson Award for Best Short Story) or the title story itself, which is available online in full here, courtesy of Weird Fiction Review....

Book review: Dark Entries, by Robert Aickman, Faber & Faber
June 28, 2014 | 12:55 pm

As noted previously, Faber & Faber is re-releasing some of Robert Aickman's short story collections for the centenary of his birth, and Dark Entries is one of the four volumes, and the one that has been unavailable from Faber up until now. Faber sent me the ebook copy on his centenary day, and I read (almost) all of it the same evening, which was not only timely, but also a good chance to come fresh to work by this hitherto hard-to-come-by (as well as guarded and deliberately mysterious) writer. And it gives you an idea of the kind of spell...

Book review: Best British Horror 2014, edited by Johnny Mains, Salt Publishing
June 20, 2014 | 2:25 pm

New horror/dark fiction collection Best British Horror 2014, from the respected Brit independent publisher Salt Publishing, comes from the editorial desk of Scot Johnny Mains, who has rapidly garnered an impressive reputation as a horror writer, aficionado, and anthologist, as well as a publisher in his own right through his own imprint Noose & Gibbet Publishing. So the omens already look good - if dark and eldritch - for this particular anthology. And it doesn't disappoint. For one thing, it's an impressively generous anthology. At 432 pages in print, it includes 22 stories, some of them quite lengthy - but never...

Book review: Conjure House, by Gary Fry, DarkFuse
June 17, 2014 | 4:25 pm

conjure house coverI have a problem with books like Conjure House - which is a pity, because it means I'm blind to some of its outstanding merits. I have a problem with Family In Danger narratives in horror. Or with Childhood Friends Reunited stories. I have a problem with books that take the Yorkshire landscape as a setting without fully evoking its bleak Wuthering Heights magnificence. I have a problem with Chapters That End With Single Standalone Significant Sentences. Like This. That said, there is a lot to like here, as well as to be very scared of. Gary Fry seems to be working...