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Book review

Book Review: House of Small Shadows
December 19, 2013 | 4:18 pm

On the jacket of House of Small Shadows, Adam Nevill is described as "Britain's answer to Stephen King." I'm happy to say that, if this is an answer, it's a very distinctive and locally accented one that is anything but pastiche King. Rather, Nevill's very personal style is more what you would expect from a British ghost and horror story writer in the tradition of M.R. James and Arthur Machen - updated to the era of The Ring and body horror. It's that unsettling. Briefly, late-thirtysomething provincial antiques valuer Catherine Howard sets out in quest of a fabulous collection of animal...

Book review: The Hat-Stand Union, Caroline Bird, Carcanet Press Ltd
October 24, 2013 | 6:57 pm

caroline birdBefore reading this review, please note that Caroline Bird: "won a major Eric Gregory Award in 2002 and was shortlisted for the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize in 2001. Her first collection, Looking Through Letterboxes, was published in 2002 (when she was just fifteen). She was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize in 2008 and 2010 for her second and third collections." And "she was one of the five official poets for the London 2012 Olympics." Plus, "she is also a playwright. In February 2012 her children’s musical The Trial of Dennis the Menace was premiered at the Southbank Centre, and in...

Book review: The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
October 23, 2013 | 10:03 am

jeff bezosThe narrative has been there for years – Amazon is a big, evil corporation that will do anything to get what it wants. Part of that is true, especially after reading The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone. Amazon didn’t become a successful business by being nice and allowing other companies to get in line in front of them. No, it was ruthless and confrontational. Yet, point of view matters when it comes to Amazon. If you are a competitor, then Amazon is not your friend. Partners have had it hard with the Seattle-based company as it looks...

Book Review: I Bring the Fire Part 1: Wolves by C. Gockel
October 16, 2013 | 5:08 pm

C. GockelI don’t read much traditional mythology anymore. There was a time in school when we were forced to read Greek, Roman or Norse mythology. So, stories have gotten stuck in my head over time. Names, places and situations pop up in entertainment in books, movies, TV shows and comics that borrow from these stories, always reminding me of the good old days. [easyazon-link asin="B008UUIGB2" locale="us"]I Bring the Fire Part I : Wolves (A Loki Story)[/easyazon-link] by C. Gockel is that kind of story, using Loki as one of its main characters. The good news is that I didn’t need to have much...

Book review: Darkscapes, by Anne-Sylvie Salzman, Tartarus Press
October 9, 2013 | 5:35 pm

Darkscapes collects 15 dark tales by the highly regarded French horror and fantasy author Anne-Sylvie Salzman, translated into mannered and highly effective English prose by William Charlton. Salzman's subjects are sinister rather than brutal, and often push dark psychology into the territory of fantasy or surrealism: A doctor obsessed with a cyclops girl in a traveling freakshow; a prosthetic craftsman equally fixated on the beautiful recipient of the artificial eyes he makes; a feral young vagrant feeding off rats and dead bodies in a Paris park. And they are highly effective, albeit occasionally vague, and a really attractive addition to...

Book Review: The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror 2013 Edition, edited by Paula Guran, Prime Books
September 30, 2013 | 11:23 am

This collection of 35 dark tales groups stories that have appeared in other collections or in magazines, so readers should check the list of contents in Prime Books' online catalog to make sure of what is really new to them before parting with their money. But that's almost the only qualification that needs to be made to an otherwise excellent guide to what's been going on on the literary dark side through 2012. There are established names, like Neil Gaiman and John Shirley. There are rising stars of the smaller press and alternative/ fan circuit, like Laird Barron and Cory Skerry....

Book Review: Collected Poems of Edwin Morgan, Carcanet
September 27, 2013 | 9:47 am

Edwin George Morgan (April 27, 1920 – August 17, 2010), Scotland's first official modern Scots Makar (the Caledonian Laureate), died recently leaving a huge financial legacy to the Scottish National Party and to various literary and cultural causes, and a far greater poetic legacy to modern Scottish literature. His achievement is impressive in its sheer size and persistence as much as anything else: This 2012 ebook update of Morgan's 1996 collection comprises 858 pages of his poetry, commencing with an early poem, 'Sculpture', from 1939, as a prologue, and finishing with a personal 'Epilogue' by Morgan, composed in 1990. Reading...

Review: Wayward by Blake Crouch
September 18, 2013 | 10:00 am

When I reviewed Pines last year for another site, I enjoyed it but thought the ending was flat. Apparently I had missed the fact that Pines was the first book in a series. Wayward is the second book in the series, and I think the first book works much better now that there's a second. The basic premise of the series is that a genius, David Pilcher, foresaw the end of humanity and captured and froze select individuals to rebuild humanity thousands of years in the future. Pines covers Ethan Burke, a former Secret Service agent, waking up in Wayward Pines and...

Book Review: At Fear’s Altar, by Richard Gavin
September 16, 2013 | 4:00 pm

Canadian "numinous horror and esoterica author" Richard Gavin has released four collections since his debut "Charnel Wine" in 2004, and has garnered the kind of reputation that many writers would sell their souls for. This collection, his fourth, has received reviews varying from the enthusiastic to the ecstatic. There are thirteen stories, including a fictionalized prologue so dark that it definitely counts as one. There is the nightmare encounter with a dead god in "The Abject," where a wilderness becomes a metaphysical landscape that fulfils a myth in the most horrible but perhaps redemptive way. There is the new and quite...

Should authors review other authors’ books?
September 9, 2013 | 1:09 pm

A recent New York Times Bookends feature focused on writers reviewing other writers—specifically the argument of "should they or shouldn’t they?" Zoë Heller and Adam Kirsch discussed the topic, touching on why some authors are reluctant to review others, but also why it's important to do so. Heller writes: "Some recuse themselves from reviewing any contemporary fiction at all. Others review only those novels they can praise in good faith. Still others adopt a tactful, discursive reviewing style that allows them to write about books they don’t rate without actually copping to an opinion." Kirsch writes: "Write a bad review and you make an enemy for...

Book Review: ‘The Dragon Masters’ by Jack Vance
August 31, 2013 | 7:57 am

Thanks to Jack Vance, my early teens were haunted by dragonish monstrosities with such names as Termagants, Striding Murderers, Juggers, and Blue Horrors. These weren't drawn from a young adult story, but from one of Vance's most concentrated, intensely imagined and effective evocations of a place and above all, a society, very remote from ours, in time, space, and mindset. "The Dragon Masters" was one of the classics that consolidated his early reputation, and it has worn very well with time. Note that this book is an example of how mutable the standards of story length can be, as well as the...

Book Review: ‘Just a Geek’ by Wil Wheaton
August 20, 2013 | 11:00 am

Wil WheatonI got this book from the recent Humble Bundle, and I went into it expecting to like it. I was a huge "Star Trek" fan back in the day, and I never 'hated' Wesley Crusher the way some fans seemed to. I've also enjoyed his recurring bit part on "The Big Bang Theory," so I was expecting a fun read. And I got ... an OK read. My main issue was that although all of his stories were technically about separate incidents, the incidents all were about the same few themes, so they got tiresome. There was the "auditioning for a part if...