At the Mountains of Madness is, perhaps more then or at least alongside The Call of Cthulhu (and maybe The Shadow Over Innsmouth), H. P. Lovecraft’s magnum opus. At the Mountains of Madness is narrated by William Dyer, a geologist who is penning the story as warning for an expedition to the Antarctic; an expedition whose goal it is to further examine and verify the finds that Dyer and his compatriots discovered on their journey. The discovery of evidence indicating not only the existence of life, but an entire civilization that predates all things known to man at first appears wondrous but quickly shifts into the horrific as events unfold.
Locke and Key Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft
Words by Joe Hill
Art by Gabriel Rodriguez
As we move into the last week of October I’m be spending the remainder of my time exploring some Lovecraft and Lovecraft influenced fiction. While not quite Lovecraftian in tone and theme Hill & Rodriguez’s series Locke and Key, the first arc of which is collected in this trade, name their island setting Lovecraft in honor of the New England author. The novel begins with an almost idyllic summer afternoon spent with typical teenage griping but veers sharply into darker territory as the father of Bodie, Ty, and Kinsey Locke is murdered by a deranged student. What appears at first to be a simple act by a deranged entity is slowly revealed to be something of dark portent and more supernatural bent.
Following the death of their father the remaining Locke family, the children and their mother, move in with their Uncle to the ominously named Keyhouse. There the graphic novel takes a rather poignant look at how each of the children is coping not only with the grief of their father’s death, but with the lingering fear left by the harrowing events that saw him dead. Each deals with it in a different way Ty’s quiet and somewhat dangerous stoicism and Kinsey’s desire to fade into part of the crowd but perhaps the most poignant and disturbing is that the youngest child Bodie.
The Revenant Road
Drollerie Press, 2009
Names are important to me. Especially names in fiction. I’m of the opinion that you can tell a lot about a fictional character on name alone and that a bad name can ruin a good a character. So when I came across the name Obadiah Grudge a huge smile spread across my face. I’ve come across few names that are as evocative, original, and fun as Obadiah Grudge; it is a name that fits the character like a glove. The Revenant Road is humorous and over-the-top action/horror novel filled with great dialogue and creative world-building.
The story begins with the death of Obadiah’s father, Marcus. It is quickly revealed to Obadiah, first by his mother Lenore (another great name!) and then by his father’s former partner Neville (the “crusty prophet;” a description that somehow manages to work to surprising effect) that Marcus comes from a long line of monster hunters. Obadiah, a successful if somewhat hacky writer of crime thrillers, of course doesn’t believe, or at least doesn’t want to believe, in this new world. As it happens Obadiah is constantly thrust, kicking and screaming, into a world he doesn’t want to believe and is forced to confront the presence of the weird in his life since a very young age.
Zen in the Art of Slaying Vampires
Hells Kitchen Press, 1997
I feel kind of bad reviewing this book since it isn’t in print anymore and doesn’t seem to available for less then $32 from used vendors; I’ll do my best to keep this short. Its limited availability is unfortunate since it was a thoroughly enjoyable read chock full of awesome. During a time where many have begun to bemoan the lack of originality in the vampire tale or, perhaps more commonly, the “defanging” of the vampire Altman’s Zen in the Art of Slaying Vampires is both an original take on the vampire story and simultaneously a defanging and an elevation of badassery. While it possible to read this as a spoof I think that it comes off with a whole lot more B-movie charm and an air of detached cool that elevates a notch (or three) above your average horror spoof. It is, in essence, an mash-up of martial arts action and vampiric horror that is an exciting and engrossing read.
Yes, I know the title makes no sense seeing as how God denied Moses the Promised Land, but bear with me here.
Any article that mentions Moses, Moby Dick, and 300 is well worth a look. The skinny being:
Twentieth Century Fox will develop a retelling of the story of Moses, from his near death as an infant to his adoption into the Egyptian royal family, his defiance of the Pharaoh and deliverance of the Hebrews from enslavement…in a post-apocalyptic wasteland
Ok, I added that post-apocalyptic bit. Though the truth isn’t any more ridiculous.
The article also mentions that the same scripwriters attached to this Moses project also worked on a Moby Dick that “was pitched as a “300”-like reimagining of the Melville story as a visually stunning action piece, and the story of Moses is conceived similarly.”
I didn’t add anything to that quote by the way. Sometimes Hollywood makes me question my sanity….and not in the good way.
The Space Between
Blue Fairy Books, 2009
Yes, another book from another small press publisher Blue Fairy Books. At this point The Space Between by Erik Tomblin is their only book. The site has a really neat flash trailer that really captures the atmosphere of the novel; you should definitely check it out. The Space Between is, in a sense, a haunted house story. Then again it isn’t really a haunted house story. It is, perhaps more accurately, a haunted person story. Musician Isaac Owens arrives to the house already haunted by the memories of his recently deceased girlfriend and the house, and some of the other characters in the novel, are themselves haunted by their own pasts. It is also a novel that, in the end, that left this reader a bit haunted himself.
The Tel Aviv Dossier
Lavie Tidhar and Nir Yaniv
ChiZine Publications, 2009
Yes, another book from the folks at ChiZine though admittedly this one was a bit harder to find since there seem to be few physical copies left floating around. It looks like Amazon Canada (linked to on the image to the left) has some left which is where I got mine. I was sold on this book courtesy of the excellent description from ChiZine:
Through a city torn apart by a violence they cannot comprehend, three disparate people—a documentary film-maker, a yeshiva student, and a psychotic fireman—must try to survive, and try to find meaning: even if it means being lost themselves. As Tel Aviv is consumed, a strange mountain rises at the heart of the city, and shows the outline of what may be another, alien world beyond. Can there be redemption there? Can the fevered rumours of a coming messiah be true?
As the city loses contact with the outside world and closes in on itself, as the few surviving children play and scavenge in the ruins, can innocence survive, and is it possible for hope to spring amid such chaos?
A potent mixture of biblical allusions, Lovecraftian echoes, and contemporary culture, The Tel Aviv Dossier is part supernatural thriller, part meditation on the nature of belief—an original and involving novel painted on a vast canvas in which, beneath the despair, humour is never absent.
Experience the last days of Tel Aviv…
Of course throw “lovecraftian” on just about anything and you’ll probably manage to sell me; maybe I’m a bit of a sucker that way. But With elements of Lovecraft thrown in with a dash of the Apocalypse I was sold pretty easily. The Tel Aviv Dossier is a kitchen sink kind of novel that tries to do just about anything and everything. While enjoyable it was something of a mixed bag in terms of how it succeeded with those elements and the ending in particular left me a bit cold.
I still maintain that horror as a genre is desperately clinging on to life or, at the least, is a genre that is struggling to find its place in an increasingly virulent print world. In the long form, as novels, horror is definitely struggling from my perspective at least (a casual observer) though is succeeding marginally better in the short form: anthologies and collection seem to be in the spotlight a bit more these days. Elements of the supernatural have been making their way across ever blurring genre borders while perhaps the most important aspect of horror, fear, seems to remain a secondary concern. While zombies remain a popular topic of film, fiction and other media and recent strides to reclaim the vampire from the clutches of romance (Let the Right One In, The Strain, Thirst) have proved there is still a place for horror fiction across multiple demographics it appears to me that is a genre that will never achieve the popularity and acclaim as it had during the height of what I’m beginning to think of as the King Era. Perhaps it is the growing complexity and weight of the socioeconic climate of today, people are scared enough in real life maybe they don’t need or want to be scared in their leisure time as well.
Regardless it is still a genre I enjoy and one that remain a fan of. I am typically a fan of horror with supernatural elements, as opposed to the often all-too-real human monster, and I tend to find that gore is a bit of turn off in horror. Just after graduating college I was looking for some good horror to read and came across Serenity Falls by James A. Moore. Being a fan of Stephen King, and having absolutely loved ‘Salems Lot, I thought that a series of horror novels set in and around another small town might be worth a look. Luckily the book had just been republished as three mass-market novels and I eagerly snagged a copy of Writ In Blood from the local bookstore. I loved what I read. The slow revelation of a town’s dark history of violence and depravity, a strong anti-hero demon-hunter, and a promise of darker things to come were exactly what I was looking for and it was one of those novels that I polished off in fevered rush of eager reading.
Unfortunately, Grad school soon reared it’s ugly head and by the time I settled down enough to check for the rest of the series found that it was out of print and that, as far as I can tell, James A. Moore hasn’t done anything since 2006; at least that is the publication date of the material still listed on the front page of his website. I am, of course, contemplating a purchased of the remaining two novels The Pack and Dark Carnival via used/independent booksellers. If you ever see a copy of a Serenity Falls book in a store near you I highly recommend you pick it up and give it whirl. It’s one of those rarely mentioned and forgotten gems of the 21st century horror scene probably because it falls so much in line with the “classic” horror of the King era.
The World More Full of Weeping
Robert J Wiersema
ChiZine Publications, 2009
The World More Full of Weeping, its title unabashedly ripped from the W. B. Yeats poem, “The Stolen Child” is a new novella (almost a short story) by author Robert J. Wiersema. ChiZine Publications is a relative newcomer to the publisher scene but as the print arm of the Chiarscuro ‘zine brings with it a wealth of experience and talent. Wiersema’s debut novel Before I Wake achieved quite a bit of buzz on its release but slipped beneath my radar but, having read the chilling tale that is The World More Full of Weeping I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out on whatever Wiersema plans in the future.
Here’s ChiZine’s description of the novel:
Eleven-year-old Brian Page spends every waking moment in the forest behind the house where he lives with his father. But forests are always deeper than anyone can know. Secrets are hidden in the eternal twilight of the trees. Those secrets emerge into light when Brian disappears in the forest, as his father did three decades before. His father, however, came home with no memory of the events in the depths of the forest. What has drawn Brian away? Will he emerge, shuddering and broken, as his father did, or will the forests close around him, as they have done so often before?
Well September has come and gone and along with it my month long dip into to the realms of steampunk fiction. It was interesting ride with some fantastic fiction featuring various flavors of steampunk; proving once again that even even amongst its sub-genres speculative fiction can be an amazingly diverse field. Now that we are just about a week into October I’ll be starting on some horror fiction and should have my first review, for The World More Full of Weeping, up tomorrow sometime. Be warned that this month’s titles are, by and large, going to be small(er) press titles that may be difficult to acquire or, in some cases, outright impossible outside of used vendors (I’m looking at you Zen in the Art of Slaying Vampires). I also plan on watching the Phantasm series in its entirety. I seriously enjoyed the off-the-wall crazyness of the original film and think it’s about time I experienced the sequels. Anyhoo, here is a quick list of my September reviews:
Of course if you didn’t get enough steampunk from me you might want to head over to Tor.com who are currently in the midst of their own little steampunk event. For those keeping track, I’ll be taking on epic fantasy for November and I’ll be returning to the stars for some space opera in December; I’ll be returning to my more eclectic and scattered selections come the new year.