Some authors write horror too well for my own good. In the case of Mr. Black, this happened before the end of chapter 6. I could not go on. Not since beginning to read Apartment 16 by Adam Nevill have I been this frightened. The time before that was when I was 15 and tried to read Dracula. So, no very often.
It wasn’t the demon dogs who did it for me. They were just gross and gross can be fun, or at least interesting. But good old Elder God, Nyarlathotep, did me in.
Too bad, really, as Mr. Black’s writing was excellent. But, alas, so is my imagination.
The Red Right Hand was given to me to review by Tor Books
I want to understand why writing a review of When We Were Executioners is so difficult. Part of it has to do with how invested in the lives of Jona and Rachel I have become. Not only they, but also the two Walkers of Erin seem to have a profound effect on me. There is this area from my solar plexus to the tip of my chin that becomes warm and weepy just thinking about the quartet. Sometimes art does this to me. Whether I am dealing with happy art or sad art does not seem to make a difference.
When We Were Executioners falls within the last category. From the beginning of the serial Dogsland we know that Lord Joni doesn’t survive. We soon come to expect the same with Rachel, and in When We Were Executioners it seems impossible that her brother Djoss will make it either.
People die all the time. They die all the time in the city/town Dogsland – a city of crime if there ever was one. Drugs are its mainstay. Drugs come into the city and are sold and traded on to the citizens of Dogsland and other places. JM McDermott shows us the darker side of drugs, both from the point of view of the users, the dealers and lords – sometimes one and the same person. It is a path that many tread both in fantasy and in the real world. Addiction.
But then I suppose we all suffer from one sort of addiction or another. Some of us will do anything for affection while others will stop at nothing to get another shot of their drug of choice. It is all the same, and oh, so very sad. Maybe evolution needs us to be this way to keep the human race going.
Lord Joni and Rachel Nolander are both half-demons and a hunted minority. Perhaps with good reason, for anything their bodily fluids touch (except for each other) ends up disintegrating and sizzling away. Somehow that does not make sense for their fathers had to have sex with their mothers and there is certainly an exchange of bodily fluids at that time. But perhaps what goes for half-demons is not the case with full demons. Even in death Jona and Rachel are deadly. Keeping their remains (especially their skulls) for magical purposes will end up destroying the magician. But in the end that is the way we all go. Death is just another part of life that we try to avoid and forget.
Could this be another reason the Dogsland trilogy thus far has affected me so strongly? JM McDermott makes no attempt to hide death from us. Nor does he attempt to make it more or less than what it is. Thus far the deaths we have seen in this trilogy have been difficult and painful ones. I wonder what my own death will be like?
“Doggone it, she says. Why do livin and dyin always have to be just half an inch apart?”
Bloody hell! Some reviews hurt more than others to write.
My father was a couple of years old before the Germans invaded Norway during WWII. He had passed his 7th birthday when they left. Yet there are quite a few things he remembers from that time. Especially one thing stands out with regard to The Reapers are the Angels. During the war a certain wildness was permitted in children. Many of the little ones were used by older kids to get at the German soldiers. Being little made it less likely you would get shot. Then the war ended. All of a sudden children were expected to become normal children. As my father tells that was not a simple task to perform, even for a seven year old boy. His father returned changed from POW camp. His mother had retained a great deal of psychological scarring from the war. And my father was a wild one.
Today we have more information about the mental processes of war-time experiences on children who grow up in them. One child tells of his killing as a child-soldier:
“The youngest was a girl about six. She was shooting at me.” (IRIN Africa)
In reading about young Temple, only 15 years old, her traumatized psyche was easy to see. Her feelings of guilt, being evil, should have been able to make different choices are all classic symptoms of a child with PTSD. PTSD is something I have knowledge of and I had no problem identifying with Temple a great many times.
“She eases herself to the ground and wonders when she will eventually die because she’s awfully tired, so terribly tired, and Moses Todd is right – there are debts she owes to the perfect world and she feels like she has cheated them for too long already.”
Death is nothing I fear. Each and every one of us must end our journeys there. Some of us are less afraid of it than others. For Temple her journey has brought her to the brink of death many times in her fights for survival against the slugs. She bears them no ill will. After all, a world with meatskins is all she has ever known. Accepting the world as it is seems to be her strongest quality. Somehow there is beauty to be found in just about every circumstance Temple encounters, even in her encounter with the mutants.
When Temple is saved by the half humans/half slugs you would think she had stumbled upon a gang of “krokodil-junkies” (drug used in Russia that makes your outside and insides look grosse – Slate) taken to the extreme. One thing addicts have shown us is that if the buzz is considered strong enough by its user it will be taken no matter its side-effects. The effects of injecting zombie juice into a human body are devastating. But addicts will be addicts.
“Oh lord, Royal says, marching around the room in circles. I got a fire in me, Bodie. Right now? Right now I could fuck a hole in the world. I swear to God a’mighty I could fuck and new Grand Canyon all by myself.”
Like I said – a buzz one might want repeated.
Nothing in The Reapers are the Angels points toward a happy ending for Temple. But happy endings are illusions caused by a death put off for a while longer. Sometimes there is happiness to be found in the moment of death and that is all we can hope for for our beautiful little Sarah Mary Williams, AKA Temple.
Being the kind of person I am, I had to gather as much information as I could on Long Lankin when I reviewed the novel by the same name. Horror tales were popular in the good ol’ days as well as today.
Belinkin and the nurse are two extremely frightening people who “had it coming” when IT came.
Derelictis a proper little horror tale. Even I was able to figure this out. Berg managed to keep the creepiness going throughout the story by little tricks and cues. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that Derelict was going to have a horror ending, and it did. Cue applause.
While all the horror elements were present in this story about the three space sailors checking out the empty ship, Albert Berg trod the fine line between just enough (for me that is) and too much. I’m guessing my level of dealing with horror is at about the young adult level. Anything tougher than that and I’m frightened out of my knickers. This is one of the serious draw-backs of being a flow addict.
Derelict is about three sailors checking out the seemingly empty Persephone that has docked at their space station on Mars. I would not have liked to be in Warwick’s place as the truth slowly unfolds.
“Saving the world is Bob Howard’s job. There are a surprising number of meetings involved.” (The Atrocity Archives)
I have an admission to make. I do not believe I have ever read any Lovecraft but the Chtuluverse reaches far and wide and has many incarnations. Another admission. I am beginning to see that I do not understand what horror literature is. My placing it in this category relies solely upon what Charles Stross himself has said about his novellas.
The Atrocity Archive has to be a math/computer lover’s dream. It mixes real and imagined theories with abandon and we end up with things like “The Church-Turing Theorem”. Even I have heard of Alan Turing. The theorem itself is, of course, fantasy – or is it? Perhaps there really is an organization out there trying to protect us from reaching into the unknown and dragging out brain-eating monsters from parallel universes.
In the case of The Atrocity Archive this parallel universe is illustrated perfectly by Leighton Johns on Deviantart. As you can see, the worship of Adolph Hitler reached new heights over there. But the lovely monster who has taken over the Nazi-universe wants in to ours, and we really do not want that to happen. Unless you belong to the Order of Null.
As a first field assignment I have to say that Bob Howard has his work cut out for him. Although Angleton (boss-man) did not KNOW what kind of mess he was putting Bob into, he had to at least have an inkling of the extent of the problem. Exactly who or what Angleton is remains a mystery. I find myself curious enough about the man to want to get more of the Laundry series so I can find out more about him.
And that is just Angleton.
I have to say that Charles Stross has a wonderful way with the names of his characters. Scary Spice for one. I just about died when Scary was introduced. Then we have Bob’s flat-mates, Pinky and Brain. Pinky and Brain are uber-intelligent guys whose creative genius (and idiocy) are on par with Leonard of Quirm.
Perhaps this is the main reason I really like Charles Stross. His writing has the exact zing it needs to be both funny and painful. Stross excels at the astoundingly difficult art of satire and I love the way his intelligence radiates his writing dragging me along for the ride.
The Concrete Jungle is of the same quality. In these surveillance times it makes perfect sense to read about CCTV security cameras being taken over to wreak havoc in an area. All in the name of politics. Who cares if a a few people die along the way? You know, proper politics. Oh, the bite.
Once again, Bob Howard is called upon to save the day. Along the way he manages to show me my own “Laundry”. And so I conclude with the words of the master himself:
“The Laundry squats at the heart of a dark web, a collision between paranoia and secrecy on one hand, and the urge to knowledge on the other. Guardians of the dark secrets that threaten to drown us in nightmare, their lips sealed as tightly as their archives. To get even the vaguest outline of their activities takes a privileged takes a trickster-fool hacker like Bob, nosy enough to worm his way in where he isn’t supposed to be and smart enough to explain his way out of trouble. Some day Bob will grow up, fully understand the ghastly responsibilities that go with his job, shut the hell up, and stop digging. But until then, let us by all means use him as our unquiet guide to the corridors of the Fear Factory.” (The Atrocity Archives)
What should have been a brief, bloody battle wound up lasting for hours – partially due to the Robes’ fervor and zealotry in defending their cause and partially because of the Armoreds’ fervor and zealotry to their cause… but mostly because no one remembered to bring weapons that night.
It was a grisly scene of hand-to-hand combat. Since neither of these factions was all that skilled in personal, up-close, manual de-life-ing, the majority of the battle resembled high-school slap-fights. And it takes more than a little bit of time to slap someone to death.
These two paragraphs best describe why I enjoyed Some Summonings are Suspect. All 13 pages are pretty much this irreverent and silly. Not smiling was impossible and it feels really good to finish a story with a smile and a giggle. I love it when authors treat us humans as the silly creatures we are. Humans aren’t the only ones who are treated with humor. Mr. Somogyi‘s demons are a treat. I had a fun time with this short story.