No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.
Ron Ripley understands the importance of atmosphere in his story about Shane Ryan. Like most supernatural creatures, ghosts have been used for centuries by story tellers. Berkley Street is full of them.
Berkley Street is the first story in the 9-book Berkley Street series. Each novel brings its problem (haunted site) to completion while continuing the overarching story (Shane Ryan’s near-death experiences), leaving us without nasty cliffhangers. The last few pages of the e-book are “Bonus Chapters” that explain how one of the inhabitants of Berkley Street 125 became a ghost. Berkley Street jumps between the time before 1982 when Shane’s parents disappeared and after Shane moved back into 125. The novel can be read as a set of short-stories tied together by Shane’s present day search for his parents.
Shane Ryan is overcome when he sees the property his parents have bought.
“Wow,” Shane whispered. “Wow.”
Shane’s parents laughed happily, and he followed them up the front walk. His father took out the house key, unlocked the large door and opened it. Shane stepped into the biggest room he had ever seen.
A huge set of stairs stretched up into the darkness, and dim pieces of furniture filled what he realized was a hallway. Close to where Shane stood, a tall grandfather clock ticked away the time.
And behind the tick of the second hand, Shane heard whispers.
Someone whispered in the walls.
The house, itself, is strange. On the outside it was designed to look like a small castle. The inside does not know its own composition. Number and size of levels, rooms, doors and passages changes at the whim of the ghost mistress.
22 years after the disappearance of Shane Ryan’s parents, he returns as a veteran of the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In spite of the many battles he has seen, nothing frightens him as much as his own house. No matter how afraid he is of the house at Berkley Street 125, Shane has fought his aunt and uncle in court for the ownership of “His monstrous familial home.” The only reason he kept on fighting them for ownership was so he could return to search for his parents, who had disappeared inside the house.
“What are you saying, sir? Missing? On the road somewhere?”
“From your house,” the chaplain said in a gentle voice. “They’ve vanished.”
Fear is a marvellous emotion. It keeps us out of trouble. Well, unless we let fear rule our behaviour. The permanent residents of 125 taught Shane, the child and teenager, how to use his fear to help him. Most of the ghosts cannot stop projecting fear. Except for when the ghost mistress commands them, they are OK people. We get to know German Carl, Italian Roberto, “the ragman” and “the old man” who all died as adults. Eloise, Thaddeus and Vivienne died when they were young. We also meet the dark ones. All the ghosts play a role in the hunt for the whereabouts of Shane’s parents. Not only the dead have roles in the story of Berkley Street 125 and Shane Ryan. Ghosts, Shane’s mother and father, aunt and uncle, Detective Marie Lafontaine, Veteran Gerald Beck, and ex-resident Herman Mishal all reveal 125’s character. Shane’s main opponent is the ghost mistress, the one who holds the heart of the house. Her only wish is to add Shane to her collection of ghosts. Shane and the ghost mistress are both set on destroying the other. Their tactics are extremely different. Where the ghost mistress uses terror to control others, Shane tries a more diplomatic approach.
Ron Ripley’s story pressed the right buttons and frightened me. I did manage to finish it.
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.
Stories that have the sense of the macabre about them hold a special place in my heart. Death and coming to terms with unresolved issues adds to the flavour of the story. Steven J. York spins all of this into a delightful tale about a man, his foot and once-upon-a-time beloved Betty.
Ever since his loss Christmas has become a special experience for our narrator and we get to follow that experience 50 years down the road. I believe I have become a fan of Mr. York.
If you are into macabre humour, you have to read A Holiday Explained. You just have to read about how Santa gets the presents delivered and how the Easter Bunny became hollow. A Holiday Explained is a wonderfully funny and well-written short story – all of three pages long. Well done Mr. York.
Reading this to your kids should be no problem. Kids tend to like the gross and macabre – at least that is what my experience has taught me.
The Corpse King is our introduction to the trilogy Elegy. We are in a land of sorcery, swords and adventure with arbiters running around trying to keep some kind of order and clean manna (magic) whenever it sends out bad vibes. In The Corpse King we have a dark fantasy in the way of zombies, death-manna and insanity.
Apprentice D’Arden Tal and Master Havox Khaine are two of these manna-cleaners. If you take a look at Kellen’s website you will see that for some reason the world Eisengoth is the one sending off bad manna vibes. How do you fight a world? With a world gone insane you are bound to live in a dark place. In fact, I find that the cover reflects the mood of this world gone mad.
It might be a good thing if you like zombie books. This description illustrates why:
D’Arden caught a glimpse of the old man, wizened head perched atop a naked, colorless, emaciated form that was slowly shambling toward him. The belly was swollen to the bursting point, dragging entrails across the wooden floor. Maggots writhed everywhere, covering the body nearly from neck to foot as they feasted.
As you see, not something for the faint-hearted. Well written though. Nice and gory.
The Diablo Ouija is a Haward Mysteries short story. The Haward Mysteries are about the police officers Remy and Theo Haward at the Sorcerous Crimes Taskforce’s, Murder Squad. With a name like that for a task-force you can probably imagine that their investigations most probably involve something inexplicable. The title of the short story also makes it obvious we are dealing with the super-natural/para-normal.
I’m not saying the twins are insane, but a little unorthodoxy is the least of their qualities. They are on the look-out for an incredibly dangerous magical item: (drumroll) The Diablo Ouija. Three teenagers are already dead and Remy and Theo suspect they have not seen the last victims yet. When they turn to Theo’s old boss, retired DCI Swanson, for information about the old case, they discover something they had not previously known, something that will lead them into dangers untold.
Like most brothers, Theo and Remy are very different. In spite of their differences, they are willing to go to any length to make certain the other brother is safe. The Diablo Ouija tests their loyalty to each other. We get plenty of creep-factor but no tipping over into horror. An enjoyable tale.
Lamkin, Bold Lamkin, Bold Lantern, Bolakin, False Linfinn and Long Lankin are some of the titles belonging to the story of the mason who builds a castle, is cheated of his fee and who then exacts a bloody revenge (A.L. Lloyd). I have included below what is thought to be the original ballad along with one of the musical interpretations of the story.
Long Lankin is Lindsey Barraclough’s first novel. Whatever hiccups it might suffer from are compensated by Barraclough’s excellent prose. For a new author her flow was a delight.
Horror stories are not my forte simply because I am too easily frightened by authors stringing words together in that manner, but Long Lankin is within my endurance limit. Barraclough’s ability to convey the creepiness and uneasiness of the horror story did affect me in the manner the author probably intended.
During their stay at great-auntie Ida’s, Cora and Mimi encounter a mystery of terrible dimensions. As all children ought, Cora and Mimi venture into places they should not. Auntie Ida has not explained why they need to stay away from certain places, thinking to spare them from a terrible truth. Even though I promised myself that I would never do such a thing to my own children, I too have been guilty of doing underestimating them. Auntie Ida is going to discover what I did. Telling the truth is generally the wisest.
With their new friends, Peter and Roger, the four children set out to explore the church and the graveyard, and our horror story begins. Cora is the hero of this story. She is the one who is responsible for looking after her little sister. This is the age-old duty of older siblings. But keeping Mimi safe becomes increasingly difficult.
Cora and Mimi become embroiled in the history of the village, the history of the church and the history of their Auntie’s old house Guerdon Hall. Some places are the perfect settings for a horror tale. Old manors struggling to keep themselves together would qualify in my mind. Another such location can be old churches and graveyards, perhaps even forests and marshes. Long Lankin has three of these: Guerdon Hall, of course. The church close to the house and the nearby marsh.
Choices may have far-reaching consequences, sometimes centuries into the future. Everything has a cost. Payment must be made one way or another. Friendship, family, loss, grief can be some of the price extracted. Cora and Mimi coming to stay with Auntie Ida happens to be one of these long-term costs. I love the way Barraclough brings the old ballad into her story in tiny drips along the way. The Lay of Lambert Lanikin is frightening enough on its own. Add the terror of the future that Barraclough shares, and we can all huddle under our covers waiting for the wolf under our bed to jump onto it.
What a creepy good time I had!
Exactly what age group this falls into is difficult to say. According to the author, she did not have a particular age group in mind when she wrote Long Lankin.
Creepy! I think that’s the best description I can give of Apartment 16. I couldn’t read the whole thing because it was too creepy for an old lady. But if you enjoy horror, then this is the book for you.
The writing is excellent. Adam Nevill uses all of his writing tools with a gifted hand. It’s not often I get this creeped out by a novel, but this time the author won. You know the tight feeling you get in your chest when something is too freaky. Quite frankly, I was scared shitless.
Most likely it was Seth’s descent into madness and the experiences that brought him to that point that did me in. His experiences seem similar to the experiences that Apryl’s aunt Laura had when she slowly lost her grip on reality. Or perhaps it could be said that both Laura and Seth got to know a new kind of reality. Apryl’s experience with Apartment 16 at the very end of the book shows us that what went on with Apartment 16 was very real indeed.
Apryl has inherited an apartment in London. In her apartment block there is an apartment that is a bit off. But opening the door to that apartment would be unwise in the extreme. You see, this apartment is haunted, and it’s out to get you. If it catches you – well you know how it goes. You’d better not be caught and that leaves Apryl in a tighter and tighter spot as the novel progresses.