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 obviously understands the importance of atmosphere in his story about Shane Ryan. Like most supernatural creatures, ghosts have been tools story tellers have used for centuries. Berkley Street is full of them.
Berkley Street is the first story in the 9-book Berkley Street series. Each book has a satisfactory ending. No cliffhangers. It is about 170 pages long. The last few pages are “Bonus Chapters” that explain how one of the inhabitants of the house became a ghost. Berkley Street begins in 1982 and switches between Shane’s life until his parents disappeared and Shane’s life from the time he moved back into Berkley Street 125. The novel is told 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 one of the ghost mistress.
Shane Ryan is a veteran of the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has been in the middle of plenty of fighting. Yet, nothing frightens him as much as his own house. No matter how scared he is of Berkley Street, Shane has fought his aunt and uncle in court for the ownership of “His monstrous familial home.” The only reason he kept on fighting to return was so he could find his parents, who had been taken by the house 22 years previously.
“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 emanating 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. They and his 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 being the victor of their war. Their tactics are extremely different. Where the ghost mistress uses terror to control others, Shane tries a more diplomatic approach.
Ron Ripley managed to scare me. Definitely recommended.
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.