Category Archives: Horror

Stross, Charles: The Atrocity Archives (Laundry Files I)

Cover art by Steve Montiglio
Cover art by Steve Montiglio

The Atrocity Archives consists of two stories: The Atrocity Archive and The Concrete Jungle.

“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.

Artwork by Leighton Johns
Artwork by Leighton Johns

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)


Reviews:


  • ISBN: 9780441013654
  • Author: Stross, Charles
  • Publisher: Ace Books
  • Introduction by: MacLeod, Hen
  • Copyright: 2004
  • Series: A Laundry Files Novel
  • Publication Date: 2006 01 31
  • Language: English
  • Pages: 368

2005: The Concrete Jungle won the Hugo award for novella of the year


Just for fun: Check out Mathematical Fiction: The Atrocity Files

Somogyi, Jeffrey M.: Some Summonings Are Suspect (2011)

Some Summonings are Suspect

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.


Reviews:



First published as “An Indifferent End” in Cthulhu Sex Magazine Volume 2, Issue 22, 2005

York, Steven J.: One Foot in the Grave (2010)

One Fott in The Grave
Cover art by Steven J. York

One Foot in the Grave is a wonderful little (5 pages) tale about loss.

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.

—————————————

Reviews:


  • File Size: 125 KB
  • Print Length: 5 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Tsunami Ridge Publishing (March 20, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004T4WTSE

York, J. Steven: A Holiday Explained (2011)

A Holiday Explained
Cover art by Steven J. 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.


Reviews:


  • Print Length: 3 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Tsunami Ridge Publishing (March 20, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004T4LHD2

Kellen, Christopher: The Corpse King (Elegy) (2011)

The Corpse King
Cover art by Zoe Cannon and Christopher Kellen

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.

Have fun. I did.


Reviews:


Duncan, Sophie: The Diablo Ouija (Haward Mysteries) (2011)

Cover art by Natasha Duncan-Drake

Sophie Duncan is the author for The Diablo Ouija. For the time being, you can get the short story for free.

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.

Barraclough, Lindsey: Long Lankin (2011)

Long Lankin - Lindsey Barraclough

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.


Reviews:


Long Lamkin, 2008; By Wong Mei Sheong;
Long Lamkin, 2008;
By Wong Mei Sheong;
Thought to be the original version
Belinkin was as gude a mason
As e’er pickt a stane;
He built up Prime Castle,
But payment gat nane.
The lord said to his lady,
5 When he was going abroad,
“O beware of Belinkin,
For he lyes in the wood.”
The gates they were bolted,
Baith outside and in;
10 At the sma’ peep of a window
Belinkin crap in.
“Gude morrow, gude morrow,”
Said Lambert Linkin.
“Gude morrow to yoursell, sir,”
15 Said the fause nurse to him.
“O whare is your gude lord?”
Said Lambert Linkin.
“He’s awa to New England,
To meet with his king.”
20 “O where is his auld son?
Said Lambert Linkin.
“He’s awa to buy pearlings,
Gin our lady ly in.”
“Then she’ll never wear them,”
25 Said Lambert Linkin.
“And that is nae pity,”
Said the fause nurse to him.
“O where is your lady?”
Said Lambert Linkin.
30 “She’s in her bouir sleepin’,”
Said the fause nurse to him.
“How can we get at her?”
Said Lambert Linkin.
“Stab the babe to the heart
35 Wi’ a silver bo’kin.”
“That wud be a pity,”
Said Lambert Linkin.
“Nae pity, nae pity,”
Said the fause nurse to him.
40 Belinkin he rocked,
And the fause nurse she sang,
Till a’ the tores o’ the cradle
Wi’ the red blude down ran.
“O still my babe, nurice,
45 O still him wi’ the knife.”
“He’ll no be still, lady,
Tho’ I lay down my life.”
“O still my babe, nurice,
O still him wi’ the kame.”
50 “He’ll no be still, lady,
Till his daddy come hame.”
“O still my babe, nurice,
O still him wi’ the bell.”
“He’ll no be still, lady,
55 Till ye come down yoursell.”
“It’s how can I come doun,
This cauld frosty nicht,
Without e’er a coal
Or a clear candle licht?”
60 “There’s twa smocks in your coffer,
As white as a swan;
Put ane o’ them about you,
It will shew you licht doun.”
She took ane o’ them about her,
65 And came tripping doun;
But as soon as she viewed,
Belinkin was in.
“Gude morrow, gude morrow,”
Said Lambert Linkin.
70 “Gude morrow to yoursell, sir,”
Said the lady to him.
“O save my life, Belinkin,
Till my husband come back,
And I’ll gie ye as much red gold
75 As ye’ll haud in your hat.”
“I’ll not save your life, lady,
Till your husband come back,
Tho’ you wud gie me as much red gold
As I could haud in a sack.
80 “Will I kill her?” quo’ Belinkin,
“Will I kill her, or let her be?”
“You may kill her,” said the fause nurse,
“She was ne’er gude to me;
And ye’ll be laird o’ the Castle,
85 And I’ll be ladye.”
Then he cut aff her head
Fra her lily breast bane,
And he hung ‘t up in the kitchen,
It made a’ the ha’ shine.
90 The lord sat in England A-drinking the wine:
“I wish a’ may be weel
Wi’ my lady at hame;
For the rings o’ my fingers
95 They’re now burst in twain!”
He saddled his horse,
And he came riding doun;
But as soon as he viewed,
Belinkin was in.
100 He hadna weel stepped
Twa steps up the stair,
Till he saw his pretty young son
Lying dead on the floor.
He hadna weel stepped
105 Other twa up the stair,
Till he saw his pretty lady
Lying dead in despair.
He hanged Belinkin
Out over the gate;
110 And he burnt the fause nurice,
Being under the grate.

Tores. The projections or knobs at the corners of old-fashioned cradles, and the ornamented balls commonly found surmounting the backs of old chairs. Motherwell.


 

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