Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons
Carrion Comfort is one of Dan Simmons’s earlier works, first published in 1989. It is about psychic vampires who feed off of other people, manipulating their thoughts and thereby controlling their actions.
The notion of a psychic vampire is what made me want to read this book — it’s an idea far too interesting to pass up. Simmons’s vampires are unique, and they do live up to the hype in some ways. Ultimately, though, they often tiptoed right up to being absurd and ridiculous. The lack of believability at certain parts of the book diminshed my enjoyment of the novel. If there had been fewer completely unbelievable scenes — unbelievable even in the context of horror fiction — Carrion Comfort would be far more haunting than it is.
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Horrible MondayMondays are horrible, aren’t they? Perhaps you’ll feel a little better about your own circumstances if you start your week with a horror story.
Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons
Carpathian Castle by Jules Verne
When 35-year-old Jules Verne managed to sell what would become his first published novel, Five Weeks in a Balloon, to the already long-established literary publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel, in 1863, little could the two Frenchmen know that this was just the beginning of a decades-long association. Hetzel was already a well-known Parisian figure, having previously released works by such luminaries as Victor Hugo, Emile Zola and Honore de Balzac. Verne, the future “Father of Science Fiction,” was an unknown commodity in 1863; a lawyer who found his true calling as a writer of adventure tales (just as this reader’s personal favorite author, Englishman H. Rider Haggard, would do 20 years later). Five Weeks in a Balloon Read More
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
I’ve avoided some of Stephen King’s more recent works, like Cell and Under the Dome, because they didn’t look like they would be my thing. Doctor Sleep was a different matter. I didn’t think it was perfect, but it had a lot of the things I look for in a King novel.
In 1977, King published The Shining, a book about an evil hotel in Colorado, and the family it victimized during a hard winter. The father in that family died in the hotel – or, one might say, with the hotel. His wife and son, Danny, escaped alive, in part because of Danny’s gift, or “shining.”
Danny is grown up now, trying to make his way in the world. His gift or “shine” is nearly dormant. It stil... Read More
Cold Turkey by Carole Johnstone
I’ve always been grateful that I never started smoking. I’m the kind of person who would be smoking a good three packs per day if I had, and I’d probably already be at death’s door, having been unable to quit. It would be easier to climb Mount Everest.
Carole Johnstone gives us a lesson in just how hard it is to give up the coffin nails in her novella, Cold Turkey. Raym has just done so for the umpteenth time, and it’s turning into the third-worst day of his life, precedence being given only to the days his parents died. Raym doesn’t understand why he continues to smoke, despite the fact that his parents died gruesome deaths because of their own smoking habits; but now he’s giving up cold turkey. No, really. None of the other teachers at his elementary school really believe he’ll do it. And he suffers mightily that evening as he sits in fr... Read More
The End of the Sentence by Maria Dahvana Headley and Kat Howard
Malcolm Mays is very close to the end of his rope. After the collapse of his terrible marriage, after a horrific tragedy, he has spent close to his last dollars on a house in rural Ione, Oregon. His first sight of the house confirms that there’s plenty of work to be done, but also that there’s something good to work with. When he opens the front door to his new home for the first time, he finds a huge pile of mail written to the dead owner of the house from an inmate at the federal prison two hundred miles away in Salem. As he explores the house, he receives a letter from the prison himself, delivered, apparently, without the need for a postal worker or any other human agent. The letter is from Dusha Chuchonnyhoof, who tells him that there will be a plate set out for him in the icebox, and flowers beside the bed. It is too long, Dusha says, since he was in that house; he’s bee... Read More
The New Gothic edited by Beth K. Lewis
The New Gothic, an anthology of twelve stories, is edited by Beth K. Lewis and published by Stone Skin Press. It’s a good collection, worth reading.
Gothic horror usually counts on a mounting sense of dread and/or disgust to carry the reader, rather than shock or terror. The fear comes on more slowly, with that faint tickle at the back of your neck, and at its best, a gothic tale creates a sense of otherworldliness, where the characters, and the readers, begin to doubt their own senses. A gothic tale is more likely to rely on a dilapidated house or a dark stretch of forest than gore, dismemberment or mayhem to pack its emotional punch.
The word “New” in the title is a bit of false advertising. None of these stories moves too far from the familiar conventions of the sub-genre. On one hand, it would be difficult to write a... Read More
Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
South African writer Lauren Beukes had a hit with last year’s The Shining Girls, the story of a serial killer who could travel through time. Readers of both time travel novels and serial killer thrillers loved the way Beukes melded the two genres. Beukes has again given us a genre-bender with Broken Monsters. Both a horror novel and a police procedural, Broken Monsters is even better than The Shining Girls.
Broken Monsters is set in Detroit — today’s Detroit, bankrupt yet defiant, down on its luck but searching luck out wherever it can be found. The arts community seems to be especially thriving in this down-at-the-heels city, and it is a desire to make art that is the foundation of all the problems that are visited upon the victims of an especially perverse serial killer. The first body fo... Read More
The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley
When I first saw the 1968 horror film "The Devil Rides Out" several years back at one of NYC's numerous revival theatres, I thought it was one of the best Hammer films that I'd ever seen, and made a mental note to check out Dennis Wheatley's 1934 source novel one day. That resolve was further strengthened when I read a very laudatory article by Stephen Volk on the book in Kim Newman and Stephen Jones' excellent overview volume Horror: Another 100 Best Books. Now that I have finally read what is generally deemed Wheatley's most successful and popular novel, I can see the Hammer film for what it is: a watered-down adaptation that can't hold a Black Mass candle to its superb original. The great R... Read More
The Day the Dead Came to Show and Tell by Mira Grant
Mira Grant created a fascinating world in her NEWSFLESH, is a masterful piece of hard science fiction, combining medical detail with political intrigue with intricate worldbuilding. Her characters were so real that the end of the first book in the trilogy, Feed, reduced me to tears.
Since completing the trilogy, Grant continues to write about the world she created. With the novella The Day the Dead Came to Show and Tell, she may finally have returned to the well once too often. It’s a solid story, detailing the day-to-day issues presented to schools when blood becomes a deadly substance. Grant skillfully builds suspense for those less familiar with her world as she tells of the consequences of one 6-year-old child’s tiny lie about skinning his hand at recess. But ultimately, she has so comp... Read More
The Collected Ghost Stories of E.F. Benson by E.F. Benson
I had read E.F. Benson's The Horror Horn to start with (a collection of 13 of his best ghost stories), after seeing that it was considered one of the Top 100 Horror Books of all time in Newman & Jones' excellent overview volume. Each of those 13 stories was so good that I just had to have more, and so picked up this collection — The Collected Ghost Stories of E.F. Benson — of every single one of Benson's spooky tales, 54 in all. This collection certainly did not disappoint; I loved every single one of these ghost stories, and was riveted ... Read More
The August issue of Nightmare Magazine is exceptionally good, and given the generally outstanding nature of this publication, that’s saying something. All four of the stories this month are excellent by any standard.
The magazine opens with “Dear Owner of This 1972 Ford Crew Cab Pickup” by Desirina Boskovich. It’s a letter from a woman with terrible insomnia to a man who wakes her every morning at about 3:00 a.m. by revving — and revving, and revving — the engine of the titular vehicle before heading home from a night at a local tavern, where he tends bar. The woman has written to the man at least three times before, asking for his consideration, explaining that she is exhausted from tending to her hospitalized mother as well as teaching as an adjunc... Read More
The Compleat Werewolf by Anthony Boucher
The Compleat Werewolf and Other Stories of Fantasy and Science Fiction gathers together 10 short stories and novellas from the pen of Anthony Boucher, all of which originally appeared in various pulp magazines (such as Unknown Worlds, Adventure Magazine, Astounding Science Fiction, Weird Tales and Thrilling Wonder Stories) from 1941-'45. Boucher, whose real name was William Anthony Parker White, was a man of many talents, and during his career, which lasted from the early '40s to the late '50s, he worked as a magazine editor, a book reviewer (for The New York Times and New York Herald Tribune) and an author of science fiction, horror and mystery.
I initially learned of this Compleat Werewolf collection of 196... Read More
We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory
Imagine that, like the hapless characters in movies like The Hills Have Eyes and Wrong Turn, you and a group of friends were captured by cannibals. You were kept alive while choice cuts of you were “harvested”, and you alone survived. Imagine that you were the victim of a sadistic abductor who flayed the flesh of your arms and legs and carved images onto your bones. Imagine that you alone survived the rising of the Elder Gods in your home town. What would you do? Who would you talk to? Would you even be sane? That’s the premise of We Are All Completely Fine, a novella by Daryl Gregory, published by Tachyon Press.
Dr. Jan Sayer has drawn together a talk-therapy group made up of sole survivors of supernatural attacks. On the surface it seems as if the doctor has just hit on... Read More
Shakespeare in Hell by Amy Sterling Casil
Shakespeare in Hell is an intriguing title. Think of all it can conjure up - allusions to Milton and Dante, who both had more luck finding stories in the darker realms of the afterlife, and with the villains of their pieces, than with an antiseptic realm of winged creatures playing harps, come to mind; one can imagine Shakespeare choosing Hell as a better stage for his plays and poetry. Or perhaps Shakespeare sinned with his Dark Lady, landing him in eternal flame. Or — well, the possibilities seem endless.
But Amy Sterling Casil has not taken full advantage of the myriad plotlines available to her. We are given no moral structure for this Hell, and no hint of a Deity meting out punishments and rewards. We never do learn precisely why Shakespeare is in Hell, though it does appear to have something to do with the Dark Lady, who is here given the... Read More
The Chosen Seed by Sarah Pinborough
Note: This review contains spoilers for the first two books in the FORGOTTEN GODS trilogy. The review of the first of the books in the trilogy, A Matter of Blood, is here; the review of the second, The Shadow of the Soul, is here.
The first two books of Sarah Pinborough’s ... Read More