The Keeper by Sarah Langan
Bedford, Maine, is a town with one industry: the paper mill. It’s been poisoning the water and air for generations, and workers have all sorts of physical complaints from breathing sulfur and other toxic fumes, but if anyone thought about it, they’d know that the recent closing of the mill probably dooms their town.
But no one’s thinking about the mill and the town’s economy. Instead, they’re all focused on Susan Marley. She’s a silent, beautiful woman in her mid-20’s who lives in squalor, turning a trick now and then to stay supplied with Campbell’s tomato soup, which she eats straight out of the can. She appears nightly in just about everyone’s nightmares, making her a sort of literary ghost of Dickens’s Jacob Marley.
One of the people most haunted by Susan is her sister, Liz. Liz is in high school, and is planning to put Bedford behind her as soon as possible and nev... Read More
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.
The Keeper by Sarah Langan
Needful Things by Stephen King
For the most part, being sheriff of Castle Rock, Maine is a peaceful job — that’s what Sheriff Alan Pangborn tells himself on difficult days. And for the most part, Alan’s right. Castle Rock is indeed a peaceful little town. Sure, there are frictions. The Catholics are planning to have a Casino Nite, which angers the Baptists. Wilma Jerzyck thinks she knows best, and she isn’t afraid to bully anyone in the town until they accept her way. And everyone knows that Buster Keeton abuses his authority as the town’s selectman. Still, one day in Castle Rock mostly leads into the next without incident.
So everyone’s abuzz when a new shop, Needful Things, opens. Needful Things is an unusual shop: it’s run by an urbane newcomer, Leland Gaunt; there are no prices on any of his stock; and although no one knows precisely what Needful Things sells, the townspeople will soon learn that Gaunt has someth... Read More
Equoid by Charles Stross
Equoid is a novella set in Charles Stross’ LAUNDRY FILES world. It isn’t necessary to have read any of the LAUNDRY FILES novels, but you’d probably get a little more out of Equoid if you first read at least the first two novels, The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue. This story takes place after the events of the fourth novel, The Apocalypse Codex, and before the events of the fifth novel, The Rhesus Chart.
Bob Howard is a computational demonologist who works for the Laundry, the secret British agency that helps keeps the world safe from the eldritch horrors that lurk in another dimension. When curious mathematicians and physicist... Read More
Karen Munro opens the February issue of Nightmare Magazine with “The Garden,” a Weird story of Darlene, an Australian immigrant to South Korea, and Sook Joo, her Korean lover. Darlene is supposed to be teaching English, but she spends most of her time with Sook-Joo, watching her get high or bargain with her drug dealer. Sook-Joo loves drugs, just about anything she can get. One night Sook-Joo offers Darlene a handful of mushrooms, but Darlene refuses to indulge much, taking only one small brown chip; Sook-Joo swallows down the rest in one gulp. Even the small amount Darlene takes makes her gruesomely sick to her stomach, but not before she sees tiny golden filaments falling to the earth all around her. Sook-Joo disappears under the Wonhyo Bridge while Darlene retches, and they don’t meet up again until the next day. It’s immediately apparent that Sook-Joo’s experience with the ‘shrooms has been much different from Darlene’s. Thos... Read More
The Three by Sarah Lotz
Sarah Lotz’s The Three is a stand-alone horror novel which should, by all rights, have a terrifying plot: Four high-capacity passenger jets crash on the same day, with no warning or clues as to the cause. After three of the crashes, a single child is found alive among the wreckage: one Japanese, one American, and one Briton. Global media coverage focuses on these three children (and the possibility of a fourth in Africa), creating a maelstrom of controversy over what may have happened and whether these children are symbols of hope or something far more sinister. Complicating the issue is the last known communication from an American woman, a voicemail which is appropriated by her pastor for self-aggrandizing purposes.
These events are bookended by a framing device: A journalist, Elspeth Martins, has taken it upon herself to better understand the plane crashes and the effect they ... Read More
A Shrill Keening by Ronald Malfi
A Shrill Keening opens with a first person narrator telling us about the books in his hospital room, and expanding from there to tell us about the hospital’s library and librarian. It is only when he notes that the list of requested books he hands to the librarian is written in crayon that the reader realizes the nature of the hospital: it is a mental institution. But the reader must also wonder: why is a mental institution catering to a patient’s request for books by and about H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe?
The nature of the narrator’s malady becomes evident when he states that he does not know which part of his life is real and which part he is dreaming. His therapist attempts — poorly — to convince him that his particular form of solipsism, in which he imagines that the therapist blinks out of existence as soon as they part; but the narrator conti... Read More
Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
When I read Terry Weyna’s review of Broken Monsters last year, I knew I had to get this book. Lauren Beukes’s earlier horror novel, The Shining Girls, was compelling and original, and Broken Monsters does not disappoint. More than a terrifying horror novel, it’s a study of ... Read More
The Broken Road by T. Frohock
“T. Frohock” is Teresa Frohock, the author of the well-regarded fantasy debut Miserere: An Autumn Tale. The Broken Road is a novella that belongs to the “grimdark” genre: it is dark and gritty and there is no happily ever after. Frohock herself calls it “gothic horror,” and that description works, too. It’s good.
Travys du Valois is the younger of Queen Heloise’s twin sons. He is mute, and therefore unable to work the magic inherent in the nobles of his land except by using the voice of another or the sounds surrounding him. His... Read More
Under the Dome by Stephen King
Stephen King’s Under the Dome is long. I mean, long. The manuscript weighs in at 8.6 kg and Time magazine quoted King himself saying he’d be “killing a lot of trees” with his next novel. But when you read the book’s premise, and begin to understand what King had set out to do, it begins to make sense…
Under the Dome opens in Chester’s Mill, a small Maine town which is suddenly and inexplicably cut off from the rest of the world by a dome. It’s kind of like a humongous semi-permeable upside-down petri dish, which is fitting, because Under the Dome plays out like a kind of human experiment: what happens when a small town of people is completely cut off from the rest of society and left to their own devices?
This is where the length comes in. King follows the stories of various... Read More
Jacaranda by Cherie Priest
Jacaranda is a horror novella set in Cheris Priest’s CLOCKWORK CENTURY universe. This story, set after the end of the USA’s long civil war, is a shivery tale that focuses on supernatural evil rather than the sap-infected zombies of the series.
Priest brings three characters to the Texan island of Galveston, to investigate a long string of strange deaths at the cursed Jacaranda Hotel. Horatio Korman is a Texas Ranger, a smart, clever investigator. Father Juan Quinteros Rios is a Catholic priest with a dark past and a supernatural gift. Sister Eileen Callahan, who has sent for the other two, has experience with the supernatural, and a secret of her own. Father Rios and Korman arrive via ferry just before a savage hurricane isolates the island and traps the three, along with several other guests, in the strange hotel.
Readers who are familiar wit... Read More
Dark Screams: Volume One edited by Brian Freeman and Richard T. Chizmar
Dark Screams: Volume One is the first of at least four volumes of short horror anthologies that are projected for publication through August 2015. The books are being published as ebooks only through Random House’s digital-only genre imprint, Hydra, for a bargain price of $2.99.
Volume One starts out with one of the most popular horror writers ever: Stephen King. “Weeds” was originally published in Cavalier, a “men’s magazine,” in 1976, and has never been reprinted until now — though it did become a part of the movie “Creepshow,” with King himself playing the role of Jordy Verrill. Jordy is the protagonist of “Weeds,” a not particularly intelligent man who farms a spread situated ... Read More
The Necromancer’s House by Christopher Buehlman
The Necromancer's House, by Christopher Buehlman, is a scary, funny, fast-paced urban fantasy novel with a rich voice and likeable characters. With its multiple viewpoints and several satisfying reveals along the way, it is one of the most well-crafted and exciting books I have read in a while.
Buehlman tells the story of Andrew Blankenship, a charming, brilliant modern wizard who drives an antique Mustang, wears his long black hair in a samurai bun, and goes to AA meetings regularly. He lives in the woods of upstate New York, in a house stocked and protected with ancient magic, much of it stolen from Baba Yaga in Soviet Russia. He's in love with his lesbian apprentice, sleeps with a rusalka (a mermaid in Slavic myth), and is served and protected by the reanimated heart of his dead dog in the body of a wicker man. To put it simply, his life is not without ... Read More
I wouldn’t normally review a magazine from last month, but the October issue of Nightmare Magazine is something special, and it’s still available. In this issue, Women Destroy Horror! Issue 25 is devoted to horror written by women, the result of a Kickstarter originally intended to help women destroy science fiction (in the June 2014 issue of Lightspeed Magazine) that met its stretch goals. (Full disclosure: I contributed to the Kickstarter.)
The guest fiction editor of this issue is Ellen Datlow, who is the foremost horror editor working today, of any gender. She picked a lot of great stories for this special issue. Her editorial reminds us that women not only once dominated horror, but actually invented it. Ghost stories and gothic tales were written by women for decades before Read More
The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
Melanie is ten years old, with skin as white as snow, just like in the fairy tale. But she doesn’t live in a tower; she lives in a cell, and is taken from there through the corridor to the classroom, and the shower room, where she is fed grubs once a week before a chemical spray falls from the ceiling. She knows that the place she lives in is called the block, and that the block is on the base, which is called Hotel Echo. They’re close to London and part of Region 6, which is mostly clear because the burn patrols kill the hungries. Her favorite teacher is Miss Justineau, who makes school days interesting and full of fun.
We quickly learn that the hungries are zombies — and at that point, I groaned; not another zombie novel! Haven’t we worn out this meme yet? But M.R. Carey has s... Read More
The Haunting of Toby Jugg by Dennis Wheatley
Although English author Dennis Wheatley wrote a total of 55 novels before his death in 1977, his reputation today, I have a feeling, rests largely on the nine novels that he wrote dealing with the supernatural and the “black arts.” And if Wheatley’s name is not a familiar one to you, it is really no great wonder, as not too many of those 55 titles – mainly in the adventure/thriller genre – are in print today, and it would surprise me if you could walk into your local Barnes & Noble and purchase one. And yet, here’s a cautionary notice to all hugely popular modern-day authors, who may think their fame is of a permanent nature (are you listening, Stephen King?): For many decades, Wheatley was one of Britain’s biggest-selling authors (second only to Agatha Christie), who dependably sold 50 million books a year,... Read More