Weird Tales: The Magazine that Never Dies edited by Marvin Kaye
Marvin Kaye's Weird Tales: The Magazine That Never Dies anthology from 1988 takes a slightly different tack than its earlier sister volume, Weird Tales: 32 Unearthed Terrors. Whereas the editors of that earlier collection chose to select one story from each year of the magazine's celebrated 32-year run (1923-1954), Kaye has decided here to not just limit himself to the periodical's classic era of 279 issues, but to also include tales from each of the four latter-day incarnations of "The Unique Magazine" (from 1973-87). The result is 45 pieces of generally superb speculative fantasy and horror, including six "Weird Tales Reprints" by such luminaries as Dickens, Poe, Flaubert and Stoker, as well as Otis Adelbert Kline's "Why Weird Tales?," an article that clearly delineated the magazine's goals and intentions in its first anniversary issue, the one dated May/June/July... Read More
Weird Tales: The Magazine that Never Dies edited by Marvin Kaye
Day Men by Matt Gagnon and Michael Alan Nelson (writers) and Brian Stelfreeze (art)
This past year I’ve been trying out a wide variety of new series by buying a ton of #1 issues. I’ve got a good sense of the Big Two (DC and Marvel), so most of these #1s have been from other publishers, often written and drawn by people I’ve never heard of. If the art looks interesting and the plot even slightly worth checking out, I’ve done so. And I have to say that about 75% of the time, I don’t want to buy issue #2. But I’ve found a few series that are amazing. Perhaps the one that has surprised me the most is Day Men. It’s by writers and artists I know nothing about, and it’s from a publisher — Boom! Studios — that I don’t know much about. It’s also about vampires, and I’m sick of vampires. There are too many books, comics, movies and TV shows in the genre (and I live in the small town where they film most of Vampire Diaries... Read More
And the Darkness Falls edited by Boris Karloff
In 1943, Boris Karloff was induced by his old friend Edmund Speare, an English professor and book editor, to assist in putting together an anthology of horror stories; as Speare put it, "a collection of bogey stories selected by a professional bogey man." The resulting volume, Tales of Terror, consisted of a six-page introduction by Karloff and 14 stories, ran to 317 pages, and was a popular release with the public. On the strength of that book's sales, the two tried their luck again with an even more ambitious project. The result was 1946's And the Darkness Falls, a whopping volume running to 631 pages and containing 59 short stories, each with an introduction from Karloff, in addition to 10 short, eerie poems scattered throughout. An impressively wide-ranging survey of the horror story, this staggeringly generous volume presents tales from as far back as the 8th century A.D.... Read More
Lone Wolf and Cub Omnibus Volume One by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima
Dark Horse has just started reissuing one of the best manga collections of all-time: Lone Wolf and Cub. If you are interested in Japanese art and culture, this volume is one you want to order immediately! Even if you aren’t interest in the historical role of the Samurai warrior in Japan, you’ll want this book for the beautiful black and white artwork.
In the U.S., we’ve been inundated with manga aimed primarily at teenagers, so we’ve gotten a warped view of what is actually available in Japan. Lone Wolf and Cub is a wonderful reminder that in Japan, manga is written for all audiences. Lone Wolf and Cub, however, is not just an example of what manga for adults looks like, but also representative of what the greatest manga can do w... Read More
Born With the Dead: Three Novellas About the Spirit of Man by Robert Silverberg
Born With the Dead gathers together three of Robert Silverberg's mid-career science fiction novellas into one remarkably fine collection. With a length greater than a short story or novelette but shorter than a full-length novel, these three tales clock in at around 55 to 70 pages each, and all display the intelligence, word craft and abundance of detail common to all of Silverberg's work in the late '60s to mid-'70s. Although subtitled "Three Novellas About the Spirit of Man" on its original 1974 release, the collection features a trio of tales that, strive as I might, I cannot find a common denominator among. Two of the stories concern how mankind deals with the subject of death, while the third has man's relation to religion and God as its central theme. OK, I HAVE thought of some commonalities among all three: They are all wonderful exemplars of modern-day sci... Read More
The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson
William Hope Hodgson's epic novel The Night Land was chosen for inclusion in James Cawthorn and Michael Moorcock's Fantasy: The 100 Best Books, and yet in this overview volume's sister collection, Horror: 100 Best Books, Stephen Jones and Kim Newman surprisingly declare the novel to be "unreadable." No less a critic than Read More
The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
In 1966, Isaac Asimov’s first three FOUNDATION novels won a one-time Hugo Award as the “Best All Time Series” for science fiction. While I still think the award was a reasonable (albeit highly subjective) one for the time, I’m becoming more and more convinced that Asimov’s three “Robot/Mystery” novels starring Earthly detective Elijah Bailey and his partner R. Daneel Olivaw (the “R.” stands for Robot, naturally) are better books, and quite possibly would have been a better choice for the award. Having just re-read his original FOUNDATION trilogy, I think I’m in a good position to compare it to the ROBOT novels.
The Caves of Steel is the first book in the ROBOT series. The setting is a densely populated Earth, a few millennia in the future. Our home planet has become a backwater, looked down upon by the rest of the human galaxy, and humanity... Read More
Madame Xanadu (Vol 1): Disenchanted by Matt Wagner (author) and Amy Reeder Hadley (artist)
A few months back, we had a discussion here at Fanlit about Tarot cards and literature. We tried to come up with a list of books in which the use of Tarot cards was prominent. Well, I’ve got another book to add to that list: Madame Xanadu: Disenchanted by Matt Wagner.
Madame Xanadu is a DC character who is one of DC’s magical and mystical figures, along with such characters as Zatara, Zatanna, The Spectre, The Phantom Stranger, John Constantine, The Demon, Sandman, Death (from Sandman) and others. You don’t need to be familiar with any of these characters to read Madame Xanadu: Disenchanted. In fact, this volu... Read More
Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg
At one point in William Hjortsberg's masterful horror novel, Falling Angel, Epiphany Proudfoot, a 17-year-old voodoo priestess, tells the detective hero Harry Angel, "you sure know a lot about the city." The city in question is the New York of 1959, and if Angel knows a lot about this crazy burg, then Hjortsberg, in the course of this tale, demonstrates that he knows even more.
While much has been said of this book's scary elements — its voodoo ceremonies and Black Mass meeting and horrible murders — what impressed me most about this tale is the incredible attention to realistic detail that the author invests it with. I don't know if the author grew up in this town in the '50s or just did a remarkable research job, but the reader really does get the impression that this book (which came out in 1978) was written a few decades earlier. Roosevelt Island is called Welfare Island, quite ... Read More
The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson
William Hope Hodgson's first published novel, The Boats of the Glen Carrig (1907), is a tale of survival after a foundering at sea, replete with carnivorous trees, crab monsters, bipedal slugmen and giant octopi. In his now-classic second novel, The House on the Borderland, which was released the following year, Hodgson, remarkably, upped the ante, and the result is one of the first instances of "cosmic horror" in literature, and a stunning amalgam of science fiction and macabre fantasy. An inspiration for no less a practitioner than H.P. Lovecraft, the book really is a parcel of malign wonders. Once read, it will not be easily forgotten. I myself read the book for the first time some 20-odd years ago, an... Read More
Mystery Society by Steve Niles (writer) and Fiona Staples (artist)
If you are looking for a light, funny read with beautiful art, you should check out Mystery Society by Steve Niles and Fiona Staples. The basic story sounds like it should be written seriously, but Niles turns to wit instead. The Mystery Society is a renegade group devoted to debunking myths (or verifying them), revealing military secrets, and exposing the lies of reporters (who have themselves been lied to, as one character points out). What’s amusing? The team includes not just psychic twin sisters with a mysterious secret and a woman bit by a ghoul who calls herself “Secret Skull,” but also the brain of Jules Verne housed in a robot body (with — I kid you not — a “butt jet”).
The relationship between the two main characters is what makes this book wor... Read More
Rising Stars: Compendium (Part One) by J. Michael Straczynski
Having just finished Straczynski's Rising Stars, I now have a new comic book to add to my list of favorites. JMS, as he's known, is the creator of Babylon 5, and he applies his grand world-building skills to this superhero comic. As Neil Gaiman writes in the introduction to Rising Stars, with Babylon 5, JMS did what should have been "impossible," but with Rising Stars he merely did what was "very unlikely." JMS is also the author of The Book of Lost Souls and Read More
Wild Fell by Michael Rowe
Wild Fell begins in the small town of Alvina, Ontario, in 1960, when Sean Schwartz asks his high school sweetheart, Brenda Egan, if she believes in ghosts. Whether he’s trying to scare her into cuddling closer, looking for some excitement to end the summer before school begins again, or is entirely sincere in his question, his question is a prelude to asking Brenda if she’ll cross a mile of Devil’s Lake to Blackmore Island to explore the remains of a mansion called Wild Fell. It takes some persuading, but Brenda reluctantly agrees, only to change her mind when they’re halfway there, suddenly frightened. Sean is disappointed, maybe angry, but the evening is saved by an illicit bottle of wine and a bonfire. But Wild Fell isn’t done with them, and the curtain of the prologue falls as a legend begins.
Michael Rowe sets his hook firmly with this prologue, but then he lets the line ou... Read More
Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow
Sorrow’s Knot had some big footsteps in which to follow, since Erin Bow’s debut novel Plain Kate was pretty terrific. But I’m pleased to report that Sorrow’s Knot not only lived up to my expectations but exceeded them. This is a fantastic novel, and better than Plain Kate.
Sorrow’s Knot is set in a world that feels a lot like the Pacific Northwest, and draws from (without copying anyone or anything in particular) Native American cultures. The heroine, Otter, is growing up in a village that is almost exclusively made up of women. She is the daughter of Willow, the village’s Binder, whose task it is to bind the dead — both figuratively and literally — so that they cannot return in ghostly form to harm the living. But now Willow is going mad, and making cryptic statements about the... Read More
Salute the Dark by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Salute the Dark is the fourth book in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s SHADOWS OF THE APT series. At this point, the world of the Apt and Inapt is in total war. The expansionist Wasp Empire is sweeping across the Lowlands and any outlying city that sparks a glint in Emperor Alvdan II’s eye. War Master Stenwold Maker’s agents are scattered everywhere in attempt to give the Lowlands any sort of advantage against the encroaching horde. Cities like Sarn and Myna are in open rebellion. Plots and twists are commonplace. Everything that has been building up over the first three books in the series culminates in Salute the Dark.
One of the highlights of the series is how Tchaikovsky manages to weave cultures of our world into the story and make them feel so real. The Solarnese feel genuinely like Renaissance Italians, the Wasps like the Romans or various other emp... Read More