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
Terry WeynaOn FanLit’s staff since December 2010
TERRY WEYNA is spending the second half of her life as a reviewer, critic, scholar and writer, after having spent the first half practicing law in a variety of states and settings. (She is still a lawyer, telecommuting to an Orange County, California, law firm, where she mostly does legal research and writing. This work financially supports her addiction to books.) Since Terry was six years old, she has nearly always had a book in her hand. She favors fantasy, and especially New Weird, slipstream and highly literary works, but also reads science fiction, horror, mystery, science, biography and history. She greatly prefers the look, feel and smell of physical books to ebooks.
Terry lives in Northern California with her husband, professor and writer Fred White, the imperious Cordelia Louise Cat Weyna-White, and a personal library that exceeds 12,000 volumes. Her favorite writers include Tim Powers, Tanith Lee, Daniel Abraham, Steph Swainston, China Mieville and Catherynne Valente. Terry keeps a blog at Reading the Leaves.
Shakespeare in Hell by Amy Sterling Casil
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
The Girl by Bryan Hall
The Girl is the second novella in a series called THE SOUTHERN HAUNTINGS SAGA by Bryan Hall, a young, relatively new writer. If it is any indication, this fellow has a great career ahead of him.
The protagonist of The Girl is Creighton Northgate — Crate — who is a sort of psychic, and a sort of private detective, and a sort of ghostbuster, though he rejects all three descriptors. What it amounts to is that he can see ghosts, and he can persuade them to move along to wherever it is ghosts go when they’ve finished their business in this world. He makes his living moving from one haunted person to another, relieving them of their ghosts when he can and debunking claims of ghosts where there are none.
As The Girl opens, Crate has just spent four months in the northeastern part of the United States, working as hard as he ever has. Now, though, he’s on hi... Read More
Deceiver by Kelli Owen
DarkFuse, an independent publisher of horror, suspense and thrillers, has a thriving novella series. For $85 per month, you can subscribe to the limited hardcover editions of the novellas, which are published at the rate of two each month. (The subscription also includes a hardcover novel every month.) Only 100 copies are printed, though the works are also available in electronic form. It’s a delight to see a publisher take an interest in publishing this shorter form, which is often exactly the right length for genre works (and for mainstream fiction, for that matter; consider William Faulkner and Henry James), but which is neglected by most publishers.
One of the June 2014 novella offerings is Kelli Owen’s Deceiver, a suspenseful work of dark fiction that opens at a post-funeral gathering. Matt’s wife Tania has been murdered while on a business trip, strangled with a necktie. The police have ... Read More
The Shadow of the Soul by Sarah Pinborough
Warning: This review contains spoilers for the first book in the FORGOTTEN GODS trilogy, A Matter of Blood (reviewed here).
As The Shadow of the Soul by Sarah Pinborough opens, Cass Jones has been through six months of interviews, arrests, statements and the backlash from his discovery of rampant corruption among his fellow police officers (as set forth in the first book of the FORGOTTEN GODS trilogy, A Matter of Blood), and it isn’t even close to over. It’s hard for him to care about anyone thinks about him, though, because all he has to do is remember the sight of his dead partner’s body at the bottom of the stairs of the Paddington Green station... Read More
Stoker’s Manuscript by Royce Prouty
Royce Prouty received a 2013 Stoker Award nomination for superior achievement in a first novel for Stoker’s Manuscript. Because of the nomination and the fact that Prouty’s protagonist, Joseph Barkeley, is a rare book and manuscript expert, I couldn’t resist.
Joseph Barkeley has always had a knack for spotting rare editions in crowded used bookstores, and is able to tell if a manuscript is genuine without the need for any chemical testing. It’s an ability that makes him the subject of Arthur Ardelean’s search for the right man to verify the authenticity of the original draft of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and to negotiate its purchase if its authenticity is established. (There is some real history behind this scenario, as the original manuscript for the novel was apparently lost, turning up only in 1980 in a Pennsylvania barn.) Ardelean is working on... Read More
Children of No One by Nicole Cushing
Nicole Cushing has earned her first award nomination for Children of No One, a novella published by the exciting new (as of 2012) publisher, DarkFuse. It is one of the seven novellas nominated in a strong field for the Shirley Jackson Award, an award I consider most apt to give me good reading recommendations.
The theme of Children of No One I find especially fascinating: art can be abused to horrific effect. It has always been true that what one person thinks of is artful and outrageously original is another person’s garbage; “My kid could do that!” is a phrase that has been directed toward any number of modern pieces, such as, say, the splatter paintings of Jackson Pollock. But there have also been discussions about whether certain art is cruel and unworthy of a mentally healthy audience. Some of Francis Bacon’s paintings, for instanc... Read More
Dangerous Space by Kelley Eskridge
Dangerous Space is a revelation. I had no idea these gorgeous short stories were out there. Put me on the list of people who will now read absolutely everything Kelley Eskridge writes, because if these are characteristic of her work, I want it all.
Eskridge often makes creativity her subject, writing movingly about various forms of art, especially music. The opening story, “Strings,” posits a world in which the classical composers are revered so completely that any deviation from their scores, note by note, tempo by tempo, is punishable by loss of employment, and apparently by loss of the right to make music at all. Master musicians are named for their instruments, so that the world’s best violinist is known only as “Stradivarius,” the best pianist as “Steinway.” Being an instrument carries with it great prestige and wealth, but the musician who is cursed with an imaginatio... Read More
The Heavens Rise by Christopher Rice
New Orleans may be the best setting for a horror novel ever invented. Cypress trees and the dark water of interminable swamps are a spooky background for Christopher Rice’s story about rape, snakes and mind control in The Heavens Rise, one of the nominees for this year’s Bram Stoker Award for best novel.
Niquette Delongpre — Nikki — is a gorgeous teenage girl, the toast of her high school. She and Anthem Landry have been an item for three years before Marshall Ferriot figures out a way to break them up and move in himself. Marshall may be only seventeen years old, but he is already an experienced predator who goes after what he wants with a singular ruthlessness and a casual cruelty that he does not even seem to know is wrong. When he finally gets Nikki alone with him at the property outside New Orleans on which her family is constructing a new home and swimming pool, he grabs her and h... Read More
The Bird Eater by Ania Ahlborn
We know from the opening chapter of Ania Ahlborn’s The Bird Eater that something dangerous lives in Edie Holbrook’s house along with her and her 14-year-old nephew Aaron, for whom she is the sole caretaker. As she is working pizza dough in anticipation of a movie night with Aaron, Edie hears a triple thud in the living room. It’s only the latest in a series of oddities over the past few months: closed doors that she had left open, or the creak of stairs when no one was climbing them, for instance. But there’s no such thing as ghosts. If Edie had believed in ghosts, she wouldn’t be living in this house, which has a reputation for being haunted by the ghost of a teenage boy who had done something terrible. Because she doesn’t believe in ghosts, she pulls her hands from the dough and goes after the sound. It’s a decision for which both she and her nephew pay dearly.
... Read More
A Matter of Blood by Sarah Pinborough
Sarah Pinborough makes it clear from the first page of her prologue in A Matter of Blood that we’ll be seeing plenty of blood — and worse. The novel opens on the scene of a corpse squirming with maggots. An unnamed man stands in the doorway and declares that “This has to stop,” but the noise of the flies only grows louder. It seems, though, that the man is talking to someone — not to the corpse, not to himself, not even to the flies, though maybe he is speaking to someone through the flies. And maybe, we think, we’re on to something with that last thought, because as the speaker continues, the flies gather together and form into a shape that is nearly human.
It’s the last glimpse of the supernatural we get for a long time, though. Instead, Pinborough’s novel r... Read More
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
So yeah. That was strange. You should read it.
Here endeth the review.
Uh.... Seriously? Try again, please, Bill.
What? It’s Kat, our managing editor, sticking her bold red italic text into my review! Oh, alright. Start over:
Loren Eiseley, Charlotte Perking Gilman, Sigmund Freud, and Franz Kafka have a literary baby. And it’s adoooorable!
A biologist, an anthropologist, a surveyor, and a psychologist walk into a bio zone. And the creepy bartender says . . .
Bill. This is getting annoying. Am I going to have to get out the electric cattle prod? It seems like sometimes that’s the only way to keep you in line.
Wait, don’t you want to at leas... Read More
Red Cells by Jeffrey Thomas
Jeffrey Thomas’s new novella, Red Cells, is set in his PUNKTOWN universe full of mutants, odd species, and humans, and the good, bad and ugly of each. Red Cells deals more with the ugly: Edwin Fetch has earned himself a six month term in the penitentiary for possession with intent to sell purple vortex. Specifically, he’s to be shipped to the Trans-Paxton Penitentiary, known to its inmates as the Wormhole, a transdimensional prison carved out of the planes between existence. But Fetch has a better idea. He hires Jeremy Stake, a mutant whose condition is called Caro turbida, to serve the time for him. Stake’s mutation allows him to assume the shape of another if he concentrates hard enough on it, and Stake has had a tattoo of Fetch (holding a gorgeous woman for verisimilitude) inked on his arm to keep him focused. Stake is a former soldier in the Blue War, which ended fift... Read More
Dark Duets edited by Christopher Golden
Christopher Golden explains in his introduction to Dark Duets that writing is a solitary occupation right up until that moment an alchemical reaction takes place and a bolt of inspiration simultaneously strikes two writers who are friends. Golden has found that the results of collaboration are often fascinating and sometimes magical, as when Stephen King and Peter Straub teamed up to write The Talisman. Writing is an intimate, very personal process, Golden says, and finding someone to share it with is difficult but exciting. Golden therefore undertook to create a book full of such diffi... Read More
The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black by E.B. Hudspeth
The first 65 pages of The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black by E.B. Hudspeth is a fascinating “biography” of the titular doctor, a man who believed that the creatures of mythology actually existed at one time and could be reborn into our world with the proper surgical technique. It’s a tragic tale of a medical prodigy who had already completed medical school with high honors at the age of 20. Black was a man of intense curiosity who reveled in dissecting every type of animal, including humans (which he had dug up from their graves for his father’s scientific work when he was a child, hence the “resurrectionist” label). But his curiosity took a tragic turn when he began his work of recreating mythological creatures, starting with the grafting of wings onto his beagle. His brother describes the scene in his journal, making one remarkable... Read More