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
Terry WeynaOn FanLit’s staff since December 2010
TERRY WEYNA is an attorney specializing in litigation who would rather be a literary critic, scholar and reviewer. Since Terry was six years old, she has nearly always had a book in her hand. She favors epic fantasy, New Weird, slipstream, psychological horror, comics and highly literary works, but also reads science fiction, literary criticism, literary fiction, mystery, science, biography and history. Terry lives in Northern California with her husband, professor emeritus and writer Fred White, the imperious Cordelia Louise Cat Weyna-White, and a personal library that exceeds 15,000 volumes.
A Shrill Keening by Ronald Malfi
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
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
California Bones by Greg Van Eekhout
Daniel Blackland has been raised to be a magician from at least the time he was six years old and found a kraken spine on Santa Monica Beach. He inherited his propensity to osteomancy — bone magic — from his father, a powerful magician who has made his share of enemies. More than that, he was trained, shaped and molded by his father, who wants to make him strong enough to withstand the schemes of his enemies, regardless of how that hill hurt him, physically and emotionally. But his father never had the time to train Daniel properly. In his adulthood, therefore, Daniel has turned into a petty thief — an accomplished, uncannily talented petty thief, but a thief nonetheless. He has stuck to small crimes out of choice, not because he is incapable of grand heists. Unfortunately, his crime boss Uncle Otis isn’t content to see Daniel allow his magic to go to waste. He has demanded that Daniel carry out a se... 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
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
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
Lock In by John Scalzi
In Lock In, Haden’s syndrome has created millions of people who are conscious and alert, but have no voluntary control of their bodies; they are, effectively, “locked in” to themselves. Government funded technology has developed ways to assist these, who are called “Hadens,” to function; both in a non-physical information-world called the Agora, and by using sophisticated Personal Transports or android bodies called “threeps.” (You might be able to figure out where that name comes from if you remember a certain gold-colored android from a popular trilogy of movies a few decades ago.) Chris Shane is a Haden, one of the two most famous Hadens in America, and a freshly-minted FBI agent. On the second day on the job, Chris and acerbic partner Leslie Vann take jurisdiction of a baffling case that involves a dead mystery man and an Integrator, a human who can let Hadens “ride” in his b... Read More
The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit by Graham Joyce
It’s the end of August, a time when each day seems noticeably shorter than the one before, when kids are getting haircuts and school supplies and heading back to school, when Thanksgiving and Christmas seem to be just around the corner. It’s a time for taking stock; for many of us, for those who loved the return to the classroom each fall with new resolutions to get good grades and excel at our extracurricular activities, it is more a time for such reevaluation of one’s life, hopes, goals and habits than is New Year’s Day. Perhaps that is why the coming-of-age novel is almost always set in the summer. Graham Joyce’s tale of a young man working at a summer resort, The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit,belongs on the same shelf as other great stories of haunted summers, like 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
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
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