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
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.
A Matter of Blood by Sarah Pinborough
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
A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish
Thren Felhorn is the master of the Spider Guild, the supreme collective under which Thren has united all the thieves’ guilds in the city of Veldaren. In the prologue of A Dance of Cloaks, author David Dalglish has given Thren two sons, Randith and Aaron, and placed the guilds on the brink of war with the Trifect, three wealthy families that wield most of the political power in a land where the king is young, foolish and easily manipulated. By the end of the prologue, though, only Aaron can claim his father’s favor, which he gains by one clearly filial act and one shocking act that is the act of a son only because his father ordered it. The brutal flavor of this book is thus established quickly and efficiently, and the reader knows that she is in for a story of ruthless people.
Five years have passed since the events of the prologue when the body of the book opens. Aaron is in traini... Read More
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
Harper, the anti-hero of Lauren Beukes’s terrific novel The Shining Girls, is a killer. He chooses his victims when they are just girls, giving them something special – a toy, something that glitters, a hair decoration — and speaking with them as if he is a friend, even introducing himself. Sometimes he finds it hard to control his violence during these visits, thinking about how easily he could kill them then and there, as well as the nauseating details of how he would do it. Then, when the girls are in their twenties or a bit younger, Harper returns to them and dispatches them, making a clean escape every time. He leaves behind a souvenir, an artifact from another victim. And he is nearly impossible to catch.
The reason he is able to visit his victims as children, find them again as adults, and elude capture, is that he has a time portal. He happens upon it accid... Read More
Dark Visions: A Collection of Modern Horror, Volume 1, edited by Anthony Rivera and Sharon Lawson
Dark Visions: A Collection of Modern Horror, Volume One, is a publication of Grey Matter Press, a small publisher of all genres of horror. The anthology has no theme — something of a rarity these days, when most anthologies are restricted to a particular type of monster (zombie, werewolf, vampire; you know the drill). Few of the writers who contributed stories to this anthology are known to me, though there are a few big names. It’s a solid collection of stories, edited by Anthony Rivera and Sharon Lawson to fine effect.
The anthology opens with one of the strongest stories. “Mister Pockets” by Jonathan Maberry is set is his PINE DEEP universe, several years after the events of... 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
Not Less Than Gods by Kage Baker
Fans of THE COMPANY novels of Kage Baker — the series that began with In the Garden of Iden and features the redoubtable Mendoza, along with other immortals and secret societies — need to know no more than that this novel comprises the back story of Edward Alton Fairfax-Bell.
Edward Alton Fairfax-Bell is a foundling, the bastard son of noble parents who had a tryst in 1924. He was adopted as an infant by a family suffering from the loss of their own infant son, but rejected by his adoptive mother, and therefore essentially raised by servants. At the age of 11, he is taken under the care of Dr. Nennys, the headmaster of a boarding school to which he is quickly ushered. He does well, grows to a very tall manhood (just shy of seven feet, in fact), and joins the Navy. Unfortunately, the Navy doesn’t quite meet his ideals, but is full of bounders and scoundrels — one of wh... Read More
The Night Boat by Robert R. McCammon
The Night Boat was Robert R. McCammon’s third published novel, first appearing in 1980. Now Subterranean Press has brought it back as a (sold out) limited edition, and also made it available in e-book format for the first time. It betrays some of the faults of a then-new writer, but also has considerable power in its portrayal of Nazi submariners, as terrifying 35 years after the end of World War II as they were in the days when they lurked in the deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean — if not more so.
David Moore, the principal protagonist of the novel, lives on Coquina Island in the Carribbean Sea, where he owns a small hotel on the largely undeveloped island. He is a scuba diver as well, and, as the book opens, he is diving alone on the edge of a shelf, in an area known as th... Read More
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
You know what you’ve got the moment you catch sight of Patrick Rothfuss’s debut novel, The Name of the Wind. There it is, your standard, big, fat, epic fantasy. If you’re an experienced fantasy reader, you can tell from the cover of the guy with the lute (one of two dust jackets with which the book was published) that it’s heroic fantasy in a world with magic, Faery, fighting and words of power. And, in fact, upon reading the novel you will find that all the tropes are here, from the university where magic is taught to mysterious beasts to the power of cold iron.
However comfortable the tropes are, though, this book offers something new within a familiar framework. For one thing, The Name of the Wind is so well-written that you will reach page 662 wishing this weren’t the first of an unfinished trilogy (though you’ll be happy that Volume Two, The ... Read More
Parasite by Mira Grant
Mira Grant is the science fiction side of Seanan McGuire, the fantasy writer responsible for the OCTOBER DAYE and INCRYPTID fantasy series. Her last outing was the NEWSFLESH trilogy, which I loved (especially the first book, Feed). Now she’s published the first novel in the PARASITOLOGY duology, Parasite. And it’s a doozy.
Parasitology opens with the transcription of a video recordin... Read More
Tell My Sorrows to the Stones by Christopher Golden
Christopher Golden says in his introduction to Tell My Sorrows to the Stones (a quotation from Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, perhaps Shakespeare’s cruelest play), “A collection of short stories is like the strange history of a period in a writer’s life[.]” This crystallized my thinking about short story collections, as I become more and more of a reader of short science fiction, fantasy and horror: a collection gives you a picture of a writer, and that writer’s concerns, at a particular time in his or her life. Not that there is anything autobiographical in the themes and variations; a writer's imagination is his or her imagination, not his or her life. But the attentive reader will note that in a collection the same situations arise (such as... Read More
Purple and Black by K.J. Parker
Purple and Black is one of Subterranean Press’s novella-length books, and a very fine one, too. It is an epistolary novel, containing letters between an emperor — one whose empire seems very Roman in character — and the former schoolmate he has appointed as the governor of Upper Tremissis, a province that is the focus of an insurgency. Official communications between the two are written in flowerly language in purple ink: “Phormio begs to inform his His Majesty that he has safely arrived at Tremissis City, and has assumed control of the civil and military administration.” The less formal and much lengthier portion of any message is written in the vernacular, in black:
You are, of course, an unmitigated bastard. Not content with dragging me away from my chair at Anassus, which I worked bloody hard to earn and which will not go to that pinhead Atho, you made me waste three months of my... Read More