the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

King David Spiders from MarsKing David and the Spiders From Mars, edited by Tim Lieder

published March 2014

where I got it: received review copy from the editor (thanks Tim!)










I don’t know about you, but I love mythology. I especially love it when authors take liberties with unexplored details. What was the backstory of that minor character? That other person must have had a good reason to do something strange/wonderful/awful/unexpected, right?  When I think “mythology”, I often think Greek, Roman, or Norse mythos.  But there is a mythology that’s even closer to me. One that I grew up with. One that’s rarely referred to as mythology, but that’s what it is. The Bible: history, literature, mythology, and faith, all rolled into one,  mythology in the most revered definition of the word: stories of the days that created a culture.  It’s books like King David and the Spiders From Mars that make me want to open up my big fat Myths and Legends of Ancient Israel book, or go to the library and find some dusty tome that will tell me the ending of the story they only told the beginning of in Sunday school.

King David and the Spiders From Mars is the second anthology in editor Tim Lieder’s series of Biblical Horror stories. I enjoyed the hell out of the first one, She Nailed A Stake Through His Head, (read my review) and I’ve been looking forward to more of the same ever since.  Same as with Nailed a Stake, you don’t need any kind of Biblical or Judeo-Christian education to enjoy these short stories. In fact, you’d be better served by being familiar with Chthulhu mythos.

Starting at the literal beginning, the first story is nicely tragic, but not end-of-the-world destructive. And then everything slowly ramps up, with the last two stories having the potential to really fuck you up.

here are my thoughts on a few of my favorites:

Moving Nameless, by Sonya Taaffe – How many wives did Adam have? According to myth, God made a woman right in front of Adam, built her from organs and bone and muscle and sinew, and Adam was so disgusted (you might be too, seeing a person built from the inside out!) that he never again looked up her.  And she’s been wandering the Earth ever since, looking for an Adam who might be able to love her.  Her name isn’t Eva, but that’s what her current boyfriend, Adam Loukides, calls her.  He’s a book collector, has a fondness for out of print books, can’t wait to show her around his apartment, he never questions the fact that she doesn’t talk about her family.  It doesn’t matter that this latest Adam doesn’t believe in God, or doesn’t believe her story, that doesn’t make her story any less true or the curse any less painful. He will come to be disgusted by her, no matter if he believes in her story or not. Shunned forever, for something that was outside of her control, it makes me wish the nameless woman got another opportunity to interact with the original Adam.

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Happy Halloween!  I hope everyone is having better weather than I am, it’s a gloomy rainy day around here, no good for trick or treating. This evening at work, we’ve invited our clients to bring their kids in to trick or treat through  the different departments, so I hope lots of people take us up on that offer so their kids don’t have to trick or treat in the rain.

the other day I reviewed H.P. Lovecraft’s famous At the Mountains of Madness novella. While I was saddened that the story didn’t do much for me, I understand it’s importance, and the post sparked some excellent discussion.  The little Lovecraft volume contained three more stories, all of which I enjoyed much more and wish that I had read first. After the 100+ page Mountains of Madness, it was a relief to get to shorter tales that got to the point much faster. Here are my thoughts on those.

The Shunned House

Many of the homes in Providence date back to the early days of the town. Over the generations, roads have been expanded, hills have been leveled, even cemeteries had to be completely moved to make room for the expanding city.  One house in particular was built into a hill, and as the street was widened, they just built up the foundation of the house and steps up to the front door.  The house hasn’t been lived in for years, the townspeople tell old wives tales about how everyone who ever lived there had an early death. On dares,  children break into the basement or peek into the windows, as there is some kind of mold or nitre in there that glows in the evening.  Mold or no, the stench of the house keeps most people away. I liked how Lovecraft brought other senses into the story, how the house smells, how the smell makes people anxious, the texture of the bricks, the color and smell and texture of the molds in the basements. It was very atmospheric.

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Finch, by Jeff Vandermeer

Published in 2009

Where I got it: purchased new

why I read it:  have enjoyed previous Vandermeer books





John Finch hates his job.  Hates watching his beautiful city of Ambergris crumble, destroyed, looted, rebuilt into something it shouldn’t be.  He hates his “detective work”, informing on his friends and neighbors to his grey cap boss whose smile is all teeth, the Partials who follow him everywhere, recording everything he says and does with their fungally recording eyes. Hates what a fungal parasite is slowly but irrevocably doing to his best friend Wyte, the only man who knows all of Finch’s secrets. Hates how he always falls back to playing both sides, in hopes he can keep his friends and loved ones alive.

But most of all, Finch hates that there is no escape. Not from Ambergris, not from the grey caps, and not from who and what he is.

His latest cast, a double murder, defies description.  Found in a nondescript apartment: One dead adult human male, one very dead grey cap of undetermined sex or age (if such a thing can ever be determined), amputated at the waist.  Grey caps are pretty hard to kill, maybe he should take notes.  The memory bulbs of the dead are useless, offering only hallucinations and impossible places.  Through his network of spies and snitches, Finch learns who the dead man was. Someone impossible.  Someone who couldn’t have been there because he’s been dead for a hundred years.

Finch and Wyte investigate and learn the mystery is about much more than  just the dead man, it’s about what the dead man can do.  Wyte is dying, has exacted a promise from Finch to help him, when the time comes. Wyte can’t fight the thing inside him much longer, and they both know he won’t go quietly.

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If you like contemporary horror/suspense, you’ll probably enjoy Joe Hill’s Horns.  The prose is smooth, the characters are interesting (if a little stereotypical), and that secondary reveal will just kick you in the head.

Ig really misses his girlfriend Merrin.  High school sweethearts, he was a better person when he was with her.  It’s been about a year since he lost her.  About a year since they had a heated, drunken argument, and he left her, crying, in the parking lot outside the neighborhood bar.  The next day her broken and mutilated body was found in the woods.  A year later Ig is still a person of interest, and he tells himself that people believe him when he says he loved Merrin and would never do anything to hurt her.

And then he wakes up with horns.  Little devil horns that encourage people to tell Ig their deepest darkest secrets, things they want to do, things they wish they did.  Random people tell him they have been cheating, have been lying. His parents tell him he should kill himself. The local priest happily admits to indiscretions. After reading Horns, you’ll never again wish you had the power to read people’s minds.

The first hundred pages or so of Horns was the best part for me.  Ig tries to figure out who can see his horns and who can’t, why people are telling him strange things. I expect many readers will  get out kick out of some of these conversations. I know I did.  He is the son of and brother to a trumpet players, and there is a few plays on words regarding How to Play Horns. I was suddenly interested to see how far Joe Hill was going to push this.  Ig has become some kind of demon creature,  he can influence people to say and do things they would never do. Imagine the possibilities!!

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This review was originally posted here. And here is a great article in the local paper about Schreiber, turns out he went to high school here? very cool.

* * * *

I admit that I haven’t read a ghost story in a really long time. This really too bad, because a good creepy psychological thriller/ ghost story is worth it’s weight in gold. Joe Schreiber’s No Doors, No Windows is one of those thrillers. As these types of stories usually do, it starts out normal enough. After many years away, Scott Mast has come home to small town New England for his father’s funeral. It’s a little awkward being home after all these years, trying to rebuild his relationship with his alcoholic brother Owen, and help take care of Owen’s young son Henry. Scott’s high school aquaintances are still floating around town, and he can’t help but drive past the old theater that took his mother’s life in a fire 15 years ago.

When Scott finds his father’s unfinished novel manuscript, he becomes obsessed with finishing the story about a young couple who live in a strange old house. When Scott finds the actual building, Round House, that inspired his father’s tale, he immediately moves in with high hopes. He explores the large home, and finds other artistic ventures by other family members – paintings, theater posters, other manuscripts. All unfinished, they involve horrific happenings in and around Round House, and Scott is hauntingly drawn to each of them. Can he unravel the Mast family curse before the curse unravels him? Read the rest of this entry »

2014 Hugo Awards

I reviewed some Hugo nominated stuff. Click here for the list.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.