the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘horror

You can read Equoid over at Tor.com! and I should have mentioned in my earlier review of Wakulla Springs that that novella is available to read over at Tor.com as well.

 

If you’ve enjoyed any of Stross’s Laundry novels, you’re sure to get a kick out of this novella. Oh, you haven’t read any of his Laundry novels? In that case you might feel a little lost (until of course, Bob gives you some background. Then you’ll be fine). Also, you are missing out on some hella fun novels. Here’s the gist of the world: The right mathematical equations call up Cthonic horrors from the deep, and   a  British secret agency exists to make sure that doesn’t happen. Bob Howard is an involuntary agent for the Laundry (because really, does anyone have a childhood dream of growing up to face unspeakable soul destroying horrors?), and even after years on the job he still gets the shit work.

 

One thing I love about the Laundry novels is the narrative voice. It’s what I’ve come to call “The Stross Sentence”, where many passages start out completely normal, but conclude in a sotto voce that’s purposely scathingly sarcastic. I’m that reader who just can’t get enough of that.

 

So anyway, the novella.  It’s about unicorns. And H.P. Lovecraft’s previously unpublished rambling letters that prove (again) just how dangerous a little bit of knowledge can be.  Bob’s newest assignment takes him out to a muck filled country horse breeding farm, where he’s to investigate some kind of animal health issue? Something involving a, erm, infestation?

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This post is part of the Irredeemable blog tour!  Check out Tomorrow Comes Media to see other bloggers involved with this tour and learn more about other blog tours.

irredeemable coverIrredeemable, by Jason Sizemore

published April 2014

where I got in: purchased the e-book

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Advertised as a horror anthology, Irredeemable has plenty of awful people who get exactly what they deserve in horrific ways with no hope of escape. But it’s also peppered with Urban fantasy stories, straight up science fiction tales, and the most horrific stories in which yes, someone did something bad, but surely not so bad to deserve what they get. And this deep in the Appalachian hills, where fear, religion, suspicion, and xenophobia run rampant, there’s always someone available to get what they deserve.

If straight up, nail biting, edge of your seat horror is your thing, be sure to read “City Hall”, in which a human resources department employes a very unique method of saving taxpayer dollars; “Ice Cream At the Falls”, an open ended story in which you’ll probably be cheering when this particular asshole gets exactly what he deserves after learning the truth about a false conviction; “Sleeping Quartet”, in which “what could possibly go wrong?” is taken further than you’d expect, and  “The Dead & Metty Crawford”, which is the absolute creepiest most disturbing zombie story possibly ever written, among many others.

Quite a few of the stories have an urban fantasy and science fictional twist, and it didn’t surprise me in the least that those were the ones I was most drawn to.  Throw in aliens, or zombies, or voodoo, or robots, or space stations, and I am all over that. And Science Fiction horror? Now we are talking!  If this paragraph is sounding like more your cuppa tea, “Plug and Play”, a darkly humorous story about a drug mule; “Mr. Templar”, in which robots are all that’s left on Earth after an apocalypse; and “Sonic Scarring”, in which what’s left of humanity hides in the hills after an alien invasion were written just for you.

With everything from gothic horror to post apocalyptic science fiction, the connecting thread is that of characters trying to escape the consequences of their decisions, and nearly begging the reader to forgive them.

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irredeemable badge

Be sure to check out the rest of the blog tour hosts, and Tomorrow Comes Media for more information on their other blog tours!

 

After reading Jason’s short story collection Irredeemable (watch for the review later today!), I was brimming with questions for him. The interview below just scratches the surface of everything I wanted to know about the collection, where his ideas come from, all the other projects he’s involved in.  Luckily I’ll have plenty of time to question and pester him later this year when I see him at ConText!  And if you’ve got questions yourself, be sure to pester Jason on twitter, @apexjason. We should probably ask him when he finds time to sleep. ;)

Jason Sizemore

Let’s get to the interview!

LRR: You know those “book blind dates” at bookstores, where they cover a book in brown paper, and write things on the paper like “historical fiction!”, “dinosaurs!” and “ray guns!”? What should go on the outside of Irredeemable when it’s covered up to be a book blind date?

J.S.: “Just deserts!”

LRR: What are some of your favorite stories in the collection? Which ones were the most challenging to write?

J.S.: As a huge geek and software developer, I find myself interested in issues involving artificial intelligence and evolving consciousness. “Mr. Templar” is my post-apocalyptic take on that concept where humans destroy the world and only a small handful of androids and robots still exist. Mr. Templar is searching for his creator. It is a bittersweet, touching, and charming story, and by far my favorite.

The most challenging to write was “For the Sake of Pleasing.” I wanted to write something longer than 10,000 words outside a sub-genre I usually write in. At the time, I was reading the Night Watch series by Sergei Lukyanenko, and wanted to try my hand at a dark fantasy similar to his. It took me months to get “For the Sake of Pleasing” to a point that made me happy.

irredeemable cover Read the rest of this entry »

2014-06-01 19.37.17Bird Box, by Josh Malerman

published March 2014

where I got it: purchased new

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For the purposes of a quick survey, I want you to make believe that like me, you are deathly afraid of spiders. Yes, even the itty bitty ones. Yes, I know they are more afraid of me than I am of them. Yes, I know they don’t have teeth. Just make believe, ok?

Which is scarier: seeing a small-ish totally squishable spider in your bathtub, or knowing there is a spider in the bathtub, but not knowing how big it is? It could be teensy tiny and killable or it could be an articulated legged, egg carrying, huge as fuck brown recluse? (Jesus Christ, just typing that sentence has me scared fucking shitless)

The second one, right?

We all know how to fight things we can see. Fight zombies with shotguns, fight aliens baddies with superheroes or flamethrowers, fight diseases with medicine, find someone who isn’t arachnophobic to take care of the spiders. But what about an enemy you can’t see? The unknown is far scarier than the known. Once we know something, we can categorize it, understand it, and learn how to defend against it if it really does mean us harm. It being unknown makes all of that impossible. It’s also the devil’s food for your imagination.

In Josh Malerman’s debut novel Bird Box, something is ravaging humanity. Not a disease per se, but something that makes people kill themselves, often taking other loved ones or even random people with them. These are not serial killers or sociopaths, these are not revenge or attention seekers. These are old ladies who commit suicide in the middle of the street, children who sit the bathtub and slit their wrists, happy people, healthy people. No one seems to know what’s causing it, they just know it is getting worse, and it is everywhere. All anyone knows is that it is something you see. Something gets into your eyes, and from that moment on your life can be measured in minutes. Easily one of the most intense books I have ever had the pleasure of reading, if Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, The Weeping Angels from Doctor Who and The Walking Dead had a threesome horror story love child, Bird Box would creep the shit outta that baby.

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wild and wishful KontisWild and Wishful, Dark and Dreaming, by Alethea Kontis

published Oct 2013

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (Thanks Alliteration Ink!)

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Before last week, I’d only read a few Alethea Kontis stories, mostly what had been published in Apex Magazine. But I’d like what I’d read, and was interested in reading more. Kontis is a writer known for everything from fairy tale retellings, to secret history, to horror stories.  She doesn’t let genre boundaries limit what she writes, and many of these stories were inspired by events from her life or her friend’s lives.  She lives with one foot in a magical world, where anything is possible.

Her collection, Wild and Wishful, Dark and Dreaming, contains everything mentioned in the title and more. These eighteen short stories and two poems range from dark horror to science fiction, to coming of age, to revenge, often returning to themes of facing our fears, traps and escape, and that we ultimately don’t have to go it alone. Many of these pieces are perfect for reading out loud, and some of them were even designed that way.

What’s nice about single author collections is that the author’s voice can be heard as a constant note through the entire book. And Kontis’s voice is here, loud and strong. this is a woman who wants to take you new place and show you paths you didn’t see before.

Ultimately, Kontis is a woman who knows she’s got a story you want to hear.

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Robot-UprisingRobot Uprisings edited by Daniel H. Wilson and John Joseph Adams

published April 2014

Where I got it: purchased new

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Robots are supposed to help us, right? they’re supposed to do the jobs that humans don’t want to or can’t do, right? and thanks to Asimov’s three (four!) laws, there’s nothing to worry about.

 

right?

 

wrong.  Leave it to folks like Alan Dean Foster, Seanan McGuire, Charles Yu, Cory Doctorow, Ernest Cline, Nnedi Oforakor and others to remind me that robots do exactly what we program them to do, and in many cases this is fucking terrifying.

 

I just about every story in this anthology, we played God. We created something, typically in our own image, that would be able to do things we couldn’t.  Our creations raise and teach our children, solve our computer programming issues, clean up radiation, do jobs that are too dangerous for humans to do, protect company assets, keep us healthy, etc. When we’re so sure our inventions will help us towards a better world, what could possibly go wrong?

 

But lets say we succeed. the computer programming issue has been solved, the kids are grown up, the asset has been protected, diseases have been cured, the radiation has been cleaned up. What do we do when our problem is fixed and our shiny tools are no longer needed?  Robots are designs to work. they are not designed to stop.

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another mangaAnother, by Yukito Ayatsuji (story) and Hiro Kiyohara (artwork)

first English printing October 2013

where I got it: purchased new

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To help him recover from a lung disorder, Sakakibara moves in with his maternal grandparents in a quiet idyllic town. His Aunt Reiko lives with them too.  Raised by his travelling salesman father, Sakakibara is thankful for the quiet stability, but wishes his father would call him more often. This is the town Sakakibara’s mother grew up in, and this is the perfect opportunity for him to learn more about her, as she passed away shortly after he was born. His Mom and Aunt even attended the same school he has transferred into, and Aunt Reiko tells him, among other things, that the most important thing at this school is to go along with whatever his class decides. If one ever wanted to go it alone, or be a square peg in a round hole, this is not the time.

 

Due to his breathing disorder, Sakakibara has to spend a few days in the hospital. He’s visited by some new classmates, who ask him some very strange questions, and he sees another girl from his school, Misaki Mei, wandering around the basement. The conversation he has with Misaki is so odd that he wonders if he’s met a ghost.  School begins, and Misaki is in his class. She’s got to be some kind of ghost, as no one else but him can see her.

 

Sakakibara makes new friends quickly, and they all seem to want to tell him something, but no one can seem to find the right moment, or get the words out when they do.

 

And then people start dying, in horrible, gruesome ways.  One student trips down a flight of stairs while carrying an umbrella, and lands face down on the tip of the umbrella. the sister of another student is killed when the elevator she’s in plummets to the ground. Car accidents, heart attacks, drownings. You’d think they were just natural accidents, except they are happening constantly.  And only to the families of students in Class 3.

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authorityAuthority by Jeff Vandermeer (Southern Reach #2)

published May 6 2014

where I got it: purchased new

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WARNING: there are some minor spoilers here for the first book in the series, Annihilation.  If you have not read that book (but are planning to), you may want to skip this entire article.  If you’ve read just the first book in the series (or are planning to), check out this unbelievably awesome annotated excerpt from Annihilation, complete with cool pictures and commentary!

all warned?  let’s get to the review.

 

Reading the Southern Reach books is a little like a fantasy visit to Area X.  Each turn of the page is another step closer to the lighthouse, each rock turned over is another secret unearthed.  It’s a fantasy trip to Area X because I can close the book and believe I am safe.  It goes without saying, but you need to read these books in order. Annihilation will tell you what to look for in Authority. Although there is very little overlap in characters, you can’t skip any steps here. You need the warnings from the first book to know what tics to look for, what patterns to watch for in the second.

 

Tics and patterns are a little like moles and freckles on your skin.  I don’t worry about the moles and freckles that have always looked exactly the same. But the ones that change, the ones that don’t match the pattern, those are the ones to show the doctor.  Annihilation taught me what to look for. Authority allowed me to put what I’d learned into practice.  Annihilation was the warning, Authority is the beginnings of a diagnosis.

 

The story follows John Rodriguez,  the incoming  Director for the Southern Reach, the government agency that maintains Area X. He’s no stranger to agency work, as his mother is a high ranking spook handler, and she’s helped him out of a few more pickles than he’d like to admit.  As a child, John’s grandfather nicknamed him “Control”, and the name stuck. As he’s introduced to the staff members of the office building, he tells everyone to call him “Control”, and they do.

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I never get caught up on all the stuff I want to read, because I keep buying more stuff. that I want to read.  Such is the life of a book-aholic.

2014-05-03 14.13.51

Mendoza in Hollywood by Kage Baker – I am slowly filling out my Kage Baker Company collection.  She’s one of those authors who I just collect. period.

The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories – Couldn’t say no to this one!  this one is especially interesting because it’s from 1989. It’s a short collection, I read the whole thing in an afternoon.  I should probably write a review, yeah?

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle – can you believe I’ve never read this? nope, me neither!  I suppose I better see what all the fuss is about.

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King David Spiders from MarsI recently reviewed King David and the Spiders from Mars, and last year I got a kick out of She Nailed a Stake Through His Head, the first two anthologies in Tim Lieder’s series of Biblical horror story collections.  It’s easy to say “The Bible is full of violence”, because yes, it is.  But what about the violence we don’t see?  What about the horrific reasonings behind why people did the oh so strange things that they did? Is that *really* the a Temple of Dagon over in the next valley? Why yes, yes it is.  This is what makes historical fantasy so much fun – the authors have free range to take the tiny details that speak to them and go crazy with them. The result? Stories that speak to me.

nailed a stake

In my interview with Tim Lieder, we discussed lessons learned in the publishing industry, the Bible as Literature (and seeking different translations),   the importance of diversity in your TOCs, and more. So let’s get to it!

tim lieder

LRR:  Tell us a little about yourself.

T.L.: I’m a writer. I live in New York. When I was in college I decided to convert to Judaism which was a surprise to everyone, including me, especially since the original inspiration was from an academic class on Biblical literature. I did convert but it took a long time. I have four cats. I started Dybbuk Press (Dybbuk Press facebook page) back in 2004 and I have published 9 books through it. I named it after the Ansky play The Dybbuk which takes liberties with the Jewish legends of the Dybbuk put is one of the spookiest plays ever written (the movie was put on by the 1939 Warsaw Yiddish Theater so that adds even more disturbing subtext). Currently, I make a living at writing but most of the writing is freelance for several clients and includes personal statements, editing jobs and term papers. Still, I manage to sell a few stories every year and I keep working on the fiction.

LRR: How did you get involved with editing and publishing? Any big lessons you’d like to pass on to anyone thinking of a career in editing?

T.L.: Ten years ago, I thought it’d be fun to edit a multi-author anthology and stick my story in it. I was unpublished and thought that it’d be my big break. I think I made every mistake that you could make when trying to edit an anthology. I didn’t offer much money. I tried to work with friends who were also amateurs. I agreed to work with a small press publisher whose only interest was self-publishing (something I learned when I realized that he had thought that his girlfriend’s terrible vampire story was going into the anthology). I didn’t even copy edit. About the only thing I did right was naming the book Teddy Bear Cannibal Massacre. I think that’s the only reason why it ever made a profit.

teddy bear cannibal

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