the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘horror

girl with all the giftsThe Girl With All The Gifts, by M.R. Carey

published June 2014

Where I got it: rec’d ARC from the publisher (Thanks Orbit!)

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There once was a little girl named Melanie. As far as she knew, she was a happy, healthy little girl. And why shouldn’t she be? She gets to see her friends at school, she adores her favorite teacher Miss Justineau, and she always tries her best to be polite to the grown ups who help her. Even when they are holding a gun to her head.

 

Author M.R. Carey builds the tension up slowly but very steadily, at first giving us a fish eye lens view into an underground bunker where under the sharp eyes of Dr. Caroline Caldwell and Sergeant Parks, a very select group of children are fed, sheltered, education, observed, and then vivisected. Caldwell’s mission is of the utmost importance. She’s looking for a cure. And besides, if Melanie and the other “children” were still human, they’d cry out in pain when the good doctor sliced their skulls open with her scalpel, right?

 

Ever heard of Cordyceps?  How about Ophiocordyceps?  It’s a fungus that really likes ants and sometimes spiders, and it especially enjoys threading it’s mycelial hairs into the nervous system of the critter.  What happens next is pretty disgusting.  As an aside, M.R. Carey wrote a great guest post over at SFSignal, about the science behind The Girl With All the Gifts, and about Cordyceps. He even links to a video about it. I got about halfway through the video before I screamed “eye bleach!”.  Even after five minutes of thinking about baby My Little Pony unicorns snuggling with fluffy kittens, I still want to bathe my eyes in Clorox and throw up a little. So, there’s that.

 

The gist of The Girl With All the Gifts is that Ophiocordyceps has evolved, it has mutated to infect people, and it has terrorized humanity.  Terrorize probably isn’t the right word here. Because Ophiocordyceps is nothing more than the little fungus that could. And what it can do will horrify you.

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lifes lotteryLife’s Lottery, by Kim Newman

published April 2014

Where I got it: purchased new

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The story contained in Life’s Lottery is different every time you read it.  And I don’t mean that in the sense that you’ve grown as a person between readings, or you notice new details every time, or you relate and/or sympathize with a different character each time. I mean that the story is completely different every time you read it, because this is a grown-up choose your own adventure book.

 

You remember the old Choose Your Own Adventure books from when you were a kid, right? Most of ones I read that that D&D Quest feel to them, with magic swords and caves to explore and dragons. I usually got eaten by the dragon.  hmmm… maybe that’s why I never wanted to play D&D when my friends offered? I was still having nightmares of losing the magic sword, falling from the cliff, and getting eaten by dragons.

 

There are no tunnels or caves or dragons in Kim Newmans newest novel. This is a very different kind of choose your own adventure story. Written in 2nd person, Life Lottery’s pushes the reader into the mindset of the main protagonist, Keith Marion. We meet Keith before he’s born, so it’s easy for the reader to insert themselves into Keith’s persona.  Don’t tell infant Keith, but we all know life isn’t all fun and games, and Newman starts the narrative out rather darkly, giving the reader almost too many opportunities to “go to 0″: to die (and start over, making better decisions next time).

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apex book of world SF 3

You know I wasn’t going to keep you waiting forever, right?  yesterday I start talking about my favorite stories in the next Apex Book of World SF, and I just couldn’t jam all my favorites into one post!  So here’s the rest of my favorite stories:

 

“Jungle Fever” by Zulaikha Nurain Mudzar  was a satisfyingly enjoyable horror story which starts with a scratchy plant.  After reading this I’m going to wear garden gloves every day outside, even if I’m just watering the tomato plant!  Sailin gets a scratch, which turns into a wound, which turns her into something else all together. this is not how she planned on getting revenge on her abusive uncle, but well, what are you going to do?  As the disease progresses, she keeps enough of her mind to see what she’s doing, but it’s like she’s watching from outside her body.  Since she doesn’t narrate the worst parts, either she’s in complete denial, or she’s so detached that she’s not aware of what’s happening in those moments, or she doesn’t want the reader to know the gross details of what’s she’s done.  Someone has got to have a cure, but when she finds a physician, she’s terrified of what he might do to her. I appreciated that Sailin never became a mindless zombie. She might not be herself anymore, but the reader consistently sees her as a  human, as someone deserving of our compassion. Or at least, we might be compassionate towards her so long as she eats someone else. . .

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apex book of world SF 3The Apex Book of World SF 3, edited by Lavie Tidhar

published June 2014

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

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This newest anthology from Apex opens with  poetic visuals and then gently whirls around the planet – touching on ghost stories, political skewerings, the surreal and the horrific, and finally the whimsical. This is Lavie Tidhar’s third World Book of SF, and if you are looking to expand your international speculative fiction reading, this series of anthologies is a perfect place to start.

 

I love that we are getting more and more World Science Fiction. When I read the first Apex Book of World SF, I think I recognized two authors in the Table of Contents. I’m not suggesting you read a particular anthology only because you recognize names in the ToC, but my point is that it’s nice to see more and more non-anglo and non-Western authors known more widely every year. You’re sure to recognize a number of authors in the ToC of the third volume in this series: Benjanun Sriduangkaew is on this year’s Hugo ballot,  Karin Tidbeck garnered a lot of attention for her 2012 collection Jagannath, Xia Jia and Ma Boyong’s stories were originally published in Clarkesworld, and Biram Mboob and Uko Bendi Udo’s stories first appeared in Afro SF.

 

For the most part, the stories are subtle and understated, often with meanings that bloom in your mind a few hours or days after the reading, (excepting of course, City of Silence, which bashes you over the head in a darkly humorous way with what’s going on). The prose is often lush and poetic, with slang terms that taste exotic and  maywill have you googling a word to learn what it means. And it’s ok if you don’t know all the words you come across.  Aren’t we reading science fiction because we want to learn something new?

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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.

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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.