the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘horror

Garden of Eldritch Delights, by Lucy A. Snyder

published in 2018

where I got it: purchased new

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This book has been on my radar for a while.  It’s small press, so while I could have ordered a copy online anytime, I was hoping to find a printed copy in the wild.

 

It’s always nice when life hands you a two-fer.  I snagged a copy of Garden of Eldritch Delights at the dealer room at StokerCon in mid May, and then a few weeks later one of the stories in the collection, “Blossoms Blackened Like Dead Stars” was featured in Tor.com’s Lovecraft Reread series.  The stars must have been aligned! It was almost as if a strange force was arranging things so that I could read this book, and engage with the forbidden knowledge found within it’s pages . . .

 

Not sure what Lovecraftian fiction is?  Actually, you probably do. Ever played Arkham Horror? Ever read a Charles Stross Laundry novel? Did you read Ian Tregillis’s Milkweed Triptych or Elizabeth Bear’s Shoggoths in Bloom?   Authors love playing in Lovecraft land because you never run out of opportunities to provoke alien intelligences that are influencing humanity, elder creatures who view humans the way we view ants, forbidden knowledge,  people who aren’t quite human, unnerving horrors from below, and lots of other fun creepy and over the top stuff.  You’ve probably read something “lovecraftian” without even realizing it.

 

Here’s the thing tho –  H.P. Lovecraft was not a very good writer. Yeah, I said it. I’ve read his original and it’s . . .  ok? Kinda meh? I can appreciate his writing only because of where other writers went with it.

 

And where Lucy Snyder goes with it. . .  damn! Her delightfully dark collection Garden of Eldritch Delights takes Lovecrafts ideas of elder gods, humans enslaved by alien intelligences, mind control, and even evolution and the apocalypse, and more, and gives them a decidedly modern twist. If you enjoy modern takes on Lovecraftian fiction,  this is the short story collection for you! These stories are excellently written, enjoyable to read, and were just the right length for my short attention span. An unexpected surprise for me was how many of these stories revolve around sibling relationships.

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Bird Box (movie)

Starring:  Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes, John Malkovich

Directed by: Susanne Bier

Available on Netflix, Dec 21 2018

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Ya’ll know I don’t read or watch much horror. I’m not usually interested in being scared. Or maybe it’s that the things that fill me with indiscriminate terror are not the normal “scary” things?

 

Anyway, a number of years ago, Josh Mallerman’s debut horror thriller Bird Box made quite a splash. The jist of the story was If You See Them, You Will Die.   Not like “see it” like in The Ring movies, but if you looked at whatever this terrifying creature was, the sight of it would make you kill yourself. Was it the horror of what you’d seen? Did the creature brainwash you?  Who knows, and no one was going to find out. Bird Box is the scariest book I have ever read. You can read my review here.

 

Last year, I’d heard they were making a movie of Bird Box.  The first time i saw a preview for A Quiet Place, I hoped it was a preview for the movie Bird Box.  Obviously it wasn’t, not enough blindfolds.

 

A few weeks ago, I learned Bird Box would be on Netflix, and today, I got to watch it.

 

It’s been four years since I read the book, and to this day I remember being absolutely terrified by that book.   Surprising nobody, I watched the movie in broad daylight, with all the lights on.

 

First thoughts:

Sandra Bullock? I love her, but isn’t Malorie supposed to be a 20-something?

 

Wow 40-something Malorie, you are really, really unlikeable. What the fuck is your problem?  Do you have to be a bitch all the damn time?

 

John Malkovich, yeah! Haven’t seen him in ages, I love him!

 

Rest of the movie thoughts:

Just like in the book,  the movie gets going fast, and you’ll barely have time to breathe in the first half.  Malorie, newly single, isn’t excited about being pregnant. Her sister Jessica takes her to her doctor appointments, and Malorie is basically in denial that in a few months she will be bringing a new life into the world.

 

On the day Malorie begins to just maybe be ok with being pregnant, the world ends. Cars are on fire, people are running, there are explosions. Jessica walks in front a speeding bus.  A woman saves Malorie’s life by inviting her into a suburban house. Seconds later that same woman calmly gets into a burning car, and sits there, burning to death, while her husband watches from the house.   Go ahead and read that last sentence again, would you? I want this to sink in.

 

This is how the world ends. Invisible creatures that convince us to kill ourselves. The only way to survive, is to stop yourself from seeing them.  But if you do survive, then what? Do you just starve to death? How long will you wait before you just say Screw It, and go out and stare death in the face?

 

The choice to cast nearly everyone as middle aged adults made more sense when Olympia showed up. Young, spoiled, careless, Olympia looks like a walking advertisement for Pampered Chef or Tupperware parties. She knows she’s completely out of her league as soon as she meets the other people in the house.  Everyone else in the house has life experience, they know the same golden oldie songs, they’ve lost people. They view Olympia as a liability. You can see in Olympia’s face, as she looks around the room, that she knows she’s a liability.

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Finally!  I’m writing a spoiler-free post!    There might be some easter eggs in this post, but no spoilers.   that means you can’t put spoilers in the comments either.

 

We went and saw the Annihilation movie last weekend.  I knew it was going to be different from the book (and oh boy was it different), and I was nervous the screenwriter was gonna screw it up and that I’d hate it.

Good news!  I freakin’ loved it!

 

And now for a spoiler free discussion about some huge that is way different in the movie than in the book.  I am of course, talking about the ending. You know, that big climactic scene with the big climactic music where the biologist finally reaches the geographic goal of the expedition and gets some exposure to what the hell is actually going on.

 

This climactic scene is drastically different than anything that happens in the book, and there are two items in the scene that sort of take the place of other things that happen much earlier in the book.

 

Anyway.

 

The big climactic scene with the big climactic music?

 

I fucking loved it.

 

It was surreal, it was shocking, it was mindblowing, it was beautifully done, it was violent but somehow peaceful it was claustrophobically overwhelming it didn’t require or ask for my understanding.

 

ok, but why did I respond so positively to that scene?   I can’t get it out of my head, I really had this very strong reaction to it, like there was this weird magnetic pull, like I was staring into a black hole or a supernova. It felt like the first time I saw the Milky Way, that i had to grab onto something because I was afraid i was going to fall off of the Earth and if I did it would be ok because I’d be falling towards that.

 

I’ve been thinking about it, trying to figure out why that scene worked so well for me.

 

After thinking about it for a few days, I finally figured it out.

 

The big climactic scene has hardly any dialog.  It’s all non-verbal communication and physical movement, with moments that border on interpretive modern dance.  it was all motion and sound, no words to muddy anything.   I was drawn to that scene for the same reason I loved the first episodes of Samurai Jack: minimal dialog.

 

And I guess I often find words needlessly distracting, they box me in, I have to figure out what the inflection and context mean.  don’t get me wrong, i love words, i love books, i love reading. But spoken word sometimes doesn’t work for me (or it works too well – I get all distracted by the pitch of the person’s voice and the shape of the syllables). With minimal dialog in that climactic scene, I was finally able to focus on the bigness of what was happening.  I could focus on it on my own terms, with my own interpretation.

 

in my opinion, the lack of dialog was a brilliant choice.  Your mileage may vary.

 

Have you seen Annihilation?  did you like it?  If you didn’t read the book, and went and saw the movie, did it make any sense to you?   Even though it was very different from the book, I feel like the movie was a stack of easter eggs for fans of the book.

 

no spoilers in the comments, please.

Final Girls, by Mira Grant

Available April 30th, 2017

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (thanks Subterranean!)

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Mira Grant (also known as Seanan McGuire), is famous for her novels and series – the Newsflesh series, the October Daye series, and plenty of stand alones. Having read a small sample of her work, my opinion is that Grant’s talent shines brightest in her short fiction.  Her new stand alone novella, Final Girls, can be enjoyed over the course of an afternoon. And trust me, you’ll only need the one afternoon to read this novella, because you won’t be able to put it down.

 

I wrote an entire page of notes just in the first 30 pages of this 112 page novella, and by the time I finished the story, all my notes were irrelevant because the story had twisted and turned in about hundred unexpected directions.

 

Esther Hoffman, a journalist who specializes in debunking quackery, has been assigned to do an investigative report on Dr. Jennifer Webb’s new methods of therapy.  Dr. Webb uses dream therapy – her patients read about a horrific scenario in which they face their deepest fears, and then they are put into a hypnotic dream state where they dream the scenario and play it out to it’s conclusion. The person is physically perfectly safe, and a technician watches their vital signs to pull them out if anything dangerous happens.  Ideally, the patient learns that they can, and will survive whatever hardships they’ve been facing, and that they can now move on and live a mentally healthier life.

 

At first blush, Final Girls feels like a cross between the movies Paprika and Inception. Except Esther brings plenty of baggage to Dr. Webb’s office, and Dr. Webb is only interested in seeing her name on research papers or a nobel prize.   Dr. Webb convinces Esther that the only way she can honestly judge the quality of this new research is to do a session of therapy, and see how or even if it changes her thoughts. As Esther signs the release forms, you can practically see Webb’s ulterior motives in the corner of her toothy grin.

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In Michael Wehunt’s debut short story collection, Greener Pastures,  readers will enjoy a variety of his favorite short stories – everything from unsettling horror, to spooky fun, to Southern gothic, to unnerving dogs and haunted woods.  If you’re looking for unsettling stories that touch on a variety of themes, this is a collection you should look.   Greener Pastures was nominated for the Crawford Award, which is presented annually by the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts for a first book of fantasy.

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Michael had some fun when Greener Pastures came out from Apex Publications, he made a bunch of meme-ish images, and they are hilarious!  I’ll be posting a few of them throughout the interview, here’s a link to the whole collection.   Michael’s short fiction has appeared in Innsmouth Magazine, Shock Totem Magazine, Aghast,  Unlikely Story, The Dark, Cemetery Dance, Year’s Best Weird Fiction Vol 3,  and The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror 2016 among many others.   Michael was kind enough to answer my questions about the amazing cover art on this collection, how he knew what should go in the collection and what should be left out, why writing horror is so much fun, and more!  Let’s get to the interview!

Andrea Johnson: The cover art for Greener Pastures features some easter eggs that connect with stories in the collection. Most authors don’t have any control over the cover art of their books, but you had a number of conversations with cover artist Michael Bukowksi about what you wanted in the artwork. What can you tell us about your brainstorming sessions with the artist and how the two of you decided what the cover art should include?

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Michael Wehunt: I was lucky to be able to commission an artist for a new piece, and I was doubly lucky to choose someone as talented and collaborative as Michael. He was enthusiastic and communicative from the beginning. The first thing I told him was that I was open to anything. The second thing was an asterisk regarding the first thing—that I had my heart set on trees. Not every story in Greener Pastures features trees, but the book as a whole felt very woodsy and earthy to me. And I knew from Michael’s style that the trees would look amazing and draw the viewer in. We started brainstorming with the diner from the title story, crowded on one side by the woods, but as soon as Michael read the story “October Film Haunt: Under the House,” he really wanted to use the dog with the wooden crown in its mouth as the focal point (the dog unnerved him deeply), and that was instantly a yes for both of us. So the woods became the entire backdrop, which was the right choice. From there we decided to do a full wraparound cover, which was exciting, and with the extra space we chose elements from three other stories to include in the art, and a year later I’m still in love with the entire piece.

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Lee Thompson’s newest novella, Shine Your Light On Me, is now available through Apex Publications. Thompson writes thrillers, mysteries, and horror, often focusing on how to regain our humanity when we feel that all has been lost. His previous novels include A Beautiful Madness, It’s Only Death, With Fury in Hand, and When We Join Jesus in Hell. (Click here for info on purchasing Shine Your Light On Me)
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In Shine Your Light on Me, Aiden faces a family tragedy only to months later be given the gift of healing. He doesn’t understand how his gift works, but his neighbors and acquaintances demand that he use it for them. When he could have the power to heal an entire town, does Aiden really have a choice? Desperate measures, indeed. Lee Thompson was kind enough to chat with me over e-mail about this thrilling new novella and other projects he has in the works. You can learn more about Lee at his website, Lee Thompson Fiction.

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Let’s get to the interview!


Andrea: The plot of Shine Your Light On Me sounds absolutely fascinating. Miraculous healings, hopefulness that turns into dark desperation, and a teenager thrown into the middle of it all. Where did the idea for this story come from? Even more incredible is that this is a novella! How did you cram all of that into less than 200 pages?

Lee: Thanks for the interview, Andrea.

Well, Ken Wood from Shock Totem would tell you I was inspired by the cover for issue 4. And he’s partly right. Mostly it was asking myself, what things haven’t I written about that I want to now, right now? And I thought about it for weeks, finally realizing that to go from being a no one to everyone wanting a piece of you, would be terrifying to me. Especially if I was still a teenager. It’s kind of the opposite of Stephen King’s Carrie.

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grass-tepperGrass by Sheri S. Tepper

published in 1989

where I got it: have owned forever

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Sheri S. Tepper’s Arbai trilogy consists of Grass (1989),  Raising the Stones (1990), and Sideshow (1992).  Although they take place in the same universe and a few characters cross over, you can read these books as stand alones, or in any order you want. Sideshow is my favorite of the bunch, and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read it.  In the trilogy, humanity has colonized many planets, and colonists live rather pastoral lives on these mostly empty planets.  We’ve come across tons of alien ruins, but very little in the way of living aliens. Like many space operas, there is politics and intrigue, back stabbing and the loss of innocent life.  Grass was nominated for the Hugo and the Locus award, but sadly these novels seem to have passed into obscurity. It’s really too bad, because all three are freakin’ fantastic.

 

At first blush, the plot of Grass feels a little like Frank Herbert’s Dune – political family goes to secretive planet, has no idea what they are getting themselves into, intrigue and attempted murder ensues, family must connect with the locals if they hope to survive. Tepper of course takes things in a completely different direction, but if you liked Dune you’ll probably like Grass, and if you’re interested in Dune but have maybe felt a little intimidated by it, give Grass a try.  Grass is a planet on which nothing is what it seems, and everything you don’t understand is so old even its history has become a myth.

 

The “nobility” of Grass have no interest in hosting the Yrarier family or in allowing their children to fraternize with the Yrarier heirs. Ostensibly ambassadors of the Church, the Marjorie and Rigo Yrarier have just enough upper crust-ness to hopefully be accepted by the Bons of Grass.  But more important than that, the Yrariers were chosen because both Marjorie and Rigo are retired equestrian olympians, and the entire family is highly skilled in horsemanship and hunting.  It sounds very old fashioned, but what are nobles if not old fashioned? And everyone on Grass is simply obsessed with hunting.

 

What happens when an obsession become something you are no longer in control of, something you are no longer able to choose for yourself? I’m not talking about a cult, I’m talking about something much worse.

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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.
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