Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Infernal Parade by Clive Barker

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Infernal Parade by Clive Barker
Expected publication: TBD by Cemetery Dance

From the beginning of his distinguished career, Clive Barker has been the great visionary artist of contemporary dark fantasy, a form that Barker himself has termed “the Fantastique.” Through his many novels, stories, paintings and films, he had presented us with unforgettable images of the monstrous and the sacred, the beautiful and the grotesque. His body of work constitutes a great and varied contribution to modern popular culture.

This astonishing novella, Infernal Parade, perfectly encapsulates Barker’s unique abilities. Like the earlier Tortured Souls, an account of bizarre–and agonizing–transformations, Infernal Parade is tightly focused, intensely imagined, and utterly unlike anything else you will ever read. It begins with the tale of a convicted criminal, Tom Requiem, who returns from the brink of death to restore both fear and a touch of awe to a complacent world. Tom becomes the leader of the eponymous “parade,” which ranges from the familiar precincts of North Dakota to the mythical city of Karantica. Golems, vengeful humans both living and dead, and assorted impossible creatures parade across these pages. The result is a series of highly compressed, interrelated narratives that are memorable, disturbing, and impossible to set aside.

Infernal Parade is quintessential Barker: witty, elegantly composed, filled with dark and often savage wonders. It proves once again that, in Barker’s hands, the Fantastique is not only alive and well, but flourishing. This is vital, visionary fiction by a modern master of the form.

I could very quickly go broke collecting Cemetery Dance editions, but a new Clive Barker novella, complete with artwork by Bob Eggleton? Damn, this looks awesome.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

#Horror Review: Eat the Night by Tim Waggoner

Eat the Night was, without a doubt, one of the weirder stories I've read this year. Not weird in the WTF perverse kind of sense, but more in a surreal, unsettling, disjointed sort of way. Tim Waggoner tells what seem to be three stories here, which only become even weirder once their intersection becomes clear.

The opening chapter sets a dark tone, with a suicidal rock 'n roll cult taking a break from their wanton orgy to cheer on their leader, peel off their faces, and prepare to sacrifice one of their own - all while clack-clack-clacking things approach from the trees.

From there we skip to a tormented young woman, waking from a dream . . . or is it a memory? What should be the most normal part of the novel slowly suffocates under hints of dark thoughts, a dark past, and the odd mystery of the basement door hidden behind a thin layer of wallpaper.

Next, we switch to a mysterious Maintenance crew, who are part X-Files, part Ghostbusters, and part Men-in-Black, but considerably darker (and weirder). They're responsible for monitoring the monsters of the world, both human and otherwise, all in a vain attempt to prevent the approach of entropy.

I love that the suburban elements of the tale are the darkest, most violent, goriest aspects of the tale, with some truly chilling scenes and settings. The early revelation of Joan's dark past is appropriately shocking, even within such a dark tale, and the later exposure of that event's significance really brings the story full circle. Similarly, I thought it was brilliant that something as weird as the Maintenance crew came to be the only sane thing in the novel, with Kevin (and his unfortunate partners) the only thing standing between the reader and the darkness.

In the end, Eat the Night smartly played against my expectations at just about every turn, keeping me unsettled and intrigued throughout. If you're a fan of weird horror, it is well worth the read.

Kindle Edition
Published September 24th 2016

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Scratching my Lovecraftian Itch by A.J. Smith (guest post)

Scratching my Lovecraftian Itch
Writing the Long War – Part Three 
by A.J. Smith

I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I played the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game long before I read any of H.P Lovecraft’s writing. My first exposure to his world was making a sanity roll after seeing a Shoggoth. There was something intangibly-fascinating about creatures that didn’t just kill you, they sent you insane. The idea that we cannot have truth and sanity. The game led to the stories and the stories led to a deep love of weird fiction. From then on, I never doubted that I’d include Lovecraftian horror in my fantasy books.

There is a preoccupation in Lovecraft’s writing with nihilism and amorphous horrors. Not so much blood and gore, but slime and formlessness. His monsters don’t run at you, shrieking. They ooze towards you, tentacles gyrating in the air, as if you are truly insignificant to their alien worldview. They’re from another place and time, they are “the Other,” the flip-side of the coin; and the more you learn of them, the further your mind recoils. Truth and sanity... in his world they are mutually exclusive.

Then there are the gods. Lovecraft called them Great Old Ones, other writers have classified them as Elder God or Outer God, but they remain the pillars upon which his nihilism is built. Lovecraft was an atheist and through the cosmic indifference of his own pantheon, he imagined the creation of humanity as a genetic accident – the ultimate proof of our insignificance in the universe. His gods are not actively malevolent in any way we would understand, they are simply alien and treat us – when they acknowledge us at all – as we would treat ants.

After being obsessed with Lovecraft and his mythos for many years, I now find that other sub-genres of horror can leave me a little cold. That is to say, in my mind, the Cthulhu Mythos is synonymous with horror, far more so than your average slasher film or ghost story – though I should confess that my favourite horror film is The Exorcist and my favourite horror book is The Hellbound Heart.
And then there is me and my humble contribution to the Mythos. My two proudest moments as a writer are: 1) receiving a review from SCIFINOW which categorized my writing as “Martin meets Lovecraft,” and 2) the inclusion of my name and series on the Wikipedia page dealing with Lovecraftian writers (I didn’t put me there, but I’d like to thank whoever did.)

Like Lovecraft, my monsters have tentacles and my gods are unknowable titans of eternity. In keeping with the tradition of weird fiction, I keep my monstrosities at the edges of the world, lurking in the shadows for the curious, the unlucky, or the ambitious. This fits perfectly with fantasy. Just as Lovecraft inserted his Elder Things into the history of humanity, I have woven my creations into my world. Few humans know what lurks in the shadows, oozing and festering at the edges of history. And rightly so - if it’s there for all to see, it loses its power. The unknowable should remain so. But it is there... and eventually someone will find it.



About the Author

A. J. Smith spent 12 years devising The Long War cycle. When not living in the Lands of Ro, he works in secondary education.


About the Book

The Black Guard
By A. J Smith

The first in a major new fantasy series set in the lands of Ro, an epic landscape of mountain fortresses, vast grasslands, roiling ocean and slumbering gods

The city of Ro Canarn burns. With their father's blood fresh upon the headsman's sword, Lord Bromvy and Lady Bronwyn, the last scions of the house of Canarn, face fugitive exile or death. In the court of Ro Tiris, men fear to speak their minds. The Army of the Red marches upon the North. Strange accidents befall those who dare question the King's new advisors. Those foolish enough to speak their names call them the Seven Sisters: witches of the fire god; each as beautiful and as dangerous as a flame. And, called from the long ages of deep time by war and sacrifice, the children of a dead god are waking with a pitiless cry. All that was dead will rise. All that now lives will fall.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

From the Shelf to the Page: This Week in the Ruins

In case you missed it, here's what happened in the Ruins this week . . .

Dragons, Superheroes, Apocalypses, and Hell: Catching up with the review pile . . .

Waiting on Wednesday: Haven by Tom Deady

Thriller Review: The Obsidian Chamber by Preston and Child

Short Story: Consumption by Jesse Orr


Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.

A handful of interesting review titles this week:

The Secret Sex Life of Angels: Mysteries of Isis by I J Weinstock

Cyber World: Tales of Humanity’s Tomorrow edited by Jason Heller

Eye of the Storm by Frank Cavallo

The Ruling Mask by Neil McGarry & Daniel Ravipinto


No new WTF Friday titles this week, but one interesting Kindle freebie:

The Emperor's Treasure by Daniel Leston


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

What's topping your shelves this week?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Dragons, Superheroes, Apocalypses, and Hell: Catching up with the review pile . . .

While I did a lot of reading this summer, I didn't get around to reviewing it all. Fortunately, I tend to take a lot of notes as I'm reading, so even if I'm a bit too removed from the reads to write an in-depth review, I can still share my thoughts.

Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters edited by by Janet E. Morris
This is a book I lingered over for quite some time, reading a few short stories at a time, as the mood grabbed me. Favorites within the collection included Legacy of the Great Dragon by S.E. Lindberg (loved the Egyptian theme), Bring Your Rage by Janet & Chris Morris (interesting use of the Amazons), Aquila of Oyos by Walter Rhein (fantastic clash of dragons), The Rhyme of the Dragon Queen by JP Wilder (great quest adventure), and The Dragon's Horde by Joe Bonadonna (nice slice of pulp fantasy). Maybe I'm a traditionalist, but the more contemporary stories were the weakest of the lot for me.

Checkmate Ever After by Lex Chase
I forget how this one landed in my lap - I think it was a promo stop or guest post that somehow fell through - but it was a fun take on superheroes (with a queer twist). It's campy and comic book inspired, with impossible feats of heroism and ridiculous powers, not to mention plenty of amusing quips and comebacks. The gay romance angle actually worked better than I expected, and was developed well, although there were some scenes that fell flat.

Freeze/Thaw by Chris Bucholz
This is a book that hooked me with a great concept, placing the Earth in peril because of a well-meaning attempt to stop global warning - that has backfired on an apocalyptic scale. It had a great hero, a quadriplegic hiker who is turned computer genius during his recovery. While exasperation with Gabe's superhuman perfection detracted somewhat from the ending (he just became too much), it was still an exciting adventure with some great ideas.

Lost Gods: A Novel by Brom
Maybe it's because Clive Barker, Paul Kane, and Tim Powers already took us there over the past year, but this descent into Hell didn't grab me the way I expected it to. Brom offers up an interesting setting and a remarkable journey, but the storyline itself was all over the place, and the characters were a little too flat to make the action come alive. Despite that, it's a story I kept returning to over the months it lingered on my pile, and one I felt compelled to finish, which definitely says something.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Haven by Tom Deady

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Haven by Tom Deady
Expected publication: October 31st 2016 by Cemetery Dance

In 1961, the small town of Haven thought they’d gotten rid of their monster.

After a series of child killings, Paul Greymore was caught carrying a wounded girl. His face, disfigured from a childhood accident, seemed to confirm he was the monster the community hoped to banish. With Paul in prison, the killings stopped.

For seventeen years, Haven was peaceful again. But Paul served his time and has now returned to Haven–the town where he grew up, and the scene of his alleged crimes. Paul insists he didn’t commit those crimes, and several townspeople believe him including the local priest, a young boy named Denny, and his best friend Billy.

Trouble is, now that Paul is back home, the bizarre killings have started again–and the patterns match the deaths from Haven’s past. If Paul isn’t the killer, who is?

Or WHAT is? An unlikely band of adventurers attempts to uncover the truth, delving into long-hidden tunnels that might actually be inhabited by a strange, predatory creature.

Haven is a compelling horror epic in the spirit of It or Summer of Night, and a stunning debut novel from a gifted author who knows that the darkest horrors lurk inside human beings, even when there is a monster on the loose.

I'll likely have to wait for the mass market release of this to give it a read, but it sounds like the perfect book to huddle up with on a stormy Halloween night.