Thursday, March 17, 2011
Population Zero by Wrath James White
Ok I fully expected to hate this book. The world of fiction has not been kind to vegans, the depiction in the media is pretty awful. The worst being the scene in 12 monkeys when a group of animal rights activists celebrate by making monkey sounds and scratching themselves.
So when I heard extreme horror writer and former MMA fighter Wrath James White had written a novella with a vegan environmentalist serial killer I was afraid to read it. I am sure not all vegans will be happy about White’s Vegan character, but I was pleasantly surprised. This is not a politically correct book by any means and I think many will call it classist, maybe even subtly racist.
The fact is this is a challenging book, like many great works of ecological and political horror it challenges us to look hard at things we refuse to see, in this case that is not the torn and ripped up fetuses, and mangled limbs. This book has those but that is not what makes this book extreme horror if you ask me. It is just how much this book challenges the notion that having children in our seriously overpopulated is always a reason to congratulate someone.
Todd Hammerstein, is vegan, rides his bike to his social services job at the welfare department. This is a short novel but White does a great job, giving depth to Todd’s environmental beliefs quickly and for me that is more interesting than the blood and gore in the second half. An incident with the family dog that was his first love plants a seed with Todd, if you can’t support the population, you shouldn’t breed. His father tells them that is why they have to kill the dogs accidental puppies.
From his job at the welfare department he sees an endless stream of people with children they have no means to support. When he fails convince some that they should have an abortion Todd resorts to violence.
I clearly don’t agree with serial killing as a means of population control but I love this method of story telling to talk about the serious issue of human overpopulation. Add population zero to the cannon of great Ecological horror with Skipp and Spector’s The Bridge, Shirley’s Demons and Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up.
Check it out here:
Find who I think would win in a death match between Dee Snyder and Regan. Details on my upcoming novels Hunting The Moon Tribe and Goddamn Killing Machines!
Also stay tuned for interview with Mr. Moon here on my blog. It was a trade.
The Ghost Way
As Told by EOT and Jak Ramankajia
Translated and adapted by Kung Ramankajia
Written by Lance Smith
Self-published(I think no publisher is listed on the book)
This is a self published book and frankly, that is the only reason it ended up in my hands. In all the years I have been doing reviews for my blog, and Monster Librarian this is the single worst book I have received. When I read the description that author sent my editor it sounded like a Thai version of the Amityville horror. The first suggestion I have to the author (and I am very confused to know just who that is) read that classic before working on another edition.
This is simply an awful book, it was a painful slog for me. I feel bad saying it, but I have to be honest, I would love to say this is a self published DIY gem that deserves to transcend amazon self publishing(they exist) but I can’t. Based a true story according to the book of a haunted farm house in Thailand would make an intense campfire experience but you can’t just transcribe someone talking and expect it to turn into a readable book. According to the credits it appears that a family friend and former Roger Corman screenwriter was brought on to write the novel of Ramankajia family experience.
I see no sign of thought out structure, narrative pacing or attempts at stylized prose. It reads like a hundred pages of storytelling transcription. Little to no Character depth, and absolutely nothing stuck in my memory. No library or collection needs this book except Ramankajia family library. I know it sounds harsh but if I was the author I would take it out of print and work on a second edition. The only reason I read past page 5 is because I had to. This is not a Thai flavored Amityville Horror, too bad because it could have been and that would have been cool.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
The Samhanach by Lisa Morton
Bad Moon Books
I am huge fan of Lisa Morton already, and I becoming a big fan of Bad Moon’s novella series. Morton is a three time Bram Stoker award winning author, her first novel “The Castle of Los Angeles,” made my 2010 top ten list and I have been a fan of Morton’s very solid short stories for years.
She is also the author of two non-fiction books about her favorite Holiday – Halloween. This novella is about Halloween and who better to write it. Spanning 300 years of Halloween and Scottish folklore this is the story of family curse, every one hundred years on Halloween night a monster seeks revenge on McCafferty clan. In 2010 Mother Merran McCafferty looks into the family’s history to see if she can avoid the curse.
Morton brings her amazing depth of Halloween folklore to this complex story. When I say complex it’s amazing just how much story is tightly packed into the page count.
That is something I noticed about the last two Bad Moon novellas I reviewed (Jade by Gene O’Neil and Blood Spring by Erick Williams). All three books I read on flights, and they were perfect plane reads. You can get the whole story in one sitting, perfect length for a short flight. The books are not cheap, but keep this in mind, Bad Moon is an independent press putting out works by authors who fresh, they are worthy of your support.
Another home run for Lisa Morton, fans of Halloween fiction should not pass this one up. Picture a copy and read it on Halloween night!
The Innswich Horror by Edward Lee
Ed Lee is know for his very modern, very splatterpunk influenced extreme horror, and while we share the same publisher I have not always been a huge fan of his work. I liked Flesh Gothic which reminded me of a more extreme Eyes Wide Shut. I read his recent stab at the Lovecraftian mythos the Innswhich Horror and can say that I was very impressed.
If you are a fan of the classic Lovecraft Novella - the Shadow over Innsmouth just stop reading this review. Just trust me and pick up this book. I think of it as a sequel or companion piece. Lee not as known for Mythos fiction like CJ Henderson or Brian Lumley, but I would say Lee has created as strong an entry to the mythos cannon. Some of those same writers have devoted entire careers to Playing in Lovecraft’s sandbox, but here in this short quick volume Lee shows a deep understanding of Lovecraft and his work.
The story follows Foster Morley a Lovecraft devotee who traces Lovecraft’s path and research and finds a city and location similar to the events in the Lovecraft story. Lee builds the mystery and suspense perfectly and to me this is his best work to date. Mythos writing is as tired and over done as gothic vampire romance, so I have to hand it Lee who knocked this mythos novel out of the park. Lovecraft fans will enjoy this work, and it should be in your collection.
Crucified Dreams Edited by Joe R. Lansdale
There are some authors you get tired of heaping praise on. Joe R. Lansdale is a force of nature, but the author of over thirty novels, hundreds of short stories and Graphic novels doesn’t ever put out crap. The guy is just an amazing writer. So if at this point, your thinking, “I have not read any of his stuff.” Start adding his books to your TBR.
As for this anthology, it’s hard to resist the usual hyperbole, but damnit this is the best anthology I have read in years. Hands down. In his introduction Lansdale described it as fiction that is in a similar vein to what he writes. And in a lot of ways if you started reading it without the authors name it would be possible to believe he wrote many of the stories.
Like the best of Lansdale's own fiction you will find yourself involved in the stories, flipping pages quickly and constantly feeling the range of emotions you want from a book. You will laugh out loud, cringe at events you know are coming, and shaking your head in delightful disgust.
The list of authors in this volume is impressive from Stephen King, Harlan Ellison, David Morrell, Tom Piccirilli and many, many more. There is not a stinker in the bunch, (outside of one story by Jonathan Letham, whose unbroken structure grated on me) top to bottom this book is brimming with creative insanity.
Some of my favorites included David Morrell’s revenge tale Front Man, Lansdale’s The pit, Octavia Butler’s bitter tale of disease, and Portland’s own Lucius Shepard with a tale of a not so over the hill boxer. Tom Piccirilli had the best story opener and my absolute favorite story of the book of “The Mojave Two Step” by Norman Partridge.
This is a must have for any serious horror reader or library. Lansdale has given us a gift here, I only wish I knew more about how and why he selected the stories. If you like short stories you will love this book.