Before I get to the review, just a quick comment about the publisher, Bloodshot Books. I really admire the effort being made to find books that either had a limited print run or have gone out of print over the years and giving them new life in the digital age by releasing them in paperback and e-book formats. Earlier this year, they gave this treatment to The Awakening by Brett McBride, a wonderful coming of age story and one of the best books I’ve read in 2016.
Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror edited by Ellen Datlow
Tachyon Publications (November 2016)
432 pages; $12.79 paperback; $7.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand
Ellen Datlow has been charting the course of horror fiction for over 35 years. In that time, she has maintained a balanced perspective in her numerous anthologies and collections, always casting an appreciative eye toward the established masters of horror while shining a light on the talent tasked with carrying the genre forward.
Over the past few years, Robert Ford has become the go-to writer when it comes to emotionally-wrenching fiction. Give him a little bit of your time and eventually, without fail, he’ll have your heart on a platter. The Last Firefly of Summer is no exception. With lean prose and and a powerful voice, Ford spins a tale about summer love gone wrong, and a vengeful adoration which must be satisfied.
I love amusement parks, especially the old ones from my youth. The local ones were the best, where sometimes it seemed the rides were likely to fall apart while you were still riding them. The ones within an hour’s drive from where I grew up—Lakewood Park, West Point Park, and Willow Grove Park, all in Southeast Pennsylvania. In its dying days, the later was known as Six Gun Territory. I remember they used to have a small wooden coaster, The Scenic; exciting not because of it’s speed or height, but because of the way it always seemed like it could leave the track at any moment.
The Angel of the Abyss by Hank Schwaeble
Cohesion Press (October 31, 2016)
306 pages; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by David Simms
Jake Hatcher is one badass character. He’s been to hell and back, fought for his country only to be put in prison, watched people he cares for die at the hands (or other deadly appendages) or demons and other creatures. In Damnable and Diabolical, Hatcher fought off hell and survived—barely—but has returned with a vengeance in The Angel of the Abyss. If readers aren’t familiar with the Stoker-winning first book, it’s okay. Catching up can be done afterwards. Each works somewhat as a standalone but are best served to be read in order.
The End of Halloween: Four Tales of All Hallows’ Eve by Greg Chapman
Self Published (September 2016)
60 pages; $1.99 e-book
Reviewed by Frank Michaels Errington
Writer Greg Chapman loves Halloween. Not exactly a bold statement; the man is a horror writer, after all. What makes this interesting, however, is that Greg is from Australia, where Halloween is not nearly the big deal it is in the United States.
In his novella length collection of short fiction The End of Halloween: Four Tales of All Hallows’ Eve, Greg writes with the passion of a long-time devotee of the holiday on which Americans are expected to spend 8.4 billion dollars in 2016.
Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”: The Authorized Graphic Adaptation by Miles Hyman
Hill and Wang (October 25, 2016)
160 pages; $30.00 hardcover; $16.00 paperback
Reviewed by Danica Davidson
Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is one of the most famous—and infamous—short stories of all time. People reading it for the first time aren’t prepared for the twist ending, and when it was first published in The New Yorker in 1948, it offended some people so much that they wanted their subscriptions canceled. Those not so easily offended, though, were riveted to the story, and those who couldn’t keep it out of their minds realized they’d been swept up by its power. Seventy years later, the story continues to haunt, and now it’s been adapted into graphic novel format, done by Jackson’s own grandson, Miles Hyman.
Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin
Liveright (September 2016)
624 pages; $25.14 paperback; $16.05 e-book
Reviewed by Frank Michaels Errington
Admittedly, I don’t read a lot of biographies. Not my thing. Nothing against them, I just prefer to spend my time reading fiction. That being said, when I saw there was going to be a Shirley Jackson biography, I decided to get out of my comfort zone just a bit.
Sometimes, horror is the perfect genre for exploring universal themes such as loss, isolation, or grief.
Sometimes, horror is the perfect genre for exploring how humans react to adversity, loneliness, temptation or, naturally, fear.
And sometimes, horror is the perfect genre to take a group of people, strand them on a train in the dark frontier, and unleash a siege of bloodthirsty creatures upon them.
Ellen Datlow has been editing science fiction, fantasy, and horror short fiction for over thirty years. She has won numerous awards for her work and is certainly one of the best in the business. As a result, she attracts some of the best writers when she puts together a new project, and Children of Lovecraft is a fine example of this effect.
Mysterion: Rediscovering the Mysteries of the Christian Faith edited by Donald S. Crankshaw and Kristin Janz
Enigmatic Mirror Press (July 2016)
300 pages; $16.99 paperback; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Kevin Lucia
Writers grappling with faith through the trappings of speculative fiction isn’t new. George MacDonald, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, J. R. R. Tolkien, Madeleine L’Engle, Russell Kirk, William Peter Blatty and others did it long before now. There are many industry greats—such as Dean Koontz, Anne Rice and Stephen King, only to name a few—who have also written powerful works which address both the inspirational and also terrifying aspects of the Christian faith.
It’s a tricky balance, however, honestly grappling with these questions without proselytizing in the fashion of a preachy “Sunday School Lesson Wrapped Up in a Story.” All too often, “Christian” fiction errs too much on the side of “doctrinal correctness,” “proper theology” and an almost Puritanical “cleanliness,” completely missing out on the transformational power fiction has to impact humanity by sharing deep tales of the human experience and what it means to believe, hope, grieve, sacrifice, and trust in a higher power.
Stranded by Bracken MacLeod
Tor Books (October 4, 2016)
304 pages; $24.99 hardcover; $11.99 e-book
Reviewed by David Simms
Stranded is the kind of book which generates plenty of hype and high expectations—like many others every year. This one delivers on all that’s promised, and more, in a genre-hopping blockbuster which draws immediate comparisons to The Terror, The Thing, and even The Twilight Zone. Strong comparisons, yet in this case, apt words. A tour-de-force of claustrophobic thrills which places the book in the same field as Simmons, Koontz, and Golden.
Reminiscent of the pulp fiction stories of the ’30s through the ’50s, or perhaps the B-Movies popular at drive-ins in the ’70s and ’80s, Greg F. Gifune’s new novel, Savages, is every bit as good as the best of those sub-genres. Prior to the start of the book, the author quotes the 1920 film “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”:
A man cannot destroy the savage in him by denying its impulses. The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it…
The story which follows is about a group of friends and acquaintances, shipwrecked, adrift for days, and washed ashore on a seemingly uninhabited island…and that’s the good news.
Hunter of the Dead is a sprawling, epic tale of vampire houses, the Inquisitors who seek to destroy them, and the one both vampires and Inquisitors fear the most, simply known as The Hunter.
Kozeniewski wastes no time setting the bloody tone for the tale which follows. I have never read anything like this. At times mesmerizing and breathtaking, Hunter of the Dead is every bit as entertaining as The Strain, but dissimilar in many ways. Multiple story-lines are woven together in a complex tapestry of blood and violence. No sparkly vampires here, these undead are definitely hardcore.
They Say a Girl Died Here Once by Sarah Pinborough
Earthling Publications (October 2016)
202 pages; $35 signed & numbered hardcover; $400 lettered edition
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand
Every year for the last 11 years, Earthling Publications has played Santa on our “Horror Christmas,” a/k/a Halloween. Their gift to us each year: a new entry in the Halloween Series, a collection of short novels written by some of the best the horror genre has to offer. We’re talking your Peter Crowthers, your Gary McMahons, your Glen Hirshbergs, your James A. Moores, etc. The cream of the crop.
You’re forgiven if you haven’t heard of this series or read any of them—they are published in extremely limited quantities of 500 copies plus a smaller run of deluxe editions (the series starter—Mr. Dark’s Carnival by Glen Hirshberg—was only offered as a run of 15 handmade hardcovers), so they tend to disappear quickly. I fully expect that to be the case with this year’s entry, They Say a Girl Died Here Once, written by soon-to-be-an-overnight-success Sarah Pinborough.