When does a zombie story become interesting again, after the glut that’s thicker than the goo between the undead’s ears? Answer: Dead Aware, a tale that’s enjoyable from start to finish, and was an unexpected pleasure. Told from the points of view of an undead couple—okay, that was enough to hook me from the get-go—Merry’s story chronicles Clara and Max Jacobs from living to dead to undead to… whatever.
James A. Moore returns to the blood-drenched streets of Black Stone Bay in the third novel of this thrilling series. For those familiar with the spectacular Halloween series from Earthling’s Paul Miller, you know this annual offering is always a special treat. There’s never been a miss in the fourteen entries by the publisher, and this one is no exception.
When someone opens a Barry Hoffman novel, they know the story and characters will leave a scar. Like Jack Ketchum and the best of Richard Laymon, Hoffman never shies away from the ugly side of humanity and the horrors they inflict upon one another. His novels, which include the stellar Eyes series, have always tackled tough subjects, and he continues the trend with this story, one that was influenced by the rash of sexual assaults on college campuses across the country in the past year.
If readers haven’t yet discovered the magic of Steph Post’s enthralling writing, Miraculum is a fine place to start, a novel that should put her on the map with a style somewhere between Gillian Flynn and John Connolly, but with a mark all her own.
Weird fiction is making a massive comeback. Several authors are breaking out of a box they never felt comfortable being trapped in. Cody Goodfellow has never fit in any box. He can nail commercial fiction, straight up horror and other genres with ease, and has done so several years.
Fantasy with horror or horror with fantasy is tough to nail down (unless your last name happens to be Martin or King). There has been a resurgence recently in the genre due to Game Of Thrones and King’s Dark Tower series, but true stars are tough to find among the mess of copycats. Finding something truly original and fun to read is tougher than pulling a thread of gold from a ton of dragon poop. There are treasures out there, though, and a new one just emerged.
Novels about riding the rails have always been exhilarating journeys if left in the right hands. Eric J. Guignard is fresh off his Bram Stoker win for best fiction collection (That Which Grows Wild), so he has the skills to terrify his audience. Luke Thacker is a victim of the Great Depression, scraping by to survive on the dangerous rails of America. Along the way, he learns many secrets to staying alive, one of them being a code left by other hobos, often warning them of strangers who would sooner leave them bleeding in a ditch, or indicating a friend ready to help out a guy in need, through symbols carved into trees. When he discovers one odd symbol, an infinity sign, he learns that reality is a bit broken.
Spirits come in many forms, and some say that those in the liquid form can lead to those of the demonic sort. Newcomer Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel rocks this debut that not only tackles but beats the everloving snot out of alcoholism. This is a novel that delves into the horrors that can come out of falling prey to a crippling disease that affects so many.
What happens when reality…isn’t? When memories can’t be trusted, but they can possibly be manipulated to hold onto the times we hold most dear. If you could talk to that parent who’s slipping away into dementia, re-experience the birth of your first child, hear his/her first words, or keep that love burning by forever traveling back to that exhilarating time in your relationship—would you do it? Most of us would, even if we won’t admit it.
W.D. Gagliani returns to gift readers with a novel that combines James Bond with Constantine, but with a darker flair in a story that is pure fun to read. Those familiar with his excellent Wolf’s Trap/Nick Lupo series will find plenty of familiar elements here, yet the humor the author imbues ratchets up the entertainment level, along with action scenes that leap off the page in a style that is flawless.
Christopher Golden returns to the realm of high concept thrillers with The Pandora Room, a novel chock full of action, horror, mythology, and history. Following in the footsteps of Ararat, the story that successfully combined the aforementioned elements in one of the best novels of the year, this entry also keeps the setting claustrophobic and tight, a motif that could be a mess in less capable hands.
File this short novel under the “mind-blowing, mind-boggling, weird horror” category. There. It’s done. Attempting to classify I Dream of Mirrors is nearly impossible to explain or put into a genre box.
Translated: it’s one of the cool, weird stories that can be called horror, dark fantasy, sci-fi, or bizarre fiction. Readers who crave the out-there settings and characters of Jeff Vandermeer, Neil Gaiman, and John Langan will find plenty to lose themselves in here with a tale that, while being heady and intelligent, keeps itself grounded.
For those out there who are unfamiliar with Gwendolyn Kiste’s gorgeous prose, The Rust Maidens would be a great place to start. After last year’s stellar collection, And Her Smile Will Untether The Universe, Kiste steps out with her debut novel, which rattles the soul in a disturbing, yet beautiful read.
The Haunting of Drearcliff Grange School by Kim Newman
Titan Books (October 2018)
400 pages; $10.37 paperback; $6.15 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms
Kim Newman has an extensive resume that goes far beyond his Anno Dracula — but YA fiction? Gothic young adult fiction? Newman nails this genre in a fascinating story that will recall both Harry Potter and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children in a novel that sets itself apart from the others in style and characters.
Small town horror. A coming of age novel. The good girl/bad girl conflict. Readers have read it all before, right? Not so. S.P. Miskowski turns the tropes on their heads in this wrenching novel that is bound to leave a scar.