Last year’s dark fantasy underdog breakout, Hekla’s Children, brought the subgenre to life again with a mix of heavy action, horror, and fantasy, with a style that read quicker than a demon on a blood-slicked luge to hell. James Brogden became known in the mix of genres as a voice to be reckoned with, but second novels can be a downfall.
Straight from the success of last year’s The Forgotten Girl, Rio Youers bursts back onto the scene with another high-octane thriller that stretches the bounds of reality in a tale which blurs the lines between horror, thriller, mystery, and fantasy. Those familiar with his writing will be treated to another smooth ride that will keep the pages flying.
Every once in a while, a book comes along to remind you how much fun reading can be. Thrillers usually fill that void pretty well. Add in some darkness, and opening the covers can feel like a rollercoaster ride designed by Rod Serling when arguing with Clive Barker.
There’s something decidedly different about Joe Hill, besides the obvious relation. His novels and short stories defy categorization, often eschewing the conventions of horror and tropes of speculative fiction in favor of something much more… interesting.
Haunted house stories have been run into the ground and, in most cases, should be boarded up due to the tropes that lazy writing cannot fix. In recent years, only a few have managed to introduce something new. Examples include House of Leaves, The Unseen, and The Haunted, each bringing a new wrinkle to the subgenre.
Tim Lebbon knows how to spin a tale that envelops the reader in a world they know, and then twists that reality into a unique playground for his characters to battle monsters and create stories which always sidestep cliché.
After a couple of straight-up thrillers, Lebbon returned to the land of weird horror with Relics last year, a novel that detailed the hidden world of the Kin, creatures who existed alongside humans yet are rarely seen. Fairies, nymphs, and monsters beyond description fought for their survival against enemies both human and supernatural.
Noir fiction can be a mixed bag in today’s market. Many of the writers seem content to channel Raymond Chandler and roll through a murder-by-numbers plot with the most clichéd characters. Thankfully, a few breathe new life into the mix. Sam Wiebe is one of them. Last year’s The Invisible Dead introduced private investigator Dave Wakeland in the underused but vibrant setting of Vancouver. Coupled with the PI’s journeys into northern Washington State, the book feels fresh and avoids the pseudo-early twentieth century language and tropes.
In her first collection in several years, Elizabeth Massie returns with a thrilling collection of short stories. The Bram Stoker-winning author has put together eighteen tales, several of which are new to readers, and there’s not a clunker in the bunch.
And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe by Gwendolyn Kiste
JournalStone (April 2017)
210 pages; $15.95 paperback; $3.95 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms
Remember this name. Gwendolyn Kiste will one day rule the world of dark short fiction if there’s any justice. Every once in a while, a new voice emerges and takes the genre by storm. Several have broken the surface lately and shown tinges of greatness to be, but rarely is one “born” with a style and substance this mind-boggling.
The release of Alma Katsu’s new historical horror novel brings with it comparisons to The Terror by Dan Simmons, even including both of them in social media ads. Do not be fooled. Yes, both authors bring impeccable research to fine stories and put you right there in the moment with ease. Both examine the human condition and how people can easily be turned to embrace their shadow selves, the monsters within the person.
Yet, there are a couple of major differences.
Those fans who are hoping to find the swashbuckling heroics of the Joe Ledger novels or the zombified madness of the Rot and Ruin series will be in for a big surprise with Glimpse. Maberry has penned a decidedly different book here, a thriller that delivers for that genre yet still hits on the edges of reality, stretching the imagination in a manner that is utterly human, but entrenched in a Twilight Zone-type story.
There are relatively few new authors in the horror/speculative field today who can make a reader both disappear into a book and later sit back in awe of the pure storytelling and the ease in which the language flows in such an enthralling, dark manner. John Langan is one. Sarah Pinborough is another. Victor LaValle ranks near the top of the list.
This breakout novel has been hailed as the book of 2017. Karen Dionne decided to leave the high concept science thriller behind (the wonderful Freezing Point and Boiling Point) in favor of something much more organic and disturbing. The Marsh King’s Daughter succeeds on all levels because of what it sets out to do—simply tell a story without all the bells and whistles. Dionne’s writing features a songstress’ voice and rhythm, yet doesn’t overwhelm the reader with the love of language. It embraces the feel of the setting and story, pulling the reader deep into the marsh’s realm, only relenting when the final page is turned.
Peter Dudar hit the scene hard with his Stoker finalist A Requiem For Dead Flies, offering a style that evoked the best of Bentley Little and Rick Hautula. He returns with The Goat Parade, a novel that hits the gas full throttle in a thrilling supernatural tale that might remind readers of some other guy from Maine.
Last year’s surprise thriller by K.J. Howe, The Freedom Broker, hit the field hard, introducing both a razor sharp writer and a series featuring Thea Paris, a character tough enough to stand toe-to-toe with Reacher and Repairman Jack. The kidnap and rescue team delves into dark territories that combine the thriller aspects with a character development rarely found in the genre.