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.
A Midnight Dreary (The DeChance Chronicles, Vol. 5) by David Niall Wilson
Crossroad Press (January 2019)
218 pages; $25.99 hardcover; $12.99 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms
A novel that features Edgar Allan Poe is always something worth reading, especially as a character who is larger than life, shedding light into his mysterious past and sad fate. Add in dimensional and time travel, creatures of all sorts, the Brothers Grimm, and classic mythology, and the reader is in for a treat.
Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You by Scotto Moore
Tor (February 2019)
128 pages; $13.53 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms
Just when you thought Lovecraftian horror couldn’t get any weirder, Scotto Moore tosses out this tongue-in-cheek tale of a band that is destined to bring about the end of the world. It’s a fun read that can and will be easily read in one sitting, and is sure to leave the reader with a smile.
It’s time for a return to the Secret History of the World by the iconic Dr. F. Paul Wilson. That should be enough reason to pick up this short novel about the plant where Nicola Tesla conducted some of his most dangerous experiments. This should serve as an appetizer to the return of Repairman Jack sometime in the very near future (yes, it’s actually happening). For the many fans of both Jack and the Adversary Cycle, Easter eggs abound everywhere, adding to what is a thrilling story on its own.
There are psychological thrillers and then there are books that dive deep into the psychology of the characters; into trauma, and the deep pits that therapy and grief can dig. Alice Blanchard drags the readers into the pit with A Breath After Drowning, a thriller that—while not terribly original—is as close to perfect as it can get in this genre.