No announcement yet.

Book Reviews

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • bugen
    Thanks Ron, and I felt pretty much the same about the first book. It had some excellent parts, with the monsters he created being so much better than most modern vampires, but sometimes the book just got crushed under its own weight. These later two are still pushing 200,000 words each, but they feel much leaner. Even with a slower first entry, I'm a big fan of the trilogy in the end.

    Leave a comment:

  • RonClinton
    bugen, you've reignited my interest in this series a bit with your fine reviews. I wasn't bowled over by the first novel of the trilogy -- was good, but has structural and pacing problems for me -- so didn't follow up with either the second or third installment. Sounds like perhaps I did myself a disservice, and I may remedy that.

    Leave a comment:

  • bugen
    The City of Mirrors - Justin Cronin

    “Behind every great hatred is a love story.”

    A complex cast of characters fulfilling its calling brings the trilogy to a magnificent end. Such a massive, apocalyptic series concentrating on just a couple of generations is a bit tricky, though the history of events is well-mapped in all the right ways, but it works perfectly for a series of books you can truly lose yourself in, and categorization like that isn’t made lightly. The final pages swell with heart, and intimacy with characters built over lifetimes enhances gravitas. You’ll feel like you’ve known them your entire life, and also like a long-running epic vampire western you’ve been following for decades concludes exactly how it should.

    On the subject of intimacy with the characters, both preceding books have sections that dive deeply into the experiences and thought processes of various players, but The City of Mirrors features an in-depth study of the origin of Patient Zero that is especially noteworthy. The series excels at alternating between modern events and those of the original calamity, but here the author chooses to go deep into the history of the thing that started it all, and because of it we’re treated to an experience invoking Dickens, completely forgetting we’re in the middle of a horror novel and providing an especially striking section to an extraordinary series.

    While book 2, The Twelve, improved on the original by a good margin in terms of flow, this 3rd book edges it out. The trilogy is exceptionally well-written and comes with high recommendations, and if folks around you ever mention horror as a ‘summer read,’ bash them over the head with Justin Cronin. When they come to, hit ‘em again, because these 600,000+ words need to be savored like The Lord of the Rings– not glossed over. It succeeds at being as epic as it wants to be.

    “We are the knife of the world, clamped between God’s teeth.”

    The City of Mirrors was the best of a comprehensive, apocalyptic horror trilogy, and within the genre it’s at the opposite end of the spectrum of torture porn and splatterpunk. This is literary without being pompous, and horror is rarely this rich.

    5- stars

    City of Mirrors CD cover.jpg

    *pics to follow when CD's edition is published
    Last edited by bugen; 12-08-2016, 09:39 PM.

    Leave a comment:

  • bugen
    The Twelve - Justin Cronin

    “We’re all dying, baby. Fair enough. But some of us more than others.”

    The players from book 1 of the trilogy have separated and scattered with many years having passed before this book begins. Much like The Passage, this one starts with a serious bang and maintains a fantastic pace for its first few hundred pages. But unlike the first book, this one doesn’t taper off much much after the first explosive sections.

    Besides pacing, another improvement over its predecessor is general setting. A good deal of this book takes place in the immediate aftermath of the slaughter of the world, as opposed to the isolated area many generations later in which the first book spends so much time. Here the population has still been all but destroyed, but a great deal of the book takes place around recognizable city structures and various elements of modern living are present. And when we do get to our characters from the first book that grew up in such a small community in the wasteland, the main stage they’re interacting with is much more relatable than the dusty huts and tiny village that dominates so much of The Passage. In short, many of the elements that helped slow down the otherwise excellent first book just aren’t present here.

    The cast of characters is complex; our heroes are scattered, captured, tortured and alone, and the overall story becomes so much more satisfying when some of the threads from the first book as well as new ones started here begin weaving together.

    The Twelve never once devolves into a slog, a big achievement for a work of this size, and at times it crosses the line over into masterpiece territory, managing to be both fleet and sweeping. With this one clocking in as a superior work to the startling but slower-paced first novel, you’ll find yourselves wanting to read it quickly despite relatively few action scenes and comprehensive storytelling, both of which are factors that often hinder other horror novels. Here is works exceedingly well–The Twelve s a phone-book-sized behemoth that’s nevertheless tough to put down. This second novel maintains all of the color and complexity you’ve come to expect while improving the flow, and if you liked The Passage, chances are you’re going to love this one.

    “Love had sealed their doom. Which was what love did.”

    4+ stars (5-)







    Leave a comment:

  • bugen
    The Godsend - Bernard Taylor

    "When it began there was no way of knowing that anything had begun."

    With a sad, despairing look back at the untold events of the last few years, we almost instantly know something went horribly wrong at the book’s opening. Then there’s the abrupt shift to a sweet, idealistic family existence where we are deftly swept into the personal lives of the Marlowe family who one evening host a strange, pregnant woman in their house.

    The book is 1/5 over by the time a glimpse of horror rears its head, just for an instant. Then, as abruptly as before, we’re treated with the gently stunning story of how the parents, Alan and Kate, first met as young professionals--a very real, enchanting, simple story--and then we’re back into the enveloping family structure that lovingly moves along. One gets a sense of appreciation and even spiritual fulfillment watching the family heal from tragedy and progress through their strength and bonds with each other.

    But as we learned at the very beginning, it’s not to be. Only tremendous skill lets us forget while the spell is weaved, and it’s a beautiful, haunting thing.

    You’ve been told almost nothing of the plot, very little about the book, and hopefully that’s enough, because you’ll want everything to be as fresh as possible when you sit down to read this.

    A sweet, small-town family existence. The foreknowledge that it’s not going to end well. Sensuous, wistful writing that doesn’t waste a word and softly pulls the heart-strings and mists the eyes. But don’t be fooled. While this book is technically horror, it’s really sheer terror, and it’ll hit you in that one place you can never escape: home.

    The Godsend is a brilliantly crafted tapestry of love and triumph, panic and doom, giving you no chance to put it down. Go get it, and happy Halloween.

    5 stars

    The Godsend.jpg

    *Centipede just announced intention to publish this book. Pics to follow when it's released.
    Last edited by bugen; 10-31-2016, 05:30 AM.

    Leave a comment:

  • bugen
    Thanks for mentioning, glad you liked it!

    Leave a comment:

  • srboone
    I've been meaning to thank you. Your review of The Averoigne Chronicles was spot on. It turned out to be one of my favorite reads this year.

    Leave a comment:

  • bugen
    Thanks, guys! It really is an incredible book for those interested in that type of horror. Jerad at Centipede is just a one-man wrecking crew. When he designs these large format books they tend to be spectacular in content and presentation.

    Martin said it a while back and I've got to echo, 'I like big books and I cannot lie.'

    Leave a comment:

  • RonClinton
    I have the Centipede edition of A MOUNTAIN WALKED as well, and you've summed up this incredible package wonderfully. It's one of Centipede's more impressive titles, and that's sayin' something.

    Leave a comment:

  • Theli
    Fantastic review brother! You've succeeded in tantalizing me.

    Leave a comment:

  • bugen
    A Mountain Walked - Various - S.T. Joshi (Ed.)

    “This prayer must be for you—for you and all the others who must be left behind, who cannot walk with me, up that final flight of wooden stairs, to peace and escape, who must go on living in the shadow of a monstrous evil of which they are not even aware, and so, can never destroy.” -C. Hall Thompson

    There’s a lot to cover here not just because the book is massive, but because the stories are complex and there’s an unusual concentration of highly ranked entries to examine.

    First things first, A Mountain Walked is an ambitious undertaking. Originally released in a limited edition by Centipede Press, a very similar trade edition was later released by Dark Regions Press. The two versions differ slightly in story content, with Dark Regions dropping a few and adding another. Editor S.T. Josh has stated he feels the Dark Regions book to be in some ways superior to that of Centipede’s in the area of content, citing for the Centipede release he was forced to include a couple of stories by H.P. Lovecraft that didn’t fit the rest of the book. Thematically he is at least partially correct, but from a book-lover’s perspective not so much. Not only is the Centipede release of a quality that is to be championed, the inclusion of the two Lovecraft stories in question was thematically important, though in a non-standard capacity:
    Centipede reached out to authors John Kenn Mortensen and Thomas Ott to pick a favorite Lovecraft story and write a series of illustrations for it. And not only are they wonderful tales of horror, they’re beautifully illustrated (pics below).

    In terms of artwork there’s no comparison between the versions with Centipede’s containing huge amounts including standard story art, multiple portfolios and comics, but the story list itself is very similar. Here’s the breakdown of differences, and there's a picture of the Centipede T.O.C. in the gallery below:
    Dark Regions exclusive:
    “The Man with the Horn” by Jason V. Brock

    Centipede exclusives:
    “Man with No Name” by Laird Barron
    “Thirteen Hundred Rats” by T.C. Boyle
    “Rupa Worms from Outer Space” by Denis Tiani
    “Pickman’s Model” by H.P. Lovecraft (illustrated)
    “The Lurking Fear” by H.P. Lovecraft (illustrated)
    “Excerpts from a Notebook” by Drazen Kozjan (illustrated)

    Centipede’s edition is, by a long shot, the greater of the two anthologies. There is, of course, a huge difference in price. Centipede has the large format, extra stories, tons of artwork and the signatures, and it’s going to cost you. In this case, as in many others with this publisher, it’s worth it. For purposes of completion, all stories from each version are considered here.

    *Note: some of the lowest numbered Centipede editions (appears to be a few dozen of them) have an additional overlay page tipped in with Neil Gaiman’s and T.C. Boyle’s signatures—the vast majority of the 500 signed editions do not have this page.

    Let’s look at the monster standouts.

    "The Deep Ones” by James Wade - Mr. Dorn joins the small research team of Dr. Wilhelm and his assistant Josephine to study dolphins. As the research deepens one dolphin in particular, Flip, is the main focus. Josephine is hypnotized and left with Flip for long periods of time, searching for a telepathic link and yielding disastrous consequences.
    This is an outstanding story examining the intelligence of dolphins and what it might mean. And in this case, it means there may be another species on the planet capable of killing man faster than man himself.

    “Where Yidhra Walks” by Walter C. DeBill, Jr. - Peter Kovacs is traveling when he’s confronted by a tornado and trapped in a town he will not be able to escape until water levels decrease. During his stay he learns some of the local legends of an Indian cult entwined with the town’s past and he investigates, meeting an alluring young woman along the way.
    This is one of the best ‘trapped in a small town and trying to escape’ stories you can find in horror. It’ll get your heart pounding but at the same time asks questions about the history of man and Earth—questions that haven’t yet been answered to many peoples’ satisfaction. Tying everything together into the legendary world of Lovecraft, this is one of the greatest stories in the book.

    “Virgin’s Island” by Donald Tyson - Told through the recovered remains of a journal, this is the terrifying exploration of an island all but inaccessible to modern man. Strange rock formations seen from the sea at certain times of the day and times of the year have helped perpetuate the sailor’s superstition to “salute the lady” when near the island.
    Virgin’s Island is an incredible story in a book of incredible stories teaming with high notes on the horror scale. Since the journal we're reading from was only recoverable by about 75%, our imaginations work overtime in the gaps, and although a coherent story is told with what remains an extra layer of mystery evolves due to the partially incomplete account.

    Furthermore, after the explorer contacts his high school friend, an expert climber, to help him manage the virtually unscalable cliffs, we get the bonus of both the academic mind and the physical expertise to explore realms like this. The natural human fear of subterranean caverns adds a further element of terror, let alone the Lovecraftian monstrosities present throughout these stories.

    As far as the modern take on the Lovecraftian mythos, stories don’t get any better, or more infused with creeping dread followed by true horror, than this one. It’s another you absolutely do not want to miss.
    “Greater than the mighty ocean is the sea of time on which we float, unbounded and infinite. Who knows what wonders, what horrors, may have transpired in the dim past, before our race stood erect?”

    “[Anasazi]” by Gemma Files - A paramedic and his partner, along with two firemen, break down the door of a retired anthropologist only for our main character, Colin, to be viciously attacked by the old man and hurt badly enough he’s forced into retirement; the old man dies in the process. Circumstances lead Colin into renting the same apartment the deceased has vacated, and as he and a new friend digs through the old man’s belongings he begins to feel an ancient, inevitable pull towards violence for the sake of itself. Affecting Colin and others in the area, unveiled slowly in a parallel architecture, are the spirits of the Anasazi Indians, who left this world purposely in a kind of mass suicide in order to spectrally travel the universe and dominate all living species.
    This one was brilliant, a near-perfect story of the downward spiral of a man adrift in a society of violence, crammed into close quarters with other people and yet perpetually alone. The story gives us the idea these ancient humans, now war-veterans of the entire galaxy, are coming home to finally destroy the last remaining enemy. What makes it so smart is the influence the Anasazi have on a local area, an area increasing daily in bizarre acts of violence and frenzy, yet we hear similar acts all the time on our regular news. Either we don’t need these ancient warmongers’ influences to devolve into animals, or we do and they’re already here.
    “We are the coming wave, the wind of dust, the End of All Things. We are the Unspoken Word, the name whose sound heralds plague without cure. Not the first, we still will be last, or know the reason why.”

    “Thirteen Hundred Rats” by T.C. Boyle - An elder gentleman in small community has lost his wife and fallen into despair. His friends keep telling him that he needs to get a pet to help with the loss, and he eventually buys a python. After realizing he’d need to feed the snake rats, he buys a few while his neighbors are on vacation, and after they return they wish they’d never left.
    This one’s oddly compelling, and not just because it’s the great T.C. Boyle. The type of story doesn’t exactly fit like a glove with the rest of the anthology, but it is so well put together and disturbingly moving it gets to the point you can’t imagine it not being included.

    And now I think I need a pet.

    Just because the above stand out as perfect or near-perfect stories, it’s not the case that others pale by comparison. Many other excellent stories are present here with only one miss in the entire collection. Here are some further standouts:
    "The House of the Worm" - Mearle Prout
    "Spawn of the Green Abyss" - C. Hall Thompson
    "Black Man with a Horn" - T.E.D. Klein
    "The Last Feast of Harlequin" - Thomas Ligotti
    "Mandelbrot Moldrot" - Lois H. Gresh
    "...Hungry...Rats" - Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.
    "In the Shadow of Swords" - Cody Goodfellow
    "John Four" - Caitlin R. Kiernan
    "Beneath the Beardmore" - Michael Shea
    "Pickman's Model" - H.P. Lovecraft (Centipede only - illustrated)
    "Excerpts from a Notebook" - Drazen Kozjan (Centipede only - illustrated)

    Centipede claimed on its site, “This landmark anthology will surely be known as a classic in its field,” and the book lives up to that hype. In the end this is an instant classic and already a timeless work of art in word, picture and production. Check it out if you get a chance. It’s likely there’ll never be another Lovecraft anthology to match this one. It’s a shame only the stories themselves are averaged out to rate a book here, but no system is perfect.

    As Donald Tyson writes, “It’s a curious thing to relate in the chill rationality of written words, but when I look away from it, the memory of it in my mind appears to dance.”

    4 stars







    *I snapped well over 100 photos for this review. Check the blog if you're interested in the entire gallery.
    Last edited by bugen; 10-20-2016, 07:06 PM.

    Leave a comment:

  • bugen
    Mort (Discworld #4) - Terry Pratchett


    Young Mort has been recruited by Death, who has realized sooner or later he’s going to want some time off and will need someone to fill in for him, even replace him eventually. As the boy spends time learning about Discworld from a cosmic perspective and following Death around, he meets Death’s obnoxious daughter, falls in love with an impertinent princess, and constantly finds himself correcting everyone who calls him ‘boy’ instead of ‘Mort.’

    Death finally orders the boy (Mort) out on his own to reap a few different souls, one of which is the princess, and all of which are disasters as the boy (Mort) isn’t remotely ready. As he bungles the job a rift in the universe is created and two separate, competing worlds move forward in parallel, inviting disastrous consequences. Despite the lad’s (Mort’s) good intentions, when Death returns from his holiday, there’s going to be trouble. But Death is determined to enjoy himself on his vacation, and while there are a lot of great moments the specter getting wasted in a bar is particularly hilarious.

    I DON’T SEE THE POINT, the stranger said.
    “How many drinks have you had?”
    “Just about anything, then.”

    This book is funny. Like funny funny, and on nearly every page. The absurdities of the specific situation and of life in general are constantly examined and skewered, so if you want a long, somber look at death then this one isn’t for you. But that’s one of the main points of the work. We take ourselves so seriously in a world that doesn’t even consider us at all, and that in itself is just lunacy. The idea of immortality is also brought up a few times and generally blasted, as anyone’s who’s taken a good, long look at life won’t consider the idea of living forever a positive thing. Leave that for the young ones—they’ll learn.

    Would eternity feel like a long time, or were all lives—from a personal viewpoint—entirely the same length?

    In the end, Mort has a lot of knowledge and serious ideas cloaked in hilarity. It’s a fast read and not one that many are going to want to miss.

    People don’t alter history any more than birds alter the sky, they just make brief patterns in it.








    Leave a comment:

  • bugen
    Thanks Ron, and I'm super jealous of your Hunger and Other Stories. A signed 1st Beaumont . . . and many of his greatest stories are in there. A prize among prizes--very cool!

    Leave a comment:

  • RonClinton
    Sorry I missed the earlier Charles Beaumont discussion. I have all his books, and consider him one of my favorite writers of all time, and bugen's insights and comments about the man and his work were well-stated. I have a signed 1st HC of HUNGER AND OTHER STORIES, and it's one of the most prized possessions in my book collection.

    Leave a comment:

  • bugen
    The Averoigne Chronicles - Clark Ashton Smith

    “The skies are haunted by that which it were madness to know; and strange abominations pass evermore between earth and moon and athwart the galaxies.”

    Spanning a period of hundreds of years, these stories predominantly take place in the fictional region of Averoigne, loosely based upon France’s real world Auvergne. Populated by mythic, demonic monsters, they deal with witchcraft, love and doom.

    It’s a stretch calling this fantasy, as despite the lush setting and subject material most stories here have a lot in common with horror. But it’s also not the grimdark fantasy we see a lot of today, which in its own way melds the two genres. Clark Aston Smith’s version is his own brand–a horrific, darkly enchanting fantasy with no grit, no fancy, and no way to put it down once you start.

    “The terror that soon prevailed, beneath the widening scope of the Satanical incursions and depredations, was beyond all belief—a clotted, seething, devil-ridden gloom of superstitious obsession, not to be hinted in modern language.”

    Favorites include “The Enchantress of Sylaire,” where love and the blindness of it are examined, “The Beast of Averoigne,” unfolding in three letters, where a monster is slaughtering people at night and the language use is just top-notch, and “The Disinterment of Venus,” where a bewitching, nude statue unearthed affects everyone who sees it. “A Rendezvous in Averoigne,” “The Mandrakes” and “The End of the Story” are also incredible tales. But in a bizarre, inexplicable way, not a single story in this collection rates below ‘excellent.’ Not one.

    “We are now in a land lying outside of time and space as you have hitherto known them.”

    This Centipede edition bears special mention, though you can find much of the material elsewhere. First, it’s a collection consisting of authoritative, definitive versions of the stories. The book uses a thick and creamy paper stock that lends itself to the copious illustrations, all of which are excellent. Even the black and white skull pics are arresting and disturbing, evoking the blackest of black magic. Though Centipede’s standard cloth is always excellent, the boards here are covered with a material that compares like an 800 thread count sheet compares to 300 thread count–just holding it is luxury. The book is also interspersed with Smith’s dark poetry and includes a poem H.P. Lovecraft wrote in honor of him as well as a couple of introductions and an afterward. While the extra material is extensive, it’s the 12 stories and their gorgeous presentation that make the collection a winner.

    Most of these are spellbinding. After a couple of pages, despite the breadth of an unequaled vocabulary, reading becomes compulsive. Mentioned in the introduction, stories like these become a part of you, and if you can successfully visit the world a piece of you will always reside there. The Eagles have one of the best lines for this particular brand of sorcery: “You can check out any time you like / But you can never leave.” You will be transfixed not from thrilling, edge of your seat anticipation but from conjured, ethereal, permanent bonds of mist and magic. Consider yourselves warned.

    “Thin is the veil betwixt man and the godless deep.”

    5 stars







    Leave a comment: