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    Drunken Fireworks - Stephen King
    Audio Book read by Tim Sample

    I will try to give my feelings on this story without giving away any ritical details as the printed version does not come out until fall.

    The story itself is reminiscent of Delores Claiborne as it is promarily a first person narrative given from Alden McCausland as he is being questioned by police about the events of the prior night. The events are a disastrous end to and annual fireworks competition between the McCaslaund's and Massimo's. In general it is an enjoyable story but one of the main elements of the storyline is a memner of the Massimo family who plays the trumpet to highlight events. While a key part of the story regarding why things escalated the trumpet narraitve did not really work for me. Part of the reading that bugged me was that while the reader was speaking as the McCausland mother he would be speaking in her voice and the the narration would switch back to the son but the reader would continue in the moms voice. This only happened twice and may have been intentional as it was supposed be the son telling authorities what his mom said but it distracted me from the story being told. The story does have a very satisfying ending that I did not see coming. Overall I will give it a 3.5 out of 5.
    Last edited by Martin; 07-25-2015, 05:00 PM.


      Condemned by Michael McBride:

      “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here” are the words that adorn the cover of the Thunderstorm Books edition of Michael McBride’s new thriller. Their use is fitting not just because of their place in the plot of the book—etched into the wall of a dilapidated building, a clue left by a killer of young women—and not because of how dark in content the book is—and it is dark--, but fitting because of how succinctly it sums up the theme of the book: the death of hope, or rather, how quickly we can let the positive aspects in our lives wither and die due to lack of nurture and attention, whether it be marriages, friendships, or the city we live in.

      Peter Webber is an investigative journalist who has turned his attention to running his website that exposes the criminals and corruption that run rampant in a financially-crippled Detroit. His sole goal is to help preserve the historic buildings that have been left abandoned and are being stripped for their materials by thieves. After receiving an anonymous tip about looters at an old theater, Peter stumbles upon the mutilated body of young woman left on display in the building. Peter finds himself in a game of cat-and-mouse with the killer, who is quickly claiming other lives.

      There is always talk of how a setting is a character in and of itself in book or movie, but rarely have I seen it become such a force than I did in this book. McBride imbues every page with the city’s decay until you can feel the rotten floorboards giving way beneath your feet and smell the damp rot long after you’ve set the book down.

      There is so much to enjoy in McBride’s attention to detail, in his characterization of Peter and that of his estranged childhood friend (who is now a police detective working the same case) that it’s unfortunate that the final act can’t hold up to what’s come before. The revelations of who the killer is and their motives comes jarringly fast and then the book shifts its focus from an atmospheric deliberately-paced thriller to an action set-piece straight out of Hollywood, until it reaches its inevitable conclusion that, while it maintains Peter’s solid characterization, feels clichéd. It’s these final missteps that impede the book from being a complete success. While I was disappointed in the ending of this book, and find it hard to fully recommend it with adding that caveat, I will be on the lookout for more of McBride’s work in the future.

      3 stars (out of 5)

      The Thunderstorm limited edition also comes with the novella, “Firebug”, which I had previously read in the collection Mia Moja. This has a suspenseful, edge-of-your-seat opener that completely had me in its grip. Unfortunately, I’m not a huge fan of police procedurals, as the story reveals itself to be, so the rest of the tale did not do too much for me. It is solidly written so if you are a fan, then you might get a whole lot more out of it than I did. But, man, that opening…
      Last edited by Sock Monkey; 07-29-2015, 03:06 AM.


        Library of Weird Fiction / Masters of the Weird Tale: William Hope Hodgson

        The purpose here is not only to review a great deal of the career of one of our favorite, and one of our earliest, weird storytellers, but also to compare two of the definitive volumes released from Centipede Press, being the Masters of the Weird Tale and Library of Weird Fiction: Hodgson editions. All stories found in either volume are below. The review does not apply to the comprehensive 5 volume the Nightshade release, which I believe is his entire catalog of fiction.

        First, a couple of blanket statements are in order. The Masters book is physically much larger than the Library, and the Masters contains much additional material that is standard to the series, such as extensive illustrations and the overall production quality of the book itself, not to mention four entire novels. However, the Library of Weird Fiction book is nothing to scoff at, containing two novels itself, and the table of contents between the two differs more than you would expect.

        More depth below, but here is a table of how the stories break down comparatively. I’ve reordered them alphabetically so it’s easy to spot the differences:

        Masters of the Weird Tale Library of Weird Fiction
        A Tropical Horror A Tropical Horror
        Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachthani
        Demons of the Sea
        From the Tideless Sea From the Tideless Sea
        Out of the Storm Out of the Storm
        The Albatross
        The Boats of the 'Glen Carrig' - novel
        The Derelict The Derelict
        The Finding of the Graiken The Finding of the Graiken
        The Gateway of the Monster The Gateway of the Monster
        The Ghost Pirates - novel The Ghost Pirates - novel
        The Goddess of Death
        The Haunted Jarvee The Haunted Jarvee
        The Haunted Pampero
        The Haunting of Lady Shannon
        The Hog The Hog
        The Horse of the Invisible The Horse of the Invisible
        The House Among the Laurels The House Among the Laurels
        The House on the Borderland - novel The House on the Borderland - novel
        The Mystery of the Derelict
        The Night Land - novel
        The Riven Night
        The Room of Fear
        The Searcher of the End House The Searcher of the End House
        The Stone Ship
        The Terror of the Water-Tank
        The Thing in the Weeds
        The Thing Invisible The Thing Invisible
        The Voice in the Night The Voice in the Night
        The Whistling Room The Whistling Room


        The House on the Borderland – previously reviewed but reproduced here:

        A couple of travelers come across a manuscript among ruins that details a man’s life in his house, the creatures that came for him, and time.

        I’d been meaning to get to this novel for months, and finally picked it up for a moment yesterday. A few hours later, having had no intention of doing so, I closed the book, finished. A day later I have not yet been able to shake the story. This is not traditional, and requires the active participation of the reader’s imagination. It’s not one where you can sit back and let it wash over you, you must engage.

        Coming in at number 8 on Centipede’s top 100 horror novels of all time, this book is a mind-bender, containing everything that’s ever happened as well as everything that will ever happen.

        Easily one of the best novels I've read.

        After reading most of his career, I feel this is the story, the masterpiece that few authors, even the most successful, ever hit – it’s a staggering work. I had a profound experience reading this in the text-only but still luxurious Library edition, and was later to find there are reputably some serious typos in the Masters edition of this story which might pull me out from the magic (check Nguyen’s Amazon review). I feel this is Hodgson’s finest work and I need it to be perfect to serve as the permanent copy on the shelf.

        5 stars

        The Ghost Pirates - The story of a crew long at sea, some of whom begin hearing and seeing things, a phenomenon not too uncommon in their circumstances, but as the visions become more frequent, the visuals clearer, and as people begin to disappear, decisions must be made about how seriously to take the threat, assuming it exists.

        This one has three elements working against it. First, the language barrier from tales written in this time (1909) compared to today’s mainstream fiction. Second, a huge portion of the dialogue here is in pirate-speak, so there’s a bit of a hurdle getting used to it. And third, the pirate-speak isn’t today’s pirate-speak of Johnny Depp, it’s yesterday’s, so the language challenges compound each other.

        Now the good news. While I spent around the first half of the novel getting used to the language and dialects of the pirates, to the point I was beginning to wonder if I was plowing ahead out of stubbornness alone, something happened early in the second half. I got spooked – the story, and its language, was working. And it might not any other way than it was told. These guys are at sea on a ship of leaking wood and rope that’s nothing like the alloyed, indestructible metals and plastic compounds of today. It’s an environment that’s as alien to most of us as planet XBR-27 would be, and the wording makes us focus differently; to peer into the darkness in concentration because it’s tough to make out what is happening. Just like these guys did. You do get used to the style, and it’s an effective method of telling this story.

        3- stars

        The Boats of the ‘Glen Carrig’ – An adventure novel dealing with a shipwrecked crew on a monstrously inhabited island. The crew begins struggling with issues such as dehydration and starvation, but the pluck and sensibility of the captain keeps everyone alive and kicking long enough for them to realize the other boat shipwrecked on the island, which they had thought to be abandoned, is actually still crewed. Unable to reach the craft through conventional means communication is established and the rescue efforts begin.

        3 stars

        And finally, the gorilla in the room… This thing is a monster of a novel:

        The Night Land - The story of a young man at the end of the world, where the sun has been extinguished and all manner of monstrosities overrun the land, who undertakes a Mordor-like journey to save the love of his life. From one of the two last strongholds of man left on the planet, a massive, 7-mile-high pyramid, he establishes contact with his love with a mild telepathic power, who responds from the other, lesser pyramid across the earth.

        This book has been described as a sprawling, post-apocalyptic novel, and that it is, but it also has a kind of adolescent fantasy feel to it. Like the kind of James Bond, hero and heroine stuff we would have written as children had we the ability. It uses a particular style of language that isn't really a hindrance, but doesn't contribute well to flow, and unfortunately I must report that while it is a large novel, it feels about 3 times longer than its page count. Not necessary attributed to the language, but the combination of the style with the theme of the story makes for a challenging read.

        NOT to say it's bad, it most certainly is not, but this book was in a minority of the things I read these days that wasn't calling me back to it when I was away. I can see a great many people starting this book and not finishing it.

        As a final point, and in direct contrast to The House on the Borderland, this story is a bit too juvenile to fully engage - to laser-focus in on the events and picture in your minds-eye the events as they unfold. Instead, in my opinion this is a story to let wash over you. Steep yourself, then move on. It's a fine adventure tale, but doesn't bring with it the weight and sense of wonder of some of his other works.

        2 stars
        Last edited by bugen; 09-05-2015, 07:02 PM.
        “Reality is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.”
        -John Barth



          Carnacki stories:

          The Carnacki stories of Hodgson are the reason I first pursued the author. One of the earliest examples of the ‘Occult Detective,’ most of these stories take place entirely in the safety of Carnacki’s home, with his friends over for dinner, drinks, pipes, and a story relating his latest adventure. Carnacki is an educated man, with an extensive history of dealing with the occult, and while he never starts any of his missions with the wide-eyed belief of Fox Mulder, he’s not a pure skeptic either, choosing to let all events play out as they may and he’ll be ready for whatever the outcome. Utilizing common sense, intellect, books, sigils, scattered occult paraphernalia, and (importantly) his self-devised electric pentacle, he digs into each supernatural mission, real or imagined, and does his best to bring everything to a close. He’s often successful, but not infallible, and his friends hold him in the highest regard. These are largely detective stories with rationale providing the drive forward in the face of strange events, and generally involve the investigation of a mansion, castle or room.

          The Gateway of the Monster – 2+
          The House among the Laurels – 3
          The Whistling Room –2+
          The Horse of the Invisible – 4
          The Searcher of the End House – 3
          The Thing Invisible – 3
          The Hog – 2-
          The Haunted Jarvee – 2-

          Most of these stories I found better than fair (2 stars), with a couple of them just on the underside.

          There’s one knockout in the Carnacki collection, “The Horse of the Invisible.” While these stories tend to unravel as mysteries, supernatural involvement or not, this one had some real scariness to it, as Carnacki tries to save a recently engaged girl from the old family curse of being killed by an invisible horse whenever a member of the family is betrothed. The strongest of all of Hodgson’s Carnacki stories, and highly recommended.

          Sargasso Seas stories:

          “From a Tideless Sea” – A story within a story of a marooned boat, caught in a strange web of seaweed with nearly the entire crew dead. A man and the Captain’s daughter, wed just two days before the Captain passed away, attempt to survive for years while under attack by unknown monsters.


          “The Mystery of the Derelict” – A crew caught in a calm sea spots a derelict vessel caught in the same, and despite an oncoming storm investigate the ship, and a fierce battle to escape ensues when they discover what occupies the ruined vessel.


          “The Thing in the Weeds” – During the night two crewmen are investigating a strange sound when their lights are forcibly smashed and massive, thudding impacts are heard amidst the screams of the First Mate. The second crewman returns a few seconds later with a new light to find the First Mate gone, and he enlists the help of the Captain and the Second Mate to discover the disturbance while the rest of the crew hides below deck. Loved the opening line here, “This is an extraordinary tale.”


          “The Finding of the Graiken” – A man’s wife has been lost at sea, and months later our narrator comes into possession of wealth, and a yacht. To alleviate his friend’s remorse they journey on the seas, but the distressed man commandeers the ship from his friend, converting the crew, and sails to an unknown destination with our narrator as prisoner.


          Other Sea stories:

          “A Tropical Horror” – A nameless monster from the sea terrorizes a ship and her crew, and a couple of crew members attempt to wait out the slaughter while in hiding.


          “The Voice in the Night” – Two men aboard a schooner are hailed during the night, as a man in a rowboat, refusing to come aboard or receive any light on him whatsoever, requests provisions and tells the men of the horrors that have befallen him and his wife.


          “Out of the Storm” – A man visits his scientist friend to find him maniacally scribbling away a one-sided conversation an invention of his is picking up. It seems a man in the midst of shipwreck is losing his sanity as a few survivors turn on each other and he begins to think of the water as God.


          “The Derelict” – Another tale of seafaring, a small group of men board a derelict vessel they find floating in a viscous substance at sea, and their panic rises as they slowly begin to comprehend the nature of the ruined craft.


          “The Haunted Pampero” – A young man obtains a ship and is to be Captain, but the ship is reputed to be haunted and his wife is quite unhappy with the new possession. An excellent passage that doesn’t play quite as well out of context, when his wife has expressed her displeasure at him taking the ship and is now insisting on accompanying him on the voyage, reads, “And so, like a sensible loving fellow, he fought every inch of the ground with her; the natural result being that at the end of an hour he retired – shall we say ‘retreated’ - to smoke a pipe in his den and meditate on the perversity of womankind in general, and his own wife in particular.” During the voyage strange occurrences happen on the ship, and the Captain begins to wonder if the stories of the haunting are true.


          “Demons of the Sea” – A ship finds herself in unsettled seas, where turbulent splotches are localized, the water temp is far above normal and strange mists leak through. They eventually cross paths with another ship, seemingly manned, and as the new ship approaches the crew’s terror builds.


          “The Riven Night” – The recounting of a sea voyage where the Captain, married after a long pursuit of his love, was together with her for but 6 weeks before she passed and is undertaking the present trip in a melancholy state when the ship runs across strange lights and phantoms on the water.


          "The Albatross" – The story of a Mate who spies an albatross with a strange piece of silk tied to it, and when it’s captured finds a note detailing a lone woman stranded on a derelict vessel with the crew dead. She has enough food for one week and gives her coordinates, and the note is discovered 18 days later and 250 miles away while the crew ponders her rescue among the deathly-calm seas, where they themselves are stranded.


          "The Haunting of the Lady Shannon" - An oft-drunken Captain is having disciplinary issues among his crew, and a death toll begins to mount with no ready explanation for the murders.


          "The Stone Ship" – Seafaring men hear a strange gurgling, like a running stream, during the night and out of sight of their still ship. As no one can fathom what could cause the sound the Captain and a small group of men embark on a rowboat to discover its source.


          Miscellaneous stories:

          “Goddess of Death” – A statue is coming to life and killing people, and two men chase it down.


          “The Room of Fear” – A mother’s greatest peeve is cowardice, which she sees in her son when he first moves into his own room. Her insistence that he ‘grow up’ struggles with the boy’s fear as the shadowy hand that materializes over him each night in the room presses him down. Besides the novel The House on the Borderland, this is among my favorite writings of Hodgson and is notably only present in the Library of Weird Fiction volume, not the Masters book.


          "Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachthani" (AKA “The Baumoff Explosive”) - The best argument I've seen yet for the Masters over the Library series, this is the story of one learned, respected man of medicine offering a proof to a friend and peer that the darkness on the hill after Christ's crucifixion was a physical manifestation from the Man/God himself, not external, unrelated phenomena. This sounds like a mouthful, but it's an easily digestible horror story and an amazing work. Present only in the Masters volume.


          "The Terror of the Water-Tank" - Murders are occurring on the top of a local water-tank, and investigators are at a loss for a culprit. They eventually settle on a man in possession of stolen property, but evidence shows he couldn't have committed the crime and it's up to two men to arrive at the truth.


          And there you have it. In my opinion, I’m quite happy with the Library of Weird Fiction book that doesn’t contain the (reputed) typos in my favorite story, but there are other issues that I can verify from photos like typos on page numbers in the Masters TOC that I also didn’t find throughout the Library read. I very much wish that “Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachthani” and “The Stone Ship” was present in the Library edition, as well as other, necessary omissions like the novel “The Boats of the ‘Glen Carrig.’” However, the Masters book is missing “The Room of Fear,” which I find tough to excuse. Most of the knockout stories are present in both.

          Despite a misgiving here or there, I’d buy the Masters book in a flat second if I had the money and the opportunity. This is amazing material. For those looking at neither Masters nor Library but loving good stories, I recommend the novel The House on the Borderland and the short stories “Out of the Storm” and “The Room of Fear” without reservation, wherever you can find them.

          *As I only own the Library of Weird Fiction edition, the gaps were filled in with an ebook. Even the massive, 35 story/novel combination of the ebook did not contain everything found in the Centipede releases, but is excellent for those looking to test the waters.

          Library of Weird Fiction: William Hope Hodgson – 4 stars






          Last edited by bugen; 05-27-2016, 07:45 AM. Reason: adding pic
          “Reality is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.”
          -John Barth


            Phenomenal review, Bugen. I especially appreciate the breakdown of what stories are in the different editions. I hope Centipede continues the Library books as they tend to be more in my price range than the Masters series.


              Thank you! There ended up being a bit more to the process than I originally thought... the next one will be much shorter
              “Reality is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.”
              -John Barth



                War in Heaven - Charles Williams

                “He has come,” the Greek said, “for the same reason that we are here – because in the whole world of Being everything makes haste to its doom.”

                A contemporary of C.S. Lewis, a devout Christian and a very smart man, Charles Williams has two novels appearing in Dennis Wheatley’s Library of the Occult: War in Heaven and The Greater Trumps.

                War in Heaven
                begins with an Archdeacon at a publishing house stumbling across a surprise proof whose last paragraph seems to assert the Holy Grail has been successfully traced to a chalice within his own church. The paragraph is to be stricken from publication, but the damage has been done as the Archdeacon returns to his parish to examine the cup, only to have it robbed from his possession shortly thereafter. The bulk of the book consists of the chasing down of the chalice, attempts to use the Grail for occult purposes possibly involving Satan himself, the interactions between high-society cult members, police investigators, and a mysterious ‘keeper’ of the Grail, all as an obscure murder investigation progresses.

                Unfortunately there’s something missing from this book that other novels I’d label as ‘classic occult’ possess. One is a driving-forward type of momentum you can find in books like Wheatley’s own The Devil Rides Out (3+ stars) and Rohmer’s Brood of the Witch Queen (5 stars). War in Heaven took me significantly longer to finish than most novels simply because it wasn’t very compelling to return to after having been away. Another is just a lack of highlights in general. There were a few amazing moments in the work, especially during one ritual in particular towards the end, but there’s not enough here to maintain a high level of interest throughout and the presentation seems a bit dry.

                While looking forward to the other Williams book from Wheatley’s library, this one didn’t have what I was looking for.

                2- stars

                Last edited by bugen; 08-30-2015, 04:27 PM.
                “Reality is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.”
                -John Barth



                  Lucid Dreaming - Lisa Morton

                  “He’s let us down big, and I’ve got a word or two for Him when we finally meet. These guys think I’ve got a problem with foul language now? Wait until they hear what I’d unleash on the Big Daddy upstairs.”

                  Ashley, a paranoid schizophrenic, is confined to a psychiatric institution in Los Angeles and has her mental illness managed with the drug Prolixin. In a kind of zombie-apocalypse story she wakes one day to find everyone in a waking dream-state except her and is able to walk right out of the hospital into a world gone mad. She soon realizes it is the drug that is keeping her from succumbing like everyone else, and she finds a companion and scavenges her way to Texas where they are overpowered by a group of survivors who’ve also discovered the value of Prolixin. Ashely and Teddy are taken captive with their provisions confiscated and held in a compound where the drug is administered only to those who are cooperative and ‘worthy.’ But no one stopped to ask Ashely why she was on the anti-psychotic drug in the first place, or what might happen if the drug is denied…

                  Now and then when I bring up Lisa in conversation I’m met with blank stares, but folks would be well-served to try out some of her work. Lucid Dreaming is a Stoker-winning novella (she’s won 6) with a strong female lead taking shots at the conventions of our world and frequently highlighting contrasts between the absurdities of both Texas and California. Another lightning read.

                  “Reality is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.”
                  -John Barth



                    I Have No Mouth & I Must ScreamHarlan Ellison

                    “All hope is gone. There is no return save by miracles, and there are no more miracles for the common among common men.”

                    This book occupies a special place, being the only of its kind, in that it sits nearly unbeaten at the top of the ‘Rated Collections’ pile without a single 5 star story. That probably sounds like a knock but is the highest compliment I could think of, in that the average quality of these stories is so high it doesn’t even need any brightly-lit standalones to rank in the top echelons of short fiction as a whole. Because each story is so well conceived and written it’s hard for any to stand out. In his introduction Mr. Ellison considers no less than 4 of these stories among his very best.

                    “I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream” – Supercomputers have been created by respective world powers and placed into control of the military. The computers’ intelligences grow exponentially and eventually (inevitably) become self-aware. At which point mankind is, of course, immediately identified as a threat and destroyed. 5 humans are kept alive for the sadistic amusement of AM, one of the computers, and this is the story of the end. (4+)

                    “Big Sam Was My Friend” – In a futuristic carnival setting our narrator realizes the newest addition to the troupe can teleport. As this special skill is monetized for the spectators we begin to get to know Sam, and learn the love of his life was ripped out of the world earlier and Sam is on a mission throughout space to find the literal Heaven, where he believes she’ll be waiting for him. (4)

                    “Eyes of Dust” – In a world where beauty is everything, and those not properly engineered to perfection are shunned, a blind man married to a woman with a mole on her face are practically ostracized and raise their imperfect child, Person, confined to a life of solitude. (3+)

                    “World of the Myth” – A crew crash-lands into a strange planet and the three survivors, two male and one female attempt to cope with their new surroundings. One of the men, the strong, dashing type, has previously raped the girl and the second man, the shy, awkward type is dealing with his feelings for her as well as his dislike for him, all while a tidal wave of ants ebbs and flows near the crash site. Why awaiting rescue the woman, legs crushed in the crash but slowly recovering, examines the ants looking for special attributes… (4+)

                    “Lonelyache” – Fresh off what seems like a disastrous dissolution of marriage, Ellison writes a tale he thinks might be his best. A husband, recently divorced and missing his significant other like a hole in his heart, has a type of recurring dream where every time he falls asleep a linear dream continues where he is being hunted by a succession of men, all of whom he dispatches (horribly) before they can kill him. As the man launches himself into an affair the dream is taking its toll. (4-)

                    “Delusion for a Dragon Slayer” – A man is killed (or about to be killed) and retreats into his own personal Heaven. Adventures follow, where the man in his bronzed, well-built new body of the afterlife happens upon the woman of his dreams, enslaved by a giant dragon. The closing quote here is taken from this story and it's a stunner. (4+)

                    “Pretty Maggie MoneyEyes” – A man plays slots in a Vegas casino and hits the jackpot with three blue eyes next to each other. The pit boss walks over and verifies the win with three Jackpots listed side by side, and the man realizes he’s the only one who can see the eyes. The casino pays out and the man returns to the machine and wins. And wins again. And again. Eventually he is taken aside by the owner and he learns a bit of backstory. (3+)

                    This collection took me by surprise. Excellent throughout, it has large doses of Mr. Ellison’s cutting commentary and remains easily accessible, the stories having barely aged at all. I also found it just a bit heavier than the other Ellison collection’s I’ve read with the exception of Deathbird Stories, which is just plain designed to knock you down. I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream may not have you shaking on the floor, but you will absolutely be weighted with ideas and concepts difficult to grapple with. And that’s exactly as great speculative fiction should be.

                    “A man may truly live in his dreams, his noblest dreams, but only, only if he is worthy of those dreams.”

                    4 stars
                    Last edited by bugen; 09-11-2015, 04:11 AM.
                    “Reality is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.”
                    -John Barth



                      The Haunting of Hill HouseShirley Jackson

                      Our main character Eleanor steals the car she bought with her sister in order to answer a summons for an educational visit to a ‘haunted house,’ where she is to meet the doctor conducting an experiment, another woman similarly summoned, and the heir to the house. The house’s reputation precedes it, and while there are two caretakers who keep up the house it hasn’t been inhabited for a long time, even then it was only for a few days at a time.

                      It’s soon revealed the doctor has called the two women (and many others, but these were the two to accept) due to circumstances in their pasts that suggest psychic sensitivity, and as the group meets for the first time and prepares to settle down for the first night in the house tensions begin to rise and anxieties creep in at the edges, worsening as the days pass.

                      And I don’t really want to say too much more plot-wise, risking any of the story’s effectiveness.

                      There is no gore, so the squeamish can breathe easy. By today’s standards of horror this book compares more tame than it would have in the context of its 1959 release, but that doesn’t for one second reduce its effectiveness or its compulsion to keep turning pages.

                      An amazing scene is written early on, and is the first point I realized I was reading something truly special, where Eleanor, dining in the strange new town before first approaching the house, overhears parents trying to get their young daughter to drink her milk out of the restaurant’s glassware and not out of her own ‘cup of stars’ waiting at the family’s home. The power in the scene comes from Eleanor willing the young girl to refuse the restaurant’s glass, refuse the milk entirely, because once she begins compromising in these things she can never go back.

                      This book is considered one of the greatest horror novels ever written. Centipede Press has it listed at #1, and Stephen Jones has it in his top 100 at #60 (Mr. Jones’ list isn’t so much a ‘best of’ though, as ‘most influential,’ as is evidenced by his numbers 1-5 all being written before 1800). The Haunting of Hill House is a fascinating read, told in a fairly simple, straightforward style, eschewing fancy language in favor of a tighter, cleaner story, though when she moves into mystics she weaves the more complex fabrics beautifully, culminating in an outstanding ending to the novel.

                      Even if less severe than modern fare, this is a must-read for those looking at horror.

                      “In the night,’ Mrs. Dudley said, and smiled outright. ‘In the dark,’ she said, and closed the door behind her.”


                      4+ stars






                      Last edited by bugen; 05-27-2016, 07:56 AM.
                      “Reality is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.”
                      -John Barth



                        Limbus, Inc.(Various – Anne C. Petty (Ed.))

                        “There always is a story. And there is a story here, Mr. Dixson. But you must discover it. If you are to do that, you must see what I have to show you. You must understand the world better than you know it now.”

                        I’ve been migrating away from this type of review because I think it takes an inordinate amount of effort to provide a bit of depth to each section while trying to avoid spoiling any surprises, being a very tightly themed anthology populated by only 5 authors, 5 novellas. Still this book is a little different than your typical assembly of stories. Individualized views of the organization itself, Limbus - slightly removed from our world, slightly alien, slightly demonic, and all mystery - tied together by the small press publisher Matthew who’s reading the book containing all 5 stories provide a successful shared-world launching pad. It combines to an interesting angle on the dark organization theme, some variation of which is probably happening right now outside all of our doors.

                        **Prologue** - A deranged-looking man walks into a failing small bookstore/small press publisher with a book he wants published under his arm. Matthew, the store owner tells the man he is in no position to buy a book from anyone, and the ragged man responds that he’s not selling it, he’s giving it, for the contents of the book are 100% true and too important for others not to see – it must be printed for the public. The man abruptly leaves the bookstore and the startled owner opens the book and begins to read:

                        “The Slaughter Man” – Benjamin Kane Ethridge

                        Our hero The Sticker, a man working in a slaughter-house with a knife, draining the blood from cattle, is having a bad time. His wife recently left him and his boss hates him, and upon a rather eventful termination of employment he accepts a long-shot job from a mysterious 12-year-old recruiter, is introduced to the Limbus corporation, and is given employment with a small team on an alien ship procuring food for the every-hungry princess by slaughtering whatever creature she craves. After a nasty encounter with a particular alien that leaves The Sticker severely injured and his prey covered in his own blood, the princess gets a taste for this new meat and demands The Sticker’s flesh while the team attempts to formulate an escape plan.

                        (This one is a bit disturbing, and undeniably effective.)


                        “The Sacrifice” – Brett J. Talley

                        Ex-Marine Ryan wakes in a hospital with vague memories of the fiery redhead Katya from a PTSD meeting, a drink in a club far stronger than it should have been, and a sharp pain in his side. The detective finishes his questions about the stabbing, and leaves a card, Limbus Employment Agency, the same card Katya had given him earlier. Looking for change after his recovery Ryan goes to Limbus and receives a job to rescue the relative of a powerful man, but things get out of hand when he learns this is not a normal kidnapping.


                        **Mathew** - Mathew sits back from the book the stranger handed him, having completed the first two disturbing stories, and decides he needs a drink. At a local bar and old acquaintance of his shows up and hands him something that sends Matthew sprinting back to the bookstore to resume reading.

                        “One Job Too Many” – Joseph Nassise

                        Nate, an ex-Recon soldier, is heavily insulted by his boss and fired at the same time, and takes it out on the man by smashing his face in. After bailing himself out of jail he returns home to find his girlfriend has left him and moved everything out, so he goes on a 4-day bender and runs into an old pal who hands him an employment card for Limbus. Nate accepts the job after meeting a recruiter and begins serving missions where he travels via high-tech ‘farcaster’ to perform certain tasks. As the jobs mount he realizes he may be having major impacts on the world and begins questioning himself and the agency.

                        4 (4+)

                        **Mathew** - Matthew is now panicking, and calls a friend at the local precinct to ask advice, checking into the possible truth of what he’s been reading. He asks his contact Charlie if he’s ever heard of a company called ‘Limbus’ and Charlie responds that whatever he’s gotten himself into, get out right now and hangs up. Matthew returns to the book.

                        “We Employ” – Anne C. Petty

                        Dallas, a man who’s found himself homeless and destitute after an unsuccessful stint at college, comes across a Limbus, Inc. employment card, returns to his parent’s house to clean up, borrow some clothes and $40, and answers the ad. He is soon hired to walk a particular dog for 10 days straight at $200 per day, but once on the job realizes there’s much more going on than he was told, and he’s up against the 10 day deadline to save an extraordinary life from an unknown threat.

                        (Loved the ending here.)


                        “Strip Search” – Jonathan Maberry

                        Sam Hunter, ex-cop and private eye, spots a Limbus business card on the floor of his office. After a few beers he retrieves the card, which tells him he’s about to have a visitor. Within the next two minutes. When an improbably gorgeous woman enters and gives him a story about a missing 15 year old girl, and ties the disappearance in with 16 unreported and gruesome murders of young prostitutes, Sam takes on the job and begins hounding an extremely powerful organization of elite cult members against which he should have no chance, but he’s not exactly your stereotypical man.

                        (Maybe the best story of the bunch, with a top-notch action scene and a terrific ending)


                        **Epilogue** - Well, you’ll just have to read it.

                        This collection has five different voices telling shared-world stories working together beautifully, painting pictures reflecting many of the dirtier elements of our planet, hidden beneath the elitist powers and privileges we’re hearing so much of today. While it smacks of conspiracy theory, the nutcases are not the battered souls who believe there are shadowy organizations running parts of the world. The nutcases are the privileged souls who don’t.

                        “Mr. Samuelson, I hope you’re not trying to tell me you believe in witches.”

                        The man rubbed his chin and pursed his lips. “No, not quite, though I have seen enough to discount nothing.”

                        4 stars






                        Last edited by bugen; 05-29-2016, 05:05 AM.
                        “Reality is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.”
                        -John Barth



                          Limbus IIVarious (Brett J. Talley (Ed.))

                          “You can probably already tell that I am simply filled to the fucking brim with a joy for life and an overwhelming love of my fellow man, so—my whimsical wit and sparkling conversation skills aside, pay attention.” (Braunbeck)

                          Prologue – Darknet hacker Conrad ‘Jack Rabbit’ McKay is laying low in the Czech Alps when he stumbles across a fresh page in the Dark Web that has zero views – no one has seen it but him. He treats the strange page as a riddle, attempts to solve the puzzle and is quickly successful as scrambled gibberish on the screen resolves into words. Sentences. He begins to read:

                          “Zero at the Bone” – Harry Shannon - Mike Dolan, recovering alcoholic with traumatic flashbacks of wartime activity, tells the story of fighting and killing and booze and the wife he failed to save from her attacker and the subsequent housefire. A broken man, he stretches his government checks as far as possible but is nearly out of money when he finds the Limbus, Inc. employment card, and after contact is made he’s sent on a mission through time for which the promised reward of successful completion is final, blissful forgetfulness.

                          (This one should likely hit us all. It's human emotion cranked up, but we're all familiar with despair)



                          Conrad finishes the story, steps away from his laptop and the bar for some fresh air. He encounters a strange, cackling man, and as his anxiety rises he feels a pull back to the laptop. Back at the bar he finds a new riddle waiting for on screen, which he quickly solves and another screenfull of characters resolves into a story.

                          “Fishing for Dinosaurs” – Joe R. Lansdale – A homeless man wakes to find he’s naked and hungry, and searches out an abandoned-looking warehouse covered in dust. Inside he notices some strange, circular symbols, then the phone rings with a Limbus employee offering him an anonymous job. After accepting, training and regaining his strength, he learns his job is capture two live dinosaurs that have made it from the inner-world of Earth to our world, for study.

                          (This is a great story, won a Stoker and seems to reach out of the box, but was still missing something that's present in the best Lansdale stories. I'd have to study to try and pinpoint it)



                          Having finished the previous story Conrad gets himself another drink and returns to his room to an adventurous 16-year-old Veronica trying to seduce him. After rejecting her as gently as possible, but still feeling like an ass, he looks back to his computer to the message, “Every good deed deserves a reward. No riddle this time. Just hit enter.”

                          Conrad presses ‘enter’ and begins to read.

                          “Lost and Foundy” - Joe McKinney – Our anti-hero Alan is finished. With his wife and kids killed the year before by a hit & run he’s slid down next to nothing, is drunk beyond measure and passed out at a stoplight. He wakes to police lights and an uncompromising cop, and he unsuccessfully tries to explain to the youngster that he’s a detective and should be shown leniency. In the end he’s offered a choice: Either take an unspecified job from a company called Limbus or lose his career. He (quite reluctantly) accepts and begins his investigation, in the dark as to compensation for his services.

                          (This one’s got a heart. And while our (anti) hero doesn’t seem very sympathetic we never really know the pain others are going through. Not well enough to judge, anyway. This is the best of all Limbus stories, regardless of what the awards say, and not to be missed if you can give yourself the opportunity.)

                          5 (5-)


                          Conrad begins scouring the Dark Net for Limbus. He finds a few references, but whenever he finds someone who knows something they are mocked into silence by their peers. Not learning what he wants to know, he turns back to the site of the text, solves the next riddle and begins reading again.

                          “The Transmigration of Librarian Blaine Evans” – Gary A. Braunbeck - With the story unfolding in equal parts present-day and flashback, Blain Evans’ tragic past is catching up with him and he’s losing his family to his depression. When his wife mentions she’s going to work for a company called Limbus words are spoken, and next day, she and the kids are gone. Evans follows this up with copious amounts of liquor and in his stupor is kidnapped by Limbus and submitted into a particular program. Meanwhile, in the present, Evans is attempting to evade capture by ‘ice-diving,’ which involves walking upside down underneath the ice covering of a lake with specialized, spiked boots and an inflatable suit for buoyancy. While making his escape he realizes potential captors are immediately above him on the other side of the ice as his air and body-heat are both failing.

                          (A good story with some great physical action, this one didn't contain the attachment to character of its peers - I was never really sure if I wanted Blain to win)



                          Conrad leaves the inn and travels to a local watering hole where he frequently plays chess with the bartender. He learns someone was there looking for him, but when he asks who the bartender doesn’t know, but hands him something the stranger left. On the back of the Limbus card is the riddle, “When life asks a question, three is always the perfect answer.”

                          He returns home, hits 3, and begins reading.

                          “Three Guys Walk into a Bar” – Jonathan Maberry – Limbus contacts Private Investigator Sam Hunter, pointing him in the direction of the town of Pine Deep. Deaths have been occurring disguised as brutal accidents, but Sam can smell the supernatural and knows there is more going on. Teaming up with Pine Deep’s Sherriff Crow, the local werewolf deputy Iron Mike and none other than Joe Ledger himself, Sam lends his expertise at Limbus’ urging to stem the tide of blood being spilled locally.

                          (As can be expected the action is heavy with this lineup – no shortage of testosterone, but not quite the level of Maberry's tale in the first volume)



                          There’s just a bit more, but you’ll have to read it if you want the bookends.

                          Limbus II took me by surprise, if perhaps slightly less than the first because I had an idea of the level of quality I could expect from the production. As far are themed anthologies are concerned I can’t say I’ve seen better execution, though a few ideas were repeated enough they bear mentioning. A great many of the tales in both books focus on cops or private investigators, so get used to that right away. Also the heroes, and sometimes anti-heroes of these stories are often in ridiculously bad shape emotionally and could die in a few moments without really caring. But who’s to say if Limbus actually targets the action-oriented personality for its jobs, or if those just make for the most interesting stories? Who’s to say if it’s just coincidence and they’re solely in it for personal profit, or if Limbus is actively trying to help people redeem themselves? At least this much is true: As far as shadowy, powerful, underground organizations are concerned, you could do a lot worse than Limbus. A little guidance and the proper motivation go a long way.

                          These books probably shouldn’t be as good as they are, but providence has influenced the web of creation and allowed them to be written, and has willed yet another key to the universe into existence.

                          “How lucky do you feel?”

                          5 stars






                          Last edited by bugen; 05-29-2016, 05:06 AM.
                          “Reality is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.”
                          -John Barth



                            I've been looking at the Limbus books for a while. Glad to hear the content is good. Anybody have any experience with the limited editions? How do they compare to other publishers?


                              Broken Empire trilogy - Mark Lawrence

                              The Builders are extinct and the world exists in a technology-bereft dark ages where the walls of reality are wearing thin while our main character quests for revenge and the throne. Jorg is relentless, brutal and thinking only of himself as he kills everyone in his path. This 14 year-old prince is one of the most interesting contradictions of personalities I've read, and he's got some kind of spark, an unshakable willpower which carries the trilogy all by itself from bloodbath to battle and back, again and again with the boy running straight towards trouble and never backing down. The story is mainly told in 3 sections of Jorg's life, with him at 10, 14 and 18 years, and threading between the stages.

                              Mr. Lawrence's style can feel a little abrupt at times, swinging between seemingly unrelated snatches of story, and these parts of the tale are woven into the overall thread by adding up pieces. It works, but doesn't always feel smooth.

                              I'm glad to have read the trilogy and would heartily recommend it. I felt the 3rd book was actually the weakest by comparison, but a terrific ending boosted it and kept everything in the 4 star 'excellent' category for me.

                              But Jorg is relentless, merciless, indestructible in that he stamps out everything that might beat him before it can be brought to bear. He's a unique character that is strong beyond what we've experienced. He is the best bad guy, or the worst good guy, you've ever seen.

                              Mark Lawrence has a new fan.

                              Prince of Thorns - 4+
                              King of Thorns - 4
                              Emperor of Thorns - 4-

                              "The future is a dark place. We all die there."

                              Broken Empire trilogy.jpg
                              Last edited by bugen; 05-29-2016, 08:46 AM.
                              “Reality is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.”
                              -John Barth



                                ^I'm quite looking forward to exploring his work too. Just plowed through another enjoyable fantasy novel myself.

                                Joe Abercrombie's The Blade itself (Book 1 of the First Law trilogy):

                                While I would refer to this novel as high fantasy, as opposed to say/sword & sorcery fantasy, it is definitely a darker tale than many other novels of its ilk. It has an involving interwoven story, that though written from the third person point of view, is also told from the different points of view of the flawed but generally likable characters within. The storytelling is similar in some ways to how George R.R. Martin wrote his A Song of Ice and Fire series, though I do find Joe Abercrombie’s style in this book to be a bit more fluid than Martin’s. Similarly to Martin, as well, is the massive scope of the story, the different warring nations, political intrigue and ancient threats resurfacing. Yet in tone in reminds me more of Glen Cook’s Black Company series, more sardonic and with a touch of dark humour.

                                I’ve been on a bit of a fantasy binge again recently, reading many newer (Rothfuss’ The Name of the WInd) and older (Dunsany’s The King of Elfland’s Daughter) and in between (Dickson’s The Dragon and the George) books that have sat on my shelves for years waiting to be read. And of the recent bunch I have to say this is my favourite so far. I really look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.