Tag Archives: Neil Gaiman

Review: “Battlefield Earth” by L. Rob Hubbard

Title: Battlefield Earth
Author: L. Ron Hubbard
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Galaxy Press, 2001

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. “Battlefield Earth? Isn’t that that movie that always tops the lists for the worst movies of all time?” Yes. Yes it is. It also happens to be a novel, which comes recommended by quite a few people including Neil Gaiman. Was it weird? Yes. Beyond a doubt one of the odder novels I’ve ever read, in a number of categories. But it was also strangely entertaining. For the record, I received a free copy for review purposes from Galaxy Press.

In the 1980s, Earth was invaded by the Psychlo Empire. Humanity was mostly exterminated, the few survivors retreating to the hills and other inaccessible locations. So long as they didn’t make trouble for the Psychlo’s mining operations they were mostly ignored aside from the occasional sport-hunting expedition, and over the next millennium human society slowly devolved back to the primitive. Now, as the year 3000 dawns, events are set in motion that will forever destroy this status quo. Terl, the greedy head of security for the Earth-based mining corporation, has hatched a scheme to make himself one of the wealthiest monsters on Psychlo when he makes it back home. This scheme, however, hinges on the obedience of captured human Jonnie Goodboy Tyler. But Tyler has his own plans, and they mostly involve kicking the Pschlos off his planet and making sure they never return….

On the one hand, Hubbard’s pulp pedigree is on full display here, offering a massive yet delightfully-readable adventure. On the other hand, this gets weird fast. The book clocks in at over a thousand pages, but it takes just over four hundred to reclaim the Earth. Then comes the hard part: preparing for the inevitable counterstrike from Psychlo. Hold onto your seat for a thrilling journey featuring such topics as diplomacy, vengeance, political scheming, and intergalactic finance! What, that doesn’t sound all that entertaining? You’d be surprised, actually. A lot of the time you just have to focus on the subplot at hand, shutting off that voice in the back of your head that is persistently asking what the heck this has to do with anything–it all makes sense by the end, I promise. Despite its reputation, the book didn’t involve nearly as much Scientology craziness as I’d expected–if you didn’t know what you were looking for, you might miss it entirely. On the other hand, referring to the field of Psychology as “an ancient cult” is about as subtle as a brick in the face. The characters are all pretty two-dimensional, but that’s honestly to be expected. This is a return to the pulps, after all, albeit on a grander scale. The names are ridiculous, but I think that was intentional. The science is surprisingly sound, from what I can gather. In short, this is a ridiculously amusing ride…if you can lift it.

CONTENT: Mild profanity. Mild sexual innuendo. Some violence, including the gruesome aftermath of a torture session.

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Review: “John Constantine, Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits” by Garth Ennis, Jamie Delano, William Simpson, Sean Philips, Steve Pugh, & Dave McKean

Title: Dangerous Habits
Writers: Jamie Delano & Garth Ennis
Artists: William Simpson, Sean Phillips, Steve Pugh, Dave McKean, Mark Pennington, Tom Sutton, Malcolm Jones III, Mark McKenna, Kim DeMulder, & Stan Woch
Series:  John Constantine, Hellblazer (Volume V, Issues #34-46)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Vertigo, 2013

I’d kind of prefer to review this one as two separate volumes, because midway through the book the entire production team changed. This is tied into a single collection largely for convenience, but its pretty much two separate stories. I was less a fan of the first half, which is where it lost a star, but the second half was probably the best bit of the series I’ve read to date. Remember the Constantine film with Keanu Reeves? Yeah, I know, you were trying not to. Sorry. Anyway, they pulled a significant number of the subplots for the film from this volume–specifically, Constantine’s fatal lung cancer. It was resolved a bit differently though….

We start the book with Jamie Delano firmly in the seat as writer, with a  rotating roster of artists. Following on after the events of The Family Man, Constantine’s in a rough place emotionally–he’s just killed a man, which is never easy, and to top it off his estranged father was one of the casualties. Catching up with Marj and Mercury, he tries to lose himself in their nomadic lifestyle, but only manages to pull Mercury into his nightmare flashback to his childhood. I wasn’t a huge fan of this three-issue arc, drawn by Sean Phillips. That wasn’t really Phillips’ fault, mind you, though I wasn’t a huge fan of his art either. It was more about the dark and depressing tone. I know, I know, it’s a horror book, what do I expect? I just didn’t like it. Sue me. Steve Pugh then takes over the pencil as we meet Martin, a sensitive young vegetarian, and his sadistic butcher of a father. Of course their paths are bound to cross with our protagonists, though this particular two-issue arc is more focused on Mercury than it is on Constantine. Again, not a huge fan of either the story or the art, at least a little because I wasn’t all that engaged. Martin was kind of pathetic, literally, and I happen to be pretty disdainful of the vegetarian propaganda that was most of this tale. Also, I’m pretty sure that the butcher in the tale needs to be arrested for a whole multitude of crimes, from domestic abuse to health code violations. Pugh continues to draw the first half of the next arc as Constantine attempts to explore his missing half, the Golden Boy, his twin brother who died with their mother in childbirth. The second issue, drawn by Dave McKean, gives us an alternate universe where the other twin lived. Far more successful than the John Constantine we know, he has managed to come out ahead in several of the same conflicts that our John only barely survived, even saving some of his friends along the way. Now he leads a pagan commune, their wise and beloved Magus, but even still he is haunted by the spirit of his lesser, sickly brother who died in the womb. The art of Dave McKean is a bit of an acquired taste, since it is so weird, and I’m not really a fan. I do have to admit that it fits the series well, however, and this tale seems to have achieved a legendary status among fans of the series.

Immediately following on (and with no real transition from that really strange ending) Garth Ennis takes over the writing chair, with Will Simpson picking up the pencil. So what do you do when you’ve just been handed the lead writing position on a well-revered title? Well, if you’re Garth Ennis you promptly try and kill the main character….Those thirty silk-cut cigarettes a day have finally caught up with our favorite anti-hero. He’s dying of lung cancer, and there’s not a thing he can do about it. Not a one of his magical tricks can save him. It’s far beyond his power, and there are very few beings he can turn to for help. Even fewer who would be willing to do anything…. This arc is hands-down my favorite so far. The first issue as Constantine tries to wrap his head around his own impending mortality is incredibly poignant, and the consistency of having a single artist (and a good one at that!) really helps the series in my opinion. I think my favorite bit was the second issue of the arc, though, as Constantine visits an old friend in Ireland and ends up having an ill-fated meeting with one of Hell’s rulers, the First of the Fallen. (I presume this is Satan, though I’m not sure how that jives with Lucifer from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics, which are supposedly in the same universe.) There should be no surprise that Constantine manages to wiggle out of his predicament–the series ran until just a couple years ago, after all–but knowing that doesn’t detract at all from the impact of this story. I look forward to seeing what happens next as Ennis adjusts to his new job….

CONTENT: Some grotesque and gory violence. Some strong profanity, especially of the British variety. This time the sexual content was largely implied as opposed to explicit, but it was there nevertheless. Obviously there is quite a bit of occult content, as you would expect from this title.

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Review: “John Constantine, Hellblazer: The Family Man” by Jamie Delano, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, David Lloyd, Dave McKean, Ron Tiner, & Sean Philips

Title: The Family Man
Writers: Jamie Delano, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman & Dick Foreman
Artists: Ron Tiner, David Lloyd, Dave McKean, Sean Phillips, Steve Pugh, Dean Motter, Kevin Walker, Mark Buckingham, Mark Pennington, & Tim Bradstreet
Series: John Constantine, Hellblazer (Volume IV, Issues #23-33)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Vertigo, 2012

This volume of the ongoing Hellblazer comic series proved to be a mixed bag, not in terms of quality but in terms of subject matter. Much like the first volume, but in this case it was all tied together by a larger narrative. It was, I think, my favorite volume so far….which is a bit chilling, since this was undoubtedly the most messed up volume yet as well. At any rate, I’m finally seeing what everyone raves about with this series.

John Constantine knows how to handle a supernatural threat. Usually, that’s run like hell, but still. He faces down the things that go bump in the night on a regular basis, has stared into Hell and had Hell stare back. He bears the scars of these encounters, both physical and mental. But now? Now Constantine is up against his most unnerving enemy yet–a strictly vanilla human serial killer who specializes in slaughtering entire families. Fresh from the near-apocalypse caused by the government’s runaway “fear machine,” and needing a place to lay low, Constantine drops in on an old friend and finds himself in the middle of a mind-bending meta-fictional romp. A few weeks later, a mysterious figure shows up at the door in search of Constantine’s missing friend. This encounter will plunge Constantine into a deadly game of chess for his very soul…. In between the moves of that deadly game, we get some guest appearances. First off, Grant Morrison and David Lloyd spin a tale of nuclear horror as a town and the new missile base just up the road both fall victim to a sinister experiment. Then Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean take an issue to explore the human need for affection and just simply being noticed. Later, Dick Foreman spins a yarn about a madman’s dream to take over the world using an unlikely vehicle for his ambitions.

Like I said, this volume mostly holds together pretty well. We segue in from the previous volume, then move on to set up the chance meeting between Constantine and the Family Man. From there, Constantine tries to ignore the fact that he alone knows the killer’s identity, having a couple side adventures that allow for some guest teams and (I presume) Delano to catch up his schedule before the main showdown and cleanup. It meanders a bit at the end, perhaps, but that mostly serves to allow the next volume to start on cue instead of rambling about first. I’m fine with that. Random Neil Gaiman appearances are always appreciated, and Dave McKean’s style complemented the story being told quite well. I wasn’t quite as fond of the Morrison/Lloyd tale, but that may have been a byproduct of its very obvious political leanings, and I found the Dick Foreman story pretty forgettable, possibly because the art rubbed me the wrong way. At any rate, I’m sticking with the series for a while longer. I see we change lead writers for the next volume, so that will be interesting….

CONTENT: Some strong language, PG-13 grade. Some semi-explicit sexual content, including implied molestation, incest and rape as a city gives in to all of its suppressed desires. Strong violence, very gory in a couple places. Very little occult content this volume though, considering the series as a whole.

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Review: “The Commons, Book I: The Journeyman” by Michael Alan Peck

Title: The Journeyman
Author: Michael Alan Peck
Series: The Commons #1
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Dinuhos Arts, 2014

Wow. When you agree to accept a free copy of a book in exchange for writing a review of it, you always hope it will actually be good. I hate returning the author’s kindness with a negative review, but I also can’t lie to my readers (all three of them!) and tell them that something is good when it’s clearly not. If you’ve been around this blog for a while, you’ll have seen the results. If a book deserves to be skewered, I skewer it. This book? I’m not kidding you when I say that I couldn’t put it down. It was that engaging, and I heartily look forward to seeing what happens next in this universe.

Somewhere between life and death, there is the Commons. When you are on the verge of death, your soul enters the Commons, where you must complete a Journey or quest to decide your fate. Succeed, and you may be allowed to recover and reclaim your old life. Fail, and you succumb to fate and go on to judgement, for good or ill. The Commons is a shifting place, its geography and some of its inhabitants drawn from your memory and subconscious. Other inhabitants could be scraps of memory left over from other people’s Journeys, or even errant souls on their own Journeys. The Envoys serve to guide souls through this shifting landscape, helping to shield them from the worst of its dangers. Or at least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. There is now only a single envoy still at his post, and he’s not seen an assignment since time immemorial. In the interim Mr. Brill, a corrupt corporate baron, has subverted the entire system, capturing souls and draining off their essence to fuel his own power. There are a few who remain free of his power, but even they enjoy freedom simply because they would be more effort to bring in than they are worth. Should they oppose him, that would change, and the result would not be pretty. Things look bleak for those who remember the way the Commons used to be….until Paul Reid arrives following a midnight bus crash. For some reason, Brill commits a disproportionate amount of his forces to recovering Paul’s fellow passengers from the crash, but even so Paul manages to escape with the help of Jonas Porter, the last envoy who has finally received another assignment. For some reason, Paul is special. For some reason, his Journey has the potential to put a kink in Brill’s plans for good. But with Brill committing everything he’s got, Paul’s going to need all the help he can get. He could use an army. What he’s got is an old man with a renewed sense of purpose, a silent Shaolin monk, a mummy in sunglasses, a goth girl with a living tattoo who happens to be the most beautiful thing Paul has ever seen, and behind the scenes the assistance of an Iraq vet and her autistic son. For the sake of everyone in the commons, they’ll have to be enough….

As I mentioned, I couldn’t put this down. The chapters were generally short, perfectly timed to fill a break at work, and suspenseful enough that when reading before bed I invariably spent longer than I’d intended before hitting the pillow. The characters were engaging, and even though you’re kind of thrown into things without much of an explanation, if you stick with it everything will eventually become clear. The book is written for a young adult audience, but I didn’t find that to be at all offputting. There are a number of heavy themes dealt with through the course of the story, and the book doesn’t pull any punches. It honestly reminded me of something Neil Gaiman might write, and that’s high praise indeed. As befits the first book in a series, the plot was mostly tied up, but with that one little thread leading off into the next story to keep you hooked. I thought it was very well done, especially for a book that I suspect was self-published. The publisher shares a name with a location/element from the story, and when I enter the publisher into Amazon this book is the only one that comes up. The good news? I would have had no idea if I weren’t researching the book for this review. It was that well done, even down to the professional-looking cover. Mr. Peck deserves a hearty congratulations on his achievement, and you deserve to read this book.

CONTENT: Mild language. Some violence, occasionally strong. Some sexual innuendo, notably a flashback where Paul saves one of his fellow street kids from being raped (you have to read between the lines, they were both getting beat up, and from the direction of his female friend he hears “elastic being ripped”) and some flirting, but on the whole it was pretty clean. Nearly the whole story happens in a fantasy setting, but there are some significant philosophical claims made. It’s not a Christian novel, and so the metaphysics of the story are unsurprisingly inconsistent with a Christian worldview, but I don’t believe that should disqualify it from consideration.

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Review: “John Constantine, Hellblazer: Original Sins” by Jamie Delano & John Ridgeway

Title: Original Sins
Writers: Jamie Delano & Rick Veitch
Artists: John Ridgeway, Alfredo Alcala, Rick Veitch, Tom Mandrake, Brett Ewins, & Jim McCarthy
Series: John Constantine, Hellblazer (Volume I, Issues #1-9 + Swamp Thing #76-78)
Rating: ***
Publisher/Copyright: Vertigo, 2011

I’m ashamed to say that my first real encounter with the character of John Constantine was the decidedly mediocre 2005 film. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate the movie, but I was unaware at the time (the time being years later when I actually saw it, not when it came out) that it had very little to do with the actual character it was based on. Constantine is blonde and British, not brown-haired and living in LA. That’s Angel. I say my first real encounter, because he did feature in one of the early issues of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, but I had no idea who he was at the time. Anyway, I’ve been meaning to try this series for a while, so when I found the first volume at the library, I checked it out.

I can’t so much describe the plot to this collection, because there’s not much of an overarching plot to describe. The events described are loosely tied together, but at least for this first volume there’s no real resolution. (The library bought the first two volumes, so I’m hoping the overarching plot is resolved in the second one.) This is mostly about establishing the character and the world he inhabits. John Constantine is a powerful magician, but he doesn’t take much enjoyment in the fact. Magic and his own mistakes have cost him too many friends and loved ones, faces that literally haunt him both waking and sleeping. He’s a bit of a jerk–actually, more than a bit, and you could use stronger language if you wanted to–and has few moral qualms. About the only temptation he’s good at resisting is the temptation to walk away from a losing fight. Amateur magicians, the forces of Hell, the forces of Heaven, they all have a way of causing trouble. And Constantine just can’t help trying to stop them, whether it’s in defense of a friend or out of sheer curiosity. We’ve got a hunger demon, finance demons, a pedophiliac necromancer, time-slipped soldiers from the ‘Nam, the struggle between the Resurrection Crusade and the Damnation Army (the loose overarching plot that takes over halfway through), and a strange interlude featuring the Swamp Thing that I’m not really sure should have been included here. Constantine will take his licks and deal out some in return, even if it kills him. Or, more likely, even if it kills everyone he’s ever known….

I…had some issues with this. Some of these issues are clearly taste, while others are situational. Most frustrating for me, given my slight OCD over getting the whole story, is that this feels like you’re coming into the middle of the story despite it being the first volume. John Constantine was created as part of the Alan Moore run on Swamp Thing, and this spins out of that with Constantine reeling from the events of a particularly casualty-heavy story arc over there that is never really explained here. Also frustrating for me is the rather cynical view implicit to the events here that the forces of Heaven are no better than the forces of Hell. In fact, I would almost say that the Resurrection Crusade is more sinister than the Damnation Army! At least the forces of Hell are upfront about it–they’re demon’s! What do you expect? Look, I get that some televangelists are/were money-hungry frauds that give the rest of us Christians a bad name. That doesn’t mean you have to have to feature only the worst of the lot. Now, I do admit that it was not Heaven itself that was portrayed as sinister, but rather some of their earthly human agents, who don’t necessarily represent the will of God. It just rubbed me the wrong way, I suppose. I’m hoping this is handled better in the future. We’ll see. I could also do without the gratuitous commentary on ’80s British politics and social issues. I get it, there wasn’t a single British comic writer that approved of Margaret Thatcher! Can you stop slapping me in the face with it?

CONTENT: Quite a bit of language. No uses of the “F-Bomb” that I can recall/find, but everything else is used, including a heap of British profanity and slang. Harsh violence, occasionally torturous. Strong sexual content, including a rape and the implication of pedophilia (portrayed as horrific in both cases, not glorified), semi-explicit without going so far as outright nudity. Strong occult content, which should be obvious. Demons, spells, necromancy….it’s all here.

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Review: “The 9 Lives Of Alexander Baddenfield,” written by John Bemelmans Marciano & Illustrated by Sophie Blackall

I received an Advance Reading Copy of The 9 Lives Of Alexander Baddenfield (****) via the ARCycling program, donated by the people at Reviewing Wonderland. Many thanks to everyone involved! This in no way influences my review except to ensure that it exists, as I likely would not otherwise have acquired a copy of the book.

This is a YA novel, and I know some people see that as a stigma, but just because something is aimed at younger readers doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of the attention of older ones–just look at The Chronicles Of Narnia, The Hobbit, Artemis Fowl, Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, D.J. MacHale’s Pendragon series, or The Hunger Games. Of course, the opposite is also true. Just because something is aimed at younger readers doesn’t mean it is worthy of anyone’s attention–just look at Twilight or its many clones.

The Baddenfield family (and all of it’s branches across the world) has earned a reputation for villainy. From buying Manhattan from the Indians for a handful of trinkets to chopping down the Washingtons’ cherry tree and blackmailing young George to take the fall, at the root of every evil deed or disaster the world has known has been a Baddenfield. The one redeeming factor in the history of this ill-fated clan is their tendency to die young, with their deaths reeking of poetic justice. Alexander Baddenfield is the last remaining Baddenfield the world over, orphaned at a young age on a hunting expedition/family reunion that wiped out the entire rest of the clan in a series of poetically just accidents. Alexander is raised by his caretaker, Winterbottom, himself the last in line of a long family who have through the ages tried (and failed) to prevent their Baddenfield masters from meeting their untimely demises. Winterbottom is determined to finally beat the family curse, and so has spent years keeping Alexander away from anything remotely dangerous. Until, that is, Alexander one day has a “Great Idea” and sets out to find a doctor who can transplant the eight extra lives from his cat into Alexander himself. It is no spoiler to reveal that this endeavor is successful, given the title of the book, and Alexander is soon free to indulge himself with the most delightfully death-defying activities he can imagine….

I’ve seen a number of other reviewers compare this to the writing of Roald Dahl, and while I think that this is a bit unfair I must admit that it is the easiest way to convey the feel of the book. Unfair, because this is a comparison that will never reflect favorably on its subject. It would be like comparing any other piece of humorous sci-fi to the work of Douglas Adams, or a work of horror to a good Stephen King novel. Compared to the inimitable Roald Dahl, nobody will be able to measure up. However, if we must compare this book to another author’s work, Dahl is probably the closest we can find. Dahl’s habit of using a whimsical tone to describe even the worst of situations is very much in evidence here, and while you almost certainly will not like young Alexander, you will find yourself interested in his adventures. A case could also be made for comparing this book to the works of the great Neil Gaiman, not in quality or prose style or anything definable, but just that this is the kind of idea he would have. I quite enjoyed the book, even laughing out loud a couple times–especially during the first couple chapters recounting the history of the Baddenfields through the ages. I would recommend it for anyone with a sense of humor, especially if that sense of humor tends to an appreciation for the funny side of darkness and tragedy.

Content: Violence. Spoiler alert: Alexander dies. A lot. And occasionally his deaths can be a little gruesome. I wouldn’t recommend this for little kids, but for kids who are mature enough to handle the repeated death of the protagonist I would say that this would be a good read. No profanity, no sexual content.

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Review: “The Book Of Cthulhu II” edited by Ross E. Lockhart

I’ve been on a bit of a Lovecraft kick lately, first reading the man himself, then Alan Moore’s disturbing homage. And it all got its impetus from The Book Of Cthulhu II (*****), which I won via the Goodreads FirstReads program. (My review is not influenced by this fact, for the record.) I figured I should read the real thing before picking up either of the derivatives. Sad to say, I haven’t had any luck finding a copy of The Book Of Cthulhu I, but oh well. Most of these are authors I’d not heard of before, and all save a couple are ones I’d yet to sample. Kim Newman wrote the stellar Anno Dracula series, among other things, and I am a Neil Gaiman devotee. I’ve not read all of his work yet, but not for lack of trying.

This is an anthology of Lovecraft-inspired works from a wide range of authors. I’ll list and comment below, only commenting on plot when I think it necessary. Its a bit tough to mention plot for a short story without spoilers, so….

  • Neil Gaiman, Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar; I had read this one before in a collection of Gaiman tales (don’t remember which one), and it didn’t make much sense then as I had never read HPL. Now I have, and I had a much greater appreciation for the story. That said, not nearly as great as A Study In Emerald.
  • Caitlin R. Kiernan, Nor The Demons Down Under The Sea; The writing style here was a bit confusing at first–Ms. Kiernan is not afraid of a sentence fragment masquerading as a full sentence if it helps set her scene. But once the scene was set this proved a very evocative tale.
  • John R. Fultz, This Is How The World Ends; Fultz sketches a brief vignette of Cthulu’s rise from the deeps to swallow the world, and I must say his vision is frankly terrifying.
  • Paul Tobin, The Drowning At Lake Henpin; Most of these are Lovecraftian, but this is the first one I’ve seen that could have been written by Lovecraft himself.
  • William Browning Spencer, The Ocean And All Its Devices; I’m still not completely sure I understand what Spencer is saying about what lives in the water just offshore from this beachfront hotel, but I know I don’t want to meet it.
  • Livia Llewellyn, Take Your Daughters To Work; This one succeeded in disturbing me. That’s all I’ll say.
  • Kim Newman, The Big Fish; I love Kim Newman. Newman is a past master of the literary pastiche, here presenting a sequel to Lovecraft’s Shadow Over Innsmouth while at the same time doing a Sam Spade-type character (maybe Spade himself, the protagonist is never named….did Spade live in San Francisco?) AND roping in his recurring characters Edwin Winthrop and Genvieve Dieudonné from the Diogenes Club stories.* Which I am just reminded that I should get around to reading…..
  • Cody Goodfellow, Rapture Of The Deep; A corporate investigation into a potential source of endless energy on the seafloor turns to terror when an ex-Soviet psychic and his unwilling protegé take an astral visit to sunken R’lyeh….
  • A. Scott Glancy, Once More From The Top; An aged Marine recounts the horror he and his fellows experienced at the Battle Of Innsmouth. I quite enjoyed this one….though I don’t recall the Deep Ones having Shoggoths in the original story. Maybe that came from one of HPL’s stories I haven’t read yet…..Anyway, gonna try and track down the anthology this originated in.
  • Molly Tanzer, The Hour Of The Tortoise; An exiled young lady returns to her ancestral home, thought cursed by the surrounding villagers, to find her illegitimate father on his deathbed and something amiss about the house….
  • Christopher Reynaga, I Only Am Escaped Alone To Tell Thee; Christopher Reynaga recasts Moby Dick as a tale of Captain Ahab hunting Cthulhu in order to buy the world more time before his rise.
  • Ann K. Schwader, Objects From The Gilman-Waite Collection; A creepy though not unpredictable tale of a man entering a museum exhibit featuring the coral and gold jewelry from Shadow Over Innsmouth.
  • Gord Sellar, Of Melei, Of Ulthar; I’m still not sure I understand this one. Melei is visiting other worlds in her sleep, one of which appears to be post-Cthulhu New York. I can’t figure out, however, whether she exists in the far-distant past or the regressed future….in either case, it was an intriguing tale.
  • Mark Samuels, A Gentleman From Mexico; This was an outstanding idea, and I literally laughed out loud when I realized what was going on. I didn’t find the ending as strong as the middle, but it was very like what Lovecraft himself might have written as the ending.
  • W.H. Pugmire, The Hands That Reek And Smoke; Very creepy. Not really my thing, but creepy.
  • Matt Wallace, Akropolis; Behold, the Great Old Ones are returning, and they have sent their emissaries to prepare the way for them…..A great story here.
  • Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette, Boojum; This was one of my favorites, a real surprise find. Living spacecraft, starfaring pirates, evil aliens who collect human brains for their own sinister purposes…..it’s all here. Quality science-fiction! I’m going to track down the anthology it was originally written for….I was a bit hazy on most of the Lovecraft connections in this one, as I’d not read the relevant tales.
  • Jonathan Wood, The Nyarlathotep Event; Agent Arthur Wallace of MI37 goes up against Nyarlathotep, an ancient entity from a dimension representing humanity’s collective fears, and he does it with a snarky sense of humor and a hilarious narrative voice. I literally laughed out loud several times while reading it, and plan to track down the author’s other stories featuring the same protagonists.
  • Stanley C. Sargent, The Black Brat Of Dunwich; A surprising tale here, as Sargent turns the entire HPL story The Dunwich Horror on its head. Very fun, and HPL himself might be a fan of this one, but it would help to have read the original tale first.
  • Fritz Leiber, The Terror From The Depths; I actually forgot for a while that this wasn’t actually a Lovecraft story. I don’t think I’ve ever seen (by HPL or anyone else) so comprehensive and cohesive an ode to the Cthulhu Mythos….Well done.
  • Orrin Grey, Black Hill; A quick read, a mite predictable, but decent nonetheless.
  • Michael Chabon, The God Of Dark Laughter; A small-town sheriff investigates the ritual murder of a clown, possibly uncovering ties to an ancient and unholy cult. I really enjoyed this one, and I think I may have to look up more of Michael Chabon’s work.
  • Karl Edward Wagner, Sticks; An incredibly creepy tale of an artist who discovers an ancient abandoned cottage that continues to haunt his dreams….Again, I really enjoyed this.
  • Laird Barron, Hand Of Glory; Less actually scary, not incredibly Lovecraftian, but a good story nonetheless. Mobland hitman Johnny Cope has a problem. It seems that an old enemy of his father has sent goons to kill him. They weren’t incredibly successful, but they did manage to get his ire up. Now Johnny wants to know why….

On the whole, I loved this collection. A lot of the stories were excellent, but like with any collection you’ll have some that were better than others. I love Neil Gaiman, but given my choice I’d put in A Study In Emerald over Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar. Its simply a better tale–though, I’ll allow, perhaps not a better tribute to the original Lovecraft. Some of the stories I flat-out disliked, but that was probably a matter of taste. Certainly they are different than the ones cited by other reviewers as having fallen flat for them. A few of the stories, good as they were on their own, probably would have been enhanced by a more thorough knowledge of Lovecraft’s works. I’ve only read a very small selection as of this writing. I plan to remedy that in the near future….I very much recommend picking up this book if you ever get the chance. And in case you are interested, you can find the official website of Ross E. Lockhart, the editor of this book, here.

*Technically, the Diogenese Club stories happen in a separate world from the Anno Dracula novels, but they are mirrors of each other and feature the same characters. The prime difference seems to be that in the Diogenes Club stories Dracula was actually defeated as scheduled in his original book, whereas in the Anno Dracula world he was triumphant.

Content: This is a horror anthology, so from the get-go you know its not going to be appropriate for children. Bloody horror violence. Sexual references, including the implication that a couple characters are lesbians. The protagonist in another tale makes her living as a writer of Victorian-era pornography, and mostly non-explicit excerpts of her work are included. She also refers to several sexual encounters of her own, in generally non-explicit but incredibly suggestive terms. Language varies from story to story, but some at least are R-rated.

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