Sunday, September 28, 2014

recent read; Writ In Blood (Serenity Falls, Book I) by James A. Moore

Writ In Blood (Serenity Falls, Book I)

In upstate New York, a writer embarks on writing his hometown's history. What Simon MacGruder learns are dark and disturbing moments that the entire town seems to casually overlook. Occult forces are at work - they always have been, since Serenity Falls' cursed beginning. Meanwhile, Jonathan Crowley, a mysterious man with decidedly unnatural abilities, heads toward Serenity Falls to meet something dark and evil. But, strange events keep his arrival perpetually delayed.

Serenity Falls was originally one self-contained novel. When it went to paperback, the story was expanded into a trilogy of novels. As such, Writ In Blood tends to be a very large setup novel that sets the stage for the rest of the trilogy (I assume.)

As I've only starting reading Moore's work, so it might be early to say, but between reading Seven Forges and Writ In Blood, I would daresay James A. Moore likes to build his worlds and reveal them to us in due time. He does this deftly and keeps the reader interested all the way. Writ In Blood might be more about the town of Serenity Falls as a historical whole than about its inhabitants, though many of them obviously have roles to play. This opening tale is largely about atmosphere and that's what good horror is, to me.

Moore presents the tale across three aspects - MacGruder's experiences as he digs into the town history, the town history itself, and Crowley's journey. It's a good idea, with Crowley's physical action giving counterweight to the drama of MacGruder and the history of the town.

This opening tale ends on a some very unresolved notes. (see - "split up into trilogy.") But I've been invested enough in the twisted little town of Serenity Falls that I certainly will be returning for the second installment.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

recent read; Operation: Ice Bat

Operation: Ice Bat

Not only did attending NECON give my horror reading an extra kick, it also made me want to read stories from many of the writers I met. I did seek out various novel titles for my wishlists, but anthologies are an even quicker way of delivering my needs. Fortunately, over the years, a great many of the writers have featured together in anthologies. (There are even some NECON specific anthologies.)  I picked up on this benefit anthology, and it seemed a good place to start, and it featured many NECON attendees.

It's a solid anthology with varying degrees of horrors sub-genres. One or two of the stories didn't match my tastes, but overall it was an entertaining group of stories. That is usually the case with any anthology. For the ebook price, the cause and the variety, Operation: Ice Bat is a sure bet if you're looking for some horror reads.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tis the season

I could blame all these recent horrific acquisitions on the Autumn/Halloween season, but I started earlier this year. We'll blame Charles Rutledge, Jim Moore and NECON in general.

The Drums of Chaos by Richard Tierney

The Dracula Tape by Fred Saberhagen

The Night of the Ripper by Robert Bloch

The Monster's Corner, anthology, edited by Christopher Golden

Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 23, anthology of stories from 2011

B.P.R.D. (Volume 3, Plague of Frogs)

Afterlife with Archie

I've bought some other stuff, too, of course, but they aren't horror titles.

Monday, September 15, 2014

On to Washington (D.C.)

My nephew got married this weekend, so that meant a whirlwind family trip to the Washington, D. C. area. It was my kids first time on an airplane and they did great. We squeezed in a very brief trip to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. The kids are still too young to appreciate the exhibits, but there were some hands on arts & crafts "build your own plane" stuff going on, so it was a good distraction.

The wedding was a fun, pleasant affair. The couple got married at the Old Post Chapel next to Arlington National Cemetery. The reception was back at our hotel, the Hyatt in Crystal City Arlington, VA.

The reception was in the top floor Chesapeake room, and the view of the Potomac River and Washington D.C. were spectacular.

And just to illustrate where my mind goes sometimes...

I've been to Gettysburg and various American Civil War battlefields. I've been to D.C. But, it never really hit me until I had that view of just how fragile the Union's hold on the capitol must have been. I mean, I know D.C. is in Maryland but I guess, in my head, I always pictured it as central in the state, but it's not. Washington is right there, against the river and what was the border of the Confederacy.

I know the war was long before planes and the river is wide, and troops would need to come overland. But - one good bridge in the hands of the Confederacy and who knows what might of happened.

It's somewhat amazing they held not only during the opening days of the war, but throughout the four years.

A while back, The Siege of Washington by John & Charles Lockwood got onto my Kindle via a Daily Deal. I'm going to need to read it soon.

My other geek vibe from the view was from Karl Edward Wagner's gunslinger character, Becker. In his alternate world, he saw Washington D.C. burn and the Confederacy won the war.

Monday, September 1, 2014

recent read; Enemies & Allies

Superman & Batman, set in the late 1950s/early 1960s Cold War. Batman and Superman, fighting crime in their separate manners, find themselves drawn together as defense contractor Lex Luthor sets evil plans in motion. Luthor wants government contracts & power, and is willing to push the superpower nations to the brink of nuclear annihilation to get what he wants. With a nod or two toward Dr. No, he sets up a Caribbean base of operations.

Luthor's co-conspirator in the Soviet Union is trying to establish his own race of supermen from exploited workers who are excavating the site of a meteorite impact. The radiation from the strange, green element cause mutations, which General Ceridov hopes to transmute into a Soviet eugenics program to compete with the American Superman.

This novel was a lot of fun. The characterizations are spot on. Lots of nice period touches without going overboard. Balanced explorations of Bruce Wayne & Clark Kent and their alter egos. Lois Lane is feisty as ever.

I'd love to see this adapted as a DC Universe Animated Original Movie - which is really the highest compliment I can give it.

Monday, August 25, 2014

recent read; The Color Out of Time

Michael Shea, creator of Nifft the Lean, among other great writings, sadly passed away in March (2014.) Shea's books were already hard enough to come by, and predictably the prices at eBay nudged up after his death. Fortunately for those seeking out Shea's Lovecraft pastiche, The Color Out of Time, it was made available as an ebook earlier this year, shortly before his death.

The novel is a direct sequel to the H. P. Lovecraft story, "The Colour Out of Space."

At an idyllic New England lake in summertime, two older college professors, Gerald and Ernst, notice a strange, disturbingly colored halo about the lake one dusk. Later they find twisted, stunted trees and giant insects in an isolated tract of the woods. They also feel depression and dread for no seeming reason. Eventually the horror grows as the strange color exhibits and manifests a malevolent nature - poisoning spirit and body alike.

Things only grow worse, as afflicted and endangered vacationers ignore the warnings - perhaps due to the psychic influence of the entity.  The protagonists come to refer to the alien entity as simply, the Enemy. Murders by physical manifestation of the Enemy, along with madness-inflicted deaths, spread. Eventually our heroes take it upon themselves to solve the mystery and destroy the evil. Along the way they meet an older woman, too, who knows the truth of the Enemy - having seen it kill a family when she was a child - before the area was flooded to make the lake. Before H. P. Lovecraft heard the story and rewrote the details into 'fiction'...

Yes, there is a direct, open link to Lovecraft in the narrative. So, I'll stop there to avoid any further spoilers. As for Lovecraft's inclusion in the narrative, albeit as a person dead and in the past, I'm still not sure it works favorably or not. It did put me out of the tale a little, but as the post-climax tension and stakes rose rapidly, I let the story take me along.

Simply put, this was an enjoyable pastiche. Shea was able to imitate and modernize and put his own unique twists on the Lovecraft tropes. While not delving into purple prose, there is an intentional erudite hand in his word choice, which reminds of Lovecraft without falling into parroted imitation. Instead of an unlikely fainting blueblood protagonist, we get unexpected heroes in a trio of savvy, vigorous, whisky-drinking seniors. Instead of pontifications on race and heritage, we get interesting examination of tribal and mob behavior, and how something from Outside can exploit it.

Shea also includes some absolutely horrific moments along the way - shocking the reader out of the cosmic horror, back into grounded terror.

Having the novel on Kindle is convenient, and it was bittersweet to read the fresh introduction from Shea. But I will keep an eye out for a paperback copy. Especially because of this Ken Kelly cover!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Return to Lovecraft Country

Well, not so much of a return as a drive-by.

When it comes to Lovecraft Country, there are different regions. The most famous, perhaps, is the northeast coast of Massachusetts, with its fictional Kingsport, Arkham and Innsmouth. Central-western Massachusetts is another area where at least two of his more famous tales were set - "The Colour Out Of Space" and "The Dunwich Horror."

Supposedly, the events of "The Colour Out Of Space" took place in an area that was destined to be forgotten under the waters of the new reservoir for Boston. Though he died before it was completed, Lovecraft cleverly worked the Quabbin Reservoir into "The Colour Out of Space";
Traces...will doubtless linger...even when half the hollows are flooded for the new reservoir. Then the dark woods will be cut down and the blasted heath will slumber...the secrets of the strange days will be one with the deep’s secrets; one with the hidden lore of old ocean, and all mystery of primal earth.
This weekend we attended a picnic in Amherst, MA. Our drive took us past one lookout area over a small portion of the reservoir along Route 202. We didn't have time to stop - the lookout was across the opposite lane anyway. And we took a different way out. So, I had to settle for a drive-by photo op.

(If you zoom on the sign, you will see that it reads, "Quabbin Reservoir - Pelham Lookout." And you can see a bit of water in the far background.)

But, the way out was interesting, too. I forewent the GPS's suggested route on the way to the picnic - mostly for the Quabbin photo op. On the way back, the GPS took us through even deeper backroads, which are also Lovecraft related. I vaguely recognized some of the buildings and crossroads. I had explored around the area in my Lovecraft reading heyday. I had used "Lovecraft and the New England Megaliths" by Andrew E. Rothovius from The Dark Brotherhood and Other Pieces as my guide back then - referred to many USGS maps, too, before Google and Yahoo maps existed.

I sometimes forget how lucky I am to live in such a historical region - fictional history or otherwise. It was nice to drive through there with Lovecraftian fiction in mind, even if it was a brief passing by.

The nights here are already growing colder. It might be time to reread "The Colour Out of Space" and perhaps follow it up with a read of Michael Shea's The Color Out of Time, which is in my to-be-read queue.