December 18, 2011

THE GIFT OF HORROR: Happy Holidays!

Reviews by S.P. Miskowski

by Todd Grimson
352 pages, Schaffner Press

The revenge story is my favorite kind, revealing as much about the nature of the perpetrator as it does about the targets of her wrath. And boy oh boy, do we get to know protagonist Lisa Nova! James Ellroy has called Todd Grimson “the hippest writer in America today.” If Ellroy wrote that about me, I’d be tempted to read the blurb every night before bedtime. Yet hipness can be a burden if you don’t have the talent to match it. Fortunately Grimson shows plenty of talent in this hard-as-rock-candy novel about an aspiring actress/director seeking revenge against the producer who messed with her personal American Dream. If you like some crazy with your Los Angeles cuisine, and a bit of magic realism with your outright horror, this is your flavor, right here.

by Sara Gran
168 pages, Soho Press

Amanda is under pressure. Her job at a successful architectural firm is exciting but stressful. The loft she is converting with her husband needs more work, and it isn’t as accessible as she would like. Still, things could be worse. Those weird noises she keeps hearing could signal the arrival of something supernatural, or the start of her own psychological unraveling, or maybe the emergence of Amanda’s true self. The one she doesn’t share with anyone, even her beloved husband. Because how could he understand the petty, dirty, mean things she sometimes feels an overwhelming urge to do? That’s all I’m going to say about this book. No. Here’s another thing. I love it. And here’s one more. Buy it. You’re already online. Buy it now.

by Livia Llewellyn
214 pages, Lethe Press

Batten down the hatches. At least two of the stories in this collection will scare the hell out of you. A few will hurt your feelings. I was inconsolable after reading “Horses.” Then I read the rest of the book, and my only question is: Why do I have to write the way I do, instead of the way Llewellyn does? Muscular, precise, violent, and agonizingly truthful, her fiction takes no prisoners and makes you wonder why you bothered reading all those other writers, the ones who ramble and whine about life while she delivers it, bloody and screaming, into your arms.

by David Kempf
356 pages, RealTime Publishing

An ambitious novel that centers on a Faustian bargain between a college student, the horror writing professor he admires, and some powerful supernatural beings who feed on human dread, Dark Fiction may be rough going for readers who are not in on the joke: Much of the text is provided by our undergraduate protagonist, who is not the prose stylist he believes himself to be. His sophomoric attempts at bloodcurdling fiction are author Kempf’s satirical take on student writing, especially genre writing. By the time the young wannabe has run through every cliche in the moldy how-to manual of horror, he is well on his way to becoming the next free ride for those supernatural thugs. His stories may lack style and coherence, but they are bursting with the manic energy that only a credulous and over-confident student can offer.

by Amelia Beamer
272 pages, Night Shade Books

Amelia Beamer’s refreshing and always surprising take on the undead uprising poses the question most of us didn’t know we were afraid to ask: What if the zombie plague was equal parts STD and MDMA? Set in and around San Francisco, The Loving Dead follows a small group of housemates as they try to stay alive–and, if possible, hook up–during the end of the world. It’s equal parts quasi-romantic sex comedy and dark horror; well worth picking up if you’re not afraid of risky storytelling, sexy dirigibles, and zombified Trader Joe’s employees. (Review by Cory J. Herndon.)

by Caitlin R. Kiernan
400 pages, Roc Trade

Thanks to Lynda E. Rucker for recommending this novel at her blog. I love a good story about a writer and few novels present as fascinating a writer-protagonist as Sarah Crowe in The Red Tree. Self-exiled to a remote rental house in Rhode Island following a tragic personal loss, Sarah discovers a manuscript by the house’s former tenant. The manuscript covers the known history of an unusual and apparently ancient oak tree on the property. It also chronicles the strange events that occurred while the former tenant was doing his research. Soon Sarah is drawn into the history of her temporary home, where past and present overlap, and the natural world may collapse into something less natural but terrifyingly real.

by Craig Dilouie
258 pages, Schmidt Haus Books

Two things make this zombie apocalypse novel stand out from all the other zombie apocalypse novels. One is its immediacy, and this is achieved through a formal convention; author Dilouie gains momentum by telling his story entirely in present tense. Second, the story focuses on the challenges faced by American soldiers who have been recalled from combat posts around the world to try and contain a rabid outbreak in New York. Now the soldiers must overcome existential angst to do battle with the fellow citizens they have spent their lives protecting. This novel has earned high praise from author David Moody (Hater, Dog Blood), and he knows the undead like nobody’s business.

No comments:

Post a Comment