Blighters is not the novella I signed up for. When I heard about a horror story featuring gigantic alien space-slugs with huge gnashing teeth, I anticipated schlock, carnivorous gore and a pacy, rip-roaring narrative.
Blighters is not that book, and thank goodness for that; it is much, much more.
Becky is our flawed, prickly, but endearing protagonist, scarred by the tragic passing of her parents. She lives in a near-future world inhabited by “blighters”, which are gigantic gastropods that plopped from the sky a few years previous. Most of these terrifying slime-bags, which are the size of buses, died upon impact with the earth, and those that survived simply remained where they landed.
The twist with blighters is that, rather than spreading terror and destruction as one might expect in a horror story, they actually radiate peace and love, man. The oozy bliss that they offer is so desirable to the average human that people (and sometime whole countries) are willing to risk lives for a taste. In a similar manner to the indie film Monsters (2010), the story takes place against a backdrop of alien life, and is about the characters’ responses to their presence instead of the space-slugs physically wreaking carnage themselves. It is a tale about how people react to tragedy, to everyday trials, and to the possibility of an easy way out. It explores the very human need for solace and all that we are willing to risk for the promise of redemption.
Blighters is an effortlessly readable book sprinkled with subtlety and insight, humour and honesty, and was a very pleasant surprise. It is everything that I was not expecting a book about giant space-slugs to be, and is so much better for it.
Gorehounds and schlockfiends steer clear – this is strongly recommended for fans of original and uniquely weird fiction.
I finished the totally stunning “Disappearance at Devil’s Rock” late the other night and it’s going to be very difficult not to gush about this fascinating and gripping novel. It was a totally magnificent read and I devoured the 400 pages over two fast-paced evenings. I had intended to save the final hundred for a third night of reading, but I just couldn’t tear myself away from the damned thing as it hurtled towards its heart-breaking conclusion. I had been looking forward to this novel for a while as I was a massive fan of Tremblay’s previous full-length work “A Head Full of Ghosts” which deservedly won the Best Novel award at the Bram Stoker Awards in 2015. Surprisingly “Ghosts” has been slow to receive an official UK release, however, according to the blurb Titan Books will be releasing a paperback in September. So I highly recommend you check that out also, they complement each other brilliantly.
Paul Tremblay is on terrific form here and there can be few better horror writers in the world today. Having said that it’s probably not to all horror fans tastes. There is virtually no violence, no gore and much of the supernatural rumblings are suggestive and it is left to the reader to decide upon a definitive version of events. I love this type of “exquisite emphatic horror” to quote Joe Hill from the cover, it’s suggestive, slow, overpowering and at certain stages the threat of a man standing outside a window is all that is required to give you the shakes. Of course, with the man at the window, is there a supernatural riff or not? Read it to find out as this is the sort of thing which in some ways is left to the imagination of the reader. Other big horror hitters also gush about the book with Nick Cutter, Christopher Golden and one of my favourites Joshua Gaylord all raving about it. It’s the sort of novel I’d push onto my brother and then we’d discuss some of the story threads which were left open.
It’s a completely different read from “A Head Full of Ghosts” but at the heart has the same theme which revolves around family disintegration. The other main similarity is the ambiguity of whether there is anything supernatural going on all. This author is the absolute master of building tension in very normal households; the use of shadows, noises, shapes at windows, bags of clothes that look like body shapes and the clever use of modern technology, phones, apps, etc. Both novels weave these features into their stories expertly. This open-ended style will certainly irritates some, but I’m a huge fan of it.
“Ghosts” is a psychological horror thriller about a family who believe their teenage daughter may be possessed and call in an exorcist. This evolves into a complex family drama which includes a TV documentary in which their family troubles are played out horribly for all to see. “Devil’s Rock” looks at the family in pearl once again, but through the disappearance of a thirteen year old boy, Tommy. Much of the novel it told through the massive impact the disappearance has on his younger sister Kate, his mother Elizabeth and granny Janice. Set in a small town near Boston where nothing bad ever seems to happen, the disappearance of Tommy from one of the big state parks, near a big rock known as “Devil’s Rock” picks up a lot of media attention and social media fans the flames of a supernatural force in the park.
The novel is very cleverly written in the third person, so in each chapter we hear the voices of Kate, Elizabeth, Janice and the detective investigating the case. Tommy’s story, in the period leading up to the disappearance is told in flashback mode, and we spent a lot of time with him and his two best friends Luis and Josh. They’re pretty normal teens who are starting to notice girls, love zombies and are obsessed with Minecraft. Tommy has matured quicker than the other two boys and the author gives a tremendous snapshot of early teen life in small town America as they discover beer and keep secrets from their parents. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but the author introduces a pretty clever way of getting right in the head of Tommy through a diary which is an important strand in the plot. The little sister Kate, and all her pre-teen insecurities and angsts, is a fantastic character and she is the one who comes closest to piecing together what happened to Tommy. To say much more about the plot would spoil it, just know there are secrets and the author reveals it all very slowly and by the time you reach the last fifty pages you will not be able to take your eyes from the very painful pages. What really did happen to Tommy? This isn’t in your face horror and there are many unanswered questions, but that’s obviously the style this author is drawn to. However, but the pain of losing a child is more than enough horror for me and the family drama unfolds horribly as the period of disappearance lengthens. Some readers may have preferred the book being written in the first person, however, the third person narrative worked just fine for me. This is very much a slow burner which really got under my skin and it will be equally enjoyed by thriller readers as much as horror fans. It’s hard to know who to compare Paul Tremblay to, as he really does his own thing, possibly Megan Abbott, who also writes thrillers such as “The Fever” which also dip their toes into horror. I’ve always been a fan of authors which who play around with genre conventions and barriers and this novel certainly does that. In fact, few do it better than Tremblay. I really loved “The Disappearance at Devil’s Rock” and recommend it wholeheartedly.
Brother is a difficult novel to review as thanks to some pretty unpleasant and nasty sections, which are outside of my regular reading habits, however, if you enjoy extreme horror you may well enjoy this unsettling and unforgiving novel. Ironically, when I started it I thought it was a YA novel! The main character was 19 years old, so I was lulled into a false sense of security and when the first victim is tortured and killed very slowly in the first chapter the prospect of a YA read quickly evaporated.
The plot is pretty straight forward, a highly dysfunctional and downright evil family who live in the middle of nowhere in West Virginia kidnap, torture and murder young women. as well as other stuff that I’m not going to go into, I’ll just leave that to your imagination.
Survive the Night is one of several horror novels from up and coming American teen writer Danielle Vega who has been billed as “YA’s answer to Stephen King”. She also writes psychological thrillers under the pseudo-name Danielle Rollins. This author is unknown in the UK and I wonder whether comparing any newish author to the mighty Stephen King really does them any favours? As King’s boots are pretty hard to fill.
I finished Zero Saints about a month ago. Since then, I’ve been struggling with how best to write about it. I mean, I can tell you I think it’s amazing. I can tell you that barrio noir may just be my new favourite sub-genre in fiction. I can tell you that this fast paced crime novel is bleak, violent, and hums with a live wire tension from opening word to closer. I can say that Iglesias is, on the evidence of this novel, a talent as ferocious as Ellroy and as pacy as Wimslow, with an added horror/magical realism streak that is woven seamlessly into the gritty realist setting and characters, such that the whole is frighteningly assured.
So the more impressive among you may just remember how, in my round-up of 2015, I mentioned that my favourite novella I read that year wasn’t due out until 2016. Well, with a release date of 22nd July confirmed, I have finally gotten the green light to talk to y’all about Jedi Summer. And disclaimer: I know John Boden, and I’m proud as hell to count him as a friend. That said, my usual rules of reviewing apply - if I don’t like it, I don’t review it. Also, in John’s case, it’s worth noting I was a fan of the mans work before I got to know him personally
This crossover teen horror/fantasy impressed me tremendously. It recently arrived in the UK without much fanfare, but I am sure it will pick up an audience over time. This is often the case with quality YA novels and I was not surprised to find out that “Nightfall” already has a sequel “Edgelands” projected for a September 2016 release. It’s well known in the YA world that you’re more likely to sell a book is there is a sequel in the pipeline, or even a trilogy.
The year 2016, will probably be noted in future times (you know when we finally get out Jetsons flying cars and all that) as the year Weird fiction broke big. This year has seen some truly amazing work from some cats who are proudly doing their own thing and writing their own unapologetically "left-of-center " fiction.
It has to be commended when authors try something new or challenge themselves to write something that is just outside the canon of their previous work. A good author should grow with every book; they should try to better themselves with each word committed to the page, it doesn't always work, though, sometimes what could have been a fantastic piece of work can be hampered by one or two little niggling factors.
Duncan P. Bradshaw's Hexagram is a novel of epic proportions, in regards to both the story line and the structural makeup of the story. This time-spanning novel of ancient rituals and prophecies is certainly massive in its scope when an ancient Incan ritual is rudely interrupted it sets in motion a series of interlinked events that take in many of the histories most notorious events that threaten to destroy the very fabric of our existence.
In horror fiction, there are varying shades of light and dark, not only within the genre as a whole but also within individual titles. Some books are inherently dark throughout their length, while others balance out the dark with a light and happy ending, and others such as The Grieving Stones from Gary McMahon lurk in shadows between the dark and light. Gary's previous work has, in the main had both feet firmly planted in the dark, he is not an author you should ever turn to if you are looking for a cosy horror story where the hero wins the damsel in distress and beats the bad guy. His books are a dark disquisition on the deepest and most honest facets of the human condition. His books have the power to rip out your heart and crush it on the page. His novel The End is one of only a select few books that have had the power to leave me in tears at the book's conclusion. The Grieving Stones is his latest novella and while it treads familiar McMahon shadowy avenues of the human condition it also breaks new ground regarding resolution and consequences.......