Ginger Nuts of Horror
Okay, although this isn't my first owned copy of Black Static (I'm a recent subscriber and have just renewed that subscription), it is my first completely read one (and I'm sorry and don't all scream at me at once and I have dipped in and out before...), so I feel I can give this issue a proper review.
Whilst I didn't read it all in order, I will format the review according to the structure of the magazine, so...
Some of you may remember the adventures of John Sinclair for their distant past. The series first began in 1973, featuring a dashing Scottish hero, who mixed James Bond heroics, with Hammer Horror devilry, it was a roaring success. The series has now returned in an all new series of adventures, that pits the dashing Sinclair against all manner of beasties and monsters.
Curse of the Undead is the first new story in the series and it sees our hero go up against a dastardly necromancer and his horde of the undead. Don't groan this isn't yet another zombie novel it is so much more.
The human race has faced extinction countless times in fiction, from nuclear holocausts, to invading aliens and even the common cold. If I was going to pick another method of destruction I wouldn’t in a million years have picked blind bat-like creatures that had been trapped safely away from mankind.
At first glance it may seem that Tim Lebbon’s latest novel is a hark back to the monster of the week, dime a dozen horror novels of the 1980s that almost caused the total extinction of the genre. Surely one of Britain’s best exponents of intelligent thoughtful horror, the man who brought us The Thief of Broken Toys, couldn’t have written a paint by the numbers monster novel?
Moonstruck is a direct and immediate sequel to the novel High Moor – to the point where I can't imagine this story working at all in a stand alone capacity. That said, go and read/listen to High Moor, because it's pretty awesome.
When I say direct, Moonstruck begins mere hours after the closing dramatic events of High Moor, and wastes no time at all in moving the story forward. High Moor was a deeply assured and well plotted action horror thriller, and Moonstruck takes that ball and runs with it. At the emotional core of this book are a love story and a revenge narrative, which put two not unsympathetic groups onto a brutal collision course.
SickER B*stards is the sequel to the very successful Sick Bastards, written by Matt Shaw. This book sees the return of Father, Mother, Sister and Brother and takes off where Sick ends. This series captured my attention from the first page of the first book and the sequel is even more captivating and intense than the first. This book epitomizes what horror is, to me at least. It makes you take a good hard look at yourself by putting yourself in the protagonist’s shoes, making you wonder how far you would go to survive. Could you resort to cannibalism? What about incest? If your world suddenly ended, would you give up and commit suicide? These are some very scary topics, and SickER slaps you in the face with questions like these on every page.
Not sure if this was a 99p deal or free for a limited period, or who recommended it. Some journalist I am. I know I was already Facebook friends with James prior to reading, and I also know this was my first encounter with his work.
It will not be my last.
The Shelter is a deft exercise in short form storytelling – falling in that twilight zone between short story and novella, the kind of length that you basically never saw outside an anthology or collection, prior to the rise of the e-book.
A Life to Waste tells the story of Dave, a person who lost all purpose and meaning in his life. He’d spend his days eating and drinking, playing video games and watching horror flicks. He lived with his elderly mother, a mother he abused.
One day, Dave’s world comes crashing down around him when one of his neighbors turns up missing. Her flat is covered in blood and the police soon knock on Dave’s door, asking if he heard or saw anything. Determined to find out what happened to the woman, Dave begins an investigation of his own, which leads to a horrifying discovery.
The teenage years are hard enough for males, what with suddenly raging hormones, faces that look as though they have been rented out as a holiday home to the Spot family, and the scary prospect of having to learn to shave. For most of us though our teenage years were pretty straightforward. So just be thankful that you are not Henry Dudlow, a fifteen and a half year old teenage boy who is also gifted or cursed with the ability to see the demons that walk amongst us.
What would you do in such a situation? Would you cower under the covers at night waiting for Armageddon to come, or would you take the fight to them?
That's the problem that faces poor old Henry.
The horror of horror is a one trick pony; eliciting reactions of dread, panic, revulsion, all ephemeral, passing in almost the same breath or heartbeat, leaving behind little but an aching emptiness; a silence that begs to be broken.
Those works which define the genre; which others adore and seek to emulate, generally utilise the tropes, subjects and rhythms of horror to achieve something greater; to make something more of themselves (Clive Barker's Books of Blood, for example, explore any number of concepts not traditionally associated with horror, as do the works of David Cronenberg, David Lynch and Ramsey Campbell). Audiences become suggestible when shaken or disturbed from their assumptions; when exposed to things they've never experienced or imagined before. The best horror knows this and uses it, transcending any bounds or parameters that the genre might impose upon itself.
I have to admit to having an ulterior motive for picking this one up. As a writer, I'm intrigued by experiments in form, and the notion of 99 horror stories, each written in 99 words, proved to be an irresistible pull. I had two questions going in: could the authors actually pull this off? And if they did, what on earth would it be like to read?