John Langan Reviews Strange Weather by Joe Hill

Strange Weather, Joe Hill (William Morrow 978-0-06-266311-5, $27.99, 448pp, hc) October 2017.

Henry James famously called the novella the “blessed form,” and it’s long been a truism that the form is especially well-suited to horror narratives, offering sufficient length to develop character and situation, but sufficient concentration to fo­cus effect. James’s own The Turn of the Screw exemplifies this combination, as do many of the most famous examples of the ...Read More

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John Langan Reviews She Said Destroy by Nadia Bulkin

She Said Destroy, Nadia Bulkin (Word Horde 978-1-9399-05-33-8, $16.99, 264pp, tp) August 2017.

“Intertropical Convergence Zone”, the opening story in Nadia Bulkin’s strong debut collection, She Said Destroy, details the efforts of a general to gain the abilities that will enable him to rule his native country. In consultation with a local shaman, he consumes a succession of objects, each of which grants him a new power. By the story’s ...Read More

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2017: A Year Inside the Tent by John Langan

I’ve always subscribed to the big-tent view of horror fiction. While I don’t go so far as to say that horror isn’t a genre (it is), the edges of the field can be difficult to map, especially if your view of it is rooted in its concern with (to paraphrase Stephen King) a pervasive sense of disestablish­ment, a feeling that things are in the unmaking. 2017 provided a fine example ...Read More

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John Langan Reviews The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson

The Murders of Molly Southbourne, Tade Thompson ( 9780765397133 $11.99, 128pp, tp) October 2017.

The figure of the doppelganger features in the work of a number of well-known writers, from Poe (“Wil­liam Wilson”) to Dostoyevsky (The Double) to Dick (“The Father Thing”) to Ellison (“Shatterday”). In these narratives, and in the larger traditions from which they draw, the appearance of one’s double is a cause for anxiety. It is in ...Read More

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John Langan Reviews Naming the Bones by Laura Mauro

Naming the Bones, Laura Mauro (Self-published 9781544177748, $9.00, 224pp, tp) June 2017.

Naming the Bones, the title of Laura Mauro’s compelling novella, refers to a coping mechanism her protagonist, Alessa, arrives at in order to help her through the post-traumatic stress from which she suffers in the wake of a terrorist bombing. When she feels a panic attack coming on, Alessa begins reciting the bones of the human skeleton, a ...Read More

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John Langan Reviews The Changeling by Victor LaValle

The Changeling, Victor LaValle (Spiegel & Grau 9780812995947, $28.00, 448pp, hc) June 2017.

In its opening sentence, The Changeling, Vic­tor LaValle’s excellent new novel, describes the story it is about to tell as a fairy tale. The second half of the line locates this fairy tale in a specific year, 1968, during a specific event, a garbage strike. The strike, we learn, is taking place in New York City, and ...Read More

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John Langan Reviews Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

Mapping the Interior, Stephen Graham Jones ( Publishing 9780765395108, $10.99, 112pp, tp) June 2017.

Mapping the Interior, Stephen Graham Jones’s astonishing novella, begins with the narrator sighting the ghost of his father. Twelve-year-old Junior lives in a small house with his widowed mother and younger brother, Dino, on a Native American reservation somewhere in the American west. His father has been dead for years, long enough ago that his older ...Read More

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John Langan Reviews Pretty Marys All in a Row by Gwendolyn Kiste

Pretty Marys All in a Row, Gwendolyn Kiste (Broken Eye Books 9781940372310, $9.99, 90pp, tp) November 2017.

Gwendolyn Kiste’s recent collection, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, was one of the more impressive debuts of the past year, com­bining a graceful style with a striking and original vision. With her new novella, Pretty Marys All in a Row, Kiste tries her hand at a longer form. The result is ...Read More

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John Langan Reviews I Wish I Was Like You by S.P. Miskowski

I Wish I Was Like You, S.P. Miskowski (Jour­nalStone 9781945373787, $16.95, 249pp, tp) July 2017.

I Wish I Was Like You, the title of S.P. Miskowski’s searing new novel, is one half of a lyric from Nirvana’s song, “All Apologies.” Its conclusion, “easily amused,” helps to define the book’s narrator-protagonist, Greta. If she is anything, it’s not easily amused. Yet there’s an additional implication to Miskowski’s choice of title, and ...Read More

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John Langan reviews Hieroglyphs of Blood & Bone by Michael Griffin

Hieroglyphs of Blood & Bone, Michael Griffin (JournalStone 9781945373527, $13.95, 176pp, tp) February 2017.

Hieroglyphs of Blood & Bone, Michael Griffin’s strong debut novel, is narrated by Guy, a man newly divorced from his wife of more than two decades. Adrift without her, he has moved into a houseboat with Karl, his co-worker at the boatyard where Guy has an office position. Karl is 29, a college dropout, a repository ...Read More

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John Langan reviews Ill Will by Dan Chaon

Ill Will, Dan Chaon (Ballantine 9780345476043 $28.00, 480pp, hc) March 2017.

Dustin Tillman, the protagonist of Dan Chaon’s brilliant, thrilling Ill Will, sits at the nexus of two sets of murders. The first occurred when he was a young child: his mother, father, aunt, and uncle were shot to death the morning the two families were supposed to leave for a vacation to Yellowstone Park. Dustin accused his older, adopted ...Read More

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John Langan reviews Benjamin Percy

Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction, Benjamin Percy (Graywolf Press 9781555977597 $16.00, 160pp, tp) October 2016.

The essays collected in Benjamin Percy’s Thrill Me address different aspects of the same topic, the writing of fiction. It’s a subject about which no shortage of titles exists. What distinguishes Percy’s contribution is the clarity of his prose and his suggestions for the aspiring and apprentice writer. A self-described outliner, Percy structures each ...Read More

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John Langan reviews Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Certain Dark Things, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Thomas Dunne Books 9781250099082, $25.99, 336pp, hc) October 2016.

The world of Certain Dark Things, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s fast-moving new novel, is one in which the existence of vampires has been an established and accepted fact for the last four decades. Some countries met this revelation by expelling vampires from their borders, others, by placing them under strict control. In response, many vampires relocated ...Read More

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John Langan reviews Ray Cluley

Within the Wind, Beneath the Snow, Ray Clu­ley (Spectral 978-0957392793, $20.00, 82pp) May 2015. (Snowbooks 9781911390879, £4.99, 84pp, pb) September 2016.

Ray Cluley’s Probably Monsters was one of the standouts of 2015, a collection of well-written stories about a variety of monsters in a variety of landscapes. His follow-up publication, the standalone novella, Within the Wind, Beneath the Snow, is another success. Its protagonist, Gjerta Jørgensen, is a ...Read More

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John Langan Reviews Paul Tremblay

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, Paul Tremblay (William Morrow 978-0-0623-6326-8, $25.99, 336pp, hc) June 2016.

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, the gripping new novel from Paul Tremblay, begins with a phone call in the small hours of the morning. Elizabeth Sanderson, who answers the phone, has been waiting for a check-in from her son, thirteen-year-old Tommy, who is at a sleepover at a friend’s house. The phone’s trill fills her with ...Read More

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John Langan reviews Christopher Buehlman

The Suicide Motor Club, Christopher Buehl­man (Berkley 978-1101988732, $26.00, 368pp, hc) June 2016.

The Suicide Motor Club, the new novel from Christopher Buehlman, is a lean, mean, souped-up, eight cylinder, four-speed race car of a book. It begins at high speed, with Judith Lamb, the protagonist, in a car with her husband and five-year-old son. The year is 1967, and the Lamb family is driving east through New ...Read More

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John Langan reviews Joe Hill

The Fireman, Joe Hill (William Morrow 9780062200631, $28.99, 768pp, hc) May 2016.

The Fireman, Joe Hill’s big new novel, is a freight train of a book. Long, composed of many sections, it’s already in motion on the first page, and it does not let up until the very end. Its premise is straightforward: a plague is spreading around the world. The infection’s scientific name is Draco incendia trychophyton, ...Read More

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John Langan reviews Gemma Files

Experimental Film, Gemma Files (ChiZine 978-1771-48349-0, $16.99, 305pp, tp) Decem­ber 2015.

There’s a cache of lost films at the center of Experimental Film, the fine, compel­ling novel by Gemma Files. The movies were made in the early years of the 20th century by a woman who herself went missing during what should have been a routine train journey to Toronto. Shot on highly unstable silver nitrate stock, the ...Read More

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John Langan reviews Stephen Graham Jones

Mongrels, Stephen Graham Jones (William Morrow 978-0-06-241269-0, $24.99, 320pp, hc) May 2016.

For some time, now, Stephen Graham Jones has been writing fiction that boldly engages familiar horror tropes, from demonic posses­sion, to the serial killer, to the zombie, in the process compiling one of the more impressive and interesting bibliographies in recent memo­ry. Now, in Mongrels, his excellent, exuberant new novel, he turns his attention to the ...Read More

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