With H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith is one of the major writers associated with the original incarnation of Weird Tales magazine. Of the three, Lovecraft has received the lion’s share of critical attention, from the essays regularly published first in Lovecraft Studies and now the Lovecraft Annual, to such book-length studies as Maurice Levy’s Lovecraft: A Study in the Fantastic and Robert Waugh’s The Monster in ...Read MoreRead more
Tide of Stone, Kaaron Warren (Omnium Gatherum 9780615827995 $14.99, 374pp, tp) May 2018.
Tide of Stone, Kaaron Warren’s excellent new novel, concerns a unique prison: a great stone tower located on the Australian coast, which houses the worst of the region’s criminals. What distinguishes the prison is neither its shape nor the depravity of its inmates, but the punishment they are undergoing. The residents of nearby Tempuston, who staff and ...Read MoreRead more
glass slipper dreams, shattered, Doungjai Gam (Apokrupha 9781721770724 $7.99 74pp, tp) September 2018.
Many of the most famous examples of horror fiction are brief, from such campfire classics as “The Hook” to Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”. (Even Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” falls on the shorter end of the spectrum.) Despite this, writing a truly effective short horror story, let alone one at flash fiction length, is a rock upon which ...Read MoreRead more
All the Fabulous Beasts, Priya Sharma (Undertow 9781988964027, $17.99, 288pp, tp) May 2018.
“The Crow Palace”, the opening story in Priya Sharma’s luminous debut collection, All the Fabulous Beasts, begins with its protagonist revisiting a childhood memory. When she was young, Julie tells us, living with her parents and twin in a large house in the English countryside, her father built a bird table, an arrangement of large shelves on ...Read MoreRead more
The Ones Who Are Waving, Glen Hirshberg (Cemetery Dance 9781587676314, $40.00, 208pp, hc) March 2018.
“Freedom is Space for the Spirit”, the first story in Glen Hirshberg’s excellent collection, The Ones Who Are Waving, is a tale of returns. It begins when Thomas, its protagonist, receives a telegram from Vasily, a friend from his youth, requesting his return to St. Petersburg. As a university student, Thomas left then-East Germany for ...Read MoreRead more
The Immaculate Void, Brian Hodge (ChiZine 9781771484374 $17.99, 232pp, tp) May 2018.
For the last several years, Brian Hodge, always one of his generation’s leading writers of horror, has been having something of a renaissance, writing stories which have been among the highlights of anthologies including The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu, Children of Lovecraft, and The Devil and the Deep. The Immaculate Void, his gripping new novel, has its origins ...Read MoreRead more
Halcyon, Rio Youers (St. Martin’s 9781250072412 $27.99, 384pp, hc) July 2018.
While Halcyon, Rio Youers’s new novel, is not a direct sequel to last year’s The Forgotten Girl, it shares the previous novel’s interest in psychic phenomena. Once again, Youers links psychic ability to a young woman, in this case, Edith Lovegrove, 10-year-old daughter of Martin and Laura, younger sister of 15-year-old Shirley. As the novel begins, Edith suffers what ...Read MoreRead more
Apart in the Dark: Novellas, Ania Ahlborn (Gallery 9781501187537 $16.00, 384pp, tp) January 2018.
For several years, Ania Ahlborn has been constructing narratives whose concern with aberrant psychology frequently intersects the supernatural. Apart in the Dark collects two novellas, “The Pretty Ones” and “I Call Upon Thee”, previously published electronically, which together offer a good introduction to her work. The book includes an introduction in which Ahlborn discusses her college ...Read MoreRead more
Spectral Evidence, Gemma Files (Trepidatio 9781947654181 $15.95, 212pp, tp) February 2018.
Spectral Evidence, Gemma Files’s excellent new collection, is her first such book since 2004’s The Worm in Every Heart (2014 did bring We Will All Go Down Together, which assembled a number of shorter works, but it did so in the interest of fashioning them into a larger whole, a kind of hyper-novel, which is a different, though clearly ...Read MoreRead more
The Cabin at the End of the World, Paul Tremblay (Morrow 978-0062679109, $26.99, 288pp, hc) June 2018.
Anyone who has followed Paul Tremblay’s short fiction, from the stories collected in the remarkable In the Mean Time, to “Where We Will All Be” in Joseph Pulver, Sr.’s The Grimscribe’s Puppets and “Swim Wants to Know If It’s as Bad as Swim Thinks” in Bourbon Penn magazine, knows that one of his ...Read MoreRead more
The Hunger, Alma Katsu (Putnam 978-0735212510, $27.00, 384pp, hc) March 2018.
Every history is to some extent a secret history, offering new information on its subject, or, barring that, a fresh perspective, which may yield similar results. Nowhere is this more true than in books addressing themselves to famous subjects, which must make a greater effort to earn space on bookshelves already crowded. If historical fiction has the advantage of ...Read MoreRead more
The Teardrop Method, Simon Avery (TTA Press £8.00, 160pp, tp) November 2017.
Krisztina, the protagonist of Simon Avery’s excellent novella, The Teardrop Method, is a musician living in Budapest. A singer whose debut album earned her promising notice, she turned her back on the music industry in favor of love. In the aftermath of a devastating accident that befalls her partner, however, Krisztina begins to hear fragments of a new ...Read MoreRead more
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 MoreRead more
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 MoreRead more
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 MoreRead more
The Murders of Molly Southbourne, Tade Thompson (Tor.com 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 MoreRead more
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 MoreRead more
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 MoreRead more
Mapping the Interior, Stephen Graham Jones (Tor.com 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 MoreRead more
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 MoreRead more
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 MoreRead more
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 MoreRead more
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
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
They Say a Girl Died Here Once, Sarah Pinborough (Earthling Publications 9780996211833, $35.00, 207pp, hc) October 2016.
The family at the heart of They Say a Girl Died Here Once, Sarah Pinborough’s excellent new novel, is in retreat. Three years prior to the book’s opening, Anna, its teenaged protagonist, was slipped a date-rape drug at a party. Her ensuing assault by a number of boys was filmed and posted to...Read More
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
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
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
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
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
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