Tag Archives: Ray Bradbury

Deadfall Hotel

I picked up Deadfall Hotel, by Steve Rasnic Tem, based solely on the wonderful cover art, which fell somewhere between the lovely stuff from Edward Gorey and those glorious interior end pages of the old Hitchcock anthologies. I was familiar with his work, mainly through the odd handful of stories I have read over the years, but I had never delved into his longer works.

Deadfall Hotel is fantastic, whimsical and dark and beautiful. Imagine, if you will, spending a season in the Overlook Hotel, if it were peopled by the family from those Bradbury stories. For all his lyrical prose and stunningly surreal imagery, there is plenty of darkness and horror to be had.

Richard Carter and his young daughter, Serena, arrive at the hotel in the opening pages. They approach the front desk scarred and stained from recent tragedy. They are welcomed by Jacob, the current caretaker and the man who will “train” Richard as his successor. He will show him the ropes and rules to the hotel, a place where nothing is what it seems and even the most simple things can be dangerous.

Along Richard and Serena’s journey to accept and embrace their grief, we encounter a sinister old man and his lupine alter-ego, Dragon, the King of the Cats, disturbing housekeepers, and things that scuttle and bite. Meet the pool man, easily one of the most haunting characters I’ve read in some time.

Tem is quite masterful with his words. And even when the pacing and story become a bit slow, his language is hypnotic. The characters are rich and real. But the real star here is his cunning skill at presenting a feeling of loss and sadness. He has done this in several shorts I’ve read. The man can put that feeling of empty and sadness into words like no one else.

This is a novel about grief and what a heavy yoke it is to bear. About how it can be a many-faced monster that will devour your life, all aspects, right from under your nose.

It’s also about a creepy hotel with boarders who are not always human and not always nice. An utter joy to read.

Deadfall Hotel is available through Solaris books.

Posted in Blog, Book Reviews, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Things Slip Through

I was familiar with Kevin Lucia before reading his work. We’ve crossed paths many times on the convention circuit. Tall, nice, friendly and warm and gracious…

I’d better stop before the cartoon hearts start floating above my head.

His debut collection, Things Slip Through, is a unique creature, from the Bradburyesque (think Dandelion Wine) structure and setup to the very creepy images and scenes that mark it like lesions or scars.

The stage for this gathering of tales is as nifty as the tales themselves: Clifton Heights, New York. Just like any other small northeastern town, save for the ghosts and demons and creepy crawlies that seem to lurk there. Or do they?

After a particularly gruesome and brutal case, a local lawman meets with other pillars of the community to discuss the bizarre history of the town and what really lives there. We meet a writer who predicts dark things, and it is through his journals that we get our stories.

We meet the town drunk, riddled with guilt over his brothers death and the odd loop that guilt creates. We find a child taken by an imaginary friend and a man who meets a gruesome end along a road that goes on and on and on.

A lonely girl and her demonoid pal wreak havoc while a man discovers he has more power over his model train set than one should be comfortable with. There are eerie phantoms and dark memories staining the walls. People are as haunted as the locales in these fables. They crisscross one another like autopsy stitches.

Lucia knows what he’s doing. He has studied the masters and taken adequate notes and has written a classically structured, darkly fantastical book. A love letter to both 50s dark fantasy and 80s pulp horror, written in red and bound in heart. Things Slip Through is a solid and entertaining journey through a very strange town.

Available from the fine folks at Crystal Lake Publishing.

Posted in Blog, Book Reviews, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off

NOS4A2

The kid behind the counter is fiddling with the espresso machine when he rattles off a string of numbers and letters. NOS4A2. He’s staring at the book I’ve set on the counter, a rusted vanity plate stamped on the cover.

“Nosferatu,” I say, digging the cash from my wallet. “It’s German for vampire.”

Joe Hill, son of prolific horror writer Stephen King, has proven to be a powerful new voice when it comes to modern fantasy and horror. His first book, the brilliant short story collection 20th Century Ghosts, snagged the Bram Stoker Award, International Horror Guild Award, and British Fantasy Award for Best Fiction Collection. Heart-Shaped Box and Horns were soon to follow; the former claiming another Stoker Award for Best First Novel. Locke & Key, a comic series written by Hill and illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez, has also claimed its share of awards.

Now Hill is back with his fourth book, NOS4A2, and he does not disappoint.

In his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith, with the vanity plate NOS4A2, Charles Talent Manx cruises highways most people never know exist, but he doesn’t go alone. Nothing gives Manx greater pleasure than whisking innocent children off to a place called Christmasland, a wondrous playground where every day is Christmas and unhappiness is against the law; a place no child would ever want to leave, though the drive is far more taxing than his young passengers can know. Manx has never lost a child he has set his sights on. Then he meets Victoria McQueen.

Vic McQueen knows something about hidden roadways herself. She has a talent for finding missing things. By riding her bicycle over a magical covered bridge, she is transported to wherever it is she needs to be. It is only a matter of time before she crosses paths with Charlie Manx and the Wraith, though she proves somewhat more resourceful than the children Manx is accustomed to dealing with.

Years later, Manx is back with a vengeance, and Vic McQueen finds herself in need of the talent she has tried so hard to erase from her memory, this time to recover her son. Thus the battle between good and evil begins.

Hill’s prose sings, and the plot moves along at a blazing pace. This is a page-turner at heart. Everything boils down to the fact that Joe Hill is an excellent storyteller. He knows how to hook his reader from the first page and relentlessly builds tension throughout his tale. I feel it is a discredit to Hill’s talent to make the comparison, but NOS4A2 is reminiscent of King at his best. Constant Readers will feel right at home between the covers.

If you consider yourself a geek, NOS4A2 will welcome you with open arms. References involving Batman, Star Wars, Firefly, Jaws and plenty more are sprinkled throughout in heartfelt and touching ways that will leave you feeling nostalgic. He also gives nods to authors past and present including Ray Bradbury, Anton Chekhov, Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, and others for readers to sniff out. Fans of Hill’s earlier works will find references on that front as well.

Where the novel really shines is in its characters. Charlie Manx makes for a truly terrifying villain. The Wraith accents him perfectly, acting as a living, thinking accomplice. Doors open on their own; locks bang into place, trapping unsuspecting victims; the radio constantly blares Christmas music regardless of the season. In many ways, the Wraith functions in much the same way as the 1958 Plymouth Fury did in Christine, and picturing the Rolls-Royce barreling out of a snowstorm that shouldn’t exist is downright menacing.

Vic McQueen offers a great counterbalance, winning the reader’s sympathy and respect. She comes off as a strong, independent heroine who is also flawed in all of the right ways. Her motivations, as with those of Charlie Manx, are complex and well thought out, pulling the reader close to consider each twist and turn alongside her.

Some of the greatest characters in the book are actually the secondary ones. It is not often that I find myself attached to characters to the degree I was to those in NOS4A2. From a librarian with a fish tank lined with scrabble tiles instead of rocks to a mechanic who uses a monster truck tire as a playpen for his child, there are so many small quirks in this book that one can’t help but smile at them as they go by. I found myself wishing I were friends with half the people I met while curled in my reading chair, and I am in awe of Hill’s ability to continuously populate his work with such interesting people.

At 692 pages, NOS4A2 is Hill’s longest work to date, but it holds up throughout its entirety, and readers can rest assured that they will be rewarded with a satisfying ending to wrap it all up. If you are a horror fan looking for a little Christmas-laced fear to chill your summer months, NOS4A2 is a must read. And if during the course of your reading you find yourself cruising down an unfamiliar snow-covered highway in the back of a classic car filled with Christmas music, just remember that you are on your way to someplace magical, a place you will never want to leave.

Posted in Blog, Book Reviews, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Psychos and the Appalachian Undead

Some staff news, ya’ll! Cue banjo!

This coming October, if not sooner, Apex Publications is set to release Appalachian Undead, a new anthology dedicated to the walking dead. I contributed a quirky tale called “Long Days to Come.”


[ click for full image ]

The brilliant artwork was created by Cortney Skinner. Quite a lineup, too: Elizabeth Massie, Jonathan Maberry, Tim Waggoner, S. Clayton Rhodes*, Maurice Broaddus, Bev Vincent, Tim Lebbon, Steve Rasnic Tem, John Skipp* & Dori Miller, and Gary A. Braunbeck, to name a few more than a few.

If you’d like to check out the full table of contents, click here.

You can also pre-order via the above link (and get 5% off if you tweet the link), but before you do, check out this groovy contest they’re running for those who do pre-order.

As always from Apex Publications, you can expect quality.

Not to be outdone, Mercedes and John each have stories—“Murder for Beginners” and “Intruder,” respectively—in Psychos: Serial Killers, Depraved Madmen, and the Criminally Insane, the latest slab—and I do mean slab; these things are massive—in an ongoing series edited by the inimitable John Skipp which has thus far included Zombies: Encounters with the Hungry Dead, Werewolves and Shapeshifters: Encounters with the Beasts Within, and Demons: Encounters with the Devil and His Minions, Fallen Angels, and the Possessed.


[ click for larger image ]

Psychos is due out in September via Black Dog & Leventhal, and features new and classic fiction from the likes of Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Jack Ketchum, Joe R. Lansdale, Lawerence Block, Neil Gaiman, Leslianne Wilder*, Violet LeVoit, Weston Ochse*, Kathe Koja, and many more.

If you order now, Amazon has it for $10.07. That’s 608 pages for $10! No-brainer.

We hope you’ll buy both!

* Shock Totem alumni.

Posted in Alumni News, New Releases, Recommended Reading, Staff News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment