Book Review: AMISH VAMPIRES IN SPACE (Peril In Plain Space #1)

Leave a comment

amish vampires in space

Kerry Nietz
Fireheads Publishing
2013

  • Jebediah has a secret that will change his world forever and send his people into space. The Amish world of Alabaster calls upon an ancient promise to escape destruction. Then end up on a cargo ship bound for the stars. But they are not the only cargo on board. Some of it is alive…or used to be. Now, with vampires taking over and closing in on the Amish refugees, these simple believers must decide whether their faith depends upon their honored traditions or something even older.

A couple of years ago, while bored at work, I was amusing myself by doing Google searches on words that were absurd when paired together: words like “Wafflecone Conspiracy”, “Polka Metal”, “Government Intelligence”, things like that. Just to see what wackiness would pop up. One of those searches was for “Amish Vampires”. And lo and behold, the link for this actual novel, Amish Vampires in Space, popped up. Which tells me that there are clearly other people out there whose brains work just like mine. That should be enough to give anyone pause.

Anyway, as a title like Amish Vampires in Space falls squarely in the Shut Up And Take My Money files, I purchased the Kindle edition of this book, just to check it out, sight unseen. No idea what the book was about…but I had an inkling that, somehow, this would involve Amish vampires. In space. I mean, it’s right there in the title. Brilliant, that. Besides, even it it turned out to be someone’s poorly written subReddit fan-fic that somehow found its way to getting published for realsies, I can at least hold my head up high, and proclaim from the rooftops that I have, indeed, read a book titled Amish Vampires in Space.

I haven’t even gotten to the review of the thing, and I am savoring this for all it’s worth.

So, a little backstory: Apparently, this title came about because the owner of the book’s publishing company was contemplating how popular Amish romance novels were in the Christian fiction market. I don’t know what it’s like now, but there was a time when Christian book publishers’ collective credo involving romance fiction–or, possibly any kind of religious fiction in general–was, “If it ain’t Amish, don’t bother submitting.” Or something like that. Then he started thinking about how popular vampires were in young adult fiction in the general market, and came up with the idea of producing cover art for a fake book he had no intention of actually publishing, more as a satirical goof on the genres. And that was that…until author Kerry Nietz contacted the publisher with an actual idea for the story of Amish Vampires in Space. And so they did. Mind you, they stipulated that he had to have an actual story to give them, and they reserved the right to reject publication. The fact that this not only got published, but also has a sequel further intrigued me.

But, enough prattling about the making of. Let’s get to what you’re really here for: What do I, your Uncle NecRo, think of Amish Vampires in Space? And, can I manage to continue typing out that title without giggling like a five-year-old who heard his grandmother pass gas while bending over?

To answer the later question first: No. I cannot. But, you probably suspected that.

As to the former question: Amish Vampires in Space is a subversive novel of science fiction goodness that takes a rather absurd sounding premise, and manages to weave a story that makes it all not only plausible, but also manages to be an engaging and heart-felt and well thought-out novel chock full of drama, comedy, and action to keep even the most jaded of sci-fi geek engaged to the end of the book. The writing style takes a very cinematic style, keeping the story moving, despite the over-400 page length of the book. I found myself enjoying pretty much every page from when I picked it up, and finding it hard to put back down.

Overall: Whether you pick up a copy of Amish Vampires in Space because of the gonzo title alone (like I did) or more out of morbid curiosity, you will be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the story contained herein. This isn’t one of those subReddit fan-fics that got lucky, like 50 Shade of Toxic Relationships; this is actually well-written. Recommended.

Book Review: HOLLYWOOD MONSTER

Leave a comment

hollywood monster
Robert Englund w/ Alan Godlsher
Pocket Books
2009

This may sound pretentious and over-analytical, but I believe that Freddy represented what looked to be a bad future for the post-boomer generation. It’s possible that Wes believed the youth of America were about to fall into a pile of shit – virtually all the parents in the Nightmare movies were flawed, so how could these kids turn out safe and sane? – and he might have created Freddy to represent a less-than-bright future.

  • When Robert englund first appeared as the razor-fingered, fedora-sporting, wise-cracking killer Freddy Kruger in 1984’s box office smash A Nightmare On Elm Street, he knew he’d created something special. Little did he suspect–with seven sequels and a TV series yet to come–that Freddy would become the horror icon of the decade, and Robert Englund the cult star of one of the most successful franchises in film history. Now, in Hollywood Monster, Robert peels away the mask to look back on his unusual and amazing career. Packed with insider savvy self-depreciating gallows wit, and a generous helping of never-before-revealed A Nightmare On Elm Street trivia, Robert Reveals how a self-confessed working stiff brought to life one of cinema’s most enduring villains.

I’m usually not a fan of autobiographies. No particular reason, other than I’m not generally in the mood to read someone ramble on about themselves, unless their work happens to coincide with any of my interests. And even then, there’s nothing quite like a good televised documentary to kill time with.

In this rare instance, though, I was haunting the shelves at the local Half Price Books (as I am want to do), and spotted this particular memoir by the very embodiment of my favorite horror movie icon, ever: Bill Gartley from The Mangler. I hear he’s done other characters as well.

In Hollywood Monsters: A Walk Down Elm Street with the Man of Your Dreams, Robert Englund writes about his start in the business of show and his work through the years, starting with the movies Eaten Alive and Galaxy Of Terror, his part as the nice alien on the V mini-series and television show, getting his iconic role as Freddy Kruger in the first Nightmare On Elm Street movie, his shot at directing with 976-EVIL, headlining the 1989 version of The Phantom Of The Opera, as well as a wealth of behind-the-scenes facts and anecdotes that come off more like your Great Uncle telling tales of their past adventures and such.

Overall: Hollywood Monster was a pretty good and entertaining, if somewhat breezy read. It’s not very long as memoirs go, and only took a few hours reading through it. Though, I did get a lot from it, as a fan of the character Freddy and Robert Englund in general. This isn’t a book slinging mud, dishing dirt, or the rants of a premadonna; Hollywood Monster is a grab a beer and let me tell you a tale about my career type of books. Recommended.

Book Review: SPURGEON’S SORROWS Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression

Leave a comment

spurgeon's sorrows

Zack Eswine
Christian Focus Publications
2014

“There comes a time in most of our lives in which we no longer have the strength to lift ourselves out or to pretend ourselves strong. Sometimes our minds want to break because life stomped on us and God didn’t stop it.”

  • Christians should have the answers, shouldn’t they? Depression affects many people both personally and through the ones we love. Depression is not new though, indeed the “Prince of Preachers” C.H. Spurgeon struggled with depression and talked openly about it. Here Zack Eswine draws from Spurgeon’s experiences to encourage us. What Spurgeon found in his darkness can serve as a light in our own darkness. This is not a self-help guide, but rather “a handwritten note of one who wishes you well.”

When it comes to the subject of depression, it’s no secret that I’ve had a proverbial dog in this race for quite some time–I remember it first manifesting regularly when I was 9 years of age. After years of psychiatric therapy, it eventually turned out that the depression was a part of a bigger mental health condition, a chemical imbalance that I won’t go into detail here. This is just a book review, after all. I became a (for lack of a better term) born-again Christian when I was 15, and the long and short of it is that, at no point did I think that doing so would automatically negate the depression that came with my mental condition. Oh, there were plenty of other well-meaning Christians who were quick to tell me that this shouldn’t be, that I shouldn’t have this depression and have suicidal thoughts at times; that I obviously have some kind of secret sin that I need to confess and get right with God, or some kind of demon infesting my mind that needs to be cast out in faith, or the inevitable questioning the authenticity of my faith to begin with. Those are always amusing.

The point is, I’ve been a Christian for 30 years as of this writing, with depression and mental health issues being a part of my mortal life for over 35 of my 45 years of existence. During that time, I’ve come to three conclusions: 1) My depression is the medical result of the fallen nature of my physical body, and not a punishment for some secret sin or whatever, 2) my faith in the Lord has gotten stronger and deeper the more I confront my depression head-on, and 3) I really suck at trying to explain all this to my fellow Christians who don’t deal with clinical depression. Fortunately, there’s books like Spurgeon’s Sorrows to help put into words the very things that I can’t express goodly.

For the Obligatory History Lesson: Charles Spurgeon was an English Reformed Baptist preacher who lived in the 19th Century (between 1834 to 1892), and was nicknamed the “Prince of Preachers”, having influenced many Christians from many differing denominations throughout the years. The pastor at my church has been known to call me “Spurgeon” as a kind of term of endearment; I always thought it had to do with my beard and method of Bible study. Turns out, it had a lot to do with the fact that Spurgeon also struggled with depression as much as he upheld the faith.

In Spurgeon’s Sorrows, author Zack Eswine not only goes through the historical background and theological musings of Charles Spurgeon, but sheds the light and investigates his own struggle with depression and anxiety, and how the method of dealing with it ran contrary to the common response to depression and mental illness in Victorian times–namely, that Spurgeon saw it more as an opportunity to grow in his faith in Christ Jesus, rather than despair thinking that this somehow was a sign that God had rejected him. That, again, is an overly simplistic explanation for the purposes of the review; fortunately, Eswine does go a bit further here, presenting Spurgeon’s writings, Scripture references and, most of all, presenting hope that this goes deeper than the standard “maybe you have a secret sin that you’re not confessing”/”get right with God” type of answer that seems to be thrown around a lot without discernment.

Overall, for those Christians out there who are struggling with clinical depression, and are afraid to bring it up with others for fear of getting misunderstood and a pat “Just have faith and cheer up!” type answer, Spurgeon’s Sorrows is a must-read. It will help you to face depression for what it is, and do so in a way that will strengthen your faith rather than question it. Highly, highly recommended.

Book Review: POOR THINGS

Leave a comment

poor thingsDaniel Barnett
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
2016

I turned the dial to 153.5, to 153.6, 153.7, and on each station there were more. More. More. More. Hell wasn’t a place. Hell was a state of mind, and it was broadcasting over Ash’s radio.

  • Summer crashes to an end on a winding road. Just like that, football superstar Joel Harper finds himself rolling his wheelchair into a new school in a strange town. Soon he’s making friends of misfits, taking lessons in Iron Maiden, and trying to keep away from a ruthless bully with a penchant for switchblades. Little is he aware, something ancient and wounded has awoken deep beneath the tiny mountain community, and when it surfaces, all of Honaw will know its pain.

I’ve been checking out more authors that I haven’t heard of in the past few years, mainly due to the acquisition of the Kindle and download a bunch of free-to-under $5 novels and novellas off of Amazon. One of those was this particular book of horror, titled Poor Things, by someone named Daniel Barnett. I’ve never heard of him before, I was unfamiliar with his work (redundancy is redundant), but the main thing was, this book was listed as FREE. Also, it was only 290 pages…285 if you stop counting after the story actually ends and the end credits begin. That’s about the perfect length when checking out a new author for myself. Finally got around to reading it, so let’s see how things go.

The story of Poor Things opens with a family of four getting into a terrible deadly accident while driving to visit an aunt in a small obscure town tucked away in the hills, narrated by the only survivor of the crash, a high school aged boy named Joel. He’s left paralyzed from the waist down, and put in the care of his spinster aunt. While readjusting to his new life, he befriends a couple of the local misfits from his school, and learns the ways of the Music of Awesome (that being \,,/METAL\,,/), while also (literally) running into the school bully, among other wackiness that comes standard with these kind of novels. Anyway, the day after an ill-fated talent show, the local mine the town’s built around blows up, which levels the town and leaves the entire place covered with a thick fog made of blood. Which is the most metal thing that could happen, really. Que the Slayer. As it turns out, there was some kind of ancient unspeakable elderic horror down in those mines, and is causing all the dead bodies to come back to unlife, unable to die and forever doomed to feel the pain of death. This includes the animals as well as the humans, here. So now Joel and his small band of freaks (their words) find themselves dodging capture by the obligatory gov’ment quarantine, while trying to either find a way of escape from the town, or eliminating the Unspeakable Evil Entity in the mine once and for all. Try to guess how things end. Go ahead. Guess.

I have to admit that, as I first began reading Poor Things, I found myself a bit annoyed at some of the inner monologue from the main protagonist, Joel. Especially towards his brother and mother. Of course, things went smoother as I warmed up to the style of writing, and found myself soon engrossed at the goings on. The style of the story reminds me of Chuck Palahniuk’s style, in that’s more of a first-person, Unreliable Narrator type, only with significantly less nihilism and self-loathing. The book works well as both a straight supernatural horror featuring Unknown Chaotic Neutral Entities and a bunch of gore and zombies, as well as exploring some existential pain from our protagonists to flesh things out. And everything works so well…until I got to the end, where the ending left me scratching my head and very audibly going “WHAT?!?”, disturbing the cubicle dwellers at work, where I was reading this at the time I finished. I understand what the author was going for, but…really? I wasn’t very satisfied with it.

And no, I’m not going to spoil what happens at the end. You’re going to have to read it for yourself. And since this is FREE (all-caps intended) on the Amazon Kindle reader, you can do so easily. Unless you’re one of those Luddite types who scoff at reading books that aren’t made of paper and ink, in which case, go ahead and pick up the physical copy if you want.

What I’m getting at here, is that Poor Things was better than I expected. It’s not one of those paint-by-the-numbers horror books that are a dime a dozen. It’s worth checking out.

Book Review: GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PAST

Leave a comment

ghosts of christmas past
John Murray Publishing
2018

  • A present contains a monstrous secret. An uninvited guest haunts a Christmas party. A shadow slips across the floor by firelight. A festive entertainment ends in darkness and screams. Who knows what haunts the night at the dark point of the year? This collection of seasonal chillers looks beneath Christmas cheer to a world of ghosts and horrors, mixing terrifying modern fiction with classic stories by masters of the macabre. From Neil Gaiman and M. R. James to Muriel Spark and E. Nesbit, there are stories here to make the hardiest soul quail–so find a comfy chair, lock the door, ignore the cold breath on your neck and get ready to welcome in the real spirits of Christmas.

Now that it’s December, and the whole Thanksgiving season is in our collective rear-view mirrors (if you happen to be living in the United States, that is), we are now firmly ensconced in the Christmas season part of the yearly Holiday Clusterbomb. The lights are up, the trees and houses are decorated, the seasonal music is playing, and if you happen to be dwelling in the northern hemisphere of this planet of ours, the days are getting darker far earlier every night now. It’s a fun fact that this was the traditional season to be telling ghost stories around the fire at Christmas time, and I for one wish to continue this grand tradition started in the Victorian era. It’s a very Gothic time for me, so it’s in that spirit of the season in which I purchased this electronic tome of spooky stories set during Christmas to liven up the nights. Let’s take a gander at the stories carried within Ghosts of Christmas Past, shall we?

  • “The Story of a Disappearance and a Reappearance” (M. R. James)

Beginning with one of the masters of literary ghost stories, a man relays, through a series of letters dated December of 1837, his travels to a town to investigate the disappearance and possible murder of his clergyman uncle, and having a nightmare involving a Punch and Judy puppet show.

  • “Dinner For One” (Jenn Ashworth)

Narrated from the point of view of the ghost of someone who is still haunting their significant other, kind of disproving the whole “death do us part” bit of a relationship.

  • “The Shadow” (E. Nesbit)

Fun Fact: Ms Nesbit was primarily an author of children’s books, and only messed around with ghost stories and such on the side. Anyway, after a grand Christmas party at an old house, the housekeeper of this story’s narrator’s aunt stops by the room where there are girls telling late-night ghost stories by the firelight, and she’s invited to tell a chilling tale of her own–one that turns out to be all too real.

  • “This Beautiful House (Louis de Bernieres)

The narrator of this story sits outside one picturesque Christmas night, admiring the lights of a Christmas tree inside the old house he grew up in, prompting memories of Christmas past, and why the ghosts of his family keep pestering him.

  • “The Leaf-Sweeper” (Muriel Spark)

A story that answers the question: What happens when you surpress your Christmas spirit for too long?

  • “Christmas Eve on a Haunted Hulk” (Frank Cowper)

A gentleman visiting a friend over the Christmas holidays finds himself stranded on a wreaked and long-abandoned ship while duck hunting, and encounters something foul overnight. No pun intended. As a side note, this story references the 17th Century Gothic novella “The Haunters and the Haunted”, one I was not familiar with and is apparently available for free online. Nifty.

  • “The Step” (E. F. Benton)

An unscrupulous business landowner evicts a poor family from their residence, then begins to get the paranoid feeling of being followed at night. I’m sure the two incidents are unrelated.

  • “The Vanishing House” (Benard Capes)

A drunken banjo (that wasn’t a typo) retells the tale of when his gran’pappy and his mates came across the Devil one snowy night…I think. This was a weird story.

  • “Someone in the Lift” (L. P. Hartley)

A young boy of six keeps seeing a man in an hotel lift (that’s what they call elevators in Britain, gov’nah) that isn’t there, then has a dream on Christmas Eve involving his father dressed as Santa Claus on that very lift.

  • “The Visiting Star” (Robert Nickman)

A famous stage actress arrives in a small town to put on a play, and brings along her two companions who turn out to not be who they appear to be.

  • “Nicholas Was” (Neil Gaiman)

A very, very brief, yet very chilling look at Santa Claus in a whole ‘nother light.

  • “The Ghost of the Blue Chamber” (Jerome K. Jerome)

While visiting family, a man’s uncle tells the tale of the history of the ghost that haunts a room in the house called the Blue Chamber every Christmas Eve, from Midnight to when the cock crows; so obviously the nephew decides to sleep in said room, and discovers the ghost is very much real…and he makes a new friend that night…

  • “The Lady and the Fox” (Kelly Link)

A pretty good dark fantasy involving a girl noticing a strange man standing outside whenever it snows on Christmas Eve, looking in the window of her godmother’s house every year, which results in her growing love of the man and her plans to finally free the man trapped by the magic of a lady. Good way to end the collection of stories, very C. S. Lewis in scope and feel, here.

Overall, I have to say that Ghosts of Christmas Past is a pretty good collection of classic and modern stories. Of course, the two authors that I recognized right off the bat were M. R. James and, of course, Neil Gaiman; the stories each had their own particular tone and style going on, making all of the stories enjoyable; however, I have to say that the standouts for me were “The Story of a Disappearance and a Reappearance” (always a sucker for a good M. R. James tale), “Dinner For One” (even though the whole “twist” was rather evident early on in the story), “This Beautiful House” (touching yet unnerving), “The Leaf-Sweeper” (more of humorous than spooky), “Someone in the Lift” (has a dark Robert Bloch feel to the story), “Nicholas Was” (and not just because I’m a Gaiman fanboy, trust), “The Ghost of the Blue Chamber” (again, more humorous than spooky), and the ender “The Lady and the Fox” (for the same reasons I gave in the section, there).

Whether you go all out for the atmosphere and read a hefty copy of this by firelight in a tall-backed Victorian chair on a cold winter night, or–like me–you’re reading this by the light of a Kindle, Ghosts of Christmas Past is indeed a good way to get into the Christmas spirit in the only way people like myself know how: by giving ourselves a jolly good fright. Recommended.

Book Review: MORE LORE FROM THE MYTHOS

Leave a comment

more lore from the mythos
Fractured Mind Publishing
2019

  • Fourteen fresh tales of madness and monsters from Fractured Mind Publishing that will leave you wanting more while you thank the Old Gods for the Mythos that inspired these stories.

A friend of mine recently just had a short story published in an anthology collection of stories inspired by the great nightmarish mashup of horror and science fiction that H. P. Lovecraft foisted upon the literary world in the early 20th Century: More Lore from the Mythos. With a title like that, it sounds like this may have been a sequel to an earlier anthology book, but no–it looks like this is a stand-alone collection, not tied in to any anthology series. Yet.

Anyway, the fact that my friend got published here means two things to me: 1) I really need to get my middle-aged butt in gear and get something published that isn’t a review of something, and 2) I have an excuse to buy another book to read. As much of a Lovecraft enthusiast as I am, I also enjoy reading other authors play around in ol’ Howard Philips’ sandbox. Let’s see what we have, here…

  • “Everything That Was Before” (Edward Morris)

A disturbed man recounts how his former girlfriend transformed from human to…something else entirely… As the lead-off story, I have to admit at least it wasn’t your standard cut-n-paste writing style going on. Took me a bit to find the rhythm reading this, but overall was an interesting take on the Deep Ones.

  • “Little One” (Valerie Lioudis)

A demon offers a girl her most fondest wish in exchange for her soul…well, that was the idea, until he realized–far too late–who (or what) he was dealing with…and what her fondest wish really is… Oh, I rather adored this story. It has vibes of Clive Barker’s story “The Yattering and Jack” from the Books Of Blood collection, only here the twist is that the “human” is something far older than the Devil himself.

  • “The Call” (Aaron White)

Detective David Carter–great-grandson of one Randolph Carter–investigates a strange case of several dozen people–men, women and children alike–all just up and drowned themselves in the cold waters of the Atlantic ocean for no apparent reason, and it seems to be affecting everyone investigating the situation… Well, it was good to see a shout-out to Lovecraft’s recurring protagonist Randolph Carter, and in a story that’s genuinely eerie and heavy with the oppressive atmosphere and imagery. I could almost smell the ocean in this one, really.

  • “The Damned of Eldritch Creek” (Jon Tobey)

A young heir to a mysterious land that is not on any modern-day map decides to go and destroy the dam that his grandfather built, in the name of bringing back the natural ecology…only, it seems the dam is there for a purpose beyond electricity… Here we have a story that emulates Lovecraft’s more formal reportage style of writing, almost coming off as reading a 19th Century diary, only the story is clearly set in the modern times. It works, especially when the horrific beasties rear their unnatural heads.

  • “The Flood” (Oliver Lodge)

A brief yet rather bleak Southern Gothic style tale of a prostitute that’s haunted by the memories of her dead brother/lover, as she goes to spend her final moments of life with his remains during a torrential late summer flood. This story doesn’t necessarily reference the Lovecraft mythos directly; as a matter of fact, even after chewing over the story, I still haven’t figured out the connection. Other that it being set in New Orleans, a city that, in an of itself, can be considered a living entity within the mythos, I guess.

  • “Sweet Oblivion” (Michael Clark)

An immortal man sworn to fight the infestation of the Old Ones has a bit of a chat over coffee with one member of his enemies… Nifty how this story ties in key tragedies in history (the Salem witch trials, Jack the Ripper) with being influenced by the elder horrors the protagonist is fighting against. Also, I couldn’t help but picture actor Navid Negahban (Legion) as the possessed antagonist holding a conversation with the protagonist of the story. Such is how my mind works.

  • “The Mines of Innswich” (Ryan Colley)

In the small, obscure New England town of Innswich, in the late 1920s, a research assistant from Miskatonic University stumbles upon a secret chamber deep in the abandoned mines, and goes mad from what he sees… Halfway through the collection, and we finally get a proper tie-in to Miskatonic University, as well as a jolly-good old fashioned style Unspeakable Horror tale with a bit of a twist at the end.

  • “The Time Guardian” (L. E. Harrison)

See, there’s this Time Guardian named Julian, whose mantra is “Rescuing Rainey Sullivan is going to be the death of me.” The Rainey in question being the 14-year-old daughter of the chief of the Time Guardians, who likes to send Julian in to rescue her from whatever misadventure she gets herself in… This story kinda feels like it’s not whole, like there’s more to this story than what we got. Entertaining for what it is, but it’s almost like craving a steak, but only being given a slice of summer sausage.

  • “The Wyrd Voyage” (Kari Leigh Sanders)

Three Norwegian witches from about the middle of the first Millennium AD head out to sea to confront a new Old God about his shenanigans…and then Loki shows up… This is a nifty mash-up of Lovecraftian lore and Norse mythology, which is always fun. However, thanks to recent pop culture, I can’t help but picture Tom Hiddleston appearing as Loki while reading this…which probably means I owe Disney royalties or something…

  • “Last Orders” (Dale Drake)

Two would-be grave robbers are in search of the fabled Necronomicon, supposedly hidden within the crypt of an eccentric rich man; what they find is a bit more than they bargained for… Lovecraft loved his dank, hidden underground passages and rooms, and here the imagery is used to good effect. The ending made me want to take a long, hot shower, muttering “unclean, unclean, UNCLEEEAAAN…”

  • “The Maze” (Charles Reis)

A college student uses a public restroom, only to discover that it’s a portal to an alternate realm, where he and a handful of others are stuck traversing a labyrinthine maze, filled with unspeakable horrors and controlled by an unseen Puppet Master… This story reminded me of Brian Lumley’s novel The House of Doors, and its sequel The Maze of Worlds…only, this story was written better and got to the point far more efficiently.

  • “Growing Just Beneath” (Steve Van Samson)

A homeowner takes on some yard work removing a parasitic vine that has infested his dogwood tree and lawn; it’s not as simple as it sounds… I have to say, this one reminds me of one of the more classic Stephen King short stories from the early days, one from maybe Skeleton Crew, or even Night Shift; something that takes a seemingly innocuous everyday grunt task and turning it into a nightmare.

  • “The Shed” (Patrick Rahall)

An old farmer has been feeding and caring for some…thing in his shed, and one night he discovers–a bit too late–that it’s about to reproduce… Another story that made me want to take a long, hot shower after reading, despite a key scene involving a shower. Unfortunately, I was at work when I read this, so I couldn’t. Probably for the best.

  • “The Gate Keeper” (EV Knight)

A collector of skeleton keys suddenly finds themselves in possession of a key to the gates of Hell, and as such saddled with a Hell-ish responsibility…that was an attempt at a pun… Anyway, this final story was a good way to end the collection, as I was rather amused at the image of someone being followed around by a bunch of dead souls like lost puppies.

Overall, I found More Lore from the Mythos to be, for the most part, an entertaining collection worthy of the mythos. I say, “mostly”, because I really don’t think the story “The Flood” ties in with anything Lovecraft had established. If anything, it seemed more on-par with a Poppy Z. Brite short story than inspired by H. P. Lovecraft. Also, there’s that incest aspect there that may be problematic for some people. One could argue that “Growing Just Beneath” also has nothing to do with the Lovecraft mythos; however, the mind-bending insanity that results is key to the aesthetic of a good Lovecraft tale, so I can see why it was included.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering which of these authors is the friend I was talking about at the start of this article: I’m not telling. You’re going to have to guess. Otherwise, yeah, I would recommend checking out More Lore from the Mythos. My Kindle edition was only $4, so you get some good chills for your buck.

Book Review: DOCTOR WHO: Scratchman

Leave a comment

scratchmanTom Baker
BBC Books
2019

‘Having friends is nothing to be afraid of,’ I reassured them. ‘They’re there for the small things in life — laughing at your jokes, drinking your tea, rescuing you from dungeons. Friends remember you how you’d like to be remembered, and forget the rest. Friends turn up at the last moment, friends tell you to keep running.’

The Doctor, Harry and Sarah Jane Smith arrive at a remote Scottish island, when their holiday is cut short by the appearance of strange creatures – hideous scarecrows, who are preying on the local population. The islanders are living in fear, and the Doctor vows to save them all. But it doesn’t go to plan – the time travelers have fallen into a trap, and Scratchman is coming for them. With the fate of the universe hanging in the balance, the Doctor must battle an ancient force from another dimension, one who claims to be the Devil. Scratchman wants to know what the Doctor is most afraid of. And the Doctor’s worst nightmares are coming out to play…

What’s all this, then? An all-new novelized Doctor Who adventure, featuring the Fourth Doctor and his companions, Sarah Jane and Harry? All written by the man who played the Fourth Doctor himself, Tom Baker?

I believe the phrase you’re groping for is, “Shut up and take my money.” At least, that was my immediate response when I read of this recent publication on the list of Science Fiction Books being published in February of 2019. Den Of Geek is such a wonderful resource, that.

So, I went and immediately bought the Kindle edition of Scratchman, and read through half of the novel in a handful of hours at work, when I made myself reign in things to keep from scarfing this all down in one setting. Take some time, enjoy it at a more leisure pace.

That’s why I waited until the next day to finish it. Totally worth it. Anyway…

If you’re a Doctor Who fan, I shouldn’t have to explain who Tom Baker is. His portrayal of the Doctor is the iconic version for many a Whovian, myself included. He was my first Doctor. He’s known mostly as an actor; he has written a couple of books: One autobiography, and one dark humor novel entitled The Boy Who Kicked Pigs.

Interestingly enough, Scratchman isn’t technically Baker’s first stab at writing for his character; the book actually started off as a rejected script he wrote with James Goss as a Doctor Who feature film. Forty years later, and we finally have that vision in book form. Which…let’s face it, this is probably the best way to present this story, using the reader’s imagination to come up with the special effects. They’re not as skinflint as the BBC would have let them back in the 70s.

The story of Scratchman is told in first person by the Fourth Doctor, who takes on the role of the Unreliable Narrator in this instance. He weaves a tale of how, beginning with standing trial in front of his fellow Time Lords (won’t be the last time that happens, sorry to say) to answer to the crime of…saving the universe. Again. His very existence is threatened to be wiped away permanently, lest he convinces the jury of peers that his actions have merit. So, he tells them a story of learning fear, of a time when he and his two companions — Sarah Jane and Harry — come across a village terrorized by living scarecrows, which leads to finding themselves in an alternate dimension where a powerful entity calling himself the Devil is wanting into our universe to feed off of. Mainly because his own cosmic all-you-can-eat buffet is nearly dry. Trust me, the Time Lords are a tough crowd. And it doesn’t help that the Doctor was late to his own trial, or that there was a literal Sword of Damocles dangling over him, waiting to wipe him from existence at the snap of the Time Lords’ fingers. In other words, it’s a typical day for the Doctor.

As to Tom Baker’s writing style, I described it to a friend as being like Terry Pratchett if he wrote for the Scholastic crowd. It’s in the same vein as Pratchett and Douglas Adams, but more whimsical, like a Roald Dahl after a couple of pints. As a matter of fact, the whole of Scratchman has that feel of a great-uncle (or what have you) spinning a spell-binding yarn; you can almost see the twinkle in Baker’s eye as he writes this all out for us.

So, yeah, Scratchman was a rather enjoyable Doctor Who story. It takes some interesting twists and turns, and satisfies that empty void that is always there while waiting for the next season series of Doctor Who to broadcast. Also, there’s a bit of a passing of the torch to Number Thirteen buried in there, somewhere. I’m not going to say where, you’ll have to read to see what happens. Which you should. Read it, I mean.

Older Entries