Book Review: COLD PRINT

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cold print
Ramsey Campbell
Tor Horror
1987

  • What grotesque abomination lurks in the abyss beneath the cold stone flooring of the church on High Street? What is the inhabitant of the lake…that putrid, pulsing monstrosity watching from the ebon depths of the stagnant water? What colossal midnight evil is unleashed from deep within the hillside by the moon lens?

Ramsey Campbell is one of the names in horror fiction that is easily one of the masters of the 20th Century boom, and should come right to mind with the likes of Stephen King, Clive Barker, Robert Bloch and Peter Straub. Sadly, not to many people I’ve talked to concerning matters of horror fiction have heard of him. Pity. This is an author that was given his own section in Stephen King’s Danse Macabre.

As for myself, I’ve read a couple of handfuls of his short stories in the past, usually in collections and anthologies, like with The Monster Book of Zombies and 999 in the Book Review sections of this blog. It was high time that I begin rectifying the lack of Campbell on this blog, and what better way than with a collection of his own short stories based on the Lovecraft mythos from back in the day, entitled Cold Print.

After an introduction where Campbell recollects discovering his first H. P. Lovecraft book at the back of a sweet shop in his youth, which sparked his own interest in writing strange fantasy fiction, as well as his early attempt at imitating Lovecraft’s style (and the resulting criticism by August Derleth), we then go into the collection of short stories that were inspired by that chance discovery. These date from the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Let’s go through them, shall we?

“The CHURCH IN HIGH STREET”
After receiving a telegram from a distraught friend, Richard Dodds visits the town of Temphill, where he discovers the terrible, horrible secret behind his friend’s disappearance…

“The ROOM IN THE CASTLE”
A researcher comes across a legend of an ancient demon-thing that resides in the hidden sub-cellar of a long-abandoned castle, and he decides to check it out himself to see if the legend is real…turns out, yeah…

“The HORROR FROM THE BRIDGE”
After a couple of generations, the son of a reclusive guy manages to finish up his late father’s hobby of trying to release the unspeakable horrific monsters that are trapped underneath the town bridge…

“The INSECTS FROM SHAGGAI”
A traveler investigates a bit of lore told to him at a hotel’s bar, about a mysterious large metal cone in the middle of the local forest, and the unfathomable horror that dwells within it…

“The RENDER OF THE VEILS”
A man follows an occultist he met in a taxi home one rainy night, and gets a crash-course in the entity known as Daoloth, the titular “render of the veils”…

“The INHABITANT OF THE LAKE”
An artist takes up residence in a secluded house by a lake that’s purportedly haunted, and is either slowly losing his mind, or there may actually be an other-worldly malicious entity that’s dwelling in the lake…

“The WILL OF STANLEY BROOKE”
Before his death, a miserly old man reworks his will to include his best friend that everyone never knew about before his death, and turns out to be a literal pale imitation of the man himself…

“The MOON-LENS”
Late one night, a medical doctor receives a visit from someone who is requesting euthanasia. He then tells him the tale of the literal life-changing trip that lead to his decision to end his life…

“BEFORE THE STORM”
A gentleman who is clearly suffering from some mind-bending feverish ailment stumbles into a tax building before literally falling apart…

“COLD PRINT”
One cold, wintry afternoon, a bibliophile on a quest to find books at out-of-the-way shops, comes across a special rare tome that the shop owner will let him have, provided he agrees to become his new priest of his mad cult…

“AMONG THE PICTURES ARE THESE:”
Here, Ramsey Campbell describes in detail a bunch of drawings he did in several notebooks back in the day that he once came across while cleaning…it’s interesting, to say the least…

“The TUGGING”
A newspaper reporter has been following reports of a small rogue planet that has entered the solar system, and suspects it might have something to do with the dreams he’s been experiencing, dreams he once had as a child…and shared with by his father…

“The FACES AT PINE DUNES”
In the wooded area near the RV park which a restless teenager calls home, something horrible, as something out of an LSD-fueled nightmare dwells; something that calls his parents out until the wee hours of the morning; something his new girlfriend wants to see…

“BLACKED OUT”
A man on holiday in a small German town discovers that the locals are a bit odd…especially that one knockout blonde that is leading him to the dilapidated church to be discovered by an ancient thing…

“The VOICE OF THE BEACH”
A writer that is dwelling at a bungalow by the beach is visited by a friend, and they both begin to succumb to the horrible, mind-bending secret of the beach itself after happening upon the journals of someone who once lived in a nearby forgotten ghost town…

Overall, I found this collection to be fairly interesting. Rather than just reuse the famous fictional deities that Lovecraft originally came up with, Campbell adeptly created some of his own original nightmare fuel, with the likes of Gla’aki (“The Inhabitant of the Lake”, the multi-volume grimoire Revelations of Glaaki, mentioned in various of the stories, much like H. P. Lovecraft’s Necronomicon), Eihort (“Cold Print”, “Before The Storm”), Daoloth (“The Render of the Veils”), and the particularly nasty-looking Y’golonac (“The Faces at Pine Dunes”). My favorite tales from this collection were “The Insects from Shaggai”, “The Render of the Veils”, “The Moon-Lens” (which has a strong “Shadow Over Innsmouth” feel to it), “Before The Storm” (madness from the point of view of the one going insane intrigues me), and “The Tugging” (the concept of rogue planets also intrigues me, what can I say?). For a bunch of tales rooted firmly in the playground that Lovecraft built, this is one of the better collections. The drawback here is that, as is usual with stories that play in the mythos, some of these follow a rather predictable formula that, if you’re up on your Lovecraft, is familiar enough to follow in your sleep. But, perhaps that’s the point of these kind of stories. Anyway, for someone whose extra-Lovecraft readings have been of this and Brian Lumley, and believe me I’m looking to expand upon the bibliographies of other luminaries in the mythos, I would rank Campbell to be the better writer. That’s no slight to Lumley, either. Recommended for lovers of both Lovecraft and good spooky nightmare fuel.

Book Review: FROM A CERTAIN POINT OF VIEW

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from a certain point of view

  • In honor of the fortieth anniversary¬†of Star Wars: A New Hope, this collection features Star Wars stories by bestselling authors, trendsetting artists, and treasured voices from Star Wars literary history. More than forty authors have lent their unique vision to forty “scenes”, each retelling a different moment from the original Star Wars film, but with a twist: Every scene is told from the point of view of a background character. Whether it’s the X-wing pilots who helped Luke destroy the Death Star or the stormtroopers who never quite could find the droids they were looking for, Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View places the classic movie in a whole new perspective, and celebrates the influence and legacy of the unparalleled cultural phenomenon, Star Wars.

As I’ve mentioned in previous Star Wars book reviews, I started reading the expanded universe novels around 2001, on the insistence of my friend Nex. This was long before Disney bought out Lucasfilm and Star Wars, rendering the novels to be what I like to call “professional fan-fic”, aka Star Wars Legends. Personally, my favorite ones that I liked to read were the three that contained short stories from the point of view of the peripheral characters: Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina, Tales of the Bounty Hunters, and Tales from Jaba’s Palace. I’ve always been intrigued by what the minor characters you see in movies, experiencing what’s going on, were thinking or doing that lead up to that moment. These books really scratched that imaginative itch I had.

Of course, now that those have been regulated into the Legends category, it was a wait to see if anything like those books would appear in the new official Disney canon. Lo and behold, in 2017 there was published the anthology From a Certain Point of View, a collection of short stories that were written by several authors, based on certain peripheral characters that were in the background of everything going on during the run of the first Star Wars movie, A New Hope. This was released in conjunction with the movie’s 40th anniversary since its release back in 1977, and since it features 40 stories (one for each year, I presume), I need to stop yammering on and get to the stories contained within this tome. Shall we? We shall…

“Raymus” (Gary Witta)
It’s the story of Raymus Antilles, the captain of the Tantive IV, taking place from essentially the tail end of Rogue One, when they launch out of the Star Cruiser Profundity, to when he’s choked to death by Darth Vader after their capture over Tatooine. Basically, this bridges the small gap between the end of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope…

“The Bucket” (Christie Golden)
This one deals with Stormtrooper TK-4601, who is the one who manages to nab Princess Leia on the Tantive IV, right after she sticks those Death Star plans into some random astromech droid that I’m sure has no bearing on the overall saga whatsoever. Oh, and the “bucket” in question refers to the stormtrooper helmets. You’re welcome…

“The Sith of Datawork” (Ken Liu)
A brief yet amusing look at the bureaucratic side of the Galactic Empire, specifically the paperwork involved for a certain gunnery captain that ordered his subordinates not to fire upon some escape pod that didn’t have any life signs…

“Stories in the Sand” (Griffin McElroy)
Here, we have a story about a Jawa named Jot who likes to hide in his secret space on the clan’s sandcrawler and watch the “stories” taken from the memory cores of the droids they find before they’re wiped for resale. Then one day, he happens upon the memory core of a recently acquired R2 unit, which shows him clips from the Prequel Trilogy, among other things…

“Reirin” (Sabaa Tahir)
A young female Tusken Raider outcast wants to leave Tatooine (couldn’t imagine why), so she’s tasked with finding a shiny stone held within the Jawa sandcrawler that happens to be selling a couple of droids to a moisture farmer and his plucky nephew…

“The Red One” (Rae Carson)
That’s right, there’s a story about the R5-D4 unit that was the Owen’s first pick from the Jawa’s swap meet. This goes into things a bit into detail as to why it fritzed out like it did…

“Rites” (John Jackson Miller)
Hey, you remember the part in A New Hope, with the Tusken Raiders who ambush Luke while he’s trying to find R2? This is a story about those guys. This one has a bit which alludes to the part in Attack Of The Clones, where Anakin slaughters a camp of Tuskens for killing his mother. Continuity, yay.

“Master and Apprentice” (Claudia Gray)
An existential bit of a discussion between Obi-Wan and the force ghost of his old master, Qui-Gon, during that part where Luke goes back to find his aunt and uncle kind of sort of not well…

“Beru Whitesun Lars” (Meg Cabot)
This is a short but rather interesting story narrated by the title character, Luke’s Aunt Beru, all about raising Luke and her thoughts on that. Given the ending of the story, it does raise more questions, here…

“The Luckless Rodian” (Renee Ahdieh)
Of course, there’s going to be a story about Greedo, the green-skinned bounty hunter that NEVER SHOT BECAUSE HAN SHOT AND THAT WAS IT…sorry. Deep breaths, here. Anyway, this is what led up to that confrontation, and it appears there was a woman involved that horked Greedo off in the first place…

“Not for Nothing” (Mur Lafferty)
Presented as a chapter from a book of memoirs by one of the members of Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes (that band in the cantina that plays a style of music that elicits giggles by myself immature man-boys when spoken of), this sheds a bit of light as to why a band comprised of Bith (a species with pink sensitive skin and big, lidless eyes that are unable to secrete tears) would be on a planet like Tatooine in the first place…

“We Don’t Serve Their Kind Here” (Chuck Wendig)
Now we take a look at the cantina bartender Wuher, who is grumpy but affable, going about his day trying not get involved with everything going down around him. Which includes the arrival of some farm kid and an old guy in robes with a couple of darn droids on the day that his droid detector is not working properly…

“The Kloo Horn Cantina Caper” (Kelly Sue DeConnick / Matt Fraction)
Kind of a wacky story involving Muftak and Kabe, the two aliens that…well, Google ’em, you’ll know them when you see the images. Anyway, this involves a sought-after Bith instrument, where the rent monies went to, and various other instances involving Greedo that demonstrates that the continuity between the stories are a bit off…

“Added Muscle” (Paul Dini)
And here we have a bit of a Boba Fett inner monologue involving that Special Edition scene where Jabba the Hutt confronting Han Solo in Docking Bay 94 with a bunch of other bounty hunters to collect on Solo’s debt. This one was written by long-time television writer Paul Dini, and let’s just say he doesn’t really nail Boba Fett at all. He sounds more like Lobo, from the Superman: The Animated Series which he has worked on. Really could have used K. W. Jeter handling Fett…

“You Owe Me a Ride” (Zoraida Cordova)
This one is about the Tonnika sisters, the two females that were seen maybe a split-second in the movie. Here, they head off to Jabba’s palace for a job, then decide to steal the Millennium Falcon to get off planet and…do stuff. Things don’t go as planned, obviously…

“The Secrets of Long Snoot” (Delilah S. Dawson)
This one’s about that steampunk clad snitch Garindan ezz Zavor, who lead the stormtroopers to Docking Bay 94. Goes a bit into why he was on Tatooine, and how he was trying to get back home…ah, who cares? He ratted out our heroes, guys…

“Born in the Storm” (Daniel Jose Older)
A rather amusing story told in the form of an Imperial Incident Report form, from one of the stormtroopers that happened to be in the group that were on Tatooine searching for a couple of droids…

“Laina” (Wil Wheaton)
Yes, that Wil Wheaton. Here, he pens a story about a rebel soldier on Yavin IV videotaping a message to his 2-year-old daughter, whom he’s about to send away with a couple of aunts off-world for safty’s sake. This one had me shouting, “THAT WAS MY JOKE GUESS, YOU BASTARD!” at the end…

“Fully Operational” (Beth Revis)
Here we have a story taking place shortly before and during that meeting on the Death Star where Tarkin informs everyone that the Senate was disolved and that chokey-chokey thing happened between Vader and an Admiral. This is from the point of view of General Tagge, not the guy getting choked, but the one who was concerned about the Rebels finding a weak point in the Death Star from the stolen plans. Interesting bit, here…

“An Incident Report” (Mallory Ortberg)
Taking place directly after the previous story, this is the rather angry incident report filled out by the guy who was force-choked by Vader, one Admiral Motti, Chief of the Imperial Navy. He doesn’t seem too happy about the incident, it seems…

“Change of Heart” (Elizabeth Wein)
This is from the point of view of…um, Unidentified Imperial Navy Trooper, who was the guard of Princess Leia while she was prisoner on the Death Star, and was present at her interigation by the hands of Vader, and on the bridge when Alderaan got blow’ed up…

“Eclipse” (Madeleine Roux)
Things are getting rather dark, as now, right after the previous story, we have one about Leia’s adoptive mother, Breha Organa of Alderaan, experiencing her final hour or so on the planet before getting blow’ed up…

[It’s right around here, where I had to pause and look at pictures of kittens for about ten minutes before continuing on with the book]

“Verge of Greatness” (Pablo Hidalgo)
Didn’t think we would skip a story featuring our favorite galactic despot, Grand Moff Tarkin, did we? Here, we get a glimpse of his black, icy soul as he contemplates the power of the Death Star, his acquisition of said Death Star, the destruction of Scarif and thoughts on Director Krennic, all while preparing to take out the rebellion once and for all…

“Far too Remote” (Jeffrey Brown)
This is a single panel comic involving stormtroopers and an Imperial officer (turns out it was General Tagge) searching out Dantooine for that rebel base…

“The Trigger” (Kieron Gillen)
Okay, so, here we have a story involving one Chelli Lona Aphra. As someone whose fandom of Star Wars only covers the movies, a handful of cannon novels, and The Mandalorian series, I had to look up this character. Seems that Aphra is a scavenger that is mentioned in a lot of comic book stories, and apparently appears here because it involves the obligatory search of Dantooine by Imperials, and her running into them while scavenging the abandoned Rebel base. Decent story, though…

“Of MSE-6 and Men” (Glen Weldon)
And here we have a story told from the point of view of the MSE-6 repair droid aboard the Death Star, some time before the destruction of the base above Yavin IV. You know, that thing on the wheels that skittered away freaked out by Chewbacca? That’s the one. Only, the majority of the story concerns the hook-up between a stormtrooper and an Imperial officer, as told by way of the recorded information stored within the droid. Like an episode of Queer As Folk in space…

“Bump” (Ben Acker / Ben Blacker)
Now we have a story about that one Stormtrooper that famously bumped his head on the threshold of the control room where C-3PO and R2-D2 are hiding out in the Death Star. You know the one. This is a story about what happened leading up to that moment, and what happened directly after…

“End of Watch” (Adam Christopher)
This is a story about an administrative Imperial officer in charge of the Death Star’s Station Control West, who is about to get off of duty for the night, when wouldn’t ‘cha now it, there’s an unscheduled arrival of some old YT-1300 light freighter named the Millennial Falcon messing up the traffic…

“The Baptist” (Nnedi Okorafor)
Hey, do you remember that eye-stalk that pokes out of the fetid water of the trash compactor, conjoined to that thing that drags Luke down into the water with it? Presumably to eat him? This is the story of that creature. Turns out it’s a “her”, her name is “Omi”, and she wasn’t planning on eating him after all, really…

“Time of Death” (Cavan Scott)
Finally we have a story about Obi-Wan Kenobi, told from his point of view…just after he’s killed by Darth Vader. Buncha flashbacks in this interesting story, which features a 3-year-old Luke Skywalker at one point…

“There Is Another” (Gary D. Schmidt)
Hey, a story involving Master Yoda. Who wasn’t a part of A New Hope. Eh, whatever. Here, he’s getting ready to plant some seeds for food, takes on some Imperial probe droids, and senses the death of Obi-Wan. It also seems Yoda would rather train Leia rather than Luke as a Jedi, as Obi’s force ghost tries to convince him otherwise. Also, there’s a cooking pot…

“Palpatine” (Ian Doescher)
Okay, so, this one was written by the guy who has written the William Shakespeare’s Star Wars book series, so this story is also written in iambic pentameter. And, true to the title, this one is from the point of view of Emperor Palpatine, after hearing news of Obi-Wan Kenobi at the hands of Darth Vader. He goes from gloating, to worry about other Jedi that may have slipped the Jedi Purge, right back to gloating again…

“Sparks” (Paul S. Kemp)
This one focuses on Dex Tiree, one of the pilots in Gold Squadron, and his thoughts on things as he goes through the briefing on the Death Star schematics, and his favorite R5 unit nicknamed “Sparks”, going on the run on the Death Star…kind of ends on a downer, this one…

“Duty Roster” (Jason Fry)
And here we have a story from one of the other starfighter pilots that didn’t partake of the run on the Death Star due to some anger issues, mostly due to the Empire ravaging his home world, but also having the nickname of “Fake Wedge”…

“Desert Son” (Pierce Brown)
A story told from the point of view of Biggs Darklighter, Luke’s friend from Tatooine. This focuses mainly on his perspective of the trench run on the Death Star, and what’s going through Bigg’s head, up until it was his windshield…

“Grounded” (Greg Rucka)
Here’s something from a mechanic on the Rebel base on Yavin 4, named Nera Kase. We get a look at the situation and tension at the base as the battle of Yavin takes place over the radio broadcast, and the weight that the deaths have on the ground crew…

[again, I had to pause to look at kitties…man, this is taking more out of me than expected…]

“Contingency Plan” (Alexander Freed)
And now, a story of Mon Mothma, another character that didn’t appear in A New Hope. Anyway, in this story, it’s explained why she was absent during the Battle of Yavin, and delves into the inner turmoil she was experiencing after Alderaan was destroyed. It gets kinda dark, this one does…

“The Angle” (Charles Soule)
Another story involving a beloved character that didn’t really appear until one of the later movies. This one involves Lando Calrissian, having a friendly game of Klikklak interrupted by an Imperial officer and a handful of stormtroopers, and then witnessing a holovid of the Empire’s Death Star being blow’ed up with the help of his former ship, the Millennial Falcon…

“By Whatever Sun” (E. K. Johnson / Ashely Eckstein)
The penultimate story in the collection (I just wanted to write the word “penultimate”), and it’s another one featuring a periferal character that originated outside the movie proper: Captain Miara Larte, one of the few survivors of Alderaan, along with her crew are standing front-and-center of the celebration at the end of the movie. We get a glimpse of what’s going through her head as she witnesses Leia awarding medals to Luke and Han, totally snubbing the Wookiee…

“Whills” (Tom Angleberger)
And finally, we have a very brief, but utterly amusing story dedicated to the unseen Whills of Star Wars legend that watches and chronicles the epic sprawling story of Star Wars, explaining where we get the opening crawl, and also where we got the Star Wars Holiday Special…

Well, now. This was quite the trip. For the most part, the stories here managed to take something about the movie that didn’t seem important to the overall story, and make it far more interesting than it should have been. The handful of nit-picks that I have concern the stories that involved Greedo in one way shape or form, as they didn’t necessarily jive with the continuity with each other. With the ones that took place in Mos Eisley, I had to remember these weren’t part of the Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina book, and thus didn’t share the same explanation of who and what the characters’ motivations were. Some stories resonated more for me than others, but I’m not really going to go into detail about those, mainly because these are subjective, and I’ve already gone a bit long with the review of this.

Overall: I’ve only read a small handful of what you would call the “New Canon” of Star Wars books, From A Certain Point of View included. I liked this collection. It told entertaining bite-sized stories from a galaxy far, far away, as expected. Also, none of the authors got paid to do this; they all agreed to have the proceeds go to a reading charity. So, for those of you who like that warm fuzzy self-righteous feeling to go with your rank consumerism, there you go. Recommended.

This Is How “Amish Vampires in Space” Got Started…

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NecRoSarX Chronicles Header

buttery moist and completely french

Last weekend, a friend posted on her Facebook page a picture of the bread she found at the local Trader Joe’s in Omaha, proclaiming it to be the best and most delicious kind of French bread she’s found in a store. Or something like that. She also posted a picture of the wrapper (that’s not it up there, btw); it was the slogan underneath the label that got my attention: “Buttery, Moist and Perfectly French”. I quipped in her post that “Buttery, Moist and Perfectly French” was the name of my upcoming Christian romance novel. Laughs all around…

…however, due to the way my brain works, something inside me took that and actually ran with some ideas of a satirical Christian romance story based on that alone. As a matter of fact, ideas are falling into place far easier than it deserves to. To the point where I have a very rough bare-bones outline for at least a short story.

Will I end up writing something? Probably, as that’s how I make the voices in my head go quiet. Maybe I’ll even post it for all the world to scoff at. All I know is, I’m going to have to bone up on Christian romance stories to get a grasp on the structure and tropes, and maybe also go to a Trader Joe’s to research the interior design or something.

Also, “bone up” probably wasn’t the best choice of words to use this early in the morning…

::END TRANSMISSION::

Book Review: CTHULHU’S REIGN

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cthulhu's reignDarrell Schweitzer (Editor)
Daw Books, Inc.
2010

  • Some of the darkest hints in all of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos relate to what will happen after the Old Ones return and take over the earth. In “The Dunwich Horror,” the semi-human half-breed Wilbur Whateley speaks in his diary of travelling to nonhuman cities at the Earth’s magnetic poles “when the Earth is cleared off,” and hints at his own promised “transfiguration.” Very few Mythos stories have ever touched on this. What happens when the Stars Are Right, the sunken city of R’lyeh rises from beneath the waves, and Cthulhu is unleashed upon the world for the last time? What happens when the other Old Ones, long since banished from our universe, break through and descent from the stars? What would the reign of Cthulhu be like, on a totally transformed planet where mankind is no longer the master? It won’t be simply the end of everything. It will be a time of new horrors and of utter strangeness. It will be a time when humans with a “taint” of unearthly blood in their ancestry may come into their own. It will be a time foreseen only by authors with the kind of finely honed imaginative visions as those included in Cthulhu’s Reign.

When it comes to H. P. Lovecraft, one of the more admiral traits of the man–once you get past his laughable form of racism that could have only existed in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries–was that he was more than willing to let others play in his literary sandbox. And why not; his Cthulhu Cycle of stories and the vast mythos that erupted from that is fertile ground for both science fiction and horror. Numerous collections and novels have resulted from this; and this is my rather awkward way of leading into this look into this particular short story collection, titled Cthulhu’s Reign.

This collection does have a theme running through it: Stories that tell of humanity’s life on Earth after the stars re-align, and Cthulhu finally awakens and summons forth his horrible minions and transforms the world in his nightmarish image. Rather intriguing concept, I would say. Really, the book had me at “Cthulhu” when I spied it on the shelves at the local Half Price Books, but a concept is a concept. Let’s look at what we have, shall we?

“The Walker in the Cemetery” (Ian Watson)
A handful of tourists are trapped inside Italy’s famous monumental cemetery of Staglieno when the return of Cthulhu happens, and one by one they seem to be played with and picked off by some unseen entity…

“Sanctuary” (Don Webb)
A young man travels to a nearby abandoned Texas town to find and pick up a special Bible that isn’t really a Bible, in an attempt to keep him and his daughter safe from succumbing to the madness of the new gods that have taken over…it doesn’t end well, let’s just say…

“Her Acres of Pastoral Playground” (Mike Alien)
It’s a normal morning on the farm, where a man has built his own kind of safe haven against the horror of the Star Spawn’s invasion, when he begins to realize that maybe his defenses aren’t all that effective…

“Spherical Trigonometry” (Ken Asamatsu)
A billionaire industrialist commissions a special fortress to be built, one that features no angles whatsoever for the Old Ones to invade his space, only to realize too late that humanity is the oldest form of angles there are in the world…

“What Brings the Void” (Will Murray)
A glimpse into the reality of a couple of survivors of the invasion and mutation of humanity, as things get desperate, and one of them happens to be about to give birth to something not exactly human…it doesn’t end well…

“The New Pauline Corpus” (Matt Cardin)
Less a short story and more of a fiction discourse discussing the fall of Judeo-Christian ethics in the wake of the return of the Old Ones…

“Ghost Dancing” (Darrell Schweitzer)
A guy infiltrates a ceremonial human sacrifice to the Star Spawn to free the sacrifice…it doesn’t end well…

“This is How the World Ends” (John R. Fultz)
A glimpse into the reality of a couple of survivors of the invasion and mutation of humanity, as things get desperate, and one of them happens to be about to give birth to something not exactly human…it doesn’t end well…

“The Shallows” (John Langan)
A man tells the tale of his life before the coming of the Old Ones to a crab that helps him tend to his garden…I have to take a moment to let sink in what I just wrote…

“Such Bright and Risen Madness in Our Names” (Jay Lake)
A bunch of mutated humans gather together underground to plan their next desperate upheaval against Cthulhu’s reign on earth…, kinda bleak and nihilistic, there…

“The Seals of New R’lyeh” (Gregory Frost)
A couple of petty thieves that survived the Cthulhu Apocalypse steal some seals that purportedly are supposed to bring back all of the Old Ones from beyond their dimensional plane. and one of the thieves just happens to have the correct translation of the Necronomicon to bring that about…

“The Holocaust of Ecstasy” (Brian Stableford)
A college professor–sorry, former college professor awakens to find he is merely now a head hanging from a tree where conscience human heads are its fruit, and the land seems to be a nightmarish landscape designed by the Star Spawn themselves…and then things get weird as said former professor ponders the existential ramifications of his new situation…

“Vastation” (Laird Barron)
A rather mind-blowing jaunt back and forth through the history of reality through the eyes of a sociopath immortal-ish quasi-deity…gads, my head hurts now…I couldn’t look away, I had to finish it or go mad…moreso…

“Nothing Personal” (Richard A. Lupoff)
A science exploratory space vessel accidentally sets off a massive antimatter explosion on a planet of Old Ones, and they retaliate by turning Earth into a black ball of antimatter goo…do I even need to state that this doesn’t end well?

“Remnants” (Fred Chappell)
The last three humans alive on Earth race to a rendezvous point where aliens who oppose the Old Gods are going to take them to a place of safety…this actually ends well, nicely done…

Overall, yeah, Cthulhu’s Reign was a pretty good collection to read through. Pretty consistent theme going, different takes on what would happen after the Old Ones finally take over the place, all keeping things at a pretty decent clip, and ending with a story that has a glimmer of hope at the end. Nothing mind-blowing but yeah, I would recommend picking this up if you happen across it.

Book Review: MORE LORE FROM THE MYTHOS

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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: NIGHTMARES & DREAMSCAPES

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1-1 - Book Review: NIGHTMARES & DREAMSCAPESStephen King
Viking / Signet
1993

Nightmares & Dreamscapes is Stephen King’s third collection short stories released during his career (both Different Seasons and Four Past Midnight being collections of novellas than short stories, if you want to argue the point), originally in 1993. This was the period in my life where I was denouncing any kind of reading of fiction as “not what a good Christian does”, and having gotten rid of my rather extensive Stephen King collection along with the rest of my fiction literature that I deemed not worthy my time anymore the summer prior, when this one was published, I pretty much ignored its existence for a good decade, until I got back into enjoying fiction without that pesky self-acquired guilt that comes with self-righteous hoop-jumping. Long story. In any case, I came across a hardcover copy of Nightmares & Dreamscapes for a couple of bucks at a local Goodwill one early Fall afternoon in 2005, and dug into this rather massive tome not too long after that. And here’s my blow-by-blow of the thing:

“Dolan’s Cadillac”
A widower gets revenge on the mob boss that had his wife killed…it’s rather cathartic for him, really…

“The End of the Whole Mess”
A scientists discovers a chemical that reduces aggressive tendencies in people; only, too late after the fact, do they realize that it does the job too well…

“Suffer the Little Children”
A third grade teacher begins to suspect that the phrase “little monsters” may be less figurative than she thought…

“The Night Flier”
A reporter is chasing down a serial killer who thinks he’s a vampire…because vampires don’t really exist, right?

“Popsy”
A child abductor for human trafficking abducts the wrong kid…let’s just leave it at that…

“It Grows on You”
An old house in the town of Castle Rock seems to be taking on home upgrades all by itself…

“Chattery Teeth”
A guy buys a pair of novelty wind-up walking teeth and a hitchhiker, then proceeds to have a very bad, very weird rest of the day…

“Dedication”
A hotel maid has an encounter with an eccentric writer…then something weird happens…

“The Moving Finger”
A Jeopardy! enthusiast discovers a human finger poking its way out of the drain in his bathroom sink. Wackiness ensues.

“Sneakers”
A recording studio exec discovers that the pair of sneakers he’s been seeing in the adjacent stall in the work restroom belong to the ghost of a drug dealer killed by the studio exec’s boss. I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence.

“You Know They Got a Hell of a Band”
A couple get lost driving around Oregon, and happen upon a town called Rock And Roll Heaven, which may be a bit more that just an eccentric town name.

“Home Delivery”
A young and pregnant widow lives on a small remote island called Gennesault–“Jenny” for short–when an alien thing orbiting Earth at the South Pole causes all the dead to reanimate and attack the living. Again, I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence.

“Rainy Season”
An out-of-town couple rent a summer vacation house, and discover that it probably wasn’t a very good idea.

“My Pretty Pony”

An elderly man decides to give his grandson the gift of a pocket watch and an existentialist lecture, in that order. Fans of the precursor of the My Little Pony toy line will be sorely disappointed.

“Sorry, Right Number”
Originally a teleplay written for an episode of the Tales From The Darkside television series, this is the script form which tells the tale of a lady who uses a phone to talk to her long-dead husband years ago on the night of his death.

“The Ten O’Clock People”
A smoker tries to quit his habit, and because of that chemical imbalance has a They Live! experience…

“Crouch End”
Two London police officers discuss a case where an American woman’s husband disappeared one night, when the town turned into a Lovecraftian nightmare.

“The House on Maple Street”
Four children arrive back after Summer vacation to discover that their house is slowly turning into some sort of space ship. They then decide to use this to deal with their tyrannical stepfather. As one would do.

“The Fifth Quarter”
More of a hard-boiled crime story, written and published under the pen name John Swithen in the 1970s, this is the story of a crook getting revenge on the death of his friend after a botched caper.

“The Doctor’s Case”
A Sherlock Holmes mystery written for the 1987 collection The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, this one finds the legendary detective’s investigation into the murder of a sadistic British lord waylayed by a bunch of cats.

“Umney’s Last Case”
A 1930s Raymond Chandler-style private investigator has a very, very bad day.

“Head Down”
This is a non-fiction essay about Stephen King’s son Owen’s little league baseball team.

“Brooklyn August”
Another baseball-themed piece, this one a poem that waxes nostalgic for the so-called American national pastime.

“The Beggar and the Diamond”
Kind of a re-telling of an old Hindu parable, a beggar is kind of down about his situation in life, when he happens upon a shiny object that changes his life.

Overall, Nightmares & Dreamscapes is a rather decent collection. It showcases King’s ability to write beyond the label of “horror fiction”; and while that dark undertone of personality is always there, it just serves as a flavoring for the stories, no matter what kind is being written about. Fortunately, for all of you dark fantasy horror types, the stories are mostly of that variety. Maybe pick up a good mass market paperback of this and enjoy.