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Thread: Horror, Fantasy, and other non-sci-fi genres...

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    What is best in life? D_Davis's Avatar
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    Horror, Fantasy, and other non-sci-fi genres...

    Why not?

    I should have my review for Partridge's Dark Harvest done soon, and I guess I should move my review for I am Legend here - it felt a little strange posting it in the sci-fi thread.


    So for those of you interested in horror-fiction, I cannot recommend Dark Harvest enough. It is utterly brilliant. Check it out.

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    What is best in life? D_Davis's Avatar
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    I am Legend - Richard Matheson

    Finally getting around to reading a beloved book can be a task filled with apprehension. After years of hype and praise, there is a good chance that the book might be a disappointment, due to no faults of its own. Often times, I avoid these books. Not because they are popular, or for any silly reasons as such, but because I figure books like these are already well-loved and respected, and I would rather spend some time discovering and praising other books. So, with a little hesitation, I finally took the plunge and read Richard Matheson's I am Legend, and I am really glad that I did.

    I've had the book for a few years, but upon a careful and recent hunt I was unable to locate my copy. And so, I ended up buying it again - I felt compelled to read it. Unfortunately, my new copy has a giant-ass red star printed (not a sticker) on the cover proclaiming, “Now a major motion picture starring Will Smith!” It looks really silly on the otherwise well designed face. I have not seen the film, yet, and I really want to, so don't take this comment as disparaging towards the adaptation. I actually like Will Smith as an actor, and I think the film looks good.

    Anyhow, to get back on track, I am Legend is a very solid work of fiction. Just in case there are those out there who don't know yet, here is a brief synopsis. It tells the story of Robert Neville, a man who finds himself alone in a world overrun by vampires. He is the last pure-bred human. He has become the ultimate prey. Neville lives each day for only one thing: survival. He hunts and gathers supplies by day, hides and drinks by night. It's a mentally taxing existence to be sure, and there are a handful of moments where he almost loses it completely. Through bull-headed determination, and with the blessing of long and lonely days, he begins to piece together the truth behind the vampire mythos, and discovers just what in the hell is happening to the world around him.

    I like that the story is as much a study of the pursuit of knowledge as it is a tale of survival horror. What makes a legend? What are the ingredients of a long lasting mythos? Through Neville's scientific and philosophical ponderings, Matheson examines these very questions. Neville is determined to discover the root of vampirism, and he begins to question the legend that surrounds these monsters. Why do vampires shy away from garlic? What power does the cross hold over them? Why do wooden stakes kill them? Why do they shrivel up in the sun's light? Neville examines each of these questions and actually discovers the truth behind the myth.

    In doing so, Matheson creates a new myth, a new legend. I love these kinds of meta-textual stories, stories that examine the very fabric of fiction in the process. What is most remarkable is that Matheson does all of this in a very short amount of time. This is a short book, thankfully; it is written with brevity, and does not spend a great deal of time on world-building or “fleshing things out.” I hate this term, “fleshing things out.” To me, it means, “add padding to make a short book longer for no reason.” I am Legend does everything it sets out to do in a timely manner, and does not waste the reader's time on any amount of nonsense.

    I am not prepared to declare this the greatest vampire book of all time. I know some that do. I won't even say it is a timeless genre classic. But what I will say should carry more weight, because it is without an ounce of hyperbole: I am Legend is a well-written, solid tale. It's a good book. I don't need a lot of adverbs to say this. It is a book with a one-track mind, and delivers a focused story of one man's quest for survival and knowledge. At the end of the day, I am happy I read it, and even with the amount of hype surrounding it, coupled with my heightened anticipation, I finished it with satisfaction. It's just a good book.

  3. #3
    dissolved into molecules lovejuice's Avatar
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    ok, so about this new poirot's that i just read...:P
    "Over analysis is like the oil of the Match-Cut machine." KK2.0

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    What is best in life? D_Davis's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting lovejuice (view post)
    ok, so about this new poirot's that i just read...:P

    What about it.

    :P

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    The Pan megladon8's Avatar
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    I suppose it's a good place to post this review...

    "Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire"

    by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden


    Gothic horror is a genre which lately seems to be dominated by Tim Burton movies. His quirky, twisted dark-fantasy fairy tales have become the tape by which everything else in this style is measured - plus, there’s the fact that no one seems to be making these movies anymore, aside from Burton. But to experience true gothic horror, one has to turn to literature. And with “Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire” - the latest work from “Hellboy” creator Mike Mignola and established novelist Christopher Golden - it’s nice to see that good gothic horror can still be found in the “New Releases” section of your local bookstore.

    Told episodically, “Baltimore” chronicles events which affect Henry Baltimore, a young soldier whose life is exposed to unspeakable darkness on the battlefield. After being shot in the leg and left for dead, Baltimore sees strange creature flying in the sky, who then descend and begin to devour the remains of his fallen comrades. When one approaches him, he slashes its face with his combat knife, and this event ends up changing the world forever, as it becomes the reason for the great plague of Europe, and the catalyst event for the meeting of a few men in a small pub whose lives have also been touched by darkness.

    Each man in the pub brings their own story of death and decay which helps to illuminate this world which Golden and Mignola have created. Similar to the overall concept which H. P. Lovecraft pushed in nearly all of his works, one of the main ideas in “Baltimore” is that of a world beyond our world, which exists simultaneously and symbiotically alongside our own. This is the world where vampires, werewolves, demons and ghouls reside, and occasionally our paths cross, resulting in folklore and old wives tales. Granted, it’s a very different approach to the topic from that of Lovecraft, but the general idea is the same. And it’s not all that unexpected, really, since Lovecraft has obviously been a huge influence on both Mignola’s artwork and storytelling as evidenced in his “Hellboy” comics (and even the movie).

    The stories told by the men in the pub are all quite chilling, and effectively creepy. It would be very wrong to spoil any of the surprises in store within the book by going into great detail about each of the tales, but suffice to say they involve some frightening creatures and situations. Demonic marionettes and giant lake monsters are among some of the horrors to be found within the pages of “Baltimore”.

    But while the monsters are great, it’s the overall atmosphere of the story which is so captivating. Anyone who has seen the gothic horror films of Italian director Mario Bava will find something instantly recognizable. Descriptions of locales and characters are reminiscent of the striking imagery of such Bava classics as Black Sunday, while also having their own atmospheric qualities more suiting Mignola’s style. And while Mignola’s drawings are small and often quite simple - perhaps showing the shingles of a house, or a stylized crucifix - they really add to the feeling one gets from the book. I know that one complaint people often have with books with illustrations is that they take away the reader’s ability to imagine characters and objects the way they want to imagine them - but this is not the case here. The drawings are not greatly detailed, and even the drawings of monsters are done by showing the monster deep in shadows, so that not much of it is revealed. It’s simply enough to tease your imagination, and make the images seem even more grotesque in your mind.

    One of the most impressive things (for me at least) is that Mignola and Golden managed to take the concept of vampires and make it fresh, original, and most importantly frightening again. It’s been too long since vampires scared me last - the romanticizing of these creatures never really made sense to me. It was interesting the first couple of times I read or saw vampires portrayed as sexual beings with incredible powers of seduction, but that that image became their billboard puzzled me. They’ve always been monsters to me, and with “Baltimore”, we have a return to the monstrous interpretation of the undead.

    While there are startling moments and it contains an atmosphere of the macabre which could be cut with a knife, it wouldn’t be right to say that the book is all-out “terrifying”. It’s a tale of the supernatural with a definite, steady build in suspense, and a certain dramatic tragedy which makes it feel a lot more potent than it would have as a simple monster story. It really is a success on all fronts and I hope more readers decide to pick this one up.

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    What is best in life? D_Davis's Avatar
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    Dark Harvest - Norman Partridge

    Every year, on Halloween night, a pumpkin growing in an evil plot of soil comes to eerie life. Each year, a man is chosen to carve a face and make a body for the pumpkin. After stuffing the hellish Frankenstein-creation with gobs of candy, it is unleashed as a participant in a game called the Run. It's goal: to reach the church in the center of town by midnight. Standing in its way: an army of teenage boys, each one determined to take Sawtooth Jack, or Ol' Hacksaw Face, the October Boy, down with whatever weapon he can. To the victor is promised a year of easy living, all the family's bills get paid, and the guarantee of a bumper crop. But if the October Boy wins, well, the town will have more than hell to contend with.

    The above premise sounds absurd, and could easily be the makings for a yuk-a-minute horror spoof, but Norman Partridge takes it and delivers a no-nonsense, punch-to-the-gut. Dark Harvest is chilling, surely one of the most effective books I've read in the genre. I had been meaning to buy and read this for a year or so. I saw it on the shelf at multiple book stores, picked it up a few times, but always put it down. It has a great cover, it is short, and more than a few times the blurbs on the inside mention the name of Joe R. Lansdale in comparison. Come to find, Partridge and Lansdale are buddies, and so, without any further hesitation, I bought it and read it in a matter of hours.

    The story practically unfolds in real time. It takes place from the hours of around 7 p.m. until midnight, and it only takes about that long to read. Partridge's terse, concise narrative creates a kind of immediacy I seldom encounter in a book. It actually reads like a well made horror film, and frankly, it's better than almost every horror flick I've seen. The horror genre is one that relies upon the immediacy of the moment. You want that tension, that suspense that quickly builds and is released with gusto. This is a book of literary jump-scares that is truly terrifying and tense.

    Partridge employs a second-person, present tense point of view, a POV I don't often come across, and it does wonders for the story. The reader is put right smack-dab in the middle of the action. And what action! What gobsmacking action! The plot is unrelenting, it grabbed me by the throat and pulled me through a series of events and situations of the likes I rarely find in the genre. Through his unique style, Partridge controls the narrative like a film director. He positions the camera and tells you what you are seeing and how it should make you feel. Yes it is a tad manipulative, but it is also effective. He invokes a commonality found in horror fans, and plays upon the knowledge of c genre onventions and familiar settings. I felt more like a participant of the story rather than a passive reader.

    Partridge also utilizes fluid transitions between the different characters and scenes. When Peter McCormick, the main character, is let lose for the Run, we slowly pull away from him while he is running down the street, and turn to focus on a car blazing a trail towards the city's outskirts. We then follow the car and transition to a new set of characters and the harrowing situation they soon find themselves in. After this, we follow the car, now being driven by a new driver, back into town and back to Peter. These kinds of transitions are littered throughout the novel, and I've never read anything like them. Pure literary brilliance if you ask me.

    By the end of the short novel, I could barely believe the experience. Partridge just does so much right its damn near unbelievable. Some conventions - the good ones - are followed, while others get squashed and kicked to the curb. I found myself utterly despising certain characters, rooting for Peter, and, well, that's all I am going to say because I really don't want to give anything else away. Needless to say, I was rightfully shocked and surprised at a few twists and turns and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute I spent with this book. The finale is one of the freaking coolest things I've ever read; it's bursting with vivid imagery, gritty violence, and a climax to die for. It's simply a damn good book.

  7. #7
    The Pan megladon8's Avatar
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    I can't freaking wait to read that book.

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    What is best in life? D_Davis's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting megladon8 (view post)
    I can't freaking wait to read that book.
    From one fan of good horror to another, I think you're going to dig it. I can't wait to talk with someone about some of the cooler scenes.

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    What is best in life? D_Davis's Avatar
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    It's a more visceral horror than most horror fiction I've read. It's more like a really good slasher film than a slowly building spook story.

    You're familiar at all with Lansdale, you know what I mean.

    It's got a grit, and a bite to it. I can picture a young John Carpenter or Wes Craven totally digging this.

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    The Pan megladon8's Avatar
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    I don't think enough people appreciate the craft that goes into creating a truly effective horror novel.

    Again, one of the "downers" about it being in the genre ditches.

  11. #11
    The Pan megladon8's Avatar
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    Have begun reading "Dark Harvest".

    Read the first 20 pages, then needed to take a nap - it was an incredibly long, busy day for me and I was nodding off.

    It seems fantastic so far. Very evocative prose. The description of the carving and filling of the October Boy was fantastic.

    "The man points toward the town.
    The Boy with the knife starts toward it."

  12. #12
    What is best in life? D_Davis's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting megladon8 (view post)
    It seems fantastic so far. Very evocative prose. The description of the carving and filling of the October Boy was fantastic.
    Yeah, the 'birth' of the October Boy is awesome.

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    The Pan megladon8's Avatar
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    Yeh, "Dark Harvest" was pretty freaking awesome.

    I really like that there's never a clear explanation given as to why this whole thing has to take place every year. There's no history - we're right there with Pete, experiencing things for the first time and slowly piecing it all together.

    The October Boy is one of the most sympathetic "villains" I have read in a long time, and every one of his few instances of dialogue is incredibly powerful and memorable.

    A wonderful piece of pulp fiction, which is actually much more - a story of having to grow up and leave home, and a story about the nature of stories.

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    What is best in life? D_Davis's Avatar
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    Isn't it awesome how the October Boy is developed? I've never felt more empathy for a monster. The passage where it goes back to the old house is extremely well written and developed.

    And that ending! Man, does it ever rock. Once all the main players finally meet at the church, it just gets awesome.

  15. #15
    The Blind Bandit Saya's Avatar
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    I finished the second book, A Clash of Kings, from the A Song of Ice and Fire series a couple days ago. It pretty much continued the same constant quality of the first book. There are two new POV characters and without spoiling who, I thought one worked and one was not very interesting. Overall, I enjoyed it a lot. It's very action packed and there are a couple of awesome twists at the end.

    I'll start book 3 soon, but I just have to finish 1984 first.

  16. #16
    What is best in life? D_Davis's Avatar
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    This is pretty cool.

    I just got an email from Norman Partridge about my review of Dark Harvest:

    Every once in awhile, a writer's lucky enough to read a review that makes him think: yep, that guy really got it! That's what I thought when I read your review of DARK HARVEST. It's a pleasure to hear that the book worked for you (as a reader) exactly the way I intended it to (as a writer).

    I'd actually seen your comments over at goodreads.com, too. Thanks for posting there... and elsewhere. With DARK HARVEST, I've learned that online reviews really can help drive sales of a book, so keep on drivin'. I appreciate it!

    All the best
    (and watch out for Jerry Ricks in your rearview),
    Norm

  17. #17
    The Blind Bandit Saya's Avatar
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    That's awesome!

    I'll definitely will check out Dark harvest sometime.

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    Too much responsibility Kurosawa Fan's Avatar
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    That's pretty incredible D. Makes me want to grab the book, just to support someone like that.

  19. #19
    dissolved into molecules lovejuice's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Daniel Davis (view post)
    This is pretty cool.

    I just got an email from Norman Partridge about my review of Dark Harvest:
    are you on goodreads? is that place good? i have an account there, but never care to update since it seems like people are into posting their own review rather than discussing stuffs.
    "Over analysis is like the oil of the Match-Cut machine." KK2.0

  20. #20
    What is best in life? D_Davis's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting lovejuice (view post)
    are you on goodreads? is that place good? i have an account there, but never care to update since it seems like people are into posting their own review rather than discussing stuffs.
    I like it, but it's not really a place for discussion.

    I like to see what my friends are reading, and it often leads to some good recs.

    I've never really participated in any discussions there. It's like Myspace for readers.

    It's also a good place to keep a novel journal, as it keeps track of when you have read a book, and what you thought of it.

    My name is D_Davis on goodreads.

  21. #21
    What is best in life? D_Davis's Avatar
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    Next up for me is Noctuary, by Thomas Ligotti.

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    What is best in life? D_Davis's Avatar
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    The Medusa - Thomas Ligotti

    As a bookworm, I love books; I love everything about them.

    The physical: their smell, their feel, the sound of a new spine being opened for the first time.

    The metaphysical: the power they have over the imagination, the way they stir the heart and soul, the ability they possess to draw me to them.

    Stories about books are something I cherish. I have often dreamed about discovering a secret book store. One that exists under or behind the facade of another. One that is greater than the one presented to the common man.

    The Medusa, the first story in Thomas Ligotti's Noctuary, is such a story, and it is a good one. It is about a professor and philosopher named Lucian Dregler and his quest for the mythical Medusa. His quest leads him to a dungeon of books buried deep within the bowels of the earth. Here he meets a stranger, a silent women who gives him a key granting him passage to yet another hovel of tomes, one which possesses something even more cryptic.

    Within the pages of this short story, Ligotti creates a world thick with texture conjuring the likes of Poe and Lovecraft and yet he demonstrates his own unique voice. In Dregler, Ligotti fashions a classic hero, one who is driven by obsession, consequences be damned. And, in typical weird fashion, we all know what happens to the hero wrought with obsession: they find what they are looking for.

  23. #23
    What is best in life? D_Davis's Avatar
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    Conversations in a Dead Language - Thomas Ligotti

    This story, in a word, is sinister.

    Halloween, trick or treat, murder, and revenge from beyond the grave.

    Ligotti sets the stage effortlessly, and in only a few paragraphs he drew me into the world of a twisted man. It's hard to tell if its Ligotti's prose, or my own imagination, drawing upon the subconscious fears of a man preying on children, creating the atmosphere of dread and tension; it's most likely a combination of the two.

    Skillful horror writers should know how to tap into the common fears of certain things we all possess. Through a careful selection of words, the able-minded horror author should unlock bits and pieces of terror trapped in our own imaginations. Ligotti takes these fragments and mixes them with his own ability to create and conjure, and thus he enraptures the reader in a world that is familiar and frightening, one made even more frightening because it is familiar.

    Here, Ligotti reintroduces us to the boogie man we knew, the one we have forgotten about through the passage of time. He tells us again the tales of ghostly revenge, the ones we used to share around the campfire. He brings us back to a time when it was fun to be scared.

  24. #24
    The Pan megladon8's Avatar
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    These sound awesome, D.

    I love you're mini-reviews for each story.

    I'm really looking forward to digging in to "The Shadow at the Bottom of the World".

  25. #25
    What is best in life? D_Davis's Avatar
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    The Prodigy of Dreams - Thomas Ligotti

    Things are changing around Arthur Emerson's estate; a strange force is gathering, bringing with it a bizarre evolution. The swans that float upon his pond no longer face each other, and in unison they raise their beaks to the heavens and cry out in an agonizing scream. Arthur's gardener is changed as well; he's more aloof, preoccupied with something. And Arthur's cat! The damned little beast! It attacked its master, and it has been using a subterranean room as a crypt for the dead and mutilated carcasses of its prey.

    But what do these changes mean? What dark, shapeless force is congregating in the sky above Arthur's home?

    Once again, Ligotti presents to us a character obsessed with books and esoteric knowledge. What is it about bookworms? What is in our blood that makes these characters so sympathetic, their drama so romantic? Arthur Emerson is a writer who has chronicled many of his strange adventures. Arthur possesses the power to go into other worlds, strange worlds that exist in, perhaps, a dreamcountry. But these worlds are more than phantom, more than dream, more than mere shadow.

    In this story, Ligotti creates an atmosphere thick with impending doom. Perhaps this is what is like to know that death is on the driveway, making its way to your door, mere minutes away from a knock, coming to collect what all men must give.

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