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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

What I'm Reading: Booklist Horror Spotlight Issue [also sf and fsy]

Today the Annual Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror issue of Booklist went live.  I have 3 reviews and a feature article in this issue.  In the below post I will reprint my reviews as I normally do, including the upcoming Joe Hill [which is amazing]. But please go to this post on the horror blog for links to the Top 10 Horror of the past year [I reviewed 8 of the 10 titles that made the cut] and more.

This issue also marks the last time Rebecca Vnuk will be editing my reviews for Booklist. Friday she moves on to a brand new venture (which I will also be writing for). Look for an official press release and comments about that here on the blog Friday. Trust me it's going to be awesome and useful.

But don't worry, I will still be writing as many reviews as I can for Booklist and I will even be taking on more duties to help fill some of the void left by Rebecca. But you have to wait until tomorrow to start reading those details.

Today I have three reviews.

 Strange Weather: Four Short Novels.

Hill, Joe (author). Oct. 2017. 448p. Morrow, hardcover, $27.99 (9780062663115)First published August, 2017 (Booklist).


Hill is back with a collection of four short novels that each showcase his knack at mining our modern lives for fear. As Hill notes in the collection’s “Afterword,” tales of horror and fantasy thrive at a shorter length, and after completing this volume, readers will be vigorously nodding their heads in agreement. Together, all present a foreboding and unsettlingly view of our world, one you cannot help but continue to ponder [for better or worse] after your eyes leave the page, and contain complex and complicated casts of diverse characters who we still connect with even though none are of typical “good guy/girl” stock. In “Snapshot,” a grown man looks back on a summer gone by when he found a Polaroid which steals rather than preserves memories, while in “Loaded,” Hill writes his impassioned, heartbreaking, and compulsively readable response to the Sandy Hook tragedy. “Aloft” is a sinister fairy tale about a macabre world hiding on top of a cloud, and in the final short novel, “Rain,” set right now, the apocalypse comes through showers of shiny, crystal nails that pelt the Earth. All but one of these stories has a speculative frame, but all are terrifying and compelling filled with intense anxiety throughout, but it is that one story, set entirely in the real world, which is the most menacing of the bunch. After two 700+ page novels in a row, fans new and old will be thrilled to take in Hill’s malevolent mind through these masterfully crafted single sitting reads reminiscent of the very best of the short works by giants of the form like King, Gaiman, and Mieville. Hill is not only maturing as a writer of relevantly chilling tales, but he is also emerging as a distinct voice for our complicated times.

Further Appeal: These novellas will appeal to fans new and old. Not only are novellas very popular right now, these four are among the best I have read in a while, by any author.

These are character centered tales that still move briskly.  And, throughout the 4 novellas, there is a very diverse casts of characters. Hill writes stories about our modern day lives and fluidly includes all types of people along the way.

Finally, your enjoyment of these stories will be further enhanced by reading the afterword where Hill describes, how, why, and when each novella was written, including comments about how recent events in the real world changed some of the stories.

Three Words That Describe This Book: great characters, foreboding, compelling

Readalikes: I listed King, Gaiman, and Mieville in the review but I also made this note while reading:
"there is even a touch of Murakami here. It’s in the characterizations that are spot on in a magical realism setting."

I would also send Hill fans directly to anything by Stephen Graham Jones. Specifically Mongrels or his new novella Mapping the Interior.

The New Annotated Frankenstein.

Shelley, Mary (author) and Klinger, Leslie S. (editor).
Aug. 2017. 432p. illus. Norton/Liveright, hardcover, $35(9780871409492)
First published August, 2017 (Booklist).

Klinger, the editor of the critically acclaimed new annotated editions of Sherlock Holmes, Dracula and H.P. Lovecraft, among others, is back with a gorgeous, compelling, and simply fascinating volume just in time for the 200th anniversary its source material’s publication. Klinger does not presume to add to the comprehensive body of scholarship on Shelley’s novel, rather Klinger wants to illuminate the original text itself and showcase how complex and engaging it was, and still is. Of the many revelations in this work one of the most surprising is how deep the autobiographical aspects of of this “monster” novel run. Klinger provides a detailed comparison of the 1818 and 1831 texts, something that has never been done before with both versions in a single annotated volume. The result is that we see a surprising shift in Shelley’s tone and her judgment of the characters in the ensuing years, a shift that can be traced to her life experiences over that time. As in his previous annotated editions, Klinger has included numerous high quality images sprinkled throughout the book, which add to our appreciation of this seminal text. Klinger also includes six appendices and an afterword [by Professor Anne K. Mellor] which singularly address for example, larger themes of the novel and its place in popular culture. The resulting volume is one for which public libraries will find a huge audience from amateur scholars to students to genre fans. Klinger has not only given us a useful reference work, he has also reminded us all just how fun Frankenstein still is to just read. 

Further Appeal: I couldn't fit this info into the review so pay attention. 2018 is the 200th Anniversary [as I did say above] but there is a lot planned to celebrate it. The official Frankenstein Bicentennial Project is being spearheaded by Arizona State University. Click here to see what's planned and to find ways to get your library involved.

You can also read more about Klinger and his work in my feature article about him also in this issue entitled, "Leslie S. Klinger and the Fine Art of Annotation."

Three Words That Describe This Book: authoritative, compelling, new insight on old works

Readalikes: Readers might be drawn to other works by Klinger and/or other works about or featuring Frankenstein after reading this, including the Dean Koontz series.

And Norton has a great "Annotated" series of titles on many popular books. Click here for the full list. Readers may find they enjoy the annotated experience after reading this book and will be seeking out more options.

The Dark Net.

Percy, Benjamin (author).
Aug. 2017. 272p. HMH, hardcover, $26(9780544750333)
First published August, 2017 (Booklist).

While the current increase in world-wide computer hacking sounds scary, in this fast-paced demonic cyber-thriller, Percy has an even more sinister take on the deepest parts of our digital lives, supposing that much of who we are as living, breathing humans is actually being infiltrated by every device we touch. The anxiety and fear are set up from the opening pages as we are quickly introduced to our ragtag group of misfit heroes: Hannah, a 12 yo blind girl getting a brand new technology that will allow her to see, Lela, her technophobic, reporter Aunt, Mike, not your average homeless shelter manager, and Cheston, a computer hacker with a nefarious  employer. All separately notice weird and sinister happenings, but once they discover that it all leads back to the foundation of the Internet and that this foundation is laid upon the backs of a powerful evil force, a group of ancient demons who have been interfering in mankind for millennia, this story swiftly shifts from a straight up cyber-thriller to an all-out horror novel. Dark Net can get gruesome and the body count is high, but Percy keeps it suspenseful and compelling from the first page. The authentic Portland, OR setting with a pivotal scene in Powell's Bookstore is also a draw here. Although you may be tempted to hand this to your fans of more traditional cyber-thrillers like those by Gibson, it will actually be most enjoyed by readers of Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger series or The Cell by Stephen King. Think twice before accessing this on an e-reader, unless you think can handle the extra layer of sheer terror, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Further Appeal: I think the key takeaway here is for all of you to note the horror angle that is underplayed in most plot summaries for this novel. If you go in expecting a traditional cyber thriller you will be disappointed. This is a story for horror fans who also like supernatural and cyber terror mixed together.

Also, although one of the main characters is a teen, this book is very gruesome and may not appeal to all teens.

Three Words That Describe This Book: ancient evil, cyber terror, fast paced

Readalikes: Besides the two in the review above, I would also suggest Creepers by David Morrell and Amazonia by James Rollins.

1 comment:

Patricia V. Davis said...

Though I'm still learning so much about what the "horror genre" encompasses, it's always been hard to see Frankenstein as horror, because there's a deep element of sadness and loneliness, and 'aloneness' in it. The annotated version sounds intriguing, for sure...