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Monday, October 18, 2021

What I'm Reading: October Booklist Issues

I had a review in each of the October 2021 issues of Booklist. Below are the draft views with extra content.

Also, see the Booklist website for the FREE October issue of The Booklist Reader for a bunch of horror content including an article by me and my fabulous editor Susan Maguire where we break down titles by scare-level. 

I begin with a 100% STAR, a new standalone but Christopher Golden. Honestly, I had very high expectations for this one, and from page one to the final line, it surpassed my expectations. This will be a contender for the best horror novel of 2022.

by Christopher Golden
Jan. 2022. 232p. St. Martin’s, $27.99 (9781250274304); e-book, $14.99 (9781250274311)
First published October 15, 2021 (Booklist).

Golden firmly plants his flag at the top of the Horror-Thriller hybrid mountain with a tale that will chill even the most jaded readers. Tieg, documentary producer, with ghosts in his past, is travelling the Kolyma Highway through Siberia, a road paved with the bones of gulag victims, to scout a village for his next project. The cold is so intense, cars must be left running and people can only survive for minutes outside. As Tieg and his best friend/cameraman travel the road, they meet those who call this place home. But when they get to what they thought was their final destination, the town is deserted. Every villager has fled their homes, into the uninhabitable forest, all except one young, traumatized girl. At the edge of said forest, appears a parnee, a shaman and his animal spirit army, and they are not happy. Opening with a high anxiety sequence, and relentlessly building on the dread of the setting, the ceaseless terror, the unrelenting cold, and the omnipresent, well organized force stalking them, Golden places the action, violence, and fear front and center. However, because it is told from multiple points of view, the character development allows the reader to see that the real threat may actually be human hubris, a realization that ultimately adds a gentleness, depth, and beauty to a story that could have been centered around carnage. Give to fans of emotional, thought-provoking, nature inspired Horror like The Only Good Indians by Jones or Wonderland by Stage.

YA: The combination of non-stop action, fascinating and terrifying setting, and folk horror and nature gone wild elements will draw teens into the story immediately, while the characters will keep them turning the pages, even as the terror increases exponentially. 

Further Appeal: I need to stress that the dread, anxiety, and danger is here from the very first scene and never lets up. 

Here are my notes from as I was reading:

Opening with a high anxiety sequence, the story builds upon the danger, claustrophobia, and freezing temperatures non-stop and that is before the "parnee" comes out of the forest. 

It is told from multiple points of view, allowing the characters to build and the terror burrows even deeper into the reader, the chill searching for warmth anywhere it can find it. 

Violence and fear. 

Human Hubris. What is evil? What is out there? Who is civilized? Answers are not easy and they challenge the very nature of human hubris and reason.. And yet, it is all very real.-- not really so rewrite that. Smack in the face of westerners who think we know it all-- spoiler alert [not really]-- we don’t.

Social commentary about what we really don’t know about the world. How small we are. Golden straight up shows us westerners what jerks we are. The world is large and we think we are better than everyone else, but in reality people live everywhere-- happily and thriving-- and yet we think, how can they?

Chilling [pun intended but also accurate on every level].

Finally, there is a moving tribute to Bruce Springsteen in one of the important subplots. So Bruce fans will love this book. My deceased Father-In-Law was a huge Springsteen fan and he would have loved this book. 

Three Words That Describe This Book: Ceaseless Terror, Strong Sense of Place, Human Hubris

Readalikes: The nature gone wild elements are huge here. The Jones and Wonderland recs, have much to say about human hubris, nature's power, and how we need to respect it more.

I would also eagerly suggest Eden by Tim Lebbon.

Nov. 2021. 452p. illus. Dark Moon, $39.95  (9781949491500); paper, $19.95 (9781949491487); e-book, $8.99 (9781949491494)
First published October 1, 2021 (Booklist).
Critically acclaimed editor Guignard, has outdone himself with this imaginative, eerily realistic,  and  fun anthology showcasing 63 Horror authors from all over the world. Featuring an elaborate frame, including the creation of an alter ego-- the fictional, international paranormal expert Dr. Charlatan Bardot-- numerous illustrations, a stunning cover, and an index, Guignard’s meticulously constructed volume mimics an actual travel guide to haunted places across the globe. Organized by continent, the 27 stories and 36 flash fiction pieces are annotated by Bardot and introduce haunted places that are not houses. Instead readers feel the fear at, for example, a Puerto Rican frozen yogurt stand, an indoor fish market in Sweden, or a clothing factory in the Philippines. Readers could take the included GPS coordinates and explore these places for themselves, except none of it, save the well executed scares, is real, and that may be the creepiest part of all. For fans of original, haunted tales that chill while fully immersing the reader into their creepy spaces such as Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Khaw or the award winning anthology, Echoes edited by Datlow. 

YA: Teens will love this anthology with its winning combination of stellar haunted tales in a variety of sizes, featuring fascinating illustrations, and with its tongue planted firmly in cheek. It is an excellent prompt tool for teen writer groups as well.
Further Appeal From My Notes:

The results, a fantastic Horror anthology that brings the world of Horror right to readers fingertips, and with a stellar list of contributors, a stunning cover, and satisfyingly scary stories, this is a volume that will work with all Horror collections.

It is also a beautiful and well constructed book. Made like an actual travel guide. Care given to the layout. But ultimately it shines because the stories [short and flash] chill and thrill.

Lots of effort into realness here and worth it! Talk about set up and alter ego and intros etc….Index, advertisements for other books by Guignard. It models an actual travel guide with illustrations [no photos because not real]. I
appreciated all the effort to make it seem real.

Literally and figuratively bringing Horror from all over the world to the reader. Diversity in action.

This is FUN.

Haunted everything but houses. Authors from all over the world writing about their homes [mostly]. Nothing typical here.  

Excellent cover that sells itself! Too many authors to mention. Dozens and dozens. Names
you know and ones I have never heard of.

Three Words That Describe This Book: original, strong sense of place, eerily realistic

Further Readalikes: Slade House by Mitchell, Guignard's A World of Horror anthology, Valancourt's World Horror anthology Volume 1 [and I am reading volume 2 for review now]

For those who liked the flash fiction stories, they should run out and read Tiny Nightmares: Very Short Stories of Horror, edited by Lincoln Michel & Nadxieli Nieto. 

Or for flash ghost stories only Ghost Variations: One Hundred Stories by Kevin Brockmeier

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