Novel Review: Hell Dancer by Wol-vriey

Hell DancerHell Dancer by Wol-vriey
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This novel is thinly plotted Torture Porn. All scenes involve either torture/ graphic murder, graphic sex of various kinky varieties, urination, defecation or a combination of any and all of these.

Most of the characters manage to be porn stars or serial killers, all of whom have sexually degrading episodes from their past that get used to fill the pages between almost plot-relevant scenes of equally degrading torture porn. The few other characters are not left likable either in that they have no backstory or development or no redeeming qualities. One’s meant to like the police officer who apparently thinks it was okay to punish her husband for masturbating by anally raping him with a nightstick in a non-consensual way. This, described graphically multiplied by all scenes of the book = Hell Dancer.

Lovecraftian elements are window dressing, ultimately not building any true sense of a multi-dimensional world of horror.

I received my copy of this novel directly from the author through bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com.
 
 
 
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Novel Review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Gemina (The Illuminae Files, #2)Gemina by Amie Kaufman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The exciting and worthy sequel to Illuminae ably walks the fine line between stylistic consistency and narrative predictability. Like the first in the series, this novel takes the form of epistolary dossier with a smattering of emails, texts and video transcriptions. A brilliant if not ominous addition is the new heroine’s hand-drawn journal bringing a graphic element into the mix. A bullet hole through each page and an increasingly larger blood stain marring her sketches provide appropriately unsubtle foreshadowing.

The previous trilogy of protagonists [Kady, Ezra, and the existential AI–AIDAN] take a backseat to a new trilogy of sub-adult heroes. Hanna, of the aforementioned journal, is the well to-do daughter of the Heimdall Space Station captain. With all survivors of the first book crammed on the science vessel, Hypatia, due to arrive within days, the Bei-Tech Corporation plans a full-scale attack on the Heimdall and its wormhole to keep news of its atrocities from getting out. Working with her are teenaged, unregistered cousins, Nik and Ella, the scions of a mafia family. Heavily inked Nik has already done time for murder and has the survival instincts and resourcefulness to prove it. His plague-stricken cousin Ella [think: Polio] may not have use of her lower body, but she makes up for that in cyber know-how.

Whereas in the first book the Bei-Tech attackers remain largely nameless and most threats seem to come from within, this novel leans into new subgenres quite unlike the those of the first book. The first subgenre to this sci-fi is clearly Thriller as 2 dozen highly trained militants are sent to Heimdall to kill everyone on the space station and to pave the way for a drone attack to finish off the Hypatia and the Kerenza colony. A 25th operative is already working undercover on the station. A second subgenre [Horror] emerges from the recreation of the mafia family. To foster their drug trafficking, Nik and Ella’s family farms psychotropic substance-secreting, parasitic aliens in underused parts of the station. These aliens resemble four-headed hydras crossed with lamprey eels and have the cuddle-factor and predatory instincts of Ridley Scott’s aliens. What could possibly go wrong??

The huge Win in this book and series lies in the unreliable narration provided by the dossier files as emails and texts reach Facebook levels of news-reliability.

This series is highly recommended.
 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “On the Road” by Nnedi Okorafor

2 of 5 stars.

When one goes to a foreign land to immerse within a foreign culture, one expects some practices and experiences that challenge one’s worldview. However, all bets are off when the unexpected phenomenon is supernatural in nature, and horrific at that.

An American cop travels to Nigeria to visit her aunt and grandmother. A surprise 3 day downpour in the dry season has the entire village on edge and avoiding the muddy outdoors. The American opens the door one night to find a preteen boy smiling up at her with his bloody head cleaved open . . .

Then come the lizards–scads of them. The American can’t seem to escape the nightmare and the feeling that something’s coming for her. The relatives don’t seem interested in sharing what’s going on, either. . .

Few explanations are provided through this story, just horror-filled details and experiences. The silence of the locals is baffling. As is the sequence of events. An overall pattern to the supernatural is suggested that remains unfathomable despite its best attempts.

This tale appears in Okorafor’s anthology, Kabu Kabu by Prime Books.
 
 
 
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Graphic Novel Review: Silent Hill: Past Life by Tom Waltz

Silent Hill: Past LifeSilent Hill: Past Life by Tom Waltz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A horror graphic novel comes to full creepy realization due to the artwork of Menton3. The idea of skeletons in one’s closet proves quite literal when the secrets from the past refuse to stay in the past.

Jebediah Foster lived a rough and bloody life out in the Dakota Territory. He killed more than a few folks [American Indians, a barmaid, a bartender et al]. Then he married, quit drinking and moved Eastward to escape his past. His very pregnant wife seems unaware of Jeb’s past. Jeb himself barely remembers it through the hazy drunken memories.

They move to Esther’s uncle’s house in Silent Hill which they inherited. Everyone they run into seems to know Jeb and a lot about him. But, he can’t quite put a finger on why they should know him and a past he’d prefer not to acknowledge. But some definitely know him–a crazy Native American woman, the sheriff, the barman, the barman’s wife . . .
 
 
 
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Novella Review: Mother by Philip Fracassi

MOTHERMOTHER by Philip Fracassi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The emotional nuances of a relationship falling apart condense first into an eeriness before solidifying into a full blown horror fest. A relationship going bad follows the illogical, meandering paths of the participants’ imaginations. First, it’s the little irritations and angers that one can barely put one’s finger on. On the flip side, as things go sour, there are the little excuses one tells oneself trying to take an optimistic stand. The contradiction is compellingly depicted here.

From the start, Howard narrates with honesty and foreboding:

I know Julie loved me once. I know it as fact, like the warmth of sunshine on my skin.

. . . We married the day after graduation, exchanging vows in the campus church . . . All of our friends attended. It is a day I will never forget, because it was the happiest we ever were. The happiest we would ever be.

The demise of the marriage of Howard and Julie tilts and careens recklessly from silent truce to grating bitterness. Howard’s obvious obliviousness to his own antiquated sexism erodes Julie’s respect for him despite his successful career. Her own lack of success fuels her insecurities.

Despite the clear breakdown, the couple decide to have a baby in an effort to mend the family. Because that never goes wrong . . .

Not that this is an “American Beauty” style domestic horror. It’s not, despite Howard’s affair. No, when the horror comes, it’s Lovecraftian or Kafkaesque in nature. Transformative, irreversible horror.

I received my copy of this novella directly from the author through bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com. I’d previously read his excellent horror novella, Altar.
 
 
 
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Novella Review: Altar by Philip Fracassi

ALTARALTAR by Philip Fracassi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The mundanity of suburbia with its micro-dramas beneath the surface strikes a realistic if not nostalgic look at the rite of passage that is the summertime visit to the community swimming pool. Then, horror descends upon the scene–true, unfathomable, Lovecraftian horror. The contrast, without warning nor transition makes the ensuing insanity all the more horrible in the true sense of the word.

This tale follows three POV characters in their typical summer day trip to the local pool. 12 y.o. Gary, accompanied by his single-mother-with-a-drinking-problem and his 15 y.o. sister whom he idolizes, has all of the pubescent insecurities expected for one his age. His mother provides a second POV providing a bit more depth into her side of the contentious divorce her cheating husband is putting her through. Her urges to smoke and drink are every bit what Gary imagines.

A third POV is provided by Tyler, unrelated to and unknown by the other 2 narrators. Young Tyler navigates the pool by himself without his mother paying any attention and with just the water wings she provided to keep him safe. He’s the first to notice the large crack split the pool from side to side . . .

Containing the narration to the character POVs and very “in-the-moment” experiences is particularly effective and shocking as normalcy descends into an apocalyptic chaos. This tale is highly recommended for horror and Lovecraft fans.

I received my copy of this novel directly from the author through bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com.
 
 
 
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Anthology Review: The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror:2016 edited by Paula Guran

The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2016 EditionThe Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2016 Edition by Paula Guran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Paula Guran [editor] and Prime Books here release another solid anthology in their annual collection of the best dark short fiction. One novella rounds out the short stories covering the horror to thriller to dark fantasy spectrum.

My favorite’s, all earning 5 out of 5 stars, were:
–Angela Slatter’s novella, Ripper, an imaginative supernatural retelling of the unsolved Jack the Ripper tale that brings to light gender inequities and how that may have compromised the investigation.
–Dale Bailey’s short horror tale, “Snow”. A small party of friends survives the opening days of an apocalyptic pandemic only to find themselves ill-prepared to face their inner fears and loss of humanity.
–Priya Sharma’s disturbing modern creature fantasy, “Fabulous Beasts”, which shows a family of transmorphic snake people and their unsettling history of incest, rape, abuse, and survival.

I reviewed every tale included in the anthology. Also included are:
Armstrong, Kelley–“The Door”–4 stars
Black, Holly–“1Up”–4 stars
Jones, Stephen Graham–“Daniel’s Theory About Dolls”–4 stars
Kiernan, Caitlin R.–“The Cripple and Starfish”–4 stars
Kishore, Swapna–“The Absence of Words”–4 stars
Lopresti, Robert–“Street of the Dead House”–4 stars
McGuire, Seanan–“There is No Place for Sorrow in the Kingdom of the Cold”–4 stars
Mills, Daniel–“Below the Falls”–4 stars
Muir, Tamsyn–“The Deepwater Bride”–4 stars
Walters, Damien Angelica–“Sing Me Your Scars”–4 stars
Wehunt, Michael–“The Devil Under the Maison Blue”–4 stars
Campbell, Rebecca–“The Glad Hosts”–3 stars
Files, Gemma–“Hairwork”–3 stars
Gaiman, Neil–“Black Dog”–3 stars
Liu, Ken–“Cassandra”–3 stars
Shirley, John–“Windows Underwater”–3 stars
Valente, Catherynne M.–“The Lily and the Horn”–3 stars
Wilson, Kai Ashante–Kaiju maximus: ‘So Various, So Beautiful, So New'”–3 stars
Bulkin, Nadia–“Seven Minutes in Heaven”–2 stars
Hannett, Lisa L.–“A Shot of Salt Water”–2 stars
Langan, John–“Corpsemouth”–2 stars
McDermott, Kirstyn–“Mary, Mary”–2 stars
Ptacek, Kathryn–“The Greyness”–2 stars
Robson, Kelly–“The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill”–2 stars
Samatar, Sofia–“Those”–2 stars
Warren, Kaaron–“The Body Finder”–2 stars
Headley, Maria Dahvana–“The Scavenger’s Nursery”–1 star

I received this anthology directly from Prime Books. I’ve previously read The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2010 and The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror: 2015.

 

 

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