Kev Harrison’s debut novella delivers an enchanting folkloric story with an eco-warning sting in its tail: be kind to nature, or destroy it at your peril.
Kathe Koja has been writing in multiple genres since the publication of her first novel, The Cipher, in 1991, but a consistent thread within her work – whether it’s in a dark fantasy vein, veering towards gothic historical fiction, or exploring the more surreal edges of horror – is its focus on characters who are fragmented, driven, and obsessive. In contrast to horror and weird fiction that involves fairly normal individuals being confronted with forms of the unknown, Koja’s characters frequently seem to harbour something strange and unsettling within themselves. The weird, in many of Koja’s tales, works from the inside out, not just the outside in. And her new book, Velocities: Stories (Meerkat Press), continues this theme.
Boy In The Box opens with the main protagonist, Jonathan Hollis, waiting in line to kneel before the coffin of his former friend, Gene Hendrickson. Two other mourners, the Braddock brothers, share a dark secret with Jonathan, one which led Gene to take his own life. The four men, friends since childhood, lost touch with each other following a hunting trip a decade earlier. A trip intended to be a stag party turned into something altogether darker, ending in tragedy and leaving each of them haunted in their own separate ways by memories and overwhelming guilt. Now the three survivors must return to the Gulch or their deed a decade ago will be discovered, destroying each of their lives and families futures forever.
From ancient myths to Victorian serials to Hammer Horror: monster stories have had a lifespan almost as long as the weird, unearthly creatures that are their subject. And if monsters, as many readers and critics have discovered, embody moments of cultural upheaval, then it’s unsurprising that they continue to populate every culture of the world.
Vernon Lee was the pseudonym of Violet Paget (1856–1935), an extraordinarily prolific and versatile writer who published essays, novels, stories and pamphlets on topics including aesthetics, travel, music and the art of writing. A lesbian who, as her Wikipedia entry delightfully puts it, “always dressed à la garçonne”, she was a feminist, a pacifist, spoke four languages (and wrote in three), and is credited with introducing the concept of empathy – then a newly translated word – to the British Aesthetic Movement. Much of Lee’s work is concerned with ideas of beauty, art and aesthetic experience, but she is also known for her supernatural short fiction – work this new British Library volume sets out to introduce to a new audience.
I’m sitting here writing this review with the radio on low in the background. The news has just been on, and even though what’s happening is very real I still can’t shake off the feeling we will wake up and be told it was all a dream.
The sinking of the Titanic remains a fixture of horror in cultural memory, and as such, finding new ways to tell that story is a growing challenge. With The Deep, acclaimed author of 2018’s The Hunger, Alma Katsu, rises to and surpasses the challenge, weaving a page-turning, haunting tale that breathes fresh life into a tragic moment in time.
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is a novel by Grady Hendrix, whose previous works include such titles as Horrorstör (2014), My Best Friend’s Exorcism (2016), We Sold Our Souls (2018), and his non-fictional history of the paperback boom, Paperbacks from Hell (2017). In 2018, We Sold Our Souls was named one of the best books of 2018 by Library Journal and the Chicago Public Library. If you aren’t a Hendrix fan yet, what are you waiting for? Hendrix is just as masterful at writing character-driven page-turners as he is creating clever, attention-grabbing titles. The Southern Book Club, with its charming characters, biting social commentary, and a healthy dose of gore, may just be my newest favourite of his works.
Beneath the Rising, Premee Mohamed’s debut novel, sets up its world in the first few pages: one in which the hijacked planes missed the World Trade Centre on 9/11 and Johnny Chambers – a fantastically wealthy science prodigy – has cured HIV and Alzheimer’s and owns a mad Bond villain’s lair of a house with a Pacific giant octopus in a tank. But it’s also an immediately recognisable one, as Nick (our protagonist, Johnny’s childhood friend and Loyal Sidekick) describes the sideways glances he gets as a “brown”-looking Canadian, and his ten-hour shift stacking shelves before falling asleep on the couch. It’s the perfect blend of speculative elements and a carefully grounded examination of privilege, class, gender and race – and that’s before the evil inter-dimensional Ancient Ones show up, woken by Johnny’s infinite energy machine, bent on conquering Earth for a final time.