Sublime Horror

Celebrating the best in horror

Category: Book reviews (page 1 of 6)

The Lost Ones by Anita Frank review – a ghost story with great ideas but lacking suspense

There are lots of shadows in Greyswick, the setting for this supernatural mystery-cum-whodunit by debut novelist Anita Frank. Mrs Henge seems to occupy most of them: she is the ominously-named, sexually predatory and grey-eyed (“I wondered what treacherous depths they concealed”) housekeeper to whom we are introduced early on. From the moment her character is established with the broadest of brushes, we know exactly where we are as readers.

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Alien: Prototype by Tim Waggoner review – there are far better stories out in the darkness of the Alien cosmos

I love Alien. Perhaps the only things I love nearly as much as Alien are the non-film spin-offs that have been slowly populating the property’s galaxy over the past decades and which are, in some cases, better than some of the films. The late 80s Dark Horse comic series, for example, is still perhaps some of the most terrifying Alien content ever released. And, more recently, the excellent Alien: Isolation made full use of the immersion that only video games can provide to construct a hugely atmospheric narrative.

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The Wayward Girls by Amanda Mason review – a dark and shimmering tale

It’s 1976 and a heatwave has hit the UK. Loo and her many siblings, including her older sister Bee whom she must share a room with, are relocated to an old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere in their parents’ attempt to start a new life. But strange things begin to happen on Iron Sike Farm and after a series of loud knockings from the walls and unexplainable bruises on Loo, the family are terrified of what is haunting their house.

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The Science of Monsters by Meg Hafdahl and Kelly Florence review – an unscientific but entertaining fact-filled dive into the monsters of horror

“How would a zombie really decompose in Night of the Living Dead? Are there instances of shape shifting in nature like in The Wolfman? What is the science behind the night terrors that inspired the creation of Freddy Krueger? Is there scientific data supporting ghost detection like the tools used in Poltergeist? What is the psychological drive that compels cannibals like Hannibal Lecter?”

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Its Terrifying Times: A Cultural History by Joseph Lanza review

To say that Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of the cornerstones of modern horror is an understatement. What has been one of its enduring impacts, at least to me, is the sharp juxtaposition of what could be argued to be a family movie against almost casual brutality, tuning viewers in across the span of decades to a story of fear that feels timeless at its core.

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A Sick Gray Laugh by Nicole Cushing review – Tristram Shandy had the last laugh

Reviewing a book as erudite and as confident as this is in many ways a challenge, as Nicole Cushing’s ambitious work demands to be judged by the highest standards. A Sick Gray Laugh is very firmly in one of the oldest of the traditions of the novel. Playful, clever, at times spellbinding and always brave, the narrative is in the style mastered by Lawrence Sterne in the eighteenth century in his astonishing work The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. We are, very early on, introduced to the character of “the writer”, Noelle Cashman. We are posed various questions and challenges from the very start, and we are firmly patronised, though always with wit and charm, when our frustration or fascination are anticipated: “These are entirely reasonable questions,” writes “Cashman”, “Be patient. All shall be revealed.”

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Into Bones like Oil by Kaaron Warren review – doctored sleep

Into Bones like Oil is the new novella by Australian Shirley Jackson Award-winner Kaaron Warren, and it warns of the danger of wishing ill on others (lest you wear your curse as a garment, as the psalm goes) and your guilt will haunt you like ghosts.

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Women’s Weird: Strange Stories by Women review – filling a gap in the weird fiction bookshelf

Weird fiction, a literary mode defined by Lovecraft as possessing “a certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces”, is usually spoken about in the same sentence as names such as Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen, William Hope Hodgson, M.R. James, and, of course, H.P. Lovecraft. Unlike the earlier and related genre, the gothic, the names of women very rarely turn up in discussions of weird fiction, unless when referring to writers who came later in its development, from the 1950s onward. And even then, far too little. It’s high time, therefore, for the release of this new collection of short stories from Handheld Press, edited by expert on women’s supernatural fiction, Melissa Edmundson, whom Sublime Horror readers might remember from Avenging Angels and her reading list of ghost stories by Victorian women.

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Japanese Ghost Stories by Lafcadio Hearn (Penguin Classics) review – fears reborn, nightmares reincarnated

Born in Greece, raised in Ireland, educated in England, and a writing career forged in America – perhaps it is Lafcadio Hearn’s lack of a permanent home that resulted in his openness towards and interest in other cultures. If we look back on Hearn’s career and works, it is a recording of folklore and local customs that stands out most clearly.

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Cursed Britain by Thomas Waters review – dallying with the devil

Cursed Britain opens by posing the question: if your misfortunes gradually escalated and piled on top of one another, would you – could you – believe yourself cursed? If you came to that conclusion, one a younger you would have found preposterous, what would you do about it?

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