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.
Father versus son, reality versus magic and a whole lot more… modern horror master Ramsey Campbell is back.
Eden by Tim Lebbon conjures up what you’d get if you crossed Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation with the lurid “creature feature” paperbacks of the 70s and 80s: a world in which eco-politics and the unchecked powers of nature have created a hostile environment for humans, stalked by blood-thirsty animal predators and the living forest itself.
The idea of a staunch anti-Semite writing about the Holocaust might sound like an entirely different kind of horror story than those we usually enjoy here at Sublime Horror.
The problem with Alien: Resurrection, contrary to popular opinion, is not that it’s a bad film. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s fourth instalment in the Alien series has a lot of good elements; Ripley-8’s gleeful progression into inhumanity contrasts impeccably with the pathos of Call’s self-hatred, for example, and Jeunet seems to genuinely want to do something new with the sci-fi palette. No, the problem with Alien: Resurrection is that it’s not quite Alien enough. Or maybe the problem is that it’s a bit too Alien. Either way, it tries to be both the darkly comic, baroque sci-fi epic that Jeunet obviously wanted it to be and the more conceptual piece that screenwriter Joss Whedon seemed to originally intend, whilst leaving the actual Alien elements feeling tacked on.