Sublime Horror

Celebrating the best in horror

Category: Book reviews (page 3 of 5)

The Weird Tales of William Hope Hodgson review – weird riches and uneven writing

In his introduction to The Weird Tales of William Hope Hodgson, a new anthology of Hodgson’s short stories, editor Xavier Aldana Reyes writes: “Hodgson has not always been as well-known or admired, however, and had remained rather forgotten until the late 1980s…it is not difficult to see why. Hodgson’s writing is certainly uneven and…prone to repetition…” But, Reyes writes, Hodgson’s “stylistic shortcomings” are compensated for by his “imaginative invention and ability to conjure up a strong feeling of dread of the unknown”.

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To Rouse Leviathan by Matt Cardin review 
- interrogating the shadow of faith

Following hot on the heels of the cosmic horror masters, from Chambers to Ligotti, To Rouse Leviathan, a collection of short fiction by Matt Cardin, is a solid contemporary entry into the corpus of cosmic horror, though it delivers moments of tonal inconsistency and some story entries that slightly weaken the structure of the work taken as a whole. Ligotti himself has praised this collection, writing “That the so-called reality we bump into on a daily basis should be seen as pure misconception is a fundamental assumption of Matt Cardin’s vision.”

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The Possession by Michael Rutger review – our own heads are dangerous places to be

Small-town weirdness meets supernatural thriller in screenwriter Michael Rutger’s The Possession, a sequel to The Anomaly, which was released in 2018. Hands up – I have not read The Anomaly, so came to this cold. Despite a few small mentions about the climax of the last book, which of course meant nothing to me, I did not suffer. Rutger doesn’t labour the point, and just gets on with the business of a new adventure.

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The Forgotten Girl by Rio Youers review – should have forgotten the guy

Harvey Anderson is living his life as a 26-year-old busker in New Jersey when, one day, he is seized by violent men who beat him up and ask where they can find Sally Stirling, his girlfriend of five years. Only Harvey doesn’t remember Sally. The leader of this gang, “the Spider”, reveals that Sally has the ability to wipe memories and that he has been hunting her down for nine years to take back the memories she robbed him of. A well-paced thriller-esque chase ensues: Harvey tries to hunt down the elusive Sally and find out what happened to her and his memory.

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Trolls by Stefan Spjut review – an unworthy slog

Trolls is the sequel to Stallo Spjut’s previous output, Stallo, which followed Susso Myrén and her family as they confronted the reality that trolls exist, can turn into animals, and are being fed children by humans. Excited by the prospect of reading Scandi horror with folkloric creatures for the first time, I eagerly jumped in. It is clear that the novel is a sequel, as past events are immediately alluded to and discussed briefly, yet there is a sense that the reader should already be aware of previous happenings. I hadn’t read Stallo and so I found the writer’s reluctance to lay the groundwork to ensure the sequel also read as a standalone frustrating. Your first warning: it is necessary to read the first book to ensure Trolls reads more smoothly. 

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Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson review – how modern-day monsters are created

It is 1816 and a nineteen-year-old Mary Shelley is staying in Geneva, Switzerland, with Lord Byron, John Polidori, her stepsister Claire Clairmont and her lover, Percy Bysshe Shelley. The group engage in a task: write a horror story. Excited, Mary begins, not knowing just how much her own story and characters will haunt her.

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Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell by Nathan Ballingrud review

“It’s my experience that we all have a secret heart, even brutes.”

This quote from Nathan Ballingrud’s Wounds not only sums up this cleverly connected collection but is also, perhaps, a comment on humanity; a theme the author has elegantly expounded through some genuinely disturbing stories. Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell is exactly as it says on the cover, and we end where we start, leaving the reader with an immensely satisfying feeling.

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A Devil Comes to Town by Paolo Maurensig review – a valuable addition to the Satanic lexicon

The teller of A Devil Comes to Town won’t tell us the real location of his tale, only that it is in a small Swiss town, famous because Goethe slept there for one night. Given the fictional name Dichtersruhe, (poet’s repose), it is a town full of unpublished writers, all working on their precious manuscripts and gracefully accepting rejection after rejection, while carefully concealed resentment boils within. When the devil arrives, claiming to be a successful publisher from Lucerne, looking for an author to win the newly set up Goethe literary prize, the town is swept up in the chaotic power plays that inevitably ensue. 

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Mayhem & Death by Helen McClory review – soul expanding terror

“Terror and horror are so far opposite, that the first expands the soul, and awakens the faculties to a high degree of life; the other contracts, freezes and nearly annihilates them […] and where lies the great difference between horror and terror but in the uncertainty and obscurity, that accompany the first, respecting the dreaded evil?”

Ann Radcliffe wrote these words in her essay On The Supernatural In Poetry, published posthumously in 1826. She then goes on to clarify:

“Obscurity leaves something for the imagination to exaggerate; confusion, by blurring one image into another, leaves only a chaos in which the mind can find nothing to be magnificent, nothing to nourish its fears or doubts, or to act upon in any way.”

For Radcliffe, this blurring of horror means that it can never teach or improve the recipient of that horror, only “freeze and nearly annihilate them”. Horror becomes for her a denial of and turning away from the sublime. Terror, on the other hand, is the effect of staring clearly into the glare of the sublime, of suffering through an experience that “expands” us and fundamentally changes how we live.

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The Last to See Me by M. Dressler review

Anyone who loves a good ghost story will tell you that we are haunted by the past. But what if the past sought to reach out, to make itself heard, to remind us that it – that those who populated that space – were as real and vibrant as you and I are now? 

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