The Wurms Of Blearmouth by Steven Erikson. Book reviewComments Off
Reviewed by I O’Reilly
I was unremittingly ignorant of the characters of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach when I picked up this book, having heard people whisper about the awesomeness of the Malazan series but, as yet, not quite getting around to tackling it. It had been pegged in my literary imagination as one of those long, epic cycles of books that you could build a house out of and use the dust jackets for the wallpaper.
In short, you could say I was kind of daunted by the prospect.
THE WURMS OF BLEARMOUTH on the other hand, is entirely different. For one, it is only just over 120 pages. With that kind of brevity Erikson wastes no time in getting to action, as the very first scene introduces us to a mad necromancer busy attempting to assert his evil rule through the power of lyric verse, and torturing his own brother. Throw into the mix a rancid village full of the hopeless and helpless, and then the slightly sociopathic heroes Bauchelain, Broach and Emancipoor Reese and you can see that we have a tale full of murder and mayhem.
The story itself reads a little like Shakespeare-gone-TARANTINO, with a fully developed sense of glam and irony as Erikson pokes fun at his own creations.
There is a shipwreck amidst a storm (owing in part to the fact that unlucky Emancipoor Reese is the unluckiest soul ever to not-drown, as every boat he has ever sailed on has capsized), which brings to the shores of the horrible little spit of land called Spendrugle, our protagonists. Instead of defeating the evil necromancer Lord Fangatooth Claw the Render (yes, you did read that name right), the gentleman-rogue Bauchelain and his manservant Korbal Broach instead decide to have dinner with him.
There is also a Witch and a cursed statue, a tax-collector and an inn full of more ladies of negotiable virtue than you could shake, well, whatever it is you shake in those sorts of circumstances.
Yep you’ve got it, this is a farce. A bit like of comedy of errors, but the errors are all character flaws and outrageous characters. There are characters called Spilgit Purrble and Warmet Humble, Whuffine and Tiny. The prose oozes mud and depravity with a general ‘ick’ factor that makes you yearn for a fantasy with more elves and magic swords.
But that is the point with Erikson, isn’t it? He isn’t presenting here a story in a ‘classic’ fantasy world. Sure there is magic and tunics and blouses and swords, but I get the feeling that Erikson has stripped all of the shiny bits out of this fantasy world and is heading straight for the dark, horrible bits where all good tales are made. Most of the book is light in style with character dialogue that will have you laughing out loud, but at times Erikson delivers a line straight to the jugular:
“Faith was a claw hammer to pry loose the boards beneath the commonry’s feet, an executioner’s axe to lop off the heads of unbelievers, a flaring torch to set light to the kindling, crowding a thrashing fool bound to a stake.”
On the whole I do not think that this story is for everybody. If you like your heroes admirable and their thoughts noble then stay away! However, if you like stories that are knowingly having fun with their own genre, or you are just fascinated to learn more about the sorts of people that inhabit the world of the Malazan then you will find the WURMS OF BLEARMOUTH a singular treat.
The Kind Folk by Ramsey Campbell. Book reviewComments Off
Reviewed by Stewart Horn
Luke Arnold is a professional comedian and impressionist, with an almost superhuman ability to imitate anybody. But perhaps his greatest trick is pretending to be human, and he’s even fooled himself.
A beloved uncle dies, and while sorting through the uncle’s house, Luke finds a lot of strange clues that all point toward a magical and sinister past. His investigation, adventures and subsequent discoveries form the subject of this book.
This is not a typical modern horror novel – it’s more like a fairy tale: there is very little violence; hardly anybody dies, and most of the plot comprises a man wandering roundBritainand seeing disturbing things out of the corner of his eye. But that almost-glimpsed movement in the shadows and the sense of unease it can engender – these areCampbell’s favourite tools. He uses them to weave a subtle web of menace that gradually grows throughout the novel. He can make you look over your shoulder like no-one else, even when the monster is little more substantial than moonlight.
I’ve been reading Campbell’s fiction for a long time, but this is the first time I’ve done it with my reviewer’s hat on, paying attention to his style and technique. If anything, it’s more fun this way. There are descriptive passages here in which someone enters a room, or catches sight of something significant – Campbell gives a single phrase or a throw-away line that conveys not just what’s there, but what it feels like to be that character in that situation in a certain frame of mind. Physical descriptions are barely there at all unless absolutely vital to the scene. His dialogue is consistently convincing, his characters completely real, and while it’s not a laugh a minute, there is a lot of sly humour in there. It’s like a how to guide to writing, and not just writing horror. And he seems to do it with no effort at all – if this was a maths exam he’d lose marks for not showing the working.
The prose is pared down to the essentials, to the extent that if you miss a word or your eyes slide over a phrase, you’ve probably missed something important, so this is perhaps not a book for that 7am train journey when you’re not fully awake yet. It’s more for those cold winter nights when you’re alone in the house and want something substantial and satisfyingly creepy.
A Book of Horrors edited by Stephen Jones. Book reviewComments Off
Reviewed by Stewart Horn
I almost think it’s cheating. Other compilers ask for submissions and plough through a mountain of slush to scrape together enough good material to fill an anthology. Stephen Jones apparently has the contacts (and the budget) to simply call some of the world’s most accomplished and best known authors and have them send him stories. In fairness, Jones is rightly renowned for his previous work, including the splendid “Best New Horror” annual anthology, so he’s worked for a long time to get to this position.
The book contains thirteen new stories from masters of the genre, including Stephen King, Dennis Etchison, John Lindqvist, Ramsey Campbell, Lisa Tuttle – all thirteen are world class authors and they’ve all delivered the goods here.
There are updates on the Victorian ghost story, the gothic tale, American pulp and Blackwoodian weird, spliced among more contemporary horrors. There is humour, satire and deadly earnestness, and chilling prods at the banal domestic things most of us are really afraid of. There is quiet subtlety and there is gruesome nastiness. In short, it’s an anthology with no theme – the only thing the stories have in common is consistently high quality. It’s as if Stephen Jones approached the authors and said “Just give me something scary.”
A brilliant, properly frightening book, and a good indicator of what state the top end of the genre is in.
New Tim Lebbon collection from PS Publishing now available for pre-orderComments Off
Nothing as it Seems is a new collection by Tim Lebbon (with an Introduction by F. Paul Wilson) forthcoming from PS Publishing and now available for pre-order.
About the book:
Tim Lebbon’s short stories and novellas have won several major awards and been included in many Year’s Best anthologies, as well as The Best of Best New Horror and Century’s Best Horror. In this, his most accomplished collection to date, nothing is quite as it seems.
Mark Morris limited edition rights to PS PublishingComments Off
Mark is one of the best-known horror authors of the last twenty years. His previous work includes the bestselling Toady, Stitch, The Immaculate and Fiddleback, as well as tie-in novels and non-fiction books on horror and film. Here are his words about The Black:
“Kate Nolan is a successful magazine editor with a loving husband, James, and a five year old son, Max. Her life is wonderful, but one day she receives a phone call from James which changes everything. Clearly distressed, James tells Kate to meet him at midnight outside the beach café once owned by her long-dead grandmother in the seaside town of Seahaven, where they both grew up. A strange request, made even more sinister by the fact that in recent weeks Seahaven has become prey to a serial killer who is targeting the local children. Kate keeps the midnight appointment, but instead of finding her husband and son, she finds herself drawn into an ever-tightening web of past misdeeds and long-buried secrets. As hopes for her missing family fade, Kate becomes involved in a desperate race against time. Where are her husband and son? Have they become the latest victims of the serial killer, who calls himself Dominic and seems to know her intimately? And what has all this to do with Kate’s childhood terror of the impenetrable darkness known as ‘the black’?”
PS to release Ramsey Campbell mass market paperbacksComments Off
Later this summer, PS Publishing will release the first titles in a mass market paperback line under its sister imprint Drugstore Indian. They kick off with eight titles from Ramsey Campbell. Each one will be the definitive version . . . calling for some re-writing in some cases—director’s cuts, if you will, with that particular phrase being very appropriate in more than one case! The titles are as follows:
They will be priced at £6.99 each plus postage (£2.99 in the UK, £4.99 in the US and £7.99 everywhere else). Alternatively, you can buy four titles for £27.96 and just one postage charge or all eight titles for £49.99 plus just one postage charge.
For further information and ordering details see the forthcoming titles section of the PS website HERE
Solaris acquires mass market rights to Lavie Tidhar’s OsamaComments Off
Solaris has acquired world English mass market rights to Lavie Tidhar’s highly-praised and BSFA Award-nominated novel Osama. Lauded as one of the most significant genre books of the year, the mass market version of Osama will be released in October 2012.
The most exciting, daring and sensitive fictional engagement with the post-9/11 era, Osama is set in an alternate world without global terrorism. Joe, a private detective, is hired by a mysterious woman to find a man: the obscure author of pulp fiction novels featuring one Osama Bin Laden – Vigilante…
Joe’s quest to find the man takes him across the world, from the backwaters of Asia to the European Capitals of Paris and London, and as the mystery deepens around him there is one question he is trying hard not to ask: who is he, really, and how much of the books are fiction? Chased by unknown assailants, Joe’s identity slowly fragments as he discovers the shadowy world of the refugees, ghostly entities haunting the world in which he lives. Where do they come from? And what do they want? Joe knows how the story should end, but even he is not ready for the truths he’ll find in New York and, finally, on top a quiet hill above Kabul—nor for the choice he will at last have to make…
The critical reception of Osama has been nothing short of astonishing and it was nominated for the prestigious BSFA award last year. The hardback from PS Publishing was published in October last year.
Lavie Tidhar was in Dar-es-Salaam during the American embassy bombings in 1998, and stayed in the same hotel as the Al Qaeda operatives in Nairobi. Since then he and his now-wife have narrowly avoided both the 2005 London, King’s Cross and 2004 Sinai attacks—experiences that led to the creation of Osama.
Tidhar brilliantly delves into the modern global subconscious, mixing together film noir, non-fiction, alternative history and thrillers to create an unsettling yet utterly compelling portrayal of our times.
Shirley Jackson Awards nominees announcedComments Off
In recognition of the legacy of Shirley Jackson’s writing (which includes the classic The Haunting of Hill House), The Shirley Jackson Awards “recognise outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic”. The Awards are given for the best work published in the preceding calendar year, and the nominees for the 2011 Shirley Jackson Awards have now been announced.
Nominees include: two nominations for Reggie Oliver (Best Novel and Best Novella), three nominations for Stephen Jones‘ A Book of Horrors from Jo Fletcher Books (nominations for two of its stories in the Novella category, along with a nomination for Best Edited Anthology), and two nominations for PS Publishing titles in the Single-Author category.
The Awards will be presented on 15 July 2012 at Readercon 23, the Conference on Imaginative Literature, in Burlington, Massachusetts, US, hosted by Guests of Honour, Peter Straub and Caitlin R. Kiernan.
PS Publishing to offer Centipede Press titlesComments Off
PS Publishing have teamed up with Centipede Press to make available selected Centipede books at a fraction of their original published price. Plus, postage and packing charges will, of course, be lower for UK customers as they won’t need to be shipped from the US.
To start this venture off, they are offering Centipede’s Knowing Darkness, a sumptuous volume full of artwork inspired by the writing of Stephen King. This 448-page art book includes colour and black and white paintings and drawings that have directly or indirectly illustrated King’s writings over the last thirty-five years.
Artists include Michael Whelan, Ned Dameron, J.K. Potter, John Jude Pelancar, Stephen Gervais, and many others. The book features an introduction by Frank Darabont and text (written by King critic George Beahm) that looks back at 34 years of King in print providing a detailed look at the writer and his life, and supplemented with interviews with Michael Whelan, Bernie Wrightson, Drew Struzan, John Cayea, Dave Christiansen, and many others.
The book was originally published at £180 ($295) but PS are offering it for £95 (around $150) plus post & packing (£8.95 in the UK or £12.95 everywhere else). There are only 100 copies available.
Full details HERE
Gene Wolfe to receive award from The Chicago Literary Hall of FameComments Off
The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame will present SFF writer Gene Wolfe with the first Fuller Award on 17 March 2012, acknowledging an outstanding lifetime contribution to literature. Wolfe’s novels include The Book of the New Sun, Peace and The Fifth Head of Cerberus. More recently, his novel Home Fires was published by PS Publishing.
Neil Gaiman, Audrey Niffenegger and Peter Straub are just some of the authors set to pay tribute to him at the lavish event at a private estate outside Chicago. Full details HERE