“Beguiling tale of a society which worship carnivorous houses”
There is nothing better than reviewing a book, with little in the way of expectations, and then realising you have stumbled upon a little gem. Andrew J Stone’s highly imaginative 140-page novella “All Hail the House Gods” led me along one of those rare literary paths and I was genuinely disappointed to reach the end of. I wrapped it up almost in one sitting, such was my tunnel vision into his strange world. As I approached the final pages, it looked likely to be heading towards an infuriating cliff-hanger, or potential sequel, however Andrew Stone concluded it beautifully with a final page which remained with me long after I finished. I will lay my cards on the table; I really loved “All Hail the House Gods” and highly recommend you give it a try.
If you read fifty novels in 2019 you are not going to find many with an odder story than this beguiling treat. It’s set in a world where houses are treated as gods over humans, the houses are also mobile, being able to move around and live on the other side of a bridge (‘Harmony Crossing’) from where the humans of the story are based. The people live in tents, existing in a never-ending cycle where they continually have to procreate, boosting a dwindling population. Once a woman gives birth, she keeps the baby for thirty days, before it is removed and sent to a new home (the ‘Offspring Oasis’), where all the children live together, almost as if they were orphans. However, the parents are permitted to see their children for thirty minutes once a month. After giving birth, if the woman is not pregnant again within a couple of months she (and her husband) are effective breaking the law and are reported and checked out and quizzed upon whether they are having enough sex.
“All Hail the House Gods” has a highly unsettling attitude towards sex. Why must couples procreate all the time? Why must they have children all the time? At regular intervals the society has a lottery of children’s names, in which the ‘winning’ name is sacrificed to the House Gods lurking over the bridge. This regular sacrifice is a great honour and the parents of the children eaten by the House Gods are expected to be very proud of their family’s great sacrifice. The core of the novella centres upon a clever concept: many of us would be okay when it is the child of another family being the chosen sacrifice, however, we might not feel the same when our kid’s name is called, no matter what the powers that be believe. So, there is a quiet rebellion in the air.
Worshipping mobile-houses which are living entities is a bizarre one, but Andrew Stone brings the idea to live startingly well in a story that rarely wastes a word, and also drip feeds how the current situation came to pass. I was fascinated by the occasional sneaky reference to the House God War of fine-hundred years earlier and how the sacrifice of children became a way of negotiating a partial truce between mankind and house. Then further revelations that there are different generations of houses, some of which might not actually eat people! There was just so much going on in this wonderfully crafted story.
Back to sex… Andrew Stone uses his own vocabulary for this sort of stuff, for instance, the penis is referred to as the ‘plank’ and it is against the law not to have sex at least twice a day (as dictated by the ‘Coupling Caucus’). Soups with strong aphrodisiacs are common-place to ensure the males are continually rising to the occasion! Children are taught from a very young age to experiment with sex as much as possible. Pre-pubescent children are told to try to practice this, even if they are too young to ejaculate or have no emotional attachment to the opposite sex. There is one powerful, but excruciating scene, when a father quizzes his son on what he has/hasn’t done in the bedroom department, when he is obviously very uncomfortable and not at all ready.
The novella opens with Katie and Kurt about to hand over their latest child, Kurt Jr, to the ‘Collector’ to join his elder siblings Haley, Jude, Mitch, Ruthie and Paul in the ‘Offspring Oasis’ where sadly their children do not recognise them particularly well. Why would they when they only see them for thirty minutes per month? Interestingly, and cleverly, the story is told in the first person by Kurt who for the most part is happy to go along with the flow of things and follow the lead of his wife. As most people are, until one of their own children are sacrificed to the House Gods. In actual fact, Kurt gives us a hint of where the story is heading in the opening sentence: “Katie wasn’t always an anarchist. Or rather, as she likes to put it, a political activist.”
“All Hail the House Gods” was a clever, original, curious and moving read which I urge you to check out. I have never come across this author before but will certainly be investigating his other fiction. It is an outstanding example of how that in fiction sometimes ‘less can be more’. Other writers may have spent a hundred pages laying the ground strokes in their world-building in a story such as this, whereas Andrew Stone does it cleverly with the minimal of effort. A truly excellent novella.
A joy-ride of a read, Stone has created a compelling morality tale that's moral lies somewhere in tomorrow's déjà vu. Funny, sad, stunning in its imaginative realization, Andrew J. Stone's new novel is as topical, timely, and telling as a Freudian slip." —Laura Lee Bahr, author of Haunt and Angel Meat
"Andrew Stone writes like a laser beam shot out of a unicorn horn. His books will alter your brain in the best possible way. If an LSD Bible had babies with a hand grenade poetry collection, you'd get what Stone can do. He's dazzling." —Brian Allen Carr, author of Sip and Motherfucking Sharks
Long live the House Gods! Author Andrew J. Stone (The Mortuary Monster) envisions a unique dystopia where harmony and happiness means feeding our children to sentient, human-eating houses. Can the House Gods be defeated? One family is about to find out . .
Jonathan Janz himself said that the book explores the exploitation of innocence, and the evils surrounding this. This is exactly what I got from this book. The Sorrows is a somewhat harrowing and frightful journey exploring this exploitation from many viewpoints. We have several separate tales, all intertwining and weaving in and out of each other, culminating in a fantastic last quarter of the book.
I love a good haunted house tale, the old creepy buildings with hidden doors and basements you wouldn’t dare enter. The big castle in the middle of nowhere, surrounding by nothing but forest and a spooky cemetery. It’s perfect. To me, this book was perfect (bar the “” that appeared to be unfinished, and a few sentences that seemed to be missing – we can overlook this though as this is an ARC courtesy of FlameTree Press).
The characters were a*holes in some respects, apart from Ben and Claire (who made it yay), but to me, this made it all the more exciting. I love the bad guy, the horrid, annoying, full of himself/herself character. You can love to hate on them throughout the book, a part of you knowing and looking forward to them getting their comeuppance at the end; and Boy did Lee Stanley get his in the end. I was actually quite shocked by that. I totally loved it though and it was thoroughly deserved.
All the characters’ storylines played out roles in either the salvation or the exploitation of an innocent. Lee Stanley, a big name horror director and total moron. He has no conscience about using women, young women, who want to break into the industry, happily disposing of them when he sees fit. Richard Blackwood, exploiting a child (or so he thinks) to make himself a success in music. Eddie Blaze, a Hollywood composer with a dark secret. And Ryan, a pilot with a nasty side, using Ben’s ex wife just to get to her teenage daughter.
I loved, and really enjoyed reading how all the different elements came together. This is one of those books too, where it works to have intermittent chapters where we are reading about past events at Castle Blackwood through a journal. Sometimes I feel flitting between past and present, as well as several character arcs can be confusing. But here, it worked very well. I was dragged into the story from early on, becoming emotionally attached to the characters and couldn’t wait to see where this went. I wasn’t disappointed.
I highly recommend this book, I didn’t realise it was actually a re-release of Jonathan Janz’s first novel. So for a debut, this is great.
An overwhelming 5/5
Lesley-Ann (Housewife of Horror)
Bizarre mix of autobiography and fantasy horror with a 1980s Swedish setting
“I Always Find You” is the sixth novel, to arrive in translation, from Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist who made an international splash with “Let The Right One In” back in 2007. Ajvide has written some impressive works since that startling debut, but none as whacky as this latest offering. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it tremendously, but it was very Swedish, by that I mean a lot of the story revolves around Stockholm and politics in the early 1980s and I’m not sure how well it will be understood and appreciated by non-Scandinavian audiences. My wife is Swedish, and I’ve visited the country many times, so I probably picked up on more of the cultural nuances than most.
Also, if you don’t know who Olof Palme is, I suggest you look him up on Wikipedia before reading. He was the Swedish Prime Minister who was assassinated in 1986 with the murderer never being caught and nobody was ever charged. The plot of “I Always Find You” makes numerous mentions to Palme, when the central character John Ajvide Lindqvist, arrives in Stockholm and votes for Palme’s Swedish Democratic Party, the first time he is eligible to vote. Later in the novel this plays a peculiar part of the story which may well split the critics. I’m not a Swede, and I found it strange, so I wonder how this bizarre turn of events played with a Swedish audience? Afterall, the murder of Palme was never solved and remains one of the darkest days in Swedish history so it’s odd that it turns up in a horror novel. However, plenty of novelists have tackled the JFK assassination, so I suppose ultimately this is no different and a natural equivalent for a Swedish author.
“I Always Find You” must rank as one of the strangest ‘autobiographies’ of the year. Sort of. On one level it tells the story of a young man John Ajvide Lindqvist trying to become a successful magician in Stockholm, he has few friends and struggles for money. He also enjoys shop-lifting and, most of the time, is pretty good at it. He also loves Depeche Mode. The author Lindqvist is writing about himself, he does not even try to disguise it, at one-point notes that he is still years away from writing his international bestseller “Let The Right One In” and makes other refences to the books he has yet to write. So, the narrative is obviously a strange one, but I enjoyed the oddness of it.
This is certainly off-the-wall and compelling stuff. If you had randomly bought this novel from a book-shop you may well become disorientated and it is probably best enjoyed by existing fans of the author who know, for example, in his youth he really was a talented magician. However, I loved the lonely voice of the teenage Lindqvist who lives in a dilapidated apartment block which seems full of weirdos, odd goings on, a random telephone caller who he often chats to asking for a guy he has never heard of, and whom has a failed brief relationship with a local student. There are also flashbacks to when he was a boy concerning a disappeared child, which are interpreted as the author’s early attempt at writing.
I enjoyed this autobiographical element to “I Always Find You” more that the supernatural or fantasy part which becomes more prominent in the second half, depending on how you interpret the goings on. I’m presuming the author is experimenting with mixing fact and fiction, perhaps even suggesting magical realism in the strange turn of events the novel takes. The supernatural is accepted with ease, little comment and no more than a shrug of disbelief is displayed. Lindqvist has no shower in his flat and has to use the communal facilities which is beside the laundry room and is constantly in use. Why is the big question? Before long, his dirty clothes pile up and he struggles to book a slot on the machine to clean his stuff but soon a neighbour invites him to join their club. For the entry price of a drop of blood….
John Ajvide is then encouraged to dip his bleeding hand into the bathtub and the strange stuff begins fairly quickly. Considering that until this point the novel had been written from the point of view of a young man trying to eek a living as a magician the plot shift was pretty dramatic. I’m not entirely convinced it was a success, but the author has certainly come up with something different and pretty unique. Again, it’s bound to elicit a lot of differing opinions, so make up your own mind.
You may ask yourself how often do horror authors infiltrate themselves as characters into their novels? We were wracking our brains about this at the Ginger Nuts of Horror and we think the answer is: VERY rarely…. The obvious example is a “Stephen King” character in the “Dark Tower” series, others include Brett Easton Ellis inserting himself in “Lunar Park” and although it’s not strictly horror “The Dice Man” by Luke Rhinehart, starring Rhinehart is another fine example. Do let us know if you can think of any others.
If would be easy to dismiss “I Will Find You” as an exercise in self-indulgence, however, I found it both entertaining and a return to form for Lindqvist who has gone off the boil in recent times with a couple of dull offerings; both “Harbour” (2010) and “I Am Behind You” (2017) missed the mark for me. Although it does not reach the heights of my favourite work, the stunning “Little Star” (2011) “I Will Find You” is a fine novel which must rank amongst the peculiar reads of 2018.
I ALWAYS FIND YOU BY JOHN AJVIDE LINDQVIST
I was a part of the first Splatterpunk charity anthology, Splatterpunk Fighting Back. I was excited when I heard they planned a follow-up and the excitement grew as I started to see the names of those involved. I also want to call out the fact that this is a charity anthology, as was the first one. All proceeds going to Macmillan Cancer Support in the U.K. A stellar outfit that provide trained specialist nursing support to cancer patients in the United Kingdom.
Also just like the first one, this was edited by Jack Bantry and Kit Power. A pair of great writers in their own and solid blokes all around.
Before you open the book, behold the glorious and beautiful cover art by Chris Enterline. I mean, LOOK AT IT! Savor it ywith your eyes a few minutes...there, now you can go on...
We open with an introduction from Glenn Rolfe, a writer himself, who is no stranger to extreme horror. His lead in is a pitch perfect pep rally for the ensuing festivities.
Now let's get to the stories...
The Seacretor by Ryan Harding. A trio of obnoxious young adults is shipwrecked on an uncharted island with no water and a weird tree...that's all I'm giving you other than if you even know a sliver of what Harding is capable of in grossness, you're not ready for this...
Garrote by Lydian Faust. A violent killer finds the tables turned in a very unique and grotesque way.
Junkyard Shift by Ryan C. Thomas. A pair of young men do dirty work for a shady outfit. Seedy and gritty and grosser than you could imagine.
Cougars by the Sisters of Slaughter. A group of horny fellows descend on a brothel that caters to specific tastes, and also offers a lesson in semantics.
Guinea Pig Blues by Chad Lutzke. If all you know of Lutzke is his heartfelt and dark novellas then you're in for a rare treat. The dude can get gross. This tale of experimentation and reaquaintance is not for the faint.
Blood On The Walls by Saul Bailey. A man discovers a dark destiny cinched in decades of ritual and sex magick.
Chum by Nathan Robinson. A man is the butt of a vicious revenge at the hands of fisherman. The less you know going in the better.
The Bearded Woman by Alessandro Manzetti. A marriage in struggle is the fuse that ignites this powder keg of a story set in a very strange circus.
Finger Paint by Robert Essig. A tragic young man + bullies+ supernatural public restroom= a weirdly sad story that echoes.
Diamond in The Rough by JR Park. A man on the run tries to track down the one night stand that stole from him, a scenario that quickly goes off the rails.
Virtue of Stagnant Water by Monica O'Rourke. A woman questions other survivors of a notorious serial killer...best read on an empty stomach.
These stories gathered here are all extreme and vicious. If offensiveness is pleasure then they aim to please.
Splatterpunk Forever is available from Splatterpunk Press as well as Amazon.
From the Splatterpunk Award-winning editors of Splatterpunk Fighting Back comes a brand new anthology. Marital dysfunction explodes into violence in a circus sideshow from hell... Three American tourists get more than they bargained for when they visit a very special Mexican brothel... When you work for the cartels, 'trash disposal' has a whole new meaning... Splatterpunk Forever brings you 11 all-new tales of extreme horror, with an introduction by Glenn Rolfe.
If you’re a fan of trash and exploitation films from the 1960s and 1970s period then “Blood Sucking Freak” is an absolute treasure-trove of delights, if you’re not, you have no idea what you’ve let yourself in for! Whether this book tickles your fancy or not, you have to give author John Szpunar his dues, he spent TWENTY YEARS writing and researching this baby. So, to call his biography of obscure cult film-maker Joel M Reed a ‘labour of love’ would be a huge understatement, it is much more than that. It is an exceptionally knowledgeable and nostalgic love-letter to the bygone age of cheap, fast and one-take film making.
I loved so many things about “The Life and Films of the Incredible Joel M Reed” I hardly know where to begin, from the cheap picture reproductions to the voices of both Szounar and Reed himself. First up, who is this book aimed at? Its potential audience will predominately be old-time fans of trash cinema, if you’re a beginner in this area there are probably better books out there to get you knee deep in filth. I loved the fact that Szpunar does not molly-coddle his audience by explaining who every one of the hundreds of bit-players mentioned in this book are. If you do not already know who John Waters or Hershell Gordon Lewis are, you are probably reading the wrong book. It’s very proudly aimed at fans of sleaze and, quite rightly, makes no apology for it.
The chunky 420-page paperback is mainly presented in interview form and because of that is very easy to read. Names of films are also in bold text making it very easy to scan for film names or other points of note. The interviews are mainly between Szpunar and Joel Reed, however, there are many others thrown into the mix, including Lloyd Kaufman, founder of Troma. Szpunar first interviewed Reed in the late 1990s and they developed a friendship of sorts and periodically met up when Szpunar was visiting New York. The interviews continued, on and off, for the next twenty years. Most were recorded on old fashioned c90 cassettes and if you remember those you’re showing your age! Those cassettes also give the book an extra level of nostalgia, and old-fashioned research techniques such as using the telephone book to cold-call contemporaries of Joel Reed.
Why did it take twenty years to write this amazing book? In a round-about way Szpunar does answer this question. In the simplest of terms ‘life’ got in the way. Although the book is most definitely about Joel Reed and all his crazy stories the voice of John Szpunar is key to the success to “Blood Sucking Freak”. Many of the chapters give some background into what was going on in his life at such and such a time, this was very endearing and worked perfectly in what was such a personal project and journey. To call Szpunar an ‘expert’ on the subject would be an understatement. He knew everything about the guy, and because of this his interview technique was perfect and he just allowed Joel Reed to do his thing with clever leading questions.
If you know anything about trash cinema the reason why the book is called “Blood Sucking Freak” is an easy question to answer. If you don’t know the answer then perhaps this book is not for you. Joel Reed is most famous for directing the cult and very violent horror film “Blood Sucking Freaks” which is still trumped as one of the grossest and most bloody horror films ever made. In all honesty I’m not sure how it stands up against the torture porn of the last ten years, but I certainly recall its infamous reputation way back in the 1980s when these films were incredibly hard to find, or illegal, in the UK. Although this is by far Reed’s most famous film, it does not dominate the book, it takes a good 200 pages to be looked at in any kind of detail. It is, however, worth the wait and very funny when it comes up for discussion. Lloyd Kaufman (Troma) explains how they deliberately send out the incorrect, uncut, versions into the cinemas as the cut version was so short it was barely an hour long. At its peak Troma had about eighty prints showing in midnight cinemas or other horror double features in the early 1980s. It is very similar to Hershell Gordon Lewis’s earlier “Wizard of Gore”, however, Reed claims never to have heard of Lewis until after “Blood Sucking Freaks” was already out.
Although Reed made a couple of other horror films, and a lot of softcore porn, he will always be remembered for “Blood Sucking Freaks”, which these days seems to be remembered for its misogyny as much as its violence, which is also covered in the interviews. The level of quirky detail of the interviews on how the films were made was truly fascinating, many were made in a few weeks, and multiple scenes were filmed in one take. Quite often Reed used porn-stars as actors or whoever turned up on set, often friends of friends, or guys who owed him a favour. If they could act it was a bonus!
Towards the end of the book Szpunar ‘rediscovers’ an old cassette from years earlier and we ger a terrific interview with Don Wallace who had a small part in Reed’s final film “Night of the Zombies”. On numerous occasions I found myself going to my phone and looking up various names being dropped, this was not a chore in the slightest, and I found this only added to the overall experience of the book. Because of the time scale of the project many of the characters interviewed in the 1990s had passed away by the time the book was eventually released. Szpunar’s major regret was his failure to interview a writer called Bill Landis who died in 2008, who Joel Reed had some sort of dispute with, and wrote some unpleasant stuff about Reed in his influential fanzine “Sleazoid Express” which helped bring exploitation films to a slightly more mainstream audience.
Over its 420 pages, “Blood Sucking Freak” is loaded with black and white stills, film posters, topless women and clippings, giving the book a truly authentic feel and recreation of both the 1960s and 1970s and the cut and paste fanzines of yesteryear. But above all it shows what a great character Joel M Reed is, you may well think his films are crap, but nobody could ever say he was dull. Szpunar concentrates on the films, but there is some terrific name-dropping, tall tales and even some exploration into the techniques used in Reed’s film-making.
In the background there is an overwhelming sense of loss. Both John Szpunar and Joel Reed both lament the disappearance of New York of old, the days of porn cinemas, sleaze and the days of pre-AIDS. Maybe it really was ‘the good old days’, but it that period cinema truly did reach new heights in all areas from westerns, new wave, horror and even trash got slightly classier. One thing is for sure, if you’ve seen “Blood Sucking Freaks” you’re never likely to forget it and this book really captures the spirit of a period in cinema we are never likely to see again.
Joel M Reed hasn’t directed a film since 1983 but states he has written a script for “Blood Sucking Freaks 2”, he’s now in his mid-eighties but is still going strong, so track him down and make him an offer!
I loved this book, but if you’re new to this kind of trash cinema I would recommend picking up a copy of Michael Weldon’s “Psychotronic Film Guide” (or video guide) as a better introduction. It is bound to feature Joel M Reed as his trash masterpiece “Blood Sucking Freaks” remains a must-see film for anyone serious about obscure and cult cinema. But if you want to explore one of the true characters of cult cinema then John Szpunar’s “Blood Sucking Freak: the Life and Films of the Incredible Joel M Reed” truly brings his crazy story to life. Even if you don’t know much about him you’ll warm to him in no time at all.
Never forget it took him TWENTY YEARS to write. Respect John, true respect.
Angels of the Silences is a novella about youth and mortality. The story stars Emily, our narrator, and Biff, her best friend. They are two typical teenage girls - part of the local goth/mosher subculture (why, yes, now you mention it, I am a million years old, thanks for noticing), they live a life that revolves around waiting for 6th form college classes to end so they can hang out with their gang of mates, drink, listen to loud music, and hopefully get off with pretty boys.
They are also, as we learn on page one, dead.
As hooks go, it’s a pretty inventive one, and the way Bestwick weaves the revelations of what that means into the unfolding narrative in the first quarter of the book is skillful and impressive. What I particularly enjoyed was how much he chose to leave unexplained - there’s enough metaphysics to get your teeth into, and for the young women in the story to respond to and learn to deal with, that the narrative feels compelling and thought through, but there are also enough unexplained details to allow the reader some autonomy when it comes to interpretation.
The narrative itself is fun and well-paced - this is a novella that is very economically written, which is a huge strength - but for me, the stand out elements were the characters, and the voice. There’s a very fine line to be trod with writing teenagers in general, and striking the balance between honest portrayal and cliche is a real challenge. Bestwick negotiates this with great skill and care, producing two leads that are compelling, honest, and well rounded. The interactions between Emily and Biff are the emotional core of the story, and Bestwick draws a brilliantly realised portrait of teenage friendship that rings with authenticity.
The book is also a reflection on mortality, both in absolute terms and also in the transition from childhood to adulthood, and the twilight zone between the two states that teenage life represents. Seeing Emily coming to terms with the consequences of not ageing while her peers do is poignant, and the tensions that, and the mortality of others, brings to the friendship between the two young women gives the tale considerable emotional depth, as well as leading to a lovely coda following the main narrative climax.
Angels of the Silences is a cracking novella, with a strong narrative voice, compelling, believable characters, and a dark edge that sits alongside some brilliantly observed dialogue and humour. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
PS - If you’re already a fan of Simon Bestwicks work, he’s recently started a Patreon, with perk including access to his serial publication of his new novel as it’s written. For more details, including free access to the opening chapter, do check out https://www.patreon.com/user?u=2887829
ABOUT ANGELS OF THE SILENCES BY SIMON BESTWICK
Emily and Biff are seventeen and best friends. They have been dead for nine months...
I Love the writing, both the style and content, from John F. Leonard, I would even go as far as to say he is my favourite author now. I find his work fresh and inspiring; it’s always full of surprises. A Plague of Pages is no different; it’s a wonderfully creepy read.
“Ah, the perils of writing ...it can bring out the worst in you.
Anthony's world has fallen apart. The good times have gone, the things he treasures have been torn away. Life in tatters, he needs to press the reset button and begin again. And that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
He’s going to pursue his dream of becoming a writer.
Trouble is, some dreams turn into nightmares.”
Anthony Eames, a down on his luck writer with a bucket load of baggage. His marriage is over, thanks to his best friend having an affair with his wife for the entirety of their nuptials, and then the injustice of having to move into Hanfield Court, a ‘rat-trap’ block of apartments as he refers to it early on. He ignores all the usual chaos of uprooting your life and moving home, and he leaves the boxes stacked and unpacked. Instead he decides to sit down at his much loved (hated by his ex-wife) Art-Deco table, and he begins to write, exchanging computer for paper, with his dearly departed father’s pen. Unbeknown to him, this is by far no ordinary pen.
This pen contains Scaethian ink.
The stories that Anthony write’s, in a somewhat fugue state, come to life, in an unnatural sense of the word. His prose of tragedy and plague, they occur, just has he has written. He doesn’t know why or how at first. He doesn’t even believe it to be true. It can’t be real, can it?
He tests it, his theory of the pen making the written word come to life, by writing a little short story involving his overly nosey neighbour and her return from the dead. He get’s the surprise of his life when he enters her apartment across the hall.
A Plague of Pages forms part of the Scaethian mythos and the Dead Box archives. It is a fantastic read, a short novella with an abundance of character and action. The plague of flies was an element to it I particularly enjoyed reading – I would love to see this as a stand-alone story (Can I write it John? Please). The premise of these unknown super flies swarming us, I relish this kind of thing being a sucker for a creature feature and all.
I feel of course that I have given enough spoilers away now, so I will keep quiet in that respect. I would hate to totally ruin the story for those yet too read this. I just can’t help myself though when it comes to talking about books, especially those which I adore. A Plague of Pages has earnt a well-deserved FIVE STARS from me.
The writing is, as always from John, engaging, clever and original. The characterisation has both depth and clarity, and the pacing of the story is very well planned and thought out. It’s a clever story with an excellent delivery. Anthony Eames is an intense character, a good guy turned bad by a life throwing him the proverbial lemons, not to mention the corruptive influence of the pen. His fate is sealed when he ingests the pens ink in a plot to escape justice. I don’t believe he was ever malicious enough to enjoy what he was doing, or indeed that he ever really had sinister intentions with regards to the pen. I feel like the character was in a bad place mentally and dealing with some tough personal issues, mixed with that, the allure of demonic energy was too much to for Antony to resist. I feel the overwhelming power of the pen had completely took over Anthony’s sense of self by the end.
I have previously read, to my pleasure, Bad Pennies and Doggem from John. F Leonard. Both part of the Dead Box archives and Scaethian mythos. I have a few more of these lined up to read too - thank you Kindle Unlimited for providing me with so much reading material. Since I am wholly enjoying this series of books, I am confident that I will love what’s to come. Roll on John’s next entry too, I look forward to reading it.
A PLAGUE OF PAGES BY JOHN F LEONARD
A Plague of Pages is an old school horror story, part of a series of sinister tales from the Dead Boxes Archive.
Some objects are inherently bad. No rhyme or reason, they’re just imbued with something that defines them as wrong. Inanimate and yet seething with dark, horrible energy. Bad to the bone baby. Bad to the bone.
Dead Boxes definitely fall into that category. Easy to miss. They don’t jump out at you. Not right away.
If you look a little closer, you’ll see something unique. You could have one and not know it.
Approach with caution.
They hold miracle and mystery. Horror and salvation.
None are the same. Except in one regard.
You don’t need one. You might think you do, but you really don’t.
A Horror Story
From the Dead Boxes Archive.
Master short story author Lucy A. Snyder is back with a dozen chilling, thought-provoking tales of Lovecraftian horror, dark science fiction, and weird fantasy. Her previous two collections received Bram Stoker Awards and this one offers the same high-caliber, trope-twisting prose. Snyder effortlessly creates memorable monsters, richly imagined worlds and diverse, unforgettable characters.
Open this book and you'll find a garden of stories as dark and heady as black roses that will delight fans of complex, intelligent speculative fiction.
The Garden of Eldrich Delights is my first exposure to Lucy A. Snyder’s writing. This collection showcases Lucy’s ability to write splendidly across a variety of genres. Many of the stories have a dark or heart-wrenching feel to them, and I love that. Some of the stories are action-packed adventures where characters are fighting to survive in a violent or a dystopian world. Others are quieter stories but left me thinking about human nature in the intricacies of lives and worlds mixed together.
As is becoming my habit with collections of stories, I’ll summarize them all. All twelve stories are well-written stories spun with intellect and exploration of worlds or situations beyond our own. The ones that resonated most with me were That Which Does Not Kill You, Sunset on Mott Island and The Warlady’s Daughter.
The first story, “That Which Does Not Kill You,” is a dark story about pain and loss felt at the end of a relationship where the other person ends it for you. But instead of detailing how the loss feels like one’s heart has been figuratively ripped from the chest, the character is experiencing heartache as though the heart has literally been ripped from the chest and the character must repair herself - and do so emotionally and physically. A great story to open up the collection.
So I finish the first story and dive into the next one, a Lovecraftian one called “Sunset on Mott Island,” and was so very moved by it. In this story the main character’s mother is dying of cancer. In addition to the grief of watching a parent die, she is faced with another challenge - she’s been having nightmares of a massive tsunami that will wipe out mankind as we know it now and it may be a real prophecy. Without giving much away, the ending gave me chills and made me sad, and I like that in an ending.
In “The Gentleman Caller,” Janie is a young woman who works as Lady Rayne on a sex fantasy phone line. She receives a beautiful jade necklace from one of her callers who is more interested in having actual conversations instead of typical sex talk. She soon learns the jade necklace is able to transport her into another person’s body. At first this seems like a great thing for Janie, as she is wheelchair bound and so I thought maybe she’d be able to experience life in ways she could not before. Unfortunately, the person who gave her the necklace has a specific purpose for her. Great ending that left me thinking about the effects of unintended consequences.
“Executive Functions” had a great premise but didn’t really move me in any way. The story is told from Bradley Pendleton’s point of view. This lewd, psychopathic businessman meets a gorgeous woman who starts working for his company. She is immune to his charms, and has an interesting way to put him in his place.
In “The Yellow Death,” Louise lives in a world where people were either eaten by or recruited as a vampire. These vampires can trick your mind into believing that you are looking at a normal person, but it would be the vampire. They can be detected only by very minute “glitches” in their appearance. Her fiance had been bitten and turned into a vampire, and Lucy’s depiction of his transformation was nice and chilling. Louise later falls in with a gang of other humans trying to survive in a world where you can’t trust anyone. When her sister walks into the Clubhouse to reunite with Louise, Louise’s life takes an unexpected turn. I like vampires and this was pretty neat.
“Santa Muerte” tells the story of a man named Kai who was tasked to be the getaway driver in case a drug deal turned sour. While he waits in the car, a car pulls up near him and dumps a young woman carelessly in the street. He approaches her, and hears a gunshot in the house and his buddies running to the car. He sweeps up the girl, Alice, and learns she is a witch who just may be able to make things right. Decent story, but just wasn’t for me.
“Dark of the Moon” is an action-packed story that follows a woman named Velocity who is paid handsomely to be an anonymous for-hire badass who does things like espionage for tech corps and other covert ops. Her job fixer. Felician, sets her up with a job where she must work with another badass. They’re both tasked to steal a box from the home of the man who owns the huge tech corporation by which all three of them have been affected by the company with malware in their brains that give them hallucinations and lapses of consciousness. This one is an action-packed thriller.
“Fraeternal” kind of confused me a bit, and I don’t want to go into a lot of detail on this one because I want the reader to sort through this one. It’s a pretty trippy story about fraeternal twins Billy and Lindy who are part of an experimental group in a study of shared memories and mental traits between twins. Pretty interesting and thought-provoking story, I just was confused by the story - which may be the intent.
“A Noble Endeavor” is a tale set on a sugar plantation in Barbados with a Master, his family and his slaves. Mariette was forced to serve Dr. Bronson, a demented scientist who lived up the hill from the plantation. Often, when slaves were sent to his laboratory, they either died or went mad. Mariette learns that he is inventing ways to eliminate people in the lower classes of society so that only the “well-bred” will survive, and has a sinister method to accomplish this using African slaves. Can Mariette stop him before it’s too late?
“Blossoms Blackened Like Dead Stars” is a beautiful story about a special army of people who are training on a warship to fight the spawn of Azathoth who are invading Earth. Beatrice had been studying to a scientist and working a fellowship at the International Lunar Research Station on the moon when she saw a spawn - and once you see once, you nearly always die. If you survive, then chances are you will end up in a coma or in a mental facility. Now she is a soldier and is given a certain “enhancement” that may give her power over the spawn. The spawns gave me the chills. I think this would make a good movie.
If you like the fantasy genre, you may really like “A Hero of Grünjord.” I’ve only read a few books that I would consider “fantasy.” It’s just not a genre that I ever got into. Even so, I enjoyed reading about the heroine named Vinca and her dragon Bhraxio as they battle the Outlander skyship threatening to attack her world. This story winds up being a perfect mix of action and drama as Vinca is later summoned to her old home and must face a family that turned their back on her. I really enjoyed it, even though I was skeptical that I would enjoy a fantasy story.
Another one of my favorites was “The Warlady’s Daughter.” This is another fantasy-based story, and it was inspiring to me. The story follows Elyria, a teenage girl who feels trapped in a future of being married off to a man of her uncle’s choice within the next few years. One day an army of women soldiers and women orcs ride into town, and Elyria learns that her biological mother is the leader of this army and is in a faraway land. The uncle who raised her is actually her father, and never told Elyria that one day her mother would send for her after the war. Now Elyria must train as a soldier and decide whether to come home or not. The story ended and left me wanting to read so much more.
I am very grateful for reading Garden of Eldrich Delight. It is much different from ghosts and serial killers and creepypasta stories that I enjoy so much. It gave me more appreciation for the fantasy genre, which is a genre I’m not at all familiar with. I like how her darker stories made me think about them long after I’d read them. Lucy could captivate a wide audience with this collection because of the variety of stories and the believable heros.