WITHIN THESE WALLS BY ANIA AHLBORN
Over the past year I have read some excellent haunted house stores, and I have read some rather terrible haunted house stories. I have also been thinking about what makes a haunted house / ghost story great. And I think I may have found the answer. It's not the ghosts or the house that really matter, it is the human protagonists. Because a great ghost story or haunted house story is about more than just the things that go bump in the night. The good ones are metaphors for the broken hearted and the downright right broken. Just look at The Shining, or even two of the best haunted house novels out in the last six months, Adam Nevill's No one Gets Out Alive and Willie Meiklle's Tormentor. All of them are more about the journey that our broken protagonists take than any of the many things that go bump in the night.
Slave Stories: Scenes From The Slave State An Anthology, Edited By: Chris Kelso
I was asked to read this anthology for possible review and was subsequently sent a PDF copy by the editor, Chris Kelso. What follows is my appraisal of this book...
First off - what is the Slave State? Before reading this collection of diverse stories (and poems and selections of artwork), I was as much in the dark as anyone. After reading, I'm not sure I'm any the wiser...
I don't mean that in a detrimental way. What I mean is, the concept of the Slave State is very fluid, open to interpretation and, like many of the districts that reside within, this 'shared universe' can change at a moment's notice. Here is a quote from the introduction by its progenitor, Chris Kelso:
Troy Aaron Ratliff’s Do I Bother You at Night is an achingly slow-moving novel that brings you into the lives of some very interesting, likable characters, introduces some unusual events, and then freezes everything like a fly in amber for several hundred pages before the end. Everything about it is slow, from the buildup to the conflict to the dissolution of its main character Sylvester Petersen, and by the time the conclusion finally rolls around, you’re left with a terribly ambivalent feeling about the entire novel.
Okay, although this isn't my first owned copy of Black Static (I'm a recent subscriber and have just renewed that subscription), it is my first completely read one (and I'm sorry and don't all scream at me at once and I have dipped in and out before...), so I feel I can give this issue a proper review.
Whilst I didn't read it all in order, I will format the review according to the structure of the magazine, so...
Some of you may remember the adventures of John Sinclair for their distant past. The series first began in 1973, featuring a dashing Scottish hero, who mixed James Bond heroics, with Hammer Horror devilry, it was a roaring success. The series has now returned in an all new series of adventures, that pits the dashing Sinclair against all manner of beasties and monsters.
Curse of the Undead is the first new story in the series and it sees our hero go up against a dastardly necromancer and his horde of the undead. Don't groan this isn't yet another zombie novel it is so much more.
The human race has faced extinction countless times in fiction, from nuclear holocausts, to invading aliens and even the common cold. If I was going to pick another method of destruction I wouldn’t in a million years have picked blind bat-like creatures that had been trapped safely away from mankind.
At first glance it may seem that Tim Lebbon’s latest novel is a hark back to the monster of the week, dime a dozen horror novels of the 1980s that almost caused the total extinction of the genre. Surely one of Britain’s best exponents of intelligent thoughtful horror, the man who brought us The Thief of Broken Toys, couldn’t have written a paint by the numbers monster novel?
Moonstruck is a direct and immediate sequel to the novel High Moor – to the point where I can't imagine this story working at all in a stand alone capacity. That said, go and read/listen to High Moor, because it's pretty awesome.
When I say direct, Moonstruck begins mere hours after the closing dramatic events of High Moor, and wastes no time at all in moving the story forward. High Moor was a deeply assured and well plotted action horror thriller, and Moonstruck takes that ball and runs with it. At the emotional core of this book are a love story and a revenge narrative, which put two not unsympathetic groups onto a brutal collision course.
SickER B*stards is the sequel to the very successful Sick Bastards, written by Matt Shaw. This book sees the return of Father, Mother, Sister and Brother and takes off where Sick ends. This series captured my attention from the first page of the first book and the sequel is even more captivating and intense than the first. This book epitomizes what horror is, to me at least. It makes you take a good hard look at yourself by putting yourself in the protagonist’s shoes, making you wonder how far you would go to survive. Could you resort to cannibalism? What about incest? If your world suddenly ended, would you give up and commit suicide? These are some very scary topics, and SickER slaps you in the face with questions like these on every page.