I bought this book on the strength of two prior acquaintances with Mr. Everington’s work. The first was his novella The Shelter, which I read and reviewed last year. The second was his late night reading at FCon last year, where he read part of the story ‘The Man Dogs Hated’ from this collection. I so enjoyed the reading that I bought a copy of the collection in the room.
Having finally gotten around to finishing it, I can state that it is, so far, my short story collection of 2016.
The prologue of Rich Hawkins’ The Last Soldier is a harsh statement of intent about the world that his protagonists exist in. I had thought that the book’s predecessor, The Last Outpost was bleak but the opening strike of The Last Soldier hits you like an emotional sucker punch that leaves you bruised and reeling. That much is made abundantly clear within the first few pages of reading as the survivors of The Last Plague are faced with the nightmarish reality and stark choices of being a species on the brink of extinction. After reading the introduction I just sat staring at my Kindle in an attempt to process what I had read. I think a far more accurate description would probably have to be “stunned” to be honest.
In my last review for Ginger Nuts of Horror, I compared horror fiction to being like like a tree where different stylistic branches and roots all feed into the central trunk of the horror genre. Where James Everington's Trying to be so Quiet is a perfect example of quiet horror, J.R. Park's Upon Waking is a blood soaked extreme horror novel, you couldn't find a more disparate pair of books if you tried, and yet they are linked in many ways to the parental trunk of the horror tree.....
Tales from the Flip-Side: The Adventures of Big Daddy Cool and the Bombshell Kittens Written by John Pyka, narrated by J. Scott Bennett
Honestly, I’ve never struggled more with a review.
See, here’s the thing - for me, there were a lot of flaws in the writing. For example, there was an opening scene where an entire extended cast of characters is introduced, complete with exposition, backstory, and digressions, such that by the end of it I honestly couldn’t remember who all these people were, what room they were in, or why. Similarly, the narrative voice for the entire first section of the story is prone to narrative ticks of repetition and digression - you never meet a new character without an immediate digression containing a physical description, explaining how they first met, and their current relationship, and these digressions are often lengthy, again leading to frequent confusion for me about the main narrative. This was clearly intentional, and to add to the confusion, sometimes it worked well---
KIT POWER REVIEWS ADAM NEVILL'S FOUND FOOTAGE HORROR NOVEL
Having recently picked up (and been thoroughly traumatised by) No One Gets Out Alive, I was eager to jump into Adam Nevill’s back catalogue to see what other dark delights were in store. I’ll confess to a touch of concern, too - after all, NOGOA won the British Fantasy Award for horror novel of the year. Did that mean it represented a career high - a leap of quality over the past? Would the back catalogue feel, by comparison, unformed, less strong, somehow unsatisfying?
I should have known better.
When people ask me "What makes for a horror story?" I often reply that horror is like a tree, whose roots and branches provide a safe home to many different creatures. It can be home to the extreme pulp horror of say James Herbert or it can be home to the a quieter and more subtle version of horror, such as that found in this excellent novella from James Everington.
Trying to be So Quiet sits proudly on the quiet horror branch, it is a subtle ghost story that invokes a deep sense of dread by means of an evocative writing style and clever imagery, and a wonderful sense of pacing....
My previous experiences of Mark Morris are via his Doctor Who novel Deep Blue, and his exceptional novella Albion Fay, which was one of the best stories I read in 2015. I picked up The Wolves of London at Fcon that year, and true to form have just finished it.
And blimey, what a piece of work this novel is....
The tagline on the cover of John C. Foster’s Mister White states “Don’t speak his name.” After reading this fantastically taut and brutal slice of writing I can but heartily agree with that statement and say that if you do, well good luck, you are going to most definitely need it! This isn’t my first encounter with Foster’s creation. That joy was reserved for the original short story as it appeared in another Grey Matter Press’ publication, the anthology Dark Visions Two. This novel builds on that story’s promise and delivers a superb melding of spy thriller and occult horror that crackles with tension and terror.
Set in the covert and shadowy world of espionage, the plot tracks a clandestine operative called Lewis who has the misfortune to utter the words “Who is Mister White?” after viewing a particularly harrowing interrogation clip. What follows is a particularly vicious game of cat and mouse as Lewis and his estranged family attempt to flee the unrelenting and mysterious force that is known as Mister White.
From the word go John C Foster creates a claustrophobic and menacing mood that seamlessly echoes the tension and grit of its twin genre roots. There is a slow burning sense of dread and inevitability to the proceedings as Mister White relentlessly hunts his prey to ground. You just intrinsically know from the first encounter that this is going to be very rough ride for all involved, especially when you are dealing with such a malevolent spirit on your tail.
Foster never really reveals what Mister White is and the titular character is left as a vaguely defined figure that initially crawls and skulks around in the shadows. Little hints and clues are dropped along the way that point towards Mister White as a force that should be leashed and contained but the ambiguity of his origins is more than compensated for by the cold, hard and brutal nature of his intent. Speak his name and Mister White will find you and make you eat your words.
Suffice to say that if you are the sort of person who enjoys “ripping yarns” that leave you breathless with the sharpness and quality of the writing then get stuck into this absolute killer of a book. Top notch entertainment!
Purchase a copy here
george illet anderson