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review 2018-04-03 11:13
After the End of the World
After the End of the World - Jonathan L. Howard

[I received a copy of this book through Netgalley.]

This novel picks up where the previous one left (if you haven’t read it yet, stop here), or roughly, after Emily Lovecraft and Daniel Carter, alogn with Detective Harrelson, have been stranded in the Unfolded world for a few months, slowly adjusting to their lives in Arkham-instead-of-Providence.

And it’s not easy, because even though the Unfolded world is fairly similar when it comes to daily life (and better, in some ways, as in when Emily realises she own a nice house here instead of renting a flat), in many other ways, it is tremendously different. For starters, World War II ended much sooner, when the Third Reich dropped an A-bomb on Moscow in 1941, obliterating its whole leadership; and the Reich is now one of the world’s superwpoers, having been accepted because, well, the Holocaust didn’t concerned Jews but Communists, and for some reason this was much more acceptable to the West who turned a blind eye and ha-hemmed in a corner while it happened. Which infuriates Dan and Emily just as much, a different kind of evil still being evil after all; also, the Nazis are welcome in the USA and racism much more prevalent, so the Unfolded world isn’t so peachy for Emily herself.

(On a side note, I wish we had seen more of that. I don’t enjoy racist slurs in the least, but in terms of ‘show, don’t tell’, it never felt like Emily was really ostracised, apart from a couple of instances when some Gestapo guy said ‘who’s that black down there’ or something to that extent. In turn, the ‘lessons in political correctness’ given at times didn’t have the impact they could’ve had.)

The world is definitely not right by our heroes’ standards, who want nothing more than bring back its Folded version, but have no clues where to start… until Emily finds out she has the Necronomicon in her safe, Henry Weston is at his shenanigans again, and Daniel gets hired to spy on a joint German-US project in Miskatonic University. Weird stuff ensues, veering into spy-thriller-weird more than HPL-weird at first, but no worries, the latter is never too far behind.

Although I was hesitant at first about the spy thriller part, probably because of its apparent simplistic aspects (US vs Communists or US vs Nazis, it’s kind of the same... also Nazis make easy enemies: Instant Evil! Just add water!), the way it was handled was all in all interesting, in part because, let’s be honest, it makes for contrived enemies… but it also makes for entertaining scenarii. In fact, it reminded me of the Call of Cthulhu/Adventure! Crossover RPG I had played a few years ago, as well as of Indiana Jones movies, and I soon found my bearings again in that kind of plot and setting. We get typical but useful ingredients: scientists working on a secret project infiltrated left and right by Gestapo, Abwehr and probably a few others (Daniel even manages to throw the CIA in all that, and it blends in perfectly); research influenced by esoterism; evil cultists who’re all the more evil because they treat sacrifice as if it was a mere bureaucratic matter; a secret research facility on a remote island in the Pacific Ocean; not exactly human beings; and this mix works fairly well here.

Another thing I liked was that the focus shifted slightly in this book from Dan to Emily. We already know by now of Dan’s ancestor and the abilities he’s inherited, and there was a solid risk of Emily remaining more of a sidekick (a badass one, but a sidekick nonetheless) when it came to the weird/non-Euclidian parts. Well, let’s just say that reading can indeed empower people. (I bet you can already tell where this is going.)

Conclusion: 4 stars, it was an enjoyable read in spite of the few peeves I had about it, and I breezed through it, and now I want the next instalment.

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review 2018-01-16 22:45
Family Legacies
Carter & Lovecraft - Jonathan L. Howard

The Early 20th Century writer HP Lovecraft has spawned a whole sub-genre of horror dedicated to his ideas, often called the Cthulhu Mythos or Lovecraftian horror. Not surprising that nearly 100 years later, people are still re-imagining his work and characters. "Carter and Lovecraft" is a different spin on Lovecraft. What if Lovecraft, frankly a huge bigot and racist, had descendants of color and one of them ran a bookshop? What if one of his recurring characters, Randolph Carter, actually existed, and his descendant was a police officer? And they team up in a story? Well, that's this book. Daniel Carter is a detective who has lived through the trauma of his partner killing himself in front of him after they rescue a kid from a serial killer. His last words referring to "the twist". Carter resigns from the police and becomes a private detective. Shortly thereafter, he inherits a bookstore from a person he never knew in Providence, Rhode Island. When he goes down there, he meets Mina Lovecraft, an African American woman who runs the bookstore for her uncle, who disappeared months ago and has been heard from since. Around the same time, Carter is hired on a case that leads to some very strange murders committed by a rogue mathematician. Could all these things be related? Yes. So this is a very strange book. It's relatively short, but there's a lot here to chew on. Howard knows his Lovecraft. This book is full of nuggets and easter eggs for Lovecraftian enthusiasts. I was encouraged to look up some elements of the story, and it gets deep into the Mythos. I think he captured the aspect of Lovecraft in that you feel like you have no idea about what's going on and you probably won't find out. He also touches on the visceral horror that is integral to Lovecraft. In some ways, he develops some aspects of the Mythos better. His characters are more fleshed out and are used as more than devices to spread the feeling of fear and fatalism about an indifferent universe. He picks up some concepts and themes from some of Lovecraft's stories and creates a new story out of them set in the 21st Century. But my favorite part is how Howard subversively dissects Lovecraft's bigotry and racism. Mina is a descendant would have done Lovecraft proud if he could get past his white supremacy and racism. She's thoughtful, intelligent, emotionally stable, well-read, and loyal and very strong. She had a matter-of-fact approach to weirdness, which is enviable, considering some of the events that happen in this family. She seems to be the antidote to Lovecraft's claustrophobic fear of the Other and conviction that some people are just genetically inferior. Daniel Carter is a good co-lead. He's a decent guy. As a cop, he tends to be a skeptic about things, but in the face of weirdness, he doesn't shut down, he follows the lead. I like that he had to confront his own hidden prejudices and comes out a better man after he did so. He does feel at times the helplessness in the face of events beyond their comprehension that is emblematic of Lovecraft's protagonists, but doesn't give into and doesn't allow it to break his mind. There's a developing connection between Carter and Lovecraft, but it's nascent. They become friends, and its likely what they go through will only strengthen that bond. It is possible that things may become romantic over time. But more importantly, they know that they have each others' backs. Of course, there had to be some weird people, because it's Lovecraft. The rogue mathematician, the Waites, femme fatales who are simultaneously sexy but also deeply wrong, and their brain dead spouses, the mysterious lawyer who informs Carter of the bequest. Enough to make any reader feel uneasy about everything. So why the <b>3.5/5.0 star </b>rating? The main feeling I came out of this was "What did I just read?" It feels short to me. It was a book that kept my interest, and I liked the main characters, but I also felt like there was a lot that I didn't get or understand when it ended. There are some gruesome elements to this story and subject matter that made me uncomfortable. This one is not for young readers. Frankly, I was a bit disturbed by some imagery. The rogue mathematician who discovers a way to manipulate reality is a profoundly damaged individual lacking in morals. His acts are unconscionable and bizarrely cruel. To him, murder is manipulating the odds. It's always hard to read about people like this for me. Readers who like having the questions will enjoy this book. I think I would have preferred a longer book that delved a little deeper into those unanswered questions. This is going to be a series, so maybe things will be more fleshed out in later books. I like the main characters and the concept, so I'll keep reading.

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review 2017-03-11 21:36
Bah
The Horror at Red Hook (Horror Classics) - H.P. Lovecraft,Joust Books

This is going to be short. This story was terrible and it has Lovecraft's racism and xenophobia on full display. I think if he could have torched New York and wiped it clean of those he saw as inferior he would have.

 

The Horror at Red Hook tells a story taking place in the 1920s with a New York police detective named Thomas Malone. Malone is left disturbed by an incident that left several people dead.

 

Lovecraft then works backwards telling how a rich and eccentric old man named Robert Suydam. Suydam ends up buying property in Red Hook and people are disappearing. The police believe something nefarious is happening, but can't prove it. And then suddenly Suydam seems to be slowly reverse aging and marries a young 20 year old distant relative of his.

 

The story jumps around too much to really get a handle on the story. Lovecraft doesn't include the Chulthu mythos at all. Instead it seems to be about human sacrifice and Lilith. I don't get what caused Suydam to be turned against unless that was the plan all along. And the ending with Malone being buried after falling into another portal and witnessing what Suydam was up to was pretty lame. The story honestly put me to sleep for a few minutes and I was not happy when I woke up and realized I still want done right this story. It is short though and I finished in it about 25 minutes (nap included). 

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text 2017-03-11 20:32
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
The Horror at Red Hook (Horror Classics) - H.P. Lovecraft,Joust Books

Yeah I still don't like Lovecraft, but I wanted to read the source material that inspired Victor LaValle.

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review 2016-10-19 18:05
Black January by Douglas Wynne
Black January: A Spectra Files Novel - Douglas Wynne

 

Since the Starry Wisdom Church tried to unleash the Old Gods in the city of Boston 2 years ago, things have been quiet for Becca. Unfortunately, a portal through which the Old Ones could come through is currently being tinkered with, and Becca, as well as a team from SPECTRA, (a mysterious government agency), are being called in to prevent said portal from being opened. This doorway is centered inside Wade House, wherein Becca's father has disappeared. Outside Wade House, black snow is falling.

 

(This book takes place in the same world as Red Equinox, by the same author. One does not have to have read RE to understand Black January, but it certainly would enhance the reader's understanding of the story.)

 

Wade House is an extraordinary property. Reminding me of House of Leaves and Hill House both, the angles are all off. A room that looks one way when you pass through it, may look entirely different when you pass through it on the way back. In fact, it may no longer even lead you back from whence you came at all. If Becca's father is lost there, how will they ever find him and more importantly, how can they seal these doorways so that nothing is ever allowed to enter our world? You'll have to read this book to find out.

 

The house and the Old Ones were my favorite parts of this book. I love stories about mysterious houses with dark pasts, mirrors that are gateways, and pianos that, when a certain tune is played, have lids that open onto hell itself. What horror fan wouldn't like that? As some of these portals and doorways do briefly open, the reader gets a glimpse not only of Lovecraft's Old Ones, but Wynne's Old Ones- in all of their "drive you to the brink of madness itself" glory. Wynne makes these Gods his own-they are memorable, evil and timeless.

 

Black January was a blast from start to finish. It's imaginative, creative, fast paced and overall just plain FUN! I highly recommend it for fans of Lovecraft and the Great Old Ones. I also think that fans of House of Leaves would get a kick out of this highly entertaining novel.

 

Available now, here: Black January: A Spectra Files Novel

 

*An eARC was provided to me by the author, in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

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