On top of having this super cool cover, within these pages I discovered some of the best short, dark fiction I've read in a long while! Let's talk about it, shall we?
When I was young and couldn't afford bookstores, I often went to the library. (I still do, actually, because I love them, not because I have to.) I developed a love of horror back then, but our library's collection consisted of about two shelves. Once I read those, I started reading all of their anthologies and collections, in the hopes of finding new authors. In this way, I discovered Richard Matheson, Steve Rasnic Tem, Dennis Etchison, Ray Bradbury and other writers that I still love to this day. DARKEST HOURS brought me back to that time of discovery-horror and dark fiction in all of its glorious, different forms. Reading this collection made me feel like a kid again.
This volume begins with the story HAIR. I knew right then that this book was going to be a force to be reckoned with. Coming unapologetically out of left field, Thorn hits you with this tale of unstoppable hair and then moves on to something out of right field, just to keep you off balance.
THE AUTEUR It's important to know who you're talking to when you ask for horror recommendations from people. You may find out a little too much about them otherwise, but by then it might be too late. Hair plays a role in this story too. (P.S. Always feel free to ask me for horror recs. You're safe with me. But employees from Verne's Video? Watch out for them!)
CHOO CHOO This story felt like it came out of one of those early collections that I loved so much. With an ending so unexpected that it felt like I got hit by a train, this tale made me laugh out loud with glee.
LONG MAN I never thought anything could compete against the Long Walker in my imagination. (Thank you to Nick Cutter's Little Heaven for that.) But now, now we have Long Man. He's even scarier-trust me on this.
ECONOMY THESE DAYS Here again is another story, completely different, completely unlike any other story here. How much physical abuse would you be willing to take to pay your bills? What would that abusive job look like? Of what would a promotion consist? This tale proposes answers to all of those things and oddly, I don't think it's that far out of the realm of possibility.
SABBATICAL If I hadn't felt the spirit of Stephen King in this story, the main character's names of Thad and Gage would've put me in mind of him anyway. I cannotdescribe this story, but it was just so much fun it made me want to do some kind of dance-the dance of my dark fiction people. The dance is delightful and it's only brought on by the best and most twisted of tales. This is one of them.
Stars will collapse and new lights will prick through the sky,
and screaming will not help.
SCHLUTER The most disturbing story I've ever read was written by Michael Blumlein who is a doctor. (Trust me when I say I have read some VERY disturbing stories.) I found it disturbing because in some universe it could happen. SCHLUTER has now taken THE MOST DISTURBING STORY EVER medal. What that medal would look like, I don't want to know, but Mike Thorn owns it. Take this one little harmless sentence for instance:
His mind screamed, but his sutured lips twitched noiselessly.
If that sentence doesn't bother you, okay then, to each his own. However, if that sentence makes you want to run out and buy this book, heed your feelings, man! You won't be disappointed.
There are a few themes that became apparent throughout this book, academia being the one that surprised me the most, but also: hair. I don't remember ever reading a collection where simple hair is used in such a menacing, disgusting, or just mentioned in passing but still in a creepy-as-hell- kind of way.
Okay then-to sum up: disturbing tales? Check! A wide-ranging variety of stories? Check!
Extremely well written? Check! It almost seems like this collection was written with me in mind-it was so perfect for me that I don't even know what else to say. Well, other than this: I think Mike Thorn is an author to watch. I think he's going to do great things in the world of horror and dark fiction, and I for one, will be there to watch it. Will you?
My highest recommendation. Period. Get a copy here: DARKEST HOURS
*I was provided an e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*
The entire time I was listening to this poetry collection, THE YELLOW WALLPAPER by Charlotte Perkins Gilman was in the back of my mind. HYSTERIA is about women and their likelihood of falling victim to men, to the world, to their children...and back again to the men. Unlike Gilman's story though, in HYSTERIA, the women often rise up and take what's due. I loved it!
I've admitted it before, but I will again here so we're clear, poetry is generally not my thing. But women are-especially strong women, women who have been through things in their life, women for whom life has not been easy. Most of this volume focuses on them, which is why, (I think), it speaks to me so intimately.
There are a lot of poems within and I can't get into all of them here, but I especially loved GREED, PLAYMATE OF THE NIGHT and GUARDIAN ANGEL:
"...lock me up somewhere else/you say the wrong thing around here, people start to think you're crazy, like madness is some contagion you breathe in through the air/I just told them that sweet Jezebel didn't like it when the men talk to her like that/when they visited her in her cell and touched her pretty face/ran their fingers through her silky hair/they beat me to get out my crazy..."
I found Stephanie Wytovich's prose to be killer: in bringing to mind vivid renderings of women-abused, crazy, strong, wild, beautiful, ugly, willful, sexy and with TEETH. Don't turn your back on these women, especially if you've done them wrong in the past. At the same time, some of these ladies are kind and nurturing, or at least they were... before they were diagnosed with HYSTERIA.
Highly recommended for fans of poetry and dark fiction!
*Thank you to Stephanie M. Wytovich for the free Audible copy of this book, in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*
Yowza! I see a lot of people marked this book up as a DNF and I can certainly see why they would have a hard time with this book. A book that deals with women on a reality TV show that is packed with bitching and women trying to out do each other in order to get the most of the limelight and the TV time.
The barbs, insults, bickering and lies are frequent in this story. These women absolutely hate each other! I mean this is so like a train wreck that I could not stop reading (or watching).
However, as the only reality TV show that I have ever watched is Big Brother, it was interesting for me, how the behind the scenes would work. It's the job of one of the crew to keep these women up on where they left off, who they are mad at and what they should be focusing on next. It was just interesting.
There are also some underlying and very true lessons in this book regarding the way that women treat each other.
And. . . the final plot twist? OMG! I definitely did not see that one coming!
I saw that this book has been optioned for a movie and I'm excited and can't wait to see it. I also hope Hollywood doesn't screw it up and that they do include some of the funny phrases that the author uses in the book.
Thanks to Simon & Schuster and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
This is part of a series of posts reviewing categories in this year's Hugo ballot. I'll be discussing the entries, the voter packet, and my ballot. I've nominated and voted most years since 2011, when I figured out that all I had to do was join Worldcon to get to do so.
I'd only read 2 of these in advance of the finalist announcement. Two more are properties I'm familiar with from earlier volumes.
So Bitch Planet is definitely at the top, followed by Monstress and Black Bolt. The other three could go in any order, but maybe I'll just leave them off because I don't really feel strongly about them at all.