January was a stellar month for reading. I finished a lot of fine books this month (but didn't necessarily read every page of every one of these in January). Here's the list:
Puppet Graveyard, by Tim Curran - This novella is quick and nasty, with great imagery. It was leavened with humor. And, of course, it had creepy puppets. Who doesn't love creepy puppets?
Japanese Tales of Mystery & Imagination, by Edogawa Rampo - This was an impulse buy. I got it on the cheap from Amazon mainly because I liked the cover. While reading the introduction, I thought the book was some sort of hoax when it claimed the author's pen name was basically a phonetic spelling of the name 'Edgar Allen Poe' spoken with a Japanese accent. I immediately looked the dude up and found out that he was the real deal and very influential in Japanese mystery fiction. Sorry, Japan. I did not know. And, man, I'm sure glad I know about this author now. His story "The Human Chair," which kicks off this collection, is simply fantastic. The remainder of the tales were very good, too, surreal and mysterious. I'll be reading more from Rampo.
The Postman Always Rings Twice, James M. Cain - I listened to the audiobook version of this classic noir tale, read by Stanley Tucci. Highly recommended.
Click-Clack the Rattlebag, by Neil Gaiman - This was a short freebie I downloaded long ago. If you downloaded it from Audible, a donation went to charity. It was a pleasant enough little horror story, but Gaiman's narration is a bit too treacly for my taste. (Note: This doesn't appear to still be available from Audible.)
Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories, by China Miéville - This was an excellent collection. After reading Miéville's first collection, Looking for Jake, I thought that perhaps he just wasn't a short story guy. This one proved me wrong though. I love Miéville for his imagination, his original ideas, and the way he's able to communicate some of the craziest concepts so effectively through prose. This book won't be for everyone. Some of these stories are experimental, many are abstruse, and many more are like wonderful unresolved mysteries.
You Shall Never Know Security, by J.R. Hamantaschen - This is the second collection I've read by Hamantaschen in two months, which should tell you something. I enjoy the author's unique voice and the unrelenting hopelessness of his tales. They are so bleak that you have to throw up your hands and surrender with bewildered and uncomfortable laughter. I think of his stuff as being a sort of cross between Sam Pink and Laird Barron.
Flesh and Coin, by Craig Saunders - I am envious of Saunders's Spartan prose. It's always efficient and often poetic. I'll be reading all his stuff. Oh, the story? Yeah, yeah, that was good, too.
Come, by E. Lorn - A vicious little piece of viscous, passive-aggressive nastiness.
Hell House, by Richard Matheson - I've been meaning to read this one for years. I shouldn't have put it off. Was it scary? Not really. But I didn't expect it to be. Nor did I expect it to be so fantastically lurid; I was pleasantly surprised.
My pick for Book-of-the-Month? It's exceedingly hard to decide, but I'll have to go with Miéville's Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories. It wins by the sheer brute force of imagination on display.