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review 2017-03-06 15:36
The Secret of Ventriloquism by Jon Padgett
The Secret of Ventriloquism - Jon Padgett

 

The genre of fiction that I identify as weird tales has always appealed to me, though it's hard to describe. There are also...flavors of weird tales, they're not always the same, even though they may belong to the same genre. For instance, Thomas Ligotti may be described as an author of weird fiction. While I love his style, I often find his work too nihilistic for me. Laird Barron could be described as an author of weird fiction as well, though his style generally leans toward cosmic horror. Lastly, Robert Aickman is admired as an author of weird fiction, but I often find his stories to be rather...unsatisfying. Jon Padgett, however, satisfied ALL of my wants and needs as a reader of dark and weird fiction. These stories have a clear beginning and end, (though some continue on, in other stories), and are as utterly satisfying as short fiction can be. In fact, I'd call them brilliant. That's right. BRILLIANT!

 

Starting with the appealing cover, (what horror fan could resist it?), and ending with Little Evie singing, in the story "Escape to the Mountain," (which makes me shudder just thinking about it.) These amazing stories are beyond impressive, each and every one of them.

 

After "Origami Dreams" I will never look at folded paper in the same way again. I will never see the word "appendage" again and not think of Solomon Kroth and his endless research in the University Library. I will not pass the abandoned paper mills in nearby towns without thinking of those ugly "paper mill days" and the filth they spewed upon the town of Dunnstown. I will never again pass a swamp without thinking of the room in "Indoor Swamp":

 

"Perhaps there is a room that contains a worn vintage tea party set with frilly dressed dolls, but one of those doll's heads gradually rotates completely around, going from an expression of knowing, smiling perversion to an open-mouthed, silent O of horror and back again."

 

I cannot possibly give this book a higher recommendation. As you read it, you may feel dizzy at times, or maybe even a little sick.

 

"You may begin to imagine you hear something that sounds like static or even the roar of an airliner. you may feel lightheaded like you are going to pass out. Ignore these feelings. They are normal."

 

They are a trifle. YOU are a trifle.

 

If you want to fully understand the meanings of these things, you MUST read this book. For me it started with the cover. It was the cover that made me BUY this book, rather than accept the free copy submitted for review to Horror After Dark. That's right, I bought it. You should too. Seriously. Right. Now.

 

Go here: The Secret of Ventriloquism

(You can add the audio for only $1.99 more!)

 

Usually this is where I say I was provided a free copy in exchange for honest feedback. However, (see above), I bought this book, and this is my honest opinion.

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review 2017-02-05 17:24
Hometown by Luke Walker
Hometown - Luke Walker

 

Hometown is an atmospheric, sometimes surreal tale of horror, revenge and abuse in a small town.

 

Sometimes there are wrongs that can never be corrected. Even death can't set things straight. In the town of Dalry, something is awry and it's up to a group of old high school chums to figure out what. This proves difficult, due to the influence of a dead childhood friend, who often pulls them out of the hometown they know into some sort of parallel world that looks the same, but...isn't. Terrors live in that parallel world and not everyone will survive.

 

I loved how the story was told and the direction it took, but I had problems with differentiating the characters and their relationships with each other. It took a fair amount of the story for me to pull everything together as far as who everyone was and what was happening. Once I was able to get the characters straight, I didn't feel I knew them well enough to develop a deep caring for them. I felt more for the characters that were already dead, to be honest.

 

There were some instances where the writing reeled me right in, but there were also instances where a little more editing or proofreading might have helped. (The use of the word scrapping instead of scraping, for instance, happened more than once.)

 

Overall, though, this was a heart-wrenching story about a damaged family and how that damage can ripple outwards like a stone tossed into a pond-affecting everyone it touches. This tale does have a lot of heart, it just takes some patience and care to get there. Recommended because your mileage may vary and the issues I had may just be mine and mine alone!

 

You can get your copy here: Hometown

 

*I received a free e-copy in exchange for my honest review. This is it!*

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review 2017-01-13 12:45
Ubo by Steve Rasnic Tem
Ubo - Steve Rasnic Tem

 

Ubo is difficult to talk about without sounding insane. There are so many thought provoking questions here, all locked up with roaches holding the keys. I know, I know...insane.

 

I have to touch on the basic outline here to make any sense at all of this review. Daniel goes from sitting in an airport contemplating walking away from it all, (including his wife and their sickly son), to living out scenarios of the most violent events in the history of the world, with only a vague, surreal, memory of wings and a moon separating the two.

 

When I say living out violent scenarios, I mean from inside the very heads of those doling out said violence. Jack the Ripper. Jim Jones. Charles Whitman. Here you are, witnessing these crimes as if it were you perpetrating them, while at the same time finding your conscience and your stomach recoiling. What possible good could come out of that? If there IS something good, can it be discovered and/or implemented before humanity destroys itself? You'll have to read this to find out.

 

I requested this ARC from NetGalley/Solaris because I have been a huge fan of Mr. Tem's short stories over the years. I remember his name always showing up in horror anthologies and knew I could depend on him to give me a good thrill. This book, however, is more of a science fiction novel with horrific elements-but all of his intense, strong writing? It's still here.

 

There's so much more I want to say, but...spoilers. Many things are going on in the background that beg for your attention, important things. Commentary about humanity really, where it is going and where it has been. Much of it is unpleasant. Somehow though, I found hope at the end. Is that because I couldn't face the stark reality, (not that far off from our current reality, by the way), or because I truly do think there's hope? I'm not sure. This is one of those times where I wish the author was my friend and I could just call him up and ask him. Since that's not happening, I'll settle for hearing what YOU think.

 

Highly recommended for those readers that enjoy turning over the reigns to a trusted author and believing that they will bring it all home. Go ahead and discover if there's even any home left. Read Ubo.

 

Ubo is available February 9th. You can pre-order your copy here: Ubo

 

*Thanks to NetGalley and Solaris for the e-Arc of Ubo in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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review 2017-01-06 18:10
Darkness Wakes by Tim Waggoner
Darkness Wakes - Tim Waggoner,John Williams

 

What a crazy ride!

 

Darkness Wakes begins with a somewhat happily married man noticing an unmarked door in a seedy strip mall. The door has FUCKL sort of scratched into it which would make anyone wonder what was going on there. Penumbra is the answer to that question and Penumbra is dark indeed.

 

Not too long after Aaron noticed the door, he begins to notice his sexy neighbor, Caroline. Caroline notices his interest and not long after she visits Aaron's veterinarian's clinic because her cat has a broken leg. (A leg which later, Aaron suspects of being broken by Caroline on purpose.) A sexual interlude occurs and soon after that Caroline invites Aaron to come to her private club, Penumbra.

 

Things go on there that defy description and I'm not talking about the sexy times. Orgies and sexual acts of all kinds go on in the front room, but it's the back room where things get out of hand. What an imagination Mr. Waggoner has to come up with a story like this! Because on top of Penumbra's front and back rooms, there's also a farmhouse with strange goings-on, a man with scabs all over his head and a woman with human bones in her braids.

 

I listened to the audio of this tale and I was not crazy about the narrator. Every time the character Gillian spoke it felt like a spike through my head. Luckily, she didn't speak all that much. Of course, your mileage may vary.

 

I ended up enjoying this book quite a bit, though there were some strange bits of writing that I didn't much care for. The song of the nipple mouths? Really? Overall, though-the creativeness behind this story especially appealed to me and the ending kicked ass! If this sounds like your cup of tea, I recommend you check it out!

 

You can get a copy here: Darkness Wakes

(When I purchased the Kindle copy, I added the Audible for only $1.99. It's a great deal!)

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review 2017-01-06 14:55
Little Heaven by Nick Cutter
Little Heaven: A Novel - Nick Cutter

 

Little Heaven is an extraordinary story! That doesn't mean it was a perfect story, but it was a lot of fun.

 

I'll refrain from going too deeply into the plot, but I will give a brief summary so I can talk about the few things that bothered me. Three bounty hunters meet up in the 60's, (and again some years later), and agree to help a woman check on her nephew, who had been taken by her brother-in-law to an isolated spot in the mountains. This spot being where the cult known as Little Heaven is located. Together, they all discover there is a LOT more going on in this settlement than just a warped, cruel "religion".

 

What I liked most about this story was its creativity. Yes, I saw similarities to Stephen King's work, (a lot of them, really), but I didn't find this tale to be derivative-I took it as an homage to the King instead. In fact, I think some of the scenes with the leader, (read: insane cult leader), the baby, (oh, that baby: SHUDDER), and the "Long Walker" (you'll see), would have made Stephen King himself jealous.

 

At times though, it seemed like Little Heaven didn't know what it wanted to be-between the main cult story, the interactions of the bounty hunters, the current and past time lines, the things in the woods and in the rock-there was a lot going on. I'm not exactly sure why, but at times I found my mind wandering. Maybe if the story were a little more tight and focused that would have helped? As I said, I'm not quite sure.

 

Whenever I found that happening, some piece of writing or a creative incident would set me right back on the path. I found this particular quote to be beautiful:

 

"It’s all so goddamn fragile. Your life and the thread you carry it on. And the more love you carry, the more stress you put on that thread, the better chance it will snap. But what choice do any of us have? You take on that love because to live without it is to exist as half a person. You give that love away because it is in you to give, not out of a desire for recompense. And you keep loving even when the world cracks open and reveals a black hole where all that love can get swallowed."

 

Overall though, this tale's creativity and imagination beckoned to me like a bright star moving across the sky, and I willingly followed it-right down into the dark below the big, black rock. What's hiding down there? You'll have to read this book to find out! I recommend that you do.

 

Available January 10th here: Little Heaven: A Novel

 

*Thanks to Gallery Books and NetGalley for the e-ARC in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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