Friday, October 30, 2015

Friday Round-Up: Hallowe'en Edition (Featuring Hill, Maberry, King, Priest, & Zelazny)

Time for a preemptive Friday Round-Up for Hallowe’en weekend, since the few books I’ve covered  recently have been very much horror, as has much of my October reading.

Earlier this week, my review of the audio version of Jonathan Maberry’s Patient Zero read by Ray Porter posted to SFFWorld. This is Maberry’s first Joe Ledger novel and I am hooked. I think this is the first series I'm going to "consume" audio-only.

Zombie stories are a dime a dozen, they come in all shapes and sizes and are very much a pop-culture phenomenon that have transcended the horror genre. Military Science Fiction is one of the most popular of subgenres of speculative fiction. Take those two great tastes, mash them up and add a wonderful amount of wit and you’ve got Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger novels, which begin with Patient Zero.

Maberry masterfully crafted the character of Joe Ledger, a tough-as nails, smart character who epitomizes what it means to be an ultimate “warrior.” While he is a rugged wise-ass, he doesn’t come across as a macho asshole, either. That trap is one many a writer/storyteller has fallen into, but Maberry assimilates many archetypical elements of the hero in his construction of Ledger. Joe is a guy you immediately want to have a beer with, want in your foxhole, and don’t want to piss off. His comradery with Rudy comes across as a friendship that has seen a great deal; his interaction with Church is entertaining for Joe’s wise-ass snark against Church’s dry humor; and his introduction / assumption of Echo Team leader is pure gold.

The next day, my first Completist column in a few months posted to SF Signal. In it, I gush about two novels that climbed very quickly up my top horror reads, Cherie Priest’s Borden Dispatches, a superb Lovecraftian duet:

Lizzie Borden and her axe is as much of an American myth as she is an historical figure, but what if those forty whacks she took were in self-defense against creatures that bore a stronger resemblance to H.P. Lovecraft’s aquatic Cthulhu monstrosities than her father and step-mother? That idea serves as the launch pad for Cherie Priest’s darkly delicious “Borden Dispataches,” which is comprised of Maplecroft and Chapelwood. Priest magically mixes historical figures and events with the horror of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos in an elegant concoction that seems so logical that it almost begs the question why hasn’t it been done before? Well, Priest’s storytelling skills and lyrical, completely convincing voice elevate these books to greatness.
The Borden Dispatches aren’t simply great horror tales (and they are at the top of the list of horror novels I’ve read in the past decade), but an examination of some less savory social structures. The primary protagonists are all women, with Lizzie/Lisbeth at *the* protagonist and inMaplecroft, her relationship with her lover Nance is central. Dr. Seabury, in his “diaries” expresses disapproval of such a relationship, but he is able to get past that and still help Lizzie. In Chapelwood, there’s a layered examination of the racism and gender bias of the day, Ruth’s marriage to a Puerto Rican man is not viewed kindly, and the aura of racism haunts Birmingham nearly as strongly as does the Lovecraftian monstrosities. Those two evils work quite well together under the roof of the Chapelwood Church.

In addition to those three books, I’ve spent much of my October reading on Horror. The fine folks at audible put together a marvelous audio adaptation of Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s Locke & Key graphic novel series. (My favorite thing Hill has done and a top 5 all time comic/graphic novel series for me).

That one was free to audible members and will be for a few more days (until November 3), so I highly, highly recommend downloading it.

With my October audible credit, I went for a big, deep cut. A horror novel I read twice before, but many years ago (at least 20 years ago was the last time I read it). I’ve been wanting to revisit IT for a few years, but the piles of review books kept pushing it away, so I finally jumped back to Derry, Maine for Stephen King’s largest book, but with the shortest (and most un-Google-able title), IT. I am thoroughly enjoying it IT even if I can see some “issues” throughout (if Bill Denbrough isn’t Stephen King, then I don’t know what writerly character is)

Over the course of a couple of days, I read through Roger Zelazny's classic A Night in the Lonesome October and had a lot of fun playing the literary guessing game. Snuff might be a new favorite literary canine. 

In the end, this October for my All Hallows Reads, I revisited two big-time favorites and found two new writers whose backlist I need to go through.

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