Alabaster: Wolves by Caitlín R. Kiernan

16136945This book… This book is… I don’t know. It’s so many things.

I haven’t seen a book run around, tagging so many horror-centric clichés this much, and yet still manage to stay true to itself and remain steadfastly interesting at the same time.

Like the title suggests, this is a book about Werewolves. But that’s being too specific and under-selling it a ton. It’s about a lot more than just Werewolves – which is something I never thought I’d actually write, EVER. Just Werewolves? Who says that? Nobody sane, anyways.

What this book is really about is faith, belonging, and a whole helluva lot of fire – both in its metaphoric and in physical guise. And hot damn, if it doesn’t cause a stirring in your hero-loving heart, I don’t know what will. (see what I did there? A helluva lot of fire? Hot Damn? Eh? Eh?)

Personally, this one felt like Kiernan was channeling a little bit of my beloved Brite with the creation of a character like Dancy, but I could be completely off base with that. This is my first actual experience with the acclaimed author’s writing, but it definitely won’t be the last.

Any reader in their right mind is liable to be drawn to this story. I mean, here… take a look at the synopsis:

Dancy Flammarion may look like a frail teenage girl, but her journey through the swamps and byways of the American South brings her into battle with werewolves, monsters, and grotesque secrets, armed only with a knife and a mission to destroy the deadly creatures that lurk in the shadows.

– from DarkHorse.com

Side note: I love spell-check. How many mistakes were in that paragraph, right there? You’ll never know. HA! Ugh.

With Alabaster: Wolves, Kiernan breathes a new sort of life into Dancy, a character from the world of her own short stories, and plants her firmly in the land of pictures and colour, much to this comic lover’s delight. Sometimes you just need to see the story instead of read it. And honestly, that’s how I’ve been feeling lately – so this was a welcome experience.

The overall dynamic between all of the characters from the get-go is incredible. The main character, Dancy, sits in her own headspace, relives her own wounded past, and throws threatening barbs at her villainous counterpart just as easily as she trades sarcastic remarks with a very cleverly crafted and simply loveable new animal friend/feathered annoyance. It’s a testament to the author’s ability to set such powerful scenes and have them also be so strongly driven by rich dialogue.

I wouldn’t hesitate to say that this tale could surely exist as either a graphic novel or a short story – Kiernan is truly able to transcend both of the mediums involved.

The art and colouring involved in Wolves are a thing of beauty, as well. Not only do they marry the skillfully crafted words to the scenes so well, but they also help create something of a relaxed feel to what should really be a more urgent story. It’s hard to think about a werewolf story being anything even remotely resembling “relaxed”, but that’s exactly how this one feels. From the introductory few pages, all the way to the climactic scenes of each issue, the pace is set wonderfully, and never urges the reader to hurry along in order to reach a “money-shot”, to use the term loosely.

Kiernan, Lieber and Rosenberg are masterful at allowing the reader to believe they’re in control, when in fact they’re being drawn from panel to panel hand-in-hand the whole way through a wonderland of terror, mystery, and modern, horror-centric fairytales.

Alabaster: Wolves is available at Dark Horse and on Amazon.com.

Santa Claus Saves The World by Robert Devereaux

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Few authors writing today – or those who have come before, for that matter – can push the strength of good taste as well as Robert Devereaux.

There’s a whole new level of fucked-upedness in his writing and nothing brings this to light better than his Santa Claus trilogy, which wraps up with the recent publication of Santa Claus Saves The World. While the book sits as the third in that series it can be read as a stand-alone though I’m going to suggest you take the time and grab Santa Steps Out and Santa Claus Conquers the Homophobes.

Ummm… yea, just looking at those titles ought to give you an idea of where you’re heading when Devereaux’s the guide. Let’s just say the North Pole’s never been this hot!

In his latest, out this month from Deadite, the articulate author brings back all the characters from the series with Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny all reprising their roles. These roles, though, aren’t the loving, caring characters we grew up believing snuck in to our homes at night to deposit gifts, cash or chocolate. There’s tonnes of deposits in the book but it’s all bodily fluids…

What you need to understand before stepping out with Santa is Devereaux is more concerned with the sexual acts of these beings – who, some readers may know, are actually ripped from Greek mythology – than how they spread cheer and joy. That’s not to say there isn’t a story here but, like the previous two entries, it is buried beneath the various terms Devereaux can come up with for male and female genitalia.

This time, Santa’s made aware the scale of humanity’s future is tipping toward the negative and if he doesn’t step in the world could come to an end. With assistance from God and his No.1 son – JC himself – Santa and his elves begin reconstructing the human psyche and depositing them in to each human. It’s a slippery slope for Santa as this considerably impacts his ‘naughty’ list but under the guidance of his wives – yep, Santa’s driving the old north pole in to more than one gift bag – and his daughter, the Jolly Old Elf nails down the perfect human psyche and creates a much happier human race.
Throw into the mix, however, a Tooth Fairy who is still jilted after Santa blew her off after she blew him many a time and you’ve got the perfect set-up for sabotage.

It’s a bizarre mix of sex, seasonal bliss, bulging balls and morality but goddamn if Devereaux doesn’t make it work. He’s one of those authors who so seamlessly blends vulgarity with beautiful prose that you’re not sure if you should be gagging or gushing. It’s a pretty good mix of both, actually.

That being said, this book does not feel as shocking as Devereaux’s other pieces but that could simply be that we’ve already been exposed to his twisted visions. Santa’s sack feels like it’s getting a little empty in this entry but, compared to some other authors’ attempts to shock, Devereaux still stands high above the rest.

Merry Christmas. Hope Santa leaves you exactly what you want or, at the very least, cleans up after himself and doesn’t use up all your lotion and Kleenex.

Dreadful Tales Book Club – December 2013 Edition

Banner by Mark Brown, a.k.a. Dark Mark

Banner by Mark Brown, a.k.a. Dark Mark

Hello, Dreadites! I hope you enjoyed all the nastiness that John Everson’s little eight-legged friends had to offer in our October / November Book of the Month, Violet Eyes. Don’t forget to stop by and chat with us about the book here at The Mortuary, the official meeting place for the Dreadful Tales Book Club.

For December, we are reading the Smart Rhino Publications anthology Someone Wicked: A Written Remains Anthology. We’ve read Smart Rhino titles for the Book Club before. In fact, our inaugural Book of the Month was Zippered Flesh: Tales of Body Enhancements Gone Bad! which we later followed up with the sequel anthology Zippered Flesh 2: More Tales of Body Enhancements Gone Bad!

If you read the above-mentioned anthologies, you will see some familiar names in Someone Wicked like L.L. Soares, who was featured in both Zippered Flesh anthologies; JM Reinbold, contributor to Zippered Flesh 2 and co-editor of Someone Wicked; and Weldon Burge who is editor for all three anthologies as well as a contributor to the first Zippered Flesh collection. There are several new names as well and I suspect this anthology will fill up your to-read list as it has mine with both titles before it.

Here is a little tease from the Smart Rhino Publications website:

Avaricious, cruel, depraved, envious, mean-spirited, vengeful—the wicked have been with us since the beginnings of humankind. You might recognize them and you might not. But make no mistake. When someone wicked crosses your path, your life will never be the same. Do you know someone wicked? You will.

The 21 stories in the Someone Wicked anthology were written by the members of the Written Remains Writers Guild and its friends, and was edited by JM Reinbold and Weldon Burge.

You can pick up a copy of Someone Wicked in paperback format or for Kindle then come on over to The Mortuary to chat with us about the book! In the past, we have had a lot of success engaging the authors on the message board in discussions of their stories, so it should be a good time.

Find out more about Smart Rhino Publications and keep up with all the latest Smart Rhino news at their website here. You can also stalk them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

-Meli

All Hallow’s Read 2013 (Day 14)

I know my fellow staff might be a little upset with me by doing this, but I’m hijacking this post today.

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See, today is my birthday. Even Google knows it, so… I figure they can’t be too mad.

Now, generally, I hate the fucking day, and I just want to make it through without strangling someone, and today is definitely no exception.

But today I want you to do something for me, and I’m calling in whatever birthday powers there are that I might have at my disposal.

Today I want you to help someone in need. Call it a gift to me, call it an All Hallow’s Read miracle, or just call it good karma. Whatever you do, just try to do it.

25-Steve-Niles-bisSteve Niles, the creator of the impeccable 30 days of Night series, Criminal Macabre, The Golem, and countless other seminal comic book stories, has lost nearly everything he owns in a flash flood that slammed Austin, Texas this past weekend. And it’s not over yet. From the news reports I’ve read, they’re bracing for more soon.

You can send a donation via Paypal to help Steve get back on his feet at HelpSteveNiles@gmail.com.

Think about it. You could spend a few bucks on a coffee today, or a buy Kindle e-book, or hell… you could spend your money on a birthday present for a friend.

Or you could help someone in need…

C.

Scaremonger by Gregory Lamberson

scaremongerIf you’re tuned-in to the world of Greg Lamberson, you might have recently seen an update to his blog featuring a truckload of interesting news, and the quiet murmurs of his first self-published, eBook exclusive, offering – Scaremonger. Well, as it happens, this piece of literary fruit has turned a tasty shade of candy-apple red and is ripe for the picking. The question is: Are you ready for another series of Lamberson-styled crossover-horror fare?

To give you a general background on the book, it’s important to know that Scaremonger, as explained in the preface of the piece, was originally created as a film and starring vehicle for the über awesome Debbie Rochon, and is loosely based on the Lily Dale Assembly – a real-life spiritualist center with ties to the author’s youth. Unfortunately, economic difficulties and hardships made it borderline impossible to create as a film, so it became apparent to Lamberson that this was a story that was going to need to be told on paper. But technically, it’s still on a screen. Was that stretching it? You get the idea.

Now, I wouldn’t be the first to tell you that this is an author who doesn’t write short. By that, I mean his novels are frequently in the 4 and 500 page range, and he, himself, is not shy to tell you that sometimes he just can’t keep the wordage down. The fact that his stories are so laden with mythos and intricate details is something I, for one, have come to depend on. When I’m reading a Lamberson story, I know I’m going to be taken the distance – no matter where that lands me.

So when the author’s first novella came out, I was wary. As it turns out Carnage Road was a major success in experimentation for Lamberson, and easily goes down as one of my favorite novellas of all time. It also left me wanting more of his shorter fare to eat up the time between epic werewolf throw-downs and whatever shit Lamberson would put Helman though in his next installment into that series, when I needed that fix.

Now, earlier I asked if you, the reader, were ready for another Lamberson-styled crossover-horror series… so you can just sit here and confirm the spoiler I dropped. “Did he say that? Is he ruining the story? What a jerk! Who reviews books like that?”

Shush you. Listen. I’m not ruining anything. The cover says the words “A Rosa Thorn Thriller” doesn’t it? So you already knew that. I’m just confirming it. Relax.

What you don’t know (because you haven’t read the damned thing yet) is that this book, while being touted as a “thriller”, definitely has all of the markings of a fun romp you’d expect from any of this author’s previous monster stories. And that’s what it is, to me at least. It’s a monster story. It’s got all the gore and scares, and crazily describes yuckiness you’ve come to expect from Lamberson’s imagination. Sure you could argue that this is a ghost or a witch tale… but the main baddie is so reminiscent of many of the horror villains I love, it’s hard to look at the spiritualist side of the tale through all of the badassery this evildoer is committing.

And if you take a look at the titular character, you’ll see a lot of Jake Helman, Maria Vasquez, and hell… even Tony Mace, in her. She’s tough, she’s a fighter, she’s got a shitty past, and she’s ready to do anything in order to get to her goals. Rosa Thorn is a very strong character, but you can bet, in pure Lamberson fashion, she’s put through her paces in this story. Though, she’s is a bit different from the aforementioned characters… but I won’t give that bit away.

In the end, the only downfall to Scaremonger is that it just felt too short. It’s very apparent that it was culled from a screenplay format to fit into a novella-sized piece of fiction, as the action is almost non-stop, and the scenes are described with an eye cinematic touches, but that isn’t harmful in the least.

As a first foray into the world of eBook self-publishing, I’d say this is a success. I’m looking forward to seeing where he takes Rosa Thorn next.