Tags: vampires

DEquinox

My Goodreads review: Less Than Human

Less Than HumanLess Than Human by Gary Raisor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Weird Western meets vampirism meets the X-Files? Yes, with a side order of 1990s splatterpunk to keep things interesting. This may be one of the most unusual vampire novels I've ever read, though the vampire concept has to be stretched to describe what goes on in this one. Some familiarity with Mesoamerican mythology helps, too.

Beautifully but brutally written, Less Than Human combines a thriller plot (think Longmire without Longmire ) with the very real question of humans meeting the utterly inhuman. Bad things happen to bad people. Bad things happen to good people. And, just possibly, some of the good (or less bad?) people can overcome the worst of it, at a high price.

Fans of hard-edged or extreme horror will probably find this a five-star read. I stepped out of my comfort zone -- a well-received group read for Literary Darkness -- & ran into one of my Rather Not Read Abouts (maiming) more than once. If this is you, approach with caution.






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DEquinox

My Goodreads review: Dracul

DraculDracul by Dacre Stoker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


[I was supplied with a NetGalley copy of this book for award voting purposes, and in exchange for an honest review. ]

Despite being marketed as a prequel to Dracula, this novel feels less prequel than "secret history." Bram Stoker, members of his family, and several other real (or possibly real) characters are the focus of an intricately plotted classic horror adventure. Though it ends with a fairly traditional hunt-down of the Big Bad (no spoilers as to how this version ends!), there are enough unusual bits of vampire lore and associated legends to keep even a seasoned reader turning or clicking the pages.

The Authors' Note and Acknowledgements chapters are not to be skipped. In fact, I almost wish I'd read them first, as they explain the research and thought processes behind this nearly-nonfiction entertainment.

I hesitated long and hard between four and five stars for this one, but finally chose four (for most readers) due to a framing device which broke up my attention on the story in progress until it was finally concluded in the last portions of the novel. Readers with more patience, or simply a faster reading pace, may not be troubled.

Recommended for fans of classic vampire horror, Gothic novels, or dark "secret history." Probably essential for those primarily interested in Bram Stoker himself.





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DEquinox

My Goodreads review: I Am Legend

I Am LegendI Am Legend by Richard Matheson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Though this classic post-apocalypse thriller is showing its age a little (especially, to me, in its view of women), it was still an amazing read. Though generally spoken of as a horror novel, it's actually pure SF at its bones. The vampire theme allows Matheson to examine human nature in the face of the unthinkable, although some of the ways this works itself out have since become standard in this sub-genre.

Though the book is short, it's worth slowing down once in a while to savor the stark beauty of some of its prose. It's also interesting to think about all the fiction this book has probably spawned: The Passage came immediately to mind.

Psychologically effective and still chilling after all these years -- a great choice for late summer reading in nervous times.



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DEquinox

My Goodreads review: Certain Dark Things

Certain Dark ThingsCertain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


If you're looking for some remarkable worldbuilding in a fast-paced vampire adventure, this might be your next summer read.

Certain Dark Things has a vaguely YA flavor, but with a harder edge and a refreshing swap of the usual roles. In this one, the sympathetic human caught up in a dangerous alliance with a powerful-yet-wounded vampire is a young male, and the P-Y-W is female, the last survivor of a clan of indigenous Mexican vampires dating back to pre-Columbian times.

Moreno-Garcia makes the grittier aspects of Mexico City vibrantly clear, and the plot is a well-crafted chase-and-vengeance item with drug cartels that might be lurking in the back pages of tomorrow's paper. What made this a rewarding read for me, however, was the depth and international diversity of its vampire subculture. Make that subcultures: there are nearly a dozen subspecies, and a glossary worth the price of admission all by itself.

I for one am hoping to read more in this carefully constructed world.










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DEquinox

My Goodreads review: The Nightmare Stacks

The Nightmare Stacks (Laundry Files, #7)The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Charles Stross just keeps ringing new changes on his popular Laundry Files. This time around, he's added urban fantasy. Or rather, the Secret History behind it. As newly minted Laundry employee -- and PHANG -- Dr. Alex Schwartz discovers, elves are not only quite real, but remarkably unpleasant. At least, most of them are . . .

The Laundry, Leeds, and possibly the planet are all under attack in this one, as CASE NIGHTMARE RED (alien invasion) picks an otherwise ordinary weekend to manifest. The result is a bizarre but satisfying blend of military thriller, occult adventure, & just a touch of very strange romance.

Regular readers of this series won't be disappointed, though some may find Stross's worldbuilding into the fey realm a bit of a stretch. (I did not.)





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Ankh, Scarab

History! Vampires! Lovecraft! on the Sofa

I’m falling behind on my podcast listening this summer, so this notice is a week-plus late – but I wouldn’t want any Lovecraftians who read this LJ to miss StarShipSofa 390.

The whole episode is excellent, with dark SF by Allen M. Steele & an extensive interview with leading horror editor Ellen Datlow. However, the draw for devotees of the Bard of Providence is this month’s Looking Back in Genre History segment. Dr. Amy H. Sturgiseldritchhobbit discusses the history lurking behind Lovecraft’s “The Shunned House,” with glimpses into New England’s own brand of vampire mythology. I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about HPL, but I learned a lot from this segment.

Find the episode here. As always, you can download it from the web site, listen online, or find it on iTunes. However you choose to listen, I wouldn’t miss this one.
Ankh, Scarab

My Goodreads review: Sustenance

Sustenance (Saint-Germain, #27)Sustenance by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Number 27 in the blessedly long-lived Saint-Germain series finds the Count in post-WW II Paris, acting as publisher and friend (and, in one case, much more) to a group of American academics driven into exile by the House Un-American Activities Committee. When their lives become entangled with a shadowy CIA operation organized by a corrupt agent, no good can come of it -- and, pretty much, it doesn’t.

Yarbro’s take on the anti-Communist witch-hunt is detailed and fascinating. As usual, she provides a preface of historical information – always worth the time when starting out on one of her novels. Regular readers of this series will also find much information about how vampirism “works” in Yarbro’s world (some of this was new to me, & I’ve read the majority of these books) and discover the fates of several characters from previous novels.

That said, this still wasn’t one of my favorites. Although I enjoyed the postwar atmosphere and probably learned a great deal, I had trouble seeing how all the plot threads wove together. Perhaps this is due to my own unfamiliarity with the history, but the CIA operation and the misadventures of the Ex-Pats’ Coven never quite meshed -- and there were a few too many members of the Coven to keep track of. Though Saint-Germain proved to have some particularly lethal enemies, their motives remained obscure. Given the level of espionage and paranoia, though, perhaps this isn’t surprising.

I’m uncertain whether to make this a three-star or a four-star review, but I’m afraid I’ll have to go with three this time. This is no reflection on Yarbro’s writing, or indeed on the series as a whole. I’ll be preordering the Count’s next adventure, but his brush with the Cold War left me a little cold.





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Ankh, Scarab

My Goodreads review: Love & Other Poisons

Love & Other PoisonsLove & Other Poisons by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is an remarkably varied collection of dark fantasy tales – some darker than others – likely to appeal to those who prefer their terrors subtle. Many reflect the author’s Mexican heritage, adding a unique flavor to everything from the Lovecraftian “Collect Call” to the nearly SF “Distant Deeps Or Skies.” Another particularly successful tale in this collection is “A Puddle of Blood,” which introduces Aztec mythology into the world of the undead. The world-building in this one is intriguing, and leaves the reader hoping for more about these characters.



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Ankh, Scarab

My Goodreads review: The Rhesus Chart

The Rhesus Chart (Laundry Files, #5)The Rhesus Chart by Charles Stross

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



If you’re a Laundry loyalist – and I am – you’ll want to read this one no matter what. The Rhesus Chart is absolutely essential to the ongoing eldritch history of Bob Howard and the approach of CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN (aka When the Stars Turn Right), & the ending is heartbreaking. The arcane history of the Laundry (who knew it went back to Elizabethan times?) is also fleshed out in some detail, as is the very complicated relationship between Bob & his boss Angleton. Full points for world-building here.

That said, however, this was far from my favorite Laundry File. No matter how well-justified in Lovecraftian terms, vampires – sorry, PHANGS – just do not fit well into this dark SF universe. Or at least, they didn’t for me. I have no problem whatsoever with urban fantasy, & regard it as a favorite guilty pleasure – but I wasn’t prepared for elder vampire duels in Laundry London.

I’m really sorry not to be able to rate this one higher. Stross’s style is as darkly witty as ever, and Bob’s relationship with his wife Mo (and her sanguinary violin) gets some much-needed attention. PHANGS or no PHANGS, I’ll be preordering the next File.




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