There’s nothing more frustrating as a reader than a good idea that fizzles. To see the potential of a work and understand the intent only to be left high and dry by narrative missteps is difficult and confounding. Unfortunately, for all the promise of Hunter Shea’s CREATURE, the payoff is too little to justify the journey.
Toys disappear. The beloved teddy bear, the cherished doll, and the adored car all seem to meet the same end. One day they’re with you, loved and precious, and one day they’re not. It’s easy, as adults, to downplay the tragedy of a lost toy, to neglect the implication of its disappearance. For a child, a bit of stuffing encased in formed cloth or a hunk of molded plastic is a first friend, a first love, and in some cases an all powerful protector. It’s not just the loss of the toy itself that hurts. It’s the horror of facing a world without it.
It begins with disorientation. After a brief thematic preamble where author John Ajvide Lindqvist lays out pretty much all you need to know regarding the themes of I AM BEHIND YOU, you find yourself suddenly plunged into the thick of it. Lindqvist gives neither his audience nor his characters time to catch their bearings; you and they are simpatico, each thrust into the bizarre imaginings of the Swedish author’s latest creepy tale.
Spanning 18 books written over forty plus years, to call The Vampire Chronicles “sprawling” is more than a bit of an understatement. The wildly popular Anne Rice series is daunting, a near Everest of gothic horror that never seems to stop growing. Earlier this year, in fact, the author published Blood Communion, the latest chapter in the tales of Lestat de Lioncourt and the undead underworld which he inhabits.
Nothing in horror fiction is so well-trod as the haunted house. Whatever variations you throw into the themes and tropes of the genre, audiences and readers more or less know what to expect, and it’s difficult to do anything entirely new with the framework. What you expect is about what you get, and for the most part you know roughly where you’re going to land whenever you crack into a new haunting tale.
Connections between Christmas and the uncanny, the strange, and the macabre are nothing new. The ideas celebrated on the holiday—whether referring to modern Christian traditions or the ancient pagan traditions of Yule—appear readymade to celebrate and acknowledge that which is strange and unusual. It is a celebration built on the backs of drunken revelry, animal sacrifice, angelic visitation, and, of course, virgin birth.
The most—really, the only—disappointing part of GARDEN OF ELDRITCH DELIGHTS is that each of its dozen stories comes to an end. That’s the point of stories, to be sure, but within the pages of each of Lucy A. Snyder’s twelve tales is the suggestion off a world more richly and deeply built and imagined than we will ever know, and though Snyder makes economical use of these worlds, telling precisely the story she intends to tell, each ending carries with it the small pang of heartbreak spurred by the knowledge that this is all that we get.
You couldn’t be blamed if you had never heard the name of one of the modern era’s foremost writers of uncanny and supernatural horror. Thomas Ligotti hasn’t done much to, as they say, put himself out there to be widely consumed by the masses. The path to Ligotti is circuitous, beset by roadblocks and warnings, sign posts that warn the undiscerning that here there be monsters. He has, for most of his career, existed in the shadows. That, I suspect, is where he prefers it.
Leonard Maltin, a writer and film nerd who sits among the critical pantheon where Pauline Kael, James Agee, and Roger Ebert hold court, begins his latest collection of essays and interviews, HOOKED ON HOLLYWOOD, with a recollection of his youth when he was an avid reader of the legendary Famous Monsters of Filmland.