In keeping with it being October, here are four mini-reviews of some recent creepy reads (ordered from worst to best):
Title: Nothing but Blackened Teeth
Author: Cassandra Khaw
Genre: Haunted House Horror
Rating: 1.5 out of 5
The author seems more interested in showing off her “writing skills” and knowledge of Japanese folklore than actually writing a good book. The prose is so purple and metaphor-laden that it suffocates the story. For the supernatural elements, she spews out names of mythical Japanese beings with little or no helpful descriptions. The plot drags with everything supernatural happening in a rush toward the end after the spiteful, shallow “friends” have made themselves so petty and loathsome that you couldn’t care less what happens to them and their self-aware discussion of horror movie tropes. Very disappointing.
Title: I Strahd: The Memoirs of a Vampire
Author: P. N. Elrod
Genre: Dark Fantasy (Ravenloft)
Rating: 3 out of 5
Franchise fiction does not make for great literature, but it can be entertaining. This Dracula-like vampire origin story was competently executed. There’s nothing terribly original here, but it was fun escapist reading. I wouldn’t mind reading another Ravenloft book at some point in the future.
Title: The Living Shadow
Author: Maxwell Grant
Genre: Pulp Fiction (The Shadow)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Violent vigilante justice prevails in this first novel of the Shadow. The Shadow falls somewhere between hardboiled detective and dark superhero who may or may not have creepy supernatural powers (I’m pretty sure Batman is a Shadow rip-off). In spite of some amazingly convenient coincidences and an awkward attempt to tie it to the original radio show, this was a lot of fun and I’ll definitely be reading more in the series.
Title: The Oubliette
Author: J C Stearns
Genre: Grimdark Sci-fi (Warhammer Horror)
Rating: 4 out of 5
More franchise fiction, but this one was better than most. This tale of supernatural corruption, set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, deftly combines byzantine politics and an ancient evil. It’s a slow burn “seduction to the dark side” kind of story that doesn’t require a lot of previous knowledge of WH40k lore to make sense.