Four Creepy Reads

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
Pages: 144
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)
Pages: 324
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)
Pages: 224
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)
Pages: 252
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.

Javert + Batman + Insanity

Konrad Curze: The Night Haunter (Primarchs Book 12) by [Haley, Guy]Title: Konrad Curze: The Night Haunter
(The Horus Heresy: Primarchs Book 12)
Author: Guy Haley
Genre: Military Sci-Fi (Warhammer 40k universe)
Pages: 208
Rating: 3.5 of 5

A couple years ago I reviewed the Night Lords Trilogy as decent dark, uber-violent, escapist sci-fi. This book provides a prequel of sorts and isn’t half bad for a shared-world-based-on-tabletop-gaming sort of book. In it, we get to know the primarch/gene-father of the VIII Legion both before and after his fall into the service of Chaos. He combines the implacable “justice” of Les Miserables’ Javert with the terror-inspiring vigilantism of Batman and a great big dose of prescience-induced insanity.

The story is fragmented into a kaleidoscope of flashbacks and angry rants against the Emperor of Mankind. Some of the transitions can be a bit confusing, but given Curze’s insanity, I think the overall effect works quite nicely.

The plot features the usual Warhammer amount of guts, gore, and grossness (and then some since our protagonist is one of the “bad guys”). I was really hoping for a good chunk of the story to be about the primarch’s early dark vigilante days on Nostromo, but the author was more interested in exploring his damaged psyche and events subsequent to the Horus Heresy.

This isn’t a good starting point if you’re new to the series as it assumes you have a basic working knowledge of the universe and some of its major events. However, if you’re into the Warhammer 40K books in general and chaos space marines in particular, this is worth reading.