First a disclaimer: I’m not a big fan of “creature horror novels.” I find most of them derivative and more of a paint-by-the-numbers wheelhouse with over the top gore meant to make up for a complete lack of story or character. Substitute X creature for Y monster and you’ve got yourself the same story you can pump out over and over again.
This isn’t to say creature horror can’t be done right, it just requires a lot more effort from an author who’s willing to invent something unique or tackle it from a new angle.
I went into Michael Patrick Hicks’ new novel, Broken Shells, without knowing much about it or that, in fact, it was a creature feature. That being said, and knowing my predisposition for these types of stories, I was pleasantly surprised by the approach he took. This is not your paint-by-numbers story. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve read a creature horror novel that tackles the story in a similar fashion.
A unique mythology, combining Native American lore, matched with a character you actually care about draws you in to a tale where the gore and horror are certainly on full display (but not carelessly thrown in). Hicks has a way of combining real world topics and concerns into his story without ever coming across as preaching, which adds a fantastic layer and relevancy to his tales. In short, this is one creature feature that’s worth the price of admission. Keep up these kind of stories and I may soon become a fan of a sub-genre I’ve tried to avoid.
** I received an advanced review copy of this book through NetGalley. My thanks to the publisher and author. This in no way influenced my review.
If I had to resort to the old Hollywood 5-second pitch, I’d describe this book as “Shutter Island in space.” That being said, this one deserves much more than a quick cursory glance.
Obscura hits the ground running, forcing the reader to start jogging along if you don’t want to get left behind. A disease similar to dementia and Alzheimer’s is now affecting healthy young individuals, from adults to children. Due to circumstances which you’ll discover once you read the book — because this IS a book you’ll read — Dr. Gillian Ryan is asked to go up to a space shuttle where some of the crew on board are experiencing similar symptoms.
From there it’s one seriously messed up flight. Combining elements of horror, science fiction, and psychological suspense, Hart does an amazing job at keeping the reader constantly guessing. But take away the mind games, the exploration of drug addiction, or the tantalizing concept of teleportation; it’s really the depth of emotion and character that take this to another level.
While I’ve been a fan of the author’s work for some time and have watched his career with admiration, this is the novel that sets him apart from would-be writers. High concept, brilliant ideas, but flawlessly executed. Great to have a book on the contender’s list for top book of the year so early in the year. Can’t recommend this one enough.
** I received an advanced copy of the book from the publisher through NetGalley. This is no way influenced by review. Book will be hitting the streets May 8th.
Start throwing your stones now, Constant Readers, but despite my immense love of King and his works I have never read the Dark Tower Series. The Gunslinger I’ve read a few times LONG ago, and I think I finished Drawing of the Three back then as well, but for whatever reason it didn’t take hold.
Well that was then, and this is now.
2018 will be the year of the Dark Tower for me, and I’m really excited to read through the entire series from start to finish without the delay of years between novels. I remember book one being more episodic in nature, but this time through I really dug the story and where King took it. For someone as prolific and popular as King is, he’s never been afraid of experimenting with his work, of challenging the status quo and the rules a novel should abide by. The Gunslinger hints at a much richer and darker world (or worlds) than is encapsulated in this single book, and being somewhat familiar with the mythos, it will be fun to fully dive in.
So wish me luck as I venture down this path with our fellow gunslinger on his journey towards the Dark Tower.
“A Guide for Murdered Children” has all the ingredients needed for an amazing book – a unique concept, an inventive hook, troubled characters, and some phenomenal and edgy writing. Unfortunately just tossing all the ingredients into a big pan and hoping it comes out in the end doesn’t always work.
What this book is missing is a solid through-line. There’s no plot. Nothing that drives the story forward. Instead we have half a dozen subplots and tacked together character lines that never coalesce into something stronger.
I really wanted to love this book. Sparrow certainly has some chops and there were some great moments in this, but overall it just didn’t deliver an experience and felt as if it were three drafts short of a final product. Worth checking out, if nothing more than for Sparrow’s unique style. Hopefully others will enjoy what just didn’t work for me.
“Every monster dreams. Every monster imagines, aspires.”
* I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley. My thanks to the author and publisher.
It’s always an unexpected surprise to get a notice that one of your books has been reviewed by a review site you respect, even better when said review makes you want to read your own book.
Nev Murray’s fantastic Confessions of a Reviewer site finally got to a book I submitted to them sometime last year. I don’t know the reviewer, Elaine Pascal, but man can she write! Seriously, one of my favorite reviews. Check out this snippet:
Contemporary fiction nihilistically portrays the consequences of complacent inaction, but none with more gusto than Housebroken.
There are two camps of “classic” books, those which you can appreciate for having been important in their time but that really don’t hold up, and those which somehow defy the passage of years much as Dorian Gray himself. This was shockingly relevant and literarily brilliant, and it’s hard to imagine this was originally published back in the 1890’s.
The beautiful thing about this novel is that it’s really a story about each of us. Hiding behind masks, creating a persona which we present to the public, while only ever allowing ourselves to glimpse the darker secrets of the soul when hidden in our personal attics. This is a novel that bears self reflection, that forces the reader to examine their own lives, something only truly great fiction can accomplish.
Far better than I had hoped for. Hope this is a trend that will continue for this year’s reads. And right now you can pick up the book for free on Amazon. If you haven’t yet checked this one out, no better time to do so.
Science fiction is an easy genre to botch. Too much techno-garble, too little research, too much world building or an overabundant cast of characters; I find most authors lose the core of their story within the infinite array of possibilities they’re incapable of leaving alone.
Drinkwater’s latest is a great reminder of what makes sci-fi so appealing. Take a strong yet flawed protagonist who needs to accomplish something and then set obstacles in her way. It’s not rocket science but man does it make for a compelling story.
The set up here is great, with Opal coming upon a “lost ship” circling the outer rim of a potential black hole, a ship that is far from what it appears to be. It’s obvious Drinkwater is a horror author as the tension and atmosphere really keep this novel moving at full speed. Add a lot of questions and intrigue and a dynamic relationship between our protagonist and the ship’s AI and you’ve really got a unique story that’s just exceptionally executed.
Part “Alien,” part “Cast Away,” part “Interstellar,” this exceeded my expectations and came in as one of my top Sci-Fi reads for 2017. Definitely worth checking out.