BURNING SKY – Weston Ochse
I really enjoyed this book. I’ve said elsewhere that Weston’s short fiction moves with terrifying grace, but his novels have a muscular poetry to them. Burning Sky, his newest novel, moves with urgency and forcefulness with the precision of, well, a military combat team, which just so happens to be the center and beating heart of this fascinating novel. It starts already rolling hard and continues, with some twists and turns and an elegant mystery that sneaks up on you along the way, to a cataclysmically great ending. Ochse’s inclusion of Zoroastrianism (a word, I have learned, I have a terrible time spelling without digital help) is inspired and really caught me in its grasp – I realized how little I actually know about it – so it offers a rich and intricate world for readers to discover, delivered by Weston’s assured voice. Wes makes you care about this menagerie of hard-bit soldiers, drawing you in to feel like you’re part of the team, and then he does horrible things to them. And he fucks with your head while he’s at it. If you like brilliantly rendered military fiction, if you like cosmic horror with new and interesting takes on mythology (seriously, he opens the door a crack for you by the end, exposing the potential for so much more), it’s not a book to be missed. Thankfully, there are more stories coming in this series.
THE LUMINOUS DEAD – Caitlin Starling
My publisher sent me this book to blurb, and I read it in two sittings, which for me is remarkable. For some reason, I’m not good at reading anymore. I used to think it was because as a professional writer, I come into every book with a mercenary eye – what can I learn? what can I take? what is this author doing well? what is she doing poorly? – but lately I’m starting to think it’s the deleterious effects of social media and smart phones on my attention span. More on this soon.
What was I talking about? Oh, The Luminous Dead.
Anyway, it took about five pages of reading to fall irrevocably into the hole The Luminous Dead offered. It’s a frightening book. It’s a fascinating book. It’s a very intimate book. There are really just two characters, but it never gets boring or old, and by the end all you want – all I wanted – was to get to the point where the characters finally meet.
GUIGNOL AND OTHER SARDONIC TALES – Orrin Grey
This collection makes a big to-do about the stories contained being “cruel” and some of them are definitely nasty, but Grey has a sort of gleeful and roving joyousness in the way he tackles what you might think of as old horror tropes and stands them on their head so that you have to look at them in a new way. Also, reading one of the stories I had the odd feeling that I was reading something that *I* could’ve written. That is not to say that I thought it was so good that it matched my standards (I am not so vain as that) but that it was so good it matched my interests and sensibilities.
Anyway, Orrin Grey is proving to be a master of the short-form, alongside writers like Laird Barron and Stephen Graham Jones. You should get this one, for sure. And Never Bet the Devil. *Side note* Never Bet the Devil is one of the few books I’ve bought TWICE in my life.
CARNIVOROUS LUNAR ACTIVITIES (Not pictured) – Max Booth III
This book is a fucking blood-thirsty joy and if it’s not made into a movie in the next couple of years, I’ll eat my hat. Luckily, I don’t own any hats, but you get the idea. It’s about two friends. One happens to be chained to an anchor in his own basement – yes, an anchor – and he’s a werewolf. The other guy has got a whole other set of problems.
There’s another Max walking around out there with the last name, but Max Booth is the literary inheritor of John Landis’s mantle and Carnivorous Lunar Activities could be the sequel to the comic-tragedy of An American Werewolf in London. This werewolf romp is a howling good time. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)
You can pre-order this bloody bad-ass novel right here. Due out February 22, 2019.
THE VISIBLE FILTH – Nathan Ballangrud
A very short novella, The Visible Filth is soon due to be a movie staring Armie Hammer and I’m very excited for it. The guys from This Is Horror tweeted about this – this edition is going out of print – so I bought a copy because I loved North American Lake Monsters, Ballangrud’s debut collection. The Visible Filth does not disappoint.
He doesn’t need any praise from me, but I’ll give it anyway – Ballangrud’s prose is subtle and beautiful yet simple. The story moves with a velocity that’s unexpected – it begins with Will, a disaffected bartender in a failing relationship, finding a phone at his bar one night after a fight. And then the texts start coming. The ending is evocative and monstrous, all at once.
Anyway, if you want to read it before the movie comes out, you can buy it here.
THE OUTCAST HOURS – Mahvesh Murad & Jared Shurin
Being an author means that sometimes books just show up at your doorstep without any sort of initiating action by myself. Such was the case with The Outcast Hours. Full disclosure, I’ve only read a couple of the stories so far, but let me just say this: Jeffrey Alan Love is as good a writer as he is an artist. And JAL is my favorite working artist, today. Like his visual art, his stories have this archetypal simplicity to them that elevates them to the level of myth. And there’s a China Mieville story in this as well! This collection will end up taking in a lot of awards in 2019, I’m pretty sure.
Pre-order it right here. It’s due to be released on February 19, 2019.
STAGGOLEE SHOT BILLY – Cecil Brown
This is one of the major historical reference books for my novel My Heart Struck Sorrow that will appear in bundled with The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky in A Lush and Seething Hell. Great book. If you’re interested in ethnomusicology, if you’re interested how an event becomes a classic song, if you’re interested in discovering what a song can say about race and social inequality, well, you can’t go wrong with Staggolee Shot Billy. All about the folk and blues classic, “Stagger Lee.”