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Review – The Shapes of Midnight

The Shapes of Midnight

The Shapes of Midnight by Joseph Payne Brennan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The Shapes of Midnight by Joseph Payne Brennan

I went into this book blind. I did not know who the author was, or when the book was written, only that the cover looked interesting and it was in one of my favorite genres (the horror anthology). I am very glad that I did, because it was like some kind of mirror into my own reading history.

In the afterword, there is a quote from Stephen King that calls Brennan “one of the most effective writers in the horror genre” and I have to agree. Not because of the actual chills in the stories (honestly, I didn’t find that many) but because of the obvious influence he had on the genre, particularly Stephen King himself.

Reading the book, unaware of the history behind it, I felt myself thinking “This would have been perfect for Weird Tales.” more than once. I was, of course, 100% right. Brennan wrote hundreds of stories for that classic magazine.
I also found myself thinking, “This guy loved him some Stephen King.” It turns out I had it backwards!

These stories are nothing all that unique to the experienced reader of horror, and the “twists” in them are not twists at all, today. But this is because Brennan literally created many of them.

Of the stories in this collection, I found I liked The Pavillion best. A story of murder, guilt, and revenge(?) from beyond the grave, I found myself imagining it shot for shot in some early 80s horror anthology movie (Creepshow, of course).

Disappearance is another proto-King story. Indeed, I can see direct influences of several King stories here–the taciturn farmer with a secret, the missing family member, the grisly discovery. They all seem buried deep in our horror conscience now, thanks to stories like this.

As horror, honestly, there probably isn’t much here for the modern fan, but as a glimpse into the roots of the genre this is a very interesting (and still quite fun!) read.

I’d like to thank the publisher for the review copy!



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Review – The Three Impostors

The Three Impostors

The Three Impostors by Arthur Machen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The Three Impostors by Arthur Machen

Machen is a titan of the weird fiction genre, and this is one of his less famous works. It’s an episodic story, the result of serialization, with the framing work of two friends in London with differing views on mystery and spirituality getting wrapped up in a strange web of lies and stories involving magic, lurkers in the wild, and other staples of the old weird.

This is a perfectly diverting book, full of creepiness and period frumpery that was perfectly worth the time reading it. And since it’s free on Project Gutenberg, anyone with the slightest urge can give it a try.



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Review – Unsouled

Unsouled (Cradle, #1)

Unsouled by Will Wight

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Unsouled by Will Wight

In this fantasy, a vaguely East Asian-based society is rules by people who can use a natural force called “madra” to fight, create, and manipulate the works arrive them. Everyone is tested for their affinity to one of the various paths of usage and are assigned a future: except the Unsouled, who show no affinity and this are only objects of shame and pity.

Wei Shin Lindo is one such, but he honers to break out of this rigid system and show that he is every bit as capable as his peers.

What occurs carries Lindo far beyond anything he found have imagined, with the fate of worlds moving around him.

This is a great, fun adventure reminiscent of Avatar, the Last Airbender. The practice is great, the characters fun and the working is interesting without being overwhelming in detail.

It’s definitely a pleasure to see Lindo use his wits to overcome his weaknesses, although I can see a definite Dragon Ball Z possibility of endless power creep if the writer isn’t careful.

But I hated to put the story down and I looked pretty much every choice made. What a fun read!



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Review – The Dragon’s Banker

The Dragon's Banker

The Dragon’s Banker by Scott Warren

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The Dragon’s Banker by Scott Warren

For merchant banker Sailor Kelstern, money is everything. He’s a walking embodiment of the Month Python Money Song. He has had a minor business setback with a very powerful Lord, which means his reputation is down but not out, but business goes on. And then a new client appears, asking him to manage the accounts of a very, very wealthy patron in the transition from hard currency to fiat based economy. The client, as you might have guessed from the title, really REALLY likes gold, and is not at all happy about this new paper money.

This book was a hoot. Seriously, it was so much fun. It was refreshing to see a decent protagonist who didn’t use a bit of force, just cleverness and skill, to get through truly difficult situations.

The main character was built perfectly. His motivations, actions, and values all clicked just right to create someone unique, but relatable at the same time. The pacing of the story never lets up (it might actually have been better sometimes if it did) and the plentiful turns paid off well.

The writing was fluid and clever without falling into the trap of “witty banter,” and the editing was very solid. This book showed a lot of care and thought, and I really appreciate the author sending me a review copy.

There aren’t many economic heroes out there (Discworld’s Moist von Lipwig and Cithrin from the Dagger and Coin books are all that spring to mind) but I’m of the growing opinion that we could use a lot more!



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Review – Home from the Sea

Home From The Sea

Home From The Sea by William Meikle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Home from the Sea
by William Meikle

This is a collection of stories in a “Lovecraftian” vein, and all are connected to the sea/water in some way.

Overall, the collection is quite fun. It bounces between exciting novelty, and a somewhat telling repetition of ideas and even sentences. The whole seems to create an almost original branch of the mythos that is all Meikle’s, particularly the influence of music and rhythm on the mind and the “others.”

Some of my particular favorites among these stories are perhaps “Inquisitor,” pitting a shoggoth against a member of the Spanish Inquisition (bet you weren’t expecting that!); and the title story, in which whalers are faced with something horrific from the depths. They both take some basic familiar ideas and use them in novel ways to create something very interesting.

The book does have some minor little editing issues (one story had a bunch of commas replaced by the 3/4 symbol. What?) but is generally very well done and quite readable.

Definitely worth a read for horror and Lovecraft fans.



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