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 – 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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