Saturday, September 15, 2012


by Ania Ahlborn

I bought this ebook by mistake.  I read good reviews of Seed by Rob Ziegler, an eco-thriller which sort of reminded me of the Wind-up Girl.  And then I noticed the Seed ebook was on sale on Amazon for $2.99.  They both have similar beige/orange color covers with the black outline of a tree but I should have noticed the horned and cloven footed guy under the tree and I obviously wasn't paying attention to the authors, so I just bought it. (So easy to do on Amazon with the Buy now with one click.) It turned out to be a happy mistake because this book was perfect for RIP and I really enjoyed it.  

Jack and his wife Aimee are short on money and have some marital conflict over Jack's weekend performances in a band but they seem to be basically an average family with two cute little girls.  One night they are in a car accident when Jack rolls the car with the entire family inside swerving to miss some yellow glowing eyes in the road.  After that night their youngest daughter just isn't quite the same.  

As the story unfolds we learn that Jack had seen these glowing eyes before when he was a boy in an old cemetery by his house and crouching in the corner of his bedroom.  He had run away from his boyhood nightmare but cannot remember the details of what exactly happened when he ran away.  As his beloved little girl changes dramatically before his eyes and his wife and older daughter become afraid of her, he must try to remember the past that he thought he put behind him.  

This was a very creepy Southern Gothic horror story which I really enjoyed.  The atmosphere was great.  The evil stalking Jack and Charlie was suitably circumspect initially so you were left wondering whether it was real or simply in Jack's mind.  Anyone who has read a horror story or seen a horror movie would know from the set up that things were not going to go well for this family once those glowing eyes showed up but the path of the plot was unique and interesting.  And the characters, often not a strong suit in horror novels, were compelling.  The only criticism I have is that there were certain story aspects that I thought were interesting which didn't lead anywhere but over all I thought it was well done.

I was curious about the history of this book because it was originally self published and I haven't really read any self published books before but the version I read was apparently published by 47North, one of Amazon's publishing groups and edited and expanded prior to this publication.  The author talks about this re-release process on her blog which I found very interesting.  Seed was the author's first novel and I would definitely be interested in reading more from her.     

Monday, September 03, 2012

Short Stories from The Weird

Taking advantage of this long holiday weekend I thought I would write about some of my favorite short stories from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories which fits perfectly with RIP.   This Compendium of 110 stories from 1908 - 2010 (arranged in chronological order) includes stories by such heavy weights as Lovecraft, Borges, Shirley Jackson, Murakami, Stephen King, Angela Carter, Neil Gaiman but also countless wonderful stories by authors that I have never read before.   I prefer to read short stories slowly so I am less than a fifth of the way through (up to 1929) but here are my favorites so far:

The Spider 
by Hanns Heinz Ewers, 1915 translated from German
This story just blew me away, I couldn't stop thinking about it.  A particular hotel room has been the site of three suicides with all the deaths taking place at the same time of day.  The last suicide had been a policeman there to investigate the prior suicides.  In the story a young man volunteers to get to the bottom of the mystery and moves into the room.  He meticulously keeps a diary and notes nothing strange until .... Well I don't want to take the fun out of reading it but there is a women in the window across the alley, and spiders and needless to say it does not end well for the young man.  And the reader is left wondering what exactly happened.  Very very creepy!  

In the Penal Colony 
by Franz Kafka, 1919, translated from German
I am of course familiar with Kafka and The Trial is one of my favorite books but had never read this short story.  I guess the title just put me off because it somehow reminded me of Solzhenitsyn and I didn't really want to read about life in a gulag.  But the story is not about living in a Penal Colony.  The Explorer is a traveler who has come to visit the Penal Colony and is being given the honor and privilege of a tour (and ultimately a demonstration of) the Penal Colony's unique torture and execution devise which repeatedly writes the crime on the Condemned man over a twelve hour period, ultimately killing the Condemned.  The new Commandant of the Penal Colony is not in favor of this devise and the Officer who is providing the tour extols the virtues and intricacies of this devise in dispensing justice.  According to the Officer after six hours in the devise the Condemned experience a remarkable epiphany making them embrace the experience.  The Officer is hoping that the Explorer will convince the Commandant the worth of this remarkable devise.  Not surprisingly things do not go according to the Officer's plan. What makes this story so horrifying is that the Officer is enthusiastically enamored of the devise, the Traveler is not horrified by the thing and the Condemned takes a great interest in the devise seemingly unaware that it is about to torture him.  Indeed, in the world of the Penal Colony such a devise seems normal and unsurprising.  It gave me nightmares for a few nights after reading it.   

The People of the Pit
by A. Merritt, 1918
Explorers in the "North" come across a man crawling toward them who before he dies tells them of his escape from "the pit".  He had been searching for gold when he came upon a huge ravine or canyon with steps leading down for miles.  He spends days going down those steps and finds a huge city and possibly its inhabitants.  Is he crazy, did he find aliens, a lost civilization or Lovecraft's Old Ones?  Very very creepy.  It reminded me a little of Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness.

The Man in the Bottle
by Gustave Meyrink, 1912, translated from Austrian
A masked ball is in full swing and the revellers are having a great time and gossiping about a rumor of an illicit affair by the wife of the host.  The host, the Prince, comes on the scene and the entertainment begins.  A man is placed in a large glass bottle, the stopper put in place and the Prince is seated on top and the glass bottle serves as the background for a marionette show as the man in the bottle "comically capers".  The host's wife is brought on stage in a sedan chair and ....  Well you will just have to read it.  

I highly recommend this collection of short stories.