A round-up on my horror reads this year so far
Author: Stephen Kozeniewski
Format: Digital, 326 pages
Publication Details: April 1st 2017 by Sinister Grin Press
Genre(s): Horror; Science Fiction
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.
Doctoral student Paige Ambroziak is a “station bunny” – she’s never set foot off the deep space outpost where she grew up. But when she’s offered a small fortune to join a clandestine salvage mission, she jumps at the chance to leave the cutthroat world of academia behind.
Paige is convinced she’s been enlisted to find the legendary Manifest Destiny, a long-lost colonization vessel from an era before the corporations ruled Earth and its colonies. Whatever she’s looking for, though, rests in the blood-like seas of a planet-sized organism called a fleshworld.
Dangers abound for Paige and her shipmates. Flying outside charted space means competing corporations can shoot them on sight rather than respect their salvage rights. The area is also crawling with pirates like the ghoulish skin-wrappers, known for murdering anyone they can’t extort.
But the greatest threat to Paige’s mission is the nauseating alien parasites which infest the fleshworld. These lamprey-like monstrosities are used to swimming freely in an ocean of blood, and will happily spill a new one from the veins of the outsiders who have tainted their home. In just a few short, bone-chilling hours Paige learns that there are no limits to the depravity and violence of the grotesque nightmares known as…THE HEMATOPHAGES
I was in two minds going into this book. On one hand, I expected to like it because I’ve enjoyed many of Stephen Kozeniewski’s previous books (Braineater Jones, Hunter of the Dead and The Ghoul Archipelago) , but on the other hand, I don’t have a huge capacity for deep-space colony settings/ hardcore sci-fi novels.
Luckily for me, 1. I’m a bit of a gore-fiend, and that came in spades, and 2. It appears that everything Kozeniewski writes is so damn readable! It’s annoying, really.
The Hematophages centres around Paige, a seemingly accomplished and confident Doctoral Student. But deep down she’s inexperienced and naïve, having never left her space station. Paige bags herself a ‘need to know’ mysterious new job which will send her on a mission into the fleshworld (yes, it’s as gross as it sounds) with its oceans of blood and blood-drinking alien-fish monstrosities.
The mission is fraught with danger from the start, attacked by pirates with no skin before they even arrive, and then the realisation that they are actually salvaging the world-famous ship The Manifest Destiny which holds some truly grim surprises of its own, Paige and her new BFF/the object of her affection, Zanib will be extremely lucky to get out alive (and with all their parts), never mind complete the mission.
I wasn’t sure about protagonist Paige at first. She seemed to have two entirely different personalities, which meant it took me a little while to get into the swing of things, but I warmed to her eventually and ended up really enjoying this fast-paced story.
The thorough world-building made it easy to understand Kozeniewski’s epic vision. And it was epic! As I said earlier, I’m not a huge SF reader, so maybe this was nothing new, but it was definitely new to me, and felt unique.
I liked that in this version of the far-future the human race are all one colour due to years of inter-racial sex, that the gross Skin-Wrappers evolved from ostracised people with some kind of cancer, and that men have completely died out. Hurrah! (I joke…but, imagine).
Written well, full of stomach-churning wrongness and women kicking some blood-sucking, alien-fish-with-teeth-for-tongues ass, Kozeniewski has done it again. He’s like the indie master of horror. Or something. Give him a try if you can stomach it!
Flood and Fang
Author: Flood and Fang
Series: The Raven Mysteries #1
Format: Paperback, 256 pages
Publication Details: March 1st 2009 by Orion Children’s Books
Genre(s): Children’s; Gothic; Fantasy
Meet the wonderfully weird Otherhand family and their faithful guardian, Edgar the raven, and discover the dark secrets of Castle Otherhand.
Edgar is alarmed when he sees a nasty looking black tail slinking under the castle walls. But his warnings to the inhabitants of the castle go unheeded: Lord Valevine Otherhand is too busy trying to invent the unthinkable and discover the unknowable; his wife, Minty, is too absorbed in her latest obsession – baking; and ten-year-old Cudweed is running riot with his infernal pet monkey.
Only Solstice, the black-haired, poetry-writing Otherhand daughter, seems to pay any attention. As the lower storeys of the castle begin mysteriously to flood, and kitchen maids continue to go missing, the family come ever closer to the owner of the black tail…
This is was fun, middle grade read, with a gothic vibe – of such the kind that Sedgwick is so good at. The illustrations were inspired, too. Fans of the likes of The Addam’s Family will be sure to love this series.
Member of the Family
Author: Dianne Lake
Format: Digital, 384 pages
Publication Details: March 8th 2018 by HarperCollins
Genre(s): Memoir; True Crime
In this poignant and disturbing memoir of lost innocence, coercion, survival, and healing, Dianne Lake chronicles her years with Charles Manson, revealing for the first time how she became the youngest member of his Family and offering new insights into one of the twentieth century’s most notorious criminals and life as one of his “girls.”
At age fourteen, Dianne Lake—with little more than a note in her pocket from her hippie parents granting her permission to leave them—became one of “Charlie’s girls,” a devoted acolyte of cult leader Charles Manson. Over the course of two years, the impressionable teenager endured manipulation, psychological control, and physical abuse as the harsh realities and looming darkness of Charles Manson’s true nature revealed itself. From Spahn ranch and the group acid trips, to the Beatles’ White Album and Manson’s dangerous messiah-complex, Dianne tells the riveting story of the group’s descent into madness as she lived it.
Though she never participated in any of the group’s gruesome crimes and was purposely insulated from them, Dianne was arrested with the rest of the Manson Family, and eventually learned enough to join the prosecution’s case against them. With the help of good Samaritans, including the cop who first arrested her and later adopted her, the courageous young woman eventually found redemption and grew up to lead an ordinary life.
While much has been written about Charles Manson, this riveting account from an actual Family member is a chilling portrait that recreates in vivid detail one of the most horrifying and fascinating chapters in modern American history.
Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve had this weird fascination with Charles Manson, but I never really read that much about him in the time before the murders took place. This book, written by the youngest recruited member of ‘the family’, provides a lot of insight on that time when the group transitioned from a hippie commune, to a sadistic cult capable of the harshest of crimes.
I found a lot of this book interesting but it dragged, especially in the beginning. I get that Dianne’s dysfunctional childhood is what paved the way for her joining Manson, but it could have been summarised a bit. I’m glad I read it though!
Midwinterblood // Marcus Sedgwick // October 2011 // Indigo // Goodreads
I’m a huge fan of Marcus Sedgwick. He’s written some of my favourite books (My Swordhand is Singing; Blood Red, Snow White; She is Not Invisible), and I’ve been slowly working my way through his back-catalogue. Midwinterblood had been on my list for a while and I’m pleased I finally got round to it.
It’s an odd book, and I mean that in the best way. It’s one of those books that’s like reading a dream. It explores the theme of soulmates in that deliciously dark tone that you’d recognise in Sedgwick’s early novels if you’ve read any. It’s mysterious and tantalising, in that as you encounter the several versions of the protagonist, the truth feels like an unobtainable thing. I found that this forced me to keep reading, but in some ways made me want to give up too.
The setting helped too. I wonder if Sedgwick had Fair Isle in mind as that’s all I could think of as I was reading which made it all the more mesmerising.
I can’t say Midwinterblood is gripping in the normal way a thriller or mystery book is, but its strangeness made it impossible for me to stop reading.
I’m quite disappointed with the amount of horror I’ve read this year- barely any at all. But I will definitely make up for it this Autumn!