Papercuts: A Passage In Black

Papercuts: A Passage In Black

By Ryan “HB” Mount

**Spoiler Free Review**

As the fall approaches and the cool air fills the night, we all start to think about what lies ahead.  For many, Halloween is around the corner and horror movies begin to dominate our watching experiences.  However, this year, the best scary stories won’t be on film, but will be told on black and white pages.  That is because author, Cullen Bunn, releases his newest work, A Passage In Black.

Cullen Bunn may be most known for his works in comics.  Currently he is writing Marvel’s X-Men, but has been working in comics for years not only at Marvel, but also at DC, Oni, and Darkhorse.  However, he is no stranger to the horror genre as he is currently writing Harrow County which perhaps has the title of best ongoing horror comic being currently published.

A Passage in Black is collection of 27 short stories, which include 8 brand new, never published tales and 19 previously only available in small press.

If you are like me and grew up on Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series, you have been wanting to more of these tales since your childhood and every time there is mention of reviving the series or bringing it to screen, you scream in delight.  If you are like me, then you know it has been awhile as well.  And A Passage in Black fills that similar of itch of feeling terrified one moment and grossed out in another, whether by words or haunting imagines.

The themes of the tales are all over the place.  There are stories if old women in the woods, cannibals in the country, and ghost children who come out in the rain.  There are also completely absurd chapters than include mutant testicles and killer frogs.  No matter your brand of horror, there are stories that you will enjoy.

Not only will you enjoy the actual stories, but Bunn gives readers a peak behind the horror show curtain.  At the conclusion of most stories, Bunn lets the readers in on his inspirations behind them.  Sometimes, it’s about a pond near his childhood home and other times it all started with one line or one small concept.  While, some may wish to not know, you can read them as if you were watching directors commentary on a movie.  It is not for everyone, but I will say, after reading “Cold Snap” I was glad to have it there as it may have been the scariest one in the world for me, a soon to be father and Bunn himself shares those reservations after writing it.

While A Passage In Black is certainly not a graphic novel, the book does include 23 illustrations to accompany most of the stories.  These are certainly reminiscent in style to the Scary Stories, the art from Tim Mayer is the perfect pairing.  All the illustrations are black and white and scratchy which gives it an unfinished look.  The unfinished style is like looking at the difference of a brand-new home versus one that is decaying and run-down.  It tonally made sense for the book and will help give you nightmares if you are reading before bed.

I promised to keep this review spoiler-free, so any more information would lessen the absolute joy I had while reading A Passage In Black.  It is very hard to compare this full length book to what we normally review for this column, but this was the absolute best work I have read since launching the column.

This is a must own for any real horror fan.

A Passage in Black will be released THIS FRIDAY, October 6th from OmahaBound.com There will be 100 limited edition hard covers available there or head over to amazon.com and order a paperback copy.

I implore everyone to order their copy.

And please check out the other works by the wonderful work from Cullen Bunn at cullenbunn.com and follow him on twitter at @cullenbunn.  You can find Tim Mayer’s work over at timmayerart.com .  And an additional thank you to Tim Benson at OmahaBound, who got this into my hands, and make sure to follow him on twitter @TBRAMBLIN to see all the great projects he has going on.

And if it was not obvious…

Ratings: 5 out of 5 (actually, can I give a 6 out of 5?)

 

If you like what you read, make sure to like it and share it on all your social media platforms.  If you want to suggest a book to review, make sure to tweet at me @hebruise . Make sure to follow me and check out all my comics work at horror-writers.com (@horror_writers) and over at twoheadednerd.com (@twoheadednerd)

Nightmares: Book Review

nightmares-cover

Ellen Datlow is a master curator of fiction, and though she calls herself a “horror enthusiast,” I don’t think it’s a stretch to say she is also one of the guiding hands of the genre. Her Best Horror of the Year anthologies are a snapshot of current trends in horror, offering readers a sampling of new and established authors in one volume. Nightmares expands on those best-of collections and represents Datlow’s favorite short fiction from the years spanning 2005 to 2015.

Every story in the collection is exceptional. This surprised me. Usually, anthologies contain a tale or two that made me wonder how it made the cut, but not this one. There were a few stories that I’d read before and was delighted to read again. Sometimes, a story brought up personal terrors and was hard to read, but isn’t that what horror is supposed to do?

It took me several weeks to read all 24 stories because I had to think about what I’d just read. I spent a few nights staring at the ceiling trying to chase the afterimages out of my brain so I could sleep.

Here are the stories that kept me awake:

“Closet Dreams” by Lisa Tuttle left me with fear scrabbling at the inside of my ribcage. A survivor of an ordeal at the hands of a depraved child molester can’t let go of the past. Her abductor had forced her into a closet during the day so no one would hear her if she screamed for help. After her escape, and years of therapy, the dreams of the closet still haunt her. She tries to glean clues from her dreams – something that can give the police a means to find her captor – but all she can see is the dark, and the room beyond the crack under the door.

“Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8)” by Caitlín R. Kiernan made me read it twice. Twin sisters cruise across a landscape of blood, depravity and blind, obsessive love. They mark their map and memories by the bodies in their wake. To me, they may be escaping hell or hurtling toward it, or perhaps they’re already there.

The story that challenged me the most was “Omphalos” by Livia Llewellyn. It’s transgressive and brutal, pushing the boundaries of parental cruelty into a nightmare of a vacation. Their love is abusive and drives their daughter June into territory that only she can see on the map. Her father wants her to take him with her, but she alone knows the way to the center where chaos and darkness lies.

There are so many more. This is the best anthology I’ve read all year and a must-have for any horror fan’s bookshelf.

Reach and Other Short Stories: Book Review

reach and other short stories

Reach and Other Short Stories
By Brandon Drake

Reach and Other Short Stories is a single author collection, not an anthology as suggested in the Preface.

It contains an opening scene of four college-aged men and women in a closed library. You may think, as I did, how this is reminiscent of other stories or movies which start out the same way. One of them reads something aloud they shouldn’t, releasing some horror into the world. I love that these characters made the same reference and took things a different direction. What follows are four short stories they find in a recently published book in the library with their light banter in between each tale.

Now, let me address the four stories without spoiling them. The first is titled, Rain. Mary encounters a kitten during a walk in an odd rain storm. While trying to rescue the cat, she discovers the true nature of the rain, to her dismay.

The second story is titled, Reject. Hal’s boring job is to open envelopes and check the contents. Any with missing elements or information are rejected. One particular envelope brings out Hal’s compassion with dire consequences.

The third story is Reach. Rob is overly sleepy; something continually wakes him.  Unable to find the source, he unravels. This story reminded me of the original Twilight Zone television series.

The final story is Resuscitate. After a car wreck, Jacob wakes in the hospital. He learns how texting and driving can lead to death…and beyond.

The entire collection is short and a light read. I’d recommend it as something for a long trip or beach. I would suggest to the author to work on tightening up the writing. He has a particular love for words such as ‘that’, ‘had’, and ‘was’…to the point of distraction to the reader. Every author has their favorite overused words so learning what yours are and consciously avoiding them is part of being a writer.  Mister Drake did ask  for honest feedback in his Preface so hopefully he’ll find this part of the review worthwhile.

31 Days of Horror Day 30: Trick R Treat

Trick R Treat - Poster

Yesterday was insanely busy, so I didn’t get a chance to put this up.  Apologies.  Between work and a playoff softball game (championship game next week!), I just couldn’t find any time.  This is also my excuse for the lateness of my Walking Dead post this week.  I love excuses.
The lack of a post helps out here a little.  It’s Halloween!  Let’s make it a double feature (but I’ll still split it into two posts, because it looks like I did more work that way).

I mean Samhain.  Sorry, Rhonda.
I mean Samhain. Sorry, Rhonda.

I, like many people, am a sucker for movies set on Halloween.  It’s the spookiest time of the year.  Rhonda informs us that it’s the day when the barrier between the living and dead is thinnest, which sets us up for story that takes place in the world as we know it, but with a lot of supernatural forces.

And spooky children.
And spooky children.

We have a pumpkin-headed child who works as a kind of Halloween police.
We have werewolves.
We have vampires (maybe).
We have the dead rising from the grave.
We also have a severe lack of likable characters, which is usually a hindrance for me, but I don’t mind it here.  I think it’s the nature of the movie.  You see the nastiness of these people, and it doesn’t really bother you so much to see them die.  The worst ones get their comeuppance.  The ghosts of Halloween don’t let them get away.  You can almost look at Sam as a boogeyman, although he doesn’t always go about his business in the same way Michael Myers does.  He’s like a conductor of revenge, but he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty from time to time.

Trick R Treat - Sam

It’s a series of stories all taking place in the same town on the same night.  Characters cross paths, but it’s really the spirit of Halloween that connects them all.
It has a terrific atmosphere that is absolutely perfect for this time of year.  Let’s all get dressed up…

Trick R Treat - Anna Paquin

…engage in some Halloween shenanigans, and kick back with this movie.  But don’t forget to help Principal Wilkins with the eyes.  Thurman Merman can tell you all about it.

Trick 'r Treat

Fresh Fear: Contemporary Horror review

Fresh Fear cover

Fresh Fear: Contemporary horror is edited by William Cook
Review by S. Kay Nash

Each story in this anthology touches on the fears of the modern world. In the introduction, a selection from W.J. Renham’s The Art of Darkness: Meditations on the Effect of Horror Fiction,  we are reminded that, “Horror serves to reconnect us with our primal selves, provides temporary respite from the droning conditions of modern life.”

This isn’t a taste of the horror fiction of today–it’s a giant snarling bite. Some stories examine the experience of being bullied, losing a child, and the terror of becoming a drooling husk devoid of emotion. Primal fears of ghosts, demons and ancient evil unleashed upon humanity are also found here. Some of these tales are a closer look at the horrors we view on the 24-hour news feeds where serial killers, rapes and murders keep us both frightened and entertained. Some authors examine the quiet horrors of isolation, insanity, and the complacency of those who view evil but do nothing to stop it.

None of the authors shy away from vivid imagery, gore, violence or misogyny. The one story that haunts me the most, “Camps” by Jack Dann, was a glimpse into the history of World War II. The images conjured in his words are as haunting as the photographs that survive the Nazi concentration camps. Another favorite was “Welcomeland” by Ramsey Campbell. His portrait of a dilapidated town and the equally ramshackle amusement park gave me chills. The lyrical, “Darkness Dancing in Your Eyes” by WH Pugmire was a glimpse of eternal loyalty, beauty, and pain.

I highly recommend Fresh Fear for fans of short fiction, visceral horror, and good storytelling.

***

Scathe meic Beorh God of the Wind: An academic research trip to Mora, New Mexico brings a man face-to-face with the gods of the desert and teaches him more than he wants to know.

Ramsey Campbell Welcomeland: A man travels home to visit the amusement park that he helped finance. Meant to revitalize the economy, he finds the park failed and the town in shambles.  You can’t go home again, but if you do, can you ever leave?

It wasnt the desolation that troubled him so much as the impression that the town was yet struggling to change, to live.

Lily Childs Strange Tastes: She’s the perfect caretaker. Loyal, neat, clean, and a fantastic gourmet cook. When her employers are arrested for tax fraud, she discovers they share her tastes in more than just kitchen appliances.

Lincoln Crisler Nouri and the Beetles: In a time of war, the young men leave to fight. What does a girl have to do to get a husband?

Jack Dann Camps: People often speak of those suffering a terminal disease as being fighters. Stephen fights his war for survival on two fronts. The first is a war of pain and drugs. The second is a battle of memories long past and never forgotten.

Robert Dunbar High Rise: Brandon, his brother Tyrone, and their mother move to a better room in an ill-kept high rise. When Tyrone meets one of the ghostly former tenants, Brandon must save his life before he wastes away.

Thomas Erb Spencer Weaver Gets Rebooted: A teen has only the internet and his mother to help him get through his last year of High School. He seeks revenge on the bully who tormented him with the tools at his disposal.

Brandon Ford Scare Me: As a reviewer, I can honestly say that this was my favorite story in the whole anthology. It was fantastic! I swear it. Really. Not joking. Looks nervous.

Carole Gill Raised: A boy’s despair over his mother’s madness leads him to a career in medicine. While dissecting corpses for his classes, he discovers he has a passion for studying the deceased. Will his mother’s curse follow him, or is there something else in the past that haunts him?

Lindsey Beth Goddard The Tooth Collector: When her daughter is killed in traffic, Jenny knows it wasn’t an accident. She seeks out the man responsible and demands her daughter be returned to her.

JF Gonzalez Love Hurts: A tale of the Black Dahlia, the Laguna State Mental Hospital, undying love, and the transforming ecstasy of pain.

Dane Hatchell The takers: Mr Jaffe is being held in a medical testing facility, desperate to escape. The Rooks shoot him full of drugs to steal his soul.  The ‘takers shuffle him from place to place and whisper the words that strike terror in his heart, “Its Wednesday, and its time for Bingo!

E.A. Irwin Justice through Twelve Steps: Particularly disturbing tale of insanity, rape and murder.

Charlee Jacob Locked inside the Buzzword Box: Clanci Feamy is her father’s greatest experiment in terminal insanity. She’s thinking outside box, and she’s hungry.

Heaven waited, so did Hell. The two were even the paradigm for the amalgamation of rapture and damnation. Both places were Terminal Wards.

K Trap Jones Demon Eyed Blind: A demon-hunter pursues her prey with skill and precision until she backs him — and herself — into a corner. She’s down to two souls, one body, and the police banging on the locked door.

Tim Jones Protein: When the ice melts and the world is awash with water, the next world war will be fought over calories. You can survive if you have enough protein.

Vada Katherine – Block: Block’s wife, Luna was murdered. Now he is investigating a series of murders that may be related.

Block has lived too much, suffered the touch of madmen, tasted the ugly redolence of death and outlived the only human being that ever loved him.

Roy C. Booth and Axel Kohagen Just Another Ex: A private investigator goes after a man suspected of cheating on his wife. Unfortunately, it’s not his wife who has hired the detective.

Shane McKenzie So Much Pain, So Much Death: Distraught parents are overjoyed to discover that their missing daughter has been found alive. The man responsible for her disappearance rots in a cell, but her father has suspicions that all is not as it seems.

Shaun Meeks Perfection Through Silence: Tom is tormented by a sound. All he wants is silence, to quiet the ticking that no one else can hear. His grandmother could help him, but she’s been dead for almost a year.

Adam Milliard The Incongruous Mr Marwick: Which is the greater evil, the perpetrator of torment, or the one who stands by and merely observes?

Christine Morgan Nails of The Dead: Plenty of people are preparing for the end of the world. Some intend to merely survive it, others work to build the vehicles that will usher it in.

Billie Sue Mosiman Verboten: Dorothy wants to be a singer in Nashville, but her sister vanished from the truck stop up the road. Her grandfather says strangers are verboten,  but it doesn’t stop her from looking.

D.F. Noble – Psych: Working on the psych ward is a difficult job. Sometimes it helps to talk to a professional so your work doesn’t follow you home.

Chantal Noordeloos The Door: Jen’s sister Mila is having nightmares. Their stepfather is acting strangely and the basement door is locked. Is the danger on this side of the door or beyond it?

WH Pugmire – Darkness Dancing in Your Eyes: Enoch Blade awakens in his master’s house, alone and despondent. He still seeks to serve the alchemist who taught him to dance when there is nothing left but grave stones and shadows in the mirror.

“Enoch found his way home, to the abode where he had assisted his master when that alchemist had lived, where he served his master still in some unholy way.”

William Todd Rose The Grave Dancer: People have attempted to film and photograph ghosts for as long as the technology has been available. When Jamie and his friends view an 8mm film from his late grandfather’s collection, they decide to find out if the local ghost stories are real.

Anna Taborska Out of the Light: In the vast stacks of the Bodleian Libraries, a student’s book request becomes a scholar’s worst nightmare.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of the review. This review was originally published at http://www.bookie-monster.com