Book Review – House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

House of Leaves

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski is a bit of a tough novel to define. It is a labyrinthine book riddled with footnotes that weave throughout the text, multiple unreliable narrators, and frequently disorienting formatting. I’ve heard it labeled a horror novel before, which in a way it is—it does deal with the perversion of physical laws and a terrifying journey into an oppressive, unknowable void. It is also a scholarly text, breaking down an examining a documentary film. It is also a man documenting his personal descent into lust, alienation, and obsession. It is also a collection of letters sent from a mother to her son. It is not technically all these things at once.Read More »

Book Review – Out of the Shadows by Tim Lebbon

Alien Out of the Shadows

Out of the Shadows by Tim Lebbon is the first book in a trilogy of new original novels set in the Alien franchise. They are not a trilogy because they  tell a single, continuous narrative, rather each are designed to tie more directly into events from the existing films and explore some of the different eras in the franchise. These books also mark a slight change in branding, previous novels having been branded after the second film Aliens.

Set between the films Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986), the novel follows Chris “Hoop” Hooper and the crew of the Marion, an orbital mining vessel above the planet LV-178. Following a two-day communications blackout with the mining operation on the surface of the planet the shuttles Samson and Delilah return to the ship at full speed. While trying to contact the miners on board the crew witness horrible creatures bursting from the chests of some of the miners on the camera feed. Samson docks successfully on autopilot, but Delilah crashes into the station. With their orbit slowly degrading and their only working shuttle containing nightmares, all hope seems lost…until a long lost shuttle adrift in space picks up their distress call and comes for them.Read More »

Book Review – The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House is a 1959 Gothic horror novel by Shirley Jackson. The titular Hill House is an 80-year old estate built in an unspecified countryside location surrounded by hills. It’s original owner Hugh Crain is long dead, but the house has had a storied history of family tension, tragedy, and death. Many believe it to be haunted; the caretakers only go on the grounds during the day and the nearby townsfolk dare not speak of it. Dr. Montague, an investigator of the supernatural, rents the property for the summer along with two assistants, Eleanor Vance and Theodora, as well as the heir to the estate Luke Sanderson, in hopes of documenting any strange happenings and finding proof of the otherworldly.Read More »

Book Review – The Troop by Nick Cutter

The Troop

The Troop is the first novel by Nick Cutter, telling the tale of the Scoutmaster and five Eagle Scouts of Troop 52 and their harrowing experiences on Falstaff Island, just off the coast of Prince Edward Island, Canada. Scoutmaster Tim Riggs has brought these five boys—Kent, Max, Ephraim, Shelley, and Newton—on a weekend camping trip to this island for years. This year’s trip takes a dark turn when an emaciated stranger intrudes upon their wilderness isolation, begging for food and desperate to hide from the world at large. Along with him he brings something far more sinister, unseen, and eager to wriggle its way among everyone.Read More »

Book Review – Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig

AftermathLifeDebt

Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig is the second novel in the Star Wars: Aftermath trilogy, continuing the story of Norra Wexley and her team; her son Temmin, his battle droid bodyguard Mister Bones, the Zabrak bounty hunter Jas Emari, the ex-Imperial Sinjir Rath Velus, and the special forces soldier Jom Barell, who work together to hunt down Imperial war criminals. The New Republic continues its fight for a firm foothold in the galaxy, while the Empire under Grand Admiral Rae Sloane and her mysterious advisor Gallius Rax conspire to regain the control lost after the deaths of the Emperor and Darth Vader. Meanwhile, in a risky move to free the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk from enslavement, Chewbacca has been captured and Han Solo has gone missing. A distressed Leia enlists the help of Norra’s team to find out what happened to her husband.Read More »

Book Review – The Bones of Giants by Christopher Golden

Hellboy Bones Of Giants

On the frozen shores of Sweden, lightning strikes from a clear sky. The skeleton of a huge man is revealed, its fingers clutched around the handle of an iron hammer. No one who comes to see this marvel from Norse mythology can lift it—no one but Hellboy, who lifts the hammer just in time for lightning to strike again, welding it to his hand and leading him towards a bizarre series of visions and encounters.

The Bones of Giants by Christopher Golden is the second Hellboy novel, written with the creator of the character and comic book series Mike Mignola, who also provided illustrations. There was always something about this book that appealed to me more than its predecessor The Lost Army. I did enjoy that book, but it felt fairly garden variety as far as Hellboy stories go. This second novel sported Hellboy on the cover wielding what is in fact Mjollnir, the legendary weapon of the Norse god Thor, promising something a little different for the world’s greatest paranormal investigator, who typically deals with less divine forms of the otherworldly.Read More »

Book Review – The Princess Bride by William Goldman

The Princess Bride

As Florin and Guilder teeter on the verge of war, the reluctant Princess Buttercup is devastated by the loss of her true love, kidnapped by a mercenary and his henchmen, rescued by a pirate, forced to marry Prince Humperdinck, and rescued once again by the very crew who absconded with her in the first place. In the course of this dazzling adventure, she’ll meet Vizzini—the criminal philosopher who’ll do anything for a bag of gold; Fezzik—the gentle giant; Inigo—the Spaniard whose steel thirsts for revenge; and Count Rugen—the evil mastermind behind it all. Foiling all their plans and jumping into their stories is Westley, Princess Buttercup’s one true love and a very good friend of a very dangerous pirate.

It was impossible for me to start reading The Princess Bride without some preconceptions. The film alone is such a huge cultural influence that even without having seen it or read the book I knew some things about it. I think you’d be a little hard-pressed to find someone in North America who has not heard the line “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” I also knew of the film’s narrative frame; a grandfather reading the story to his ill grandson who at first has misgivings about hearing it. What I didn’t expect was the bizarre metanarrative that the novel had in store for me.Read More »

Book Review – Aftermath by Chuck Wendig

Aftermath

The second Death Star has been destroyed, the Emperor killed, and Darth Vader struck down. All major victories for the Rebel Alliance. But the battle for freedom is far from over.

Determined to preserve the Empire’s power after its defeat in the Battle of Endor, the surviving Imperial elite are converging for a secret summit to consolidate their forces and prepare for a counterstrike. Above the remote planet Akiva, as Star Destroyers gather like deadly birds of prey, rebel pilot Wedge Antilles finds himself the sole witness to the looming threat—only to be capture before he can alert the Alliance. Meanwhile, former rebel fighting Norra Wexley has returned to her home on Akiva, ready to leave the ravages of war behind. But when she intercepts Wedge’s urgent distress call, she knows she must help, no matter the cost. What she doesn’t know is how close the enemy is—or how dangerous her mission will be. Together with her technical-genius son, a Zabrak bounty hunter, and an Imperial defector, Norra prepares to take the fight to the resurgent Empire—and do whatever it takes to end its oppressive reign once and for all.

Aftermath by Chuck Wendig is unique among the Disney Canon of Star Wars novels, being the first among them to deal specifically with the fallout of the events of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. While I had personally chosen before now to linger in fiction that takes place amidst the first six films, it was this largely uncharted territory that had me especially looking forward to starting this novel and the subsequent sequels that make up the Aftermath trilogy. Despite the Emperor’s fall and Darth Vader’s redemption the war is not over, as the tagline says, and I was eager to see the more in-depth details of the true end to the Galactic Civil War.Read More »

Book Review – My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

MyYearOfRestAndRelaxation

Our narrator should be happy, shouldn’t she? She’s young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, works an easy job at a hip art gallery, lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like the rest of her needs, by her inheritance. But there is a dark and vacuous hole in her heart, and it isn’t just the loss of her parents, or the way her Wall Street boyfriend treats her, or her sadomasochistic relationship with her best friend, Reva. It’s the year 2000 in a city aglitter with wealth and possibility; what could be so terribly wrong?

My Year of Rest and Relaxation (2018) is the latest novel by Ottessa Moshfegh. The story follows an unnamed narrator who is fed up with her life such as it is. Both her parents are dead, her recurring ex-boyfriend is a high-class dirtbag, and her only consistent relationship with her friend Reva is toxic. Life offers nothing of meaning or value to her. Everything is a superficial façade. In attempt to remedy her existential dilemma, with the help of a terrible psychiatrist, the narrator embarks upon a journey self-renewal. She begins taking a myriad of sleep aids and medication to keep herself sedated in her apartment as often as possible for an entire year, believing that by the end of this time she will emerge restored in mind and spirit.Read More »

Book Review – Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett

MovingPictures

People might say that reality is a quality that things possess in the same way that they possess weight. Sadly alchemists never really held with such a quaint notion. They think that they can change reality, shape it to their own purpose. Imagine then the damage that could be wrought if they get their hands on the ultimate alchemy: The invention of motion pictures, the greatest making illusions. It may be a triumph of universe-shaking proportions. It’s either that or they’re about to unlock the dark terrible secret of the Holy Wood hills — by mistake.

Moving Pictures (1990) by Terry Pratchett is the tenth novel in the Discworld series. It is also the first book in the Industrial Revolution novel sequence, where the catalyst of the story is some manner of technological innovation or invention. Unlike the other sub-series that focus on a specific character or characters, this book introduces a new cast to the reader. It isn’t until the fourth Industrial Revolution book that a recurring protagonist is introduced. This novel, unsurprisingly, follows the emergence of a motion picture industry on the Discworld and the mayhem it eventually unleashes.Read More »