A Gathering of Ghosts by Karen Maitland is a historical fiction novel with dark fantasy elements. Set in the wilds of Dartmoor in the year 1316, the story centres around the isolated Priory of St. Mary, home to the Sisters of the Knights of St. John. At this priory, led by Prioress Johanne, they see to the infirmed who are in need of care, as well as provide shelter for pilgrims and other travelers making their way across the hazardous countryside. Their main attraction is the healing well that sits in a cave beneath their chapel, once associated with a pagan goddess but now dedicated to Saint Mary, which brings them many visitors from near and far.
With the country at large gripped by the Great Famine and tin miners ravaging the moorland for its precious ore nearby, everybody is feeling the strain as desperate times become worse and worse, including heavy rains that seem unending. The arrival of three strangers to Dartmoor—a knight, a blind child, and a woman with a withered arm—only seems to make matters worse, as soon after their arrival the holy well is beset upon by uncanny plagues.Read More »
‘Salem’s Lot is a 1975 horror novel by Stephen King, and it is the prolific author’s second novel. Set in the small fictional town of Jerusalem’s Lot, Maine, the story follows a young author named Benjamin Mears. He has returned to the town, where he spent a number of years growing up, in order to face some old childhood fears and continue working on a new novel inspired by the source of those fears, the foreboding and abandoned old Marsten House, which looms over the town on a hill.
Although his arrival in the Lot is met fairly warmly, a mysterious new pair of residents have arrived at the same time, lodging in that decrepit old mansion that Ben can’t help fixating on. Though at first these changes are simple curiosities, the disappearance of two local boys is a sinister portents of things to come, as the town’s new residents have brought with them a nightmarish blight that threatens to consume the town whole.Read More »
The Grip if It is a 2017 horror novel by Jac Jemc and my first Frighteningly Good Read for 2021. Married couple James and Julie have purchased their first home together in a small town just outside of the city where they met. They have decided to seek a fresh start after James’s gambling problem leaves his personal savings emptied out, putting some strain on their relationship. The transition to their new home is so seamless, however, it’s almost too good to be true.
They purchased the house, which has a forest behind it that leads to a beach, for a great price too. The seemingly innumerable hidden rooms are strange, but they provide a lot of extra storage space. And that constant deep, vibrating noise just at the edge of hearing, not unlike throat singing, is probably just the house settling, or so they tell themselves. They try their best to settle into their new home and lives, but it seems the house has other plans for them.Read More »
Jingo by Terry Pratchett is the 21st novel in the author’s comic fantasy Discworld series, and the fourth in the City Watch sub-series. After being submerged in the Circle Sea for hundreds of years, the island of Leshp suddenly resurfaces. Being exactly halfway between the city of Ankh-Morpork and Al Khali (the capital of Klatch), both cities lay claim to it for its strategic value, escalating tensions between the two. With Ankh-Morpork having a sizable population of Klatchian people, these mounting tensions begin to cause unrest within the city’s population, much to the chagrin of Commander Samuel Vimes of the City Watch and his loyal watchmen, who want nothing more than to keep the peace. After a visiting Klatchian prince is almost assassinated, it is up to the Watch to track down those secretly responsible, whom seem hellbent on ensuring that the war is inevitable.Read More »
Axiom’s End, the first book in the Noumena series, is the debut novel of author and video essayist Lindsay Ellis. A science fiction tale about first contact, the story is set in an alternate history 2007, shortly after a document known as “The Fremda Memo” has been leaked online, which seems to confirm that the U.S. government has had first contact with extraterrestrials. This leak was only a short while after a supposed UFO crash-landed in California, lending credence to what the document suggests.
Cora Sabino, a hapless college dropout trying to make her way in the world, is the daughter of Nils Ortega, the infamous whistleblower-in-hiding who leaked this world-changing memo. She and her family want nothing more than to sever their ties with Nils, who has routinely put his “transparency advocacy” before his family. His notoriety makes that impossible, however, keeping the eyes of his fans, the media, and the FBI on them all too often. After yet another impact event has people breathing down their necks like never before, Cora’s loose connections to it all bring her face-to-face with a terrifying alien visitor.Read More »
Hellboy: The God Machine by Thomas Sniegoski is the fifth Hellboy novel, based on the comic book series created by Mike Mignola. Religious artifacts and other random objects of worship have started disappearing without a trace, the identity of the perpetrator a complete mystery and their motives unclear. Following a tip from an unlikely source, Hellboy and Liz Sherman foil a museum heist attempted by crude, undead cyborgs, fashioned together with scrap technology and powered by the souls of the dead. These creatures were created by a small order of fanatical psychics, who plan to use esoteric technology to bring a new messiah into the world. If they succeed, it could bring about the complete annihilation of humanity.Read More »
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch is a 1990 comic fantasy novel by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman, working together early in their careers, long before they became as celebrated as they are now. The apocalypse is upon the world, and according to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (recorded in 1655), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday. This doesn’t sit well with Aziraphale and Crowley, an angel and demon respectively, who have lived among humanity for millennia and have really come to enjoy the lifestyle. So, they’ve decided to cancel Armageddon by killing the Antichrist. Problem is, they’ve somehow misplaced him. As they scramble to locate him, armies amass, the four Bikers of the Apocalypse are riding out together, and a rather nice young lad is learning he has the power to remake the entire world as he sees fit.Read More »
The High Republic: Into the Dark by Claudia Gray is the first YA novel in the Star Wars: The High Republic multimedia series, which is set 200 years before Star Wars Episode I. Jedi Padawan Reath Silas may not be as Force-sensitive as his peers, but the young apprentice works hard to earn his mettle within the Jedi Order, determined to become one of its great scholars. His ideal routine of plunging into the Archives of the Jedi Temple on the planet Coruscant is stripped away, however, when his Master, Jora Malli, becomes the Jedi commander of Starlight Beacon, a space station on the Republic frontier in the Outer Rim territories of the galaxy.
Reath isn’t the adventurous type, but where his Master goes he must follow. Travelling to Starlight separately from her, with Jedi Masters Orla Jareni and Cohmac Vitus, and Jedi Knight Dez Rydan, he is struck with trouble sooner than expected. A disaster in Hyperspace forces their transport ship to seek refuge on a derelict space station, along with a number of other refugee spacecrafts. While the reason for the catastrophe eludes them, the station itself holds a dark secret: an overbearing presence of the Dark side of the Force that Reath and his fellow Jedi struggle to understand. If they’re not careful, a nightmarish scourge that has been dormant for eons could be released upon the galaxy.Read More »
Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death is a novel by Kurt Vonnegut, originally published in 1969. Considered an American classic and among the world’s great antiwar novels, the story is centered around the firebombing of Dresden, Germany during World War II. It follows Billy Pilgrim, a U.S. Army private, who embarks upon a strange odyssey while struggling to survive as a prisoner of war. Billy’s consciousness becomes unstuck in time, sending him to various points in his own past and future, including his married life after the war, waning years after surviving a serious accident, and the period of time he spent as an exhibit in an alien zoo. Through it all, he always returns to his horrific experiences during the war.Read More »
Alien: River of Pain by Christopher Golden is the third novel in the trilogy of canon Alien books that were published from 2013–2014. This novel tells the never-before-told story of Hadley’s Hope, the doomed colony and setting of the film Aliens. This colony was tasked with terraforming LV-426 (renamed Acheron), the planetoid where Ripley and the crew of the Nostromo had their nightmarish encounter with the Alien. The story follows Anne and Russell Jorden, two “wildcatters” who seek their fortune by surveying the planet, their children Rebecca (aka Newt) and Tim, and Captain Demian Brackett, the new CO of the colonial marines posted to the colony.
Ellen Ripley, long thought lost after the disappearance of the Nostromo 57-years previously, has been discovered adrift by a salvage crew. After her story is unraveled, the Weyland-Yutani Company sends survey coordinates to the science team at Hadley’s Hope, eager to rediscover the derelict ship on Acheron and secure a xenomorph specimen. Anne and Russ are ecstatic when they find the decaying vessel, but what they encounter within spells doom for their fledgling community.Read More »