Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Three short story reviews for RIP - and a link to Niagara Falls and holidays

Before I get started on my short story reviews, I wanted to tell you about an awesome giveaway I just saw over on Court's blog Once Upon a Bookshelf.  She is giving away a new Fringe book!  Yes, a new book about one of my all-time favourite shows has just been published, and she won a copy in a bag of goodies she won at last weekend's FanExpo Canada 2012.  Lucky, lucky her, and us, because she's never seen an episode of Fringe....so if you are like me and love this show, this sounds like an interesting book just published about the themes and elements and plot.  Happy sigh.  I've already entered.....Into the Looking Glass, Exploring the Worlds of Fringe, by Sarah Clarke Stuart.  Hmm, if I don't win, I'll add it to my Christmas wish list.....

Ok, on to three really good, no, awesome horror short stories that I've read over the past week.  Two are  from The Year's Best Dark Fantasy and Horror 2010 , edited by Paula Guran. 

Monsters - Stewart O'Nan.  This is the story about a young boy, Mark who is playing with a pellet gun that belongs to his friend Derek. They are shooting bottles, and then the game expands in the way that it does when the pellets are harmless, and the bottles don't break.  Something does happen, and this is the story about how everything changes in an instant.  It's heartbreaking, and moving, and it hurts.  That sense of guilt that Mark feels eats away at him, even though no one blames him, and he is not able to forgive himself. That's where monsters come from,inside us.  An amazing story that feels so true, powerful and unsettling - I certainly have felt that guilt, and forgiveness is much harder to do than it sounds, especially towards one's self.  Oh, and no one dies, so don't avoid the story out of fear that it's like that.  It's much more subtle.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown - Holly Black. A vampire story, but not like any you've ever read before.  Vampires are caused by a virus that mutates, an infection that sets in when you are bitten.  If you get a taste of human blood after being bitten, you become a vampire.  If you don't?  Well, read what happens to Matilda, who has been bitten, and is trying to not become a vampire.  Then her friend Dante finds her, and tells her the boy she loves has crossed over into Coldtown - so named, because every city and town has a Cold area barricaded, where all the vampires live - along with Dante's sister.  They are both still human and alive. There is only one reason to go to Coldtown, however.  What Matilda does will chill your heart and make you cry at the same time.  An amazing story, one of the best short stories I've read about vampires.  As Guran says in her end note, you will want to know more about Matilda, and Cold Town, after.   I certainly do.  Fascinating.

The third short story I read is from The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories, edited by Michael Cox and R.A. Gilbert:

The Upper Berth - F. Marion Crawford.  A haunted berth on a passenger ship, and a narrator who is a no-nonsense kind of man, until he meets the - thing that haunts the berth.  It is a ghost/dead thing that will make your hair stand on end. awful in its wrongness.  It is written in 1886, so Victorian in tone and attitude, for those who like the early ghost stories.  I liked this one, it reminded me that ghosts are all about the unknown, and the uncanny, and that to be touched or in the presence of one, reminds us in our core that it's not the natural way of things.  The Upper Berth is available here, online.

All these stories rate 5/5.  Have you read any of them?  How is your short story reading for RIP?  I'm so excited that I wrote reviews for short stories  for RIP!  They are all so very good, you have to check them out if you can. Go on, I dare you. 

And now for something completely (but not so unrelated) different:
Niagara Falls
Sidenote:  I was just exploring online to see if I could find Monsters online as well for you to read.  Well, I found this instead, a review of Stewart O'Nan's new book, The Odds.  It's set in Niagara Falls.  Now before you wonder what I'm on about, I just went on my summer holidays to Niagara Falls, last month.  I hadn't been there since a child, and I wanted to show my soon-to-be ex husband and children the Falls.  We had a fantastic holiday, one of the best ever.  So to find out that O'Nan's book is set there - and the main couple go there to see if their thirty-year marriage can be rekindled or if it's  over, because the Falls are one of the Honeymoon capitals in North America.  (We didn't go for that reason, and all my romantic prone friends are dismayed that the Falls didn't work magic on us anyway). Well, you know me, my friends, I had time to look for a bookstore, and eventually found the only one in the central area, a second-hand bookstore called One Page, not so far from our hotel. I even got in while it was open, and bought some books.  Well it turns out that Stewart O'Nan likes this store too - see the bottom of the article I've linked you too.  Small world......and now I definitely have to read his novel, with Niagara Falls fresh in my mind.

By the way, I LOVE Niagara Falls.  Not the Clifton Hill attractions, which are like Blackpool in England only smaller (so my ex says), but the Falls themselves are extraordinary and beautiful. As a child I saw them many times, as most of my family is from the nearby London area. It was fun to go back as an adult and realize they are just as awesome and beautiful as ever.  Below are four pictures from our trip. How is this related to the above?

So about the horror RIP link:
Well, my youngest son was determined to see some ghostly or ghastly wax museum.  When I went a as child to Niagara Falls, I clearly remember going through the Chamber of Horrors, which was set in the bottom of Louis Tussaud's Wax museum.  I would start off slowly, and then when the exhibits got too much for me, I would start running until I was dashing through the exhibit.  That was when I was 10. Flash forward to now, 39 years later.  We eventually found two wax museums which each had a tiny horror section.  My reaction to both was the same:  I started off okay, and if it was too dark and the exhibits moved or were too close to us, I began to move faster and faster until I was almost running.  My youngest son is most disappointed in me.  I failed the 'cool mom can go through a horror museum' test. I think I got clammy hands at one point,and we had to take the short cut through one part.  My son kept saying, " They're only statues, mom!  they can't move! They're not real!"  I kept thinking that something was behind me when I wasn't looking......so that's my real live RIP moment, brought to you courtesy of Niagara Falls.  That Freddy Kreuger statue was very life-like and much too close in the passageway.....


Debi said...

All three of those stories do sound marvelous!!! I think I'm going to have to look for that first book based on those two stories alone.

Love your pictures! Especially getting to see you! :D

Susan said...

Debi: good, I'm glad I got your interest for the book! there are so many good authors in it- Caitlin R Kiernan, Kelley Armstrong, Peter Straub, Margo Lanagan, Kelly Link....I'm hoping to read more for RIP.

You've been to Niagara Falls, haven't you? I'm glad you enjoyed seeing me, too :-) my hair is funny shaped because we were wearing our hats all afternoon before the picture was taken.

Cath said...

I knew this would be an amazing post which is why I saved it for today. Busy yesterday *and* wanted to finish a wonderful book - A Room Full of Bones by Elly Griffiths, loved it, loved it, loved it... have you read any Ruth Galloway books? I can't remember.

We went to Niagara Falls in 1996 so your photos brought back happy memories. I love the photo of you and the kids. :-)

There's book about FRINGE!!! Ohhh! (Which reminds me I need to order season 3...) I will go and investigate in a moment. (*whispers* JJ is *my* Charlie Parker. *coughcough*)

Yes, I have read the berth short story. Not in ages though so I don't remember much about it. Just got the book out and there it is on pg. 69. I was thinking of having a short story weekend starting today... so will read that one as well. I have a Charlie Parker 'long' short story to read (from John Connolly's Nocturnes, my fav macabre anthology) as well and will add several more. I picked up a ss book in the library - Something Was There edited by Kate Pullinger, so I want to see what's in that, plus investigate the Gaslit book we both bought. I haven't read any short stories for RIP yet so am hugely looking forward to this.

If this comment sounds like I'm gabbling, I probably am... it's excitement. LOL!

Gavin said...

Thanks for your thoughts on these stories. I just picked up a couple collections from my library.

Susan said...

Cath: thank you so much! I'm thrilled you think it is an amazing post. I had fun writing it, it's been a very long time since I reviewed any short stories here. The Holly Black story is a very strong one, and unforgettable.

Yes, I read all of the Ruth Galloway books, the last two earlier this year. I love them too! They are so different from any other mystery series, so life-like, and so immediate. I can hardly wait for the next one to come out.

I'm happy you saw Niagara Falls for real, it's amazing, isn't it?

Hmmm, you and I both like JJ!! Next week is the opening show for the final season! I have to do a post shortly about it, I am really excited.

Gaslight book- do you want to read a couple together? we could do that over the next couple of weeks, if you want. :-) and review together.

Susan said...

Gavin: which collections did you pick up from the library?

Gavin said...

I got Collected Ghost Stories by M.R. James and a book called Haunted Legends. I also have The Best Horror of the Year, Vol 3, on hold for October. Have you read any of these?

Susan said...

Gavin: I have the Collected Ghost Stories of MR James, I have read a few, have to read more! I do like him. I've been wanting to read Haunted Legends for a little while - it's Ellen Datlow the editor, isn't it? Best Horror of the Year is hers too, isn't it? I have the first one I hope to get to this RIP. Enjoy, Gavin! I hope you have some good horror stories in them.

Cath said...

Yes, we saw Niagara Falls in May 1996. It was frozen. Rather the river at the bottom was frozen, not the falls themselves, with huge, amazing ice sculptures all around... huge blocks of ice falling over the falls. It was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen.

Yes, I'd love to read something from the Gaslight book with you. Let me know when and what. I know you're having various real life problems at the moment so no pressure... when you'ready, we have till the end of October.