Summary: Looking back over 2013, I didn't read as much as I normally do, but I did read a few standout titles.
BLOT: (01 Jan 2014 - 06:27:28 PM)
Favorite books I read in 2013 being also those that were published, sort of, in 2013
If I have any resolutions, one will be to read more, because last year (2013, I mean) I read well under my normal amounts. Don't know why, just didn't work out the time. I did read in bursts, though, so I would down 10+ books one month and 1 book the next. It was strange. At any rate, time to celebrate what I did read and the impact it had on me.
As a note, for consistency, I'm going to link the books to their Goodreads pages. You can use the links there to buy the books and find more information (including other people's reviews). Also, while these were published various times through 2013 as their initial publications, in the United States (ish, for one of them), the fact that all three turned out to be short story collections means that I suppose they represent various writings from the past 3-5 years. That is a bit of a paradox for which I have no good solution. Apologies if this triggers some twitch in you.
The Book Who Waited: Laird Barron's The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All
As The Beautiful Thing that Awaits Us All rocketed to the top of many "best-of" lists, it is interesting to see how one aspect of its narrative, being delayed in publication for months as Night Shade swapped flags with another publisher, is no longer mentioned, much. I pre-ordered the book in January, expecting it to ship in April, and ended up getting it sometime in September, I think it was. It made for an interesting year of books since it was my number one anticipated title. As weird fiction with a general cosmic/drippy bent goes, Beautiful is top notch stuff, managing to embrace dread and bravado with equal tenacity. Barron had a little more punk flair in Imago Sequence and a little more mystery in Occultation, but here is a more mature writer fine tuning stories about tough guys and gals being hounded by things unknowable. My favorite is still "The Redfield Girls", maybe because so many of the other stories happen to people that deserve a little bit of a cosmic kick while "Redfield" is a purer tragedy blended with old legends and weirdness. "The Hand of Glory" is probably the media darling, it or "Blackwood Baby", and both are quite good. "The Siphon" wins the award for story that has split the critics the most, and I stick by my claim that it is an Aickman-esque game of delayed tensions meeting weirdness.
The Book Best at Creeping Me Out: Ramsey Campbell's Holes for Faces
I knew I would like Holes For Faces before I read it, because I am a big Campbell fan, but the most surprising quality about it is how well the stories in it could creep me out without even trying that hard. Campbell's blend of social confusion, indefinite happenings, personal struggle, and inchoate nastiness taps into both the build up towards dread and the slow descent of after, while often removing the peak wallop that balances between the two. For example, look at stories like the eponymous "Holes for Faces" where you are told it is a kid's delusions and you still buy into the vibe by the force of language. Or "Decorations", a Christmas themed story nearly entirely about being sucked into a relative's paranoia. Holes also has "Getting It Wrong", and that one should definitely be read, as a typically Campbellian character is plucked from his intellectual smugness as hinted nastiness happens to a person he barely knows. It is a deconstruction of Campbell's tropes—person in a dark room, trying to enjoy himself without being bothered by others, but keeps having his evening disturbed by smarmy but dangerous phonecalls—and one of the few stories by him in which the events drive a character out of his shell instead of deeper in. The collection gets bonus points for being one of the most concentrated studies of elderly characters in horror, and the change of perspective it brings.
The Gentlest Collection of Horror: Reggie Oliver's Flowers of the Sea
I'm relatively knew to the Reggie Oliver game, but I enjoyed Ms. Midnight a bit so I was excited about Flowers of the Sea, even having read a couple of the stories—and one of those, "Come Into My Parlour", was a tad lackluster. It is a fascinating collection, both in its dogged insistence to embrace a slightly older style of storytelling and its blend of story themes that are close to the same but not the same. And it would be uncouth for me to mention it without bringing up the even hand which Oliver crafts his stories, a vital aspect to his fine tales. Even when he descends into nastiness, such as "Lord of the Fleas"—a tale almost Lovecraftian—or "Hand to Mouth", Oliver still maintains a degree of gentle charm. See also "A Child's Problem", which is a blend of slow ghost horror and boyhood adventure, and "Flowers of the Sea", a poetic take on personal losses that touches upon the strange.
The Words of Others
OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: January 2014