June 5th, 2008

there!, Hello

Playing catch up

The parents and in-laws came, saw hntrpyanfar commence (on Sunday), and they departed. I am still sane, though I was a bit irritable as I got zero writing done while they were here...
Monday evening, hntrpyanfar and I had ten cent tacos with the Central Massachusetts edition of the New England Horror Writers (a lot of fun), and then Tuesday I was back on the writing horse. Around fiction writing projects, I finished another couple of books (that I started before the Great Visit), and have been eying my collection of Michael Moorcock books (long overdue for a re/visit)...
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there!, Hello

Three nights of hard travel had cooled Dar’s rage.

39) Clan Daughter by Morgan Howell. (2007, Del Rey, 336 pages).
Book Two of the Queen of the Orcs trilogy makes for a nice diversion between Horror Reader books...
At the end of book one, poor military planning leaves swaths of dead soliders. Only protagonist Dar and a handful of orcs remain alive, and as this book opens, Day is leading her allies back to the mountains they call home. Essentially a fantasy road story, we follow the progress as Dar first reaches the orc homes, delves a little more into orcish politics (matriarchical society, with a kind of Iriquois meets samurai feel), and “volunteers” to rescue the Queen of the Orcs being help as a kind of gentle captive in the court of a sadistic human king... Along the way, Dar begins to explore the relatively new (and decidedly creepy) visions of the future she is having. Are these actual set-in-stone prophecies, or are they more Dead Zone like possibilities? With some rather intriguing asides (including, believe it or not, orc nookie), this second book is somehow less gritty than the first, and propels the drama quite nicely into what seems to be a much more political/character-driven finale...
there!, Hello

So here I am again, she thought.

40) Old Flames by Jack Ketchum (2008, Leisure Books, 289 pages).

Not a novel, but two unrelated novellas.

The first of these is the titular Old Flames, a new work from the one and only Jack Ketchum. Dora has been burned by love one too many times, so she uses Flame Finders, a detective agency off shoot, to seek out and look up her high school boyfriend (about whom she has built a sort of castle in the sky idealization). Enter Jim and his happy family. Dora soon finds herself quite in love all over again, and as one might expect in a horror story, love leads to obsession leads to a messy end.

The second novella is Right to Life, originally published as a limited edition stand alone by Gauntlet Press. In this one, Sara Foster finds herself in the unenviable position of pregnant with but unable to have the child of her married lover. On her walk up to the clinic (while lover is parking the car), she is abducted by a couple of psychotic Right to Life advocates, who then keep her in a cellar, torture her into submission, and demand that she carry the baby to term. What is already a nightmarish enough scenario is made even more stomach churning when Sara’s kidnappers grow less interested in the politics of abortion protest than in having a slave to use as they see fit. Recalling some of the more icky parts of Ketchum’s infamous The Girl Next Door (but without the corresponding moral quandary of innocence being slowly corroded), this story (though mercifully short) is... Well, it is what it is. And whether that is "repulsive" or "intriguing" really depends on the individual reader’s taste.

I find that I can never actually recommend Jack Ketchum’s books (the only possible exception to this is the “you killed my dog” revenge story Red, much better than I have just painted it) because they venture into often brutal, always uncomfortable territory. I cannot really recommend this book either for very different reasons: the first novella is a rather sedate morality tale (with questionable character motivations; I was not sold on the spark sending the character into murderous acts) that reads like a fleshed out (though ultimately flat) stage play, while the second is the author’s more "traditional", exceptionally savage story of human ugliness.

A more in depth Horror Reader review is forthcoming.

Currently Reading: Tower Hill by Sarah Pinborough and Royal Destiny by Morgan Howell.