Sunday, September 27, 2009
WEIRD TALES WINS REVIEWS
Vance offers up thirteen tales of Lovecraftian horror with a deft sense of suspense and heart-pumping terror. His grasp of terror is second to none, and delivers nightmarish scenes with incredible, horrific feelings. Ron Fortier
“I'm a-skeered just lookin' at that!! Woooooooooooooo” Van Allen Plexico.
“Nice, spooky cover.” Bobby Nash
“That cover is to die for (from?)! This looks to be a great anthology and a great start to this year's wave of Airship titles. A must have!” Andrew Salmon
“You said the magic word, Ron..."Lovecraft". It is now on my wish list to buy.” Mike Schau
“Oooh, that IS a scary cover! It would even make a good sword-and-sorcery type cover.” Duane Spurlock
I did get a chance to read "Picked Clean". As you requested, I am going to be completely honest!
So far as the story goes -- I especially liked the pressurized atmospheric effect that you describe during the two men's encounter with Caleb's island environment. This was very effective. Caleb is a very unnerving character, desperate and deformed, with strange agendas. Ezekiel is brutal and greedy, and operates in a very clearly defined manner with no ambiguity, a nice offset to Caleb. Hiram seems like he's been dragged along for the ride, and provides the necessary sympathetic character, and the hint of a continuation of the story with his survival.
The suspense built up by the end, when Hiram enters the cave chamber, is palpable, and the dread approaching is wonderfully crafted, especially as the ultimate denouement doesn't occur until after Hiram's fate is settled for the reader. Meanwhile, the reader sits, their mind imagining what the horror could have been.
The giant maggot kind of threw me. It seemed like ... well, the spider leg reference was disorienting, and the biological method necessary to encourage Caleb to create a maggot monster offspring baffled me, and distracted me from how well the suspense had been built up to that point, until I had reread the story a couple of times and regained that sense of dread prior to the monster's reveal. I think I had been expecting something oceanic, since it lived in a sea well -- that might part of it. So for me, the suspension of disbelief got thrown at this point because of the extremism of the monster, which was a pity after the build-up of historic mood and setting.
But overall, I enjoyed the story! While I was out at lunch, it occurred to me that in a pulp-story sense, the creature was perfect for that genre -- over the top and hideous, an amalgamation of evil and man's warping influence.
Michael Vance has produced a terrific cycle of tales, inspired by but not slavishly imitative of Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. He seems to draw from some of the same tainted wells that Lovecraft did, and from those drilled after Lovecraft passed on, but has assembled those traditions in a new and deliciously creepy way. Frissons abound in his tales of Light's End. Highly recommended.
By Frank Creed
After King and Poe, Lovecraft is widely acknowledged as one of the top three horror writers to impact American horror. Lovecraft's horror world even has its own name: the Cthulhu (Kuh-Thoo-Loo) Mythos. Fans of Howard Phillip Lovecraft's style, rejoice--there is an author you simply must meet. Algernon Blackwood and August Derleth have a stylistic contemporary in Michael Vance, a professional writer of non-fiction for over thirty years, who has mastered the short story form.
The award-winning Vance does not write in the Cthulhu Mythos itself, but his Lovecraftian style features patiently built suspense rich in setting and character, usually with short vivid climaxes and resolutions. Properly written, the effect puts a reader into the story, with page flipping curiosity.
Vance paints portraits of fated personalities in an eerie little town on Maine's northern Atlantic coast. Light's End can also be found on brink of madness. Deep spiritual influences and events, guilty evils, and ancient lore are scrimshawed into memorable tales centered on the moral implications and consequences of personal actions.
Vance's voice is distinct from Lovecraft's on several points. Horrors of the dark human heart, rather than horrific alien mysteries, are the center of each work. Readers are snatched from madness' edge by an overall Christian worldview, which gives horror, and moral choices, context.
Weird Horror Tales' thirteen short stories, and a few non-short story treats, showcase a Lovecraftian sins-of-the-fathers theme. The collection is what's known as a braided novel. The tales, all in and around Light's End, are set chronologically from the early twentieth century, to present day and near future. Common threads of symbol and prophecy progress through the stories. Any of the stories could be enjoyed individually, but read sequentially, there's a bigger tale.
Vance's fiction does not cower from language and subjects that most Christian publishers avoid. Vance uses dark imagery and language in a tasteful and literary sense. Pre-teens would see examples of good literature, but graphic content is appropriate for high school and older maturity levels
Sadly, Vance's literary level may be too high. I fear readers won't like Random Pairings: a literary dialog, boldly written without quotation marks, with one of the most dramatic endings in the braided novel.
Overall, Weird Horror Tales is a must-read for genre fans, especially those who of the Christian worldview. Note that one tale, The Lighter Side, should be saved for a reader's zany reading mood. When you want something fun, the humor in this piece rivals Douglas Adams and Stephen Leon Rice.