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Nightmares and Dreamscapes

While Stephen King will always be considered a horror writer, some of these stories had more of a science-fiction bent or had a coming-of-age angle. These stories were written in the 1970s to the early 90s, so it is a time capsule of life then- certainly “modern-day”, yet very dated several decades later. I’ve also noticed in many of his works, that he has bad things happen to good people. That actually scares more people, because these people are not deserving of their fate, and readers worry that tragedy could befall them around the next corner, and that is frightening indeed.

Suffer the Little Children

An old-school third-grade teacher thinks one of her students is possessed. When she also begins to suspect it is spreading among her students, she takes drastic measures.

Crouch End

Two detectives investigate a neighborhood in north London that seems to have an otherwordly portal that opens without notice which has caused people to go missing over the years.

Rainy Season

Inspired by Shirley Jackson’s story The Lottery, a married couple is unlucky enough to visit a town that demands a sacrifice every seven years. Venomous toads rain down on the town one night, and the townspeople move on quickly afterward, explaining away the tragedy and are not willing to break its ugly cycle. The audio edition was voiced by Yeardley Smith, so it was incredibly distracting to have the story read by someone who sounds like Lisa Simpson, from the cartoon series The Simpsons.

Dolan’s Cadillac

When a schoolteacher’s wife is killed by a mobster for testifying against him, the husband vows revenge. He then plans the most ridiculous, convoluted and difficult Rube Goldberg type of trap to capture this man on a deserted stretch of road.

The House on Maple Street

Based on the story prompt and picture from Chris Van Allsburg’s children’s book The Mysteries of Harry Burdick, four siblings discover their house is transforming into a rocket ship and they conspire to get rid of their ogre stepfather.

Umney’s Last Case

Told in a noir-type manner, a detective’s life starts to go to shit with people leaving him and disrespecting him. Holed up in his office licking his wounds, a client comes thru and reveals he is an author and that Umney is a character of his in a book and he intends to change lives with him.

Head Down & Brooklyn August

Head Down is an essay that is an ode to baseball and Brooklyn August is a short poem also celebrating baseball. Neither is horror related at all.

Chattery Teeth

A traveling salesman buys a set of novelty teeth for his son, and when his trip across a desert goes sideways because of a psychotic hitchhiker, this little gift helps him out in an unexpected manner.

My Pretty Pony

“Time is a pretty pony, with a wicked heart” is the theme of the story as a grandfather ruminates on the nature of time to his grandson. Kinda boring, and not horror related.

Sneakers

A recording engineer notices dirty sneakers in a bathroom stall near him for weeks, before finding out that a drug deal gone wrong years ago resulted in a haunting of the building by the victim. This ghost tells him who killed him.

Dedication

A working-class mother is thrilled that her son has written a novel that is bound to be a best seller and she tells a friend how she was able to use some black magic years ago to give her son his writing gifts. Overly long story.

The Doctor’s Case

King decided to write a non-canon Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson story in a pastiche manner- honoring the original style and building upon it. In this story, a horrible father is found murdered and the duo needs to figure out if it was his put-upon wife or abused sons that did it. Dr. Watson figures it out before Holmes, and it is unrealistic, but true to the style of British mysteries written during that time frame.

The Moving Finger

What’s worse than finding a rat in your NYC apartment? How about a moving finger?!

The End of the Whole Mess

A man recounts in a journal how his prodigy younger brother discovered a cure for aggression in a water source, without noting it also brought on dementia. While trying for world peace, he instead doomed the whole planet to death. The last part of the journal reminded me of Flowers for Algernon.

Home Delivery

A timid young widow who is pregnant needs to learn how to cope by herself when there is a zombie apocalypse and those in the local graveyard come back to life. This was a surprisingly strong story with realistic details on how a small island community would survive.

It Grows on You

Set in Castle Rock, King’s favorite fictional Maine town, a house seems to mysteriously have new wings added on that correlate when bad things befall the townsfolk. This story didn’t seem complete.

The Fifth Quarter

A heist gone wrong…a double cross…a shootout. Meh.

You Know They Got a Hell of a Band

A couple takes a scenic backroad and gets lost, leading them to the picturesque town of Rock and Roll Heaven, Oregon. The town inhabitants look very familiar, and soon they realize there is no escape from this strange vortex. Reminded me of Pines by Black Crouch and In the Tall Grass written by King years later with his son Joe Hill. Grace Slick was the inspired choice for the audio narration of this story.

The Night Flier

A sleazy tabloid journalist reports that a vampire is on the loose. What happens when his headline is actually true?!

Popsy

The vampire is back! A gambler makes a grave mistake when he grabs a child to sell and finds out he shouldn’t have messed with Popsy and his creepy grandson! An effective story that was also one of the shortest.

Sorry, Right Number

Written like a screenplay, a wife receives a frantic call phone call from someone in distress but doesn’t realize until five years after her husband’s death who was actually making the call. The audio version was terrible.

The Ten O’Clock People

A bizarre story about how people who are trying to quit smoking and thus are in nicotine withdrawal are the only people to see how evil bat people are taking over society.

The Beggar and the Diamond

A short retelling of a Hindu parable. I thought it was an odd addition to this collection.

Chattery Teeth, Home Delivery and Popsy were my favorites from this long 816-page book. While I didn’t enjoy every story, I admire how King likes to vary his writing style and tries new approaches. His short stories have always appealed to me, and I will continue to seek out his work.

Bird Box + Malorie

Bird Box (2014)

Author Josh Malerman took a possible horror trope- what if you can’t see- and turned it into an excellent harrowing thriller. Malorie is a young woman facing an unexpected pregnancy when the world starts to experience an apocalyptic disaster of people going mad once they see new creatures that have inexplicably appeared. With her family dead, she is able to make her way to a safe house where she joins other survivors who try to cope with this new world order.

While the book takes place in Malorie’s present day as she is trying to row to safety on a river with her two young children, her memories take us back to when the crisis started and continues through her travails with her housemates. The idea of having to blindfold yourself outside is terrifying, as her world constricts with little hope of salvation. While there were some problems with the narrative, especially in the timing of events regarding the birth scene, I was captivated by the entire book. I very much look forward to watching the movie next and comparing the two. (Aside- Sandra Bullock portrayed Malorie well in the Netflix movie, and it had a diverse cast. It changed up a few things but was a solid adaptation)

Malorie (2020)

As a big fan of Bird Box, and pleased that it ended on an optimistic note, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read Malorie but I’m glad I did. After a few years at the School for the Blind, chaos erupts and Malorie and her two children, Tom and Olympia, are on the run again. They happen unto an abandoned summer camp and make their home there for a decade, but their life there is interrupted by someone who brings them news of the outside world. The trio ventures out once they hear that Malorie’s parents might be alive and that there is a train that can take them northward. Tom and Olympia, now teens, have been kept safe by their mother and her many rules but are chaffing and want to be in the larger world. Tom, who is an inventor, learns of a town that has people who are trying to live with the creatures that have overtaken their world, and Olympia is hiding a huge secret from both her brother and mother. The idea of traveling 30 miles with a blindfold on and surrounded by creatures that will turn you mad if you see them, is horrifying, and things of course spiral out of control for them, even after finding the train. The conclusion was rushed, after a slow start, but it again ended optimistically with a chance for salvation for this family that preserved despite overwhelming odds.

Later

Later is a short horror novel by Stephen King, that could best be compared to the movie The Sixth Sense as the young teen Jamie can see dead people, but that would do it a disservice as this book is more than that.

Jamie has always had the ability to see and speak to dead people, but only his single mother knows, who wisely tells him to keep his abilities to himself. Sadly, she does not follow her own advice and tells her cop girlfriend, who then uses Jamie’s abilities to her own ends. The first time she does so, a demon attaches to him with dire consequences. Told from Jamie’s perspective, this is more a slice-of-life story with supernatural underpinnings, rather than the horror story it claims to be. This pulp-style book gave me a Pet Sematary vibe, and other reviewers said it reminded them of It, but I never finished that book as it was much too long (I much prefer his smaller books and short stories). The ending tied up some loose ends, and it didn’t quite end on a cliffhanger, yet the narrative could definitely be picked up for more stories in the future. If so, I am ready for more adventures with Jamie! 

Suicide Woods

This short story collection was excellent! The ten stories were all atmospheric and wonderfully creepy. I first became aware of the author as the writer of the excellent Wolverine podcasts, but am now glad I looked up other work by him and will now search out other novels by him.

The Cold Boy- The visiting nephew of a taxidermist falls through the ice in his backyard pond and comes out changed. It had a Pet Semetary vibe.

Suspect Zero-A woman con artist is underestimated, much to the dismay of those who interact with her. The train intro was intriguing.

The Dummy- A female high school student who wrestles is attacked by a fellow teammate but the stuffed dummy she had been practicing on, seems to save her.

Heart of a Bear- This was a strange tale that was never going to end well for the family involved. A bear is entranced by a family and becomes human-like for a time, without the townspeople noticing.

Dial Tone- Don’t underestimate the quiet man working alongside you. His mild manner could be covering a black heart.

The Mud Man- A busy man accidentally creates a doppelganger out of mud, but this mud man starts to become more engaged with his family life than he was. Another tale of people accepting a strange creature in their midst without raising the alarm.

Writs of Possession- More a sad slice-of-life story about evictions than a horror story. A deputy steels herself for the sorrow she has to witness as she evicts people from their homes.

The Balloon- A pandemic story that was written before our current crisis so it feels strangely prophetic.

Suicide Woods- My least favorite story, yet the book’s namesake. Suicidal individuals have joined a support group that has a radical way to make them appreciate life again.

The Unchartered- This last story is more a novella, and could have been fleshed out into a full novel. A woman working for a mapping company hires a trio of adventurers to chart some islands off the coast of Alaska where some previous workers have gone missing. On a whim, she joins them, but their small plane crashes and the survivors are sucked into a mind-bending and horrific experience.

These stories all have a sinister edge to them and I enjoyed all of the dark tales.

Fiction’s Fearless Females: Ellie & Sandie from Last Night in Soho

March is Women’s History Month, and both of us here at Graphic Novelty² have joined forces for the fourth year with some other amazing bloggers to celebrate women under the auspicious blogging series title of: Fiction’s Fearless Females! During this month, we will have five bloggers sharing who they believe is a fictional woman or women to be admired, and we will share each entry of the series on our blog. Today’s post comes from Kalie of Just Dread-Full, a superb blog centered on the horror genre. 

Guest post from Kalie of Just Dread-Full

Every year a group of bloggers and I write about fearless fictional women to celebrate International Women’s Day. Each of these bloggers will be featured on my blog this year. The blog-a-thon started with Michael of My Comic Relief and, after my post, will go on to feature Nancy and Kathleen of Graphic Novelty2 and Jeff of The Imperial Talker. Here’s my contribution to the Blog-a-thon this year!

Soho 1

Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho opens in the warm home of a quaint British town, a home where main character Eloise basks in her vintage-inspired bedroom listening to music from the 60s. The opening scene is so reminiscent of life sixty years ago, in fact, that we may suspect that we are in 1961, not 2021, and because of Wright’s ability to establish a scene we may also feel like we’re temporarily inhabiting a much more idyllic time period than our own. Certainly, that is what Eloise/Ellie (Thomasin McKenzie) imagines, the main character who we meet in the film’s beginning. Ellie has just been accepted to fashion school, and we get the impression, based on her excitement, that a glittering life in Great Britain’s fashion hub looks just as perfect, just as idyllic, as the 1960s do in her eyes. But sometimes attractive surface appearances mask a more insidious lurking reality—a fact which may be true of Soho in general, and is definitely true of Soho in the 60s, a reality that Ellie will soon find out.

Continue reading “Fiction’s Fearless Females: Ellie & Sandie from Last Night in Soho”

Dark Ark: Forty Nights

Back in 2020, I read an issue of Dark Ark: Instinct through Free Comic Book Day, and I said, “This dark what-if tale was fascinating. Many of us have heard the biblical story of Noah and the ark saving people and animals for the future, but this tale speculates that a sorcerer Shrae builds an ark to save the unnatural animals.” I went back to the source material, as Instinct had been a one-off based on this first volume, and I am a fan of much of Cullen Bunn’s work.

Family man Shrae, known for his evil ways, has a parallel journey to Noah during the biblical flood but is trapped on board with gruesome monsters who are all bloodthirsty and not doing well with being confined in the ark alongside other creatures. Juxtaposed along with these monsters, are a pair of unicorns who bemoan that they should have been on Noah’s boat instead (and really are a sly wink to these mythical creatures’ fate). Humans are chained in a hold, obviously, they are to be used as feed for the creatures, and Shrae’s adult children struggle with this, as they all were fellow villagers at one time. When Naga, a serpentine creature is found killed, a murder mystery is established, with many suspects. Kruul, a manticore, who has odd and unhealthy shifting allegiances with the humans, is not to be trusted nor are the vampires. Angels visit this ark, mistaking it for Noah’s (I’m sorry- but come on! There are only two arks in this flooded world, and they go to the wrong one??) and tie Shrae and Noah’s fate together. If Noah’s ark doesn’t survive, neither will Shrae’s.

The art by Juan Doe was necessarily dark and sketchy with pink and red overtones. The various creatures were appropriately monstrous-looking, with many mystical creatures from legends and myths portrayed. I especially enjoyed two facing 9-panel pages that had Shrae interrogating the monsters about Naga’s death. However, the additional family members were hard to distinguish from one another, as all were drawn very blocky-like with no distinguishing characteristics.

There are two more volumes in this series, and I aim to read them too as I wish to find out how these monsters of yore fare on the ark and then upon landing in a new world.

-Nancy

Behind You: One-Shot Horror Stories

This creepy collection of one-panel stories was absolutely perfect! Each page is its own little eerie story that gives you an introduction to a greater narrative of your own choosing. As a child, I loved the book The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg which gave you pictures and a one-sentence prompt, and this graphic novel does the same. Joe Hill, of Locke & Key fame (and fellow IDW author), gives an introduction, so be on the lookout for one of the later illustrations to pay homage to his series.

As a librarian, the picture above made me pause…you never know what lurks around the corner behind a bookshelf! Other favorites of mine included any cemetery image, the girl building a puzzle, the boy retrieving his ball, the old man with his birthday cake, the thief in the hallway of portraits, and the last picture of a long-limbed animal in the woods.

Make sure you check out Coldrick’s art at his Tapas site for more horror one-shots, some of which are animated gifs! Enjoy this book that you can read all at once, or in small little bites, and remember…look behind you!

-Nancy

All pictures are from Coldrick’s online work.

Clean Room (Vol. 1): Immaculate Conception

Chloe Pierce’s fiance has committed suicide, leaving behind a self-help book as his only clue. Chloe spirals in her grief and become hospitalized herself. She comes to with the realization that in order to unravel the mystery of Philip’s death, she needs to investigate the author of the book: Astrid Mueller. She’s become THE self-help person to most of the world, including Hollywood. Her biggest success story is a former child actor whom she helped to get clean. As a reporter, Chloe has the clearance to get into her headquarters in Chicago and demand an audience with her. However, after seeing the fabled and feared “Clean Room,” it’s clear that Astrid and her company are not what they seem. The suicide of the child actor, under the same circumstances as Philip, has not only Chloe but the rest of the world questioning what it is Astrid actually does.

Horror is not usually a genre I read. I picked this up because Gail Simone co-wrote it with Jon Davis-Hunt, and as an extra bonus, Jenny Frisson created the covers. There’s a great start here for a commentary on the dangers of cults preying on faith and religion in a supernatural horror setting. The events here in the first volume are wrapped up nicely, yet open-ended enough to intrigue readers into the second volume.

The art was totally gross… but in a good way that befits the story and it’s creepy, ominous, and antagonistic tone. There is nice contrast between the inside of Astrid’s headquarters (sterile colors and precise linework) and the outside world (muddier colors and messier lines) that I appreciated.

I gotta say, it was entertaining enough for me to get through with (relative) ease, but it’s not one I’ll be continuing. There’s a reason I don’t read horror – I’m a certified scaredy cat – and it seems not even the great Gail Simone can convert me =P

– Kathleen

Simone, Gail, Jon Davies-Hunt, and Quinton Winter. Clean Room (Vol. 1): Immaculate Conception. 2016.

Redlands

A trio of witches take over the rural Florida town of Redlands, and play both victim and villain as the years go by.

Volume One: Sisters By Blood

The story opens in 1977 when the corrupt Redlands police force are trapped inside their police station when a lynching of the witch coven goes sideways. The three witches- Alice, Ro and Bridget- demand sacrifice to remain strong and many officers are killed. Skip to modern-day, and the women are masquerading as police detectives who are dealing with a magical serial killer who seems to be on to them. There are some additional flashbacks to 1984 and a sex trade cartel that Bridgit is trying to infiltrate. I was rather confused at the end because it seems as if the soul of a teen prostitute long-dead inhabits Bridget’s body and wants revenge years later. In the midst of this, there are lots of sexual encounters and violence, but the idea of these flawed witches trying to right some wrongs was enough to capture my attention and wonder where the story will go next.

I am familiar with the author, Jordie Bellaire, as a colorist on many of my graphic novel reads, so it was interesting to have her in another role. She mixes together an intriguing horror and feminist vibe, reminiscent of Hex Wives that I read recently. The artwork is very sketchy, which I’ve noticed more of lately, and isn’t always a very attractive look. The women are drawn with a realistic but seductive look, as the female artist, Vanesa Del Rey, understands the feminine body. The coloring is dark to represent the swampy bayous of the region and the murky narrative.

Volume Two: Water On The Fire

After finding volume one intriguing, I looked up volume two to reserve but, but when I saw the cover there was no way I was going to order a copy through inter-library loan for my co-workers to see! Luckily, I found a copy through the online service Hoopla to read. While I am no prude, I was disappointed the cover is so very gratuitous.

This volume begins with a visit to the past- the way-back past! We find Alice in ancient Egypt (why would she be named Alice back then??), Ro in Viking era Ireland, Bridget during the Salem Witch Trial time period and their “Father” in all three eras who turned them all into witches and demands obedience. We learn more about Bridget’s police partner Casper (who is a ghost, hence the name), Ro’s adopted clairvoyant daughter Itsy, Bridget’s sometimes lover Laurent, and the revenge-seeking teen prostitute Nancy who is still inhabiting Bridget’s body- and it is becoming difficult to keep all the details straight.

This volume ends in a cliff-hanger of sorts- the witch’s evil father is pulling strings and setting the three women up to be on opposite sides of a crisis that only can result in bloodshed. It has been over two years since this volume with no more issues on the horizon, so my guess is the series was dropped. No loss- while it started out promisingly the narrative threads became too convoluted for me to understand or really care about. The artwork didn’t help, for it was often too scratchy and dark to pick up on details that might have helped carry the story. I hope that Bellaire keeps on writing, she just needs to streamline her stories.

-Nancy

No way was the cover going to be used in my post header picture!

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