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Revive

I just finished horror author Thomas James Brown’s latest novel, Revive, a zombie novel with an interesting twist. After finishing the entire work, I think a more accurate classification would be a coffee shop novel with zombies. The heart of the story is, I would argue, made of three characters: Tammy Becks, a young adult struggling to keep her sick mother and rambunctious younger brothers fed through her job at the eponymous coffee shop; Phil, an ex-construction worker trying to keep his only family alive by working as a mall Santa and a regular frequenter of the coffee shop Revive, and the coffee shop itself. The zombies, to me, seem like a secondary element meant to demonstrate certain things about the above three mentioned characters.

This is not to in any way degrade the structure of the novel or the portrayal of the zombies; it was all masterfully done, and presented zombies in an entirely unique and different, fascinating light. I was pleasantly surprised at the logic behind the zombies; Mr. Brown clearly demonstrated his creativity in thinking them up.

As with his previous novel, Hell’s Water, Thomas Brown’s latest work showcases his character development skills. Every single character that appears in Revive is well-thought out; there are no caricatures, and every character adds something to the story that no one else does. Even the peripheral characters, such as the guests in the coffee shop, really come to life, and you can feel their pain as the horror unfolds. The character development that goes on with regards to Tammy Becks is phenomenal, and Phil’s is almost as good. In Phil’s case, I wish that Mr. Brown had spent more time on the character’s past, though even without that, he was still a very well-done character.

I don’t want to say too too much more in order to avoid spoiling the plot, but if you’re reading and expecting zombies from page one, think again. This is not a zombie apocalypse novel; it is a horror novel. It is paced like a horror novel; a lot of suspense (and, unusually for horror, character development) fills the first three-quarters of the book. The ending seemed a little bit rushed, and I think the novel could have benefited from expanding the last thirty or so pages into a longer sequence in order to more fully explain the events behind what happened at the coffee shop; as it was, it took a re-reading to catch some details.

Overall, Revive was a very, very, very enjoyable read, and extremely difficult to put down. Mr. Brown manages to draw you into the novel very quickly, and you feel for Tammy, Phil, and everyone else as if they were your own friends. He inserts just the right amount of humour to contrast with the horror, and effectively uses the zombies to illustrate human nature. And the twist at the end left me horrified, shocked, appalled, and applauding Mr. Brown’s cleverness – all good things in the horror genre.

If you have the time and money, definitely consider picking up a copy here.

Visit Thomas James Brown’s site here.

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2012 in Readings

 

The Kraken and Cthulhu?

I know the comparison between the mythical Kraken and the insanity-inducing Cthulhu is an obvious one, but in the course of some casual research on Krakens (yes, when I am procrastinating I read up on my mythical beasts. At least I’ll be prepared when they come for me!), I came across the following poem by Lord Alfred Tennyson:

Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides; above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumber’d and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages, and will lie
Battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.

Of course, being a fan of H. P. Lovecraft, the similarities between Tennyson’s portrayal of the Kraken and Cthulhu immediately became apparent. He sleeps beneath the sea, waiting for ages to sleep until the time is right (in Lovecraft’s case, the stars, in Tennyson’s, the heat), and then he will rise up to the surface – and then die? For this, I shall just point you to Lovecraft’s quote from the Necronomicon: “And with strange aeons even death may die.” The poem even managed to get Polyps – though of the flying variety – in there.

Quite the coincidence, don’t you think? Perhaps Lovecraft read this poem, had a nightmare about it, and so Cthulhu was spawned. Or maybe, as a friend of mine suggested, Lovecraft used a time machine.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2012 in Philosophical Musings, Readings

 

I’m Still Alive!

Hey! Sorry for the lack of updates again, but exams and papers have taken over my life. Fortunately, I am free this Friday, and I will begin to write again in earnest, starting with finishing my edits for The Libel of Blood. Mr. Jacob G. Adams (blog here!) has also been kindly editing stories for Dark Aeons for me, and his comments have been insightful and very helpful! I have been surviving most of my time by playing Dr. Lunatic: Supreme With Cheese Nonstop and by reading short stories when I can, including recently a delightful novella entitled The Cowboys of Cthulhu by David Bain (site here!); well worth the read!

Until I can get back to writing, good luck with life and don’t die!

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2011 in Personal, Readings

 

Thief of Time

Somehow, despite all of the work I need to do, I managed to finish reading another book –  a Terry Pratchett book, no less! Thief of Time was, by far, my favorite work of his that I have ever read. Death, while playing a less prominent role than in the other books in his cycle, was as deep and fascinating a character as ever, and the Death of Rats was up to his usual antics even more than usual. I enjoy the prevalence of the Death of Rats in the book, though his uncertain fate at the end made me slightly unhappy, but oh well. The changing personalities of the four/five horsemen of the apocalypse was also very well-done; who knew that War would get married and become a weak, submissive do-nothing? It was certainly an interesting examination on what changing currents in history can do to anthropomorphic personifications!

Susan Sto Helit was also, as always, amazing, and I particularly enjoyed her in her new schoolteacher role – Pratchett’s observations about life were, as always and as exemplified in this novel by Susan – dead-on. The depth given to the Auditors of Reality in this book was also pleasing, and their antics in the second half of the book had me smiling constantly, and almost identifying with them.

Almost.

However, the real star of the book was definitely Lu-Tze. With his many witticisms and observations about society and life, he made me laugh harder than I have reading any other book, while at the same time making me think ( “Do unto otters as you would have otters do unto you.” “Yeah, I know all about practicing procedures for emergencies,” said Lu-Tze. “And there’s always something missing. You always leave out the damn emergency.”). He is perhaps my favorite character from any book so far.

Lastly, I would be amiss without touching on Pratchett’s perception of Time, as the universe destroying and recreating itself very interesting. It was just fascinating and well-though-out – definitely the best of his books I’ve read yet.

Also, who would imagine chocolate could be so deadly?

P.S. If you like Tarot cards, please check out my whopping reading about the Occupy Wall Street Movement on EsoTarot here.

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2011 in Readings

 

Hell’s Water

In between researching cultural changes in Persia due to the Arab Conquest of the Sassanian Empire, drowning in ordinary coursework, editing TLOB, and writing Astral Tide, I have managed to find some time to read for pleasure! My latest book of choice was Thomas James Brown’s debut horror novel, Hell’s Water. The novel follows the exploits of a group of (mostly alcoholic) university students and housemates in Southampton, UK; of particular interest are cricketer Nick Roach and the “main” character (by “main” I mean most of the story is told from his point of view) Adam Houldey. These two experience something terrible when something is slipped into Nick’s drink, and together try to work to beat whatever is going on, with varying degrees of success throughout the book.

The novel did an absolutely wonderful job of creating a rich setting, complete with characters, organizations, places, and common activities. It should be said here that I have touched alcohol once in my life, when I was very young (my father had decided to let me sip his beer), and I have never tasted the stuff since. As such, I can not speak to the validity of the experiences of the housemates in the novel, but it certainly seemed realistic, and I was drawn into them despite my strong aversion to alcohol.

Due to my very different experiences with university life (different country, different habits), it was at first difficult for me to get to know and like the characters, let alone understand them (Mr. Brown’s dialogue is very natural and flowing, exactly like you would hear it spoken, but again my background made it very strange to me). If you’re a partying englishman (or woman), I am sure that it would be extremely accessibly to you, however.

Once I got past those barriers – the foreign culture and realistic dialogue – I found myself thoroughly enjoying the way the narrative flowed. The story is about alcoholism and daemons, and many times I felt as if I was staring out at the world as though possessed – sometimes by a daemon, and sometimes by alcohol (or at least what I would imagine alcohol does to you). The book was very fast-paced, despite nothing truly “horrifying” happening until about two-thirds of the way into the book – but when it did happen, ir really was horrifying.

I must confess that when I started the book, I was skeptical about it, due to my unfamiliarity with alcohol, the club and party scene, and indeed many of the types of people Mr. Brown discusses. However, over the course of reading the book, I feel like I came to know that community better, thus expanding my knowledge of it. The true strength of this novel lies not just in the storytelling – with a slow, dramatic build-up to a terrifying climax – but also in the creation of a real, living, breathing world that I could dive into. Mr Brown examined several social issues over the course of the novel as well, in addition to looking at the effects of death on an individual. It was fascinating to read about how Adam reacted to the deaths of various people.

One thing that was both very effective and at the same time mildly frustrating was the gradual revelation of something that happened at the beginning of the novel – remembering the events of a drunken night out. It was very creative and I spent the entire novel wanting to know what had happened – as was doubtless the intention – but at the same time, the constant repetition of nearly identical passages, with more and more story tacked onto it, became… well, repetitive, and I found myself skimming those parts of the story. The tactic was very effective, however, and I was satisfied with the final revelation.

The one thing I wished that there was more of was an explanation of what exactly happened. As it was, what had been going on throughout the novel was explained – but very briefly and at the very end, making the book back-heavy. This is not in any way a problem (I am guilty of writing that way myself, and so long as it’s done well – as it is in this case – it can be extremely satisfying), but I feel like more could have been said about what happened, and the events before the novel expanded upon. That being said, however, the ending did surprise me a fair bit; all of my suspicions had been extremely misplaced! I applaud Mr. Brown for managing that. It rarely happens to me.

All in all, Hell’s Water is well worth the read. I had purchased the book because Mr. Brown is an independent author like myself, and I enjoy reading and supporting independently published authors. However, I had never in the past been a fan of this kind of horror; I myself subscribe to the Lovecraftian tradition, and Hell’s Water is a far cry from that. However, despite all of the odds stacked against it, I got through the book as quickly as my studies would allow, thoroughly enjoyed it, and found it extremely difficult to put down (not to mention the ending leaves you unsure as to whether or not the problem was solved – my favorite kind!). The references to Christian theology in particular were striking, and the Christian imagery and final revelations were probably my favorite part of the whole experience.

So then, in summary, Hell’s Water was well-written, well-developed, fast-paced, terrifying story that I think anyone who likes horror will love. Go out and read it!

Visit Mr. Brown’s site here and buy Hell’s Water from here.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2011 in Readings

 

Men At Arms

My latest conquest, Terry Pratchett’s Men at Arms, was possibly the second-best Pratchett book I’ve read (after Hogfather). It was very poignant, witty, and very much a social commentary on British social classes – particularly the nobility. It was also interesting in that we see Havelock Vetinari being vulnerable, and was mildly unsettling. All in all, very good and satisfying, even if Cuddy’s fate was sad and unnecessary. I was hoping his ghost would join the watch as an undead. But oh well! Onto George R. R. Martin’s Dance With Dragons! Finally.

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2011 in Readings

 

Wyrd Sisters

My latest conquest! I said I was going to return to Lovecraft, but I needed something not-depressing to cheer me up. And Wyrd Sisters was a good choice – the combination of Magrat, Granny Weatherwax, and Nanny Ogg were very fun. I am envious of Pratchett’s abilities to write characters. Ultimately, though, I prefer the wizards – simply because their personalities are just so utterly ridiculous – but I look forward to reading another witches book. The bits about the theater and the land and kings and destiny in the book also made it a fun read (not to mention Death’s cameo as himself). Highly recommended. Next, I will really try to turn back to Lovecraft – or maybe C. A. Smith. Then after that, onto Men at Arms!

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2011 in Readings

 

(Faust) Eric

And so my latest conquest is… conquered. Terry Pratchett’s Eric was very short, fun to read (I loved the wossname parrot), but also seemed to contradict a lot of Pratchett’s own ideas about the universe – the Creator made an appearance, and I was bothered by the fact that he created the entire universe, which in Eric consisted of only the Discworld, while in The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, the universe is shown to contain more worlds. It just bothered me that Pratchett changed the nature of the universe. The end of the universe was brilliant, though, as well as the start of the next one – it’s interesting that Death was the only survivor. And then he’ll be the oldest being in the next universe – maybe the new Azrael! And how interesting that will be…

On that note, if that universe ended, then what happened to the others? At the beginning of the universe, there were many creators and many universes (a theme I myself use in the Juxian Mythos – and also the idea of Death-like beings travelling from universe to universe, completing jobs) – so where did they go in the end? The way Pratchett implied the end was that there was only one universe – unless the end he referred to was the end of all universes, in which case things got a lot more serious.

So, in the end, it was fun, it had a happy ending, but not one of his best. It did have Rincewind, though. Next, I’ll be delving into C.A. Smith’s Hyperborea and Lovecraft’s ghostwritten works.

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2011 in Readings

 

Soul Music

I just finished Terry Pratchett’s Soul Music and it is now one of my favorite books. Death was as amazing as always, and other than proving himself to be a fantastic guitar player and motorcyclist, his caring side really came out. The Death of Rats’ constant presence, as well as Quoth the Raven’s, made the book, as well as Susan Sto Helit’s first appearance – I must say I liked her better in this one than in Hogfather. Dibbler also made quite a large appearance, scamming as always, and this was the first time I’ve seen him really as a major character. I definitely recommend this book to anyone. Next is Eric!

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2011 in Readings

 

The Wee Free Men

My latest conquest! The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. Unlike his other Discworld books, this one was a children’s novel, and so went by much faster and had a rather different writing style (with far fewer footnotes). However, it was still very much fun, and even had cameos from Nanny Ogg and “Mistress” Weatherwax. It makes me want to start reading Pratchett’s witch books (other than Equal Rites, which has already been conquered). Most of the book doesn’t even mention the Disc (the whole thing takes place on he Chalk – I spent a while failing to figure out where this was on the world), and had some actually very interesting philosophical ideas about dreams. I shall be reading the next one most definitely, if not just for the awesomeness of the Nac Mac Feegle! Next on my list of reads I think will be a short break from Pratchett; I’m thinking Cthulhu’s Reign.

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2011 in Readings