Categories
Mysteries Suspense

Misfire by Tammy Euliano

I’m starting my few remaining ARC posts with an apology to the publishers & authors who trusted me with their books. My turn around time is just unacceptable. I’ve been doing what I can to increase blog and Twitter exposure after the loss of my main platform, and still I can’t even promise the views that you guys deserve.

That said, Misfire by Tammy Euliano is one of those books that was affected the most by my loss of platform and this book deserves all the exposure it can get! I hope my nurse reader friends will check this one out as well as everyone else!

So without further rambling, let’s take a look at this exciting medical mystery


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Misfire
  • Series: The Kate Downey Medical Mystery Series #2
  • Author: Tammy Euliano
  • Publisher & Release: Oceanview Publishing (January 3rd, 2023)
  • Length: 376 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fans of medical mysteries

Here’s the synopsis:

A device that can save a life is also one that can end it

Kadence, a new type of implanted defibrillator, misfires in a patient visiting University Hospital for a routine medical procedure—causing the heart rhythm problem it’s meant to correct. Dr. Kate Downey, an experienced anesthesiologist, resuscitates the patient, but she grows concerned for a loved one who recently received the same device—her beloved Great-Aunt Irm.

When a second device misfires, Kate turns to Nikki Yarborough, her friend and Aunt Irm’s cardiologist. Though Nikki helps protect Kate’s aunt, she is prevented from alerting other patients by the corporate greed of her department chairman. As the inventor of the device and part owner of MDI, the company he formed to commercialize it, he claims that the device misfires are due to a soon-to-be-corrected software bug. Kate learns his claim is false.

The misfires continue as Christian O’Donnell, a friend and lawyer, comes to town to facilitate the sale of MDI. Kate and Nikki are drawn into a race to find the source of the malfunctions, but threats to Nikki and a mysterious murder complicate their progress. Are the seemingly random shocks misfires, or are they attacks?

A jaw-dropping twist causes her to rethink everything she once thought she knew, but Kate will stop at nothing to protect her aunt and the other patients whose life-saving devices could turn on them at any moment

Categories
audiobooks Mysteries Paranormal Suspense

The Outsider by Stephen King (Audiobook Review)

I think it’s a fair goal to continue to read one Steven King book every month until I’m sick of it. The good news here is that every book I read just causes me to crave more 😅

Additionally helpful towards this goal is the fact that Will Patton narrates a considerable number of Stephen King’s books and he is by far my favorite audiobook narrator of all time.

I think the first question that readers looking at The Outsider should consider is: Do I have to read the Bill Hodges trilogy first? Do I want to? It’s a bit of a commitment but I do believe that meeting Holly Gibney prior and having some familiarity with that series will greatly enhance enjoyment of The Outsider, as it did for me. That said though, you could absolutely read this one alone and only miss a few references. (Plus Will Patton also narrates those books so you could take that route 😅)


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Outsider
  • Series: Holly Gibney #1
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Scribner, 2018
  • Length: 576 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ not for the fainthearted

Here’s the synopsis:

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is discovered in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens—Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon have DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying details begin to emerge, King’s story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.

As a quick note on the audiobook: offered by Simon & Shuster Audio, narrated by Will Patton at almost 19 hours and worth every second. 


Alright this one starts out as a straightforward enough crime novel, and then takes a rather jarring turn for the supernatural once Holly gets involved.  I think though that since this is something I’ve come to expect from Stephen King, the supernatural transition worked for me and was neither a shock nor a jar as I’ve seen some people writing in their reviews.

As you can tell from the first sentence of the synopsis, if any kind of child brutality bothers you definitely do not read this one. I don’t think I would recommend it as someone’s first Stephen King book either, but I have no problem saying you could start with the Bill Hodges Trilogy and then work into it.

I almost always love the majority of King’s characters.  Ralph is enjoyable both as a detective and a person, especially towards the end when he is willing to suspend disbelief to help Holly the most.  He’s a real hero! My other favorite character was Yune Sablo, although I’m not sure if I would have liked him as much without Will Patton lending his voice.  Yune served as a bridge between all of the other factions and was one of the first to throw some legitimacy into the supernatural line of thought. That and he was just funny.

After the events of End of Watch I wondered how Holly was going to hold up, and thankfully she seems to be doing well. Quirky and whip smart as ever.  I like watching her manage her issues and relate to others in her own way, and it’s undeniable that she’s as brave and prepared for action as anyone on the force.

While the book was brutal and a little bit hard to read at times, I appreciated The Outsider because the action never let up and there was always something to be interested in.  At least in the first half of the book too it was fun to play detective and try to figure out how the heck the crime had occurred. I like the themes of the supernatural versus the terrible things that criminals do in everyday life, and how different really is our understanding of these things? Holly had some excellent insights too into the nature of the paranormal and humanity’s potential reaction to the possibility.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this one if you are a fan of Kings writing or a fan of crime/paranormal detective thrillers.  I’ll certainly continue to seek out other books along this line that he’s written.

(P.s. no, I have not seen the TV series yet but I am 100% interested in it, especially since Stephen King liked it, so maybe I’ll try to track that down this winter!)


Thanks for checking out my book review & audiobook review of The Outsider by Stephen King! 

Categories
Science Fiction

A Bonus Classic: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

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Back when I polled you guys for my Fall classic book read, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea came in a near second to Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde. There were multiple buddy read offers too.  Seeing as one stood out more than the rest, here I am having read two classics this Fall 😅

If you want to read something more academic on Verne, skip to the end.

Verne needs little introduction as one of the founding fathers of sci-fi.  His series of very sciency travelogue type novels are dubbed The Extraordinary Adventures and I have to say I enjoyed the trip around the world’s seas in Captain Nemo’s Nautilus.  That said, I didn’t realize there were more Nemo novels and I’m curious now.

These are the things I learned while reading, and my general thoughts in no specific order.

20k  was originally published as a serial in 1869-1870.  I’ve got a gorgeous box set edition of Verne’s classic adventure novels and as much as I enjoyed reading this relatively short one, it took me a while because small print slows me down and classic sci-fi books are notoriously small printed!

Like someone on my blog pointed out with Lovecraft and aviation, here with Verne and exploration & travel, classic sci-fi took the science of the time and made it accessible to the general public.  I think Verne really succeeded here because despite all the hard facts and science and navigation, it felt a lot more readable and accessible than some of the classic Sci-fi that I’ve read.  I’m paraphrasing here but apparently, Very wanted people to actually be able to learn about geography, history, biology, and other natural sciences by reading his books and I can see where this would have been wildly popular at the time.

As well as informational, there’s the fictional part: it was interesting to see Verne extrapolating on the uses for submarines when the sub seemed to have been a mere prototype he was shown, and even making plausible electricity undersea when most homes still had (idk, what, gas lamps? I know electric wasn’t a common household utility in the late 1800s.)

I also never realized that Arronax and friends were essentially prisoners! While Nemo was gracious enough to take them on a tour of the world underwater, I guess I didn’t recall the mai plot of the book from my childhood read.  I did enjoy the dialogue and Stockholm syndrome esque worship of Nemo during the professor’s captivity.

Overall – I did like reading this one.  There was plenty of danger and action among the science.  I liked the prose well enough for the 1800s without being bored, but some of this could be the translator. I did read though that this is accepted as a more literal translation than those done by the guy who changed all the names in Journey to the Center of the Earth, for example. (Google that, there’s some interesting literature on various Verne translations).

At the end of the day I think it’s interesting to read these classics and just see where so many modern novels take inspiration from.  I also like how a lot of these classic novels are character studies and spend a bit of time taking a look at the nature of man and applying it to, say, the nature of scientific discovery.

Here are some more random thoughts that may make more sense for people who have read it and want to discuss the book:

  • If I was Nemo, I wouldn’t have shown them how the escape boat worked 🤣
  • Nemo is like Batman or Tony Stark or Elon Musk even – a rich guy doing rich person things.  Iron Man, Batmobile, Space X rocketship – I ask my readers, if you were rich: what stupidly cool thing would you build?
  • I learned a lot about the timeline of electricity becoming mainstream because I got curious and found an article
  • I also learned about ocean currents and such, I assume these are still pretty currently valid observations
  • Underwater libraries and museums sound like a good plan! I did like how studious both Nemo and Arronax were, even if they knew there was a chance of never making outside contact.
  • I wish the editor had left in Nemo’s backstory, the gaping hole where it was cut out is obvious
  • The French really love to write hyper dramatic men.  I thought Nemo felt a lot like Hugo’s villain in Notre Dame, without the back story but equally dramatic. Verne and Hugo did work together so maybe they rubbed off on each other
  • Did anyone else wonder at the Arronax and Conseil relationship? I don’t know how devoted typical manservants were but it felt like a too close for comfort father & son relationship 😅

In closing, if anyone ever wants to Buddy read a classic novel with me, I am always willing. I have a little mini series called Struggling Through the Classics but I didn’t really feel like this one was a struggle at all.   Also I want to mote that this article makes me feel stupid 🤣 but here’s a much more academic look at the novel, Verne, and the foundation of sci-fi on general from the reading buddy!

Categories
Science Fiction

Sci-fi Month & the Joy of a Fairly Open November TBR

Oh November, between work and getting sick and more work, I’m in pure survival mode right now.  Let’s see what’s in store here for this month!


ARCs

Here’s some good news: for the first time in years I can finally say that my ARC list is only two books long right now and it’s an amazing feeling.  Both are very exciting sounding books too! 

  • The Prisoner by B.A. Paris – I’m halfway done with this one, released today 11/1, and should post about it soon. Thanks to St Martin’s Press
  • Rubicon by J.S. Dewes – not out until March but Tor has offered me author interviews before so I’d like to get there asap
  • I’ve also got Hex You by PC & Kristin Cast but will probably put it off until the end of December

Sci-fi Month!

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This lovely sci-fi month artwork is by  Simon Fetscher

I did decide to jump into sci-fi month, it’s a great group of people with many familiar faces from Wyrd & Wonder, and I have a tentative TBR!  For all that people talk about a lack of sci-fi community, I think it exists. Somewhere. 10 years, wow! It’ll be fun to get some sci-fi recs and see what everyone is talking about! (I do have a TBR but at the same time it’s just incredible to be able to look at my shelves and read whatever I want).

  • Rubicon – see above, this is a perfect ARC for sci-month. A space opera about a sergeant’s many traumatic resurrections, I literally am bouncing to get to this one
  • Armada by Ernest Cline – I picked this one up on audio and started last night but should have listened to GoodReads. Will Wheaton’s voice is just. Ugh. I’ll probably finish it
  • I’ve got the first three Alex Benedict books by Jack McDevitt that have been on my TBR forever.  Back this summer someone said they wanted to see my thoughts and I never got there, so maybe I’ll binge A talent for War, Seeker, and Polaris
  • 20k Leagues Under the Sea by Verne – ok yes let’s finally read this, I’m all about the boys club of scientific exploration 🤣
  • Empire of Silence – it’s so long, should I finally read it though?

That’s seven sci-fi books and I think a realistic goal, I will maybe add or subtract as the month goes!


Misc

There isn’t a lot of miscellany for November.  I’m off to see Hamilton tomorrow night 11/2 and have a seat at the theatre’s president’s club dinner prior and I’m just hoping I can taste the catering because I’m kind of sick 🤣

SPSFC wise – I will definitely start posting more slushpile thoughts this week too.

Here’s to another month of reading, I’m just waiting for December though 🙃

Categories
General Posts, Non Reviews

October Wrap Up (How much dark fantasy can one blog feature in one month?)

The answer to the title is: quite a bit! October ended up being pretty amazing, so let’s just jump right in


GrimDarkTober

I didn’t think GrimDarkTober had a future after losing it’s platform (and community). Unbelievably, with two days to spare before October started, I found out that it still had an audience! I went to work, bugged the SFF Oasis, messaged some friends, and thanks entirely to the help of these people, pulled together a month of guest posts, guest reviews, and some dark fantasy content of my own. It turned into something that for having NO planning, went spectacularly. I think GrimDarkTober has started to gain a new community, so maybe stay tuned for 2023? Maybe I can merge with someone else’s dark and spooky themed thing?

To summarize the guest content really quick… 

You can check out additional content and all posts by searching “GrimDarkTober” in the search field *top left corner of the blog*

So that said, thanks to everyone who jumped in and wrote some guest content because you’re all amazing  ♥️👻

I should also add that I got to feature a super special Sunday Brunch Halloween edition this year, featuring John Palladino of The Trials of Ashmount 


Reading Summary:

I was incredibly loyal to my TBR this month reading all 8 of my definite picks and saving space for some impulse reads.

Thanks to some shorter novels and novellas it was actually a decent reading month.  I spread my little multi genre wings and talked about both indie and regularly published dark fantasy, classic sci-fi, a domestic thriller, a true crime novel, a lovely book of magical realism, and classic horror.

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All of these books have been reviewed here on the blog, minus the one I’ll talk about next.  I did also just finish Later by Stephen King but it will be my first review in November. I’m almost done with Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone but won’t finish it before tonight.

There is one book I read for an author and will not write a review for. As much as I loved The Witches of Crannock Dale last month and had a great interview with the author, I had content / age appropriateness issues with The Rebels of Caer City as the book went from middle grade to new adult real quick and I don’t think a series can have it both ways without keeping content appropriate to the lowest age group advertised for.  I’d say ok, maybe 16 year olds, but I also just didn’t enjoy reading it and am going to leave it at that 


October book haul:

None 🤣

I did not buy any books in October.  I did load up my kindle unlimited with some new reads and found some free e books from indie authors I’ve been looking at.  I also got lucky with some long time Libby holds coming in.


Miscellaneous:

There’s not much else to say.  Thanks to all the guest content I had a decent month here and am going to keep the blog going at least for now. I hope everyone had a great spooky month and found something good to read! 

Check in tomorrow for November goals and Sci-fi Month TBR!

Categories
Fantasy

The Sword of Mercy and Wrath by N.C. Koussis

It’s nearly the end of GrimDarkTober and I want to talk about the last book I finished this month!  The Sword of Mercy and Wrath is a dark fantasy book with werewolves, their hunters, a twisted trope of adopted sibling rivalry, set in a world of territory conflict and war.


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Sword of Mercy and Wrath
  • Series: The Swords of Dominion, #1
  • Author: N.C. Koussis
  • Publisher & Release: Self, September 2022
  • Length: 267 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ for fans of  dark fantasy and action

***See note on the synopsis at the end


This is an exceptionally addictive read.  For such a short novel, N.C. Koussis packs nonstop action and character development from start to finish to create a fast paced read that is hard to put down.

The two main points of view are Tristain, off to war as a knight’s squire in hopes of making a name for himself and getting his adopted sister and mother away from their abusive father back home.  The other is Selene, the sister, attacked by a werewolf and in turn sets off with a dashing inquisitor to become a hunter of those monsters.

I think the Selene character stole the spotlight from Tristain and ran with it.  I enjoyed both viewpoints but her character arc was the best part of the book for me.  An interesting look at how grief and revenge can cause a loss of identity as Selene shucks off her last to become a remorseless werewolf hunter for the religious order.  The training was brutal and dark and everything I’d expect from an order that targets those with hurt in their heart and no where else to turn.  Then the question becomes – can Selene find herself again?

Tristain took a bit of a different arc and showed us the life of the army, the depths of betrayal in the novel, and that monsters can take many shapes and forms.

I liked how both characters, and most of the side characters, were in the moral grayzone.  They had faults, they were ravaged from war and hardship and grieving, making mistakes and learning from them.  The book was pretty dark though the middle to end but managed to keep up a thread of hope that I don’t see in a lot of Grimdark anymore. The end was… Uh… Well, I’d like a sequel, let’s put it that way.  (My heart didn’t need a hug at all before the epilogue).

While I did truly enjoy the book, the action, the battles, the military strategy, the violence that all makes up a solid dark fantasy, one can guess by the length that there might not have been a ton of world building.  I am a world building fanatic and (while I 100% recommend the book for fans of fast paced action packed reads), I really wanted some more background and development for the world, the characters, the political conflicts, maybe some more history, just those little things that flesh out fantasy worlds.  I know that’s not necessity what the author set out to do but I think it would have helped without slowing things down too much.

That said though, the action and moral conflicts and characters more than carried this book! I am now patiently waiting for the next installment👻

I didn’t include a synopsis because I think it reflects an earlier version of the text that isn’t quite accurate.

Categories
Fiction Horror Mysteries Science Fiction

Struggling Through Another Classic: Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

You voted and I am delivering! One of my final GrimDarkTober reads is also my last 2022 edition of “Struggling Through the Classics”

Every season, I let you all vote on which classic I will read and then drop some thoughts on it! Earlier in the year I suffered through Notre Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), then it was The Scarlet Letter, and now you all let me off the  hook fairly easily with Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde!

Let me ask you all a question first – tell me in the comments, phonetically, how you pronounce Jekyll? Don’t look it up, just tell me how you read it in your head.  I never would have guessed JEE-kill, I was a JECK-ull person, but now I know that everyone says it differently. So, go tell me yours!

I guess what I didn’t remember or realize about this book is that it’s essentially a long short story.  I’d say novella but it’s really, really short.  For a “book” that has multiple full length movies and book retellings, how was it so short!

One thing that you all should never do, is quote me on anything, but since this was written in 1886 I’m pretty sure it came out prior to (or at the same time) that Freud was doing the whole three-parts-of-the-human-psyche thing, which to me makes the *idea* of Jekyll & Hyde pretty interesting.

In reality though, Stevenson managed to make Gothic London boring as hell because the book read like a legal brief.  I enjoyed the first chapter because I liked how he described the characters, and the last chapter because we got all the answers, and in between it just was a bunch of confusing stuffy old doctors and lawyers trying to piece a rather odd mystery together.

Don’t get me wrong, it was blessedly short and not a bad read at all but it seemed like a lot of leadup to a biiiig reveal/info dump that was presented in more or less the form of a legal brief.

Ahem.  Well. Onto the next one after the new year, I’ll put the next poll up sometime in December 🤣

A GoodReads Synopsis:

‘All human beings, as we meet them, are commingled out of good and evil: and Edward Hyde, alone in the ranks of mankind, was pure evil’

Published as a shilling shocker, Robert Louis Stevenson’s dark psychological fantasy gave birth to the idea of the split personality. The story of respectable Dr Jekyll’s strange association with damnable young man Edward Hyde; the hunt through fog-bound London for a killer; and the final revelation of Hyde’s true identity is a chilling exploration of humanity’s basest capacity for evil.

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

The Weeping Sigil by Jordan Loyal Short (Book Thoughts)

Wrapping up GrimDarkTober here with … More dark fantasy! Back in August, I was lucky enough to participate in a book tour for The Skald’s Black Verseand knew that I needed to read The Weeping Sigil sooner rather than later. As always, I’ll keep this one 99% spoiler free.

I eventually bought the audiobook and despite that and despite enjoying the narration quite a bit, I ended up reading the second half pretty quickly.  Fully recommend checking out this series if you like dark fantasy, folklore, and fast paced action with some scifi elements.


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Weeping Sigil
  • Series: The Dreadbound Ode, #2
  • Author: Jordan Loyal Short
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 2020
  • Length: 337 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Here’s the synopsis:

Adrift in the void, Henrik’s rescue is only a prelude to slavery.

But his new life on Tyria is not at all what he expected. When the illustrious House of Quoll purchases him, Henrik finds himself living in the home of his old enemy, Prefect Brasca Quoll. Desperate to hide the truth of his last days on Heimir, Henrik dives into the murderous game of Tyrianite politics. Devastated by the catastrophe on the Norn homeworld, the Federation teeters on the brink of civil war.

While the Shining Ones maneuver their champions for the final confrontation, Henrik’s fevered visions unveil the scope of Moriigo’s nightmarish rebellion.

Aboard a stolen voidcraft, Brohr and Lyssa hurtle into the depths of the starry abyss, on a desperate exodus in search of safe haven. But the outer reaches of the system are full of strange worlds, haunted ruins, and bizarre cults.

As anarchy grips the streets of Tyria, Henrik vows to reveal the true peril facing the Federation: Moriigo’s return! While rival electors, assassins, and federal inquisitors plot the downfall of House Quoll, Henrik must bind himself to the future of his onetime enemies, lest the horrors of his prophetic visions come to pass


So this one picks up right where The Skald’s Black Verse left off.  The Skoljan refugees are heading towards Brohr’s blue planet but have no idea why, and Henrik is adrift in space awaiting rescue.

I think this one excelled most by introducing a lot of new places and people to the world.  Descriptions of the Clockwork and other marvels of the new worlds kept me interested.  Seeing the grand Roman-esque world of Tyria and it’s politics and intrigue.   Terrifying void creatures that actually just wanted to cuddle each other? Ok. I’m down.

Probably the best thing about the book is that I just like Short’s writing.  For a self published book these are exceptionally well edited, and the audio (narrated by Aaron Smith) sounded amazing too.

I think I mentioned the little chapter preludes in book one’s review.  They’re occasionally just anecdotes or parts of texts but often add a lot to the world.  We finally learn what the Dreadbound are because of these little excerpts so I definitely recommend paying attention to them.  Anything quoted from text or prophecy (or heresy)? ends up being if not important, at least interesting.

Henrik and Brohr are still the two main points of view, but now we also get to meet a raider captain named Petra and of all people, Brostar Quoll (Brasca’s father).  I actually liked the Henrik storyline the best in this one as we see him become a pawn of prophecy, blinded, and wreaking all sorts of amazing havoc in Tyria.  I didn’t even dislike Brostar, he seemed like a much better person than his son.  The little kid was cute too and I’m more than a little afraid for his future.  All the political intrigue, plotting, betrayal, and prophecy tied into this storyline was amazing.

Not that Brohr’s storyline was dull, but I can only take so much screeching and bloodshed.  I liked the segment regarding the “shit luck” of the people, because it’s a real dark fantasy trope for characters to just keep making the best out of whatever is left to them. It’s certainly sad to see every ounce of the Norn refugee’s hope stamped out but I just feel like Brohr is heading towards his part in this inevitable war of the gods, and it’s not as interesting yet.  I never liked Lyssa nor cared about her either so… my bad, more Henrik please!

No one had asked him if he wanted to be haunted, to be cursed, a butcher, a horror. He did not walk a path of freedom, but one of fate. She would understand. The sagas needed monsters (p. 253)

So yeah, there wasn’t much hope here at all.  It kept getting darker, and darker, and darker, right until the end.  There’s more magic, more prophecy, more of everything, and I’m probably to jump right into book three and have absolutely no regrets about it.

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy General Posts, Non Reviews

Why I Gave Up on Grimdark Fantasy (A GrimDarkTober Guest Post from At Boundary’s Edge)

October is wrapping up along with a great month of GrimDatkTober guest content from a few of my favorite people across the SFF blogosphere.  I hope everyone has found a few more books to add to their ever growing TBRs!

Today I’m happy to present the last GrimDarkTober guest post for you all.  Nowadays he mostly sticks to Science Fiction, but Alex from At Boundary’s Edge used to be a huge fantasy reader as well.  True to his brand of cranky-but-actually-cinnamonroll-in-disguise vibes, check out this great piece on why he eventually put GrimDark aside

 


Why I Gave Up On Grimdark Fantasy

I grew up reading fantasy. I tried a thick, somewhat battered omnibus of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings twice before I was 10. Admittedly, I never made it through The Return of the King, but I was absolutely enchanted by the world. I remember seeing Robert Jordan’s Winter’s Heart on the shelves of a used bookstore and thinking from the sheer size that it must be something truly Shakespearean in content. I didn’t complete either Tolkien’s or Jordan’s epics until much later on, but I filled my time with other classical epic fantasy. The Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks were my first adventure in collecting a whole series. I read David Edding’s The Belgariad and Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle, and knew I was hooked on fantasy. As I hunted out new books to read, and sent my mother to do the same, I soon found myself in possession of a book with a bloodstained map for a cover. It was called, rather enticingly, The Heroes, and it was written by a man named Joe Abercrombie.

I was fifteen, and The Heroes offered me a new window on fantasy. This was a fantasy where people died a lot. There were no heroic sacrifices, just meaningless and pointless deaths. It was great. Blood spattered on every page, there was no clear-cut good and bad. Most of all, it was absolutely hilarious. It wasn’t only Union soldiers who had split sides by the time I reached the end. I rushed out by the other books set in the same world, and found them all in a similar vein. Though the books were filled with hateful characters, the writing itself was a clearly loving poke in the eye of the tropes and stereotypes of the fantasy I’d read up to that point. It was while looking for Abercrombie’s next book that I encountered the word that would change it all. Grimdark.

Finally I had a label for this darkly humour thing I enjoyed so much. I let that label guide me to my next reads. And so I came across Mark Lawrence. The Broken Empire wasn’t quite as riotously funny as The First Law, but Jorg had a way with words that could get a laugh out of me at times. His successor, Jalan from Prince of Fools was a much more jovial character. The comedic elements running through this books were distinctly British. A raised eyebrow and a ‘here-we-go-again’ mentality when it came to the tropes. These stories weren’t so much subverting tropes as having fun by actively running against them. And that’s what grimdark became to me. Fun. Over the top violence and a fistful of jokes wedged in for good measure.

At around the same time as I was reading Lawrence, I started Peter V. Brett’s The Demon Cycle and Brent Weeks’  . Both of these were books I had seen bearing the grimdark label in some corners of the online community, so I assumed they’d fill the same void. But they didn’t. I enjoyed both series, but neither was particularly funny. Even when they were over-the-top, I couldn’t shake the feeling that they were being played straight. They weren’t laughing at how bloody they could be, they thought it actually meant something. It was a emo, edgelord mentality that left me utterly cold.

Within a year or so, I discovered the work of David Gemmell, a forebear of grimdark who truly believed in heroism, and his work was a breath of fresh air. Gemmell’s work also led me to that of Stan Nicholls, who surely deserves more credit for running ahead of the grimdark curve. His Orcs novels are a sweary, bloody spectacle, at one point putting a unicorn horn to truly inappropriate use. But they’re funny. Weapons of Magical Destruction in its title alone tells you the tone of the book. A satire not only of fantasy, but of real-world events, all told with a crazy grin and an axe in each hand.

Meanwhile, the modern grimdark train rolled on. As an avid fantasy reader, I did what I could to keep up. I bought the first book of countless series, looking for that same witty high. I bought Anna Stephens’ Godblind, Michael R. Fletcher’s Beyond Redemption, Devin Madson’s We Ride the Storm, and Mike Shackle’s We Are the Dead. I can’t honestly say I enjoyed a single one of them. They were well-crafted books, but they proved to me one incontrovertible fact. Grimdark had started taking itself seriously. The joy was gone. The laughter was dead. There were still some good books falling under the grimdark label. R.F. Kuang’s The Poppy War is more of a historical fantasy, but uses that history of violence to provoke thought. Adrian Selby’s Snakewood is one of the few books to include a magic system that doesn’t make me pull my hair out. Anna Smith Spark’s Empires of Dust is a literary masterpiece in terms of prose, and even includes some of that too-rare humour amid all the misery and tragedy.

As the grimdark label covered more and more books, it ceased to hold the meaning that had drawn me in all those years ago. Worse still, the nihilism had spread to the far corners of the fantasy genre. Fantasy became a place where hope was for idiots and anyone calling themselves a hero was only after your money. It just wasn’t fun anymore. The worst offender was R. Scott Bakker’s The Darkness That Came Before, a book that was, with its central thesis that men exist only to destroy and subjugate each other, so utterly devoid of cheer that I finally decided to call it a day.

Grimdark has cultivated a reputation for telling it like it is. For showing the world for the horrible place it is. But that’s wrong. Yes, there are bad things in the world (and worse than you’ll see in most grimdark books), but there’s joy in the world too. Even in the worst of situations, people will crack a joke. If all you’re doing is showing humanity being horrible to itself, you’re not being anywhere near as smart as you like to tell yourself. So much of modern grimdark seems intent on wallowing in self-pity, and dragging the reader down with it. Quite frankly, it’s become dull.

So yes, I’ll still read Joe Abercrombie. I’ll pick up Anna Smith Spark’s next book. But because of the author. Not because of the genre label that gets slapped across the cover.

Grimdark – whatever you are anymore – I’m done with you. Let me know if you get your sense of humour back.


You can find him online at: 

Blog: https://atboundarysedge.com/

Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/HormannAlex

Categories
Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction Crime

I’ll Be Gone In the Dark… by Michelle McNamara et. al (Book Thoughts)

Hey, I finally read this book. (Synopsis & publication facts at the end). I’ve wanted to read it since it came out but what finally pushed me to slide it into my TBR stack was (sigh) Paul Holes’ book, which spoke even more highly of Mcnamara and her journalism related to the Golden State Killer case as well as her as a person. I think pretty much everyone in America either knew McNamara from the red carpet or from looking at TrueCrimeDiary at one point or another in their lives.  She was a phenomenal journalist and her death is one of the many things I file under the “damn shame” department.

I think what I took home from this was that she essentially joined the ranks of cold case detectives and kept America interested in the GSK. Did the book help catch the killer? Well – probably not, but she gave so many victims a name and a story for those who didn’t know. One of many sad parts, besides that she died at 49, was that she unfortunately missed – literally the same day that Patton Oswalt & co finally launched this book – the arrest of Joseph DeAngelo.

Yeah, this is a wonderfully put together and legible account of his victims, comprehensive across multiple precincts, and gave a wide account of interdepartmental politics as well as big picture ideas about the case.  It also put us into victim’s shoes in a chilling look at DeAngelo’s crimes and methods. McNamara had a knack for building reader’s interest by putting out facts and letting her audience play sleuth, which is absolutely part of the appeal of the true crime genre and her writing in particular

For a book about a killer that wasn’t yet caught at the time, this book was amazing.  The mere fact that her researcher was able to piecemeal edit thousands of pages of notes to complete the unfinished chapters was equally amazing, and so is the fact that without the editor’s notes, it would have been impossible to tell who wrote what.   I believe the later edition included the afterword by Oswalt.

Long story short, yes I would definitely check this out if you have absolutely any interest in true crime, the Golden State Killer, or McNamara’s life, as this was also in some large part her autobiography.  I loved the many human touches she added to the pages to look into the psychology of both the “armchair detective” and those who became legit assets to the case.  I think this book deserves every single award it’s won. Go read it!

Here’s the synopsis from the back cover:

A masterful true-crime account of the Golden State Killer—the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California for over a decade—from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case

“You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark”.

Over the course of more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. In 1986 he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true-crime journalist who created the popular website True Crime Diary, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” Michelle pored over police reports, inter-viewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

At the time of the crimes, the Golden State Killer was between the ages of eighteen and thirty, Caucasian, and athletic—capable of vaulting tall fences. He always wore a mask. After choosing his victims—he favored suburban couples—he often entered their homes when no one was there, studying family pictures, mastering the layouts. He attacked while they slept, using a flashlight to awaken and blind them. Though they could not recognize him, his victims recalled his voice: a guttural whisper through clenched teeth, abrupt and threatening.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark—the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Framed by an introduction from Gillian Flynn and an afterword by McNamara’s husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by Michelle’s lead researcher and a close colleague. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true-crime classic—and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer
  • Author: Michelle McNamara
  • Publisher & Release: Harper, 2018
  • Pages: 352 including illustrations
  • Rating: I mean, it has to be 5 stars for everyone involved in this book’s publication