Monthly Archives: October 2015

Review of Stygian, by Santino Hassell

StygianI bought a copy of Stygian, by Santino Hassell.

Description from Goodreads:
Jeremy has been isolated and adrift since the death of his brother. Most people just see him as the skinny emo kid who wears eyeliner and plays drums. No one gets him. Nobody tries. He thought the indie rock band Stygian would become his anchor, but—lost in their own problems—they’re far from the family he sought.

Still, hoping to get close to Kennedy, the band’s enigmatic guitarist, he follows Stygian to northern Louisiana for a summer retreat. They had planned to spend six weeks focusing on new music, but things go awry as soon as they arrive at the long-deserted Caroway mansion. Tempers flare, sexual tension boils over into frustration, and Jeremy turns away from the band to find a friend in his eerily beautiful landlord Hunter Caroway.

Kennedy suspects there’s something off about the creepy mansion and its mysterious owners, but Jeremy thinks he’s finally found somewhere he fits. It isn’t until Kennedy forces the Caroways’ secrets into the light that Jeremy realizes belonging sometimes comes with a price.

This one ticked a lot of boxes for me. I have come to love Hassell’s writing style and his basic….I don’t know what to call it, tone maybe. Just the way everything I’ve read by him, regardless of the genre, has a certain feel to it that I love. It’s gritty. It’s real. It’s maybe even a little nihilistic. It pretends happily ever after can’t exist, even if a character gets it in the end. Maybe you’d have to read his stuff for that to make sense.

In Stygian, Hassell has created a host of seemingly unlikable characters. I mean all of these guys repelled me at some point, some so much I didn’t think they’d be redeemable. But Hassell pulled that off too. The whole thing is as creepy and atmospheric as you’d expect a gothic style, Southern horror novel to be, with a villain that’s maybe a little more complex than first appearances suggest.

My only real complaints are that the narrative is a little conversational at times and I didn’t really feel the connection between Kennedy and Jeremy. A lot of it is pre-existing, based on events prior to the time frame of the novel. I definitely felt what Hassell is doing here, but I had to just take his word for it. As much as I liked Kennedy and Jeremy (and I did), the strength of emotion seemed sudden. (Though some of this feeling was ameliorated after reading the prequels.)

Lastly, there had better be a sequel or I may have to go a little Annie Wilkes on Hassell. (Ok, not really, but please be a sequel.)

As an additional bonus, if you read the book and want more, there are two prequels available. One from Dreamspinner (Feeling You) and one posted on Binge on Books (A Night in the Life). And though not quite out at the time of this posting, I’m told there will also be a Stygian related story in the free anthology Lead Me Into Darkness.

Review of Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest

BoneshakerI picked up Boneshaker (by Cherie Priest) from my local library.

Description from Goodreads:
In the early days of the Civil War, rumors of gold in the frozen Klondike brought hordes of newcomers to the Pacific Northwest. Anxious to compete, Russian prospectors commissioned inventor Leviticus Blue to create a great machine that could mine through Alaska’s ice. Thus was Dr. Blue’s Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine born.

But on its first test run the Boneshaker went terribly awry, destroying several blocks of downtown Seattle and unearthing a subterranean vein of blight gas that turned anyone who breathed it into the living dead.

Now it is sixteen years later, and a wall has been built to enclose the devastated and toxic city. Just beyond it lives Blue’s widow, Briar Wilkes. Life is hard with a ruined reputation and a teenaged boy to support, but she and Ezekiel are managing. Until Ezekiel undertakes a secret crusade to rewrite history.

His quest will take him under the wall and into a city teeming with ravenous undead, air pirates, criminal overlords, and heavily armed refugees. And only Briar can bring him out alive.

I really quite enjoyed this. I liked that it wasn’t all action and blowing stuff up. I liked that there was a 35-year-old, tired out mother as a heroine. I like that the son wasn’t a sniveling baby, but also wasn’t overly confident. I liked that people were smart and could read between lines and such. I enjoyed the alternative world and the basic story-line. I also just plain enjoyed the writing style.

I did think it got a little slow at times and dragged a little here and there. I also would have liked to have known the fate of the City-crew after Briar and Zeke left and there did seem to be a number of convenient coincidences. But all-in-all an enjoyable read.

What do I do with these maybe-plagiarized books?


This morning I’ve been catching up with the Laura Harner plagerization scandal and I’ve been convinced that at least some of her giant catalogue is indeed stolen from other authors. And let’s be clear here, no matter what nice word you use for it, if Harner took the work of other writers, minimally altered it and re-published without their consent it is theft*.

And while I have no stake in this issue as an author (my book wasn’t plagiarized) or as any sort of publisher, I am involved as a reader. I own some of ‘Harner’s books’. In fact, I own nine of them! At least one of which is a compilation of three books and one of them (so far) has been identified as stolen. Of the others, all are still available on Amazon, which suggests that they may not be stolen works. It appears some books are being pulled from publishers. One would guess these to be the plagiarized ones, but I obviously don’t know this for fact.

So, here’s my situation; I’m disgusted by what this author has done. For damn sure the ‘proven’ (to my satisfaction) plagiarized novella is getting deleted. But what about the others? I am a hoarder of words. I tend to keep books, even ones I’ve read and won’t read again, or might not read a first time. (Because someone else might want to read them.) This is part of why I love digital books. I can do this without cluttering my house. So, deleting 9 books from my collection hurts, but so does keeping the work of someone who is willing to so disrespect her fellow authors.

See Harner, you hurt me, a reader you’re never likely to meet or speak to. I’m injured by this. This behavior doesn’t just harm the authors you’re stealing from, but consumers too.  Because now I have to make a difficult decision. Morally, your books have got to go. Keeping them is supporting  what you’ve done. I’m not willing to do that; both because I believe this deserves punishment, but also because I believe others who might be tempted need to see it shut down. Hard. But getting rid of them goes against my nature. Even going halfway and saying, ‘Well, I’ll just delete the ones that are shown to be ganked from someone else and keep those that appear to be your original work’ just feels half-assed on my part. So, what do I do?

I’m angry at this. I’m totally disgusted at the behavior, to be sure, but, as a reader, I am ANGRY to be forced to decide between the books I love and dismissing reprehensible actions. I’m ANGRY to know that even if I keep the books, I can’t ever read them without the contaminating thought that they may be stolen works. I’m ANGRY that even having them on my TBR shelf says something about the decision I do or don’t make on this matter. I’m ANGRY that  every time I see them I’ll remember that a crime and insult was perpetrated. I’M ANGRY. I’m angry at Laura Harner. I’m angry at anyone who knew about this and didn’t report it (or helped, fuck you). I’m angry at her publishers for not being more diligent. I’m angry that this happened at all.

Plagiarism Sucks!

*To be fair, I have seen enough comparison screen-shots to believe M/F books were taken, altered to M/M books and published under Harner’s name. Perhaps it will later come to light that she had the authors’ permission for this and it wasn’t straight plagiarism. I doubt it, but as I don’t know for sure, I’ll allow for the possibility. I am assured that this is not the case.