Tag Archives: horror

Review of The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle

I borrowed an audio copy of The Ballad of Black Tom (by Victor LaValle) from my local library.

Description from Goodreads:

People move to New York looking for magic and nothing will convince them it isn’t there.

Charles Thomas Tester hustles to put food on the table, keep the roof over his father’s head, from Harlem to Flushing Meadows to Red Hook. He knows what magic a suit can cast, the invisibility a guitar case can provide, and the curse written on his black skin that attracts the eye of wealthy white folks and their trained cops. But when he delivers an occult page to a reclusive sorceress in the heart of Queens, Tom opens a door to a deeper realm of magic, and earns the attention of things best left sleeping.

A storm that might swallow the world is building in Brooklyn. Will Black Tom live to see it break?

Review:

I found this a really powerful novella. It deftly shows how easily the injustice and cruelty of everyday racism can push even good men to monster-like acts. (I was going to say turn them into monsters. But I don’t think Tom is ever a monster; just emotionally beaten by the racial realities of the 1920s.) I found it especially poignant how, even after the fact, the primary white character erases Tom from the event, effectively hiding the embodiment of white America’s sins (and his own participation in it) from himself, rendering it moot. All in all, I found this atmospheric and evocative. Plus, Kevin R. Free did a great job with the narration. A+

Review of The Twilight Pariah, by Jeffrey Ford

I borrowed a copy of Jeffrey Ford‘s The Twilight Pariah from my local library.

Description from Goodreads:
All Maggie, Russell, and Henry wanted out of their last college vacation was to get drunk and play archaeologist in an old house in the woods outside of town. When they excavate the mansion’s outhouse they find way more than they bargained for: a sealed bottle filled with a red liquid, along with the bizarre skeleton of a horned child

Disturbing the skeleton throws each of their lives into a living hell. They feel followed wherever they go, their homes are ransacked by unknown intruders, and people they care about are brutally, horribly dismembered. The three friends awakened something, a creature that will stop at nothing to retrieve its child.

Review:
Not bad, but I wouldn’t say it covers any new ground or anything. I appreciated that, even with the narrator being male, the leader of the gang is obviously the women. Similarly, the inclusion of an incidentally gay man (and his boyfriend) with no need to include a homophobic encounter was nice. The writing was easily readable and the editing was good. But I finished the story with a shrug, rather than a shiver.

Review of Summer Of 68, by Kevin Milikin

I won an audio copy of Summer of 68, by Kevin Milikin

Description from Goodreads:
When the world ended some people believed that it was the fault of a failed space probe, others–an act of vengeance from an angry God. No one knew the reasons why but across the globe, millions of the recently deceased rose from the dead, possessed with one singular goal: To eat the flesh of the living.

Over the course of a few short hours the world was lost.

In the Northern California town of Red Bluff, a Sheriff struggles to grasp this strange and hellish turn of events that have ravaged his small town and maintain order as it all falls apart.

Two brothers struggle to make sense of this new world, traveling through the putrid remains of their beloved town–torn between survival and the love their mother. The world has ended and soon they will learn that all they need to survive is each other.

Review:
With a few exceptions the writing here is smooth and pleasantly atmospheric. However, there is nothing new offered in this zombie yarn. It is nothing more than the struggle for survival of a few random people in the face of a mysterious zombie plague. No explanation is given, no certain ending provided, no real reason even for why the character we follow are the characters we follow. I won’t go as far as to claim the book has no plot, but it does seem distinctly without purpose. Why are we following the sheriff and two young boys as they explore the landscape? Why not the baker or the barber? What is the goal?

The book is heavy on the zombie gore. So, if that’s the sort of thing you’re interested in, this will be a hit. If you like a little more storyline with that gore, maybe not.

For the most part Rick Gregory did a fine job with the narration. He had an odd habit of breaking sentences in unexpected places and pronounced a couple words in ways I hadn’t expected. But mostly it was easy to listen to.