Fen – Daisy Johnson (Review)

How do you choose a new book? Most of us start by looking at the title or the cover. Each person has their own private code of colours, typefaces and titles which signal whether a book is bad – consciously or unconsciously.

I like geometric or abstract covers with well-chosen colours; I refuse to read anything with a title that begins “The Girl/Boy Who…” Most of all, I avoid books with one-word titles. These rules of thumb are usually quite accurate. I trust the authors and cover designers to do their job well, and help me find the books I like by creating covers that appeal to me.

But sometimes, you have to break your own rules: because a book comes highly recommended, or you’re in a rush to choose a book before your plane leaves, or because it’s personal. Fen, the first collection of short stories from Daisy Johnson, ticked all those boxes for me.

Continue reading “Fen – Daisy Johnson (Review)”

The Seer of Possibilities – Thomas O. (Review)

41zIUKyWWdLThe Seer of Possibilities and other Disturbing Tales is a collection of short horror stories. All the stories are independent, although there are some hints that suggest a shared universe for some of them.

A young boy gets his Christmas wish. A surveying expedition to a new world has personnel problems. A young artist is taught how to reach her full potential. Those are some of the ideas inside the collection.  Continue reading “The Seer of Possibilities – Thomas O. (Review)”

Who Goes there ? – John W. Campbell (Review)

51Qyo6lkqhLJohn Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) is one of the greatest horror films ever made. It’s a masterpiece of suspense and tension, demonstrating – point by point – the key ingredients of horror. In addition, the skilled use of practical special effects gives it a visceral kick that you very rarely find in later films. It’s brilliant, and I recommend that everyone watches it at least once.

Until recently, I didn’t know it was based on anything. I knew that there was at least one  story inspired by it – Peter Watt’s The Things – but I didn’t know that the film itself was based on a short story. That story is John W. Campbell’s Who Goes There? Continue reading “Who Goes there ? – John W. Campbell (Review)”

January – Peter Edwards (Review)

317R5rel76LI was clearly confused when I bought this book. I thought it was filled with short horror stories, but the reality is very different.

The stories in January are very short – each one less than a page long, and each page has an illustration in addition to the text. But they aren’t horror. Instead, they’re puns. Each story is a snapshot from the lives of bizarre re-occurring characters, and each one builds to a pun.  Continue reading “January – Peter Edwards (Review)”

A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs – Andrew Kozma (Review)


The full title of this book is A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs and Other Stories, but that seemed like too long a title for this blog post. There are four stories in total, and they are all independent, very different in settings and ideas.

A lonely tourist visits a city built by giant slugs. A prisoner contemplates the different kinds of possible escape. A man waits to be asked a question. People search for each other in a world of possibilities.

Continue reading “A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs – Andrew Kozma (Review)”

Mashed: The Culinary Delights of Twisted Erotic Horror (Review)

MASHED-Vol1-Cover-MedWebThe best horror, I always find, is concerned with things we aren’t normally afraid of – things that we view positively. Unpleasant things are already unpleasant, and therefore difficult to mine for fear. It’s much more effective, albeit harder, to take things we want and make them terrifying – to take the familiar and expose a darker side.

Food and sex are relatively universal human desires. Things we want and enjoy. Mashed is  an anthology of stories linking those two positives to horror – turning what people most want into nightmares. Instant mashed potato, kitchen renovations, animal rescue – these are some of the starting points for a group of stories that are by turns violent, disturbing, satisfying and sometimes even funny.  Continue reading “Mashed: The Culinary Delights of Twisted Erotic Horror (Review)”

Riding the Mainspring – Andrew Knighton (Review)

Riding the MainspringRiding the Mainspring is a collection of short stories from Andrew Knighton. I’ve read and reviewed a collection from him before, and really liked it.

Riding the Mainspring is very similar to the other collection – very short stories generally, neatly structured, a couple of links between some of the stories but nothing massive. I’m not going to rehash all of the same ground, but instead focus on the differences between the two.

The most obvious difference is that this set of stories are all steampunk, not fantasy. To avoid becoming repetitive though, they aren’t all the same steampunk.

All too often, steampunk means “Victorian London with cogwheels” and that can get quite dull. I’ve nothing against such localised Victoriana (I recommend Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell’s Barnaby Grimes series if that’s what you want), but an entire genre pinned to a single point in space and time is rather limited.

These stories are varied – the setting ranges from the Wild West to a volcano-ridden Europe to Italian sewers. It’s all steampunk, but it’s varied and original within the genre.

The stories aren’t quite as polished as the ones in By Sword, Stave, and Stylus – there are a couple that could have done with a little more elaboration, a bit more explanation of the underlying concepts and resolution. Still though, Knighton’s strength is his structure, so some stories not wrapping up as well as his best isn’t particularly damning – they’re a little weaker, but not bad at all.

My favourite stories were the two dealing with the Epiphany Club, a group of investigators of the outlandish and unusual. There’s quite a fast-paced pulpy feel to them, with automatons and magic elixirs. I’d read a novel set in that world, but there isn’t one. The author appears to have a couple of collections that deal just with the club though, so I will look them up.

This is going to be a very short post, because it’s a very short book and I seem to be writing more compact reviews as time goes on. Plus, having reviewed a collection of his short stories before on here, and the quality remaining roughly the same, there’s not much to say that isn’t just repeating myself.

In summation then, I find that I really like this author. He only writes short stories at the moment, but they’re good short stories, with neat plotting, a nice turn of phrase, and very few duds. This collection is a bit shorter and less polished than his fantasy one, but still well worth reading.

Buy it here.