The King in Yellow Tales ★☆☆☆☆ DNF@50%

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Title: The King in Yellow Tales
Series: The King in Yellow Anthology #3
Editor: Joseph Pulver
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: Cosmic Horror
Pages: 249 DNF/125
Words: 77.5K DNF/39K



Synopsis:

From the Publisher

Collected within this substantial volume of madness, murder, and spectral tragedy are tales of Carcosa, the characters that inhabit the KIY “Play”, and Chambers’ cosmic horror. Pulver’s tales adhere to Chambers’ core ideas and themes, and they retain all the mystery of Chambers originals. Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. has been acclaimed by many notable editors, writers, and reviewers, as the contemporary heir to Robert W. Chambers’ “King in Yellow”. Have you seen the Yellow Sign?

“‘The King In Yellow’ reigns over the labyrinthine crossroads between the grand indifference of the cosmic Outside, and the inner wasteland of the tormented mind, so it’s no surprise to find Joe Pulver’s saturnine face so frequently behind the Pallid Mask. Joe plies the fathomless depths of existential nightmare breathing music and poetry, and brings back strangely beautiful salvage. That he has so lovingly and deeply explored Chambers’ bizarre pocket universe without destroying the merest scintilla of its mystery is ample testament to his painfully sharp craftsmanship and terrible wisdom.

My Thoughts:

It turns out this was a collection of madness in the form of frenetic poetry and fragments of prose. I thought I could make it through, surviving on the prose but at the 50% mark I simply couldn’t take any more.

I was bored, confused and feeling like someone was grinding broken glass into my earlobes. Not the feeling I want when reading a book. Heck, not the feeling I want, ever.

After the previous book, this was doubly disappointing.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Conan the Valorous ★★★☆☆

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Title: Conan the Valorous
Series: Conan the Barbarian
Authors: John Maddox Roberts
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 219
Words: 86K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

Hathor-Ka, a Stygian sorceress, tricks Conan into stealing certain relics from Ben Morgh, a sacred mountain in Cimmeria. His expedition takes him across Koth, Nemedia, and the Border Kingdoms where Conan is diverted by his rescue of a chieftainess. Meanwhile, Jaganath (a sorcerer from Vendhya) is also on a journey into the Cimmerian Wilderness. In Cimmeria, the various clans are uniting against the Vanir and their allies, a tribe of lizard folk. The two armies are traveling towards Ben Morgh and proceed with a final battle. As the conflict rages on, Conan and a wizard from Khitai wage a more crucial battle inside Crom’s Cave beneath the mountain with the aid of Jaganath, Hathor-Ka, and her patron, Thoth-Amon. Ultimately, Cimmeria is delivered from outside sorcery and Conan joins a raiding party of Aesir in their journey towards Hyberborea.

My Thoughts:

Robert Howard wrote the original Conan the Barbarian stories. I reviewed a collection of them back in ’18 and thoroughly enjoyed them. So much so that I have finally tracked down a collection of Conan the Barbarian stories by two other authors, notably John Maddox Roberts and Robert Jordan (of the Wheel of Time fame). Since I finished WoT last year, I wanted to give myself a break from Jordan and so chose Roberts to begin my Conan Pastiche journey with. I’ve got 6 Conan books by him to keep me occupied for a while.

I am not sure if these stories by Roberts are in any particular order or how they fit into the original canon by Howard. Honestly, I don’t think it matters. I am treating each one as a standalone story. Howard also mainly wrote the Conan stories as short stories, so getting full length novels is going to be a different beast and we’ll see how Conan the Character handles it.

This story is about Conan getting tricked by a sorceress and being involved in a once in a millennium confluence where great powers are bestowed on one sorcerer. Conan has to go back to his homeland of Cimmeria and you find out they’re a bunch of goat herders who like to kill everyone else with their weapons. Conan isn’t the sharpest sword in the barrel but compared to the rest of the Cimmerians he’s a world traveling playboy of exquisite refinement.

There are monsters galore and the god of the Cimmerians plays a tiny part as does an Eldrich Horror. Roberts delves into the Cosmic Horror side of things with tentacled god monsters in the spaces between the planets but it is more of just a nod to the idea than any real work on the idea.

This was a decent sword & sorcery adventure tale but it didn’t hold a candle to Howard’s original stuff.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

In the Court of the Yellow King ★★★★✬

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Title: In the Court of the Yellow King
Series: The King in Yellow Anthology #2
Editor: Glynn Barrass
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Cosmic Horror
Pages: 289
Words: 99.5K



Synopsis:

Table of Contents

These Harpies of Carcosa — W. H. Pugmire

The Viking in Yellow — Christine Morgan

Who Killed the King of Rock and Roll? — Edward Morris

Masque of the Queen — Stephen Mark Rainey

Grand Theft Hovercar — Jeffrey Thomas

The Girl with the Star-Stained Soul — Lucy A. Snyder

The Penumbra of Exquisite Foulness — Tim Curran

Yield — C. J. Henderson

Homeopathy — Greg Stolze

Bedlam in Yellow — William Meikle

A Jaundiced Light at the End — Brian M. Sammons

The Yellow Film — Gary McMahon

Lights Fade — Laurel Halbany

Future Imperfect — Glynn Owen Barrass

The Mask of the Yellow Death — Robert M. Price

The Sepia Prints — Pete Rawlik

Nigredo — Cody Goodfellow

MonoChrome — T. E. Grau

My Thoughts:

In the fantasy Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, there is a power called Saidin and Saidir. One half can be used by males and the other half by females. The male half, Saidin, was tainted by the Dark One thousands of years before the series starts. The main character, Rand, can use Saidin but is affected by the taint. He describes the experience as wrestling with fire and ice that is covered with a putrid oil. He never feels more alive than when using Saidin but the taint makes him sick and drives him insane.

That is how these two Cosmic Horror Series (Cthulhu & King in Yellow) seem to be affecting me.

I couldn’t stop reading this. The stories dragged along relentlessly. I felt like I had jumped into a river and that it turned out to be way more powerful than anticipated. There were times I was in the center, speeding along, but then there were times when the stories pushed me into the banks or slammed me into hidden rocks beneath the surface. By the end of this I felt battered, emotionally and spiritually. Yet I had never felt so alive either.

It was an extremely disturbing dichotomic feeling. I had to stop and really ask myself if I was capable of reading more of this stuff. While I acknowledge that I have changed over the years, is the change engendered by reading stories like these the kind I want to voluntarily submit to? Whether I like to admit it or not, what we put into our minds does affect us.

Thankfully I don’t have to make that decision right away. I’ve got another month before I cycle back to this cosmic horror duology.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Cthulhu Lies Dreaming ★★★✬☆

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Title: Cthulhu Lies Dreaming
Series: Cthulhu Anthology #2
Editor: Salome Jones
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Cosmic Horror
Pages: 389
Words: 134.5K



Synopsis:

Table of Contents

Foreword: Cthulhu, Lies, Dreaming by Kenneth Hite

Nikukinchaku by Matthew J. Hockey

Babatunde by Ayobami Leeman Kessler

The Myth of Proof by Greg Stolze

Service by Lynnea Glasser

The Star that is Not a Star (The Statement of Natasha Klein, April 1996) by Lucy Brady

August Lokken by Yma Johnson

Wake My Lord by M. S. Swift

Puddles by Thord D. Hedengren

Sometimes, the Void Stares Back by Marc Reichardt

Beyond the Shore by Lynne Hardy

Bleak Mathematics by Brian Fatah Steele

Father of Dread by Matthew Chabin

He Sees You in His Dreams by Samuel Morningstar

Isophase Light by Daniel Marc Chant

Icebound by Morris Kenyon

Seven Nights in a Sleep Clinic by Saul Quint

Mykes Reach by William Couper

Notes for a Life of Nightmares: A Retrospective on the Work of Henry Anthony Wilcox by Pete Rawlik

Offspring by Evey Brett

Out on Route 22 by E. Dane Anderson

The Red Brick Building by Mike Davis

The Lullaby of Erich Zann by G. K. Lomax

Cymothoa Cthulhii by Gethin A. Lynes

My Thoughts:

I am finding that the Cosmic Horror genre is my weakness. Mostly in the sense I would naturally abhor everything contained within it (hopelessness, dread, despair, the absolute insignificance of man) but that within these stories not only do I NOT abhor them, I practically revel in them. I was thinking about this as I was nearing the end of my read trying to figure out why this was. When I read Hard Day’s Knight the other month, the very mention of Jesus not being strong enough to combat the powers of Hell sent me into a frenzy of practically calling down fire on the authors unbelieving head. Yet in this collection when God is simply dismissed as a non-entity in the face of the elder gods, I didn’t blink. Why? I don’t know yet but I’m keeping that question in the forefront of my mind as I continue reading this genre. Once I figure it out I’ll be mentioning it in one of the reviews.

This collection started out fantastically with “Nikukinchaku”. A story about a school teacher facing budget cuts and how she cuts costs by buying nikukinchaku, a cheap food source that everybody loves. The story ends with the things eating a teacher, the dealer drowning himself in a toilet and everyone who has eaten the nikukinchaku heading out to see to answer “a call” they all can hear, including the teacher. This story had the perfect sense of dread and psychological horror. It was almost literally delicious to read. While some of the other stories had more horror, this was a great way to start.

Sadly, every collection has a low point and this one’s was “Father of Dread”. Incest fantasy between adopted siblings and teen hormones. I don’t need or want to read about a teen boy masturbating to thoughts of his adopted sister. This story is the main reason this was 3.5stars instead of 4.

Salome Jones has done another great job with this anthology and I’m really impressed. To the point where I’ll be looking her up to see what else she has put together. That’s pretty high praise coming from me. That’s if I can figure out how to search for editors instead of authors of course.

I had mentioned in the previous Cthulhu Anthology that I was wanting to space these out a bit more so as to lessen the impact on myself from these soul destroying stories. After reading this my desire is intensified all the more. So instead of reading nothing but Cthulhu Lore, I’ll be spacing it out with a couple of King in Yellow anthologies. Brilliant or what?!?

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Cthulhu Lives! (Cthulhu Anthology #1) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Cthulhu Lives!
Series: Cthulhu Anthology #1
Editor: Salome Jones
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Cosmic Horror
Pages: 235
Words: 80K



Synopsis:

Table of Contents

  • FOREWORD by Leeman Kessler
  • UNIVERSAL CONSTANTS by Piers Beckley
  • 1884 by Michael Grey
  • ELMWOOD by Tim Dedopulos
  • HOBSTONE by G. K. Lomax
  • ON THE BANKS OF THE RIVER JORDAN by John Reppion
  • DARK WATERS by Adam Vidler
  • INK by Iain Lowson
  • DEMON IN GLASS by E. Dane Anderson
  • SCALES FROM BALOR’S EYE by Helmer Gorman
  • OF THE FACELESS CROWD by Gábor Csigás
  • SCRITCH, SCRATCH by Lynne Hardy
  • ICKE by Greg Stolze
  • CODING TIME by Marc Reichardt
  • THE THING IN THE PRINTER by Peter Tupper
  • THE OLD ONES by Jeremy Clymer
  • VISITING RIGHTS by Joff Brown
  • AFTERWORD
My Thoughts:

I rather enjoyed this anthology. Going into Cosmic Horror though, you have to have the proper mindset. There are no heroes overcoming great odds but ordinary people being overcome with hopeless despair and being devoured (whether physically, psychologically or spiritually depends on the story). Madness, mayhem and murder are the key phrases of the day. Finally, the elder gods are dark gods, uncaring, unmoral and barely able to even interact in this reality without destroying it.

If any of those “rules” are broken, it makes for a very unsatisfactory cosmic horror story. Rites of Azathoth was such a book that just didn’t work for me. On the other hand, The Private Lives of Elder Things was fantastic and everything you’d want from cosmic horror. I went into this book wondering which course on the path it was going to take. I’m glad to announce it took the better (errr, worse?) path and was truly horrific and terrifying as only good cosmic horror can be!

I did stay up late a couple of nights because I got caught up in the “one more story” syndrome which has come to represent, to me, the pinnacle of the short story collection. If you can’t put the book down, it has done its job perfectly.

Salome Jones has done a fantastic job of putting together stories and while some are pushing the edge of graphic, either violently or sexually, none of them go into what I’d classify as gratuitous. After the couple of short story collections at the end of November, I am thankful for an editor who has dash of good taste in what stories are chosen.

The reasons this was 3 ½ stars instead of higher is because in one story the writer specifically states how the puny god of the christians is as nothing before the darkness of the elder gods. It was the specificity that irked me. I probably wouldn’t have minded nearly so much if all the religions were lumped together in that statement, but nope, had to specifically talk about Christianity. sigh.

I’ve got another couple of volumes of cosmic horror anthologies after this one but I might stretch them out a bit. Too much darkness isn’t good for the soul after all. Just like eating a whole bag of cheetos isn’t good for the body.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Whitechapel Demon (Adventures of the Royal Occultist #1) ★★★✬☆

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Title: The Whitechapel Demon
Series: Adventures of the Royal Occultist #1
Author: Josh Reynolds
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 172
Words: 59K



Synopsis:

Publisher’s Blurb & Me

Formed during the reign of Elizabeth I, the post of the Royal Occultist was created to safeguard the British Empire against threats occult, otherworldly, infernal and divine.

It is now 1920, and the title and offices have fallen to Charles St. Cyprian. Accompanied by his apprentice Ebe Gallowglass, they defend the battered empire from the forces of darkness.

In the wake of a séance gone wrong, a monstrous killer is summoned from the depths of nightmare by a deadly murder-cult. The entity hunts its prey with inhuman tenacity even as its worshippers stop at nothing to bring the entity into its full power… It’s up to St. Cyprian and Gallowglass to stop the bloodthirsty horror before another notch is added to its gory tally, but will they become the next victims of the horror guised as London’s most famous killer?

Using the powers of darkness themselves, Charlie and Ebe use the medium who originally brought forth the demon as bait. Charlie uses some magic embued in his house to chase the eldritch horror back into the dark from whence it came.

My Thoughts:

I have some theological quibbles, which I’ll deal with as I suspect most anyone reading this review won’t have them. First, the Royal Occultist is supposed to protect England/Britian/Whatever from forces Occult, Otherworldy and Divine. Why would it need to be protected from the Divine? The answer of course is that despite saying on several occasions “For God and Country”, there is no God, no Jehovah, just a shell for the story’s sake. So Divine in this case will mean any and all gods, who are all valid. Balderdash. Secondly, Charlie is as involved in the Occult and Occultic Forces as any demon loving secret society, he just happens to use those powers “for good”. Once again, Balderdash. It is quite evident that Reynolds is using the shell of Protestant England without thinking about its depths or anything real. It annoys me to see Christianity used as a prop and in this case, a very poorly made prop.

Other than that, I quite enjoyed this read. It was short, filled that cosmic horror itch I sometimes get (and how much more cosmic horror’ish can it get than an Old One masquerading as Jack the Ripper?) and was fast paced almost to the point of being frenetic. It also has the honor of only being a completed trilogy (even though, from what I can gather, there might be 2 more books after the trilogy, but I’m not sure how they tie in, don’t really care at this point). Short books and short series are like short skirts, they look really good if you’re wearing ♪a looooong jacket♪.

I feel like this type of story is at the other end of the spectrum from the Wheel of Time books. WoT could be compared to a 14 course meal that lasts 8hrs and has little umbrella drinks between courses. This Royal Occultist? It’s driving through the front of a McDonalds, grabbing the burger from the hands of a senior citizen and then backing out and taking out a load bearing wall, collapsing the whole building. But man, that hot greasy burger does taste good. And knowing that you kept somebody’s Grandma from having a triple heart attack, well, it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside (never mind that you killed her when you took out the load bearing wall and collapsed the whole building on her head. So you should probably actually feel ashamed of yourself. But this is a judgement free zone, so kill all the Grandma’s you want. It’s open season!)

I am looking forward to the next 2 books and hope the pace stays as crazy as this was.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Private Life of Elder Things ★★★★☆


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Title: The Private Life of Elder Things
Series: ———-
Editor: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Cosmic Horror
Pages: 207
Words: 77.5K



Synopsis:

Publisher’s Blurb

From the wastes of the sea to the shadows of our own cities, we are not alone. But what happens where the human world touches the domain of races ancient and alien? Museum curators, surveyors, police officers, archaeologists, mathematicians; from derelict buildings to country houses to the London Underground, another world is just a breath away, around the corner, watching and waiting for you to step into its power. The Private Life of Elder Things is a collection of new Lovecraftian fiction about confronting, discovering and living alongside the creatures of the Mythos.

With stories from Adrian Tchaikovsky, Keris McDonald and Adam Gauntlett

My Thoughts:

This was a fantastic little read. I only have one quibble, which is why this got 4 stars instead of 5. One of the stories deals with a ghoul and ghouls reproduce by necrophilia. It wasn’t the main part of the story and isn’t revealed until the end, but it just made me go “Oh, that is disgusting!” and wonder if I’d made a mistake in picking the book up. Thankfully, nothing like that is repeated.

I’m a sucker for short story collections. Something about an author distilling a story down to just a couple of pages, or even up to 20’ish, works really well for me. Now, I can’t read just ONE short story. I won’t sit down and read one short story all by itself. So short stories that are online only (like the Powder Mage short stories were before McClellan put them altogether in one book) are a complete no-go for me. But give me a collection and bam, I’m eating that stuff with 2 spoons, 3 forks and a bottle of ketchup!

I also have a soft spot for cosmic horror. As long as it’s done well and doesn’t rely only on violence and profanity to shock the reader. The Rites of Azathoth was such a book and when I started this collection I was a little afraid that that was what I might be getting. Thankfully, I got some good writing and some excellently shivery stories. Just what I wanted and expected from a book with a title like this!

One thing to be aware of is some of the limey slang. One of the stories especially seemed to be deliberately written so as to be incomprehensible to anyone outside the shores of Albion. If I hadn’t read the movie review of The Sweeney a couple of months ago, I’d have been totally lost. Gor blimey govnah, the Sweeney is doing a real snazzertowsin. Ok, I made that up, but for that one story I felt like I had to get half the story from context instead of the actual words.

If Tchaikovsky were to put out another collection like this, I’d definitely be interested. But without his name I doubt I’d try something by the other two authors.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Rites of Azathoth ★★☆☆½

rites of azathoth (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Rites of Azathoth
Series: ———-
Author: Frank Cavallo
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Horror
Pages: 420
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Diana Mancuso, FBI agent, is carrying on an affair with her boss, one of the Assistant-Directors of the FBI. She is assigned to a high profile murder case of a potential vice-presidential candidate. The profile indicates a man who up until 24hrs ago, was 1000 miles away in a maximum security prison. He has mysteriously disappeared. It turns out that the VP candidate has ties to all the previous victims, who were ritualistically murdered.

Doctor Carter, former protege of Gamaliel a discredited historian who dwelt on Elder gods as the true history of mankind, has been invited to join a mysterious group headed by a reclusive billionaire. Carter has been recruited to translate an elder language that he was taught by Gamaliel.

The ritualistic murderer is acting as supernatural conduit for Azathoth, who the billionaire is attempting to awaken. Said awakening will grant all knowledge to those involved but might destroy all of creation as well. Luther Vayne is acting on Azathoth’s will to prevent this awakening.

Everything comes together, a gateway is opened by Carter, Mancuso and Vayne prevent Azathoth from awakening, the occultic group is destroyed and Carter is taken into the realm of Chaos and he thinks how wonderful it all is.

 

My Thoughts:

I feel like I am being rather generous in giving this 2 ½ stars. Mancuso was a very unpleasant character. She’s just a jerk to everyone, even her so-called friend. This friend covers for her, breaks the law for her, lies to FBI agents for her and said friend tosses it off as “Oh well, that’s what friends do”. And Mancuso takes it as her due instead of as the huge thing it is. Then comes her affair with her boss. He’s married and trying to fix his marriage AND keep Mancuso on the side. She’s pissed off that she’s the side woman and is always put out that he won’t toss his rich, beautiful, young wife for her. She’s the very definition of an angry bitch. It was NOT amusing or enjoyable.

Carter was an arrogant ass who was divorced and failing at pretty much everything, including being a dad. He stays arrogant, assuming and overbearing during the whole book and his little “Oh, how wonderful the other side is” comment at the end was completely out of character and had NO place in a horror story about eldrich horrors beyond mortal ken.

The horror side of things worked pretty well. Demon children adopted by a cabal of women, hunted down by a supernatural blind killer, a half demon billionaire who sacrifices the blood of virgins to his own mother, it was fantastic. It was what you’d expect from an HP Lovecraft themed story. So the whole thing about Azathoth using Vayne to prevent the end of everything didn’t fit. Elder gods don’t care. And Carter saying how beautiful the chaos of the other realm was? That was complete bollux. The other realm drives men mad, period.

So unlikeable characters and an ending that didn’t fit with the theme made for a rather bleh read. There was also a lot of profanity.

★★☆☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)