By Naben Ruthnum
Undertow Publications, 94 pages, $12.99
Naben Ruthnum’s “Helpmeet” is that rare book so completely by itself that a plot description resembles an external imposition that threatens to blunt its rare effects. And yet, “Helpmeet” is not a hothouse flower that needs protection. There’s enough chilling body-horror imagery here to satisfy a David Cronenberg fanatic, while the style and tone owe more to the old masters of the weird tale, Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, Lovecraft, MR James, and more. , in the end, a moving testimony to the underestimated power of marital duty, of the love that endures untold illnesses and health problems. Just read this fucking thing.
children on the hill
By Jennifer McMahon
Simon and Schuster, 340 pages, $24.99
Like many horror fans, I’m a sucker for a modern take on a genre classic — as long as the homage is inventive enough to stand up to comparison to the original. In “Kids on the Hill,” veteran horror-thriller novelist Jennifer McMahon resurrects the great-grandmother of modern horror novel, Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” Violet and Eric are orphaned siblings in the loving care of their grandmother, a brilliant psychiatrist who runs a secluded home for the mentally ill in Vermont. The children’s idyllic childhood begins to unravel when their grandmother asks them to help welcome an amnesic orphan who has recently arrived at the clinic. McMahon deftly plots several intersecting narratives that culminate in a surprising twist while expanding on Mary Shelley’s critique of scientific materialism and the dangers of playing God.
What moves the dead
By T. Kingfisher
Tor Nightfire, 120 pages, $26.99
T. Kingfisher, one of the most innovative voices in horror writing today, also paid homage to a horror classic, this time Poe’s expressionist masterpiece, “The Falling Down”. of the Usher house”. Kingfisher wisely eschews an imitation of Poe’s icy ornate prose style and compressed, serpentine narrative technique for a more expansive exploration of the title’s doomed Usher family. A retired officer arrives at the crumbling Gothic mansion of his childhood friends, to find the Usher siblings in a decrepit mental state bordering on madness. The grounds of the mansion are teeming with rare poisonous mushrooms and monstrous wildlife, while a small lake on the property appears to be growing at an abnormal rate. Kingfisher gives him a fertile imagination and full control over the story, subverting Poe’s original while remaining true to the Master’s mad spirit.
By Ronald Malefi
Titan Books, 440 pages, $21.95
Three estranged friends are summoned home when an evil, possibly supernatural killer they encountered as children returns to haunt their hometown. If the plot – a staple of the horror genre since the 1980s – sounds familiar, author Ronald Malfi meant it. In “Black Mouth,” he channels the nostalgic, menacing summer door stops popularized by Stephen King and adds vintage Ray Bradbury for the most part to good effect. Contemporary scenes are well-handled, as Malfi deftly captures the cynicism and disappointments of its thirty-something protagonists, but it’s too indebted to the world-weary, intelligent narrative voice to fully enter the vulnerable mind of his child characters in the flashback scenes. . Fortunately, the novel’s human monster captures the allure and seediness of old-school carnivalism and bristles with a real menace.
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