A stand-alone novella in the world of Clockwork Century. But it’s not steampunk.

I bought it as part of the Subterranean bundle back in 2015.

Publication year: 2015
Format: ebook
Page count at GoodReads: 181
Publisher: Subterranean Press

I thoroughly enjoyed Priest’s other Clockwork Century books and was expecting more action/adventure steampunk. But this novella is quite different. It’s horror and builds up slowly. If you like that, this story will most likely work for you.

It has a few references to the rest of the series, but not much.

Sister Eileen Callahan, a nun, has written to padre Juan Miguel Quintero Rios about the Jacaranda Hotel in Galveston. Many people have died there, horribly, and the nun believes that only the padre’s special skills will stop the hotel from killing again. When Rios arrives, he notices that the hotel seems to be alive and threatening. The nun tells him the legends about its terrible past. Yet, the local authorities simply ignore the horrible deaths. Sister Eileen has also asked for the Texas Rangers for help and one of them arrives. However, everyone at the hotel seem to have their own dark pasts, including the padre himself.

The nun, the father, and the Texas Ranger investigate but time runs short when a hurricane approaches.

The story has a great atmosphere and vivid characters. Rios is the third person POV character and he has a distinctive voice.

A horror manga.

Writer and artist: Sui Ishida
Finnish translation: Suvi Mäkelä

Ken Kaneki is shy and a loner. His only friend is “Hide” Hideyoshi Nagachika. They’ve been friends since they were children and are now first year collage students. They live in a world where ghouls are real. The ghouls can pass as humans but since they can only eat human flesh, they attack and kill humans.

Ken has a crush on a beautiful, bookish girl who goes to the same coffee shop. He can hardly believe his luck when he gets a date with her, to talk about books. But during the date, she lures him to a secluded place and reveals that she’s actually a ghoul, only interested in him as dinner. However, when Ken tries to run, an accident happens which leaves her dead and him close to death. When Ken regains consciousness in a hospital, he realizes that the doctor has made an illegal operation and put some of the girl’s organs to Ken, to safe his life. Ken is now a half-ghoul who can’t stomach foods and only craves human flesh!

However, he doesn’t want to do that. He feels completely alone, craving for human company but afraid that his new condition will be found out.

Ken is a bookish main character and has ever fought in his life. The ghouls seem to fight for territory and he’s lost in this new culture. The ghouls seem animal-like to him and he’s clearly afraid of them. We’re introduced to three ghouls, in addition to the girl Ken went on a date. They all look like humans and Ken is surprised when he realizes how many people around him are actually ghouls. All of them despise Ken.

Ishida handles urban loneliness through supernatural lens. The tone it serious and focuses on horror.

It was interesting enough read but I don’t think I’ll continue with it.

A stand-alone fantasy/horror novella.

Publication year: 2016
Format: ebook
Publisher: TOR
Page count: 143

Professor Vellitti Boe is a history professor at the Ulthar Women’s Collage. She used to be a traveler, going to remote places either alone or with companions. When she became older, she settled on Ulthar. But then one of the students goes missing and Vellitt has to take up her pack again and try to find the student before she goes to the waking world.

The missing student Clarie Jurat is not only stunningly beautiful but very smart. She’s also the daughter of man who could shut down the school if she isn’t found, so after some hesitation, the dean allows Vellitt to leave to a dangerous journey. Apparently Clarie has met a man from the waking world and become so in love with him and his world, that she’s left with him to go to the nearest gate to the waking world. Vellitt isn’t as young as she used to be but she soon recovers her love of traveling, despite the dangers of ghuls, ghasts, and other people. A small black cat comes along with her.

Apparently, this novella is based on Lovecraft’s stories, which I didn’t know when I started to read it. It’s part of the Hugo package. I haven’t read much of Lovecraft’s stories but I’ve played Arkham Horror and watched the few movies and even a play based on the stories, so I’m fairly familiar with them. I’m not a horror reader but the horror elements are mild enough that I didn’t cringe.

I enjoyed the story a lot. Vellitt is a great main character and I wouldn’t mind reading more about her. She’s fiercely independent and wants to stay that way. She’s smart and experienced. The Dreamlands are, of course, a fascinating place with strange creatures and the constant threat of gods destroying any place or person who has offended them in some way. But to her, the waking world is the strange place. I thoroughly enjoyed that reversal and the ending.

A stand-alone science fiction book.

Publication year: 2006
Format: Audio
Running time: 10 hours and 52 minutes
Narrator: Ray Porter

I love Clines’ Ex-Heroes series but was reluctant to pick this one up because it was categorized as horror and I don’t like horror movies or books. But after I got a few recommendations, I ended up getting this one and listened it quickly. The first chapter is kind of horror but then it switches into science fiction. The real horror elements kick in again near the end. Oh, and there’s no bigger themes in the story. It’s just fun.

Leland “Mike” Erikson is a high school English literature teacher. However, he has a rare ability: eidetic memory. He refers to it as “his ants”. He can’t forget anything and he can recall anything he wants with perfect clarity and quickly. He also looks like a young Alan Rickman! He’s a sci-fi movie and TV-show nerd. We’re told that he’s a super genius. The problem is that he doesn’t act like one. His “ants” process information for him, yes, and do it very quickly but that’s it. Being socially awkward doesn’t mean that you’re a genius. (Sorry)

Summer break is just beginning and his old friend Reggie Magnus is trying to get Mike to work for him, for the US government. Reluctantly, Mike agrees to join a secret conference. But when he finds out just what his job would be, he really has no choice but to agree.

You see, humans have discovered Albuquerque Door. It’s essentially a way to teleport people and objects from one place to another by making a path through another dimension. However, the team who is working on it refuses to give anything away until they’re ready to make it public.

However, Magnus thinks that something is wrong. So, he asks Mike to go and look everything over. Mike agrees eagerly. The team isn’t happy about him being there, however, and soon strange things start to happen.

I thoroughly enjoyed the science fiction part of the book. The book is riddled with science fiction and pop culture references. One of the team members, Sasha Prestige, is a Star Trek fan and everything is named after something. Even Albuquerque Door is a Bugs Bunny reference.

The science team has six people, a couple of them women. Most of the team makes it clear that they don’t want Mike there but a few are more friendly.

We’re told that Mike is brilliant but I realized what was going on before he did. If you’ve seen a couple of sci-fi TV-shows, that wasn’t hard. From there it was easy to see how the book was going to end. Still, it’s very entertaining if you like that sort of thing.

The third and final book in the Southern reach horror/SF trilogy.

Publication year: 2014
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2016
Translator: Einari Aaltonen
Format: print
Page count: 368
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Like

The final book answers some questions about Area X but not all. In fact, it can frustrate readers (like me) who want a resolution, rather than a story where the journey is more important than the destination. Still, it’s well written and has a creepy and wonderful atmosphere and very good characters.

This book is again somewhat different from the previous two. It has several point-of-view characters, mostly in third person. One is also written in the second person and one in first person. Some continue the story from the previous books but a couple show us the beginning, the people who lived on the place which became the mysterious Area X. We still get surprised about characters which have been in the previous books, which I rather liked. It’s also set in Area X which I loved.

I was sucked in quickly and read the book in just a few days.

The second book in the Southern reach horror/SF trilogy.

Publication year: 2014
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2015
Translator: Einari Aaltonen
Format: print
Page count: 382
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Like

The first book centered on a small group of people inside the mysterious Area X which appeared inside the US overnight, years ago. This book focuses on the people right outside Area X, government’s secret facility called the Southern Reach. The place is very near to the border to Area X. The scientists investigating Area X live there, as well as their administrators. A small military base is also near. The first book ended without a conclusion but this book doesn’t start where the previous one ended. We get only tantalizing hints at what happened or might have happened. We also find out that some of the things previously accepted as facts are not true.

John “Control” Rodriquez is the new director of the facility. The current assistant director, Grace Stevenson, doesn’t care for him and makes it clear. Grace is convinced that the previous director will return. Control has heard somethings about the facility and Area X before going there. Now he has to delve deep into just what has been found out about Area X and the border. Quickly, he also finds out that the people who have been in the facility are… peculiar and they have their own small groups and ways of doing things. There might also be something wrong in the whole building. Control reports to the Voice, behind everyone else’s backs, and so he’s also spying on the staff. He doesn’t know who the Voice is.

In a previous assignment, Control made some disastrous decisions and this place is his last chance to prove his worth to the Central. His mother also works for Central.

The atmosphere in “Authority” is similar to the previous book, “Annihilation” but it’s more centered on people and the wrongness in their behavior than the environment. At first it’s filled with strange little moments which lead to full-on weirdness. But for me it was a bit too slow at times and I wanted to know more about Area X rather than the people around it. Still, this was a very good and an unexpected continuation to “Annihilation” and I’m looking forward to the last book.

The first book in a horror SF series the Southern Reach trilogy.

Publication year: 2014
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2015
Format: print
Page count: 224
Translator: Niko Aula
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Like

I’ve read two books from VanderMeer before I liked them a lot so when I saw his new book’s translation in the local bookstore I snatched it up without knowing what it was about. In retrospect, starting to read it late at night might have been a mistake. I’m not a horror reader, or watcher for that matter, and I had to listen to some Terry Pratchett before I was able to sleep again.

The whole Southern Reach trilogy is horror more than SF. This first book is a journal written by the first person narrator whose name we don’t find out.

Area X appeared decades ago and it’s deserted. All around it is a boundary which can be passed through only by people who have been prepared for it. The government (US, I presume) sends ex-pedition parties into it from time to time. The current expedition is the twelfth and has four people: a biologist (the narrator), an anthropologist, a surveyor, and a psychologist, who is the team leader. Their mission is the collect specimens, observe everything (including each other), and map the area. They have access to the map the other expeditions have compiled and before leaving they saw video interviews of the previous members. They all say that Area X is an untouched paradise. All the pre-vious members have also died.

However, right from the start our group realizes that the map is wrong. They come to a tunnel lead-ing down to the ground but the narrator thinks of as a tower. On its walls they find a terrifying text which seems to be made from strange life forms. This isn’t a group of friends by any means and they start to disagree with each other right from the start.

The Finnish cover

The training they received before going inside trained them not to use names and so we don’t find out the names of any of the characters in the book. It sounds weird at first but I got used to it pretty soon, even in Finnish where we don’t have gendered pronouns so if the translator isn’t careful, he can write pretty unclear sentences. Not so here. The group is required to write a journal of every-thing they experience.

This was an unsettling book. Besides the horror elements, it has an unreliable narrator in a strange environment. Over half of the book is devoted to learning about the biologist’s life, including the events which led her to volunteer going into Area X. She’s a quiet, introverted woman who is more at home doing scientific research all by herself than with any people. Sometimes her remembrances where a bit frustrating when they interrupted the flow of the present storyline. On the other hand, they also kept the horror at bay which I was grateful for.

Annihilation doesn’t end in a cliffhanger. The ending is very much open but it can be read as a stand-alone. I have the next book so I’ll be continuing with the series, but not late at night.

A collection of SF, fantasy, and horror short stories by women about female characters.
Publication year: 2014
Format: ebook
Page count: 420
Publisher: Silence in the Library

Mary Robinette Kowal: “First Flight”. This was a time travel story. In this world, people can be sent back only during their own lifetime. So the time traveler is a very old woman who has been sent back in time to record the first flight.
Sherwood Smith: “Commando Bats”. Athena gives superpowers to three old women who don’t even know each other. What will they do with the powers? The main character has suffered a stroke and is in wheelchair.
C. A. Verstraete: “The Songbird’s Search”. Marietta is a plain woman but her voice and talent for singing is without an equal.
Alma Alexander: “Vision”. How history become religion and myth.
Cleolinda Jones: “The World to Come”. In 1860, a female doctor and her friends explore a haunted house and the story behind the haunting.
Kelly Swails: “The Destruction of Society by the Fairer Sex, volume 2”. This is a “scholarly article” exploring the Watership Incident during election day 1893. It has a lot of footnotes and rather condescending attitude towards women, intentional, of course.

Nisi Shawl: “White Dawn”. The setting here was fascinating. Animals such as cats, dogs, and elephants have been modified so that they are now sentient. There are some people who don’t like that but the animals and humans who love them have formed their own community.

Danielle Ackley-McPhail: “Looking back”. The Countess Chardworth is in a difficult position and she tries to solve it with science. But she got far more than she wanted.

Cynthia Ward: “Whoever fights monsters”. Set in London 1891, the main character is looking for someone who wronged her.
Janine Spendlove: “Millie”. I’m a sucker for good time travel stories and while this was a bit predictable, it was well written and enjoyable.
Vicki Johnson-Steger: “Burly and Cavendish Blend”. This was fun adventure set in Victorian times and in Egypt. Abigail Watts is a very plainspoken young American woman. She’s also an inventor and has spent a lot of time in Egypt. So, when her cousin Dawson Willoughby finds a threat against Britain brewing in Egypt, he wastes no time in commandeering his cousin and going to Egypt to ferret out the rebels.

Tricia Barr: “Mission Accomplished”. Gemini Reed is a soldier in a war against alien invaders. While drafted into a new mission, she struggles with her memories of a previous mission.
D.L. Stever: “Vernon’s Angel”. A short and cute story about Little One who is a very little spirit trying to earn her wings to become a guardian angel.
Tera Fulbright: “Not Broken, Just Bent”. Many soldiers were broken in a war against alien creatures and Anna Chase is one of them. But she has a new job now: recruiting other former soldiers for the continuing war. She doesn’t like it, but has to earn her living.
Conley Lyons: “Oh Sisters Let’s Go Down to the River”. Mary is one of several children who leave in a homestead. One day, it’s her turn to wash the well and she finds a something quite unexpected.
Jean Rabe: “Visage”. Devon’s father owns a cosmetics company and he’s gone missing on a trip in Amazon to find new plants. Devon hires a crew and goes after him.

Tanya Spackman: “Moon Fall”. Amaia Bradley’s mother has just died and while going through her things, Amaia finds out that she has an older half-sister who was given to adoption. Then the whole world finds out that about five months from now a giant meteorite is going to hit the Moon and all life will end on Earth.

Jennifer Brozek: “Janera”. Jan Surta is a young girl living on a farm with her mother. One day, she finds her mother shot in their home and Jan finds out that she’s now who she thinks she is. Apparently, this is the opening of a new YA book.
Maggie Allen: “Lunar Camp.” Bee’s parents force her to go on a summer camp on the Moon. Bee hates it because she loves plants and Moon doesn’t have them.

Gail Z. Martin: “Retribution”. Cassidy Kincaid owns an antique and curio shop but in reality she and her friends hunt dangerous magical and supernatural items and take them away before the wrong people can get them. In this story they find a deck of cards and a flask from the 1920s.
Diana Peterfreund: “Huntress Sinister”. Set in a Cloister of (former) unicorn hunters, Melissende Holtz is one of the young women training there. She detests the Chosen One whom she thinks gets all the credit for no reason.

Jean Marie Ward: “A Gap in the Fence”. Ana is a ten-year-old girl and she thinks that she can see fairies. Her best friend is Shari and her dog has been ill for a long time. Ana overhears that Shari’s mother intends to secretly put down the dog. Maybe the fairies can heal the dog?

Short story collection can be a mixed bag sometimes. However, all of the stories were at least entertaining and I quite liked most of them. My favorites were Kowal’s time travel story, Ward’s (“Whoever fights monsters”) very short tale with familiar characters in new a situation, Lyons’ ghostly western flavored story, Spackman’s very intimate end-of-the-world story, and Allen’s “Lunar Camp”. Quite a few of the stories are part of a larger world, so the reader can sample them here.

The main characters are quite diverse. Most of them fall into the usual 20-30 years old women but there were also several children and a couple of old women, one of them disabled. That was great.

Genres range from urban fantasy to military science fiction and a couple of horror stories.

Publication year: 2008
Page count: 303
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2009
Format: print
Finnish translator: Inka Parpola
Finnish Publisher: Otava
Art: Dave McKean

The man named Jack kills people. He kills a family but the youngest boy, an infant, has gone wandering and manages to escape – to a graveyard. A mysterious man who calls himself the groundskeeper sends the man Jack away while the spirits of the dead decide what to do with the boy. In the end, the Owens adopt him and the mysterious man, Silas, agreed to be his guardian, as the spirits can’t leave the cemetery and can’t even touch the infant. Nobody Owens, Bod, is made an honorary dead and he grows up in the cemetery.

The dead are kind and willing to teach him what they know. Of course, sometimes what they know aren’t current anymore. Bod explores the graveyard, including the oldest grave and the witch’s grave. But he’s also curious about the outside world. After all, even when he was an infant he was always escaping from his parents and exploring the world around him.

Many of the things we take for granted are turned on their head in this book. For example, the dead are almost always kind while the living people Bod meets are often greedy, distrustful or otherwise disagreeable. The Graveyard book feels like a collection of short stories, except for the two last chapters when Bod grows up and meets challenges.

The stories are warmhearted if a bit scary at times and the ending is bittersweet.

McKean’s art helps to build a great atmosphere. Especially on the first page, the art really starts the story.

Collects issues 1-6

Writer: Joe Hill
Artist: Gabriel Rodriquez
Publisher: IDW Publishing

Locke & Key is a comic with multiple mysteries for the characters to solve. The story starts with the Locke family: the parents Rendell and Nina, and their kids Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode. The first issue alternates between the past and the present.

In the past the Locke family is vacationing in Mendocino Valley where the parents are brutally attacked. Rendell is killed and Nina is brutalized. Kinsey and Bode are hiding from the two attackers while Tyler confronts them. The attackers are teenagers who knew Rendell.

The present starts with Rendell’s funeral and then Nina takes her children to live with Rendell’s brother in the big Keyhouse in Lovecraft, Massachusetts. The family is trying to start a new life but they all have issues to deal with. Tyler knew one of the attackers, Sam Lesser, and ended up beating him throughly, so that Sam has multiple scars on his face. Kinsey lives in constant fear. She changes her hair to a less radical style so that the other kids wouldn’t stare at her in school. And Bode finds a magic doorway which separates his body and spirit. The he finds a girl who lives in a well. Of course, nobody believes little Bode.

I found the first issue a little confusing because of the many shifts between now and then, but once the story starts rolling, it’s much clearer. The family dynamic is great. Even though the family has suffered a great loss and they are all trying to cope the best way they can, they are also trying to support each other. Tyler especially is trying to push down his own pain and fear, and be the rock for the others. He even thinks about killing himself at one point but realizes that he can’t do that to the others.

It comes quickly clear to the reader that the Keyhouse is a magical place and the Locke’s uncle Duncan seems to know more about it than he’s saying. Sam Lesser also knew something about the Keyhouse that prompted the attack. Issue four focuses on Sam’s side of the story.

The first trade of Locke and Key is a full of mysteries and may questions, as is usual for the first part. It’s also quite violent and doesn’t sugar coat the aftereffects of violence.

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