The Visible Filth by Nathan Ballingrud – review

The-Visible-Filth-Nathan-Ballingrud-horrorThe Visible Filth

by Nathan Ballingrud

Paperback, 64 pages
Published 2015 by This Is Horror
ISBN – 9780957548190
(Also available in all ebook formats.)

When Will discovers a cell phone after a violent brawl his life descends into a nightmare.

Affable, charismatic and a little shallow, he’s been skating across the surface of life in a state of carefully maintained contentment. He decides to keep the cell phone just until the owner returns and everything changes. Then the messages begin.

Will’s discovered something unspeakable and it’s crawling slowly into the light.

This novella is dark, weird and utterly compelling. Ballingrud is a superb writer. His debut collection, North American Lake Monsters, was brilliant, one of the best collections I’ve read in years – I reviewed that here. With this story, thanks to the novella length, his fiction is writ larger and proves to be equally excellent.That subtle touch is still there. Ballingrud’s eye for the flawed human in all of us is deeply in evidence. In truth, it’s a little hard to feel any kind of sympathy or compassion for any character in this story – they’re all dicks to some degree – yet the compulsion to see what happens to each of them is strong. Maybe because it’s hard to like them, we need to see what befalls them. The need to turn the page is irresistible. And being a novella, it’s an easy one-sitting read.

The horror here is squirmy and discomforting and almost entirely unexplained. Even at the end of the book you’ll have more questions than answers. I’d like to see this drawn out to novel length, to see where Ballingrud could take the badness in this yarn and develop it. But you’ll get to the end of this and it’ll stay with you. You’ll need to mull it over and it won’t leave, like a stain on your mind you can’t wash off.

The ending is going to take me some time to come to grips with, but for harsh, unforgiving, realistic albeit often supernatural horror, this is setting a high bar. Just don’t expect clear resolutions! Highly recommended.

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Book Review – Harbour by John Ajvide Lindqvist, review by Sean Wright

This is a cross-post from Sean Wright at Adventures of a Bookonaut.

harbour The back cover of my copy of Harbour  touts Lindqvist as reminiscent of Stephen King at his best.  Having read both of them (though not in great depth) I can see the similarities.  Both present a cast of characters and spend a good deal of time engaging the reader in the lives of these characters whether or not they are central to the plot. The result of this approach, with me at least, is that you become very attached to and embedded with, the characters before the author turns the screws.

Harbour presents the reader with a slow build up. Lindqvist interlaces stories, history and flashbacks to drip feed gradual reveals about the truth of the horror that surrounds the island of Domaro – a fictional island in the Swedish Archipelago.  The tale starts with Anders and Cecilia’s 6 year old daughter Maja, disappearing as the family is exploring the lighthouse in the middle of a frozen bay. With the ice frozen a metre thick, it appears she has vanished into thin air.

This beginning tragedy is done quite well even when you know it is coming.  The story then jumps forward past the inevitable split between Anders and Cecilia, to an Anders drowning in alcohol and on the verge of suicide. He decides however to return to the island and from here it is a story about unlocking Domaro’s dark past, that of the islanders and finally determining what happened to his daughter

Lindqvist’s weaving of myth, history and tall tales is one of the strengths of this book.  The reader comes to know the island and its peoples, consequently we get a very good sense of place.  The second strength is the well crafted brooding natural horror that slowly turns toward the supernatural or even mythic by the end of the work.  It stops short of cosmic horror and averts comparisons to Lovecraftian tales of villages by the sea.

The are some grotesque elements but these pale in comparison to the discomfort caused by the unknown deep.  The sea and its immensity, its place in our consciousness as a vast entity is the most compelling part of the work and Lindqvist has done a very good job of leveraging the readers natural fears.  I think because of this success the ending was never quite going to match the slow building intensity.  I also think I prefer a story that is a little ambiguous in its ending, something that plants doubt in the readers mind, that leaves open the possibility that the tale could be true and unfortunately there is a clear resolution here.  That being said I enjoyed the build up.

- review by Sean Wright

Midnight Echo Issue 11 now available

What’s that rap-tap-tapping on your chamber door? It’s not some mocking raven – it’s the seriously unsettling Midnight Echo 11.

Edited by Kaaron Warren, Issue 11 is dedicated to all things sinister. With fiction by Deborah Sheldon, Jarod K Anderson, and Marija Elektra Rodriguez, poetry by PS Cottier and Michael Tugendhat, an exclusive interview with Wolf Creek 2 screenwriter Aaron Sterns, and the winning AHWA Short Story and Flash Fiction Competition stories, you know you’re in for a disturbing ride.

Midnight Echo 11 is available in pdf, epub and mobi. Get all three versions for AU$2.99 when you buy through MidnightEchoMagazine.com

Midnight Echo Issue 11

Cherry Crow Children is now available

By Deborah Kalin
Volume 12, Twelve Planets Press
ISBN 978-1-9221010-9-9
Cover design by Amanda Rainey
Also will be available as ebook
Published April 2015

For full details, including ordering information, go to Twelfth Planet Press.

Introduced by Kate Elliott.

Cherry Crow ChildrenTulliæn spans a fractured mountaintop, where the locals lie and the tourists come to die. Try the honey.

Briskwater crouches deep in the shadow of a dam wall. Ignore the weight of the water hanging overhead, and the little dead girl wandering the streets. Off with you, while you still can.

In Haverny Wood the birds drink blood, the dogs trade their coughings for corpses, the lost children carve up their bodies to run with the crows, and the townsfolk stitch silence into their spleens. You mustn’t talk so wild.

The desert-locked outpost of Boundary boasts the famed manufacturers of flawless timepieces; those who would learn the trade must offer up their eyes as starting materials. Look to your pride: it will eat you alive.

Sooner or later, in every community, fate demands its dues — and the currency is blood.

—–

The Female Factory by Lisa L. Hannett and Angela Slatter, has also since won the Aurealis Award for Best Collection.

In The Female Factory, procreation is big business. Children are a commodity few women can afford.

Hopeful mothers-to-be try everything. Fertility clinics. Pills. Wombs for hire. Babies are no longer made in bedrooms, but engineered in boardrooms. A quirk of genetics allows lucky surrogates to carry multiple eggs, to control when they are fertilised, and by whom—but corporations market and sell the offspring. The souls of lost embryos are never wasted; captured in software, they give electronics their voice. Spirits born into the wrong bodies can brave the charged waters of a hidden billabong, and change their fate. Industrious orphans learn to manipulate scientific advances, creating mothers of their own choosing.

From Australia’s near-future all the way back in time to its convict past, these stories spin and sever the ties between parents and children.

Australian Shadows 2014 shortlist

The Australian Horror Writers Association is thrilled to announce the final shortlist in the 2014 Australian Shadows Awards.

From the AHWA: “We believe this year’s short list represents the finest in horror fiction written or edited by an Australian or New Zealand author and first published in 2014 in the fields of short fiction, novella, novel, collection and edited works.”

Judges were asked to prepare a shortlist of up to five works from each award category, with a finalist to be announced from that shortlist on Friday, April 24.

The shortlisted authors and their works are (in alphabetical order):

Novel:
Jeremy Bates – Suicide Forest
Greig Beck – Book of the Dead
Lauren Dawes – Dark Deceit
Aaron Sterns – Wolf Creek Origin
Matthew Tait – Davey Ribbon

Short Fiction:
Alan Baxter: Mephisto
Alan Baxter: Shadows of the Lonely Dead
Rebecca Fung: Mummified Monk
Michelle Jager: Bones
Andrew McKiernan: Last Year When We Were Young

Edited Works:
SQ Issue 14 – edited by Sophie Yorkston
SNAFU – edited by Geoff Brown and Amanda J Spedding
Suspended in Dusk – edited by Simon Dewar

Collected works:
No shortlist, winner to be announced

Paul Haines Award for Long Fiction (novella)
Darcy Coates – Ghost Camera
Shane Jiraiya Cummings – Dreams of Destruction.
Robert Hood – The Shark God Covenant

A big thanks goes to the judges Natalie Satakovski, Bianca de Loryn, Christine Ferdinands, Lee Pletzers, Kathy Williams-DeVries, and Jay Caselberg who had the tough job of pouring over the entries and choosing the final shortlist.

Winners will be announced online via the AHWA Facebook page on Friday, April 24 at 8pm. If you haven’t already be sure to go online and follow the AHWA to get the winners as they drop.

Winners will receive an engraved trophy created by Creepy Collectables.