November 2023 book blog

Wow, it’s nearly 2024, so I’m a little bit behind with this. Now, where were we? Oh yes, ‘The Fiends in the Furrows II’. These themed anthologies are very moreish, and I’m going to have to get my hands on the third instalment soon. I was greedy, I read I and II back to back. Folk horror has a few things to say about greed, but I’ll pretend that I didn’t notice. So, Nosetouch Press has got editors Neal and Scott to gather together a motley collection of creepy stories, and has also scored an introduction from folk horror star Andrew Michael Hurley. It’s also got a closing story from my anthology sister, the talented and terrifying Tracey Fahey. I am developing a theory that a Tracey Fahey story is a great way to end a themed set of stories, she has a knack of writing tales that linger, and her ‘Dearg-an-Daol’ deals with love, duty, family and superstition with her usual deftness.
With any themed anthology, the variation in voices risks a few stories missing the mark with any individual reader, and I confess that not every tale in this book hit the spot for me, but I am but one glutton with an endless supply of stories at my disposal, your opinions may well vary. Speaking of gluttony, one recurrent theme of this book is the environmental apocalypse that prompts people to turn back to the old ways of the land in a desperate attempt to survive. However, one of my favourite stories in the book is set a thousand years ago, far from our current mess. Jack Lothian’s ‘A Deed Without A Name’ was rightly included in Datlow’s Best Horror 13 and is a genuinely brainchurning side trip from a very well known tale.

My second book for November was Theodore Sturgeon’s ‘More Than Human’. It’s very odd to think that this book is seventy years old, it feels modern. First, a history of this copy. It was obviously a library book at some point, it’s been read a lot. Then it found its way into private circulation, and somehow ended up in a charity shop, where I bought it. It would have been a while ago. Since then it’s lurked around the house, been packed away and brought out again, and at last it found its way to a shelf, from which it was chosen last week. Soon it’ll be passed on, as I loved it, but I need to reduce the number of books in the house, for reasons of sanity.
Second, a kind of review. This book made me happy, for all sorts of reasons. It’s a very well written book. It has a whole load of sympathetic characters, who remain sympathetic even when they’re being obnoxious. It has great plot, that winds around and circles back on itself, but is ultimately satisfying and rewarding. It’s the ultimate buddy book, a group of undesirables, lost and unwanted and frustrated alone, find each other and discover that together they are more than the sum of their parts. And at the end, it gets even better.

From Sturgeon to Tuttle, and her ‘My Death’. A book from one of my favourite authors, a book that is almost twenty years old, a book that I didn’t even know existed until a few weeks ago. Ah well, thank goodness for social media eh? This is probably the paradigm of Lisa Tuttle books. It has the building blocks for many of her books and short stories. Insecurity? Imposter syndrome? A sense of impending doom and loss? It’s all there, all mixed together with a slowly growing fix of body horror. Of course I loved it.

‘The Plague Dogs’ spanned several weeks of November and December, but as I’ve read a fair books already in December, I’ll include my thoughts in the November roundup. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great book, but it just struck me that the plot is nearly identical to Enid Blyton’s ‘The Secret Island’, another book that I read again and again and always cried at the end of.This is a wonderful book, it is very descriptive, lyrical about the beauty and desolation of the Lake District, unforgiving about the machinations of reporters, politicians and scientists, and deeply sympathetic to the plight of its protagonists, being two dogs who have escaped from a research facility only to find themselves cold and hungry on the fells.I used to re-read this book a couple of times a year, back in the late seventies and early eighties, but this is my first dip into it for decades. I realised that I’d missed Snitter and Rowf a lot.Not for the faint hearted, but well worth a read.

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