March 2024 book blog

The Burning God by R. F. Kuang, being the 3rd book in the The Poppy Wars trilogy. Well. First of all, the entire series was fast paced and almost impossible to put down. There was something going on pretty much all the time. It was usually something depressing, violent or downright evil, but yes, there was a lot of action in this book. There was precisely one sympathetic main character in the book, and his relationship with our protagonist threatened once or twice to save her from herself, but never quite made it. The ending was sad but expected; after watching our protagonist repeat the same mistakes time and time again, it was obvious that there was never going to be a happy ending.
I found it to be an interesting series, but I won’t be reading it again. Kuang’s later novel, Babel, is one of the best things I’ve ever read, so please don’t let this put you off reading Babel.

Dark Terrors 2 is a horror anthology from the mid 1990s. It’s basically an old bag of Revels in which some flavours have stood the test of time a lot better than others. As always with ‘older’ horror anthologies, I’m left wondering where the women authors are. I’ll leave it at that.

Dark Love is another mid nineties horror anthology, with a fairly obvious theme. I’m pretty sure I bought this anthology when it came out, and have read it a few times since. I’ve mentioned before how weird it feels to look at the contents page of a horror anthology and see so few female names. It’s even weirder because, you know, 1995 doesn’t FEEL that long ago. Well, not to me anyway.
So, this book. It starts off with what is probably my least favourite Stephen King short story, ‘Lunch at the Gotham Cafe’ I’ve read this story a few times, it’s been anthologised by the master himself, but I just can’t get on with it. It’s just too dismal. ‘The Psycho’ is a nice little story with a killer punchline, I enjoy it every time round. Kathe Koja’s ‘Pas de Deux’ didn’t really ring my bell, and I dnf’d the story, I’ve read this anthology several times now and even my terrible memory let me know that I wouldn’t enjoy the rest of it. It’s a perfectly good story, just not my thing. ‘Bright Blades Gleaming’ is your standard serial killer / Jack the Ripper origin story. OK, but nothing to set the world on fire. And so we reach John Lutz’s ‘Hanson’s Radio’ which is still a cracking, creepy, and well crafted dose of horror. ‘Refrigerator Heaven’ is a proper horror story, along the ‘evil that men do’ route of the sheer banality of evil and horror. I still liked it, and enjoyed the hint of eldritch horror lurking behind the normality of the story. ‘Ro Erg’ is basically a Mary Sue story about adopting a new identity and being a naughty boy. I finished it, out of curiosity. It’s well written, but the story didn’t stir any interest this time round. Ah, but then the English master takes his turn – Ramsey Campbell’s ‘Going Under’ is properly creepy and horrible, and is one of the best tales in the book. ‘Hidden’ and ‘Prism’ are very short stories about troubled children, I enjoyed both of them, and am glad the authors didn’t try to lengthen them, they’re perfect as they are. ‘The Maiden’ is a nasty little story about some nasty little teenagers. It’s not subtle. ‘You’ve Got Your Troubles, I’ve got Mine’ is a first person pov story about a chap who really shouldn’t have been allowed out of the asylum. ‘Waco’ is a tale examining how one of the poor deluded victims of the Waco cult would react if they truly believed they were meeting God. ‘The Penitent’ is an ode to torture. Not my thing. ‘Driven’, the next story, did hit my buttons. I do enjoy a story about desperation and mundane threats. It’s well written and I was ‘driven’ to re-read it to capture it properly. ‘Barbara’ is a tale of tables turned, a fun read with a fairly predictable but still satisfying ending. ‘Hymenoptera’ is a story about a fashion designer and a wasp. I got nothing from it, I’m afraid. That’s the thing about these multi author themed collections, every so often the box of chocolates yields a malteser. ‘The End of It All’ is another nasty story about nasty people who all get what they probably believe they deserve. ‘Heat’ is another very short story about sex and violence. ‘Thin Walls’ is a thin but enjoyable read, with two of the few characters in this anthology that I found myself caring about. ‘Locked Away’ is pretty much porn, with very little story. It’s followed by the last story of the collection, ‘Loop’ which is appropriately enough about porn, with a lot of story.

After reading a fantasy trilogy and two horror collections, I was in the mood for a hefty sf novel, so I’m currently re-reading David Brin’s ‘Earth’. I’ll review it next month.

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