Archive for Lucy A. Snyder

Sailing the Seas in Lost Carcosa

WhileTheBlackStarsBurn

While the Black Stars Burn by Lucy A. Snyder

Y’all know by now that I’m a fan of Lucy Snyder’s books, and she’s got this new collection of short stories that just came out. As expected for a horror specialist like Snyder, there’s plenty of scary stuff. There’s also a number of stories from other genres, particularly science fiction and medieval fantasy, and there’s even a story about a time-traveling alien doctor who runs around in a police call box…

Some of the stories we find inside are:

  • “Spinwebs” – a weird little fantasy tale about a family encountering prejudice because of the giant telepathic spiders that live in their home.
  • “The Still-Life Drama of Passing Cars” – a quiet tale of a woman and her children driving in the car — but something isn’t right about any of them…
  • “Through Thy Bounty” – an old favorite — the aliens invade, and a captive is ordered to cook for the invaders. Their favorite dishes? Let’s just say they prefer all kinds of human meals.
  • “Cthylla” – the untalented daughter of a computer genius and a celebrated actress befriends an artist marked for death by a doomsday cult.
  • “While the Black Stars Burn” – a talented but tortured violinist is used to open the way for the terrible King in Yellow.
  • “Jessie Shimmer Goes to Hell” – in which the lead character of Snyder’s Jessie Shimmer novels goes to Hell, faces a monstrous demon, and must claw her way back home.
  • “Fable Fusion” – a story originally written for a Doctor Who fiction anthology, this features the Seventh Doctor and his companion Ace investigating creatures of myth running around Prague.

Verdict: Thumbs up. If this collection has a theme, it’s the disintegration of families — and Lovecraftian monsters.

Lovecraftian horror tends toward the nihilistic — but in this case, what really carries that nihilism banner is the rampant destruction of family units. Sometimes, the ends of these families are deeply sad — the families, no matter how small or poor, were loving and caring, and the survivors will be left without their loved ones and the people who they turned to for support. And in other cases, the destructing families should’ve been put to the torch years ago. Sadistic fathers, cultist parents, two-faced spouses, and more. And the end of those families still leave the survivors in bad places — and the non-survivors in much, much worse places, too.

But there are plenty of great monsters in here, too. And while not all of them are Lovecraftian, quite a few are. And actually, more than you’d expect have deep connections to Robert W. Chambers’s “King in Yellow” mythology. Chambers’s turn-of-the-century surreal horror has been a big thing for the last few years, and it’s great to see that Snyder is able to make lost Carcosa’s favored son work so well. I’ve been a huge fan of Chambers for years, and it’s always a thrill to see well-done stories about the King in Yellow, the Yellow Sign, and all the associated figures.

On top of all that, I’d just like to say that, as a non-Doctor Who fan, I really enjoyed the Whovian “Fable Fusion” story.

So you like grim nihilist horror? You like the King in Yellow? You like Jessie Shimmer and Doctor Who? Go pick this up.

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The Monster Inside your Skin

SoftApocalypses

Soft Apocalypses by Lucy A. Snyder

I review Lucy A. Snyder’s books a lot, and that’s for a very good reason — I love horror, and she writes extremely good horror. She has a new collection out — let’s take a look at it.

This is a nice mix of new material and (slightly) older stuff. We start off with “Magdala Amygdala,” the story for which she won the Bram Stoker Award for last year. It starts out looking like a revisionist zombie story — until it suddenly isn’t a zombie story at all. After that, we get “However…” which originally appeared in a Hellraiser anthology in significantly altered form — the editors thought the original version was too extreme even for the Cenobites. Luckily, the original is what we get here. We get “Repent, Jessie Shimmer!” — a short story featuring the star of Snyder’s “Spellbent” novels.

We also get science fiction, steampunk, shorter slice-of-life tales, comedy — all of them shot through with Snyder’s special brain-skinning style of literary shock-and-awe. A couple of rednecks discuss corporal punishment — but they’re not talking about spanking. A serial killer stalks a new victim, unaware that he’s in more danger than she is. A future apocalypse means bizarre life changes for a woman and her bestial sister. We get plant monsters, haunted paintings, weightlifting vampires, zombie tigers, and much more.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is gonna end up being a fairly short review, ’cause sometimes, all you need to say is, yeah, it’s a really good book, and maybe you should shell out some dough so you can read it.

We hear a lot about edgy writers, and they generally come off like preschool kids who shock their classmates by repeating out-of-context cuss words. Snyder doesn’t do grade-school shocks. She doesn’t just tell you stories that get under your skin. She tells stories that start out under your skin, tunnel in deeper to chew on your nerve endings and hollow out a few organs, and only crawl back out into the sunlight after they’ve laid eggs inside your spinal cord.

You like horror? You like horror for grownups, willing to delve into the deeply forbidden corners of our psyches and societies, while still indulging in the occasional fun of exploding vampires? Yes, y’all are going to want to go pick this up.

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Switchblade Runner

Well, lookit what happened to me. I got too busy with Christmas and New Year’s travels and activities, and I completely ran out of time to go pick up last week’s new comics. So I’ve got no new comics to review.

First thing that means is I’m going to end up getting two or three weeks’ worth of comics this Wednesday, and that’s far, far too many for me to get reviewed without going nuts. So I probably won’t even try to review all of ’em — I’m just going to pick the ones that end up being the best and getting them done — or maybe just the worst. We’ll see what my mood is like, hey?

Second, I’m gonna have to review some non-comics today and Wednesday. Luckily, I’ve got something lined up I’ve been wanting to review for a couple weeks…

Switchblade Goddess by Lucy A. Snyder

I’ve already reviewed the first two novels in Lucy A. Snyder’s Jessie Shimmer trilogy, so it makes sense to get the third one reviewed here, too. This new book kicks off almost immediately after the end of the previous one — Jessie, with her magic stone eye and magic hellfire arm, has temporarily stopped the diabolical soul harvester Miko — that’s the clothing-bereft knife-slinger on the cover above — but Miko’s not down for the count, and Jessie needs to figure out a way to stop her, rescue the people whose souls she’s stolen, save her lover Cooper and her familiar Pal, and still escape the wrath of the magical and highly powerful Virtus Regnum. Can she do it? Maybe, but it won’t be easy, and it sure as heck won’t be painless.

This book takes on a much more global flavor, thanks to Jessie and Cooper discovering some portals that let them travel almost anywhere they want to. So we get to follow Jessie’s adventures on a tropical island, in the Louisiana swamps, at a ritzy European castle — and after spending the previous book mostly stuck in a little dead-end Texas town, that’s definitely a welcome change, just so we can see what other kinds of magical chaos can erupt in all these other settings. But a lot of the action here takes place inside Jessie’s mind, because after a certain point, any time Jessie falls asleep, Miko gets to torture her — as in not-for-the-squeamish flaying-you-alive torture. Luckily, it’s all in Jessie’s head, so there’s no physical damage — but the mental and emotional scars do some serious damage. And to top it all off, Miko also wants to sleep with Jessie and induct her as her loyal lieutenant — and Jessie would probably prefer the flaying-alive stuff instead.

This book is a great deal darker than the previous one (which was a lot darker than the first book in the series, too, come to think of it) — there’s uncomfortably graphic torture, barely-consensual sex, terrors and betrayals that strike at the emotional heart of anyone who’s ever been in a relationship. Large swaths of the plot are more cringingly terrifying than anything you’ll find in mainstream horror novels.

I think where this book — and the entire series, actually — really shines is in its characters. Not just the main characters, not just Jessie, Cooper, Pal, the Warlock, and Miko, but minor characters and walk-on parts often have some really fun, vibrant personalities that make you wish there were other novels that would follow what else these people were up to. Snyder clearly loves creating cool characters, whether they’re major roles or cameos, and dangit, I love reading that kind of stuff.

This isn’t something you can just pick up blind — if you wanna really enjoy this book, you’re gonna have to read “Spellbent” and “Shotgun Sorceress” first. But that ain’t too rough a requirement — all three books are just eight bucks apiece, and it sure wouldn’t hurt you to read all three in the trilogy.

I loved this book. Go pick it up.

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Pump Action Fantasy

I need a short break from reviewing comics, so today, we’re reviewing a book. Yay, books!

Shotgun Sorceress by Lucy A. Snyder

You may remember a while back when I reviewed Lucy A. Snyder’s debut novel “Spellbent.” Well, she came out with a sequel, and as much as I enjoyed the first one, I figured I should definitely check out this followup.

The story picks up just after the end of the first novel. Jessie Shimmer has successfully rescued her lover Cooper from Hell after the worst week of her life, and come out of the experience with a magic eye, a hellfire arm, and a formerly cute ferret familiar that’s now a giant spider monster. All she wants to do is curl up and recuperate from her efforts, but first she has to make nice with the local wizard’s council in a nasty corner of the faerie realm.

And that’s the easy part of the story. After that, the vengeful alien gods of magic send her to Texas — specifically, a corner of the Lone Star State bled dry of magic and ruled by a monstrous but impossibly sexy soul harvester named Miko. Can Jessie beat the odds a second time and save her friends and an entire town from horrific evil? Or are her magically debased emotions going to see her spending eternity as Miko’s girltoy?

Snyder’s story here is a great deal darker than her previous one. Already stressed out after the first novel’s adventures, Jessie’s emotions are on a hair-trigger now, even considering Miko’s power to artificially exaggerate the emotions of humans. In fact, all our lead characters are on edge and snappish for most of the novel, with only Pal, Jessie’s familiar, on a fairly even keel.

Snyder’s character work here really knocks things home, with even minor characters given full and fascinating personalities. The mood and settings are great, too — from the beautiful but dangerous Faery to a cramped, besieged, and paranoid college campus to a makeshift pup tent in the backyard, all the settings make you feel like you’re right there watching the action. And there’s a ton of action, too — Jessie may be a spellcaster, but she spends a lot of her time beating people up, shooting zombies, and running to catch up with the bad guys.

If you loved “Spellbent” — and you better have, or else — you’re going to love “Shotgun Sorceress,” too. Go pick it up.

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Spellbent for Leather

I’m in a mood to review something other than comics for once…

Spellbent by Lucy A. Snyder

I’ve been a colossal fan of Lucy A. Snyder‘s short fiction for ages and ages — I previously reviewed one of her short story/poetry collections here. I think she does a great job of blending fantasy, humor, and horror, and when I heard she had gotten her first novel published, I made sure I went out and picked it up.

This is an urban fantasy novel — something that’s unfortunately come to mean either “sparkly vampires” or “porny vampires.” Or both. I still remember when it meant “fantasy that took place in an urban setting.” And I’m relieved that Snyder remembers that, too.

So what’s the story about? We’re set in a world a lot like ours, except that magic is real, mostly kept secret, and governed by councils of mages who try to keep everything running smoothly. Our lead character is Jessie Shimmer, an apprentice wizard living in Columbus, Ohio, and being taught the fundamentals of magic by her lover, Cooper. Things get started when a simple spell — a weather spell on the behalf of local farmers — goes seriously awry, stranding Cooper in a hellish dimension, unleashing a giant monster on the world, and inflicting terrible injuries on Jessie. She survives, thanks to the assistance of her familiar, a ferret named Palimpsest, but the corrupt mage council brands her an outlaw, bars her from trying to rescue Cooper, and puts every possible roadblock in her path.

So Jessie, flat-broke and homeless, short an arm and an eye, with the local political boss working to keep her isolated from anyone who can help her, has to somehow shake their magical surveillance, find somewhere to live, track down Cooper’s brother, the only guy who can give her any aid, and figure out how to get Cooper out of Hell. That’s a tall order for an apprentice spellcaster…

Verdict: Thumbs up. This one reads a lot like a comedy-drama-horror-fantasy. You’ve got Jessie running through Hell armed with a sword, shield, and dragonskin armor. You’ve got horrific, soul-crushing demons and malign conspiracies using all the powers of magic to destroy innocent people. You’ve got a ferret who talks like an uptight Canadian librarian, potheads craving a magical marijuana high, and Jessie using a shrinking spell on a belligerent security guard’s underwear. You’ve got a perfectly nice heroine, initially not too talented, advanced, or ambitious, forced to climb back up after being beat down as low as anyone can get, and emerging… well, don’t want to tell the ending, but it is all pretty awesome.

I enjoyed the heck out of it. You should go pick it up.

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Corporate Necromancy and You

Installing Linux on a Dead Badger (And Other Oddities) by Lucy A. Snyder

Taking a short break from comics stuff to review some non-comics lit. This is “Installing Linux on a Dead Badger (And Other Oddities)” by Lucy A. Snyder. It’s a short story collection about cybermancy and necrotechnology — most of the stories are set in a parallel reality where you can use the dark arts to raise the dead, and then use the other dark arts — computer programming — to control them.

One of Snyder’s strengths in this collection is disguising her fiction as news articles or technical writing. The title story is actually written like a software guide, instructing readers on what kinds of software will need to be installed to raise the dead (like a Duppy card, FleshGolem software, or ItzaLive programs, for you Mac users), and well over half of the other stories read like something out of the business or technology sections of your local paper or a national newsweekly.

Can’t imagine necromancy as big business? Obviously, you’ve never considered the financial benefits of replacing your living employees with zombies who will work for 20 hours a day for a bucket of cow brains. Not to mention the benefits of networking your office computers with eldritch extra-dimensional demons who will deliver your e-mail and make market predictions for the price of a few delicious kittens. Sure, there’s a problem with cthonian horrors sucking out your soul, but everyone’s gotta make sacrifices in business, right?

Business trainer Laura Loveblut, author of Who Moved My Spleen?, stresses that new vampires need to educate themselves to stay competitive.

“Knowing the ins and outs of being a modern corporate vampire is like knowing how to dress properly for an interview, knowing to send a thank-you note, or knowing that you shouldn’t slaughter the secretary on your way out of the building. It’s simply not your prospective employer’s job to tell you these things,” says Loveblut.

Verdict: Thumbs up. If you like your fiction with healthy doses of humor, horror, and computer in-jokes, this is definitely something you’re going to enjoy. It’s a fairly slim book, at just over 100 pages, but it won’t cost you but about eleven bucks. You can find ordering information on Snyder’s website, so go pick up a copy for yourself or the Linux geek in your life.

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