Tag Archives: Horror

Awards Season: The Bram Stoker Awards!

It’s awards season this year, and we at the Library are thrilled to bring you all the winners–not just from last night’s Academy Awards, but from this year’s Bram Stoker Awards, which were handed out this weekend in Providence Rhode Island!

Each year, the Horror Writer’s Association presents the Bram Stoker Awards for Superior Achievement, named in honor of Bram Stoker, author of the horror novel to beat all horror novels (and Free For All favorite), Dracula. The Bram Stoker Awards were instituted immediately after the organization’s incorporation in 1987.  The first awards were presented in 1988 (for works published in 1987), and they have been presented every year since. The award itself, designed by sculptor Steven Kirk, is a stunning haunted house, with a door that opens to reveal a brass plaque engraved with the name of the winning work and its author.

How amazing is this?!

The Stoker Awards specifically avoid the word “best”, because it recognizes that horror itself is a genre that is constantly moving, changing, and pushing its own boundaries (and can often be very specific to a place, or a generation).  Instead, it uses the words “Superior Achievement”.  The categories of award have changed over the years, as well, as the genre has evolved, but since 2011, the eleven Bram Stoker Award categories are: Novel, First Novel, Short Fiction, Long Fiction, Young Adult, Fiction Collection, Poetry Collection, Anthology, Screenplay, Graphic Novel and Non-Fiction.

We’ll have some more information regarding Stokercon, the annual meeting of the Horror Writers of America from one of our library staff who attended part of convention, but for now, let’s celebrate the winners (and maybe find some new books to enjoy?)!

Here is a selection of the nominees and winners of the 2017 Bram Stoker Awards, with links to the Library Catalog in the title of each book where applicable:

Superior Achievement in a Novel

Winner: Ararat by Christopher Golden

Also nominated:

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen & Owen King

Black Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman

I Wish I Was Like You by S.P. Miskowski (access this title via ComCat–check with your friendly reference staff!)

Ubo by Steve Rasnic Tem

Superior Achievement in a First Novel

Winner: Cold Cuts by Robert Payne Cabeen

Also nominated:

In the Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson

What Do Monsters Fear? by Matt Hayward

The Boulevard Monster by Jeremy Hepler (access this title via ComCat–check with your friendly reference staff!)

Kill Creek by Scott Thomas

Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel

Winner: The Last Harvest by Kim Liggett

Also nominated:

The Door to January by Gillian French

Hellworld by Tom Leveen

The Ravenous  by Amy Lukavics

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel

Winner: Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Damian Duffy and Octavia E. Butler

Also nominated:

Darkness Visible by Mike Carey and Ethan David Arvind

My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris

The Black Monday Murders by Jonathan Hickman (access this title via ComCat–check with your friendly reference staff!)

Monstress Volume 2 by Marjorie Liu

Superior Achievement in a Screenplay

Winner: Get Out by Jordan Peele

Also nominated:

The Shape of Water by Guillermo Del Toro and Vanessa Taylor

Stranger Things: MadMax (Episode 2:01) by Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer (Season 2 isn’t available yet, but once it is, we’ll have it for you!)

Twin Peaks, Part 8 by Mark Frost and David Lynch

It by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman

Superior Achievement in Non-Fiction

Winner: Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of the ’70’s and ’80’s Horror Fiction by Grady Hendrix

Also nominated:

Horror in Space: Critical Essays on a Film Subgenre by Michele Brittany (access this title via ComCat–check with your friendly reference staff!)

Searching for Sycorax: Black Women’s Hauntings of Contemporary Horror by Kinitra D. Brooks

The Art of Horror Movies: An Illustrated History by Stephen Jones (access this title via ComCat–check with your friendly reference staff!)

Where Nightmares Come From: The Art of Storytelling in the Horror Genre edited by Joe Mynhardt and Eugene Johnson


Check out all the winners of the 2017 Bram Stoker Awards here!

Happy All Hallows Read!

We wish you the very best for this years official All Hallows Read, beloved patrons and readers!  May you sample all the candy you desire, may you be filled with treats and free of tricks.  And, for those who would like a little spooky reading for your All Hallows Read, we are happy to present you with a classic and shiver-inducing story: “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs.

Portrait of W.W. Jacobs by Elliot & Fry, via Wikipedia


Jacobs was born in Wapping, London in 1863, the son of a wharf manager.  He was well-educated, and eventually began work as a clerk in a post office savings bank.  The work afforded him both a living and time to write, and by 1885, he had his first short story published.  He married Agnes Eleanor Williams, a noted suffrage activist, in 1900.  Though Jacobs is remembered as a writer of horror stories (“The Monkey’s Paw” being the story for which he is most well-remembered), his career was mostly as a writer of humorous stories, predominately about mariners and sea-faring.  He was successful enough that he retired from the post office in 1899.

There are aspects of this story that are certainly dated, not the least of which is the “magical thing that comes from a faraway part of the Empire to destroy British people” trope.  It’s a theme that pops up everywhere in Sherlock Holmes stories, it was the basis for Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone, it’s the main premise of Dracula…safe to say, it’s a well-worn theme that helped create the idea of the “other”–a figure that was frightening and dangerous and needed to be controlled.  And we should recognize that.  On the other hand, this story is still read, and still shared, because it is wonderfully constructed, finely wrought, and genuinely unsettling.  It is a perfect embodiment of the old maxim “be careful what you wish for”, but without feeling pedantic or rehashed.   Jacobs’ talents as a humorous shine through in places, as well, helping him create characters who are sympathetic and real, even down to their inability to play a good game of chess.  And it’s that connection to these people, and this ability to relate to them, even when they make the most dire of mistakes, that makes this story such an effective–and affecting–one.

So, we hope you enjoy “The Monkey’s Paw”, and that your All Hallows’ Read, or Halloween, or Tuesday evening, is one that brings you great joy.  And maybe a few shivers.  Just click on the title below to access!

The Monkey’s Paw, W.W. Jacobs

All Hallows Read: The Haunted House, Part 3

This week, we’ve been talking about the haunted house in literature, and detailing the kinds of haunted houses that one can find in traditional horror novels/ghost stories/All-Hallows Read selections.

Via The Business Journals

But as I was working on these posts, it occurred to me how many other kinds of haunted sites have been cropping up in fiction, especially lately.  According to many scholars of genre, the horror novel is entering a new phase, that isn’t wholly defined as yet.  Some of its core themes, however, deal with 1) our growing unease with the unknown, especially amidst the information explosion brought about by the internet, 2) a kind of existentialist despair–being faced with the realities and future threats of global climate change, nuclear armageddon, and other issues over which we have comparatively little control has introduced the fear that perhaps doom is inevitable.  That perhaps we can’t vanquish all the monsters with technology and fortitude.  Whether these genre tropes will grow and mature into a new era of horror has yet to be seen.  But what we do know is that we’ve already been treated to a host of horror novels that up-end conventions, while still providing the fears, dreads, and very human journeys that make horror novels so pleasurable to read.

Via Youtube

One of the noticeable themes that these books overturn is the notion of the haunted house.  In an age where fewer people are buying houses, it makes sense that the living situations reflected in horror novels needs to change, too.  You can’t really be scared of something if you have no frame of reference.  But while some of these books looks at a haunted apartment building, others keep pushing the line, giving us haunted superstores and haunted ships.  They enrich our thinking about the spaces we inhabit and the memories they carry inside them.  They challenge us to remember, even as we are told to look forward to the future, to not be held back by the past.  They also allow us to explore the dark secrets and troubling pasts that our characters carry with them, and how our own personal darkness can affect our perception of the world and each other.  No longer are our characters hapless victims of the spirit world–they are the dry charge themselves that make the spaces ugly and scary by bringing their very real-world ugliness and scariness into it.

So what are some of these new haunted spaces?  Take a look below and see what you think!

Horrorstör: Grady Hendrix is a really interesting author, who plays with conventions while still delivering interesting and engaging stories.  He’s also written a book that is laid out like a high school year book, which is perfect for those with 1980’s nostalgia.  But this book is very much of the moment, set in a generic Ikea, known as the Orsk furniture superstore.  Strange things have been going on in this Cleveland store, but when three employees volunteer to work an overnight shift to investigate, but what they discover is more horrifying than they could have imagined.  This book is a model of good design (thanks to designer Andie Reid, illustrator Michael Rogalski, and cover photographer Christine Ferrara).  It is laid out like a glossy catalog, complete with showroom shots and maps of Orsk’s labyrinthine layout, providing a delightful contrast between the ironic and the horrific.

The Graveyard ApartmentThis Japanese horror novel, originally published in 1986,  takes us into an enormous apartment building that was constructed next to a graveyard. The young couple and their daughter who move into this household are dealing with their own inner darkness and wrestling with secrets they are fighting to keep hidden.  The longer they stay in their new place, though, the stranger and stranger things seem to get.  People around them move out one by one, until this small family is left alone in the building.  Alone, except for whatever is living in the basement. Mariko Koike is a master of the psychological novel, and this book doesn’t always show, and resists answering all the questions it asks.  Instead, it leaves it up to the reader to slide their own fears and doubts to the reading experience, and playing on our inherent fears of the dark and the unknown to create a genuinely chilling reading experience.

The Apartment: Another haunted apartment, this one set in the glamor of Paris.  This young family and their daughter (is there a trend here?) move from Cape Town after surviving a violent break-in that left them traumatized.  At first, the house-swap plan they find sounds perfect.  But upon moving to their European haven, they quickly realize that nothing is as advertised.  This is a story where the ‘haunting’ is a way to get to the heart of these characters, breaking down their defenses and facades and forcing them to confront each other’s worst (and sometimes best) qualities.  This is very much a story about people bringing out the worst, not only in each other, but in the space they inhabit, and that interaction makes it feel very modern, indeed.


Happy reading, beloved patrons.  And Happy All-Hallows Read!


Found Footage Horror in Books?

It’s summertime, which means I’ve been indulging my love of horror novels, dear readers.   And I’ve found myself feeling a bit nostalgic…

…How many of you remember The Blair Witch Project?

Though it wasn’t the first “found footage” horror film–‘found footage’ being a sort of sub-genre where the film is presented as amateur video discovered after an event–The Blair Witch Project came along at precisely the right time, harnessing the power of the new technology that was the Internet to whip everyone into something of a tizzy.  Debates sprung up everywhere as to whether the events depicted in the film actually happened, what truly happened to the three young film-makers seen in the footage, and just what the Blair Witch really was.  I remember three people in Blockbuster video (yes, Blockbuster Video)  arguing together about whether the film was a ‘hoax’, and if so, what it meant for the horror genre as a whole that this film had so blurred the line between fiction and reality.

Because that’s what ‘found-footage’ does so well, and why it’s such a fascinating genre.  Found-footage creates a reality in a way that few other movies do.  It’s power comes from its incompleteness.  Real life usually doesn’t play out with a well-plotted beginning, middle, and end.  It’s messy.  There are plotlines that go nowhere.  And, in the end, we don’t get the answers to all our questions.

Horror as a genre allows us to deal with the unpleasant, the scary, and the overwhelming aspects of life in a safe way.  Found footage helps us deal with a reality where something are just un-knowable.  And for creatures whose brains are programmed to think in narrative form, that in itself is pretty terrifying.

Anyways, looking back on The Blair Witch Project today (not the sequel, for which I had such high hopes)…it’s a bit campy.  The plot doesn’t really hold up (they argue for 10 minutes out of an 80-minute movie about a map).  The steady-cam makes everyone a wee bit nauseous.  But what is does beautifully is harness our inherent terror of not knowing.  And even though ‘found footage’ is a tough genre to do successfully, especially with today’s passion for special effects and IMAX panoramas and computer generation, I don’t think that fear of not knowing has dimmed at all.  If anything, it’s probably gotten even stronger now that we have so many resources to look up anything we want, to know all we want…to dispel those shadows lurking in the corner…

But when that ability is taken away, when sentences end with ellipses or a comma, and not a period, when the camera is dropped and there is no resolution–it triggers something in our cave-brain that thinks in narrative to flip out and start climbing the walls.

And for those of you looking for a “found footage” fix in a book–there are any number of options from which you can choose.  Dracula and Frankenstein, the very foundations of the horror genre, are themselves ‘found footage’ of a sort, in that they are collections of media produced by the characters.  So let’s take a look as see how this genre has expanded and evolved–just don’t look too closely at those shadows in the corner……

The Supernatural Enhancements: We’ve covered this book here a few times before, but that’s because it’s so flipping good.  The plot centers around a twenty-something gentleman named A., who inherits a house in the backwoods of Virginia from an unknown relative who apparently died after jumping out of a window at the precise age that A himself is now.  Together with Niamh, a mute young woman who is a force in her own right, A sets out to discover the secrets of the house, and of his mysterious family.  The book is a mish-mash of letters written by A to his aunt, of transcripts of conversations between A and Niamh (who writes instead of speaking), and transcripts of video and audio recordings made inside the house.  And codes. So many, many codes.  Because A’s family has plenty of secrets, both fascinating and terrible–and while we learn a good deal of them, there is plenty in this book that is left up to the imagination, not the least of which is what precisely lives in the upstairs bathroom?

House of Leaves: Another old favorite here, and one that very well might take the found footage tale to a whole new level.  Mark Z. Danielewski’s book, ostensibly, is about a family who buys a house that turns out to be bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.  And not in a fun, TARDIS-kind of way.  This is a house with a mind of its own, and it’s quite easy to get lost forever.  But if that wasn’t enough, this is a found story about a found story–and, as such, this book is a chilling maze of footnotes, as the multiple layers of storytellers all work through their own issues with this tale–and reveal just how badly this house has affected them all.  This is one of the few books that can make citations scary.  Read it on a beach.  In the sunlight.  Probably, read it outside.  It’s just safer that way.

We Eat Our Own: This is a story less comprised of found footage, and more about found footage–specifically, about the first new found-footage horror movie, the Italian Cannibal Holocaust, which was widely believed to be a ‘snuff’ film when it was first released (a subsequent trial revealed that the human actors all survived, though the scenes of animal brutality were indeed real).  Kea Wilson’s novel follows a nameless, struggling actor in 1970s New York who gets a call that an enigmatic director wants him for an art film set in the Amazon…not because of his talents, but because he so closely resembles the former star who is unable to complete the film.  The conditions on-set are terrible–the atmosphere is so damp that the celluloid film disintegrates, the director himself seems near madness, and there are strange rumors on set about the goings-on in the village around them.  This book is less about Cannibal Holocaust itself than it is a book about violence, and what is does to people who cannot escape it.  It’s a twisty, twisted, thought-provoking, bizarre story that skips perspectives with dizzying ease, and ends with a scene as ambiguous as The Blair Witch Project itself.  Try it, and tell me what you think is going on!

And the (Stoker) nominees are….

Just in case you haven’t had your fill of awards this season, dear readers, we are delighted to bring you this year’s Stoker Award Nominees, celebrating the best in English-language horror writing!

Each year, the Horror Writer’s Association presents the Bram Stoker Awards for Superior Achievement, named in honor of Bram Stoker, author of the horror novel to beat all horror novels (and Free For All favorite), Dracula. The Bram Stoker Awards were instituted immediately after the organization’s incorporation in 1987.  The first awards were presented in 1988 (for works published in 1987), and they have been presented every year since. The award itself, designed by sculptor Steven Kirk, is a stunning haunted house, with a door that opens to reveal a brass plaque engraved with the name of the winning work and its author.

How amazing is this?!

The Stoker Awards specifically avoid the word “best”, because it recognizes that horror itself is a genre that is constantly moving, changing, and pushing its own boundaries (and can often be very specific to a place, or a generation).  Instead, it uses the words “Superior Achievement”.  The categories of award have changed over the years, as well, as the genre has evolved, but since 2011, the eleven Bram Stoker Award categories are: Novel, First Novel, Short Fiction, Long Fiction, Young Adult, Fiction Collection, Poetry Collection, Anthology, Screenplay, Graphic Novel and Non-Fiction.

And can I just say, that the HWA also hosts an academic conference on horror alongside its annual conference, known as the Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference, after the pioneer of the Gothic novel, and a lady author to boot?  I think that is the coolest thing ever, not only because the HWA remains so devoted to celebrating and studying horror as a genre in the past and the future, but it also creates a wonderfully inclusive atmosphere where all kinds of readers are accepted.

So here, without further ado, are the 2016 nominees for the Stoker Awards.  There are a few titles here that we’ve covered previously at the Free For All, which is proof that we know how to pick ’em, and many that I will be added to my To Be Read list promptly!   The final announcement will be made at StokerCon, the annual conference of the HWA.

Superior Achievement in a Novel

Superior Achievement in a First Novel

Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel

Superior Achievement in Long Fiction

Superior Achievement in Short Fiction

Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection

Superior Achievement in an Anthology

Superior Achievement in Non-Fiction

Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection

Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel

Superior Achievement in a Screenplay

Saturdays @ the South: Holiday Horrors

checklist-1817926_640I’m sure everyone has a holiday horror story of some type. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, something goes wrong in the holiday prep a story ensues that will be told at future get-togethers. “Remember that time the turkey caught fire and we had to order pizza for the holiday dinner?” Horror is not all that uncommon this time of year, for authors, either. Whether this time of year is dorkily loved (like yours truly) or utterly reviled, sometimes you just need a break from the saccharine holiday cheer.  We’ve already mentioned on the blog how books can be a great retreat, (particularly when there’s a blanket fort involved) and can have restorative measures. Well, sometimes a little antidote for holiday cheer is precisely what the doctor ordered.

This antidote for holiday cheer and spreading a little holiday horror isn’t a new concept. In Germany and Austria, they have had a centuries-old tradition of the Krampus. The name, derived from the German krampen (meaning claw) is considered the anti-St. Nick and was used, partly as a means to frighten children into being good. The Krampus, according to folklore said to be son of Hel in Norse mythology, is a half-goat, half-demon, horned creature that whips children into being good. This is the yang to St. Nicholas’s ying. Where St. Nick goes around on December 6th  (known as Nicholaustag) in Germany, Austria and Hungary, delivering sweets to the children who have been good, Krampus appears the night before December 6th (known as Krampusnacht) to whip the bad children with his bundle of birch twigs and take the particularly wicked ones away to his lair. It brings on a whole new meaning to “he knows if you’ve been bad or good; so be good for goodness’ sake!” In recent years, here in the States, the Krampus has been gaining a bit of popularity,  appearing in a recent feature-film, making an episode cameo on the TV show Grimm and, apparently in something called a Krampus party as well (Google it; it’s a Thing). It’s an interesting reaction against the commercialization of the holiday season; though if you’re concerned about Krampus getting too commercialized, you’re about 120 years too late. Krampus postcards and other items have been manufactured in Germany since the 1890s.

Greetings from Krampus – This was a Viennese Krampus card circa 1911.

In other horror and suspense news, this past Wednesday, December 14th would have been Shirley Jackson‘s 100th birthday and I can think of no better way to celebrate than with a list of holiday-related horror books that would likely have set even her spine a-tingle.

3206706Krampus by Brom

Brom most recently gained acclaim earlier this year with Lost Gods, but his 2012 works took the Krampus legend to a whole new level. With themes of family and hope this book might seriously creep you out, but its underlying heart may have you thinking that a little horror this time of year isn’t quite so bad…

3243262NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

This book by Stephen King’s son (make no mistake here, Hill is an astounding author in his own right and deserves his solid reputation sans any nepotism) is profoundly unsettling. A man, who’s license plate is the titular inspiration, kidnaps distraught and disadvantaged children and takes them to Christmasland, his own personal Christmas theme park which doesn’t quite live in this plane of existence. These children eventually lose their teeth to fangs, their blood to ice and their humanity to… something else. This is the type of horror that has some supernatural elements in it, but what is truly scary here is the capacity for people to lose their humanity and what happens when good intentions go terribly awry.

51rgydnykfl-_sx322_bo1204203200_Horror for the Holidays ed. by Scott David Aniolowski

This book has a little something terrifying for every holiday, from Valentine’s Day to the Pagan Yule to, yes, Christmas with it’s cover story featuring none other than Krampus. This sampling ranging from classic to modern horror tales can chill you all year ’round.

2656597Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

So this comes more under the humor than horror category, but the essay “The Santaland Diaries” is equal parts hilarious and terrifying; anyone who has been stuck at the mall waiting in line for Santa knows that it can be it’s own special version of hell. If you’re looking for something that’s not quite as terrifying but still an antidote for a holiday cheer overdose, this would be a terrific pick.

3580651Twelve Screams of Christmas by R. L. Stine

We started off this post with a list from the kids’ horror master Stine and I’d be remiss if I left off a little something for the kiddos (or kids at heart) who want a scare of their own. From his perennially popular Goosebumps series, this book has two frenemies who need a rehearsal space for the school’s Christmas play practicing in a space that just might be haunted…

While I won’t be replacing my decorations and festive lights with furs and demon horns, sometimes a little respite from the holiday madness is just what’s needed to get us through the home stretch. Till next week, dear readers, find whatever you feel comfortable with on these cold nights and maybe consider exploring the dark side of the holidays and see if its the remedy you might need.

Winter Is Coming….


…Or, judging by the frost on my car this morning, dear readers, it might actually already be here.

I’ll be honest with you–I love winter.  I love the cold, I adore snow.  I was one of those kids who went tearing out of the house without a coat on and flung themselves at the nearest snowdrift (ok, I still do that, who am I kidding?).  But I realize that I am most likely in the minority here.

As much fun as it can be to sit cozily inside and watch the snow fall, or to flaunt your new boots and scarves this time of year, the truth of it is that human bodies really really don’t like to be cold.  It’s one of those primal fears built into all our brains, just like a fear of the dark, and a fear of being alone.  All of these things aren’t modern-day constructions; they are primal triggers that have been passed down to us from our single-celled organism ancestors.  Because all of them are, potentially, mortal dangers.

And this is what makes a genre that I am hereby terming Arctic Horror such a rip-roaring success.  We could also call it ‘Polar Horror’ or ‘Cold Horror”, but what we’re discussing are books that are set in remote, usually the Arctic, sometimes on Antarctica or a really high mountain, where it’s really, really cold.  And dark.  And isolating.  If done right, these books are not only fascinating journeys to places that most of us will never see–they are also absolutely terrifying, precisely because they tap into those brain-stem fears that we all have in common.  Even while you rationally know you are safe and warm and connected to the outside world, the visceral feeling of experiencing these harrowing expeditions, these brutal quests, or these races against time are experiences that linger long after the final page has turned.

But horror novels are more than just the scary stuff.  In order for the scary stuff to be scary, in order for us to feel for the characters who are enduring these hardships, we need to care about them.  We need to see ourselves in them, and we need to want them to survive.  So along with creating powerfully affecting settings, authors of Arctic horror also have to create genuinely real characters, and powerful relationships between them that ground us in their realities and make thier journeys that much more fraught.

So I thought I’d share some of the highlights of Arctic Horror that I’ve found recently, for those of you looking for a high-stakes, low-temperature thrill.  They may help you pass the next long, winter night–or give you the itch to go out on an adventure of your own!

indexDark Matter: Although this book only lives at the Boston Public Library, it’s a piece of cake to get those books, either by getting your own BPL card (any resident of Massachusetts is eligible), or by having one of your friendly Reference Librarians put in an Inter-Library Loan request for you.  Believe me, this little book is worth it.  In it, we follow Jack, a penniless, desperate, but adventurous young man who, in January 1937, manages to get himself accepted on board an Arctic expedition as a radio operator.  He and his small team weather the journey north, and prepare to make their winter home at a deserted bay known as Gruhuken.  But as the nights grow longer Jack begins to realize that there is more to fear in Gruhuken than the plummeting temperatures.  Members of his expedition team are being forced to leave, one by one, until Jack is the only man left–but he knows he isn’t alone.  And he knows whatever is outside is watching him.  Michelle Paver does a brilliant job creating Jack, and giving him both the wonder we would no doubt feel at his adventures, as well as the annoyance we would all feel at being stuck in cramped quarters with near-strangers for months on end.  The terror here builds slowly, but with the strength of a blizzard.  Once it hits, there is no turning back, and eventually reaches a climax that is disorienting, overwhelming, and genuinely frightening. (See the end of this post for a tiny, but helpful spoiler)

3839094StrandedBracken MacLeod’s haunting new novel opens in the midst of a massive Arctic storm that is remorselessly battering the Arctic Promise, a supply ship headed to an Arctic Drilling platform called the Niflheim.   Though the ship and crew survive, their radio and communications equipment completely stops working, stranding the ship in an impenetrable fog. Then, slowly, the crew begins falling ill–not with a cold or a fever.  They just begin to waste away.  Deckhand Noah Cabot is the only man who seems unaffected–and thus, becomes the first man to volunteer to leave the ship when a shape is spotted on the horizon.  With no hope left onboard the Arctic Promise, Noah and a small crew set out across the ice…but what they find on the horizon is more dreadful than anything Noah could have imagined, and forces him to reconsider all the choices he’s made to this point.  MacLeod does a sensational job of building the terror slowly around Noah, first by isolating him from his crew (his backstory with his captain is heartbreaking and critically important here), and then by sending him into a kind of frozen purgatory, not unlike the Niflheim of myth.  Though the twist here would seem utterly ridiculous if I told you here, it works in the context of this story, and leads to a climax that is shocking, but no less believable and tragic for all that.  There are no easy answers here–there are few answers at all, come to that–but in some ways, that makes this book even more haunting.

3370892The AbominableDan Simmons is one of those authors that we here at the Library can always turn to for a wonderfully told, immersive story, and this tale only further cements his reputation.  Like Dark Matter, this book is a historical tale, set just after the disappearance of George Mallory and Sandy Irvine on Everest in 1924.  One year after the loss of Mallory and the hopes of reaching the top of Everest, three climbers–a British war poet,a  French Chamonix guide, and an adventurous American–decide to try again.  Financed by a grieving mother whose own son disappeared on Everest, the team sets out to conquer the tallest, and most terrifying of all mountains.  But what they find on those treacherous, wintery slopes is far more than they expected.  Something is following them.  And even if they reach the top–even if they discover what happened to Mallory and the other victims of Everest, even if they survive…there is still the challenge of climbing down, and facing the terror head-on.  Simmons pulls a few narrative tricks here to make his story feel real from the outset, which is helped considerably by his innate talent for crafting historical settings, making this hefty book fly by.  By blending the real-life tragedy of Mallory and the First World War into the tapestry of this book, he gives his tale a pathos and a drive that makes the threat to our climbers feel so much more terrifying, because we want them to succeed so badly.


Enjoy, dear readers!  And don’t forget your mittens!


(The dog lives.)