Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Book Review: Perdido Street Station

When reviewing a China Mieville novel I often find it's pretty hard to find an easy place to begin...

Should I begin with the city, New Crobuzan, and it's bizarre collection of neighbourhoods, rail stations, victorian-era technology, mangic, and a large number of aliens?

Maybe with the novel's protagonists; the scientist, the artist, and the exile?

Or perhaps with the villains of the piece, an ancient race of creatures that quickly found their way around my understanding of the term "vampire" and left me literally shuddering as I read how they feed...

Although only his second novel, this was my fifth novel by Mieville, after The City and the City, King Rat, Kraken, and Embassytown.

As with the others I can best describe the novel as immersive; while reading it I found myself staggered by the amount of world-building that had to go into it and the characters all felt like living, breathing people, with their own hopes, desires and fears.

This novel is actually the first of three set in Bas-Lag, the world in which New Crobuzan exists, and it definitely has me looking forward to reading it's two follow ups, The Scar and Inron Council.

Simply put, books like this are why I read fantasy fiction.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Book Review: The Birth of the People's Republic of Antarctica

John Calvin Bachelor's 1983 Science Fiction novel The Birth of the People's Republic of Antarctica is a strange mishmash of old Norse and English sagas, largely focusing on Beowulf and stories of Thor and Odin, with a world on the brink of destruction and the promise of a new society.

The novel follows Grim Fiddle, a Swede destined to become the ruler of a nation at the southernmost pole of the planet and follows him from conception through to old age. Much of the novel takes place at sea, and Bachelor does an interesting thing for science fiction, in that he sets the majority of the novel away from society or in smaller locales where the inhabitants live in a traditional manner, deftly sidestepping both descriptions of futuristic cities, the causes of the the destruction of global civilization and any chance to see our narrator's world through any lens but his own.

The narrative works quite well as saga, following Grim's journey across the years and the globe, moving ever southward and painting a darker and darker picture of the societies he leaves behind, but with little description of the titular republic until the final fifty pages.

An intriguing read.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Third in Christian Cameron's Long War series, Poseidon's Spear picks up directly where Marathon left off, with Arimnestos of Plataea returning home after the battle of Marathon to discover his wife has died in childbirth. Despondant and suicidal, Ari throws himself off of a cliff, only to be rescued and immediately enslaved as a rower on a Carthaginian ship.

Unlike the previous two books, which both worked as coming-of-age stories, Poseidon's Spear works to show much more of the Ancient world from the view of a grown man. Without going into all the various twists and turns of the story, Ari ends up spending time in Africa, Spain, France, and Britain, and much of the book has him working as a tradesman rather than a warrior.

In the end, although the book moved away from the depiction of battles in the Persian war that the first two books focused on, it fleshed our Ari's world, introduced a number of new characters and felt like a really great break before moving back into the main thrust of the series.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Book Review: The Unreasoning Mssk

Philip Jose Farmer's 1981 Science Fiction novel The Unreasoning Mask is actually my first dip into his work - last year I read my way through his series The Dungeon, but as he was more a guiding force on that series, and didn't actually author any of the six titles included, it's not quite the same.

The novel is definitely space opera, as much of the plot follows a spaceship captain who has stolen a holy relic from one planet and spends the majority of the story on the run from the inhabitants of that planet, as well as his own government, and finally a world killing being that appeared as soon as he removed the item in the first place.

Captain Hud Ramstan, a non-practicing Muslim, is in charge of a shape-changing spaceship with a rudimentary sense of intelligence and a fierce loyalty to him. Initially painted as a straight-forward, morally black-and-white character, Ramstan's world is through into turmoil when he steals an idol from a world his ship is visiting for no conscious reason, even the captain is unable to understand why he has taken the item, called the glyfa, until it begins talking to him and lets him know that together then must work to save the universe.

The book does get pretty metaphysical, exploring questions of godhood and different levels of reality, but I found it to be a pretty solid science fiction novel, and one that definitely has me interested in reading more of the author's work.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Book Review: No Enemy But Time

As I near the end of making my way through David Pringle's Science Fiction: The 100 Best Books, I am increasingly glad for both the new finds and the authors I'm returning to again.

Case in point, last week I read Michael Bishop's 1982 Time Travel novel No Enemy But Time.  This was my third time reading a Bishop novel, but my first time reading his Science Fiction.  Previously I had read the horror novel Who Made Stevie Crye? and the Fantasy novel Brittle Innings and had really enjoyed both.

No Enemy But Time focuses on John Monegal, a chrononaut (Time Travelling explorer) who has been dreaming of the African Pleistocene era since birth, and with the help of an American agency begins the novel by travelling back in time to that specific era.

The novel moves back and forth between his study of the Homo Habilis people he finds in prehistoric Africa and his own life's journey that lead him to this point.

I found the novel fascinating throughout (but was a little confused as to why the cover image (seen above) depicts a white guy when the character is black), and enjoyed both John's journey from boy to man and his later journey with people who only see him as a strange creature.

As a man lost in time novel, it was a heck of a lot of fun, and leaves me interested in both finding more of Bishop's work, and of reading my next (and final) book on this crazy SF list I've been reading for nearly eight years now.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Finding Advanced Screening Passes

Over the years I've seen a number of advanced screenings for upcoming films, but generally at the rate of one or two a year.

2016, however, had me check out nearly a dozen advanced screenings, and rather than simply brag about it, I thought I'd take a minute to show you how I've been doing it.

So I've been going to a site called which is simply an aggregator of advanced screening tickets broken down by location - so I keep an eye out for upcoming contests in my hometown of Edmonton, see if I'm interested in the movie and enter all of the contests that link from the site.  That's pretty much it, but it's worked out quite well for me this year.

I know that technically by telling other people about the site I may be decreasing my odds of getting to go to all these shows, but you know what - it's the holidays, and if my advice can get you into something you might be interested to see, then go for it!

Happy Holidays Y'All,
Your old pal Bookmonkey

Monday, December 5, 2016

Book Review: Night School

Since my friend Ron introduced me to Lee Child's Jack Reacher series back in 2012 I've made my way through the series, a book a month until catching up with the latest in the series last year, and since then I've been waiting with the rest of the fans of the series, until last month when the twenty-first novel in the series Night School hit book stores.

The novel is a prequel to the main series, so rather than following Jack as drifter/man-of-action, this focuses on him in the last few years of his career as a Major in the United States Military Police Corps. The novel begins with Jack receiving a medal and being rewarded by being sent to a professional development course, one with only three students (the others being a CIA and FBI agent) and is actually a cover for a mission that seems nearly impossible.

A transaction of a hundred million dollars has been picked up in chatter in Germany, and with a cost that high, it can't be for anything good, so the trio begins work on tracking down an American seller of something they don't know as quickly as possible.

The novel was actually a lot fun, and although I do prefer the man-against-the-world approach that Reacher takes in most of his adventures, seeing him in action as part of a team was a nice departure. A solid read and definitely one that will keep me waiting for the next.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Holiday Decorating at Bookmonkey's

As with most families, we've got our own holiday decorating style.  It tends to go as follows:

1) All Decorations go up as soon as possible in December
1a) Decorating must be accompanied by Holiday Tunes and Eggnogg
1b) Decorations must be in such an amount as to slightly terrify
1c) The Nutcracker Army should be prepared for an attack at any time
2) All Decorations go down by noon on Christmas Day
2a) HEY! It may sound un-Christmas-like to you, but then we have all of the week before New Year's to relax, rather than spending it daring each other to take the ornaments down.

Happy December Everyone!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Book Review: Marathon, by Christian Cameron

Carrying forward with my journey through the Ancient world via historical novels, Christian Cameron's 2011 novel Marathon (the second in his Long War series, following Killer of Men), continues to follow the story of Arimnestos of Plataea, who begins the novel living back on his farm and working as a blacksmith, although he is quickly moved back into combat, intrigue and even some courtroom drama before the novel moves into it's second half focusing on the build-up to and eventually the actual battle of Marathon.

The novel does a really great job of painting Athens in the period (roughly 490 BCE) and in many ways I felt it actually surpassed the first novel in the series. Still following the same format, wherein an elderly Arimnestos is relaying the story to his daughter and her friends, the novel does an excellent job of painting both daily life and the daily life of soldiers in the era. In addition, naval warfare is introduced and is both exhilarating and terrifying in its intensity.

A great follow-up to the original book, and one that has ensure I'll be reading the rest of the series as soon as I can get my hands on it.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Book Review: Tapping the Dream Tree

Charles de Lint's fourth short story collection set in Newford mixes perspectives (a number of the stories are told in first person), characters (both old and new), and ideas - including a ghost story unlike any I've read before "The Witching Hour", as well as stories of Pixie infestation via the internet, sequels to a number of favourite short stories from across his career to date and the addition of the novella Seven Wild Sisters as a bonus.

As always, the stories are a great deal of fun, mixed with terror and pathos, and had me looking forward to my next book from de Lint.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Book Review: The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone

Ezekiel Boone's 2016 horror novel The Hatching can be broken down into two works...

Spider and Apocalypse, or one portmanteau


The novel works like a standard disaster movie, a number of characters are introduced in different places, jobs, etc. and through their eyes we view the disaster. The disaster in this novel, however, is a plague of man-eating spiders. My inner twelve-year-old could not allow me to pass this book by, so although I'm not a huge fan of spiders, I thought I would give it a go.

Following a Billionaire, an FBI Agent, The President of the United States Chief of Staff, various scientists, a mystery writer, and some doomsday preppers, the novel moves around the globe as mankind is plagued by a seemingly endless hoard of spiders - man-eating spiders.

The novel is filled with any number of gruesome deaths, a really fun sense of increasing tension, and a few scenes that left me, as a life-long fan of the horror genre, more than a little frightened.

The book is pretty much exactly as advertised, full of spiders, and not the kind you'll forget anytime soon.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Movie Review: Doctor Strange

Waiting a week to see the new Marvel film, Doctor Strange made me a little more careful around my social media outlets, and hesitant to read/view any comments due to potential spoilers, but in the end, I'm glad I held off.

The film focuses on the magical side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and other than a few lines of dialouge, has virtually no crossover with any of the previous films in the MCU. As an origin story, it does well to stand on its own, letting us into Strange's world without feeling like we should have done our homework first (like I did for Avengers: Age of Ultron). As the lead, Benedict Cumberbatch has created a character that on the surface hearkens back to Robert Downy Jr.'s Tony Stark in Iron Man (2008) as both characters are top of their profession narcissists who receive epiphany after undergoing tragedy, but where Stark works to build his new life out of his old one, Strange effectively turns his back on his old life entirely and begins again.

The film has some pretty amazing visuals, and if you enjoy 3D, perhaps they are worth the higher ticket cost, but for me the effects worked fine and the story moved along quite nicely. Also, as a fellow Librarian, I was quite happy with the films character Wong (Benedict Wong), who had some of my favourite scenes in the film.

A really fun film and one I'll be hoping to watch again in the future.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Book Review: The Boys from Brazil, by Ira Levin

Ira Levin's novel The Boys from Brazil was published in 1976, adapted into a major motion picture in 1978, and has been sitting on my "to be read" shelf since at least 2009. Having picked it up at a used book store nearly a decade ago, I'm pretty sure my reasoning came from having read his earlier work Rosemary's Baby and absolutely loving it. But year after after, the Nazi Hunting themed book sat on my shelf, waiting to be picked up, and last month, after having suggested it for one of my book clubs, I finally gave it a read.

Like The Odessa File (1972) and Marathon Man (1974), Ira Levin's The Boys from Brazil focuses on underground Nazi War Criminals who have escaped capture after the second world war. Unlike those previous novels however, Levin decided to use actual war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele (who was still at large at the time of publication) as the principle villain. The novel begins with a plot in which 94 men around the world are chosen to be assassinated by Mengele and a small group of killers, and much of the novel focuses on the fictional Yakov Liebermann (based on real world Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal) as he attempts to put together the reason why these men are targeted and attempts to figure out how to stop it.

The novel works as a straight-forward thriller, in that many of the pieces of information are available to the reader, but not to all of the characters, and the various twists and turns in the novel definitely kept me interested and reading.

It's kind of funny, although the largest scientific conceit of the novel (trying not to spoil it here), must have seemed rather far-fetched in the mid-70s, it does come a lot closer to modern science than I was comfortable with. Although a little dated, the novel was a lot of fun, and has me interested in both reading more by Levin and in seeing the film.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Book Review: Killer of Men

Since the beginning of the year I've been working my way through the world of Ancient Greece by reading a historical novel each month (except the month I read Homer's lIiad), and so far I'm really enjoying this look at the ancient world through the eyes of seven different authors. In October, I read Christopher Cameron's Killer of Men, his first in a series on the Persian War, and I have to say it was pretty darn great.

The novel follows a young man through his formative years, beginning as the son of a blacksmith, then his apprenticeship under an old soldier and eventually his rise to becoming a soldier of great renown. As I found a few years ago with Steven Saylor's Gordianus the Finder, a compelling protagonist is key to understanding a new world (in Gordianus's case, that of Ancient Rome), and Arimnestos, the protagonist of Killer of Men, shows the reader how a young man can move from farmer/blacksmith, through to soldier, and eventually the titular Killer of Men.

The author, a former career officer in the US Navy, does a really great job of explaining how combat worked in the ancient world, and through the lens of an older Arimnestros looking back at his younger life, gives the reader context, as well as making the book a potentially interesting listen for those who prefer audio books.

This was a great read for me, and definitely has me interested in reading Cameron's follow up, Marathon.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Book Review: Brittle Innings

Brittle Innings begins like a baseball novel, gives heaps of nostalgia for fans of the sport and then deftly moves into becoming a sequel for one of the greatest horror novels ever written.

This is actually the second novel I've read by Michael Bishop, who's earlier work Who Made Stevie Crye? was an intriguing horror novel about a cursed typewriter. His 1994 novel, Brittle Innings (sorry for the 22-year-old spoiler) is actually a meld of two different stories, a monster hiding among humanity, and a nostalgic look at a man's career for a minor league baseball team in the 1940s. As someone who does not really care for sports, I found the baseball story, mixed with a coming of age narrative for it's protagonist, Danny Boles, to be pretty compelling, looking at the American deep south in the forties, and (for me) the world of professional baseball.

I felt that the monster story in the novel was incredibly well handled, and kept itself quite in keeping with the creatures origin. A neat gateway story for story-lovers who might not necessarily feel comfortable with horror.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Book Review: Waifs and Strays

Charles de Lint's Waifs and Strays sits comfortable between a collection for Young Adults and a collection about Young Adults. Although four of the stories appear in other short story collections by the author, this collection focuses specifically on teen protagonists, and move throughout many of the worlds previously created by de Lint, whether in realms of high fantasy, the world introduced in his science fiction novel Svaha, stories he contributed to the Borderlands series and many stories set in Newford.

For me, the standouts were the two stories about the Apple, a teen vampire (which sounds horrible when I write it out that way) who is desperate to understand her new condition and hopeful for her future. Unlike the Twilight series, there is very little glorification of the vampire condition in these stories and de Lint works to get the reader very invested in Apple and her family.

In addition to some really great stories, each entry also includes an introduction (ranging from a paragraph to a page) giving background info for the story as well as suggestions as to how it fits in his increasingly expanding fictional world.

A great introductory read to de Lint and although I had read four of the stories before, I happy reread each of them, finding them to be like old friends I hadn't seen in a while, but was happy to spend time with again.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Book Review: The Complete Roderick, by John Sladek

With five titles left of my journey through David Pringle's Science Fiction: the 100 Best Books, I've just finished John Sladek's The Complete Roderick, which was originally published as Roderick (1980) and Roderick at Random (1983). The story is highly satirical and follows Roderick, the world's first self-aware robot, as he navigates his way through human culture.

Much of the novel is designed to make fun of the modern world from the point of view of an innocent. Roderick is created in a second-rate university hired by a representative from NASA who is only using the project to cover his own embezzling. As Roderick makes his way through the world (and to be fair, Roderick has no gender, so I should be saying "makes its way") it comes across all sorts of groups and institutions that simply refuse to see it as a robot, and instead assume Roderick is a disabled child. The novel doesn't have a lot of trust for larger institutions and is definitely against capitalism run amok, but at the same time shows how a creature unfamiliar with our world can construct a world view so alien as to seem impossible.

A fascinating read.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Fourteen - Ash vs Evil Dead

Happy Halloween Everyone!

So a month later and I finally get to blog about Ash vs Evil Dead, or at least the first season.

The series picks up thirty years after the original trilogy (The Evil Dead (1981), Evil Dead II (1987), and Army of Darkness (1992), with Ash (Bruce Campbell), still working as a stock boy and using made up stories of how he lost his hand to pick up women.  Unfortunately for Ash, the Necronomicon (the book of the dead) is not yet done with him, and the series begins with him realizing evil is once again released on Earth.

As the series (produced by Campbell, original director Sam Raimi, and original producer Robert Tapert) is ten episodes long, it introduces two companions for Ash, Pablo and Kelly, two other employees at Valu-Mart who get swept up in his fight against the deadites (corpses that have been reanimated by the evil released from the book).

As with Evil Dead II, the series is a horror-comedy, putting the characters against all sorts of horrible "out of the frying pan into the fire" scenarios and allowing Ash to come across as just a terrible human being, who has (deep within) the potential to be a great hero.

Separate from the plot, each episode feature hard rock from the 1970s and 1990s (and largely from the Detroit music scene of the time), which is a great throwback to the music of Ash's younger days.

The series is a must for fans of the franchise, but also works as a great leaping on point, assuming you don't mind horror mixed with comedy.

I loved it, and will be waiting for the second season as soon as it's available.

So in the end, I spent the month going through a lot of things I had been meaning to get around to (in some cases for years) and although I didn't keep everything, I'm happier for have experienced it all, and may give this concept another try from the various Science Fiction or Fantasy titles I've got scattered around my house in the future.

Thanks for reading everyone!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Thirteen - Jericho

Sitting on my video game shelf for the last few year's has been Clive Barker's Jericho, a Playstation 3 title that was written and co-designed by Clive Barker.  It follows a team of military witches who are called upon by the military to stop supernatural threats.

Unfortunately for me, being a fan of the writer didn't help as the game mixes two of my least favourite types of video games; first-person shooters (I tend to get a little nauseous after playing for more than a few minutes), and progressive game style (wherein you follow a simple track and don't really have the chance to explore the world).

I did my best for the first half of the month to play about half an hour a day, and I did get through the first third of the game, but eventually the first-person play style just got me woozy (and not in a good way).

Oh well, not everything I checked out this month would end up as my cup of tea, and by finishing as much of the game as I could, I cleared the last little bit of the pile to reveal...

ASH VS EVIL DEAD (and yes,  I knew it was there all along, but I'm excited!)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Twelve - Army of Darkness vs Hack/Slash

Down to my last three items this month and I'm finally getting to the nitty gritty, edging closer to that TV series I've been looking forward to for over a year now.

Today it's Tim Seeley's Army of Darkness vs Hack/Slash, and it's pretty darn good.  The story picks up a few months after the end of Hack/Slash the story begins with Cassie living a relatively stable life, when in walks Ashly J. Williams, hero of the Evil Dead franchise and everything goes to hell.

As crossovers are a key part of the horror genre, going as far back as Frankenstein meets the Wolfman (and if you want to get all literate, Enkidu and Grendel), so mixing these two destroyers of evil is a lot of fun.  Both characters normally work as lone wolves, so to see them together is a kind of fun game of one-upmanship which is both charming and fun.

Yes the story can get quite graphic and gruesome, but it keeps the flavour of both series, and works well as a kind of capstone to Hack/Slash.

A lot of fun!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Eleven - Mimic (Director's Cut)

Although it's not my favourite of his films, the first horror film by Guillermo del Toro I ever saw was the 1997 film Mimic. The film focuses on two scientists who introduce a genetically modified cockroach to New York City to cure an epidemic causing deaths among children. Three years later, the introduction of these cockroaches end up having a terrifying effect.

At the time my wife and I saw the original film, our complaints were "It was too dark", but the imagery really stuck with me, so year's later, when I heard a director's cut was coming out, I was pretty interested in seeing the differences.

For starters, the movie is much brighter than I recall it, with vivid blues and oranges visible throughout the film. Considering the film is largely a B-Movie monster movie, I would still consider it a worthwhile experience for horror movie fans. It's definitely flawed in a number of spots, but the commentary track and other assorted features give an excellent discussion on how mixing an independent director together with a studio can go wrong (especially early in the director's career).

The film does have a lot of neat visuals going for it, and as a big del Toro fan myself, I consider it a well worth addition to my collection, but if you're interested in monster movies, there are other pictures I'd recommend seeing instead.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Ten - Fatale

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillip's Fatale is pretty much a comic that fits very nicely in the space between Horror and Crime(specifically Cosmic Horror and Film Noir), and unlike the rest of the titles in The Hoard, this one I've actually read before.

But back when I read it (for a book club), the series hadn't finished yet, so although I knew how the story ended, I was unaware of how it finished.

The series focuses on a woman named Josephine, or "Jo" and as with the portrayal of the traditional femme fatale archetype, Jo has the ability to ensnare men with her charms.  Unlike the traditional character however, Jo's abilities are extreme, largely uncontrollable, and come from a very dark origin.

As with many film noire stories, Fatale is largely told from the point of view of the men in Jo's life, which allow the reader to slowly, but surely put together a picture of this woman for themselves.

The pairing of crime fiction with Lovecraftian horror is pretty ingenious, as it allows the reader to see a world running parallel to our own, and one that is frankly terrifying.

I first read Brubaker during his run on Gotham Central, a police procedural comic which takes place in Batman's Gotham City, but focusing on the day-to-day operations of a police department.

Fatale is a really great read, and one I've been happy to have in my collection for a few years now.  As I've now finished the series, I've got to say it's definitely earned it's place and won't be leaving anytime soon.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Nine – Year’s Best Horror Series One

All right, I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a great short story, and when it comes to horror, short stories are often the best at delivering the scares, so when I first found a copy of DAW’s Year’s Best Horror volume eight at a used bookstore, I knew I would be adding the series to my ongoing collection.

Over the years I’ve collected eight of the twenty-two volumes published between 1972 and 1994, and although I don’t have the complete run yet, I did manage to find volume one last year and decided this month would be a good one to decide whether or not the series is worth collecting.

Short answer, absolutely.

Long answer, Year's Best Horror Stories: Series One (although missing some of my favourite parts of a good anthology – like an introduction, or bios on the author) collects a number of a pretty great horror fiction from 1972 (a year before Stephen King's first novel, Carrie, was published). The collection includes works by Robert Bloch (Psycho), Richard Matheson (I Am Legend), and Brian Lumley (Necroscope), along with a lot of others. The standouts for me were Matheson's "Prey" wherein a young woman purchases a gift for her boyfriend that moves from curious to terrifying in one night, "Warp" by Ralph Norton, which moves nicely into the Science Fiction/Horror crossover work I find so good in shows like Rick & Morty, and "After Nightfall" by David A. Riley, a Lovecraft-influenced story which looks into why you should always pay attention to local culture.

The book is short, a lot of fun, and definitely going to lead me to finding more of this series.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Eight - The Quiet Ones

I'm a little embarrassed to say that as a long term horror fan, it took me almost until I was twenty-five to see my first Hammer Horror film. Hammer Films, a production company out of the UK is most well-known for making a series of Gothic horror films from the '50s through the '70s featuring Dracula, Frankenstein, and other assorted monsters, in films like House of Dracula, Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, and The Mummy. These reinterpretations of the Universal monster movies of the '30s and '40s are all well worth the watch, and if you happen to catch one of the many directed by Terence Fisher, you are in for a real treat.

Although Hammer continued to produce stories into the 90s, it wasn't until 2010 that they began working in feature films again, with movies like The Woman in Black, Let Me In, and today's pick The Quiet Ones, once again working to create a brand in horror.

The Quiet Ones takes place in Britain in 1974 and follows a university experiment led by Professor Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris) who, along with a team of three students, attempt to cause a psychic manifestation from a young woman named Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke). In my opinion the two leads are the best part about the film, as the professor works as leader, father figure, and mad scientist, while the focus of the experiment, Jane, effectively straddles the line of victim or manipulator through the majority of the film. In addition the film has a fun use of the camera-as-viewer, as one of the main characters has been brought in to document the experiments, about 50% of the footage seen comes from his camera.

Where the film lost me was it's reliance on obvious tropes (pretty much the entire third act had little to no surprises for me), and an unfortunate use of CGI in the film looked fairly ridiculous - and was also fairly unnecessary - over the summer I've been watching the web series Marble Hornets which uses video film tracking errors and distortion to a much greater effect than the CGI in this film.

It was a pretty good horror movie, but no, I won't be keeping it.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Seven - Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Ok, so back in 2013 I started collecting my first Archie comic in about thirty years, Afterlife with Archie. The comic, written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and with art done by Fansesco Francavilla, takes the familiar characters from the small town of Riverdale and throws them into a full-blown zombie apocalypse. The art was great, the story significantly more emotional than I was expecting, and the the throwaway lines and references to the horror genre ensured this comic would be immediately addd to my ongoing comic collection.

Then a year later a spinoff was announced, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which would follow the teenaged witch into her own horror-themed story. As Sabrina makes only one small (but crucial) appearance in the first collection of Afterlife with Archie comics, I wasn't sure at first if the new series would be a companion series or start something new all its own.

Then, as with virtually every title I've been enjoying this month, I dutifully collected each issue as it came out, stuck it in my "to be read" folder, and ignored the entire collection until last month when I began putting this theme month together for my blog.

The series, written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa with art by Robert Hack, follows Sabrina through her teen years during the 1960s. Other than being part of the Archie Horror imprint, it has no connection with Afterlife with Archie, and feel a lot like the devil-focused witch movies brought out by Hammer Horror in the 60s.

The stories largely focus on Sabrina's backstory, as well as that of her nemeis, and like Afterlife with Archie, includes cameos by original Sabrina characters but shown in a very different light. The overall story is really quite eerie, and does, at times, get fairly gruesome.

Definitely not for kids, but if you grew up reading Sabrina, or (like me) are even vaguely familiar with the character, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a title well worth a look.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Six - Book of Blood

Following my viewing of The Midnight Meat Train, I was looking forward to the other longest-held item in my "to be viewed" collection, the 2009 film Book of Blood, based, strangely enough on the framing narrative of Clive Barker's Books of Blood collection of short stories, "The Book of Blood" and "On Jerusalem Street (a postscript)". As these two stories offer an excellent way to view enter and exit the entire collection, they seemed a strange duo to turn into a film, but, as a long-time fan of Clive Barker's work, it certainly got me interested.

The film follows a young man named Simon McNeal (played by Jonas Armstrong) as a young medium hired by a paranormal researcher to investigate a haunted house. Unlike the original work, which, like The Midnight Meat Train,is quite short, the film expands the original story to include background on the researcher, Mary Florescu (Sophie Ward), and her own relationship with the events in a haunted house.

Overall the film does a good job with scares and like The Midnight Meat Train, is pretty gruesome, but it falls to the same problem as the previous adaptation, in that I feel it would have done better as a short film. This isn't to say every short story must be made into a short film, as stories from the same collection were made into the films Candyman and Lord of Illusions, both great films on their own, and adaptations which brought more to the original story. I just felt that these two stories in particular, would have been served better in a shorter (perhaps televised) format.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Bookmonkey vs the Hoard: Post Five - Outcast

One of the titles I've been meaning to get around to the most in the hoard is Robert Kirkman's Outcast. This demonic possession story, written by the fellow who came up with both Incredible and The Walking Dead, has had me intrigued since I first heard about it back in 2014. The fact that a TV adaption began earlier this year just added to my interest, but as I've been on a Marvel kick as of late, I just couldn't seem to find the time.

Having now read the first two collections, A Darkness Surrounds Him, and A Vast and Unending Ruin, I've got to say I'm pretty impressed, and really creeped out. The series follows a young man named Kyle Barnes, who has twice had his life interrupted by demonic possession, first his mother during his childhood, and later his wife.

The series opens with a small family seeing the first occurrence of a possession, and then quickly moves into the troubled life of Kyle Barnes, a man desperately trying to make his way through the world day-by-day, and who seems almost completely disassociated with everyone and everything around him. The story follows Kyle as he joins a local Reverend to help in an exorcism, and then moves into an area of demoic possession fiction I don't think I've every come across before. What if the possession was real, but the exorcism only partly worked?

This series was incredibly immersive and had me pulling for Kyle and desperately trying to understand his new world. An excellent read, and one I hope to continue very soon.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Four - The Midnight Meat Train

One of the first horror authors I actively began to collect in life was Clive Barker.  As a younger teen I saw both Hellraiser and Nightbreed, and somewhere in my teens I happened across the first of his short stories series The Books of Blood, and as the price was right, I snapped it up.

The very first story (after the framing story), was "The Midnight Meat Train", a twenty-page journey into one of the most terrifying concepts I had every come across.  It follows a man named Leon who happens to see something while riding on a train, something horrifying, methodical, and something that sees him back.

The story began my interest in collecting the works of Clive Barker, and over the years I've built up a pretty decent collection of his writing, so when I found they had made a film adaptation of "The Midnight Meat Train" I knew I'd have to check it out.

Due to the short nature of the story, the movie fleshes out the narrative, changing the main character from an everyman into a photographer, he's given a girlfriend, a job, and a goal - to see the reality of New York City.

The film works fairly well, but honestly, I think the story works if told quickly - an introduction to the horror that is about to be read by the reader.  In the end it wasn't a keeper, but an interesting adaptation of one of the most startlingly horrifying stories I read in my youth.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Three - Revival

I've been a fan of Tim Seeley's work since i first checked out his horror movie-themed series Hack/Slash in 2011 and after spending a month in 2013 reading my way through that entire title, I began collecting his latest series, a Rural Noir called Revival, written by Seeley, and illustrated by Mike Norton. As often happens with collections, I ended up with five of these before I got around to reading any past the first volume, and that brings us up-to-date.

This week, I went through the first five collections and this series is pretty darn great. Having been a long-time fan of Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead (whether in original comic, adapted television show, or even video game form), I wasn't exactly sure if I wanted to start another comic about the dead rising, but Revival is something entirely different.

Taking place in a fictionalized version of Seeley's hometown of Wausau Wisconsin, the story focuses on police officer Dana Cypress and the events set after "Revival Day", when the dead rose in the area surrounding the town, not as zombies, but apparently as themselves, and (mostly) wanting to get on with the business of living. The series works as a mystery, both on the large scale, as no one know why this specific geographical area has been effected, and on the small scale, involving murders, kidnappings and the types of crimes than can happen in a small town cut off from the rest of the world (Wausau is quickly put under quarantine by the United States Government).

Although the series does have a large number of truly gruesome scenes, much of the story is driven by family drama, Dana works with her father (the town's Sheriff), has a younger sister in college, and an eight-year-old son, each of which has their own secrets and story lines.

A really great series, and one I'm quite happy to have finally gotten around to reading!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Bookmonkey vs. the Hoard: Post 2 - Deathgasm

I begin my attack on the Hoard by grabbing my next-to-most recent catch, a 2015 New Zealand Coming of Age Demonic Horror Comedy.

Ok, I'll be the first to admit this movie was not a hard sell for me - I've been a long-time fan of the horror genre, I'm a big fan of New Zealand Cinema, and the Heavy Metal theme to the film directly connects me to my teen years (ok, it actually connects me to the cool kids I spent my teen years wishing I could hang out with while I spent all of my time reading).

The 2015 film Deathgasm follows Brodie, a young metalhead who has recently moved in with his aunt and uncle, as he starts over as a new kid in school, making friends and even starting a band. Then he maybe sort of summons a demon, and things start to go very bad...

The film works in many ways like last year's Scouts Guide to the Apocalypse, four young men (and a young woman) end up fighting their way through a town in some pretty gruesome ways, while trying to save the world. The film strongly connected with my inner teen, and actually did a pretty great job of describing the appeal of metal music to the uninitiated.

The film was produced after winning the 2013 Make My Horror Movie contest in New Zealand, and although it has some weaknesses to it, the film is so filled with high energy and obvious love of the genre, that it's well worth a watch for horror fans.

In the end, although it's not a film I'll end up keeping, it was a lot of fun, and definitely has me looking forward to rewatching it's Canadian equivalent, Todd and the Book of Pure Evil.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Bookmonkey vs. the Hoard: Post 1

As with many journeys, my blog this October began with a simple step. For the last year I've been excited for the day Ash vs the Evil Dead became available on DVD, and about a month ago it finally did! Snapping it up as quickly as I found it, I brought it home and prepared to watch the latest in one of my very favourite horror franchises, but then my wife hit me with a pretty good piece of logic.

You know, there's a lot of horror-themed things you've had around the house for a while now and haven't watched/read/played yet. How about you try some of them first?

And you know what? She was totally right.

So I went though my house collecting every horror-themed product I had purchased (or received as a gift) and hadn't got around to enjoying yet and realized something.

This is my October blog theme.

So here we go, a month cleaning up a pretty significant backlog of stuff, including comics, games, short stories, and films.

Welcome to Bookmonkey vs. the Hoard.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

This October, on Wisdom of Bookmonkey

Hi Everyone,

It's that time of year again, where I take a topic in the Horror genre and dig deep down for an entire month worth of posts.

Next month, however, the topic is going to be a little different.

For years now I've been collecting horror comics, novels, movies, and games I've been meaning to get around to, and just haven't touched. But two weeks ago I got a really great piece of incentive - the first season of Starz's Ash vs Evil Dead, and I really REALLY want to check it out.

So here's what I'm gonna do next month - I'm going to dig up all those books, games and movies I've been meaning to get around to and check them out, earning myself one episode of the TV series per item, getting to see my new series and at the same time, doing a pretty big cleanup on a backlog of horror I've been meaning to clean up for a while now.

So get ready, because in two week's time, we begin

Bookmonkey vs. The Hoard.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Book Review: A Head Full of Ghosts

Earlier this year Paul Tremblay's A Head Full of Ghosts won the Bram Stoker award for Best Novel, a fact that added it immediately to my reading list. Having just finished it, I'm happy to say this continues the trend of excellent horror novels I've read this year, following works by Stephen King, Joe Hill, Justin Cronin and Grady Hendrix.

Like Hendrix's My Best Friend's Exorcism, Tremblay's work deals with the possession of a young girl, but then moves into a Rashomon-like narrative, following the story of 14-year-old Marjorie Barrett, told from the point of view of her sister Meredith at age twenty-three (talking with an investigator), age eight (when the possession occurred), and from the point of view of a young blogger obsessed with Possessed, a reality show that ran for six episodes and focused on the events at the time.

The novel looks deeply at the life of a troubled family, how reality TV (and fame associated with it) is not a solution but instead something worse for the family, and how in many ways these two young girls are forced to perform to the camera, making better TV, but at an incredibly steep cost.

As horror the book worked incredibly well, comparing it to Hendrix's work, which in many ways is a love-letter to childhood friendships, A Head Full of Ghosts ends up leading you to some very dark places, places that move from a sense of investigation to one of exploitation and eventually horror. In the end I was incredibly impressed with the novel and will likely add it to my own collection.

A really good read.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Book Review: Creation

Although I can see why my ninth book of historical fiction focusing on Ancient Greece was included on the list, Gore Vidal's 1980 novel Creation would better be described as a novel of the Ancient World. Our main character, Cyrus Spitama, a half-Greek grandson of Zoroaster, is a Persian diplomat who, over his lifetime, travels across Persia, India and China, and ends up a diplomat in Greece. During his life he interacts with his grandfather (the founder of Zoroastrianism), Xerxes the Great, The Buddha, Mahavira, Confucius, Lao Tsu, and (from the protagonists point of view) a young Socrates.

As virtually everyone on that list founded various religions or schools of thought, the book can be viewed as an introduction to religion in the ancient world, and although it does function a little closer to a travelogue than a traditional novel, it was still a pretty fascinating read. Having been raised on stories of the great Greek victories at Marathon and Salamis, the chance to see the same stories from a Persian point of view was quite interesting and a good reminder to issues of bias in our collective history.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Book Review: Godmother Night

So it's no secret here that I'm a pretty big follower of various lists when it comes to reading; even at the rate I read books some sort of filter is required for selection or I'd end up trying it alphabetically.

As one of my favourite types of lists are award winners (Hugo, World Fantasy, Stoker, etc.), many of these books are available at my local library, but every once in a while I'll have a title sitting on my to read list for years while I attempt to track down a copy.

Case in point: Rachel Pollack's Godmother Night (1996), which has been on my used-bookstore list for over a decade; I've looked for this book in Alberta, Nevada, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, to no avail. Then last month I figured I'd try out my local library's Inter-Library Loan service and my book showed up a few weeks later (sorry for the anticlimactic anecdote).

Godmother Night asks the question (sorry for the mild twenty-year-old spoiler) of how well would the personification of death do as a Godparent. The story follows two young women, and later their daughter through their lives as Mother Night (their world's version of Death) becomes directly involved in a young girl's life.

The story works best as a grown-up fairy tale (and yes, there are some very grown-up scenes in the book), and works as a series of vignettes focusing on two generations of a family and their loves, lives and deaths. A really fascinating book and one I was glad to finally check out!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Book Review: Seven Wild Sisters

So this month, the book I read had one of my favourite authors (Charles de Lint) team up with one of my favourite illustrators (Charles Vess), for a modern fairytale called Seven Wild Sisters (2002).

The novel follows seven sisters and their dog, who begin a day with chores and end with a war between fairies, including a creature called The Apple Tree Man and features challenges, music, and adventure. The book was simply a delight start to finish.

I'd first come across Charles Vess (who you can see more of at his website, Welcome to Green Man Press ) in Neil Gaiman's Sandman, as well as in the superb Stardust, so when I heard he had collaborated with Charles de Lint for this title, I was really excited to check it out.

The main story focuses on a young woman named Sarah Jane, who begins a cautious friendship with a backwoods wise woman known simply known as Aunt Lillian, that begins with chores and ends with a dangerous journey into another world.

A wonderful book and well worth the read.