Thursday, October 18, 2007

Baltimore, or, the Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire

Baltimore, or, the Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden (2007, Bantam Books)

Acclaimed writer and artist Mike Mignola (Hellboy) teams up with prolific horror and supernatural fiction author Christopher Golden for this wonderfully original vampire tale.

Set at the end of World War I, Baltimore is the story of three strangers, united only by their mutual acquaintance with Lord Henry Baltimore: a surgeon, a sailor, and an aristocrat. The men are summoned to an inn, and they spin their personal tales of terror to one another as they await the arrival of Baltimore himself.

Inspired heavily by Hans Christian Anderson’s The Steadfast Tin Soldier, Baltimore is a well-crafted allegory of the long-term futility of war and the dehumanization that can come those who are in the trenches. The various stories that make up the books are excellently layered inside of other stories, and are tinged with an ample amount of Lovecraftian eeriness. Mignola also contributes numerous monochromatic illustrations to the story, enhancing the feel of the story.

Baltimore is a must-read for any fans of great horror tales, and a great way to wind up to the impending Halloween season.

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Author's Website

Sunday, October 14, 2007

30 Days of Night

30 Days of Night by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith (2003, IDW Publishing)

Niles' and Templesmith's 30 Days of Night series of graphic novels eschews the romantic view of the vampire made popular largely by Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles series, and brings them back to what they were for generations before: monsters. There is no doubt that the bloodsuckers of this series are anything other than evil.

30 Days is set in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost settlement in the United States, where the sun stays up for 30 days out of the year, and down for another 30. Something evil is coming to the sleepy little town, though. Something with sharp teeth and a hunger for blood and flesh...

Niles' quick and terse story is complimented by Templesmith's horrific and somewhat vague art. 30 Days of Night is exactly what any horror story should be: fast, bloody, and frighteningly disorienting. With the impending release of the film version of 30 Days of Night, you'll want to rush out and (ahem) sink your teeth into this one.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Author's Website
Illustrator's Website

The Book of Joby

The Book of Joby by Mark J. Ferrari (2007, Tor Books)

Freelance illustrator Mark J. Ferrari makes his fiction debut with The Book of Joby, a hugely ambitious epic of modern fantasy. By turns hillarious and tear-jerking, the story mixes Arthurian legend with ages-old mythological archetypes (coming of age, the harrowing of hell, e.g.), reincarnation, and the religious philosophical debate of free will versus predestination.

God and the devil make the same pact they have made countless times before: will God's chosen champion renounce Him and turn to evil when all hope seems lost? This time, however, the stakes are nothing short of the entirety of creation. So it is that nine year old Joby Peterson is unknowingly chosen. The story follows Joby as his life becomes a never-ending cycle of crushing and tragic mediocracy.

The Book of Joby is a well-crafted example of modern fantasy, and an utterly absorbing read filled with well-imagined sympathetic and unsympathetic characters. Keep Ferrari's name on your list of new authors to watch for.

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Author's Website

The Other Side of Silence

The Other Side of Silence by Natasha Mostert (2001, Hodder and Stoughton)

Natasha Mostert's books are wonderfully-woven tales of mixed psychological and supernatural suspense, and her second novel is no exception. The Other Side of Silence is the story of Tia Theron, a university professor in Johannesburg, and how she becomes embroilled in a plot to change the face of music, and possibly the face of humanity, forever. It's a little like Darwin's Radio meets Wuthering Heights with a techno soundtrack.

Like Mostert's other works, this book is filled with tension, obsession, and an almost cloying gothic atmosphere. The subject matter in this novel is a bit esoteric for the average reader, as the storyline centers around sound and scale theory as well as the idea of decentralized information processing, and is set in South Africa. Mostert, however, does a commendable job in giving enough background information that most readers won't feel completely lost. Her portrayal of Johannesburg, in particular, is on par with any of Gibson's gritty near-future cities.

While there are a couple of small and inconsequential inconsistancies, The Other Side of Silence is a gripping read.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Author's Website