Tara Calaby

writer, editor & phd candidate

Category: Horror

Review: The Fog (James Herbert)

The Fog book cover
James Herbert, The Fog (New English Library, 1975)

Category: Adult Fiction: Horror: Non-Supernatural

Setting: 1970s  South England and London

Keywords: Biological Weaponry; Epidemics; Madness

In Brief: A fast-paced and entertaining read, with high stakes and high-level violence obscuring a rather bland cast of characters.

Plot: A fog causes a mass outbreak of extreme violence.

Protagonist: Male, lower-middle-aged public servant, surprisingly adept in the action hero role.

Female Characters: Very few. Only two continuing characters, neither much more than an outline of “naïve young love interest” or “doctor”. Apart from the doctor, everyone doing anything remotely useful in here is male.

Diverse Characters: A gay man and a lesbian are in here briefly; homosexuality is not depicted well. Cast is almost entirely white.

(content warnings beneath the cut)

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Review: The Dark

Title: The Dark

Author: James Herbert

Read: 10th – 15th June, 2020

Published: 1980

Setting: London, England / the near future

Key Words:

  • good vs evil
  • science vs paranormal
  • philosophical
  • extreme violence
  • human nature
  • life after death

Thoughts:

  • strong building tension
  • genuine high stakes
  • interesting concept
  • forgettable characters
  • abrupt ending

(content warnings under the cut)

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Review: Night of the Werecat – Katherine Lance

Night of the Werecat coverNight of the Werecat is a quick, easy read that conforms perfectly to the chapter story rule of having a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter. It’s amazing that Wendy, its protagonist, survived so many shocks to the system!

The writing here is of an appropriate level for the age group most likely to read the series and young cat lovers in particular will love the premise. Wendy is a little over the top when it comes to her cat obsession, but no more so than many primary school-aged children are with their own interests. (We won’t go into my horse obsession here…) The plot is a fun twist on the standard “cursed object” storyline and readers should enjoy the idea of werecats replacing werewolves. I do, however, question whether Wendy and her best friend are appropriately depicted as eleven and twelve-year-olds. They read as being several years younger, which would fit in nicely with the age group of the book’s audience.

A light read for children who enjoy paranormal elements without much true horror.

Review: The Nightmare Within – Glen Krisch

The Nightmare Within book coverSince childhood, Maury Bennett has had the ability to pull nightmares out of a dreamer’s mind and into the real world, in corporeal form. Together with businessman Gage, he opens Lucidity, a museum dedicated to displaying these dreams for the public to view. However, their biggest drawcard, Mr. Freakshow, the nightmare of a traumatised young boy, proves to be a dangerous exhibit…

With The Nightmare Within, Glen Krish shows the world what good indie publishing is all about, offering a tightly written horror novel that holds its own against the works of big name authors such as King, Koontz and Herbert. Fast-paced from beginning to end, it skilfully juggles the stories of multiple characters whose lives eventually intertwine, and provides genuine moments of violence, repulsion and sadness. It is the sign of a well-characterised horror book when the reader is dismayed by the death of a member of the ensemble cast, and I experienced such an emotion twice while buried in The Nightmare Within‘s e-pages.

While the novel is written using the perspectives of many characters, those that dominate the book are Maury, Kevin and, to a lesser extent, Gage. The latter is a highly sympathetic character. Devoted to his comatose daughter, it would be difficult not to hope that he will receive the substitute that he desires. The other two, however, are particularly well-drawn and developed.

When he chose to focus on a young boy as one of his major characters, Krish took the risk that he might alienate readers by either rendering Kevin as being unrealistically mature for his age or too young to be interesting. Instead, however, he capably shows the movement of Kevin from a naïve innocent to a battle-hardened survivor due to the trauma he experiences. Kevin’s motivations are appropriate and his actions in keeping with those of a boy of his age, but the forced coming-of-age that is engendered by the novel’s events enables him to remain of interest to Krish’s adult audience.

Maury, on the other hand, is something of an antihero. While sympathetic, he is not likeable. The reader is quickly introduced to his bad deeds, and he is presented as a man who has difficulty with many human interactions. I didn’t much care for Maury as a person, but very much enjoyed him as a character. Life is rarely about the extremes of good and bad, or innocent and guilty, and it’s always good when novels follow suit.

The Nightmare Within is a strong addition to the horror genre, with a good mix of character development, action and destruction. In a way, it’s a pity that it is currently only available as an e-book. It would fit very nicely into my horror bookshelf – perhaps somewhere near the earlier writings of Dean Koontz.

Warning: There are brief references to animal cruelty in the beginning of the book.

(I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

Review: The Lake, Richard Laymon

This is one of three books published after Richard Laymon’s death. The other two (The Glory Bus and, to a lesser extent, Amara) are worthy of being saved from his unpublished manuscript pile. In my opinion, The Lake is not.

This is a dreadful book. It’s disjointed, confusing, clichéd, uninteresting and just plain bad. It feels like the roughest of rough drafts, but one that was discarded for being too bad to bother editing. Possibly, had a ghost writer been brought in to whip the bare bones into shape, a decent novel could have been dug out of this mess. Possibly.

The fact that the action is largely set in the 80s, with flashbacks to the 1960s, points to the possibility that this was a manuscript that had been discarded a couple of decades before it was eventually published. It should have remained discarded.

I have read many Richard Laymon books. This is the only one I haven’t loved. It’s also the only one I downright disliked. Laymon’s legacy should never have been tainted with this book.

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