Chad’s Top Reads From 2017
This has been a busy year of books for me. Kicking things into high gear in order to finish my project on Stephen King has led to a grand total in the neighborhood of a hundred and eighty books. With this number in mind, even considering that many of those books were quite short, I feared it would prove to be too daunting of a task to choose a handful from such great work.
Still, just because a decision is hard doesn’t mean that we should shy away from it. After all, the artists who really went above and beyond in order to produce great work deserve recognition.
So, with that said, on with the show.
What Good Girls Do
I’m not sure if a book has ever affected me as much as this. And if that isn’t warning enough, this book should not be taken on lightly. This story is dark. It’s disturbing. It’s graphic. It’s unexpected, unyielding and tragic.
The structure of the narrative is brilliant, jumping back and forth between the two primary characters. This device is nothing new but the stark difference between the two voices drove the story to a level of greatness. More often than not, characters in a book just end up being varied articulations of the author’s own voice. The brilliance of this book is that you feel like you are visiting with two wildly different, fully formed individuals.
The magnificent reality of this book is that it forces you to confront the possibility that, while there are horrific deeds, with the exception of a few background characters, there might not be any monsters in this book.
I Was Jack The Ripper
Historical fiction is hard to pull off and do it well. It isn’t enough to throw in a few “thee”s and “thou”s, maybe with a reference to a horse and buggy. It’s a fine line but it’s the difference between reading something that feels like it is in the period in question and the stuff that just feels like the literary equivalent of cosplay.
Jack The Ripper is one of the most infamous criminal cases in history and Michael Bray’s investment in the subject is clear in the book he produced. My favorite aspect of this book was how he took various theories that have been proposed over the year and used them to create a fascinating version of Jack The Ripper as a character.
This is fiction, obviously. But it’s still very entertaining. And again, take caution when reading this. There are a number of scenes of a highly graphic and disturbing nature.
**EDITOR’S NOTE – Keep an eye on this space for a more extensive review of I Was Jack The Ripper as well as an exclusive interview with author, Michael Bray.
Whenever I hear about the idea of a modern retelling of Shakespeare, it’s hard to take it too seriously. Often, I feel like authors are name-dropping in order to trick an entire fan base to come in through the door.
Despite that misgiving, this is a great story. Inspired by Titus Andronicus, this starts fast and only manages to pick up the pace and the impact. And just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, you’re proven horribly wrong.
While definitely disturbing, especially towards the end, the texture and depth to the characters drew me through in fine form.
And while I was dismayed to see that one of the more reprehensible characters in this is named Chad, I suppose I can forgive Flowers. All in the course of a good book.
Naming The Bones
I’ve ridden on the London Underground a number of times as well as the Paris Metro. Being down on those station platforms can be either a cluster of massive crowds or it can be a haunted ledge, peeking out into the dark and waiting for what train will come. It’s the perfect breeding ground for fantastic horror atmosphere so I was pretty much sold on this book as soon as I read the description.
Laura’s prose is firing on all cylinders here. On one hand, she tells a fantastic narrative of a character who has been haunted and plagued by a traumatic event. Having also read a short story of hers from the Black Room Manuscripts, I have found that she excels at putting human emotional depth onto the page, not an easy task, especially for a shorter story length. She also infuses this with a fantastic amount of dark underpinnings to the world of this tale. The description is spot on. The pace of the narrative and the characters driving the story are top notch. And what I really appreciated is that there wasn’t an effort made to overly explain or justify the supernatural elements of the story. Speaking personally, I find it more frightening and effective to be dropped into the nightmare of the experience, rather than to be given a narrative roadmap.
So yourself favor and check out this book. It’s the kind of a story that is built around elements that will feel familiar but at the same time by an author that makes it uniquely hers.
Forest Underground is a stunning debut from an author who we all should be paying close attention to in the years to come. The prose is tight and the characters shine. The mystery and intrigue of the book is powerful and the twists are effective without being overstated in a way that can become cliche.
This is a great example of a story in which you can never really trust who you are listening to and where your information is coming from. Is this simply a story about a traumatized character who has suppressed some horrible memory from her past? Or is there something darker and more sinister going on?
There is an element of fairy tales to this story but done in a way that is much more fresh and original than we have gotten over the years. In the landscape follolwing Once Upon A Time and the various cinematic re-imaginings of the classics, the notion of taking a dark spin on a fairy tale has been somewhat eye-roll producing for me. But this story, like the twists in the plot, takes the approach of winking at the references and allusions without smacking you over the head with an Acme brand anvil.
This novella is truly one of a kind, originally conceived and brutal as it is beautifully written. Lydian Faust has easily made the leap onto my “must-buy” list of authors.
A Tear In The Veil
Every now and then, you get to read a book that is so unique, it becomes something that only that author could ever produce. A book with so much depth and so many clues and hints and winks that you could turn around and start over upon finishing, reading the book again and again, each time getting a whole new experience.
I was drawn in by how intriguing the description of the story was. What kept me in was how the narrative continued to surprise me and keep me on my toes. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said it, I think I would have to read this several times before I really felt like I was on top of it.
I also loved how dynamic the setting was. I’ve never been to San Francisco in my life but having read this book, I almost feel like I have. The use of the city is quite vivid in its description and I thought it added great texture to an already great book.
If you’re willing to be taken on a ride, take the keys and give this one a go.
Jasper Bark definitely has a knack for taking a story that is crazy bananas and bringing it down to a level that is engaging and captivating. This is a story that is steeped in the atmosphere of folklore and mythology, of the mysteriously supernatural history of a small town.
I was most captivated by the structure of the story, mostly because there was no rational reason why it should have worked. there were so many flashbacks, it was almost like I was reading the story in reverse. But somehow, this nested doll method of telling the story manages to work. More often than not, I would have likely given up on a story like this but Jasper’s prose and story building kept me interested and it all wound back to a conclusion that was powerful and gripping.
The Dark Roads
This was a phenomenal apocalyptic tale with an impressive level of attention to technical detail. I don’t think I have ever read anything that dealt so thoroughly with the practical realities of living in an environmentally ravaged planet. It was the perfect mixture of technical detail and real human experience.
Anyone can write a book set on a devastated landscape. It takes skill on an entire different level to actually think about what the experience of living on that landscape would be like. Lemmons actually forces us to confront this space and live with it for the course of the entire book. I, for one am glad I made the journey.
Favorite Short Story Collection
Things We Leave Behind
I was definitely impressed with this collection. I don’t want that to sound like I was surprised as I have been a fan of both Mark West as well as Dark Minds Press for some time now. Still, this was a really fun read and the stories were varied in a satisfying way but while still maintaining some common atmosphere and emotions.
If there is anything I have learned about Mark’s style is that looking across the board at works like Drive or The Factory, he is a master of establishing genuinely creepy atmosphere. Whether he is writing about monsters of a human or supernatural nature, he manages to infuse his stories with a sense of dread that is somehow both foreboding and beautiful. The craft and storytelling in this book is outstanding. Often I find collections to be somewhat of an emotional slog, having to transition so quickly from one story to the next. When it is done right, however, I rarely feel this way and in this case it was definitely done right.
Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page