Kill for Satan – Bryan Smith

42304587._SY475_.jpg

Kill for Satan – Bryan Smith

Grindhouse Press – 2018

I saw the cover of this book roughly a year ago and knew I’d have to read it. It’s about a bunch of people killing a bunch of other people. Oh, and they’re doing so for Satan.

Kill for Satan only came out in 2018, and it features a lot of pop culture references that made me realise how little modern horror I actually read. I was a bit bothered by the repeated allusions to one of the character’s Cradle of Filth tshirt (Jesus Christ, that band are shit.), but I liked the part when one of the characters is researching Satanism and discovers “modern so-called “Satanic” groups that don’t actually believe in the existence of any demonic evil entity ” who “use Satan as a provocative and subversive means of delivering progressive messages. They are social activists, not true devotees of the dark path.” Haha, I wonder who he’s reading about.

Really though, aside from all of the killing for Satan, there’s not much else going on in this book. It reminded me of a more straightforward version of William Johnstone’s The Nursery. In a way that’s a good thing; Johnstone’s book was a mess, but I found the plot of Kill for Satan to be a bit underwhelming.

Bryan Smith seems to specialise in Splatterpunk, and this book, like some of the others within that genre, was just a bit too straightforward for me to really enjoy. Kill for Satan felt a bit more like reading the screenplay for an extended death metal music video than it did a novel. Smith’s writing is decent – I was never bored, but personally, I would have enjoyed a bit more plot/character development – maybe a little less killing and a little more Satan.

There is one particularly memorable scene in which a mother says to her child, “I’m sorry, sweetie. I do love you. But I love Satan more.” Yikes. You can probably guess what happens next. If this sounds good to you, if you’re looking for a straight up bloodbath of mindless, brutal violence, this book will not disappoint.

 

My Work Is Not Yet Done – Thomas Ligotti

My Work is Not Yet Done ligotti.jpgMy Work is Not Yet Done – Thomas Ligotti
2002 – Virgin

I read a lot of books, but in truth, there are relatively few authors whose books I savour. I actually hold off on reading Thomas Ligotti because I don’t want the day to come when I have already read all of his books. His low opinion of humanity is both tragically hilarious and brutal, and while I don’t necessarily share the outlook of the narrators of his stories, I find his pessimism the perfect vehicle for horror. The message that our existence has no worth is perhaps the most disturbing idea that an author can offer to 21st century humans.

My Work Is Not Yet Done is a novella and two short stories. All of these tales are about workers’ lives as part of a corporation. There’s a very Kafkaesque vibe running throughout, but Ligotti covers the bureaucratic angst with layers of supernatural horror and misanthropy and turns it into something far darker. The first act of the eponymous novella portrays a man who decides to go on a killing spree in his office after he’s unfairly dismissed from his job. I know Stephen King found himself in hot water for writing a novel about a school shooting, so I was impressed that Ligotti had done something so extreme. I won’t tell you what happens later on in the story, but I will say that it’s actually far worse than what you’d expect.

I know full well the misery of working for a company that you hate, and while I’ve only spent a little over a year working in an “office job”, I spent enough of that year fantasizing about murdering my boss to have thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Little things about the book stuck out to me. Characters have stupid names – coworkers are named Sherry, Terry, Mary, and Perry, and detectives are named Black and White. Also, the purpose of the corporations that these characters work is barely discussed – the nature of the work that the characters engage in is almost entirely passed over. Why does Ligotti omit these details? Why doesn’t he put more effort into naming his characters? Because that stuff doesn’t matter. Human beings are entirely interchangeable. You are no different to the people you hate the most. What corporations actually do doesn’t make any difference to their workers. Nothing fucking matters. Every living thing is going to die without having made any noticeable difference in the universe, a universe in which every single atom will eventually decay.

Oh, I forgot to mention that this is the first post of 2020. Happy New Year everyone!

“Generally speaking: Expect nothing but nightmarish obscenities to be born when human heads come together in intercourse.

More generally speaking: Whatever is born will ultimately grow into a nightmarish obscenity – in the grand scheme of things.”

There’s moody nuggets like this sprinkled throughout the book, but the closing lines of My Work Is Not Yet Done sum it all up. I don’t want to quote those here as it might ruin the effect when you do get around to reading it, but fuck me, they’re perfect. Please believe me when I say that this is a novella worth reading.

I’ve also reviewed Ligotti’s Teatro Grottesco and The Conspiracy Against the Human Race if you’re interested. I read Noctuary years ago too, but I haven’t reviewed that one properly yet. There’s a copy of the Penguin edition of Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe on my shelf, but I’m waiting for a special occasion to allow myself the luxury of reading it.

2019, The Year in Review

2019 was the busiest year yet for this blog. There were more posts, words, books and traffic than ever before. (I know I said the same thing last year, but I’ve outdone myself again.) I put a lot of effort in this year, and almost all of my reading was dedicated to this blog. I only managed to read 4 non horror/occult books over the whole year. If you haven’t been paying attention, this post will guide you through what I covered in 2019.

 

 

I read some really cool novels this year. I was so excited to find a cheap copy of Kathe Koja’s The Cipher in a thrift store, and I’m happy to report that it lived up to its reputation. I posted about Edward Lee’s The Bighead right at the beginning of the year, and it was an extremely gross, funny and enjoyable read.  My copy of C.S. Cody’s The Witching Night had been on my shelf for years, but I loved it when I got around to reading it this summer. Bari Wood’s The Tribe also blew me away. There’s no wonder that it was recently rereleased. Flesh by Richard Laymon may not have been a brilliant novel, but I really enjoyed it. I ended the year reading two classics of weird fiction, Fritz Leiber’s Our Lady of Darkness and William Hope Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland. Both of these books were awesome.

 

I did a few short story collections this year too. I was delighted to get my hands on Montague Summer’s long forgotten Ghost Stories. I also really enjoyed rereading Lovecraft’s stuff. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.) In May, I reviewed Teatro Grottesco by Thomas Ligotti. I absolutely adored that book, and I was surprised to see how much traffic that post got. (I also just finished his My Work is Not Yet Done, so expect to see more Ligotti here soon.) In October, I did a lengthy post on the two Splatterpunks anthologies from the 90s. The stories in these were of varying quality, but they did put me onto some cool writers. I actually thought that I had reviewed more short story collections than this when I started writing this paragraph, but that’s because I have spent the last few weeks working through Clive Barker’s Books of Blood. I haven’t finished all 6 yet, so it’ll be another while before they show up here. (Barker is one of the authors that Splatterpunks convinced me to check out.)

 

Of course, this blog isn’t just about fiction, and this year, I got into some very weird esoteric books indeed. The one I was most excited about was Geoff Gilbertson and Anthony Robert’s The Dark Gods. Jesus, that book was mental. (I’m also happy to report that a pdf copy has been uploaded to the internet since my post was published, so you won’t have to go through what I went through to read this very rare and very odd book.) I was also proud to present a review of Robert Eisler’s Man into Wolf, a very peculiar book on lycanthropy. Dr. Alexander James McIvor-Tyndall’s (pre-Nazi) swastika adorned Ghosts: A Message from the Illuminati was another interesting book to track down and read. Allen H. Greenfield’s books on UFOnauts and the secret rituals of the Men in Black are amoungst the strangest I have ever read. I read three (1, 2, 3) dumb books on sex magic over the course of the year, and George Bataille’s book on Gilles De Rais was a very depressing look at that dirty satanist paedophile. On top of H.P.’s fiction, the aforementioned Lovecraft posts all deal with Lovecraftian grimoires too.

 

I also read a bunch of utterly idiotic grimoires that were written by morons. Highlights include Fascination by Master Count de Leon, The Black Grimoire by Angel Zialor and Secrets of the Black Temple by the Red Spider. This shit was DUMB.

 

Finally, I reviewed a little bit of porn in 2019. Satan was a Lesbian and The She-Devils did not live up to their titles, but Ann L. Probe’s Alien Sex series was exactly as good as you’d expect.

We’re soon to enter the twenties, and while this post only looks at the books I’ve reviewed in 2019, this blog has been around for half a decade now. If you’re interested in looking back, you can check my yearly review posts for 2018, 2017, and 2016. (I didn’t do one for my first year.) You can also look through my site’s index for a complete list of the 300+ books that have been reviewed here over the past 5 years. If you enjoy this blog, please share it with like-minded people. You can get updates on twitter or facebook, and I’m always happy to get recommendations for my next review.

I hope you have a great new year!

The House on the Borderland – William Hope Hodgson

house on the borderland william hope hodgson.jpgThe House on the Borderland – William Hope Hodgson
1908

It’s coming close to the end of the year, and I have spent 2019 reading some absolute garbage. After reading and reviewing Fritz Leiber’s awesome Our Lady of Darkness last week, I really wanted to read another cool book. I’ve been meaning to read William Hope Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland for a couple of years, and when I found a free audiobook version last Sunday, I decided the time was right.

This was a very enjoyable piece of weird fiction. It’s about a strange man who lives in an old house in Ireland that seems to exist on the border of different dimensions. I spent the first half of the novel thinking it was basically just Night of the Living Dead with interdimensional pig-mutants instead of zombies, but the second half of the book has more in common with 2001: A Space Odyssey. (I just read Will Errickson’s review of this book and saw that he also made a 2001 comparison. Will, I swear this was coincidence!) There’s little wonder that H.P. Lovecraft was a big fan of this novel; there’s some very definite “the universe doesn’t care about you” vibes throughout.

I read William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki the Ghost Finder stories a little under two years ago, and while I enjoyed them, I seem to remember them being a good deal more straight forward than this. One of those stories also includes evil pigs, and a couple of them are set in Ireland too. I reckon I enjoyed The House on the Borderland more, and I’m planning to read more by Hodgson in the future.

The only problem with reading good books, especially popular ones, is that I find myself at a loss for things to say when reviewing them. This one is cool, short and available for free in multiple formats. You might as well check it out.

Six Ghost Stories – Montague Summers

 

summers six ghost stories.jpgSix Ghost Stories – Montague Summers
Snuggly Books – 2019

A few months ago, I got an email from my pal Sandy Robertson telling me that Snuggly Books were going to release a collection of short fiction by Montague Summers. I have long been aware that Monty had written a collection of short stories, but I knew that only a couple of these stories had ever actually been published and that it was difficult to find affordable copies of the books wherein these tales were collected. I’m a big fan and collector of the occult-related non-fiction books written and translated by Monty, and I am also a big fan of short horror fiction, so you will believe that I was very excited to hear that Monty’s ghost stories were finally being published. I ordered this collection for my birthday and read it last week.

20191130_224224This is the note from Timothy d’Arch Smith’s bibliography of Summers where I first read of these fabled fables.

These six stories lived up to my expectations. They are mostly about people who some acquire some kind of peculiar haunted object that brings about visions and specters. The obvious comparison to make is to M.R. James, who apparently had the chance to read and commend these tales. Incidentally, Montague Summers, the man, has always reminded me of the characters in James’s tales.

The writing in here isn’t what you might expect if you have only read Summers’ books on witchcraft. There’s some very long sentences, but Monty seems self-aware when he’s being verbose, and this comes across as charming rather than tedious. My biggest criticism is probably that the tone of some of these stories remains too light-hearted for too long. Everything will be going fine and dandy for all of the characters, and then a ghost will jump out and scare a person to death right at the very end of the story.

My favourite tale in here was The Grimoire. This one has been previously published in different texts, and it’s not hard to see why it was chosen above the others. It’s the story of a bibliophile whose local dealer procures him an aged book of sinister black magic. When the collector translates a passage from this heinous tome, scary things start happening. (I can’t help but wonder if Sam Raimi read this tale before writing Evil Dead.) This one was particularly cool because it feels like Summers, an expert on books about black magic, could be the narrator.

While not all terribly original, these stories are competent, fun and generally pretty satisfying. I read one each night after my family had gone to bed, sipping a cup of peppermint tea and hearing the cold November breeze blowing through the willow trees our garden. It was great. I suggest you enjoy these tales in a similar manner.

These stories are entertaining in and of themselves, but there’s something very exciting about reading a collection of tales that were believed to be lost for more than half a century. Summers’ old manuscripts went missing shortly after he died in 1948, and they were only unearthed a few years ago. Snuggly Books put out this collection in October (I think this is the only book from 2019 that I’ll have reviewed in 2019.), and they are planning to put out a second volume of Summers’ fiction early next year. This collection will include a novella titled The Bride of Christ. Sign me up!

The Devil on Lammas Night – Susan Howatch

susan howatch the devil on lammas night.jpgThe Devil on Lammas Night -Susan Howatch
Ace Star -1970

A millionaire’s wife and his daughter, Nicola, are seduced by Tristan Poole, the charismatic and mysterious leader of “The Society for the Propagation of Nature Foods”. This society is actually a Satanic cult posing as a harmless group of new-agers, and Poole’s motives for seducing Nicola and her step-mom are less than gentlemanly. Oh, and to complicate matters further, Poole is living in Nicola’s ex-boyfriend’s house.

Things play out pretty much as you would expect.

This is primarily a romance novel. The Satanic antagonist’s main motivation is money, and while there is plenty of black magic in here, the story could still work if this element was switched with something else. That being said, I quite enjoyed the little bits of occultism sprinkled throughout. Howatch seems to have done her homework; the rituals here are documented, and the demons listed are all of the Solomnic tradition. There’s a part where a character shies away from explicitly describing the Osculum Infame and another bit where the author claims that the Satanist performed “unprintable” acts to his communion Eucharist. I knew that witches are supposed to kiss the devil’s shitterhole before reading this book, so I was able to fill in the blanks to the first omission by myself, but I can’t remember what unprintable acts are supposed to be performed on a Satanic Eucharist. Does the celebrant cum on them or rub them against his bumhole or something?

I’m not going to rush out to read Susan Howatch’s other books, but this one was fine.

Hell-O-Ween and The Manse

hell-o-ween the manse halloweenHappy Halloween. To celebrate my favourite holiday, I’m reviewing two Halloween horror novels that have pumpkins on their covers.

david robbins hell-o-weenHell-O-Ween – David Robbins
Leisure Books – 1992

Hell-O-Ween is a remarkably awful book. It starts off with the line; “Yo dweeb, are you ready to go monster hunting?”, and what follows is pretty much what you’d expect. This is an overwritten Goosebumps book with a little violence and a few (gross) mentions of sex thrown in. The following sentence appears n page 23: “She’d neck heavy and let a guy play finger tag with her box, but she refused to go all the way.” This isn’t a line of dialogue either; it’s the narrator’s voice. Finger tag with her box? Jesus.

Hell-O-ween is the story of a nerd, two sluts, 3 jocks (2 bad and 1 good), a geeky girl and a beautiful virgin. These painfully stock characters decide to explore a system of caves on Halloween night. There is a huge picture of an angry demon right at the entrance to the cave, and the astute reader will figure out exactly how the story is going to end after about 10 pages.

Very little happens in here that you wouldn’t expect. Perhaps the most interesting part was a lengthy passage in which one of the jock characters admits to his friend that he started selling cocaine in defiance of his liberal father. I’m sure the author was making a point here, but I can’t figure out what it was. Was it that liberals are irresponsible and can’t raise kids, or was it that non-liberals are piece-of-shit drug dealers? I sincerely don’t know.

This was a gruelling read that I regretted starting almost immediately. Do yourself a favour and give this one a miss.

the manse lisa wThe Manse – Lisa W. Cantrell
TOR – 1987

The Manse won a Stoker award for best 1st novel in 1987. Kathe Koja’s excellent The Cipher won this same award a few years later, so I was expecting a fairly high standard from this book.

I was disappointed, terribly disappointed. This is shockingly dull garbage. It’s the painfully boring story of a haunted house that becomes extra haunted on Halloween night. Actually, Will Erickson reviewed The Manse years ago, and said all of the things I feel like saying about this book. Read his review if you’re still interested. I don’t need to say anything more. Cantrell wrote a sequel, but I’m not going to waste my time on it. The Manse was a shitty, shitty pile of trash. It was poo in a baby’s diaper. Stay away!

 

Both of the books I reviewed for this post absolutely sucked. Actually, pretty much all of the books I reviewed this month absolutely sucked. This week marks a milestone for this blog, and I have a bit of an announcement about that.

For the last year, I have published (at least) one post per week. I have read some great books in the process, but I have also forced myself to read some utter crap to maintain the steady stream of reviews. After some consideration, I have decided that continuing at this pace isn’t really beneficial to me or to this blog. Look at some of the shit I’ve reviewed in the last year.

 

 

Sensible adults don’t read books like these.

Nobody cares about this nonsense, especially me. With this in mind, I want to let you know that I am going to cut back on posts for the next while. I’m going to be focusing on quality rather than quantity for a bit. This probably means 2 posts a month rather than the 5 you’ve been getting for the last year, but at least the newer posts will more than just “This book is pooey farty bumbum.” I want this blog to be something that I enjoy doing rather than something I feel obliged to do.

Have a safe and happy Halloween. Check out my previous Halloween posts while you’re here.