Detection, Memory, and the Uncanny: A Review of Cristina Rivera Garza’s “The Taiga Syndrome”

There are books that get so close to being sublime that plot becomes almost irrelevant. Cristina Rivera Garza’s The Taiga Sydrome has a plot, but it’s exploration of memory, the way it uses language to communicate the ethereal, and the dreamy atmosphere punctuated by scenes of longing, investigation of a mystery, and brutality eventually overpower everything else and push the narrative into a realm where plot isn’t always the most crucial element.

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The Unknowable Aftershocks of Violence: A Review of Jennifer Hillier’s “Jar of Hearts”

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On its surface, Jennifer Hillier’s Jar of Hearts is a thriller about a killer and those affected by his actions. However, the novel, which takes place on two different timelines, is a multilayered marvel that also explores the nature of interrupted love, looks at the result of trauma and dangerous traits that are carried in DNA, and shows the lasting impact a brutal murder can have on everyone involved in it. Furthermore, Hillier manages to pull off this plethora of elements while also entertaining with a carefully crafted, suspenseful narrative and by delivering a level of viciousness that will appeal to fans of hardcore horror fiction.

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A History of Vengeance: David Joy’s “The Line That Held Us” Reviewed

With his first two novels, Where All Light Tends to Go and The Weight of this World, David Joy established himself as one of the preeminent voices in Appalachian noir. However, he was clearly not content with that position. The Line That Held Us, his latest release, offers everything he already gave readers while commandingly treading new ground. While the narrative contains the sine qua non elements of noir and once again takes place within the context of rural Appalachian […]

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Cat Shotguns and Painted Lizards: On Sam Pink’s “The Garbage Times/White Ibis”

When you are reading an obviously autobiographical book and the author hits you with a passage about becoming a giant and using his cat as a shotgun to destroy a city, you have two options: you can stop reading immediately or take a deep breath and allow the writer to take you places you’ve never been before while fully aware that the person at the wheel may or may not be in full control of the chaos ahead…or their sanity. […]

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The Poetics and Pain of Brandon Hobson’s “Where the Dead Sit Talking”

Like the tone of my favorite guitarists, some authors possess voices I immediately recognize. Brandon Hobson belongs to that list. Gloom, bizarre events, and beautiful-yet-unpretentious writing are the translucent shellac covering of a style that hides a raw, beating heart full of longing at it’s center. In Where the Dead Sit Talking, Hobson is once again in fine form, delivering a lyrical, somewhat brutal, and very touching coming of age story set in rural Oklahoma in the late 1980s.

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Reinventing the Gothic: A Review of Colin Winnette’s “The Job of the Wasp”

There is something bizarre and unsettling at the core of Colin Winnette’s oeuvre, and whatever magical thing that is, it displays its power like the tail of a peacock in his latest, The Job of the Wasp. Released by Soft Skull Press, an indie press that ranks amongst my favorites, The Job of the Wasp is what would happen if William Golding’s Lord of the Flies crashed against Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone at high speed in a room […]

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The Monsters of American History: A Review of Alma Katsu’s “The Hunger”

There are many moments in the history of the United States that deserve every drop of ink that has been used to write about them. From The Alamo to the narratives of early New York and from the fate of early explorers to the gold fever days of California, the country’s history is packed with fertile ground for historical fiction. That being said, perhaps there is no story more deserving of reimagination than that of the Donner Party. Well, enter […]

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A Tale of Revolution and Crime, Told With Poetry

I was in high school when the movie Payback came out. I watched it and immediately felt a connection with the main character, Porter, played by Mel Gibson. Sure, he was a bad guy, but the point of the movie was not that he was bad; it was that he wanted what was fair. It didn’t matter to me that the money was stolen, the point was that he deserved to get his cut. In any case, no other movie […]

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