Tag Archives: alex miles

The Screaming Book of Horror

I’m due to start below another of my gradual real-time reviews, turning leitmotifs into a gestalt.

A hardback book I purchased from the publisher:

THE SCREAMING BOOK OF HORROR – edited by Johnny Mains

Screaming Dreams 2012

There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years.

CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the book, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading it. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.

All my other real-time reviews from 2008 are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/

Authors included: John Llewellyn Probert, John Brunner, Alison Littlewood, Robin Ince, Bernard Taylor, Anna Taborska, Paul Finch, Rhys Hughes, Kate Farrell, Alex Miles, Craig Herbertson, Alison Moore, Claire Massey, Reginald Oliver, David A. Riley, Steve Rasnic Tem, John Burke, Christopher Fowler, Janine-Langley Wood, Johnny Mains, Charles Higson. (8 Oct 12 – Noon bst)


Christenings Can Be Dangerous – John Llewellyn Probert
“Well, a graveyard wasn’t such a bad place to be scared in,…”
This is an interesting case study to start this book with. Babies often scream even when they’re not scared, you see, but Horror concerning innocent babies can be shocking, and this one, for me, is! That, despite a humorous tone with a slight tongue in a slight cheek. Gratuitously horrific (unless one accepts these strange outcomes of the protagonist’s retributory madness regarding his ex)… and iconoclastic in terms of today’s  mœurs. Yet I wondered, would I have thought it was so shocking had I experienced this in the 1960s or 1970s within the Pan Books of Horror that I read at that time?  Rhetorical question. As a story in itself, at the beginning, it seems artificially to withdraw authorial omniscience regarding the protagonist’s thought processes, then meting these processes out to us regarding the circumstances of the christening church’s yew tree etc before Hell breaks loose (the latter scene very effective, TOO effective!) (8 Oct 12 – 3.05 pm)

[As is common with all my RTRs, I shall avoid other reviews and the book’s own introduction until after I have read and publicly reviewed the whole book.] (8 Oct 12 – 4.30 pm bst)

Larva – John Brunner
“‘Larva’, she amplified, ‘is a Latin word that originally meant both spectre and mask.'”
One’s whole body as the mask for self? This is another shockingly cross-grain story, one that revels in iconoclasm and PUS. It tells of uncouth muggers who prey on ‘poofters’ and ‘nignogs’, with, here, another baby victim (what chances that any anthology could start with consecutive stories that both themselves start with nipples being bitten!) – a baby who takes revenge not only for what happens in this story but what happened in the previous story! Meanwhile, I take suck or succour from this work not for its run-of-the-mill  morality tale of the protagonist’s eventual meted-out come-uppance but for its brilliant metaphysical larva conceit. And its  accomplishedly conveyed PUS AND VOMIT. [I thought John Brunner wrote SF and died some years ago, unless this is a different John Brunner or an uncharacteristic long-lost horror story discovered by Mr Mains?] (8 Oct 12 – 7.30 pm bst)

The Swarm – Alison Littlewood
“As jellyfish thrive they feed upon fish eggs and larvae,…”
…and thus the cycle goes on, here a calmer cosmic osmosis as it turns out stemming from the crueller, laddish threads set up by the two previous stories. Here the cruelty of the swarm – skilfully imbued with the tang of the sea – somehow becomes a spiritual culmination of the earth soul that may have been seeded from literature like that of John Cowper Powys (whom I serendipitously happen already to be reading). But there is an added frisson when we read in the Littlewood that each participant in the gestalt-‘creature’-from-leitmotifs (represented by a line of glowing lights) has 24 seemingly brain-disconnected eyes and then compare this to the creature with a ‘myriad of tiny pink eyes’ in the Probert. The fact that Littlewood’s  protagonist, at story’s end, is still narrating post-culmination (on the precise point of becoming beyond consciousness) did not seem to matter. This throws a retrospective light on Probert’s earlier gradual going up the gears of narrative omniscience… (9 Oct 12 – 3.05 pm bst)

[It hadn’t quite dawned on me fully how Littlewood’s jellyfish gestalt is arguably an allegory of my earlier stated reference on this page to my real-time reviewing technique of accreting leitmotifs (light motifs) to form a gestalt – nor how the overall title of this anthology is something that my edited ‘The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies’ anthology book (horror stories about actual Horror anthology books) would have loved to contain a story about a Screaming Book of Horror! In fact, thinking about it, was there one? I shall have to re-read it!] (9 Oct 12 – 6.15 pm bst)

Natural Selection – Robin Ince
“…not a bad structure really for the accident-prone system of evolution by natural selection and its adaptation of previous fish parts along the way.”
…and so the cycle continues from story to story. Here, a gem of a Horror Story, truncated to prose perfection, except it’s about the problem of what exactly to truncate in order to travel “along the timeline” (the book’s audit trail toward its gestalt?) so as to provide that perfect potential of a baby, screamer or not. Here, ostensibly a feminist tract, where, like in the Probert, the protagonist (this time female) seeks to truncate  her next ex and his baby but, here, by creating a new baby, a better one!  Gratuitousness  with a moral, like the Brunner. The image of cutting off  a human ear is wonderfully done. [As an aside, without ears, one cannot hear screams, only see them, like the one in Munch’s scream.] “…when was he going to stop screaming?” (9 Oct 12 – 7.05 pm bst)

[Further to my comment above about ‘The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies’, I have found in it a quote (i.e. from the Rhys Hughes story): “Wasting no more time on nostalgia, he cut out the entire Appendix and cast it aside. It was bloated and disgusting. The book screamed during the operation, but it was over in seconds.” (I note there is a Rhys Hughes story I’ve yet to read in ‘The Screaming Book of Horror’). Also, the story in the HA of HA entitled ‘Common Myths and Misconceptions Regarding Rita Kendall’ by AJ Kirby is predominantly about a scream: in fact the most famous audible scream in the world!] (9 Oct 12 – 7.35 pm bst)




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Glory & Splendour – Alex Miles

Shortly, I’m due to start below another of my gradual real-time reviews, moulding leitmotifs into a gestalt. An ebook I recently purchased via Amazon for my iPad.

Glory & Splendour: Tales of the Weird

by Alex Miles


Karōshi Books 2012

Introduction by Johnny Mains; Foreword by Michel Parry

There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years.

CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the book, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading it. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.

All my other real-time reviews are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/


Glory and Splendour

“He showed the Master the city through a shard of glass and everything appeared as normal.”

By means of a relatively simple prose of crystalline quality (with boils and other such infestation within), we are taken into the complexities of Fable by insulated levels of narrative.  A Hellishly apocalyptic vision made more (or less) than it actually is: with Blakean undercurrents and transformational transcendence through the generations. Skilfully filling the reader with both hope and despair at once, particularly by means of the very effective ending that it would be a spoiler to impart here.  ‘Page-turning’ suspense, too, through immanence, rather than imminence: a knocking on some gate to Hell or to Heaven? In or out?  Me or you? A genuine future-haunted memory of literature for at least one reader (me) filtered through ‘the synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’ (this time, for once, literally!). It is sure to be re-anthologised in a printed book one day. If not already. I’m not sure if this book is solely electronic?  Yet, the screen through which I read it actually adds to the plot!  So, perhaps not. Perhaps never. [Meanwhile, I am astonished by the mutual synchronicity with the first two stories I earlier real-time reviewed (here) this very day. I would also like to indulge myself by drawing attention to my own ancient, perhaps clumsy  brief story (‘The Tallest King‘) in oblique resonance with ‘Glory and Splendour’. I also confirm that, in common with all my previous real-time reviews, I am not reading anything about this book nor reading its Foreword until I have read and publicly reviewed all its fiction.] (24 Apr 12 – 9.30 pm bst)

The Judge

“…tiny transparent insects had stealthily crawled onto me.”

[Listening to Vivaldi’s GLORIA as I read this story: and it is music certainly with Glory & Splendour: but I then thought of these words not being  synonymous: i.e. with, say, ‘glory-hole’ as a symbolic conduit: a filter: an extra-human veil through which physical or mental activities can be eked. Good or evil. Love or lust.] — This fascinatingly dystopic story, ‘The Judge’, tells of a judicial or quasi-judicial system combining Kafka’s Harrow ‘In the Penal Colony’ (its earlier real-time review by me here), a Heath Robinson contraption, EM Forster’s ‘The Machine Stops’ (effectively a story about the internet from 1909!), and an ‘ethical’ MRI scanner or skein of such scanners.  With Orwellian and other Kafkaesque resonances-in-ethical-philosophy. And a touching human story of retribution, shame and blind faith among two different characters.   (The apocalyptic scatological/eschatological ‘two-way filter’ theme set up by the previous story is factored into this scenario, eg the factory smoke chemicalised to look pretty etc.) — [Already I am confident, having read the first two stories, that readers who enjoy this book will also enjoy the many books published by Ex Occidente Press and Chômu Press (those two links being to the index of all my real-time reviews for these publishers’ books.)] “His skin was reddened from a heat rash and had the texture of an orange.” (25 Apr 12 – 10.30 am bst)

Deep Stitches

He kept his eyes on some invisible nothing on the floor.”

Here, conveniently, those ‘transparent insects’ earlier quoted above from the previous story become ‘surveyors’ and ‘builders’ internally to re-harness the you I am. Or re-create mentally the virginity none of us retain physically. Difficult to comment on this: it’s like fly-fishing or bee-keeping within the soul’s hive by constructive infestation.  A conceptual Proustian Harrowing process by rival specialists creating anomalies as well as infractions: and only storytellers such as this one with tiny articulated graphics on the ‘page’ under the screen have the scope to plot, with  mind-imprisoned logic, such a beta syntax of New Ethics. Accompanied by prototype phonetics, especially with the ear being the infestation’s portal. Semantics? They’re just a by-product of this rambling inside my brain. Meanwhile, a brilliant sudden ending to this neat tale. (25 Apr 12 – 7.25 pm bst)

Hitting Targets

“…bumble-bee metamorphosis…”

Often, when enjoying fiction, one needs suspension of disbelief; here you need suspension of sanity! [Again I am astonished by the synergy and synchrony and serendipity between this real-time review and, quite fortuitously, the simultaneous real time review (here), particularly, today, between this story and Jon Ingold’s ‘Cracks’: especially with its intermittent haunting by a knight in armour!] — Here we have a highly satiric version of Ligotti’s ‘Corporate Horror’ theme, including an office where you can see through its glass partition.  Proustian, too, in its treatment of separate selves: a “future-Harvey” and the “Immoral former self on Friday“; even to the reference here (and in one of this book’s previous stories) to tea-drinking! A story of an Estate Agent. “Harvey was middle-aged before he was born.” He is hidebound by acronymic performance targets: i.e. needing to sell a difficult-to-sell large house to keep his job, a house occupied by a larger-than-life role-playing dungeons-and-dragoner, but not really role-playing, because many actual human deaths do ensue worthy of the Pan Book of Horrors.  It’s a huge hoot. A “King’s Glory” of an absurdist, almost Rhys-Hughesian, ironic-fantasy: with slapstick and grotesqueness. But nevertheless true, based on my own past experiences in a long business life. (And I even got scolded for having “decorated the place in a childish way” above.) (26 Apr 12 – 2.15 pm bst)

Life Beggar

I suppose we have time to make you some tea…”

The touching essence of Fable – as in ‘Glory & Splendour’ – where hope and despair are gifted to us as a package. An empathy kick. The puppet-strings you tug or those that tug you as you live the serial selves that become the final you. Like many of this book’s themes so far, ‘Life Beggar’ treats of ‘quick deal’, a deal by ‘magic fiction’, dealing with something very important, something of human susbtance in telling contrast to the lectronics (sic) wherein it is embodied on my iPad: a Justice Harrow, a crucial house sale, a retrocausal insect in the ear, the two-way filter of truth and fiction with which this book started, and here the simple fulfilment of a possibly inadvisable wish. Here we are faced – in genuinely disturbing yet ‘fabulous’ terms – with the implications of the timescale of our death. Of our life itself. Yet we come away from it uplifted. No mean feat. This brief story touched me. “Last chance for that tea, my friend…” (26 Apr 12 – 3.15 pm bst)

The Lotus Device

I have started reviewing this story several times. But then deleted what I had written.  Anything I say may spoil it for you.  At one stage, I even had to do a complete computer ‘restore’ to obviate any ‘cache’. Genuinely and seriously, this story is, to my mind and knowledge, an original masterpiece of fiction. The perfect culmination of a stunning book.  I am  pleased personally this last story (more than just a coda) serves to accrete my earlier findings of:  Proustian ‘past selves’, ‘quick deals’ (here the most mephistophelean-like of them all), retrocausality, motive-disguise, the earlier Estate Agent now possibly finding his solution to work tedium should he read this story.  Now become tellingly work in an abattoir, to which state of butcher’s rubble the Estate Agent’s clients actually descended in real life. A contraption like the Justice Harrow but smaller and oilier.  I will now delete the whole review and start again.  Before I become one of those “feeble insects in suits” that I once became.

As is common with all my real-time reviews, I will now read this book’s Foreword for the first time and, also in common with my reviewing practice, I will not return to review it in public. Declaration: I happened to attend school in the 1950s/1960s and the Foreword’s author was one of my fellow pupils. I had no idea he had written the Foreword until I bought the ebook and looked ‘inside’. I am sure his Foreword will give me valuable food for thought. (26 Apr 12 – 4.15 pm bst)

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