Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susana Clarke

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Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is a fantasy novel masquerading as a Victorian novel of manners. Or, maybe a Dickensian novel with magic. Either way, it is an excellent, if sprawling book, with some delightfully quirky characters. Continue reading

Regicide by Nicholas Royle

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I picked up Regicide on a whim while out at a book store, having never heard of the author before, but more than willing to give him a chance. Both of the blurbs on the front cover were glowing: “Menacing and uncanny” and “immaculately sinister.” Which sounded exactly like what I was in the mood for.

Except both of those blurbs, on closer inspection, did not refer to this book, but rather a short story collection entitled Mortality. Okay, fine, that doesn’t mean that this book is necessarily bad, just that it probably isn’t as good as some of his other work. At least, that was my mentality when I began reading the book. Continue reading

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

 

Coraline is a YA fantasy-horror novel. And it is very good.

 Coraline follows a few days in the life of Coraline Jones, who has recently moved with her parents to an old house which has been partitioned into a number of apartments, occupied by a few oddball characters. Miss Spink and Miss Forcible are a pair of elderly stage retirees who foretell danger in Coraline’s future. Mr. Bobinsky (whose name Coraline doesn’t learn until the end of the novel) lives upstairs and trains a circus of mice. Through Bobinsky the mice warn Coraline as well. Bored and without playmates, Coraline discovers a door and a key. Through the locked door Coraline discovers a mirror world where her parents are no longer too busy to dote on her. In fact, her “Other Mother” wants nothing more than to have Coraline stay forever. All she needs to do is let the Other Mother sew buttons in (over?) her eyes. Continue reading

Viriconium by M. John Harrison

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For the inaugural post of The Fantast, I wanted to look at a book which a number of people have recommended to me, by an author who many other speculative fiction writers believe to be critically underrepresented and unrecognized: the Viriconium series by M. John Harrison.

Note: While I have tried to keep spoilers to a minimum, some are certain to seep out; that’s the nature of the beast when dealing with a series. However, I think you’ll find, if you read the volume, that there is far less continuity between each of the novels than is typical in fantasy and science fiction sequences. If nothing else, Harrison’s evolving narrative style, coupled with the drastically differing approaches towards each novel, are a portrait of an author honing not just his mastery of the craft, but also of his particular area of interest within genre. Continue reading

Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge

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Dark Harvest is a Halloween novel. Well, it’s technically more of an action novel, masquerading as a Halloween novel. I went in expecting horror, and instead got a straightforward, but enjoyable, slice of small-town Americana mixed with the supernatural. It’s also very short, at 197 pages.

The basic story is that five days before every Halloween all of the young males are locked way and starved. When they are released, they are supplied with a weapon and are sent off to hunt the October Boy, a supernatural creature made from vines and a carved pumpkin, armed with a butcher’s knife. Continue reading