Friday, November 3, 2017

Total Skull, October 2017

Things that brought me delight in October, 2017.


Gretchen Alice Felker-Martin, No End Will Be Found
A poetic, disturbing depiction of the abjection inherent to witch trials. Get your copy here.

Joseph Delaney, Slither
My plan was to re-read the last few Last Apprentice books before moving on to the follow-up trilogy, but maybe reading Slither, a novel about monster men who drain the blood out of young women, trade them as slaves, and discard them when they are "too old," was an ill-timed choice in the middle of the Harvey Weinstein news cycle.

Joseph Delaney, I Am Alice
The penultimate book in the Last Apprentice series lets us spend some time with the books' best character (Alice) and functions as a "greatest hits" of the series' villains before wrapping things up for the final confrontation between the forces of good and the Fiend. Unfortunately, the book is let down by a weak "well what this this all for anyway?" ending; unfortunately, this is one of the flimsiest entries in the series.

Joseph Delaney, Fury of the Seventh Son
A fitting and satisfied conclusion to the series...or is it? There are just enough hints threaded throughout that there is more to come.

Joseph Delaney, A New Darkness
A New Darkness begins a trilogy of books that picks up where the Last Apprentice series left off. The seeds planted in Slither begin to bloom, taking the narrative in a different direction: with the return of the rape-monsters from Slither, the scenes of an abusive stepfather, more revelations about a misogynistic ghost, the casual sexism of the story's setting, and the introduction of the first woman "spook," we're definitely in much deeper waters. If anything, this is a nice counterpoint to some of the assumptions of the earlier books (there are dangerous witch women out there and a man is needed to put them in their place). That deconstruction had already begun (mostly through witch-women characters who were complex and challenging) but here that theme is working full force.

 Joseph Delaney, The Dark Army
Rise and fall, I suppose, between A New Darkness and The Dark Army: the concentration on themes goes missing, a textbook deus ex machina can't really fill the void.

Joseph Delaney, The Dark Assassin
The first thing I want to note is that the powerful focus on a particular theme in A New Darkness has disappeared almost completely here at the end of the series. After some missteps in this trilogy (and toward the end of the longer previous series), this finds sure footing to wrap things up, but, noticeably, the door is left open.

Thomas Ligotti, Grimscribe
A not-so-simple question, What is the proximity of evil? In Ligotti's hands, the Weird tale morphs into something else: an eldritch key does not reveal the coldness of the uncaring cosmos, but rather unlocks the knowledge that malignity comes from within. Dreams, then, are miasmatic reminders of the internal burden that can never be cast aside.


Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Robert Hack, 
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, vol. 1
My buddy Kreg hipped me to this one; I probably would have passed it by, thinking it was too kooky and squeaky clean, without his nudging. It's...far more intense than I expected from a comic from the Archie universe.

Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt, Bill Crabtree,
The Sixth Gun, Book 9: Boot Hill
I've been waiting to read the conclusion to The Sixth Gun's run for a while now, mostly because I didn't really want the story to end. It's true that the narrative had lagged a bit in some of the later installments, but the final volume was suitably quick-moving and epic for the battle over who gets to remake the world.

Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows, Providence Act 1
I'm writing these entries as I finish volumes of Providence so we can see where these take me. Usually, I want no part of Lovecraftiana fanfic, and I submit that there are elements in the first act of Providence that feel like fanfic, but this was intricate enough to get my attention. 

Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows, Providence Act 2
Although the weaving-together of an alternate Lovecraftian mythos continues to be interesting, the renaming of the constituent threads becomes a little much in the second act. And, of course, a rape scene arrives right on schedule because hey, it says Alan Moore on the cover. If this turns all messianic about Lovecraft in the last act I may howl in frustration.

Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows, Providence Act 3
Providence's last act is the weakest of the series. I can usually accept the whole "this is a story about the important and power of stories" theme, but Moore leans far too heavily on it here without anything satisfying to shore up what is already one of his more well-worn conventions. The Lovecraftiana-as-Christianity conceit was a heavy-handed treatment, as I expected. Also, bonus S. T. Joshi cameo--and he seems as annoying a fictional character as he appears to be in real life...hurrah?

Junko Mizuno, Ravina the Witch?
Acid-trip fairy tale that's actually about the plight of women. Astounding art.

Junji Ito, Dissolving Classroom
My brain melted. If only I had read this before putting in the book order for my Uncanny Bodies course!


Chelsea Wolfe, Hiss Spun
Ice cold dirges.

Wolves in the Throne Room, Thrice Woven
Autumnal, arboreal black metal.

Nox Arcana, Season of the Witch
It's probably true that there isn't much difference between Nox Arcana albums, but I look forward to a new album of spookhouse atmosphere every year just like I look forward to an extra slice of apple pie.


Kenneth Hite, Night's Black Agents
Kreg (see Sabrina above) sent this to me a while ago; I pulled it back out for inspiration for the spy game I want to run and now I just want to run a game that is like Atomic Blonde vs. vampires.

Kenneth Hite, Trail of Cthulhu, Rough Magick, Bookhounds of London, Shadows Over Filmland
Heretical opinion #f'taghn: I think Trail of Cthulhu is a better Lovecraftian rpg than Call of Cthulhu. Here's why: 1) CoC is burdened by all the cruft from Runequest that doesn't really fit Lovecraft's fiction and 2) CoC is way too into taxonomy and definition than "unknowable horror." Trail leaves the nature of the mythos wide open (and details some really awesome possibilities), and was built from the ground up for investigation-based games.