Category Archives: DarkFantasy

The Thief of Broken Toys by Tim Lebbon

The Thief of Broken Toys by Tim Lebbon

ChiZine Publications, Toronto, 2010

I own this one.  Another book for the TBR Dare.

I discovered ChiZine last year and check their website every once in a while just to see what they are up to.  They publish “weird, surreal dark fiction” in different forms, short stories, novellas and novels and I find myself intrigued by some of their titles.  They are a small press and I enjoy supporting independent publishing so I break my “no new book buying” ban occasionally and buy one of their books.  This one caught my eye.

When Ray and Elizabeth lose their son Toby it destroys their marriage.  Elizabeth leaves their home and takes up with another man.  Ray sinks in to despair and begins wandering the cliffs around their small village.  Then he runs into a stranger who also is wandering the cliffs and everything begins to change.  Are his memories real?  Did he really have a son?

The story is told from different points of view in a way that is gentle and almost seamless.  It could have been awkward but it all flows quite easily, at times beautifully. It is subtle story, filled with longing and darkness.

And now there you are, sitting in your garden above the harbour looking down at the hypnotically shifting sea beyond the harbour wall.  It sways and shifts, bulges and ebbs like the grey skin of a giant beast, a sleeping thing that has no concept of the humans who have come and built themselves around and over it.  Sometimes there is a distant splash as a wave impacts the stone wall and the sound serenades the gulls to provide a melody for the village.  From page 16.

The Thief of Broken Toys is about devastating loss and the inability to deal with that loss, either on one’s own or with others.  It is about memory,  is memory real or is it dream?  It  is well-written dark fantasy.  I have never read Tim Lebbon before and this small book has me curious about his other work.

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Filed under DarkFantasy, Review

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

William Morrow, New York, 2001

Originally published in 1962.  Ray Bradbury has received the National Book Award for distinguished contribution to American Letters.  I own this one.

This is true dark fantasy.  Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway have grown up together.  Each is on the verge of their fourteenth birthday, filled with energy and questions, like all young people they are pushing limits.  Will’s father, Charles is fifty-four and filled with regret, for being “old”, for not being more of a pal for his son.  It is the end of October in Green Town, Illinois, and Halloween is just around the corner.

A strange man, a lightening rod salesman, harbinger of storms and bad news, marches into town, finds the boys. Then, in the middle of the night, at the odd hour of 3 AM, an unusual train arrives.  Jim and Will see it, Charles Halloway hears it. The train carries Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show, come to entertain, to touch the lives of Green Town.  A traveling nightmare, come to steal souls, by answering dreams and wishes.

And there stood Jim, and  there stood this tall man, each examining the other as if he were a reflection in a shop window late at night.  The tall man’s brambled suit, shadowed out now to color Jim’s cheeks and storm over his wide and drinking eyes with a look of rain instead of the sharp cat-green they always were.  Jim stood like a runner who had come a long way with fever in his mouth, hands open to recieve any gift.  And right now it was a gift of pictures twitching in pantomime, as Mr. Dark made his illustrations jerk cold-skinned over his warm-pulsed wrist as stars came out above and Jim stared and Will could not see and a long way off the last of the towns people went away towards town in there warm cars, and Jim said faintly, “Gosh…” and Mr. Dark rolled down his sleeve.  From page 76.

Through writing full of poetry, dream and desire, Bradbury creates a classic story of good and evil, were self-centered wants lead to devastating results and  hope and laughter are the antidote for fear and longing.  It is dark, creepy and delicious.  This is my third reading and I am still amazed at the density of Bradbury’s lyrical style,  his words convey emotion in ways that are not stilted or sugary-sweet. Deep, heartfelt, real.  Reading this novel as a young adult was one of my introductions to the power of words.

And, of course, it’s all about names.  Knowing the true names of things, of people.  In magic, knowing a name is knowing the inner being. Knowing the inner being means having control over that being.  The weapon against such dark magic is love.

Other reviews:

A Striped Armchair

Book Clutter

Care’s Online Book Club

regular rumination

The Indextrious Reader

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Filed under DarkFantasy, Review, RIP V Challenge, Young Adult

Kraken by China Mievelle

Kraken by China Mieville

Del Rey, New York, 2010

Borrowed from the library.

I have admired and been astonished by China Mieville’s writing ever since reading Perdido Street Station.  I find his work intense, multi-layered and somewhat twisted.  Oh, hell.  Sometimes very twisted.

Kraken is dark comedy, an urban fantasy with the city of London as one of the main characters, and there are many characters.  It starts in the research wing of London’s Natural History Museum, where Billy Harrow, a curator and laboratory technician, is giving a tour.  He leads group down a long hall and into a huge space where the main specimen has disappeared.  A Giant Squid, the Kraken, preserved in a large metal and glass box, gone.  It turns out that Billy had actually preserved this monster, and there lies the strange connection between the two.

All I could think of while reading this passage was a trip I took to a university fish collection.  We entered a room by stepping down, the lip a protection against spilled preservative, and walking between shelves of jars and bottles of specimens, millions of them.  The weirdest thing I saw there was an angler fish, denizen of the aphotic zone, squishy and gelatinous at sea level, with its little dangly bio-light hanging to one side.   Billy, naive geek that he is, has no idea what he has just walked into, for the Kraken is considered a god by some and its disappearance has signaled the end of the world, all of it, every bit going up in flames.

London was full of dissident gods.
Why?  Well, they have to live somewhere.  A city living in its own afterlife. Why not?
Of course, they’re all over, gods are.  Theurgic vermin, those once worshipped or still worshipped in secret, those half worshipped, those  feared and resented, petty divinities;  they infect everybloodywhere.  The ecosystems of godhead are fecund, because there’s nothing and nowhere that can’t generate the awe on which they gaze…
The streets of London are stone synapses hardwired for worship.  Walk the right or the wrong way down Tooting Bec you’re invoking something or other.  You may not be interested in the gods of London, but they’re interested in you.  From page 103.

Billy meets up with Dane Parnell, a Krakenist, a psychic special operative named Collingswood and a group of Londonmancers. And then there are the Angels of Memory. Even though the plot line reads like a romping police procedural, the novel is so dense that at times I had to put it down and take a breather.  It is filled with bent cops, multiple magics, odd religions, cults and horrible villains.  I will not forget my first meeting with Tattoo, a nasty crime boss, dragged from some evil, dark place or the funny and horrific pair, Subby and Goss.

Billy made a scratchy sound in his throat.  The man put his finger to his lips , glancing expectantly at the boy, who slowly did as he did, and gestured shhhh at Billy, too.
“Goss and Subby do it again,” the man said.  He unrolled his tongue and tasted the air.  He clamped his hand over Billy’s mouth and Billy sputtered into the cool palm.  The man went room to room, tugging Billy, licking floor, walls, light switches.  He drew his tongue across the face of the television, leaving a spit-trail in the dust.  From page 65.

Finally, within all of this,  Kraken is a  tale of the battle between knowledge and superstition.  I didn’t see this coming, caught up in the characters and the magics and brilliant inventions of language and culture that is Mieville’s world building.  I found it difficult in spots, as if over-stuffed, but that’s what made it all work.  To tell the truth I cried at the end.

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Filed under 42SciFiChallenge, China Mieville, DarkFantasy, Review, SciFi