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The House That Jack Built
The House That Jack Built
by Graham Masterton
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
30 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Time and the maiden, July 19 2004
Effie and Craig Bellman are vacationing in upstate New York, trying to forget recent traumas and hopefully repair their troubled marriage. That's when they hear about a place called Valhalla, a run-down but still awe-inspiring mansion built by a notorious gambler named Jack Belias in the late 1920s. Craig immediately becomes obsessed with the place, and purchases it against Effie's wishes. He begins to change, becoming irrational and eventually violent and abusive. Effie finds herself more in danger of losing her husband than ever, and in ways more permanent than she could have imagined.
For a large portion of this novel I was somewhat disappointed, as it comes off as a standard haunted house story, with all the usual accoutrements. A very well-written one, but a standard one nonetheless. As it turns out, there is more to it than that (the phenomena the characters experience aren't what we normally think of as haunting, though the author offers it as a plausible explanation of such) but it doesn't fully surface until a good two thirds of the way in. Is it worth pressing on through overly familiar territory to get to that point? I think so. You simply have to trust Masterton - who is one of the best writers in the genre - to deliver. If you're new to the horror field, this is a good place to start. But for a better, fresher and far more frightening story about a "special" house, check out his Lovecraftian novel PREY.

Acorna
Acorna
by Anne Mccaffrey
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 8.54
69 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Misadventures of a unicorn girl, July 7 2004
This review is from: Acorna (Mass Market Paperback)
A trio of good-natured space miners picks up an errant escape pod which happens to contain an orphan girl of an unknown alien race. Her features are slightly equine, and she has a horn growing from her forehead. They name her Acorna and raise her as their own. Unfortunately, they have trouble keeping her under wraps, and they find themselves having to prevent her from falling into the hands of everyone from the scientists who want to study her, to a "collector" with an interest in rare creatures.
Taking refuge on the planet Kezdet, they make the acquaintance of a wealthy businessman of Chinese descent, who recognizes Acorna as the Kirin of ancient mythology. He is on a mission to end Kezdet's underground child slave trade, and when Acorna gets involved, she makes her most dangerous enemies yet.
I used to be a huge McCaffrey fan, and I've read a considerable portion of her work, including much of the Pern series, The Ireta Adventure, the Crystal Singer trilogy, and the original Ship and Pegasus novels. I've moved away from her work in recent years, but the beautiful cover on this one drew me in (Ignore the cheap CG background.) While not abysmal like Crystal Line was, Acorna is definitely one of her weaker efforts. The characters don't have much depth - the title character least of all - and any personality traits they are given are repeated to the point of cliché. (I lost count of how many times one character "blushed the color of his beard.") The story itself isn't particularly gripping. The confrontation with the book's chief villain towards the end is hugely anticlimactic. Even the reality of child slavery is watered down, though the thematic cries of "the children, the children!" did grow wearisome. This is safe SF, basically a comfort read. If you like a little edge in your reading, you may be bored, as I was at times. I didn't dislike it entirely, but it is highly unlikely that I will read the next book in the series. A mediocre effort from an author who is, perhaps, past her prime.
Note: While there is no cliffhanger ending, and while the major conflicts are resolved by the last page, there are several threads left open for exploration in the books that follow. I am content to depart from the series after this first installment, but be aware that the overall story is not truly complete.

Wasteland
Wasteland
by Block
Edition: Hardcover
26 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars A wisp of a book, June 26 2004
This review is from: Wasteland (Hardcover)
This is the third book I've read by this author. One of the things I admire about her work is the way she writes about sensitive issues while completely avoiding any kind of reactionary attitude. This particular story involves a subject which, while entirely consensual, carries a heavy societal taboo. The matter of fact way in which it is handled is refreshing.
Siblings Marina and Lex have always been very close, so close that they have always had trouble finding interest in any others. One night things go too far and shortly afterward Lex takes his own life. Marina is left to deal with the loss of the only person who ever really mattered to her.
I've enjoyed Block's novels in the past, although they tend to evaporate from memory soon after I close them. 'Wasteland' was even more ethereal, seeming insubstantial even as I was reading it. Much of the story is told by Marina, as if she were speaking to her brother, reminiscing about the times they had together, and far too much of it is rambling, directionless, and inconsequential, and tedious to read through. There are a couple subplots generated but never followed through. Only a revelation at the end gives the book any impact. A mild disappointment.

The Death Artist
The Death Artist
by Dennis Etchinson
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
22 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars An artist at work, June 26 2004
This is a collection of twelve stories of horror, suspense and dark fiction. Like Charles Grant, Etchison's strength lies on the quiet end of that spectrum. Events in the stories will often seem perfectly normal, even mundane, but bits creep in gradually until the reader realizes that things are not as they should be.
Some highlights:
"When They Gave Us Memory" - An actor returns to his hometown to find things have changed...but were they ever the same?
"Deadtime Story" - A teenager receives a threatening phone call while at work. Will he make it home alive?
"Call Home" - A man learns that being a Good Samaritan can be a very bad idea.
"A Wind From The South" - A woman has an unexpected visitor who seems harmless at first, until she begins to notice pieces of her life disappearing from her grasp.
"The Detailer" - A car wash attendant makes a startling discovery about one of his clients.
These are tales that would have made Alfred Hitchcock or Rod Serling proud. I recommend this collection if you appreciate more subtle discomforts, and know that being unsettled can often touch deeper than outright shock.

Little Deaths
Little Deaths
by Ellen Datlow
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
21 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Love and death, June 15 2004
Ellen Datlow has been one of the most consistently reliable editors of fantastic fiction anthologies for a long time now, both on her own projects and in her many collaborations with Terri Windling. This particular book is an assortment of stories dealing with sex and horror.
In "Hungry Skin" by Lucy Taylor, a young woman finds there is more than meets the eye in her late, estranged father's erotic artworks, and eventually finds herself in them as well. A man desiring revenge on his ex-wife finds an opportunity in the form of a young prostitute with a familiar face in Harry Crews' deliciously cruel "Becky Lives." Love and devotion among freaks is examined in Wayne Allan Sallee's "Lover Doll." Dan Simmons takes us to frightening foreign lands in the chilling "Dying in Bangkok." A traveling student learns the power of memory in Stephen Dedman's "The Lady of Situations." And Clive Barker revisits a world from his novel 'The Great and Secret Show' as two rogues are enlisted to rescue a man from the dream-sea, in the very funny "On Amen's Shore." (One need not have read the novel to understand or enjoy this story.)
There are also memorable pieces from Pat Cadigan (another very funny story), Jack Womack, Nicholas Royle and Kathe Koja.
Only a few are a bit weak. Richard Christian Matheson's entry, like most short-shorts, is unsatisfying, while Joyce Carol Oates' and Joel Lane's are relatively pointless exercises.
Overall, a good variety of styles and content is represented here - subtle or explicit, from earthy suspense to happenings of a more surreal nature. There's probably something here for everyone. This is an exceptional collection worth looking for.

Kitchen
Kitchen
by Banana Yoshimoto
Edition: Paperback
57 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious food for thought: two courses, June 4 2004
This review is from: Kitchen (Paperback)
Kitchen contains two stories, both of which concern a different young woman living her life in the aftermath of a terrible loss. In the title story, Mikage has just been left alone in the world after the passing of her grandmother, who was her last living relative. She is generously taken in by an acquaintance, a boy named Yuichi who knew her grandmother, and his transsexual mother Eriko. Eriko lets her stay for free as long as she promises to cook for them from time to time, and the three of them build a new family of sorts. Eventually, though, Mikage finds herself confronted with another tragedy.
The second story is called "Moonlight Shadow." Satsuki has lost a boyfriend in a car crash which also claimed the life of his younger brother's girlfriend. One day she meets a mysterious woman with a secret she wants to share. This story has a slight element of fantasy to it, a touching piece of magical realism.
The author has a deceptively simple style of writing which enables her to deal with weighty issues without them feeling oppressive. These works are deeply affecting, but they are poetic rather than doom-laden. I preferred the second story, which is tighter and has a definite resolution, whereas the first is more of a slice of life and though longer, felt a little incomplete. As always, I enjoyed the look at Japanese daily life.

Postal 2
Postal 2

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Like working in Levittown, PA again, May 30 2004
This review is from: Postal 2 (CD-ROM)
The object of this game is to get through the working week. This is a difficult thing for all of us at times, but when you live in the trashy town of Paradise, Arizona, the concept takes on new meaning.
The player takes on the role of the antihero, whose name is actually Postal Dude. All you really want to do is relax and smoke your "health pipe" but your nagging wife keeps sending you out on errands. Since anything is better than listening to her voice, you grudgingly accept your assignments: get some milk, vote, pick up a toy at the mall, and so on. But there is trouble in Paradise. Book burners are protesting at the library. Your church is taken over by Muslim terrorists. And in the most obvious bit of satire, a certain game company is assaulted by parents protesting violent video games.
Most of the "missions" are interrupted by incidents like these, and it's your job to get out of them alive and move on to your next goal.
In addition, you can have fun just wandering around and messing with people. Disrupt a parade or a carnival show. Set people on fire, or go on an all-out shooting spree. If you run afoul of the police, you will find yourself on a new adventure.
It's an amusing game, and it is fun discovering what you can do as you wander through the various areas, but after time it becomes very repetitive. Your tasks almost always follow the same pattern: fight your way through whatever annoying special interest group is standing in your way. The character AI isn't particularly advanced, and the dialogue is very limited. Some of the lines may be funny the first few times you hear them, but not for much longer. It might be hard to believe, but urinating on people and making them vomit does get old after awhile. In the end, traipsing back and forth through the city in a most inefficient manner is simply tedious. If the setting weren't such an eyesore (which, I know, is the point) it might not have been so.
I love that the game is so outrageous and doesn't care who it offends. The charm of the gameplay itself, though, wears off quickly.

Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed [Import]
Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed [Import]
DVD ~ Emily Perkins
Price: CDN$ 16.44
18 used & new from CDN$ 9.10

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Werewolf, interrupted, May 25 2004
Note: This review unavoidably contains spoilers for GINGER SNAPS. If you haven't seen it yet, do so. It's a smart, funny werewolf film with tons of character. After you've done that, come back here.
This film picks up some months after the end of the first one. Brigitte has left home and is living on the road, still infected by her sister's werewolf blood and virtually addicted to the monkshood solution that keeps her own transformation at bay. After an unfortunate incident involving a nosy but well-meaning librarian, she finds herself in a rehab center, where she is naturally thought to have a basic chemical addiction. She is befriended by a younger girl called Ghost, to whom life is like the comic books she smuggles in and reads when everyone has gone to sleep; she easily accepts Brigitte's story, and they soon form an uneasy alliance. But Brigitte isn't just running away from her old life; there's a werewolf lurking just outside the doors of the facility that wants her badly.
Emily Perkins was fantastic as Brigitte in the first film, and she deservedly gets the full spotlight this time. Her expressions, her delivery, everything is all so perfect it is impossible to imagine anyone else in the role.
UNLEASHED is a very different film than GINGER SNAPS, but it possesses the same smart writing and feel for its characters. There is some humor, but the film seems darker in tone overall. We no longer have the sisters interacting with each other, though Ginger does make some brief appearances as the voice in Brigitte's head - a device that could have come off very badly, but is sparsely and tastefully utilized. Like its predecessor, this film does not pull any punches, and it treats its audience with respect.
The ending of the first film wasn't exactly all smiles, and neither is this one. But I think it's an honest and realistic resolution to the character's situation. In fact, part of what makes this film great is that it's a logical continuation of the story. It is not a rehash by any means. This is one of the good sequels, and you can pick it up with confidence.
The film on DVD is presented in widescreen and includes some deleted scenes, a closer look at some of the materials used in the film, storyboard comparisons and an interesting commentary track featuring the director and producers.

Slain in the Spirit
Slain in the Spirit
by Melanie Tem
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
20 used & new from CDN$ 3.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Blind lead the blind, May 7 2004
Leila Blackwell has been virtually sightless her entire life, but she tries to live it as "normally" as possible. It is in a public restroom that she is confronted by Russell Gavin, an old high school acquaintance but not a friend. Russell is a Christian. He believes that Leila's affliction - indeed, all the misfortunes in her life - are punishment for the darkness that resides in her soul. He wants to save her, and to this end he kidnaps her, takes her to a remote location and keeps her captive and bound, bringing her out only to attend religious services with others of his kind. He also withholds the treatments she needs to keep her eyes from getting worse. (If she will only accept Jesus into her life, she will be healed.)
This is a pretty straightforward thriller from a writer whose work usually possesses far more depth, complexity and uniqueness. Characterization is good but the plot is simple: Leila must escape and get help before her vision deteriorates completely. The ending is sudden and somewhat unsatisfying.
I can mildly recommend this novel for fans of psychological thrillers, or if you're just looking for a quick, relatively unchallenging read. For true horror gems, though, I suggest seeking out the author's first three novels: Prodigal, Wilding, and Revenant, all of which were published in the early to mid-nineties under Dell's Abyss imprint. They are fantastic. This and most of her work since has been something of a disappointment.

65MM
65MM
by Dale Hoover
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
15 used & new from CDN$ 1.32

2.0 out of 5 stars Celluloid horrors, April 7 2004
This review is from: 65MM (Mass Market Paperback)
Joe Moreson has always wanted to own a movie theater, one where he could screen and share his favorite classics. So when the opportunity presents itself, he finally decides he's had it with his current job and takes the plunge. He picks up and moves to Fareland, one of those small towns where everyone knows each other. But the Fareland Theatre is doing much more than enabling Joe to fulfill his dreams. He has suddenly become erratic and malevolent, detached from his wife, and perhaps from reality itself.
Having read Hoover's first, the very original psychological horror novel Shadow Twin (also published by Dell Abyss), I was expecting something very fresh and different. But 65mm is basically just another presentation of horror story standards: the small town with a dark secret, a lurking evil force, and increasing insanity leading to a broken marriage. The setting of the theater is just that; it isn't really relevant. The story itself is unsatisfying and seems like it was aborted at too early a stage. The individual parts don't gel. A significant character is killed, but it never has any bearing on the rest of the story, least of all on the character to whom this person is most important. Murders are uncovered with a mysterious message, but we never find out what it means. And the evil force at the heart of it all is hardly defined. It's fine to keep a mystery, but at least give the reader something. It's just sloppy.
65mm is a surprising disappointment. It isn't a terrible book, but it will probably seem too familiar to most readers. By all means seek out the author's first novel, but give this one a pass.

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