Wednesday 30 September 2020

Westworld, Season 3 | review by Stephen Theaker

Caleb Nichols is a former soldier making a living on the fringe of a society that doesn’t give him any other options. Meeting Dolores Abernathy in the park, a beautiful woman who has just survived an attempted abduction (for which he supplied the car and drugs), will lead him into an adventure that will turn his life upside down. That’s sort of what it’s about, anyway.

Friday 25 September 2020

Susurrus on Mars, by Hal Duncan (Lethe Press) | review by Stephen Theaker

An experimental, gay, fantastical book that one could easily imagine as a Penguin Modern Classic, described by the publisher as a “novella-length collection of ... idylls”. It’s the densely allusive (to myths, legends and botany) story of two chaps who meet on a Mars where plants seem to be conscious of their history back on Earth, and where people can change their own sexuality with a quick mindhack. I was glad to be reading it on Kindle, so that I could look up all the words I didn’t know. *****

Friday 18 September 2020

A Song for Quiet, by Cassandra Khaw ( | review by Stephen Theaker

A bluesman in the sixties has a seed in his head, which, if he lets it grow, will let a being from a nearby dimension annihilate or reshape the world. A girl who is also infected finds that quite tempting, because the world she knows is so terrible. This was very good: what you might get if Philip K. Dick and James Baldwin collaborated on a Lovecraftian horror story. I particularly appreciated how it got across the kind of altered mental states that playing or listening to music can produce. ****

Wednesday 16 September 2020

Castle Rock, Season 2 | review by Stephen Theaker

Season one of Castle Rock was one of my favourite shows of 2019. It told the story of a weird young man found in a prison basement, whose presence distorted the world around him. Though it ended with hints that we might next be taken to the Overlook Hotel, season two instead puts a thirty-something Annie Wilkes, travelling under an assumed name with her daughter Joy, in the town of Jerusalem’s Lot.

Friday 11 September 2020

Athena Voltaire and the Sorcerer Pope, by Steve Bryant and Ismael Canales (Action Lab) | review by Stephen Theaker

Two British Special Intelligence agents are assigned missions in 1936. One agent is to assist a pair of archaelogists and Athena Voltaire in their quest for a relic, while the other will operate behind the scenes and try to nab the treasure first. Both are hindered by Nazis. It’s an Indiana Jones adventure with decent art, though it’s hard to tell some of the men apart. Sadly, the sorcerer pope of the title is the creator of the relic, rather than (so far as we know) an active character in this story. Stephen Theaker ***

Wednesday 9 September 2020

A Rainy Day in New York | review by Stephen Theaker

This is effectively an English-language remake of the To Rome With Love storyline about a young couple who get separated for the day, the woman meeting a film star, the man inadvertently meeting an escort. And it does for New York and its tourist board what To Rome With Love did for that city, giving those of us in lockdown a vicarious holiday in the process.

Monday 7 September 2020

Strange Weather, by Joe Hill (William Morrow) | Review by Douglas J. Ogurek

Lightning strikes repeatedly in quartet of tales rich in character and sensory details.

In Strange Weather, a thunderstorm does not just get you wet – it gets you torn apart by crystal nails. And a photograph doesn’t simply capture your image – it steals your memories. 

Each of the four short novels in this collection not only testifies to Joe Hill’s inventiveness, but also ratchets up the tension while nimbly doling out character and setting details that firmly root the reader in the action. Whether a scene involves a botched shooting at a mall jewellery store or a man who’s about to jump out of a plane despite a paralyzing fear of heights, the reader will be fully immersed in the experience thanks to Hill’s mastery of the senses. 

Saturday 5 September 2020

Five Feathered Tales by Alison Littlewood and Daniele Serra | review by Stephen Theaker

Five Feathered Tales (Short, Scary Tales Publications) is a collaboration between Alison Littlewood and the award-winning artist Daniele Serra. A luxurious picture book for adults, rather like the Dave McKean edition of Ray Bradbury’s The Homecoming, it publishes five of Littlewood’s excellent short stories with over two dozen fully-painted illustrations by Serra. What’s more, there is also an introduction by the highly esteemed Peter Tennant, a name perhaps familiar to Black Static readers.

Friday 4 September 2020

The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again, by A.C. Wise (Lethe Press) | review by Stephen Theaker

The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron is a glamorous superhero/secret agent team, which includes a mixture of women, drag queens, trans women, the mysterious M (described as an animate slab of leather) and their leader Bunny, the superheroic alter-ego of Phillip Howard Craft the Third, who like Kid Miracleman prefers to live as the alter-ego full-time. It’s not entirely fair to judge a book against the expectations you had for it, but here I was expecting something rather like the Senor 105 or Iris Wildthyme books, and while it has a similar tone and sensibility, I was disappointed by how little of this book saw the team in action, most of it being side stories or flashbacks or recruitments. Nevertheless, the stories it does tell are sensitive and moving. It doesn’t present joining the team as a cure-all for the personal problems everyone faces, but it gives them a supportive place to work things out. The final story does give us a fully-fledged adventure for the team as a whole, but it’s a bit of a let-down, being a perfunctory fight against a pair of mad scientists who have created giant insects. Overall, though, I thought it was a good book. Stephen Theaker ***

Wednesday 2 September 2020

The Walking Dead, Vol. 32: Rest in Peace, by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard (Image Comics) | review by Stephen Theaker

And so this astonishing comic comes to an end, having inspired multiple hit games and tv shows, and no doubt hit films to come. It is a difficult to discuss the content of the book, since pretty much anything I could say – including the names of the characters involved in it – would be a spoiler for the previous thirty-one volumes and their constant twists and turns. Even knowing that it is the last book is a mild spoiler, given that when the final issue was published, no one knew it was all over till they read it. Essentially, though, this book is about a possible civil war in the largest settlement we’ve seen to date, and then we get a lengthy epilogue showing what the future holds for the survivors. I found it to be a satisfying and moving end to the saga.