The Trades: Wind River (2017)

My family is one of recommendations and I am no exception. If we like something, we are both surprised if you haven’t been made thoroughly aware of it yet, and demanding that you correct your egregious ways. We’re also the types of people who, if you recommend something to us, our interest in that subject plummets.

To that end, my family and I (my Mom, Dad, and brother, Mike) have come together and invented “The Trades.” For every one recommendation given a recommendation must be received. Through this simple agreement, we’re all taking steps toward watching movies that we would have lied about seeing for decades to come.

Additional rules have been added over the weeks to keep things civil. For example, we can’t recommend movies from genres that we know the others don’t like (ie: No horror for mom and dad) and since we know each other so well we need to try not to recommend movies we’re aware they simply won’t enjoy.

But…there’s no time stamp on when those recommendations need to be watched by, so I have already started to slip back into my “I don’t really watch a lot of movies lately” mentality. So, I am taking this a step further and am going to review the recommendations that I receive in as part of The Trades.

The first trade was made between my parents and myself. In exchange for my making them watch one of my favorite movies (Predestination), my parents recommended Wind River, starring Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olson.

Wind River follows a small rural town as they are struck by what seems to be a murder. A woman is found 6 miles from civilization in the coldest parts of the world and her lungs have exploded from the cold. Elizabeth Olson plays an FBI agent who’s small and female so everyone assumes she’s useless. This gives her plenty of opportunity in this modern day “Western” to prove that she’s more than capable enough. Jeremy Renner is a local predator hunter who is well known for his tracking skills and knowledge of the area. He offers to help Olson solve what’s going on here, and the resulting scenario is both amazing and tragic. These are A-list actors who didn’t phone it in with a modern cowboy kind of story that hit all the high notes of that kind of story telling without feeling dated or misplaced.

The ending blew my mind and sent us off with a farewell that I thoroughly enjoy in hero or western drama styled stories. This was a great movie. 5 out of 5 stars.

For their part, my parents liked Predestination (they aren’t heavily science fiction folks), although the time lines and intersecting parts were obviously confusing (as they are for everyone). They are both Ethan Hawke fans and liked the story.

Review: The Peaslee Papers by Peter Rawlik

The Peaslee Papers: A Lovecraftian Chronicle by [Peter Rawlik]

This is going to sound counter to literally everything I am, but bare with me: I don’t normally enjoy to completion anthologies that are hardcore mythos.

The reason behind that is that when I read something, I fall hard for it, even the crap stuff, and I demand more. If you give me Reanimator, then hook me up to an IV of the green stuff and keep her coming. We’re reading about Yog-Sothoth today? Then blow my mind up! Unfortunately, large anthologies that tend to be a deep dive into the mythos tend to bounce around the universe and rarely touch back on whatever subject first sparked my interest.

Peter Rawlik’s The Peaslee Papers is something else entirely. It’s similar in effect to what I’ve been trying to be a part of in the group anthologies I’ve joined. Almost like a TV show, in that each story in this anthology acts more as a chapter, telling an enclosed story that actually lends itself toward the larger and all-encompassing plot of the book.

The Peaslee Papers is a biography of the Peaslee family, starting with the famed Nathanial Wingate Peaslee and following his descendants throughout the history of the world. They encounter the Mythos in differing ways (it touches on almost everything) and in ways that I don’t ever see enough of (had some good King in Yellow stuff going on) and are always tied back to the main part of Peaslee’s story: Quantum Leaping with the Yith.

It goes beyond that, though, in that we get to see a hint at the Yith’s very alien, and in many ways, all too human, agenda. He adds to the Mythos at regular intervals without feeling like it was shoehorned in. It wasn’t, it’s been there the entire time, we just didn’t know about it until Rawlik told us.

I’ve been a huge fan of Rawlik’s Reanimators series of connected stories, with my favorite being Weird Company, but this gave me a new dimension. Instead of the more visceral look at at flesh-craft and the psychology behind reanimating the dead, we got a philosophical look at manipulating the universe.

This book is an easy 5 out of 5 for me. I’m about to start his Legacy of the Reanimator anthology, with co-authors, and am looking forward to just as entertaining of a deep dive into the history of Herbert West as we received with Professor Peaslee.

Review: Lovecraft Country Episodes 7&8

Even though the finale just aired (and I have yet to see it), I’m going to take a moment and review episodes 7 and 8 (I Am. and Jig-a-Bobo). This has been a great month for my writing projects, but at the same time I have had to borrow writing time from other things (such as reviews) to get there.

Episode 7, “I Am.” was a fun piece that I’m sure a lot of people are going to claim wasn’t even remotely Lovecraftian. Perhaps I’m wrong and they will be singing its praises but I have yet to read other reviews that take the same opinion on these that I do. Episode 7 followed Hippolyta, George’s widow, after she discovers the correct mathematical equation to open the Orrery. When she does get it opened, she discovers a key and a set of coordinates and decides that whatever this thing is, it has to give her answers to her burning questions regarding George’s death and her family’s lies.

At the same time, Atticus and Letti are trying to figure out their next steps and accidentally walk in on Montrose and his boyfriend. The issue is the times and the way they dealt with homosexuality, and whatever we’ve built Atticus up as in our heads, he’s still an Army boy from the fifties with huge respect for his mama. When he discovers that his dad is gay, he doesn’t know how he can trust someone who’s lied to his mother for years as well as struggles with the fact that his dad is gay.

In true “manly” fashion, Atticus decides to ignore it and focuses on the problem at hand until he and Letti realize that Hippolyta might have gotten herself into trouble.

Hippolyta is a resourceful gal, and she discovers and activates a sort of interstellar telescope that opens a portal through time and space (possibly multiple spaces). The security guards of the place show up, Atticus shows up, everybody is getting shot at, the machine gets hit by a stray bullet, security guards die, and then Hippolyta gets sucked into the portal.

She wakes up in a space cell. A prisoner (even though the aliens say she isn’t) of an alien or future race.

THIS IS LOVECRAFTIAN.

I had to put that in bold because a lot of people think that the term “Lovecraftian” means it has to fall directly in line with Lovecraft’s mythos. That isn’t my definition. Lovecraftian means otherworldy elements being interpreted as supernatural. Lovecraftian means aliens with unknown motives manipulating individuals in much the same way we like to laserbeam ants with a magnifying glass.

When Hippolyta fell through the portal and into time and space this group of aliens or whatever grabbed her and decided they wanted to examine and study her for their own unknown motives. They put a weird glass thing in her wrist and, in the only thing they do that makes mortal sense, they tell this woman who has had her freedoms held back by society that she can choose how free she wants to be. You can’t look at Hippolyta falling through time, getting snatched by an alien influence, and being experimented on and not think of the Yith or the Mi-Go. If you can, then I have to question your own understanding of the mythos. Are these aliens Yith? I doubt it, and they certainly don’t look like it, but then again, the Yith inhabit different species’ bodies as they die. This could be a future or past iteration of them from when they weren’t living in large insect-like crab-claw bodies. Do I believe that? No, but my point is in the idea. What is Lovecraftian? Alien influences and motives altering the course of human lives in unexplainable ways that seem supernatural. And that’s exactly what happens to Hippolyta.

In a lot of ways, this is exactly the same thing that happens with Ruby. On a lesser scale it is happening with Montrose. These people who are held down for whatever reasons are being given a level of freedom they have never experienced. For Hippolyta, she’s being told that she can decide her life, but she needs to understand who she is first.

Suddenly she’s thrust into a journey through different lives, times, and places, where she can examine herself and who she is. First she lives the dream, singing and dancing on the stage in Paris, then she’s learning how strong she is as she leads a band of women to fight every hateful man in history, and then she finds a place where George didn’t die and she tells him everything she’s needed to say in order to find herself again. And George, who I’ve always been a huge fan of, steps up and says, “Alright, I’ll be your sidekick. Let’s go.”

Probably the most romantic thing in this entire show.

Space adventures ensue, and Hippolyta says she’s ready to go home once she knows who she is, but we never see her step out of the portal again.

Back in our world and time, it turns out that Atticus got sucked into the portal too, and he gets spit back out, carrying a book with the same title of the show and runs away, leaving two dead guards and his cousin’s comic book, implicating Hippolyta in the guards’ deaths.

Episode 8, Jig-a-Bobo, is a mix of the aftermath of Hippolyta’s lack of return as well as a return to the more local situation. Immediately following the very-real-world death of Emmett Till, killed graphically for talking to a white woman while in her family’s grocery store. In the lore of Lovecraft Country, Emmett was also a friend of Hippolyta’s daughter, Diana (Dee).

Mikey and I had to take a moment when we discovered that this boy’s death was a real-world occurrence. This tragedy is heart-breaking and should be a story that people share for eternity to remind us of the horrors of hate as well as to keep Emmett Till’s name alive. Hate does nothing good for anyone and has no place in the hearts of man.

Understandably, Dee is upset. She needs to breathe, she needs to talk, and she still doesn’t know where her mother is. Atticus is still avoiding his father, and Letti is remorseful after her last conversation with her sister.

This episode does a lot to connect the dots between people’s stories, but the creepy crap is all happening to Dee.

In this episode we’ll see Ruby and Letti hear each other’s stories. Letti will understand that Ruby has been working with Christina. Ruby thinks Christina’s a good guy. Atticus will accept his father for who he is. We’ll also see that Atticus got sucked to the future in the last book and met a woman gave him a book, written by his own son, that recounts the upcoming events.

All of that is important and I care only in the grand scheme of the rest of the series, but can we get back to Dee? Thanks.

Dee gets cornered by zombie/wizard cop. Zombie/Wizard cop SPITS A LOOGIE ONTO HER HEAD and casts a spell. She wakes up later and my first thoughts are nothing good. I’m ready to kill this guy, but it turns out all he did was curse her with demons that’ll kill her, not any of the horrible stuff I expected him to do.

But I’m ahead of myself.

He corners her because everyone wants to know where Hippolyta disappeared to after those (white) security guards died.

Of course, Dee has no idea. For reasons that still don’t make any sense to me, he cursed her to be chased by creepy (like Pennywise) invisible demon things to stop her from… telling people? Warning people that he’s looking for her mother? I still don’t get it, but whatever.

Anyway, the rest of the episode is her getting hunted by these demons until one of them scratches her.

Atticus decides he’s going to use magic to make himself impossible to harm and recruits his dad to help. Letti tries the same thing, but recruits Christina to help. Christina knows that she needs to sacrifice Atticus to become immortal, so she’s decided she won’t save him, but she’ll gladly put a spell of “no harm” onto Letti and her unborn baby (totally preggers with Atticus’s kid).

Atticus and his father do the spell but Atticus doesn’t feel any different. He’s confused, but decides he’ll try to work another angle. Somewhere in this he explains to his dad about his future kid and the book.

During this, the cops have decided to storm Letti’s house. Everybody shows up. Bullets rain down on the place and Letti is totally bulletproof. She’s gonna kick ass, but then Atticus shows up and she goes running out to protect him from the bullets.

Except the spell Atticus and Montrose did worked! With an entirely different effect. It turns out that while they didn’t make Atticus into Superman like Letti was hoping for, he got his own protector in the form of a giant black shoggoth (the black shoggoth looks so much cooler than the pale ones).

Dee is scratched by the demon kids and dying. The episode ends with her sick, Letti impervious to harm, and Atticus all protected by monsters.

And now I want a monster shoggoth to eat all my enemies. Gonna have to rewind and rewatch that spell…

Mikey’s thoughts:

Little different this time folks. Every episode has historical audio files that play at certain moments. Sometimes it’s at a moment when all hope is lost or feels lost. But each time, realizing what is said and realizing that it really happened and these were said during a time where you could be killed because you looked at someone the wrong way. Each time, I feel like my heart is going to break. I just can’t believe the horror that lives in the hearts of man.

Also, this friggin show knows how to keep me on the edge of my seat. I want a Shoggoth.

Review: Lovecraft Country Episode 1 & 2

I almost forgot that this show was about to air when all of the Lovecraft Facebook groups that I follow became flooded with posts and reviews.

Before I get into my review of the first 2 episodes, I had a few things that I wanted to say:

The first is that this review covers Episode 1 and Episode 2 of Lovecraft Country on HBO and I wish I could that it was an artistic choice to combine the review of both of them together, but it’s not. The truth is that I didn’t even think about reviewing the episodes until a day before the third one aired. This two episode combination review is my “catch up.”

Secondly, (this is where I address the 30 huge elephants in the room) Lovecraft Country covers a dark period in American History that a lot of white Americans like to pretend didn’t happen. The subject matter (race and racism in the 1950’s, not the Lovecraftian stuff) triggers some people in a way that I see as entirely selfish.

What I mean by selfish is that these people (read that as “racists”) have no problem watching an uncomfortable subject matter in another period piece as long as it doesn’t pertain to race or ‘Murica. Denying our darker past to forget about it is selfish, ignorant, and, of course, racist. I bring up this salient point for a multitude of reasons.

The first of which is that a large percentage of the posts I saw on those Lovecraft Facebook pages were claims that the show’s message was too much or statements that demanded that black people shouldn’t be put into the racist author’s legacy.

One post went as far as to claim that the Nazi’s didn’t go far enough, and used this to imply that if they had, this wouldn’t be a discussion.

These people are disgusting, obviously, and are a complete waste of the flesh they use to house their hateful demons. That being said, I am going to address some of these points.

Claiming that adding race to HPL’s stories disgraces his legacy is dumb for several reasons. Being a damned racist in the first place is what disgraced his legacy. Nobody can even speak about Lovecraft and being a fan of his work in this modern era without someone mentioning his overzealous amount of racial hatred. If anything, adding new and diverse ideas to his mythos only keeps the mythos alive by adding fresh stories and working to redeem the author’s dark opinions.

The other thing that bothers me is this claim of ownership over HPL. Trying to gatekeep people from creating any type of story, including those that include race, directly contradicts his feelings concerning the shared universe of the mythos.

The current, accepted, belief regarding new stories in the mythos is that none of his stories are protected in a way that stops authors from adding and joining them. The mythos was meant to be a sandbox that allowed creators to expand and play in. Imagine the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or The Flash’s Multiverse, but with existential dread. We, as creators (and the “Nazi” that I meantioned previously is actually a fairly famous creator) can’t create and add to the mythos when it suits us and then try to close the gate when the other artists create something that we don’t agree with. The only person who has that responsibility died in the late 1930’s.

Finally, my last major point to the haters is that this show, and the book by Matt Ruff, have been clearly advertised for years without demonstrating any sort of hidden agenda. This show is clearly what it claimed to be. If a show doesn’t intrigue ME with it’s trailers and ads, I won’t watch it. These haters all had ample warning to the content of the show and could have simply avoided it.

Instead, they watched it anyway and then bitched about it online. They are trolls looking to be fed and I encourage all moderators to block users who conduct this behavior so that they will starve and, hopefully, learn from their behavior.

Anyway, that is the only time (I only kind of promise this) that I will be bringing up people needing to stop being racist assholes in reference to this show. Now onto the review. Full disclaimer: I’ve read the book, and it was a long time ago, but I remember enjoying it.

Disclaimer number 2: My brother and I watch this together, remotely. He watches on his tv 20 minutes away while I sync my show up with his (“Ready? Ok, 1, 2, 3, hit play.”) and we sit in a party chat. Mikey’s opinions will be regular short pieces in these reviews.

Disclaimer number 3: I tried to write this without spoilers. I couldn’t do it. You’ve been warned. SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS. Boom! Warned again.

Episode 1 – Sundown

This episode is a perfect example of how to introduce characters and keep things moving. The opening scene is beautifully done, and while I know everyone was talking about it, I was excited to see the dread lord Cthulhu get his ass handed to him by the powerful swing of Jackie Robinson.

Atticus is the main character, but it becomes obvious that we’ll be following several other characters (his uncle Geoge and his wife, Letti and her sister, and the almost too white Braithwhites) throughout this series.

Atticus has just returned from the Korean War and there are questions as to whether he has “Shell Shock” or PTSD as we know it today. On top of that, he’s found a letter from his father requesting that he go out east and find him in “Lovecraft Country” (OMG they said it!).

George, Letti (who’s a mooch and a drifter), and Atticus decide to make this trip together and get paid doing it as George is the editor-in-chief (with his wife) of the “Green Book.” The Green Book is a book that is sold/handed out to black people to tell them safe routes, places to stay, and more in the incredibly racist 1950’s. This book is the key to surviving a roadtrip if you happen to have the wrong skin. Unfortunately, it isn’t always perfect and needs to be regularly updated, as we’ll see throughout this entire series, I’m sure.

The first 70% of this story is just them getting to their destination and dealing with very horrible people (chased out of town with shotguns, told to get out of a county before sundown, etc). It’s the getting chased out of the county that opens up the first real (there was minor bits before) supernatural stuff.

The sheriff is going to kill all three of them in the woods when suddenly…

SHOGGOTHS!

There are few televised moments that make me that happy. You can verify with my brother, Mikey, that I screamed with terror and delight when they arrived on the scene. The shoggoths came from nowhere, and even though I had them spoiled for me a little before the show, I still jumped.

Let’s get the big thing out of the way that everyone is talking about: No, they didn’t look like shapeless forms of whirling flesh, or a black mass of gel, or whatever you think shoggoths are supposed to look like, but that’s ok. As a writer for Shoggoth.net, I know what I’m talking about. Shoggoths have the ability to take many shapes, and they have come in many different flavors. This might have big six limbed bipeds, but they also had eyes and mouths covering their entire bodies.

Also, the vampire bite changing thing bothered a few people, but obviously nobody that was bothered by that ever watched “The Thing,” by John Carpenter. The monster in “The Thing” was the best vision of a shoggoth that I have ever seen, and simply touching a person made it take over and replace that person with it’s own self.

These things were shoggoths, and they were beautiful. I want 2.

Anyway, I’ve already broken my cardinal rule and spoiled a lot of the episode, but this episode ended on quite the high note (the shoggoths, duh) and put our heroes into a place that I thought (from my vague memories from the book) they wouldn’t get to until the end of the season.

 6 out of 5 stars. It was that good.

Mikey’s thoughts: “The best line in that entire episode was tied for Letti screaming for them to get the F out of that diner and for Uncle George looking at Atticus and asking what happens when someone gets bit by a vampire.”

Episode 2 – Whitey’s on the Moon

They ended up at Braithwhite mansion, the last place that Tic’s father was seen. The Braithwhites are weird, but friendly, and offer them anything and everything, but they were also expecting them and all of their favorite stuff fills each of their rooms.

Another odd thing, no one without Braithwhite in their blood can remember the shoggoths, and George and Letti can’t see to recall any of Tic’s weird crap he’s explaining to them. So Tic must be a Braithwhite. When he discovers the memory crap he makes friends with the lady of the house (who’s name is escaping me) and demands that she proves her friendship by undoing whatever spell stops George and Letti from remembering. She agrees and suddenly there are screams everywhere.

Fast forward a bit and they quickly discover that Daddy Braithwhite is trying to make a spell that will open the door to Eden and provide him with eternal life. This spell had been tried once before by (as it turns out) Tic’s great-great-great grandfather and super bad cultist, but he screwed it up and the house burnt down with Tic’s great-great-great grandmother escaping to give birth to the next line of Braithwhites.

George has a powerful scene in this episode where he does what he does best and reads. His readings lead him to understand this cult and their bylaws thoroughly and he uses those to manipulate the entire cult into giving Tic everything he wants, namely his father.

George and Letti get shot, with Letti getting killed, and the cult uses her revival to explain that they can also save George, Tic just has to take part in the ceremony.

The ceremony…

Hoo-boy…that was a doozy.

In a good way, of course. I don’t think this show could do anything wrong if it tried.

Anyway, Tic does the ceremony but it goes all wrong and I don’t know if it was because of Tic’s will, Tic’s great-great-great grandmother, the cult screwing up, or Lady Braithwhite doing something behind the scenes. I’m sure they will let us know later in the series as a big plot twist. Whatever happens, everyone, including the house, gets destroyed except for Tic, Letti, Montrose (Tic’s dad), and George…

And then George bites it.

Ugh. Tears.

Anyway, another 6 out of 5. This show is better than anything I’ve watched in a while. I’m on the edge of my seat the entire time and can’t get over how dang good it is. To prove how much I like it, just look at how many names I remembered. I never remember names of characters, not even in shows that I like. 

Mikey’s thoughts: “All I have to say is ‘Snake Penis.’ We knew it was going to happen as soon as they showed the stained glass window. Even so, I was still not fully prepared.”

Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys

The problem with Lovecraft Mythos stories, and the same thing that I tend to love about them, is that they are known to dive deeply into the mythos and alienate readers who haven’t spent their lifetimes obsessing about some obscure author from the 1920’s. It makes the stories excellent for those types of readers and keeps everyone else from even picking up the title

That’s not the case with Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys. The story uses the magic, race, and creatures of Lovecraft’s mythos to tell a story that doesn’t require foreknowledge. To that point, though, having that foreknowledge is rewarded with small nods and subtle hints as the story progresses.

This book uses the Sherlock/Watson method of telling the story, but does it almost better than even Doyle’s heroes in that it allows the reader to decide if they are the Sherlock or the Watson. The Sherlocks all know what’s coming when the protagonist, Aphra, heads home or discusses the Yith, but the Watsons aren’t left in the dark, as they are pulled along in the adventure and explained what’s going on as they see it for the first time. And none of those explanations come across as heavy-handed narration or as treating the reader as an idiot. Their just seeing it all for the first time, and get to experience the excitement, fear, and dread as if they were actually there.

Aphra’s story is one of race, subjugation, and legacy as she tries to decide what’s to come for her and her people after the Americans destroyed most of Innsmouth and threw the survivors in prison camps. Their story purposefully mirrors that of Asian-Americans during the second World War while also adding an element of the supernatural. While mirroring that horrible tragedy that the government placed on its own people, it also illustrates it by Aphra’s finding family in some of the imprisoned through mutual hardships while also pairing them all up with the very government that sought to ruin them.

Winter Tide has everything, and I thoroughly enjoyed it as both a fan of history and a fan of Lovecraft. 5 out of 5 stars!

Review: Brightblade by Phipps and Suttkus

Brightblade (The Morgan Detective Agency Book 1) by [Phipps, C. T., Suttkus, Michael]

Brightblade is the newest book in Phipps’s and Suttkus’s United States of Monsters world. This is the world of New Detroit, where supernatural beings decided to make themselves known to everyone a few years back and now the world has to deal with them on a daily (or nightly, in some instances) basis.

Brightblade sticks out because it’s both a new story as well as what I can only describe as the linchpin. This story helps to show you how every other story is connected, aside from that big reveal of monsters being actually under your bed. It does this really well, reminding the readers that outside of the obvious books in the United States of Monsters series, there’s also the Red Room series by these guys.

If there’s one thing that these guys know how to do, it’s building a huge universe to play in.

Brightblade is much more than the “missing link,” though. We have a strong tale of a woman trained to be this generation’s Buffy the Vampire slayer, but much like Buffy, she is quickly learning that everything she’s trained to kill is too intricately woven into her personal life. The MacGuffin for the story lends itself well to her turmoil, as it seems to be the only thing that can untie the complicated knot that is her family and friends and potentially save her from joining them, but she’s struck with the realization that no one wants their “problems” to be undone.

The struggle is real as Ashley (the main character) has to decide if she can love her friends and family with the stains on their souls or if she should go against their wishes and cure them. Which is the bigger evil? How can she learn to unhate everything they are?

This was just another great story in the Phipps and Suttkus catalog and I’m a huge fan. The little nods to characters I’ve learned to love from other books helped to propel me into this story and introduce these new characters in a manner that made them feel new but also as if they were old friends.

It’s a great book and I give it 5 out of 5.

Unfortunately, it’s also made me yearn for the next Weredeer book… Get on that guys!

Review: Meddling Kids, by Edgar Cantero

First published on Shoggoth.net:

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cangtero

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

To be entirely honest, when I first picked up my audio copy of Meddling Kids, by Edgar Cantero, I had no idea that I would be writing a review for Shoggoth.net. As a matter of fact, I only picked it up because I remembered reading somewhere that it’s an adult parody of Scooby Doo. To that point, it absolutely is a 100% homage to Scooby Doo, but it is also an homage to Lovecraft, the mythos, and the other players in the mythos.

The story takes place in 1990, 13 years after the Blyton Summer Detective Club (BSDC), aka the Scooby Doo gang, solved their last case. It starts with their last masked villain getting out on parole and being confronted by the slightly more aggressive version of their Daphne. In this, she goes by the name of Andy and she’s only the Daphne character because all of the others were already taken. In this opening scene, it becomes quickly apparent to Mythos fans that this is going to be a Lovecraftian tale.
From there, Andy collects Carrie (Velma), and Nate (Shaggy), and since we’re 13 years past the BSDC days, Shawn’s (Scooby’s) grandson, Tim. Our Fred is the first obvious casualty. He died a few years before this reunion after a stint as an actor ended in a drug overdose. This is how they introduce that all of their lives aren’t what they had expected and they are sure that the real mystery behind their last case wasn’t a masked villain, but was instead an actual lake monster that the news covered up. Ever since they were scared by that real monster, their lives have been hell. Shaggy is in an asylum in Arkham, Velma got her biology degree but instead waits tables at a bar, and Daphne is a former Air Force soldier who escaped from prison.
Needless to say, their lives are shit and they know that they need to confront whatever it was that they ran away from if they ever want to get their lives back on track.
The book is filled with some great call backs to the original Scooby Doo (there’s a Zoinks River) as well as some references to Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and other childhood mystery stories. As a Mythos tale, Edgar Cantero doesn’t shy from the deep end of the mythos and plays as fully in that as he does the Scooby Doo stuff.
The negatives about this story resolve entirely around the writing style, which switches between standard novel-style and screenplay without any warning. It’s jarring and sometimes confusing, but as an audio tale it was generally alright to follow. It took me about three or four times before I stopped paying attention to it, but you do notice it. The other thing is a lot of the made up words and overly cartoonish descriptors. The made up words are simple to understand the meaning of, but those and the odd descriptions pull you from the story as you stop to rewind in your mind what you just heard/read and decipher it again in the context of the scene.
Outside of that, I thought the book genuinely enjoyable and had a great time reliving the good ole days of Scooby and the gang (and yes, Fred/Pete is in it…in a way). I also loved an interesting twist at the very end involving the newest Scooby of the gang, Tim.
Another thing: every now and then Tim does speak, just like Scooby Doo does, but this is explained away in a very clever way as a part of Nate/Shaggy’s hallucinations as a generally insane guy. It’s really well done and still gives us the Scooby scenes without breaking the reality that the story tries to weave.
4 out of 5 stars. Great book.

Review: The Gods of H.P. Lovecraft

The Gods of H.P. Lovecraft

The Gods of H.P. Lovecraft

(First publisher for Shoggoth.net)

Normally, I have mixed feelings when it comes to anthologies. It’s not that I don’t like them, my problem is quite the opposite. I love them, but once I get to the point in an anthology story where I want it continue divulging the secrets it’s only just now begun to show me is when the story ends and we shift gears into an entirely different story.

I feared that would happen with The Gods of H.P. Lovecraft, but I wanted to give it a try anyway because I’m a huge fan of Donald Tyson’s Necronomicon books and knew that he had written the descriptors of the gods between each of the individual stories.
I was pleasantly surprised to find every story in this anthology pleasant to some degree. I still suffered, especially at the end of tales such as A Dying of the Light by Rachel Caine.
This anthology was well put together, in that it introduced new tales with very beautifully written takes on the different beasts of the Mythos, while still making itself a primer for each of them. It works well as an introduction to the Mythos, or as a database to update your knowledge if you’re fairly involved in the lore, but haven’t had the time to read any of the Clark Ashton Smith stories (for example).
That leads me to my favorite bits. I haven’t read much of Clark Ashton Smith, but I’ve read some and have only really read the Wiki page for Tsathoggua. With that being said, one of my favorite stories from this mix was The Apotheosis of a Rodeo Clown. This story was one of the few that left me begging for it to continue, as it ends with some revelations about the main character that I think (I need to read CAS to be sure) harkens back to the original Tsathoggua tale.
On the other side of that coin, my other favorite stories were Dream a Little Dream of Me (Jonathan Maberry), In the Mad Mountains (Joe R. Lansdale), and Down, Deep Down, Below the Waves (Seanan McGuire). In the case of Dream a Little Dream of Me, we got some great pulp adventure while expanding on the Dream Lands and the Night Gaunt Mythos. In the Mad Mountains seemed to create a new interpretation of the Mountains of Madness, while also creating an absolutely horrific tale. Down, Deep Down, Below the Waves was simply great Innsmouth story telling and kept me on the edge of my seat. I didn’t know who to cheer for and that, in itself, was somewhat horrific.
At the end of this book, I was left craving more, so much more and encourage everyone to pick up a copy. This was a 5/5 star anthology.

Review: I Am Providence by Nick Mamatas

I Am ProvidenceI Am Providence by Nick Mamatas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I went into this book pretty excited. The premise sounded like a lot of fun, and I liked Mamatas’ The Damned Highway. Unfortunately, this was a 3 star book for various reasons that only managed to get its fourth star from me because I did find myself regularly compelled to continue turning the page just for the murder mystery plot.
Unlike other reviewers, I mostly enjoyed the protagonist, Colleen Danzig. The parts that bothered me revolved around the victim’s point of view. Originally, those chapters were very entertaining and promised a very Lovecraftian answers. I felt that the story never delivered on those answers.
Once again, the murder mystery plot was very good, and felt like an homage to Poirot or Sherlock.
What Mamatas did, and what I think makes me uncomfortable enough to lose enjoyment during this novel, was write a novel aimed at the very specific audience of the Lovecraft crowd, and then use that sniper focus to shine a jaded mirror on that very same crowd, all while stating very plainly in that reflection that they are all whiney and opinionated enough that if they complained there would be no validity to their man-baby cries. My question is why someone would pick a target audience to write to and then insult it.
The answer, that I suspect, was that Mamatas was going for realism, but from the point of view of a fan who was tired of his fandom’s more negative people. If you’re a fan of Ghostbusters, Star Wars, or just about any series that’s been rebooted or sequeled in the last few years, than you’ve probably experienced similar feelings. You want to enjoy the medium, but when you go online, have a conversation with someone, go onto a Facebook group, or actually go to a CON than you’ll run into so many people that are adamantly argumentative about things you thought were just fun.
You can see this also in Mamatas’ mention of the Indie Author crowd. He brings up how getting found doesn’t mean anything other than a few more bucks and maybe a movie deal that won’t ever happen. How everyone with a pen makes an anthology or a publishing house. He complains from the perspective of someone who’s tired of hearing everyone else complain.
And he gets kind of mean about it.
I get it, there are a ton of stereotypes regarding the fans of Lovecraft, and honestly, I’ve never attended more than one convention-styled event, in a guy’s basement, filled with some of the stereotypes described in his book. The problem was that this book comes across as an angry “letter to the editor” about the fandom, his dislike of the conventions, and the people that he’s been stuck at his author booths talking to. As if he wrote this on a grumpier day in his career.
The last page of the book, the Acknowledgements, even states “First I must thank Jeremy Lassen, whose desire for one more Mythos novel from me inspired this book. He will never ask again, clearly.” And then he ends it with “As it turns out, writing a novel is a lonely business.”
Wow, that’s just bleak as Hell.
But the plot for the murder mystery was great. There’s a great story in this book and for that alone I think this novel deserved praise. Mamatas obviously wanted to put forth a good story.
It’s just unfortunate that his good story got mired in his hate letter to his fans.

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