Reviews of Stoker Nominees

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Stoker Nominees 2001

NOVEL

  • The Indifference of Heaven, Gary A. Braunbeck
  • Silent Children, Ramsey Campbell
  • The Licking Valley Coon Hunters Club, Brian A. Hopkins
    This reasonably short first novel is something of a stewpot of horror and mystery with a bit of sf thrown in, just enough of each to annoy those who are fans of only one genre. But I think Hopkins does a pretty good turn for a first effort, even if some of his prose, particularly the dialog, is a bit wooden. Hard-boiled detective Martin Zolotow is railroaded into searching the wilds of Oklahoma for the daughter of a powerful mobster, who is basically blackmailing him to cooperate. Zolotow (sort of a clunky name for a protagonist, but there you go) proceeds to get kidnapped and beaten repeatedly in excruciating detail, eventually discovering the Manson-esque group of women at the center of some bizarre cult that is either aspiring to be vampires (if you're a horror fan) or doing experiments with blood to determine the secret of immortality (for the sf fans). As you would expect, the good guys mostly prevail and the bad guys mostly die horribly, particularly in one protracted sequence involving a few fictional famous southerners hunting women for sport in the pouring rain. The sex quotient is surprisingly low for a horror novel, but since Zolotow is staggering around in pain most of the time, perhaps it's just as well. Some nicely done imagery would make for a decent graphic novel, but even without the visuals, Hopkins provides plenty of description a frenetic pace to make this a quick, entertaining read.
  • The Traveling Vampire Show, Richard Laymon
  • The Deceased, Tom Piccirilli
    Here's a novel that's brooding, depressing, somewhat confusing, and ultimately unsatisfying. But it's a horror novel, so what else would you expect? That said, it's actually a fairly interesting take on the haunted house theme, concerning a famous young horror writer, Jacob Maelstrom, son of an equally famous horror writer, who returns to the isolated house he grew up in on the tenth anniverary of the murder of his family by his older sister. If you can get past the overuse of similes (seemingly every other sentence has a "like" or "as if" in the middle), Piccirilli succeeds in setting a mood and not letting up, making the book a bit of slog as it is unrelentingly despair. There are a number of flashbacks throughout that serve to piece together the mystery of why the murders happened the way they did, involving every possible page of the Dysfunctional Family Handbook, including incest, and a nicely done final sequence where the past and present collide as two young female fans staying in the house during a violent thunderstorm force Jacob to confront the past and explain the murders. The narrative is circumspect enough to at least give the illusion that more is going on than meets the eye (including the possibility that Jacob actually died that fateful night also), but not to the point that it seems accidental, such that a second reading may help clear things up a bit, or maybe it would just make them more confused. The ending is also a bit oblique, and probably could be subjected to more than one interpretation. Not a fun book by any means, but Piccirilli seems to know what he wants to do and in the end largely succeeds.
  • LONG FICTION

  • Riding the Bullet by Stephen King
  • "In Shock" by Joyce Carol Oates
  • "God Screamed and Screamed, Then I Ate Him" by Lawrence P. Santoro
  • The Man on the Ceiling by Melanie and Steve Rasnic Tem
  • SHORT FICTION

  • Dead Cat Bounce by Gerard Daniel Houarner
  • "Gone" by Jack Ketchum
  • "Fallen Angel" by Robert J. Sawyer
  • "Mexican Moon" by Karen E. Taylor

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