Reviewed this week, we have Eldren: The Book of the Dark by William Meikle, and the anthology Lost Signals edited by Max Booth III and Lori Michelle.
Title: Eldren: The Book of the Dark
Author: William Meikle
Some phrases really just do sum up and set the tone for an entire story. “Once upon a time” is one such phrase; when you see that, you immediately have certain expectations. “In the beginning” is another example, the one that starts this book.
And yes, that sweeping epic biblical sense of gravitas it conveys is carried through. It’s not just your usual vampires-unleashed menace; these are vampires with history, with their own place in (or fallen from) creation. That history is revealed in tantalizing excerpts from their own testament, a book safely entombed along with the sword-staked remains of an ancient and evil being.
Until, of course, someone stumbles across the tomb and does what someone’s always got to do in these situations. The ancient evil arises, the menace is unleashed, the first few incidents are considered accidents, and by the time people realize or believe what’s really going on, things are fast headed from Salem’s Lot to They Thirst.
Other inevitable comparisons can be drawn between Eldren and those other two benchmark vampire stories – my preferred kind of vampire stories, might I add; give me bloodthirsty predators to angsty fops any ol’ time – as well as nods here and there to the likes of 30 Days of Night (actually, if I were going to quibble over anything, it’d be the references to the arctic; that may be fine some of the year, but there’s that whole land of the midnight sun business on the flip side.)
Soon, hope is down to a few tough and scrappy survivors, with some of the traditional archetypes represented – the kid, the priest, the teacher, the woman, the hunter – trying to save the day. The vampires are nicely scary, powerful, and ominous. I particularly liked the biblical interludes and historical flashbacks, and the descriptive/evocative scene-settings of the brooding old manse.
The final confrontation and resolution are maybe on the rushed side; I wouldn’t have minded a little more follow-up/wrap-up at the end. But, hey, that’s what the next book is for, right?
Title: Lost Signals
Editor: Max Booth III and Lori Michelle
Publisher: Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing
Words. Music. Voices. Numbers. Patterns of sound. The airwaves, the phone lines, communication, transmission … unseen stuff with wires and wireless … kind of creepy if you think about it, and no wonder people in the early days were afraid of what might come of such inventions.
Well, here are a couple dozen more reasons to freak out, to feel weird about static over the speakers or ominous dead air or a ringtone in the middle of the night. After all, we’ve all been there, haven’t we? Inexplicable calls, the radio you thought was turned off, the intercom buzzing but nobody’s there … that kind of thing provides the central, common, but deeply unsettling theme around which this anthology revolves.
The variety is impressive; it’s not only radios and phones but all manners of devices turned insidious, and some that aren’t even devices at all. Each story is also graced with an illustration, done in a stark sketchy black-and-white style somehow perfectly evocative of the theme. Twenty-four tales in all, most of them ranging from good to great, and some stand-outs totally off the charts.
“The Man in Room 603,” by Dyer Wilk, for example, hooked me from the get-go and then blew me away with its revelations. Paul Michael Anderson’s “All That You Leave Behind” is beautiful tragic emotional agony, while “The Givens Sensor Board” by Josh Malerman is steeped in old-school near-gothic creepiness. “Little Girl Blue, Come Cry Your Way Home” by the always-amazing Damien Angelica Walters, first made me distrust baby monitors, then threw a chilling ice-fist right hook that legit gave me goosebumps.
So, yeah, good stuff, definitely recommended. Just maybe not recommended right before setting out on a long solitary road trip with only the intermittent radio stations for company … or while sitting alone waiting for or dreading that inevitable call …
This book will probably make you paranoid, if you weren’t already. And if you WERE already, well, I have it on good authority that tinfoil only amplifies the signals.