ASH CINEMA BY EDWARD J. RATHKE

Ash Cinema Ok, so I really want to describe how good this book is, how much it moved me. I am certain to fail miserably, but here it goes. A tryptic is used to beautifully convey stories of love and loss that really strike a chord. Very dreamy and intense, it will speak so loudly to anyone who has felt that otherworldly, once in a lifetime kind of love. A long gone movement in avant-garde cinema and art connect the three stories with connections between many of its’ important figures. Writing is a tool used in the present to “recreate the past and bring it back to life.”
The quality of the writing, the prose and the pacing were all stellar. I was amazed that it never faltered nor went overboard with the emotional intensity being what it was. In short, I will be haunted by the memory of this one for a while, much like the characters in the book are in their own way.
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I Will Rot Without You by Danger Slater

I Will Rot Without YouFor our friend Cotard everything falls apart. Everything falls apart. Everything…

Having been through a nasty breakup recently, the memories of his ex and their time together continue to haunt him. After she moves out, he discovers that the apartment they used to share is infested with roaches, who happen to have some big, mysterious plans for our protagonist.

So what are the strong points of “I Will Rot Without You?” I don’t know where to begin. This book is so full of clever analogies, intelligently crude humor, tragedy, and poetic prose, yet all is balanced so perfectly. It is also crazy how well all of it works to build the central theme. One of many passages that stood out to me: “The architecture seemed to pull my body forward toward a vanishing point at the far end of the hall, as if the construction of this room were but a single note played over and over, like a snake charmer’s chattel call, like a compulsively sterile convenience store soundtrack.” The surreal, dreamlike scenes and colorful descriptions never let up as the reader is pulled into Slater’s most accomplished and cohesive yarn yet. The line of roaches passing the bright red mold spores up and into Cotard’s mouth as he slept, and the accompanying dream scenes are good examples.

As far as characters go, they are extremely odd, yet memorable. ​The reanimated cockroach named Cross was a favorite, keeping me guessing as I pieced together all of what was happening. Hold on, did I mention the body parts? Lots and lots of body parts​: Cotard’s neighbor Dee Dee has parts of her jealous lover Cutter sewn to her, ready to keep any and all threats of another man away. The old man in the building who lives with the puppet corpse of his wife seated at the dinner table and says things like “You don’t give someone you love to the dirt.” The protag literally falling apart. Again, all tied into the metaphor of losing the love you truly cherished. We really do continue to carry a piece of that person and our experiences, long after our life has gone other places. Without spoiling anything, I will finish by saying that the ending was a great way to wrap all of this up.

I have anticipated this book for a while now and it was worth the wait. I really have nothing negative to say. I see this one appealing to fans of so many genres, as it ignores many of the typical classifications. Read this!

The Operating Theater by Christopher Ropes

The Operating Theater The hardest part of this little review will be finding the adjectives intense enough to describe how this collection of poetry made me feel. Personally, what I loved about it is how much passion was conveyed within the pages: vivid, honest, and gracefully done. I had intended to list favorites below, but realized that it is pointless to do so when about 80% of these were not only good, but good enough that my eyes were wide and I was in awe as they concluded. If any of what I have written describes something you would enjoy, I strongly recommend you read the Operating Theater.

Review: Alectryomancer and Other Weird Tales by Christopher Slatsky (Dynatox Ministries; 2015)

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“Loveliness like a Shadow”

This first story in this collection has a crisp, clean, traditional style.

It unnerved me first with this passage:

“She was about 5 when she first experienced it. Sleeping on the bottom bunk, her older sister snoring on top. A thin naked woman had settled on her chest, a coiled weight, loose skin slopping over her ribs into the floor. Wild confusion of hair trembling in the air like shock lines around a comic strip character’s head. A stunningly beautiful face. Mask of someone else’s mask. All that hair whipping and hissing with blind aggression.”

Yet it also contains haunted frames of contemporary malaise:

“All of her actions were familiar, like an old videotape recorded over long forgotten shows, fleeting images of the original programming peaking through.”

Although the style is orderly, the ambiguous ending and the desolately lonely madness of the atmosphere recalled Robert Aickman…

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Quintessence of Dust by Craig Wallwork

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I have read Wallwork once before with the horror collection Gory Hole. While I enjoyed that one, I am honestly pretty blown away by Quintessence of Dust. The stories will be with me for a long time, to be sure. Some were romantic, some were weird and disturbing (often with body parts being utilized for several things beside their intended functions), and others made me laugh while stressing some important life lessons. This is no doubt one of the best collections I have had the pleasure of reading.

Night Holds a Scythe: An urgent and touching post apocalyptic story involving a father and his four year old daughter, with a unique catalyst for the end times. I thought that this was a great opener for the book.

Railway Architecture: A husband who puts his desire into someone other than his wife will soon have the scales tipped. The railway as a metaphor for our choices in life and where they take us applied so well to what was going on.

Skin: The origins and exploits of Freakshow performers Sam-Hung and Delabia. Their unique talents give them an interesting way of earning a living. The end of this one will be one I do not forget.

Morning Birdsong and the Hell Demons: A medical student falls in love while delivering a baby amidst a demon attack. The descriptions of the female character were so vivid and the author nails the full experience of love at first sight.

A Neck That is Not Thick: While this may sound like a small problem, the protagonist is so hung up and affected by his neck that he cannot take it and goes to drastic measures.

Anal Twine: I am tempted to say that the title says enough, but I will say that I was shaking my head after this one, grinning at the execution of such a crazy idea. Well done.

The Hole: A neighbor suspected of foul play in a small town is digginga hole. His intentions for doing so and what the hole actually leads to is pretty surprising.

Men of Blood: A tale of a man and his lifelong friend the minotaur. I was not sure where this was headed, but the ending did not seem to fit with the rest of the story, and it was my least favorite of the bunch for this reason.

180 Degrees Shy of Heaven: A man desires a hornier wife, as many men have at one time or another. This was a clever and entertaining twist on the “be careful what you wish for “ message.

Gutterball’s Labyrinth: An unattractive and rejected man learns of the beauty he holds within.

The Whore That Broke the Camel’s Back: A love story involving a bestiality porn star, a camel and unconventional plastic surgery. This was actually touching as well, if you can believe it.

At times I feel that maybe I use the term “all time favorite” a bit too much, but right now, I don’t care. This book is one of them.​The writing was gorgeous and well done. Even within the most disturbing tales of the collection there was an intimate and touching quality that had me feeling for the characters. I am anxious to get to Craig Wallwork’s other books.

Sloughing Off The Rot by Lance Carbuncle

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review This is one hell of a fantasy adventure tale with plenty of beautifully crude humor, sex, and mind-altering substances. On the flip side, it is also intelligent. There are philosophical elements, soul searching and the quest for answers to life’s big questions. The combination of all of these elements worked very well together. I was grabbed immediately by the humor and weirdness, but happy to stay for the richness and originality of what followed.
John dreams of a voice commanding him to walk 500 miles and to now refer to himself as John the Revelator. He awakes in a cave with no idea where he is or who he used to be. He is instructed to “polish the rod with aromatic balms and oils,” the first of many scenes involving the unusual use of bodily fluids. His journey then begins. Leaving the cave, he hears an out of tune guitar being played by a man named Santiago. Santiago speaks in riddles, odd sayings and song lyrics. This is very irritating to John, who very quickly tires of the man, but needs him as a guide. They are off to a rough start from the beginning. Santiago is one my my all time favorite characters and the narrator in the audiobook does a great job portraying him.
John and Santiago must follow El Camino de la Muerte or the “Red Brick Road” until reaching the villain Android Lovethorn. John must then force Lovethorn to send him back to his previous life, which will not be an easy task. The voice of the burning bush feeds ​John bits and pieces of information about the person he used to be and why he must redeem himself in this other world along the way.
In all, this book was very easy for me to love. The characters and the surroundings they encounter are oddly unique. Their often vulgar names and characteristics are sure to stick with me for a long time. One last thought, If there really are beings called blumpkins I think I would go for a one night stand or two if anyone knows where to get one. 5/5 stars.

“Our Love Will Go the Way of the Salmon” by Cameron Pierce

Our Love Will Go the Way of the SalmonOur Love Will Go the Way of the Salmon by Cameron Pierce
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a great reading experience! Each of these stories are somehow tied to fish, but at the center are the undeniable experiences of the main characters. Balancing nostalgia, humor, and tragedy, each tale is unlike the one before. Devoid of a single unnecessary sentence, what often seems simple at first glance shows Pierce’s true mastery of subtext. This is simply great storytelling, some of the best I have ever read.

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