Lovecraft Country – #BookReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. I’m back to review another book from my September to be read list. This time I am reviewing the inspiration for the hit HBO show of the same name, Lovecraft Country.

SUMMARY

The critically acclaimed cult novelist makes visceral the terrors of life in Jim Crow America and its lingering effects in this brilliant and wondrous work of the imagination that melds historical fiction, pulp noir, and Lovecraftian horror and fantasy.

Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing, 22-year-old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George—publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide—and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite—heir to the estate that owned one of Atticus’s ancestors—they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours.

At the manor, Atticus discovers his father in chains, held prisoner by a secret cabal named the Order of the Ancient Dawn—led by Samuel Braithwhite and his son Caleb—which has gathered to orchestrate a ritual that shockingly centers on Atticus. And his one hope of salvation may be the seed of his—and the whole Turner clan’s—destruction.

A chimerical blend of magic, power, hope, and freedom that stretches across time, touching diverse members of two black families, Lovecraft Country is a devastating kaleidoscopic portrait of racism—the terrifying specter that continues to haunt us today.

REVIEW

5/5 STARS

In Chicago in 1954, Atticus Turner receives a letter from his father. The letter will take him to a place full of horrors, terrors, and the real nightmare of segregationist America. He has to travel deep into Lovecraft country where monsters roam and the cosmic terror of the world seems to be alive. It will take everything Atticus and his whole family have to brave the terrors that confront them and remain sane.

Usually when there is a book and a movie or television show and I have read and seen them both, I am able to tell you if one is better than the other. Most of the time I come down on the side of the book being better but occasionally there is a movie or series that outperforms its source material. I can’t make the distinction either way here. The book and the show are both amazing in their own unique way.

The book, unlike the show, feels a little smaller in scope even though it deals with the strange cosmic entities that populate Lovecraftian horror. The drama is still personal and much like the show, there can be true horror facing the characters in the guise of monsters who only seem insignificant in the face of the terrors of racial prejudice and violence. The true terror comes from reality in both the book and the show and I think that is what makes the story feel so visceral and real.

Matt Ruff has created an intriguing cast of characters here and the situations he places them in are imaginative and brilliant. And while certain details differ from the show, this book is just as engaging. It’s a satisfying conclusion but I hope that there will be sequels to the book.

If you love historical fiction, pulp fiction, science fiction or cosmic horror even a little bit, this book is well worth a read.

Cosmically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Lovecraft Country (Meet Me in Daegu) Episode 6 Spoiler-free Review

The Series is Bold Enough to Ask What Makes a Monster

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon, here back to give a spoiler free review of the sixth episode of the HBO series Lovecraft Country.

What is a monster? Can a monster have human emotions? Can a human who has done monstrous things still be a human? These are the questions that the sixth episode of Lovecraft Country wrestles with. Not enough horror poses this question and those that do typically just ask it on the surface. This episode was masterful at asking this question and forcing the audience to truly think about it.

The episode itself is basically a flashback episode that relates to the larger story. It’s the only episode so far that does not take place in America but that’s all that I am going to tell you because I really don’t want to give this one away.

I think if this show is going to win Emmys in the future, it should be this episode that is considered. The acting here is fascinating and the drama is real.

I have thought a lot about why this show is so good and I think it is this; the show can let you see something horrific, a terrible monster that is objectively scary, and then moments later the show will let you see something from reality that is even scarier. Any show that can place reality as the real horror has done its job well because while we might have nightmares about the big scary monster, there is no escaping reality.

I have no idea where the drama will take us next but I know I am ready for the ride.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Lovecraft Country (Strange Case) Episode 5 Spoiler-free Review

The Horror and Family Drama is Back on Track

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon, here back to give a spoiler free review of the fifth episode of the HBO series Lovecraft Country.

The previous episode was a throwback to Indiana Jones for some reason and it felt kind of out of place with the rest of the show. The most recent episode is much more on track. We are back to following the family drama and this episode has tons of interesting things to say on race and class. At the same time, it is full of body horror so if you are squeamish prepare to shut your eyes through a lot of the episode.

There are twists and turns that are surprising and unpredictable and as usual the very end will leave you just wanting to see the next episode as soon as possible. The show is able to be intellectual and visceral all at once which is an interesting mixture.

If you do watch this episode, I can promise that this is one of the episodes that will be in your mind months from now.

I feel like the show will need to have more episodes like this where the audience is both unable to turn away from the screen and wanting to turn away the whole time. There is still a deeper mystery going on here and I look forward to seeing how that plays out through the rest of the show.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

We Summon the Darkness – #MovieReview

What’s up everyone? Slick Dungeon here back to review the Netflix horror flick We Summon the Darkness. I promise not to give too much away but if you continue reading from here on out there could be mild spoilers. You have been warned.

If you were alive in the 1980’s and knew about the hair metal bands of the time, this movie will bring you right back to that period. The opening has all the iconic things from the 80’s you remember. Leather jackets, teased hair, the old Twinkie boxes and even Jolt cola. The movie follows three women who go to a heavy metal concert. While there they see signs that things are not exactly great in the area. Apparently there has been a slue of murders attributed to a satanic cult. When the women get to the concert they meet three men out for one last night of fun before they say goodbye to one of their group for good. The two groups start to hang out and the evening suddenly becomes very deadly.

This movie is described as horror and while there certainly are horror elements to it, I would classify this as more of a thriller than anything. The plot is very grounded in reality and although we have seen this sort of thing before this movie does have a fresh take on it.

The movie makes great use of limited locations and most of the night takes place in a single house. In some ways this reminded me of The Purge but I think the movie I would say this is closest to mirroring is the excellent Kevin Smith film Red State.

If you like the 80’s, if you are a fan of horror or thriller films, and if you enjoy seeing some of those conventions upended, this movie is for you.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Babysitter: Killer Queen – #MovieReview

Hey out there comedy horror fans, what’s going on? McG is back with another crazy horror comedy film on Netflix. Allow me, Slick Dungeon, to give you a little review of it. There will be some mild spoilers below so you have been warned.

The first film in the franchise (wait is 2 films a franchise?) followed Cole, a kid who was just a little too old to have a babysitter. Turns out his babysitter was part of a demon blood cult and they spent a night trying to kill him. It didn’t end well for them. If you want to know more about it, see my review of the first one here.

It’s two years later and while Cole is no longer under lethal threat, he is still the picked on kid at high school. But what about the girl he met from the first movie, doesn’t she like him? They kissed at the end of the last one, she must like him right? Well, she does seem to be the only one that does still think he is okay. She even invites him to go to a lake house for the weekend when….

HUGE SPOILER COMING

She tries to kill him because she is part of that same blood cult from the first movie.

The rest of the movie for the most part, plays out as you would expect. Old cast members return, new ones try to kill Cole, all of them die in gruesome and hilarious ways. There is another twist at the end that I won’t give away.

This movie is a little bigger than the first and there are a few more stunts but basically, if you watched and enjoyed the first one, this one is not a bad follow up. I definitely chuckled through most of it although some of the jokes felt less than fresh.

The only thing I never really bought was the beginning of the movie where they say that there was no evidence of anyone else being at Cole’s house the night of the first movie. I mean, what? There was like ten gallons of blood spilled and major damage to multiple parts of the neighborhood but whatever, I will let it go, this is not Hamlet.

I will say that I hope they leave it here because I think any movie after this one is going to lose the point. Does this movie have a point? Well, not really but it’s still fun, dumb, entertainment which is exactly what I look for in a horror comedy.

If you like comedy and have a strong stomach, this is totally worth ninety minutes of dumb fun.

Comedically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Lovecraft Country (A History of Violence) Episode 4 Spoiler-free Review

A Somewhat Disappointing 4th Episode But there is Still Plenty to Love in the Series

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon here back to give a spoiler free review of the fourth episode of the HBO series Lovecraft Country.

The first three episodes struck an amazing balance between family drama, the accurate portrayal of horrific segregationist realities in America and impossible monsters, magic and dangers. The fourth episode gives us… mostly an Indiana Jones style adventure.

Don’t get me wrong, there is still horror here and there are definitely moments of history, family drama etc. But most of it really is like something you would see in Indiana Jones. I’m not going to give away any more than that except to say that the series still has amazing potential and I think it will recover from this episode but I expect that when fans talk about the series in the future, episode 4 will be the one they say they could mostly have done without. Of course, if you are a fan of the show, you’ll still want to watch this episode as there are things that relate to the overall story that certainly happen. I found one side story to be particularly interesting and I have no idea where it is actually going.

The main action leaves a lot to be desired but as always the actors portraying the action are the best part of the show. They have all been able to pull off what would seem to be absurd to most of us while still keeping the feeling of their emotions on screen as real as it gets.

I’m looking forward to the next episode very much but if the show does have a few episodes like this one, it won’t turn out to be quite the brilliant show I thought it was. Here’s hoping for a better one next week.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

September 2020 TBR

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon here. I just wanted to share with you my September 2020 TBR list as it currently stands. Note that some of this could change as I do tend to be a slower reader and some books may get pushed back a little. There may also be books added if I see one that peaks my interest in ReedsyDiscovery. For personal reasons I am trying to keep this list a little short but I do end up picking up more books than I expect each month so more could be added. This month I will be continuing a couple of series I started earlier this year and catch up with what I missed last month. I will also be adding some new titles. If you have a TBR list, let me know what’s on it in the comments.

  1. Roa Seeks by Electra Nanou

This is a little bit like putting Write a To Do List on your To Do list. I read this book and posted my review yesterday but since that was the first day of September, it counts! This was a charming little fantasy book that I quite enjoyed. Read my review of it here.

2. The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan

I had hoped to finish this book last month but let’s be honest, fantasy books are long. That’s one of the things I love about them but if you are not the fastest reader, it’s a struggle. If I don’t finish any other books this month, this will be the one I do finish. I have already read more than one hundred pages so far and let’s just say, this is so freaking good! I can’t wait to finish it and share my thoughts with all of you.

3. The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

This is the second book in the Broken Earth trilogy. I know that this series has a lot of fans. I read the first book last month and I honestly struggled with it a bit but I was interested enough to want to know what happens next. I really did not enjoy the second person point of view in the first book but I don’t know if the second book is written in the same style. Even if it is, there could be something great in this series that just didn’t click with me so I am going to give it a fair shake (see what I did there? If you read the book you get it) and continue the series. This is on the condition that I can get a hold of a library copy so this could move to October. If you want to read my review of the first book in the series you can read it here.

4. When Colour Became Grey by A. C. Lorenzen

This is an Urban Fantasy book that I am looking forward to digging in. It’s about a woman who has an untimely death and is sentenced to hunt down demons over and over. I like the idea and am very interested to see where this will go.

5. Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

If you have seen my raving reviews of the HBO show of the same name, you will know that I very much want to read Loveraft Country as soon as possible. This is another one where I am dependent on the library having an available copy, so we will see considering how popular this is at the moment. If you want to read my spoiler free review of the first episode of the show you can read that here.

6. The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America by David Hadju

If any of these books on this list get pushed back, this will probably be the first one that gets pushed. I really do want to read this book and I am fascinated with the history of comic books but then again this is an older book and I haven’t gotten to it yet so one more month won’t hurt it. If I don’t get to this in September this will get moved higher on October’s list.

Let me know what you think of my list and if you have a TBR I should check out, let me know in the comments!

Bookishly yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support

Lovecraft Country (Holy Ghost) Episode 3 Spoiler-free Review

The Horror, the History, and The Surprises are STill Non-STop After 3 Episodes

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon here back to give a spoiler free review of the third episode of the HBO series Lovecraft Country.

This episode finds our heroes back home in Chicago, but that does not mean that the horror has left them. This episode has some particularly grisly horror in it so strong stomachs are recommended prior to viewing.

The episode was very engaging when it came to the historical aspects and the particular blend of horror, politics and pop culture. The soundtrack is downright incredible and the acting continues to be superb.

My only criticism of the show for this episode is that some of the effects didn’t hold up as well as in the first two episodes, but I won’t go into detail about that because I don’t want to give anything away. I will also say that despite the production value of some of the effects, the story is still able to throw plenty of horror at the viewer. That should come as no surprise to anyone considering that this is a horror show. But the ability the show has to increase tension is incredible.

There are not a lot of horror shows or movies where I feel actual fear but this may be one of the exceptions. The fact that such awful racist history has always existed in this country and the fact that there are still people who espouse those beliefs is horrifying beyond measure. Therefore the fear this show is able to exude is so palpable one can reach out and touch it. The first two episodes proved that nearly anything goes in this show and the third episode is no exception to that rule.

It’s amazing to me how well this show fits in American history, cosmic horror, literature, and present day all at once. It’s shows like these that prove that deeper understanding of the truth can sometimes only be achieved through fiction.

This show would be nothing if we didn’t care about the character’s fates and the unraveling mystery. This episode was superb at making us care about people’s lives even as completely unbelievable things occur all around them. I know that there is not a better horror show on television right now but after three episodes I am starting to think that there is not a better show period on television at this time.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Lovecraft Country (Whitey’s On The Moon) Episode 2 Spoiler-free Review

Delights, Surprises, and Horrors Continue in the Second Episode

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon here back to give a spoiler free review of the second episode of the HBO series Lovecraft Country.

The first episode set the tone with an intriguing blend of science fiction, the horrible reality of segregationist America and extremely gory cosmic horror that does not let up. It can be easy for a show to come out of the gate with an excellent pilot episode and then quickly disappoint in subsequent episodes. Sometimes a great premise does not carry through the initial setup. I’m glade to say that Lovecraft Country comes nowhere near to falling into that territory.

The second episode sees our three heroes in a different setting than where they started the series with the odds somehow stacked even more against them. The acting in this series is top notch, to say the least, and in this episode we get Abbey Lee as Christina Braithwhite. She is no stranger to horror/science fiction films and she increases the mystery without ever becoming ridiculous.

In this second episode there are some spots that I thought needed some explanation but that may come later in the series. Overall, this show seems like the best horror show to appear in years and if the third episode can be as strong as the first two, this will become a major horror must see.

Predicting what will happen next as you watch the show is nearly impossible and that’s saying something for anyone who is familiar with cosmic horror. The show has a very unique blend, up to and including the soundtrack. While I don’t want to give anything away here, I will say, I was surprised by the wide range of emotions that I ended up feeling while watching the episode.

If you have not yet seen the first two episodes yet, you should do that as soon as possible. I have a feeling that the next episode is going to get even better.

Cosmically yours,

Slick Dungeon

An Interview with Andrew C. Piazza Author of A Song For The Void

Hi everyone, Slick Dungeon here and guess who appeared out of the cosmos and in my dungeon! Andrew Piazza, the author of the spectacular book A Song For The Void about a cosmic horror on the high seas during the Opium Wars in 1853. You should all go out and read it, right after you finish reading this post. Andrew was nice enough to let me ask him a few questions about the book, about his speculative fiction and his writing process. Welcome to my dungeon, Andrew, and thank you for joining me! Without further ado let’s get into the interview. 

Slick: A Song For The Void is not just a cosmic horror novel but a historical cosmic horror novel. Why did you feel it was a story well suited to the time period of the Opium Wars? Had you ever considered other time periods to set it in?

Andrew: The story came about as a synthesis of two separate pieces; first, the 
creature known as the Darkstar.  I came up with the idea for this 
particular nastie a while back, but I wasn’t sure where to put it.   
Then, as I started going down a rabbit hole reading about the history 
of the Opium Wars (I have a tendency to find such rabbit holes) I 
realized I had exactly the right setting.  Using that setting and that 
monster allowed me to discuss some of the themes present in the novel; 
addiction, identity, existentialism.

Slick: How much research goes into being historically accurate in your fiction? 

Andrew: Quite a lot.  I usually have to throttle back a bit, because there is 
always a risk of going overboard and including TOO much of the 
history.  In doing so, an author can compromise the narrative flow.  I 
recently read a historical horror novel set in approximately the same 
time period that suffered this mistake.  The author had clearly done 
exhaustive research and was very keen to show it all off, but the plot 
began to drag as a consequence.  It’s best to learn as much as you 
can, and then “forget” it so to speak, and let the setting be just 
that… a background that is very believable so as to create an 
immersive experience for the reader… a more perfect illusion, if you 
like.


Slick: What is your writing process like? Do you dedicate time to it every day or do you wait for inspiration to hit?

Andrew: I don’t subscribe to the need to write a certain number of words per 
day.  I do work on my books every day, but that need not be composing 
of a rough draft… it could be research, outlining, editing, etc.


Slick: In the book, there is a menacing cosmic entity that threatens the people aboard the HMS Charger called the Darkstar. What gave you the idea for that entity and the horrors it introduces to the characters?

Andrew: (Mild spoilers) I liked the idea of a cosmic creature that could wipe 
out humanity except for the presence of the magnetosphere.  That is a 
peculiar quirk of our planet this is highly underrated.  It protects 
us from certain death in the form of cosmic radiation, and most of us 
have no idea.  It fits in very nicely with the general concepts of 
cosmic terror, which come from being a tiny creature in a vast and 
dangerous universe.


Slick: The main character, Doctor Pearce, struggles with addiction. Not just addiction to substances but addiction to the past and what he has lost. Do you think that this topic is one you will explore further in future works?

Andrew: Struggling with the momentum of one’s past is a common ailment, so I 
will undoubtedly have characters struggling with this in the future, 
but I don’t know if it, or addiction in general, will be as front and 
center of a theme as in this novel.


Slick: The story also gets quite philosophical at points. It poses the question of what we truly are. If someone has head trauma and their personality changes, are they still that same person? Is there anything behind the machinery of our bodies? This kind of question perfectly matches with the cosmic horrors that appear in the book. Why did you want to dive into these questions and do you think you arrived at answers for yourself?

Andrew: If you really want to freak yourself out, read up on what happens when 
portions of the brain are damaged by injury or disease.  Or studies on 
how flimsy our knowledge of consciousness really is.  At the time of 
the novel’s setting (mid 1800’s), science was rapidly displacing 
religion as an explanation for how things are.  A transcendent 
explanation… we are all special creatures with a near-magical, 
eternal “spirit” residing within, began to be replaced by a more nuts 
and bolts approach, leading to an existential hole that still exists 
today.  It is the great challenge of modern philosophy to provide the 
consolations of religion, but still within the framework of logic and 
science.

A few years ago, I was blind-sided with an unexpected medical 
diagnosis that required dangerous surgery.  For a short time, I 
thought I might not be around to wake up the next day.  It got me 
thinking quite a lot about these kinds of existential dilemmas.  Part 
of dealing with that was in re-prioritizing my writing, which I had 
let wane in the years before out of the standard distractions of career.

Slick: I am glad that everything worked out okay for you and glad you picked writing back up so we could have some great stories to read.


Slick: This book kept me up late at night, not just reading, but also because it is genuinely scary. With Lovecraftian style horror, it would be easy to go overboard and make the horrors seem almost silly. Yet you were able to deftly maneuver the reader so that it was horrific without being outlandish. Is that a difficult balance to accomplish?

Andrew: It’s a tightrope, to be sure.  Part of the key of writing effective 
horror is to establish a strong sense of normalcy and a belief in the 
world the author has created… now we’re circling around to your 
question on historical accuracy.  Writing a setting and characters 
that are believable and establishing them as such allow an author to 
then turn all that on its ear and present the impossible as not just 
possible, but likely.


Slick: With the book and series Lovecraft Country and the role-playing game Call of Cthulhu being quite popular right now, it seems that cosmic horror is having a bit of a resurgence in popularity. Why do you think that is and how do you think that might influence your future stories?

Andrew: My favorite kind of horror is cosmic horror.  I believe it is the 
horror that lies beneath all other, from which all other forms of 
horror flow.  Why do we fear death?  Because we fear oblivion.  We 
have this aching, dull, poorly defined fear inside all of us, that 
maybe we’re not the special snowflake and center of the universe that 
our ego convinces us we are.  To be completely out of control, 
helpless, a leaf blown by the wind, is terrifying, as is the unknown, 
as is the prospect of nihilism.

As far as how it will influence further stories, you can count on my 
writing more novels like this.  Cosmic horror holds the best capacity 
for exploring those themes that run deepest, much like good science 
fiction or fantasy.


Slick: Will there be more books involving these characters and, if so, what are the plans for the next book?  

Andrew: I doubt we’ll see more of the characters in this novel, although the 
Darkstar may indeed decide to return and visit humanity again one day.

Slick: The story is on one level very personal and shows how one character relates to the world in a very difficult time. On the other hand, some menaces threaten not just Doctor Pearce but perhaps all of humanity. Do you think that the personal story of the Doctor helps to reflect the struggles of mankind overall?

Andrew: If you’re going to tackle a “big” story epic in scope, it is important 
to have a “small” story of the individuals caught up in that epic 
scope, in order to make it accessible.  We can read dry statistics of 
millions dying and it is a distant unreality, but the story of a single 
person’s suffering can easily make us weep.


Slick: As I said above this story kept me up at night because it is quite frightening. What kinds of stories keep you up at night?

Andrew: Stories of people being cruel to each other to a level that is hard to 
believe.

Slick: Agreed. Those stories can be all to prevalent and very hard to take.


Slick: How can readers buy the book and how can they get in contact with you?

Andrew: The book is on Amazon, in print and ebook format.  The US link is 
https://www.amazon.com/Song-Void-Historical-Horror-Novel-ebook/dp/B08D59S9HR.   
Readers interested in a free sample of my work in order to see if I’m 
a good choice for them can go to my website, www.andrewpiazza.com
where I have a free starter library available.  I’m also on Facebook 
at https://www.facebook.com/andrewcpiazza/.

Slick: I have signed up myself for your free starter library and I have to say, it is an excellent value with great writing. You can consider me a fan. Thanks so much, Andrew, for taking the time out of your day to come and visit my dungeon.

If you are still reading this post, once you are done, go out and buy the book. If you love cosmic horror, you will not be disappointed.

Cosmically yours,

Slick Dungeon