We’re getting close to the end of Halloween Bingo now. I’ve read most of my books and had my first three bingos called. Now it’s time to reprioritise my reading to focus on squares that have already been called.
So, I’ve pushed my earlier choice of Ring Shout to the back of the reading queue and picked three new books for this week.
Letting Halloween Bingo drive my reading means that the best word to describe this week’s books is, diverse. One is a steampunk alternative history set in late 19th Century Seattle. One is a haunted house story written by an audiobook narrator about an audiobook narrator, One is a darker piece about cursed VHS tapes showing unseen versions of movies from the Friday The 13th franchise. It should be a fascinating week.
‘Karen Memory’ by Elizabeth Bear (2015)
Karen Memory has been sitting in my TBR pile for five years now, mostly because, although it sounds interesting, it’s such a melange of genres that it’s never been the first book I’ve reached for. The Punk’d Halloween Bingo Square has finally given me a reason to pull it to the top of the pile.
Steampunk, Dieselpunk, Cyberpunk or any other speculative fiction book related to retrofuturism.
What draws me to this book is the voice of Karen Memory herself. She’s a straight-talking sexworker with a tale of evil doings to tell. Here are the opening paragraphs to show you what I mean:
You ain’t gonna like what I have to tell you, but I’m gonna tell you anyway. See, my name is Karen Memery, like “memory” only spelt with an e, and I’m one of the girls what works in the Hôtel Mon Cherie on Amity Street. “Hôtel” has a little hat over the o like that. It’s French, so Beatrice tells me.
Some call it the Cherry Hotel. But most just say it’s Madame Damnable’s Sewing Circle and have done. So I guess that makes me a seamstress, just like Beatrice and Miss Francina and Pollywog and Effie and all the other girls. I pay my sewing machine tax to the city, which is fifty dollar a week, and they don’t care if your sewing machine’s got a foot treadle, if you take my meaning.5Bear, Elizabeth. Karen Memory (p. 9). Tom Doherty Associates. Kindle Edition.
It’s not easy to combine a Jack The Ripper style murder mystery with an alternative version of nineteenth-century Seattle with a steampunk technology riff and a quirky protagonist but, if it works, it should be wonderful.
‘The Nightmare Room’ by Chris Sorensen (2019)
I originally had ‘Dead Silence’ assigned to this square but I’ve set it aside for now because although it’s a strong, well-told story, the narrator’s tone is so unremittingly dolorous that I can’t face another nine hours of it at the moment
So, I picked a haunted house book that’s been sitting in my TBR pile for the past three years and decided to give it a try.
I picked this up because I liked the idea of an audiobook narrator writing a horror story about a haunted audiobook narrator. That even made me comfortable with the fact that the book is narrated by the author, which is sometimes disastrous.
I’m hoping for a lot of tension, not too much schlock and a few original trope twists along the way.
‘The Unseen’ by Bryan Smith (2021)
‘The Unseen’ is a bit of a risk. Bryan Smith is best known for his splatterpunk, which isn’t really my thing and I have to wonder about a horror writer who choose as his pseudonym that name of the man who ran over Stephen King (unless it’s his real name – in which case, what is the Cosmos telling us?).
I bought the book anyway because the premise intrigues me. The retro feel of VHS tape copies of versions of Friday the 13th movies that no one has ever seen and the cursed object designed to trap the obsessional appeal to me. I’m less sure about Bryan Smith’s writing style but its a short book so that shouldn’t be a problem. Right? (Why does that sound like the kind of logic that persuades teen girls that going into the dark basement that the strange noises are coming from is a good idea?)
It’s also a perfect fit for the Relics and Curiosities square
Concerning magical, supernatural or haunted objects, such as spell-books, talismans or sword