Carl V. Anderson hosts the blog, Stainless Steel Droppings, a speculative fiction and art review site, as well as a Short Fiction Friday segment at SF Signal. For the last eight years, he’s also hosted R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril, an Autumn reading challenge (September 1st through October 31st) focusing on Horror, Mysteries, and any Dark Fiction in between.
Here’s an excerpt from his introduction:
Eight years ago I became aware of reading challenges and wanted to start one of my own, hoping to find others who shared my Autumnal predilection for the works of Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Bram Stoker and other authors contemporary and classic who captured the spirit of gothic literature. All these years later we are still going strong, welcoming September with a time of coming together to share our favorite mysteries, detective stories, horror stories, dark fantasies, and everything in between.
I welcome you to join us.
Carl has different levels to this challenge, from reading four books in this time period, to just short stories, and also has a group read of The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova. I will most likely get through the four book challenge. Ever since I read Fiend, by Peter Stenson, in July, I’ve had a Horror book in my queue. You could even consider DUST by Hugh Howey to fit into this category since it’s a post-apocalyptic, and dark at times, novel. Okay, let’s get right to it. I’ll insert updates to these books as I have comments. Don’t worry, I’ll avoid spoilers.
I finished this book August 29th. This is the third and final book in Hugh’s Silo Saga, which started with the breakout novel, WOOL. The series begins in the middle of a mystery about what lies outside an underground silo where humanity has taken refuge. This concept of how people could build a civilization hiding in an underground silo, and the angst of seeing what lies outside, is only a small part of what draws the reader into this awesome story. The main draw is the gut-punching drama you’ll experience as you quickly grow to love characters who are willing to lose all in the name of hope. I managed to record a spoiler free discussion of WOOL with Hugh on my old podcast, AudioTim. Adventures in SciFi Publishing will have Hugh on to discuss this series soon. Discussing this without spoiling anything is hard work as Hugh deftly inserts plot twists that will rip your heart out. In short, here’s what I wrote after finishing:
“Just finished DUST, by Hugh Howey, an emotionally powerful addition and conclusion to one of my favorite Science Fiction series.”
Aug. 29th update: I’m at 53%. The first half reminded me of Day by Day Armageddon as the main character chronicles in a journal the outbreak of a zombie virus. While the first half of the book kept me engrossed, he might spend too much time describing events outside his own experience. I love the worldbuilding imagination, but my favorite parts were him figuring out how to defend his home and then escape. No spoilers, again, but I’ll say the twist in the middle has me a little less interested. It’s a unique twist on zombie survival and the path of adventure, but for some reason I’m able to put the book down and work on others. I wonder if this has to do with the fact that the main character is the only one I care about, so survival suspense is the only working thread right now. In contrast, Fiend, by Peter Stenson, mixed survival with a love story and drug addiction.
Oct. 4th update: 65%. Stopped reading because I just don’t care about the solitary character trying to escape zombies to save his cat. No character interaction (or at least that I care about) has made this a DNF.
11/22/63 by Stephen King
I picked this up on Audible after my discussion with Jason Hough in AISFP 226 and his recommendation about the stellar job of the narrator, Craig Wasson (a TV actor hand-picked by Stephen King). Jason’s high recommendation has held up so far. I laughed so hard at one point I smacked a wall.
Aug. 29th update: Ch 27/89. I didn’t know what to think about a time-travel novel that isn’t Horror, but more like Alternate History. I come to King for the top-notch characterization and so far he has excelled. I am hooked on the main character’s journey to twart JFK’s assassination, as well as the side journeys of saving those dear to him from experiencing the darkest places of their past. I wasn’t sure what the source of conflict would be, which may be why I didn’t pick this up earlier. I thought it would be some kind of fist fight with Lee Harvey Oswald, which didn’t really force me to start reading. Thankfully, there is real conflict prior to that. The greater the ramifications involved with changing the future, the greater resistance an ambiguous form of conflict tries to interfere. King starts us off early with a smaller change that is bad enough I’m dreading to see how difficult it will be for our main character to stop JFK’s death. This book is top on my list.
Oct. 4th update: Ch 53/89. The subplot of him meeting a teacher and falling in love adds a necessary character depth, but has slowed the story down in the “aftermath”.
Aug. 29th Update: 17%, starting Part II. I put this down for a couple weeks to finish DUST, and I’m regretting that because the amount of characters has left a few where I don’t know who’s who. The setting is beautiful and magical. A world connected by an ocean bridge is on the brink of war, with what seems like a young girl as humanity’s best hope of peace. She comes from the scientific-based country, an alternate history of England, but her grandfather taught her the love of expedition and discovery of a magical relic, a lotus leaf that gives anyone who touches it magical powers. On the other side of the ocean is an alternate history India, and a ruler who wants this girl to come to him so he can find this lotus. The action is intense when used, but I’m not as engrossed in the who’s-my-sister-going-to-marry part that reminds me of Downton Abby. I like all the characters, and am excited to explore this world and their journey, so I’ll keep reading. This is just a little outside my reading preference with the D.A. style.
Oct. 4th Update: 65% ATPT is a unique experience in reading. I am at times in awe of Tori, her character arc, and the far reach between her and happiness, but other times I’m confused or not as interested in what is going on. The halfway point introduced some surprising conflict, leaving me very interested in how it will wrap up, but on a page by page basis, I’m either disinterested or interested about equally. I’m not sure how to pin down why I lose interest. I’ve mostly kept track of the characters, and like Muir-Smith and Elizabeth as secondary characters. Maybe it’s not moving quickly enough? I’m not sure. Anyone else have thoughts on this?
I finished The Machine the other day. Review here. In short, does a fantastic job telling a modern day Frankenstein, using a wife grieving to return her husband’s memories even at the cost of the monster he’s becoming. While it doesn’t have the must-keep-reading pace of The Explorer, it was something I wanted to finish, and it rewarded me for doing so.
Timothy C. Ward‘s first publication, Cornhusker: Demon Gene (A Short Story), is available on Kindle for $.99. He is looking for beta readers for his novel, Kaimerus, described as “Firefly crashes on Avatar and wakes up 28 Days Later.”