Review: THE PATIENCE OF A DEAD MAN by Michael Clark

Book Reviews

I do love a good haunted house tale, and what better time to disturb the ghouls, ghosts and spirits than the height of spooky season? THE PATIENCE OF A DEAD MAN has that nice, simple premise – a haunted house with a dark mystery to solve before the spooks and scares get out of hand and escalate into something altogether more dangerous. Enter our main character, Tim Russell. Recently divorced and looking for a new business venture, Tim buys an old, dilapidated house in rural New Hampshire, looking to refurbish and flip it for a tidy profit. Things start going awry almost immediately though, when the ghosts of a little boy and a woman covered in flies make it clear he isn’t welcome there…



I said in a tweet once that the more notes I make while I’m reading a book directly correlates with my lack of enthusiasm for said book. Unfortunately I made a lot of notes about THE PATIENCE OF A DEAD MAN. For me the bedrock of any story is the characters. If an author writes good characters who feel like real people and make their mark on a story then I’m probs gonna like the book, even if it’s flawed in other ways. The characters here are just so forgettable though, I couldn’t bring myself to care about them or anything they did. A lot of things intertwine here (which is why ‘writing good characters’ isn’t a simple thing) so I’m gonna do my best to unravel why the characters, and ultimately the book, fell flat for me.

Ok, so the way the plot unfolds totally robs the characters of any agency. Once the story gets going the main thrust of the book is Tim and his estate agent/new girlfriend Holly (and boy do I have thoughts about that too) are trying to solve the mystery of the circumstances surrounding the ghost’s deaths. To give Clark credit, the mystery is actually quite interesting, but Tim and Holly don’t really do anything to solve it. Instead, most of the mystery is already laid out for them in a collection of journals the previous owner left and the only barrier to its resolution is just a matter of how quickly they can read the darn things. Holly has one proactive idea and any loose ends after that are simply relayed to them in their dreams while they sleep. The end result is they don’t even feel like characters, just avatars, lifeless puppets the author strings up and drags through the book as tools of the plot. It felt like they could be replaced with any two other random people, reskinned avatars, and the story would have played out exactly the same way.

Their behaviour was just nonsensical in places too. And I don’t mean that in the sense they made bad decisions – characters making bad decisions, throwing spanners in the works and dealing with the consequences is what gets me up in the morning man, that shit is my ambrosia – no, I mean these guys just flat out make decisions that make no sense, sometimes even in contrast to their own internal motivations. And again, the only discernible reason is so the author can drag them into scenes he wanted to write that otherwise wouldn’t happen. I just couldn’t accept their dialogue as real either. The way they talked to each other rang so false. It was stiff and drawn out and unnatural, just not how people talk.

One final critique before I finish on a positive note, and that’s the point of view. It’s written for the most part in third person omnipotent, meaning there’s an all-knowing outside narrator telling us the story. I feel like this was just a mistake and it was only written this way so we could be whisked off near the end of the book to tie up the loose ends of the mystery in what turns out to be quite an unsatisfying way and gives knowledge to the reader that Tim and Holly would have no way of knowing, given that these scenes are largely constructed out of second-hand journal entries. That’s sort of by the by though; for the most part I just though this was a mediocre and poorly-written book right up until near the end, where I felt like I was deliberately misled about An Event purely for a cheap shock. The supposedly ‘omnipotent’ narrator tells you something happens, only for that thing not to have happened at all and I just felt betrayed at that point. Like, pick your writing style and stick to it man. You can’t have an omnipotent narrator so you can skirt round the edges of resolving your central mystery, just to then decide to abandon it at the eleventh hour for a cheap shock.

Look, clearly I didn’t enjoy this book, but it’d be remiss of me not to mention the things I did think were good. There are some genuinely scary, chilling moments; I think Clark does a good job of writing the ghostly scenes and I genuinely shuddered at times with the creepiness of it. I have quite a vivid mind’s eye and the images he conjured in my imagination creeped me the fuck out at times (I’ll never look at at rolled-up newspaper the same way again, that’s for sure). And the mystery Tim and Holly uncover about the history of their spectral housemates is engaging and there was a period about halfway in where did feel like the book picked up and for a while I was actually quite engrossed, though in the end it wasn’t concluded in a satisfying way.

I’ll just finish by saying don’t necessarily take my word for it. I personally didn’t like this book, but Rin at The Thirteenth Shelf also reviewed it recently and had a better experience, so def check out her review as well. Obviously I wouldn’t recommend THE PATIENCE OF A DEAD MAN, but if you are looking for something to read over the Halloween weekend, check out my reviews of The Year Of The Witching and Mexican Gothic, two new horror releases I read and reviewed recently that I whole heartedly recommend.


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Author Interview: Deck Matthews

Interviews
Deck Matthews, author of The Riven Realm and Varkas Tales

Hi Deck, first off thanks so much for doing the interview! How are you? How have you been spending your time during the craziness of 2020?

My pleasure! I’m doing okay, just dealing with the general craziness of the current state of the world. I’m fortunate enough to have a day job that allows me to work remotely, so we’ve been spending a lot of time at home. I’ve been spending time with my family, reading, writing and working on spreading the word about my work. It’s a difficult load to balance sometimes, but I’m trying to get better at it.

Could you maybe tell us a little bit about yourself, where you grew up and how you got started in writing fantasy?

I was born and raised in Southwestern Ontario, and am currently living in Ottawa. I’ve always been an avid reader and enjoyed making up stories. As a younger kid, I read a lot more mystery books like the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew adventures. After eighth grade, my teacher was punching some books from her classroom. She gave me a set of David Eddings’ Belgariad series. I devoured them over the summer and was absolutely hooked. I started playing around with writing my first novel shortly after that. It wasn’t good, but it was a start!

So I’ve just finished reading The First of Shadows and enjoyed it a lot! Tell us about The Riven Realm series and what inspired you to write it?

I’m so glad you enjoyed the story! The Riven Realm is the culmination of years and years of writing. After that first novel, I tried to write as a youth, I’ve had several other false starts. For the most part, I think I just hadn’t developed the mental discipline to commit to finishing something. But some of those failed stories had some intriguing ideas and characters. This series brings much of it together. Many aspects of Varkas are new (such as the magic systems), but I’ve managed to incorporate several names and concepts from previous works.

One prime example is the character of Shevik Den, the eccentric sky pirate that we meet early on in The First of Shadows. He made his original appearance in one of my early novels, fulfilling a similar role. His ship was even called Zephyr’s Song. In another story, I had these people called the Saltmen, who spent all their lives on the seas. When I started working on the early drafts of The First of Shadows, I came up with this idea of wind riders. A few different pieces clicked, and I realized that I had the perfect opportunity to reintroduce a character I’d always been fascinated with.

I repurposed Shevik Den as one of the Jushyn, but instead of having him captain a sea-faring ship, I gave him his own wind rider and some distinct mannerisms. The result was perhaps one of the most colourful characters in the novella. 

What struck me most about The First of Shadows was the absolutely relentless breakneck pace. Every single line hurries the plot along, expands our knowledge of the world or builds character, but never wears the reader out. Do you consciously set out to write like that or is it just how the story flows out of you?

I’m very conscious of it. I think it’s a big deal that anyone would choose to spend some of their precious time reading my stories, and I want to be cognizant of that time. Every scene needs to move the story forward somehow, though that doesn’t always mean another fight sequence or action scene. Sometimes its a meaningful conversation or a poignant moment that gives the reader a greater insight into the nature of a particular character. As a rule, I try to avoid the superfluous scenes that can sometimes result from too many subplots.

The Riven Realm books are also very short by fantasy standards, almost (but maybe not quite?) novellas. What was the thought process behind writing shorter books in a genre so dominated by The Tome?

I definitely call them novellas. Technically, I think they’re in the range of very brief novels, but this is fantasy, right? When so many of the books in this genre are pushing to 700 or 800 pages, I feel justified in calling a mere 160 pages a novella.

In terms of the thought process, The Riven Realm series was a concept I played with in my head for several years before really getting to work on it. The idea was to write in a more episodic format, where each book would function like an episode of a TV show, rather than like a big, epic movie. Moreover, I aimed to craft a narrative inspired by LOST, where a given episode pushes the overall story forward without necessarily providing a resolution on its own.

That being said, I’m definitely writing toward what I hope will be a more satisfying resolution than the final episode of LOST!

You write some fantastic characters, some of whom must have posed interesting challenges to write. I’m thinking particularly of Tiberius, a blind character from First of Shadows. Given that so much writing defaults to describing things by sight, what was the experience of writing Tiberius like and what did you learn from it?

Thank you! Tiberius’ character first came to me in an exercise I attempted while taking a short story writing class during university. I wanted to try writing from a non-visual perspective, trying to imagine character experience through other senses. When I started writing the first drafts of what would become The First of Shadows, I decided to resurrect the character and make him one of the main protagonists.

At first, writing him wasn’t all that easy, but I think I’ve hit my stride with him. When I’m writing scenes from Tiberius’ perspective, I try to keep a few things in mind. First, it’s important to present him in a way that his blindness doesn’t define him. It’s a reality and a limitation for him, but I’m aiming to craft a shrewd and intelligent character who acts with agency and directly impacts the events of the story.

Second, I rely heavily on other senses to convey the experience. Hearing plays an important role, and Tiberius spends a lot of time listening to the world around him. Smell is another important sense. I’ve found that I can convey a lot of information simply be describing odours and aromas.

Lastly, I made a decision early on that Tiberius would remain blind. The same is true of Caleb and his injured foot. In fantasy, I think it can be tempting to “heal” characters like these, but I want to avoid that. I want to help them find the strength to become heroes within the context of who they are.

I picked up First of Shadows after reading a glowing review from a blogger friend whose opinion I value. How important do you think word of mouth is for selling books, especially as a self-published author without a big marketing team?

It’s absolutely critical. I don’t think many readers truly understand how vital word of mouth is for self-published authors, especially those of us who are just getting started. Ten tweets from me probably has only a fraction of the influence someone else recommending my work—especially if that person is someone that other readers trust.

My recommendation is always this: if you find a book or series you love (especially an indie book), share that love. Tell your friends and family. Write a review. Maybe even share it as a gift. It really can make a difference.

Finally, what have you been reading lately? Do you have any recommendations for our already-groaning TBR piles?

2020 has been the year of big books for me. I’ve been working through The Wheel of Time and The Stormlight Archive, which means a lot of pages. Recently, I also found hardcover editions of books 2-4 of the Codex Alera at a thrift store. I’d been looking for those for the better part of the last decade, so I was thrilled with that and am currently re-reading them now. That’s one series that I feel doesn’t get enough attention. It’s one of my all-time favourites.


The Riven Realm series, by Deck Matthews (image links to Goodreads).

You can follow Deck Matthews on Twitter at @varkaschronicle and also get more info on the books and upcoming releases on his website varkaschronicles.com. If you enjoyed this post why not follow the blog for more interviews, reviews and bookish chat?

Review: THE FIRST OF SHADOWS (The Riven Realm #1) by Deck Matthews

Book Reviews

I’ve got to say, this is the first time I’ve encountered an epic fantasy novella. And when this book opened with a tense and thrilling fight scene I could tell I was in for a wild ride. THE FIRST OF SHADOWS is only 143 pages long, but within that small wordcount Deck Matthews delivers a fast-paced story with lively, solid world building and a wonderful cast of characters that has the vibe of a classic fantasy while still feeling very fresh.



We’re thrown right into the thick of things here, no messing about. Thrust into the perspective of an unnamed drifter carrying an item of great power, a mysterious man tracked and hunted along the Blasted Coast by a malevolent creature intent on his demise. This is the only opportunity we get to see the world from the drifter’s perspective and this opening chapter works as a kind of mini prologue, introducing us to the world of Relen-Kar and setting the tone and pace for the rest of the book. It works very well, because the pace of this book never lets up.

In a whirlwind of plot development and character arcs we’re introduced to Caleb, a rigger on a docked sky ship on the Blasted Coast; Avendor Tarcoth, a senior military officer stationed in the capital city of Taralius; and Tiberius Alaran, a sage and scholar who also lives in the capital. Caleb’s story centres on his choice to help the drifter (who we do learn more about but I’m being deliberately vague to avoid spoilers) in his flight from the creature which is hunting him and refuses to die. Along the way we learn more about the drifter’s identity, the magic he wields and how Caleb chooses to respond when he’s swiftly sucked up in this maelstrom of chaos. There’s very much the classic fantasy farm boy vibe to Caleb and I get the sense that he’s gonna end up doing some wild, crazy and powerful things later in the series and his arc in this first book felt a lot like his origin story. It was kind of cool actually, cos at this point in the series he really isn’t a major player; in fact, everyone around him, from ‘The Drifter’, to Palawen Ty and Tanner, they’re the powerful seasoned mages, warriors and veteran adventurers, while Caleb is doing what he can with very little experience and power beyond his own resilience and bravery. Just shows how powerful that combination can be.

Avendor Tarcoth’s storyline was my fave to follow along with though (probably because I love a good mystery) and we’ve got a doozy of a murder mystery on our hands here. Thrust right into the thick of things again (I did say this book’s pace is relentless) our first scene with Avendor drops us into his gruesome discovery of the corpse of a murdered apothecary and a strange mound of something resembling human flesh. Matthews’ writing in this scene is superb, delivering up the sights and smells and atmosphere of the investigation in full technicolour detail and dropping lovely tidbits of worldbuilding throughout, all while succinctly introducing us to Avendor and the cast of characters surrounding him. The cast of side characters is surprisingly extensive for a novella and for the most part are very well done. Shevik Den, a sky pirate and Caleb’s associate being one of the most notable. Some are a bit tropey and slight caricatures, such as Kharl, Caleb’s bully and tormentor, but that didn’t take enough away from the book to make it any less enjoyable.

I’ve gotta say though, I think Matthews truly excels in his writing of Tiberius. Tiberius is a blind sage whose scenes are written without reference to visual stimuli. Smells, sounds and other sensory perception are used to great effect and actually visibly improves the writing of the book even in scenes where Tiberius isn’t present. When it comes to a satisfying reading experience a lot of it comes undeniably from being able to visualise the scenes in my head, but for a world to feel truly fully-realised, three dimensional and real, I think it’s necessary to get a sense of what it would feel like to stand in its buildings and streets, and that demands a more rounded, multi-sensory approach. What are the scents, aromas and odours you’d smell when walking through the streets of Taralius? What would it sound like to stand in the wake of a skyship taking off into the night sky of Stormholt? I really got a great sense of this and I think it’s the mark of a great fantasy book that, despite its fantastical and wholly fictional settings, can make you feel grounded and present in its world.

There’s a ton of worldbuilding crammed into the small word count of this novella too and I definitely feel I got a crash course in the history and magic of The Realm of Relen-Kar without ever feeling like it was forced down my throat. I am writing this review a few weeks after finishing the book though, and one thing I will say is I don’t really remember many of the historical figures, city names and magical vocabulary. Maybe that’s just the nature of the beast when writing epic fantasy novellas. It definitely worked in the moment, is very enjoyable and it is written into the story incredibly well, I just find that there’s so much thrown at the reader in such a short word count I’d definitely need a refresher before I start the next book.

All told THE FIRST OF SHADOWS is such a refreshing take on the epic fantasy genre and shows how innovative self-published books can be; I can’t imagine a traditional publisher would be willing to take the risk on short, episodic epic fantasy novellas in a genre so dominated by the doorstopper tomes of Sanderson et al. Great characters, rip-roaringly fast paced, interesting magic system and still so much more potential to be unleashed in future instalments. This is a great book and I’m looking forward to delving further into The Riven Realm.


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State of the Blog 2: Electric Blogaloo

Updates

Hey bookwyrms, I’m gonna cut straight to the chase here cos I’m actually not really in the writing mood today, just wanted to give a quick update. Regular readers probably read my State of the Blog post a few weeks back, where I talked about how I was planning on having a regular schedule of reviews and whatnot. Yeaaahhhh, I’ve already done a complete U-Turn on that.

Turns out that’s not how I like to blog. And I knew that already, but for whatever reason I decided “hey, pumping out content for your hobby blog even when you don’t feel like writing” would be a great idea. But it’s not. I’ve sat down a couple times this week to write a review that, according to my regular schedule, is ‘due’ tomorrow. But I didn’t feel like writing it. Truth be told I haven’t been doing much reading or writing lately; not cos I’m in a slump or anything, I’ve just been watching shitty reality TV with my girlfriend and playing video games. I just wanted to do other things, and that’s fine. As I sat there trying to force out a review and not enjoying myself very much, I just thought why am I doing this?

This is my hobby, it’s supposed to be fun. And it is! I love blogging and reviewing books and chatting to fellow bloggers and readers about what we’re all reading. But sometimes I want to watch that shitty reality TV or play a video game or go for a walk. I’m much happier and much more comfortable being a casual blogger, rather than forcing myself to churn out content for readers who I know don’t mind either way.

I actually felt pretty guilty for a while about writing this post, given that barely a few weeks ago I promised readers ‘regular’ content, so for a while longer I tried squeezing blood from the proverbial stone to get that review finished and posted for tomorrow. I wasted another hour sitting in front of my computer feeling shitty about it before I realised my readers don’t mind whether or not I’m posting on a regular schedule. It literally doesn’t matter. And if I’m not enjoying my hobby, what’s the point of doing it?

So that’s that. I am still gonna be posting, but only when I feel like it. And if that means sometimes there’s a glut of content for a week and then I go for a while without posting anything, then so be it. On the plus side I’m still gonna be doing everything else I mentioned, including the author interviews and Comic Club (I’m really excited about that one), I’ll just be doing it on an irregular schedule. And hey, all that means is every morning when you wake up you’ll have the excitement of wondering whether there’s a new Parsecs & Parchment post to read! Happy reading bookwyrms.

Review: CARRIE, SALEM’S LOT & THE SHINING by Stephen King

Book Reviews

Ok so a while ago I mentioned I was embarking on a project to read Stephen King’s entire back catalogue in order. I’m making very slow progress to be honest, other shiny books keep capturing my attention and keeping me from moving forward. I have read his first few though, and instead of writing full reviews for every King book I read (cos that guy has wrote a lot of books) I’m gonna do mini reviews three at a time. Here’s what I thought of the first three King books.



CARRIE
King’s debut novel revolves around Carrie White, an unpopular friendless misfit and bullied high-school girl from an abusive religious household, who uses her newly discovered telekinetic powers to exact revenge on those who torment her. I started this with little idea of what to expect writing wise. I’d seen the film before, so I knew the story, but this was my first foray into King’s fiction, and from the reputation the guy has I assumed this was going to be a great read. In the end, it was fine. A decent enough read at the time but hardly memorable, with some bits I thought just didn’t work. It’s a very raw book and is unrelenting in examining how cruel people can be and in the end is a sad tale of the tragic consequences of torment and revenge. Special mention to Carrie’s mother Margaret, who is a genuinely great character. A religious fanatic with a very difficult history, a woman full of bitterness and self-loathing that she projects onto her daughter in the most appallingly abusive ways. She’s a detestable woman, but someone with a wretched past that manifests itself in ways that you can abhor, but definitely understand. I didn’t get why this was an epistolary novel though? It added nothing to the story and distracted me quite a lot from what was going on. Also, having read King’s book On Writing before this, where he laments that ‘the road to hell is paved with adverbs’, I’m just saying there sure are a lot of adverbs in this book…

SALEM’S LOT
Salem’s Lot on the other hand is a much better story. It centre’s on main character Ben Mears, a writer who returns to his hometown to discover that many of the town’s residents are becoming vampires. Aside from having two deeply sinister villainous characters in Kurt Barlow and his ‘business partner’ Richard Straker, Salem’s Lot excels at pulling back the curtain on the dark, depraved lives people lead behind closed doors. The vampire story is good, but it’s the examination of this dark side of the people who live in Salem’s Lot that really made this story work for me. My main criticism is that King had a tendency to ramble on at times, a tendency I would soon discover was not, unfortunately, a one-off.

THE SHINING
The Shining centres on the life of Jack Torrance, a struggling writer and recovering alcoholic who accepts a position as the off-season caretaker of the historic Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies. His family accompanies him on the job, including his young son Danny Torrance, who possesses ‘the shining’, a psychic ability that allows him to see the hotel’s horrific past. Before long a winter storm leaves the family isolated and the supernatural forces inhabiting the hotel start affecting Jack’s sanity, putting his wife and son in terrible danger. While I found Carrie a bit meh, and Salem’s Lot good-but-rambly, The Shining was the first time I was truly impressed by King. Watching Jack’s slow descent into menacing insanity, haunted by his past and the consequences of his alcoholism, was a distressing and unnerving experience and there were points in this book where I was genuinely fearful.


Since finishing these books I’ve also read The Stand (and have actually already read and reviewed Pet Sematary, way out of order) and hope to move on to The Dead Zone soon. I’m in two minds about whether to include his novels written under his pseudonym ‘Richard Bachman’, but at the moment I’m leaning towards ‘yes’, so there’s a decent chance I’ll also read Rage and The Long Walk before that. Anyway, I’ve been saying I’d start on this project proper for a while now, so I’m glad I’ve finally begun!


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Reading update 04/10/2020

Updates

Recently Finished: SOURDOUGH by Robin Sloan
This was such a delightful book. It’s basically just the story of a computer programmer who finds happiness in baking bread when her favourite soup and sandwich takeout closes and the owners gift her their (possibly sentient?) sourdough starter. It was recommended to me by eriophora (@BasiliskBooks) on Twitter when I asked for some nice gentle reads with little stress (I’m really feeling the need for those types of stories right now) and this really hit that spot. The highest the stakes get is wondering whether or not Lois will get a spot at the local farmers market. I loved it and if you want something nice and wholesome about someone just learning to be happy then I would definitely recommend Sourdough.

Currently Reading: THE AFFAIR OF THE MYSTERIOUS LETTER by Alexis Hall
I’m a few chapters in to this one and already I absolutely adore it. It’s a sort of Lovecraftian lesbian Sherlock Holmes reimagining where ‘Holmes’ is a drug-addled sorceror tasked to investigate the attempted blackmail of her former lover. Told from the perspective of ‘Watson’ (Captain John Wyndham) the duo are beset by criminals, menaced by pirates, harassed by vampires, almost devoured by mad gods, and called upon to punch a shark. It’s a joyous, bizarre and unapologetically fun story and again, a perfect fit for the kinds of stories I feel like reading at the mo.

Next Read: WHEN THE TIGER CAME DOWN THE MOUNTAIN by Nghi Vo
Tor Books sent me this ARC and I can’t tell you how excited I am to read it. It’s Nghi Vo’s follow up to her majestic The Empress of Salt and Fortune, which was a story whose words flowed through my mind like silk over soft skin. Set in the same world and part of The Singing Hills Cycle, it’s nevertheless a standalone that reunites us with the cleric Chih, who finds themself and their companions at the mercy of a band of fierce tigers who ache with hunger. To stay alive until the mammoths can save them, Chih must unwind the intricate, layered story of the tiger and her scholar lover – a woman of courage, intelligence, and beauty – and discover how truth can survive becoming history.


Let me know in the comments what you’re reading at the mo, I love to chat about the books we’re all reading. And hey, if you enjoyed this update why not follow the blog for more reviews and bookish chat.

Review: THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS by Stephen Graham Jones

Book Reviews

THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS is like nothing I’ve ever read before. Described as a tale of revenge, cultural identity and the cost of breaking from tradition, it follows four Native American men who are tracked and hunted by a malevolent entity after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives, leaving them helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.



I’ll tell you what I loved about this book, and that’s the superb characterisation and atmospheric tension-building. Lewis, Gabe and Cass are such real characters. They’re no saints, they’re deeply flawed in many ways and yet they’re fundamentally good, worthy people. There’s an almost twisted slice-of-life vibe to the first part of the book where we’re invited into Lewis’ life as a postal worker, meet his partner, friends and his dog while slowly watching him psychologically unravelled by the weight of his guilt. One of my favourite things about this book is that for a long time I couldn’t tell if there was anything supernatural going on at all or whether this was more of a psychological horror about the effects of guilt, remorse and the lengths people can go to in their search for redemption. The truth is it’s both, and for me great horror writers are the ones who are able to tell a story about the human experience while tying it up in some aspect of otherworldliness. I realise that sounds pretentious as anything haha, but when you dissect good horror I think that’s what it is, and Jones excels at it.

There’s a fair amount of gruesome violence and I’d forgive you for rolling your eyes and dismissing this book if I was to describe it as slasher revenge horror, and it kind of is, except that it’s also very smart and doesn’t resemble any of the tropey mess that makes up the core of that genre. Instead there’s genuine tension and palpable fear, uncertainty is instilled in the minds of both the reader and the characters and the result is a story that feels both vibrant and unnerving. It’s a book whose premise is deeply-rooted in Native American history, mythology and culture and while I was unfamiliar with most of these references prior to reading the book, it was still accessible enough to someone as ignorant as I am to still grasp how important this culture is to the characters and still feel compelled by the plot. In fact one of the strongest parts of this story was the complicated relationship the characters have with their own culture and is a major theme of the book.

The Only Good Indians is a strange book with a unique writing style that worked for me in some ways but did leave me confused in others. It’s an unsettling horror book and there’s this combination of colloquial, but also disjointed, prose that’s pretty darn masterful at keeping you simultaneously comfortable and close to the characters and yet really on edge the whole fucking time. Having finished the book I can absolutely see what Jones was doing with his storytelling and I appreciate his skill in pulling it off (it’s actually quite impressive from a craft perspective) but sometimes it took a lot of work to keep on top of and there was more than one occasion where I had to skip back a few pages to make sure I knew what was happening. I went into this book knowing nothing about the author, or even a great deal about the plot, and just wasn’t prepared for how unorthodox the writing would be, so I’d say if you’re into unsettling horror with some pretty gruesome violence you should read The Only Good Indians, but be aware going in that you’re just gonna have to roll with the weirdness at times and accept it and I think you’ll get a lot more out of it that way. Overall an unnerving, challenging book with lots of smart things to say about the development of indigenous culture.


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State Of The Blog

Updates

Happy Sunday bookwyrms, hope you’re all having a lovely book-filled weekend. And hey, thanks so much for all the blogiversary well wishes, I was overwhelmed by all you fine folks getting in touch, you’re the best.

And on that note, having taken a week off to recover from the madness of the blog’s birthday week, I’m happy to say I’ve been busy preparing a new and improved schedule for Parsecs & Parchment! Long term followers probably know I’m not the most organised of bloggers haha. I have a very haphazard approach to what I post and when – a review here, an update there and no consistent days or schedule to set your watch by. But that’s all about to change!

So what can you look forward to from P&P in the future?

First off, the bread and butter of the blog isn’t changing; the backbone of the blog is still gonna be the much-beloved stalwart of the blogging community, the hardy book review, all meat and potatoes like. Only difference is I’ll be posting them on a regular schedule (get me, right?). So you can look forward to at least one review a week, posted every Thursday, and should I start building up a glut of backlogged reviews there may even be some super special bonus posts from time to time if you just can’t get enough review goodness.

Second (and I’ve been thinking about this for a while) I’ll be starting a Comic Club that I’ll be hosting at least once a month on a Tuesday, where I try and work my way through the significant pile of graphic novels and trade paperback comic collections that make up a significant chunk of my TBR. One post a month is a minimum so if I get really into something for a while there could well be some bonus posts here too.

Third, author interviews! In my head I wanted this to be a feature from the blog’s inception, but I just wasn’t organised enough to make it a regular thing. You can still check out my interview with the wonderful Gareth L. Powell, author of the superb Embers of War books, that I did back in September 2019. I’ve already got an interview lined up with Deck Matthews, author of The Riven Realm series, and lots of ideas for other authors I’d like to collar for a chat, so keep your eyes peeled for those.

On top of that I’ll still be posting my reading updates whenever I’ve got new stuff to talk about, as well as a periodic non-fiction edition that readers responded to very positively when I did this as a one-off a few months back. I’ll also be creating an archive page where you can easily access past reviews, as well as commissioning a custom logo for the site now I’ve proven I’m in it for the long haul. I’ve also been toying with the idea of a total cosmetic overhaul, though I’m still not sure about that. I actually like the minimalist aesthetic I’ve got going at the mo, but it does bug me that the homepage doesn’t have a layout that displays a bunch of recent posts in tidy little boxes for easy browsing. And finally, I quite like the idea of committed followers getting to know me a bit better. I do think my personality shines through in my writing somewhat but I think once a month I’m gonna start doing a round up of the month gone by, what I’ve read and reviewed, but also just a little bit about what’s been going on with me for those who might be interested. I know a few other bloggers who do this and I personally like it a lot, makes the community we’re part of feel that much more friendly and accessible, you know 🙂

That’s about it for now. There are a couple other things that I’d quite like to do, but at the risk of taking on too much at once I’m gonna hold back on them for now. In the meantime I hope you enjoy all the juicy goodness you can look forward to squeezing out of Parsecs & Parchment in the near future. Happy reading bookwyrms!


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1st Birthday Celebrations!!!

Updates

Cut the cake and pop the champagne, it’s Parsecs & Parchment’s first blogiversary! I feel like I’m stuck in some kind of time warp cos, despite 2020 lasting for seven years already, it only feels like yesterday I posted my first review. The world might be a trash fire right now but I’m glad to say amidst it all I’ve found a great community of like-minded book lovers to escape from it all from time to time.



I was actually on holiday in Nice, France around this time last year when I decided I wanted to start a blog (holidays, remember them?). I’d started listening to Calvin Park’s Under A Pile of Books podcast and binged through all the episodes while sitting on the balcony of my Airbnb sipping Carrefour rosé cider in the warm dusk of the Côte d’Azur. I’d also started following some of the folks from The Fantasy Inn on Twitter, noteably Sara and Jenia, who happened to be organising a readathon around the same time. I enjoyed getting involved in that and found this little community so welcoming I just wanted to be more involved. I don’t think they know it, but right at the start it was these three folks that did the most to make me feel welcome and encouraged me to be part of the online book community. So a special thanks to them, I raise my glass to you.

Obviously since then I’ve made new pals who share my love of all things speculative and found a bunch of other really quite wonderful blogs to follow. The recommendations I’ve got from you all have improved my reading life immeasurably.

I was a big SFF nerd beforehand obviously, but in hindsight the range of books I was exposed to was quite homogenous and I wasn’t adventurous at all, despite what protestations past me might have had if you told him that. Not to say none of those books were any good (I still think A Song of Ice and Fire is one of the best fantasy series I’ve ever read, despite how unfashionable that might be now) but over the past year my horizons have expanded beyond recognition and some of my now favourite authors are writers who I would likely never have heard of without the book community.

Jade City and Jade War by Fonda Lee are hands down some of the best fiction I’ve ever read; everything P. Djèlí Clark has ever written blows me away; Snow Over Utopia by Rudolfo A. Serna and Coil by Ren Warom, both published by small press Apex Publications; and most recently I’ve finally started getting into some of the fantastic self-published fiction that graces the shelves of the SFF world these days, with books like The First of Shadows by Deck Matthews and The Sword of Kaigen by M. L. Wang. These are just a small selection of the amazing books I’ve encountered over the last year that otherwise I simply would not know about.

So I owe a big debt of gratitude to all you guys, for your recommendations and insightful reviews, as well as for your kindness and warmth in welcoming a new member into your flock. Here’s to you all and long may our little community flourish. Cheers!


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Reading Update 20/09/2020

Updates

Recently Finished: THE FIRST OF SHADOWS by Deck Matthews
I decided to pick this up after reading Rin’s review on her blog The Thirteenth Shelf. Rin is someone whose reading opinions I value a lot when it comes to books I’d also like as we share a lot of opinions on what makes a good story. THE FIRST OF SHADOWS is a frenetically-paced high fantasy novella(!!!) that packs a ton of engrossing world-building and heart-pounding action into a very small space. I’ll be writing a full review soon and also delighted to announce an upcoming interview with Deck Matthews himself, so keep your eyes peeled.

Currently Reading: THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS by Stephen Graham Jones
This is my first Stephen Graham Jones book and I’ve struggled to settle into it. A dark blending of classic horror and dramatic narrative, it follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way. The story is interesting but the prose is quite odd and I find I’m having to do a lot of going back over stuff to understand what’s going on, which is affecting my enjoyment somewhat.

Next Read: THE SWORD OF KAIGEN by M. L. Wang
I’ve wanted to read this one for a while after hearing everyone in the book community rave about it for months. I don’t know anyone who has a bad word to say about it and I thought what better time to finally dive in than Self Published Fantasy Month 🙂


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