Bird Box by Josh Malerman shatters minds with SST brilliance, as the author’s 2017 debut novel rattles all senses with the riveting tale like no other, so too, does SST Publications craft a signed limited numbered edition that is reminiscent of the book’s world, sharp and wonderfully haunting.
Civilization falls to chaos, as those who see something, some creature, go insanely violent on themselves and/or others: welcome to Bird Box.
There are few tales so poignant that you root for the characters so strongly you feel their utter incessant terror so strongly.
The following book review of Bird Box by Josh Malerman will contain *SPOILERS up until the fine press edition of the S/L book from SST is reviewed in detail.
Is Malorie insane?
Clearly the world she resides in has gone insane.
The mother of two debates taking a dangerous winter trip on a river toward a possible sanctuary.
They will be in a rowboat for twenty miles.
The boy and the girl are four, and they will have to risk going outside and traversing the river up to a section of rapids blindfolded the entire way.
The mother’s words are rough with the two children, stern, and candid: they must not take off their ‘folds’ no matter what happens.
Outside, unknown creatures cause madness upon sight of them.
You see it and you lose it and go mortally violent; unless, of course, you are already mad yourself, and then you will welcome the embrace of the savior or cleanser or xenocidal force that has been unleashed on earth.
I had a feeling early into the novel that I had no idea what the creatures were and I might end the book without knowing what they were.
That idea is a tricky writer to reader relationship, to say the least (more on this later).
Aspects of the creatures accumulate: they could be small or enormous, they could be frequently stalking all humans, or sporadically invading city streets, row by row, they could be trying to touch, or scare blindfolded people into looking at them.
The unnerving loss of sight and the unknown haunting menace gives far more weight to the thrilling Bird Box than many of the great suspense novels out there.
The story flashes back and forth, from when Malorie first finds out she was pregnant and the subsequent unraveling of society and back to the dangerous river voyage.
As the world collapses, she escapes to a house that is a sanctuary, of sorts.
It has a well, electricity from a hydroelectric dam and a lot of stores for the half a dozen or so trying to live out the horror in a home with all the windows covered; for safety, no one sees the sky anymore.
The dynamics of the semi-democratic household full of realistic characters with great personalities and their own unnerving anxieties – that decide when or when not to take in someone like Malorie, a showing pregnant woman that will be two mouths to feed before long – are enthralling.
Malorie’s love for another grows, as the housemates struggle to adapt and get along and progress.
Can the landline, not powered by electricity but by a weak electrical signal in a phone cord, let them reach others who have survived with their sanity intact.
For a long time, I thought the birds would be the monsters in the book.
But it is the finding of a cardboard box full of birds at an abandoned home that brings a real-time alarm, a chirping warning system, for when the creatures get close that is essential to surviving.
Only Malorie and her children survive the house, and the birds, and together they march on to a place that someone on the phone says is a real sanctuary for any who can make it up the river to them.
The place is protected and full of good people.
And so Malorie waits until she deems the kids can understand enough to take the trip in the rowboat and she risks it all.
Getting to her destination by route of that damn river is so nerve shredding!
Sure, there are creatures, but there are also animals living in the wooded region that you forget about in the apocalyptic times, like wolves that attack and badly injure Malorie.
She even passes out and wakes to find her kids have learned to each row a paddle, in tandem.
Nothing was more creepy or intense than actually getting to the sanctuary and seeing through Malorie’s eyes as she risks it and takes off the fold and assesses whether or not the place is a trap or a real safe zone for her and the kids.
Your stomach will tighten and spasm with fear, as the worst seems inevitable.
But that is Malorie’s view, of fear, and not the reality, and when she realizes they are all safe it is one of the most beautiful moments in literature – I got choked up.
She had never named the boy or girl, her kids, and the entire novel they are called ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ so that Malorie upon getting them to safety names them, finally, for the girl’s mother who died in the house giving birth at the same time Malorie birthed her son, and she names him after her love that she met in the house.
And after all of the non-stop page turning full of realism, blood, tension, terror, and time that goes by in the grim world, the reader does not get to find out what the creature is.
And it works brilliantly.
*SPOILERS END here.
The SST Publications limited edition of Bird Box by Josh Malerman is marvelous and the fine press production is reviewed here.
The book is signed by the author, Malerman, and artist Ben Baldwin and has a limitation of 400 copies.
And this book is stunning to behold.
The SST Bird Box cover art and dust jacket is one of the wildest designs I have ever seen!
The child is wearing the blindfold and hearing the world shown: their trip on the river, the flying birds, the forest and the rickety speaker setup – the lone semblance of society – and of course blue tone for the cold and the water, and lots of darkness wherein the mysterious creature could be anywhere.
And that is just the dust jacket art. The design wraps around and even goes all the way to the folded in parts at the boards – it looks amazing and would make a great poster.
The six illustrations by Baldwin are remarkable and visceral, and my favorite, by far, is of the screams as the poor home owner goes mad, tied to his chair; it gives me the shivers.
SST’s Bird Box edition is a perfect emanation of Josh Malerman’s story within.
The clothbound book is sturdy and a gorgeous light blue with blue foil stamping.
This is one for the ages.
As my first voyage into SST Publications, I could not be more impressed with the UK fine press publisher.
Chasing the Boogeyman: Richard Chizmar births a new genre, and though many great authors have and continue to work off of and dwell in the horror-crime-thriller realm, this novel is wonderfully different.
Rumor has it that the Richard’s small town serial killer may be something other than human.
But that just adds to the menace, and the reality is such that this tale is presented as true crime dialed up with the thrilling and macabre level of fantastic horror works.
And, as the story goes, the author, Richard, was there to witness it, and it is much more visceral and frightful, as you feel the terror that the character of Richard Chizmar feels in the chase for the Boogeyman.
I hate genres and labels, especially with regards to writing, as some of the great writers frequently publish speculative fiction that delves into so many other lanes (for example: Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, or Stephen King’s Duma Key).
But what is innovative and fascinating about Chizmar’s Chasing the Boogeyman is that the author himself is at the center of the seemingly-real summer of carnage and his horror is his story, and the reader gets a “first-hand” account.
The following Preview Book Review of Chasing the Boogeyman is Spoiler Free** and only speaks to the overall premise of the book and its opening.
Richard returns home from college and starts to chronicle the mayhem that envelops the small Maryland town as he stays at his parent’s house.
The Boogeyman looms as jet and creepy as any ghost or monster and that dark presence weighs heavily over Richard’s encounters, marking him and his fears for much of his future life.
This convergence of spine-electrifying-suspense with the true crime tale – from the dead-pan cops and intervening FBI, to the tormented small town – makes for something fresh and unique in Chasing the Boogeyman.
Where you can see echoes of Thomas Harris’ journalism days make fine ripples in his fiction, so too can you see Richard Chizmar’s horror writing make stomach-twisting waves in Chasing the Boogeyman.
“Chasing the Boogeyman: Richard Chizmar Births A Hybrid Genre” was written by R.J. Huneke.
About the Author Of Chasing the Boogeyman
Richard Chizmar is the coauthor (with Stephen King) of the New York Times bestselling novella, Gwendy’s Button Box. Recent books include The Girl on the Porch; The Long Way Home, his fourth short story collection; and Widow’s Point, a chilling tale about a haunted lighthouse written with his son, Billy Chizmar, which was recently made into a feature film. His short fiction has appeared in dozens of publications, including Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and The Year’s 25 Finest Crime and Mystery Stories. He has won two World Fantasy awards, four International Horror Guild awards, and the HWA’s Board of Trustee’s award. Chizmar’s work has been translated into more than fifteen languages throughout the world, and he has appeared at numerous conferences as a writing instructor, guest speaker, panelist, and guest of honor. Follow him on Twitter @RichardChizmar or visit his website at: RichardChizmar.com.
The Exorcist By Blatty S/L by Suntup, Lonely Road & Gauntlet fine presses provides one of the world’s most terrifying and thrilling novels an exceptional book reading experience.
The Exorcist By William Peter Blatty is an all-time great work of fiction.
This cannot be understated; the writing, the tale, the characters are all remarkable.
The film adaptation that Blatty was a part of will forever be a classic, as well, but the novel adds so much more to the brilliant characters, the shocking story, and the uniquely personal detective work.
The following book review of The Exorcist: The Fortieth Anniversary Edition will have mild Spoilers** that will end with the story review and the start of a fine press book review of each of the Holy Trinity: The Exorcist signed and limited editions by Gauntlet Press, Lonely Road Books, and released this year, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of this iconic masterpiece of horror and paranormal suspense, Suntup Editions.
I have a favorite! But now back to the The Exorcist: The Fortieth Anniversary Edition book review!
For those who have read The Exorcist, but not the revised edition, I highly encourage you to take up the endeavor.
On September 27, 2011, The Exorcist was re-released as a 40th Anniversary Edition in hardcover, paperback and audiobook featuring new and revised material. Of this edition, Blatty wrote:
“This will have a touch of new material in it as part of an all-around polish of the dialogue and prose. First time around I never had the time (meaning the funds) to do a second draft, and this, finally, is it. With forty years to think about it, a few little changes were inevitable — plus one new character in a totally new, very spooky scene. This is the version I would like to be remembered for.” [Suntup.press]
From the eerie and ominous opening of the book, we touch on foreshadowing and evil and duty for Father Lankester Merrin, as he meets with a dear friend.
An ancient Assyrian idol of the demon Pazuzu has been found at Merrin’s archaeological dig in northern Iraq.
And this creepy and poignant chapter, the sweat that runs from the elderly Jesuit priest in the full light of the sun spilling over the desert, bespeaks an impending battle, and what may be strife in the spiritual battleground and the physical one.
He must leave his dear friend and go back to the US. Some goodbyes are heartbreaking.
Blatty leaves Merrin behind for much of the book and focuses on a little girl named Regan in Washington D.C.
She is possessed; there is no spoiler there, folks.
Blatty was originally inspired by the story of the demonic possession of a child in the 1940s.
Regan, the eleven-year-old daughter of Chris, a movie actress residing in Washington, D.C. for a film, lives in a creepy old house overlooking a terribly long and narrow stairway outside.
The murder of Chris’ producer, who is found at the bottom of the stairs with his head turned all the way around – quite unnaturally – begins an investigation into the family in the house.
Welcome one of the most fun detectives in fiction: Lt. William Kinderman!
He is an older man, who is jovial, polite, and so very sly and intuitive with regards to human behavior and reactions.
Because the film producer was murdered after he was in Chris’ home, Kinderman has no choice but to thoroughly investigate every occupant of the house, as well as the visiting Jesuit priest Father Damien Karras, who he befriends in part for company and in part to get information out of him.
This is a thrilling, and at times humorous, cat and mouse game, as the two speak and meet again and again.
Meanwhile, Chris, an atheist, is upset as her daughter quickly dissolves before her into what she thinks is multiple personality disorder.
Regan speaks in other languages, lashes out at her doctors, is shriveling away physically, and even makes her entire bed tremble, as if there was an earthquake.
Aside from locking up Regan in an institution, which Chris will not do, one of the psychiatrists suggests that Regan may think she is possessed and so an exorcist may provide a psychosomatic cure.
Father Carris tries desperately to build a case to the Church for exorcism, but Regan’s time is running out.
**Spoilers END here
The Exorcist: The Fortieth Anniversary Edition by William Peter Blatty is truly something special – there is no work of fiction like this.
The research involved in writing this book was extensive, the writing could not be better, and the eerie world is so real, it scares the hell out of me to this day.
And that is my guess as to why the 71-week bestseller is considered one of the most controversial books of all time.
To pay homage to this classic work of literature, I will review the three small press publishers that crafted S/L editions containing Blatty’s preferred fortieth anniversary text, and I will review in the order they were published before I compare the three, Gauntlet, Lonely Road, and Suntup, limited editions.
The Exorcist by Blatty gets the grand fine press treatment it deserves
First released was the interesting Gauntlet Press edition that has a signature sheet for the 25th Anniversary and a publication page for the text version, the 40th Anniversary (I do not know why and am so curious about that).
It is a beautiful book that was limited to 600 copies with an introduction by F. Paul Wilson who signed it, as well as Blatty.
Only the lettered, which I do not have got illustrations in the book, but I will say that the cover art of this book is my favorite of any trade or small press dust jacket art that I have seen.
It is black, simple, elegant, and the warped image of Regan in the light symbolizing a cross is, to many, disturbing.
The boards are a fun iridescent sable cloth too and the pages are of a nice quality.
The Exorcist: The Fortieth Anniversary Edition by William Peter Blatty Signed and Numbered Limited Made By Lonely Road Books
Lonely Road Books produced a phenomenal edition of the work in an oversized 7.5” x 10.5” to highlight the stunning original art by Caniglia.
This edition was limited to 374 numbered and signed by Blatty!
The dust jacket is gorgeous, but I prefer the white faux leather boards and red foil stamping sans dj.
The slipcase is crimson with gold foil stamping and the paper is quality, though not as thick in the hand as the Gauntlet or the Suntup.
The artwork in the book is the real highlight, aside from the author’s preferred text and signature, of course.
This art is tied for my favorite (with the Suntup), and it has a ton of illustrations and I think more than any other illustrated edition to date.
It is a sight to behold!
The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty Numbered Edition By Suntup Editions
To celebrate the 2021 50th anniversary of the great book, Paul Suntup and his team went all out to deliver one of the most celebrated numbered editions of The Exorcist and of their own outstanding lineup.
Suntup’s numbered version of The Exorcist is a bar setter.
With William Peter Blatty deceased, his close friend, a man he called his “brother” director of The Exorcist film William Friedkin penned the introduction and signed the book, as well as the marvelous artist Marc Potts.
Getting the award winning director to talk about the book and to sign this edition is nothing short of amazing.
But what is more, the intricate Jesuit priest shirt and collar, done in two-color Japanese cloth, with a white paper tie, is out of this world amazing!
“The EXORCIST by WILLIAM PETER BLATTY Suntup numbered edition unboxing” VIDEO by THE JEFF WORD
From Suntup’s description:
The Numbered edition of 250 copies is a handmade lapped component case binding constructed from purple and black Japanese cloth covers and purple folded single folio endsheets. It features foil stamped titling at the spine, a white Plike paper collar, flush mounted and wrapped at the head of the book, and is housed in a cigar-style enclosure covered in Japanese cloth. The edition is printed letterpress on Mohawk Via Vellum and is signed by William Friedkin and Marc Potts. Each copy of this edition is sewn and bound by hand. [Suntup.press]
This handbound gem has a smooth feel and an effervescent shine to the boards that catches the light in the most beautiful of ways.
The page type is outstanding, and the letterpress printing is truly the finest way to read the book.
You can see the ink on the page so easily and you can feel the impression of each word or device that the letterpress stamped onto the page.
There is no experience like reading this edition of the book.
It is heavy, it is drool-worthy in its visual design, and the fine art illustrated by Marc Potts is by far the darkest of all the editions I have seen.
The artwork in the book is every bit as good as Caniglia’s and tied to be my favorite of all.
And the cigar style case in the vestment purple and black cross insignia is a work of art in and of itself.
The overall transcendent edition of fiction for The Exorcist goes to the rarest of the S/L’s, the Suntup Editions numbered.
All of these books are incredible works of art that pay great homage to the work’s author, Blatty, and I recommend them all.
Crackle and Fire: An Angela Hardwicke Mystery by Russ Colchamiro combines compelling characters with noir-mystery and sci-fi tropes and blasts them into exciting new territory.
What is the audience for this work of speculative fiction? This is from the book’s description on Bookshop.org:
“[Crackle and Fire: An Angela Hardwicke Sci-Fi Mystery is] For fans of Doctor Who, Blade Runner and Philip Marlowe…”
And Crackle and Fire is just the first in The Angela Hardwicke Mysteries Book 1 series. Book 2 is coming in the not-too-distant future.
The following book review of Crackle and Fire: An Angela Hardwicke Mystery contains **MILD SPOILERS for the book’s plot in the opening.
Russ Colchamiro’s tale combines many of my favorite plot elements and world building for an innovative, gritty, pull-no punches neo-noir-mystery in the Universe.
The Universe may span the outer reaches of space, myriad places of which earth is just a tiny blip on the radar, and that is all the more reason for the need of the PI, the private investigator Angela Hardwicke.
Her inner monologue is self-critical and always interesting, as this inner speech often betrays to the reader the nerves that flare up, or the terror that floods her vision, when on the outside, she appears as cool as they come.
Angela Hardwicke has seen a lot and her mannerisms – such as having the tears in her long trench coat sewn over and over again – show a vast amount of experience, stubbornness, and grit.
The woman is savvy and cautious, but also tired; she is as tired as any of Raymond Chandler’s most worn-out cops, PIs, or fugitives.
The writing echoes Hardwicke’s exhaustion, and right from the outset of the story her mental weariness proves very costly.
She slips up in taking on a case from a likeable guy that is so nervous he borders on squirrelly.
And what a fun character Gil Haberseau turns out to be!
The accountant is terrible at math.
But people like him, so he gets on pretty well.
That is, at least until Gil’s intern disappears with stolen files tied to the worst of the mob, the Anshanis.
When Hardwicke wants no part of the ruthless Anshanis (after a past run-in gone sour), Gil corrals her by mentioning her name was in the stolen files, which is why he has come to her.
But he has almost no information to give the PI that will help her track down the missing intern.
She can feel the lies, the inherent danger that is only showing the tip of the iceberg above the water’s surface.
And then, as clacking shots are made on pool tables around her, the obvious damning truth – the omitted truth – comes home to her, but not in a self-reliant epiphany; it is her friends that have to explain it to her.
Gil is no accountant.
And his ‘intern’ may come from other dimensions in the vast multiverse to their own universal realm, Eternity, meaning the stakes and the complications pertaining to them are infinitely more than Hardwicke could ever have imagined.
To start the case, really start the case this time, she ambushes her own client in his apartment and confronts him for his lies.
The intern, from a remote planet called earth, could be big trouble.
The story is riveting in both the personal aspects of its characters and the page-turning action, but it also has a grandiose scope far beyond the notion of the known universe.
Fractured Lives: An Angela Hardwicke Sci-Fi Mystery (The Angela Hardwicke Mysteries Book 2) By Russ Colchamiro will be released in September 2021!
***I thought it would be cool to feature this great work of fiction on TFF, as it appears on her sister site, POWkabam; typically we will keep comics on there and novels on here but today we mix it up.
Ghost In The ShellVol-1 by Masamune Shirow is incredible for its art and its prescient story.
It does so today as well, but the 21st Century depicted in the epic manga series has hit on many eerie notes that are developed or in development in the modern age, the digital age.
The following review of The Ghost In The Shell Volume 1 is *Spoiler Free*
If cybernetic limbs can lead to cyborgs with implants, why cannot a brain, a soul, a ghost, eventually be uploaded into a full-on cyborg model.
That concept in and of itself may not be very original.
Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick was one of the first to combine this AI and/or soul-brain into machine concept along the rough and jaded lines that were foundational for cyberpunk: gritty, grim futures with deadly and often seemingly unnatural additions in the forms of robotics to humans and to the bots themselves.
Make no mistake: the first volume in The Ghost In The Shell series is not to be missed!
It is the myriad facets of the storyline, the characters, and, yes, the tech and the way it is used that is well established as innovative, even today.
Having humans fully rely on and take advantage of semi-autonomous robots that seem completely human – West World, anyone? – is also well established, but Shirow pits the humans that are fully integrated into robots against ghost hackers that begin to override human-cyborgs that have a brain and presumably a soul and completely control them.
The protagonist of TheGhost In The ShellVolume One is Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg federal agent with the utmost skill in taking down the big threats.
But what if the people being controlled, the ghosts being hacked, and the political atmosphere is not what it seems?
Kusanagi is at the greatest risk . . .
READ THE REST OF THE BOOK REVIEW ON TFF’S SISTER SITE FROM RUNE WORKS PRODUCTIONS, POWkabam COMICS here.
Replay By Ken Grimwood: Suntup Editions Replay Suntup Replay, and as this time travel tale goes on, the suspenseful, metaphysical, time-mind warp grips the reader’s heart tighter and tighter.
This is a Spoiler-Free** Preview Review of the upcoming Suntup Editions for Ken Grimwood’s award-winning novel Replay.
Conjuring all of the mystery of time travel, the philosophy behind its implications and the personal touch of experiencing love throughout the flux is why Isaac Asimov’s The End of Eternity is my favorite book by Asimov, and Grimwood’s Replay has all of these elements and a magic about it, while being an incredibly fresh and vibrant and innovative tale all of its own.
I know of no book like Replay.
The only hint as to the last book release from Suntup Editions was the publisher, Paul Suntup himself, who said this was one of his favorite books.
Despite having the utmost faith in his judgement as an extremely well-read human, a poet, and a brilliant crafter of fine press books, I was taken aback when I saw Replay announced; I had not heard of it.
I will admit to being flummoxed – as a science fiction writer and fanatic, how did I miss this – and I doubted whether or not I should invest in one of the upcoming editions from Suntup, despite their out-of-this-world design and attention to detail.
I was wrong to doubt. I was so wrong.
I read the book in a few days; I could not put it down.
I think the only reason more folks have not heard of Ken Grimwood is that the author tragically died of a heart attack young, not unlike Replay’s protagonist Jeff Winston who dies abruptly at age 43 – at the same day and time – and awakes with all memories of his past life, but back where he was at the age of 18 in the early 1960’s.
What would you do if you could go back with knowledge of 20+ years and experience in a young person’s body?
What are the potential consequences of the replays that happen over and over each time Jeff reaches that fatal day at age 43, no matter where he is?
This novel pulls and yanks at your heartstrings, again and again.
There is debauchery, tragedy, loss, love, and so much more.
The ending got me choked up, as 1984 and only a handful of other books have ever done.
And Suntup Editions has done the most amazing job of bringing every facet of this complex story to light in each of their four different stand-alone limited editions.
I will review the numbered edition in detail when it arrives, but for now feast your eyes on each of the incredible works of art that are pushing the boundaries of intrinsic story-encompassing publishing with the art and design.
These editions all floor me, and the artist edition is still available to purchase, as well, signed by surrealist painter Alessandro Sicioldr Bianchi.
The art is, well there are no words; take a look at each edition:
The Artist edition is limited to 1000 copies with a dust jacket illustrated by Alessandro Sicioldr Bianchi. It is a full cloth, smyth sewn binding with two-hits foil stamping. It is the only edition of the three with the dust jacket, and is signed by the artist. The edition is printed offset and is housed in an embossed paper covered slipcase with an acrylic coating. [https://suntup.press/replay]
The Numbered edition of 350 copies is a handbound quarter leather binding with printed Hahnemühle Bugra boards and leather capped fore edges. The edition is enclosed in a quarter leather chemise and a Japanese cloth slipcase. The cover features a letterpress printed label and endsheets are Hahnemühle Bugra. The edition is printed offset on Mohawk Via and is signed by Alessandro Sicioldr Bianchi and Tim Powers. [https://suntup.press/replay]
The Lettered edition is limited to 26 copies and is a Dorfner style binding after master German bookbinder Otto Dorfner, who developed this structure in the early 20th century. The binding is sewn on supports with goat leather strips laminated to silk, with the boards attached to the textblock by the sewing supports. The boards are covered in full goatskin with goatskin onlays and blind tooling on the spine, and the flyleaves are covered with a suede material on one side. The edition is sewn and bound entirely by hand by master bookbinder Jacek Tylkowski in Poland.
The clamshell enclosure is full European cloth with a blind debossed cover. The edition is printed offset on Mohawk Via and is signed by Alessandro Sicioldr Bianchi and Tim Powers. [https://suntup.press/replay]
The Roman Numeral edition is limited to 10 copies and is bound in full leather. The leather features an original design using hand dying techniques and photographs of live models, which are transfered to the surface. The block is sewn onto stubs for a perfect opening. The boards are laced on, for the greatest durability. Doublures and headbands are in leather. The edition is sewn and bound entirely by hand by master bookbinder, Zigor Anguiano Calzada in Spain.
The clamshell enclosure is full leather with a rounded spine and suede inner linings with Japanese cloth. The edition is printed offset on Mohawk Superfine and is signed by Alessandro Sicioldr Bianchi and Tim Powers. [https://suntup.press/replay]