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.
Final Quarter Announcement Schedule For The Forgotten Fiction: here it is folks, news, news, and all the fun coming to TFF to close out the year with a BANG!
For those of you wondering, there are many new writers coming on for guest posts, including authors like Tom Deady, and more book reviews are coming.
Everything got hung up again in the last two months with not one, but two Covid scares for my toddler.
She did not get it, but it wreaked havoc for quite a while and her daycare was shut down for two weeks, twice, and we were quarantined, limiting my own working hours to her sleeping hours, and that affected both the volume of reviews and the output of the Rune Works Wood Shop.
All of that has now passed: a bevy of projects are being polished up and packed and mailed!
I am so happy to be working a lot again, though I did enjoy having a lot more time with my daughter – the kid is amazing.
Housekeeping out of the way, prepare yourselves for many new incredible books that will be in Preview Reviews, like Boys In The Valley by Philip Fracassi – this is Earthling Publications Halloween Book Of The Year – and Josh Malerman’s Ghoul N’ the Cape, and then so many contemporary and classic book reviews too.
Gwendy’s Button Box S/L will likely by my first SST Publications review, though Bird Box may leapfrog it.
My many editions of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, from a signed first edition to Suntup’s marvelous numbered edition will be reviewed along with the story, my second favorite of all time.
Asimov will get his own page for The End Of Eternity, the S/L from of Robots of Dawn from Phantasia Press, and of course, Foundation and more robot tales.
Philip K. Dick will also be here with a page constantly adding reviews starting with the new Centipede Press boxed set and a gorgeous limited of The Cosmic Puppets, as well as many, many more novels from all eras.
Five Decembers by James Kestrel from Hard Case Crime is going to be grand, as well as more Crichton, some Lawrence Block, and Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka, and of course Cline’s Ready Player One and Ready Player Two (I have a surprise to show you for these)!
There are so many more in the works, as well, and to get a feel for what you the Eager Readers want, I am devising a poll to be sent out to all on our email list.
The TFF-inspired fiction-based Rune Works Wood Shop is revealing some new products that clients have ordered.
There are new crazy designs for book traycases, coffee table display cases for LEGO builds, custom limited edition bookends and even Dungeons & Dragons and Warhammer 40K Partitions and Player Dungeons Boxes, complete with a Dice Vault and Storage Tray and a compartment for a pencil, pad or tablet.
So many great things are coming!
TFF will be showing off its first comic book cases at the Rune Works booth at New York Comic Con in October too!
More news on that and the END OF THE YEAR CRAZY giveaway contest is going to be leaked soon . . . stay tuned!
Final Quarter Announcement Schedule:
Tuesday Sept. 28 the next contest and prizes are announced
Tuesday Oct. 5 @ 1pm EST is the LIVESTREAM event and giveaway!
Wednesday Oct. 27 the next contest and prizes are announced
Tuesday Nov. 9 @ 1pm EST is the LIVESTREAM event and giveaway!
Tuesday Nov. 30 the next contest and prizes are announced
Tuesday Dec. 14 @ 1pm EST is the LIVESTREAM event and giveaway!
CRAZY End of year LIVEstream will be on Dec 14, 2021! There will be books for international fans, there will be at least one custom Rune Works book case being given away and a TON of other surprises! Stay tuned for more info on this!
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.
H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau’s 125th By Suntup Editions is celebrating the shocking and classic work of early horror and science-fiction in deservedly grandiose fashion 125 years after its initial release.
To say the art, designs, bonus content give this novel the proper anniversary treatment is a big understatement.
The following Preview Review of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau’s By Suntup Editions will have mild plot/events *Spoilers* in the story review and then get into a perusal of the fine press editions themselves, which will be examined more thoroughly after the books arrive.
The lone survivor of a deadly shipwreck that claimed two ships, Edward Prendick washes ashore on the elusive Noble’s Isle claimed by the infamous Dr. Moreau.
The novel brings in mystery, adventure and exploration themes, as well as good old-fashioned shock-horror and sci-fi.
The science and exploration of the 19th Century, and the preceding years, birthed interesting thoughts on the wings of Darwin and Mary Shelley’s publications: that of man playing god by merging animal and man into living chimera.
H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau is disturbing, suspenseful and has many unexpected twists along the island’s paths.
H.G. Wells took a character in Edward that is grateful for being nursed to health and through his uniquely thankful perspective examines the mysterious noises and shadowy visages that send shivers down his spine and lead him to delve deeper into the mysteries Dr. Moreau seems to have hidden on his island.
For those that enjoy stories of the monster within, the monster that we as humans carry and sometimes unleash, and the monsters out in the world, The Island Of Dr. Moreau is a stark reminder that repulsion can shift its allegiances, despite appearances.
Science fiction writers have used human-animal chimera experiments as the inspiration for creating characters that challenge us to consider what is quintessentially human and what is animal. Since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) created a manufactured man from parts of dead animals and humans combined.
To have the ethics of bioengineering examined in such an evocative manner by Wells in 1896 is incredible.
And Suntup Editions have outdone themselves again with their treatment of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau made into three limited edition states.
Suntup’s Artist Edition is limited to 1000 copies and is the only state with a dust jacket illustrated by Benz and Chang. The book is a full cloth, smyth sewn binding, is printed offset, has two-hits of foil stamping, and is signed by the artist.
The Numbered Edition of 350 copies is a quarter cloth binding with Japanese cloth boards, a cover foil stamped in gold and endsheets are custom designed for this state. It is printed letterpress on Mohawk Via and is signed by Megan Shepherd, Adam Roberts & Benz and Chang.
The Lettered edition is 26 copies with a full goatskin binding and a letterpress-printed spine label. The cover features a letterpress printed, die cut map of Noble’s Isle that looks amazing and the endsheets are hand marbled, while the pages are printed letterpress on Mohawk Via, and it comes in a clamshell enclosure covered in Japanese cloth with marbled paper floors. It is also signed by Megan Shepherd, Adam Roberts & Benz and Chang.
The books all look fantastic with six stand-out full color illustrations by Benz and Chang!
But as is befitting such an entertaining and historic work of fiction, Suntup has also included a bevy of bonus material, including a new exclusive foreword by Megan Shepherd and an afterword by Adam Roberts, who sign both the numbered and lettered states, and three Appendixes:
Included in all editions is the following bonus content:
Appendix A: Wells Explains: Two Essays Relating to Moreau’s Argument. H.G. Wells, The Province of Pain (1894) H.G. Wells, The Limits of Individual Plasticity (1895)
Appendix B: ‘The Terrible Medusa Case’: An Historical Source for Prendick’s Shipwreck. A narrative account of the infamous shipwreck Méduse (1818). Reproduction of Théodore Géricault’s masterpiece painting The Raft of the Medusa (c.1819).
Appendix C: Wells’s First Draft of Moreau. A study and excerpt from H.G. Wells’s original draft of Moreau.
We will thoroughly review the physical books themselves, the numbered and artist editions, after they arrive.
But seeing such trippy and befitting art, along with two letterpress editions, designed with bite for our inner explorer, the wait to see these in person is a difficult one.
Letterpress will make reading and rereading the numbered edition a sensational experience.
I do have one critique: I would have loved the numbered edition to match the previous Wells installments in the book’s outer design – but I understand and am very happy with the incredible design of the editions that have been created here (I love the images on the covers and I love Japanese cloth) and since this brought in Artist Editions and a wild lettered edition (what a MAP!) I feel my OCD inner-Sheldon Cooper can be quieted and content – but I still cannot wait to put this on the shelf!
In between my H.G. Wells trilogy and Robert Heinlein set on my shelf in the “Pillars of Sci-fi Suntup Section” The Island Of Dr. Moreau will go and continue to be an inspiration.
Dark Across The Bay By Ania Ahlborn Coming From Earthling Publications in a S/L edition befitting the thrilling new novel.
The Following TFF Preview Review Will Only Contain **Mild Spoilers** To The Initial Plot Of The Book’s Opening.
Best-selling author Ania Ahlborn takes a fractured family to a secluded vacation home where unnerving and horrific hauntings rattle the reader and the Parrishs alike, and then the stalking begins to slowly unravel everyone’s nerves.
Dark Across The Bay bleeds mysterious hints at insidiousness growing rampant, from the creepy island rental besieging the vulnerable family to the stalkers intruding on them.
Before a marriage can formally dissolve, or Lark and Leo can attempt to move on, everyone is brought to the beach house Airbnb off the coast of Raven’s Head, Maine, 1000 miles from their family home, for a weekend retreat.
The island has only the one house and only one way on or off its shores: by boat.
The expansive residence contains wonderful window views out onto foggy waters, but it seems to be off somehow.
It makes for a great setting, as everything from the building itself to its innards seem creepily askew.
It holds myriad secrets that are tucked away, like the odd nooks and hallways full of unsettling amounts of fishing paraphernalia and hidden corner cubbies full of shabby books.
And ‘Mom’ wants ‘family time’ to be devoid of cell phones in the house, and so the modern interconnectivity of the world and its people easily communicating is stoppered bringing further isolation at times. When the phones come to back to life it is alarming.
The characters are each well met in the story, and the relatable, familiar family interactions spark lots of memories of growing up.
You may not like each member of the Parrishs, but they are certainly all intriguing, from the nearly divorced parents almost certain of their fate, to their two children, who are young adults struggling through recent trauma.
Lark is a novice novelist, battling through a bad break-up, and her brother, Leo, is distanced from her (and everyone), as he aims to leave the grief of his best friend’s death behind with an escape to the shores of Thailand.
Ania Ahlborn brilliantly keeps the characters off balance, as well as the reader.
The seemingly discernable arcs of each of the characters become further and further confused as their sense of calm and, at times, outright sense of terror is ratcheted up in stark, unexpected ways.
Who would torment the family of four? Is it personal, and if so, why travel 1000 miles to dole out such cruel punishment? Are there any supernatural elements at play?
The prose is wonderfully written, painting clear, boisterous scenes with visceral jolts to the heart.
Suspense and old fashioned, yet modernized, and innovative mystery meets elements of horror in this fantastic phantasm of a tale.
Dark Across The Bay by Ania Ahlborn is an amazing work from one of speculative fiction’s brightest minds.
Her use of world building and literary prowess makes for one hell of a story, and Dark Across The Bay debuts on a fine press publisher with Signed and Limited editions from Earthling Publications.
There are 500 numbered, Smyth sewn, offset printed copies, signed by Ania Ahlborn and Josh Malerman, as well as 15 lettered, offset printed, tray-cased hardcovers, with both the book and the tray-case being hand-made using the finest materials, and signed by all contributors.
The gorgeous cover art and interior art is brought to us by renowned illustrator Vincent Chong, and the book contains an introduction from the author as well as best seller Josh Malerman (author of Bird Box and Goblin).
They still have copies available! Take a look here!
If you are not familiar with Earthling, they have made some of the finest hand-crafted editions of books, each with their own unique feel.
An all-time grail for this reviewer is Earthling’s lettered edition of The Hellbound Heart: 20th Anniversary Edition (2007) novella by Clive Barker, and I cannot wait to see what they have in store for the design of Dark Across The Bay by Ania Ahlborn.
We already know the cover art from Vincent Chong is outstanding.
We will conduct a more in-depth review after the book is released, going further into the novel and into the book edition.
But for now this has to be one of the most eagerly awaited suspense and horror books coming this year, and our rating is:
Cemetery Dance Limited Edition AGE Night Shift By Stephen King is a deserving fine press production of the author’s first collection of short stories, and there are two added bonus shorts included that were not published by the Doubleday edition!
The short stories are all extraordinary and many are wholly groundbreaking for what horror could evolve to be.
Better put, Sai King’s stories hit on so many different levels and are so impactful that many traditional views of literary prowess were thrown out of the window screaming.
Most of these stories were originally published as stand-alone pieces in men’s magazines.
One exception is the very first story Stephen King got paid for, “The Glass Floor,” that was originally published in the Autumn 1967 issue of Startling Mystery Stories.
That and the introduction in the Bonus section of CD’s Night Shift, alone, is worth the price of admission.
Cemetery Dance Night Shift SPOILERS ahead*
To hear the writer talk about his experience getting rejections and receiving that first check is just remarkable.
This review will touch on two of the short stories held within and give an in-depth look at the small press production of the book itself, the limited deluxe Artist Gift Edition of Night Shift, masterfully produced by Cemetery Dance Publications.
And we will look at two of the weirdest and most fun shorts!
Enter “The Lawnmower Man.”
Easily as strange and hilarious and horrific a tale as can be constructed on ancient mythic gods and modern civilization’s obsession with keeping the home’s grass meticulously tended, “The Lawnmower Man” offers mystery, suspense, humor, and an otherworldly sense of dreaming while awake.
How or why someone decided to make a movie using the title alone and throwing out the insanity of the nude grass gobbling antagonist that makes the story is beyond all rational thought, but it happened.
This story proved that like Lovecraft and Poe, King could touch on ancient gods of yore, or wholly make up his own mythology in the modern world, and the charm of it all comes down to the characters caught within.
To date, I can think of no other story remotely like “The Lawnmower Man” – one of the highest compliments I give.
The next work is another favorite of mine that was touched on by TFF before in the One Of Us review, here: “I Am The Doorway.”
Another innovative tale is spawned circa the Space Race to the moon and beyond.
It merges science-fiction and the macabre in a painfully realistic manner.
Why does realism come to mind?
Space seems to be a lifeless void and a quiet vacuum, but the reaches outside the earth’s atmosphere are the truest unknown.
The astronaut here recalls little of his voyage to Venus that might note any apparent cause for his current murderous predicament.
But it is the only explanation.
Unlike so many sci-fi voyages and tales, Stephen King attaches the things beyond human understanding.
What could be more terrifying than intelligent entities, that manifest themselves like alien spores, a disease, or a parasite, in the form of eyes that continue to sprout from the searing, itching fingers of their space traveling host.
We cannot send life into space, but that does not mean that rabid rabies-like pathogens, or non-carbon-based life forms cannot live there, cannot hunt there for a way onto the earth to feed.
The astronaut is their doorway to the earth, and as far-fetched as that terrifying premise may seem, its sheer plausibility is solidified in that we cannot for sure say that the Eyes outside Venus’ atmosphere are an impossibility.
Truth be told, I would have loved to hear more about the astronaut in space in the story, but what King leaves to the imagination has me thinking about this one as I reread it again and again, shivering and itching between my thumb and forefinger.
All of the varying dark and spectacular shorts – from “Jerusalem’s Lot” to “Children of the Corn” to “Weeds” (the last bonus story in the volume) – are worth rereading and enjoying alongside the stunning artwork of Chris Odgers in CD’s Night Shift AGE.
For the $95 price-point CD’s Night Shift AGE gets an 11/10 score.
Limited to just 3000 books, each of the short stories feature well thought out and deeply impactful original art from Chris Odgers, and they stand out in the oversized deluxe design of 7 X 10 inches.
The faux leather brown of the book and the matching slipcase make the green and gold foil stamping really pop, as does the offset two color interior printing, and the thick, quality paper.
There are many bonus materials deservingly given to this book, a piece of literary history, including:
a foreword by Stephen King
an introduction by John D. MacDonald
a brand new afterword by Stewart O’Nan
two bonus stories (“The Glass Floor” and “Weeds”) that have never appeared in any edition anywhere in the world
And as CD’s Night Shift Artist Gift Edition is meant to highlight the tales with the paired art, the black and white illustrations are fine art that perfectly encompass the respective works being emanated to strong and stark imagery.