Rapturous fantasy, few chills.

GATHERING THE BONES

ORIGINAL STORIES FROM THE WORLD’S MASTERS OF HORROR

Thirty-three original horrifics from America, Great Britain, and Australia, some from established stars, others from hot new supernovas, as chosen by an editor from each land mass.

Not since reading a tale by Clark Ashton Smith in his teens, about some abominable velvety black brain-eaters clinging to the ceiling of a cave into whose darkness the hero must go has this reader experienced “horror” in fiction, that is, a pure state or affect divorced from the supernatural, weird, SF, or dark fantasy. Can it be that nothing that sets out to horrify ever does? Horror comes in the backdoor and is unexpected, though shock cuts in movies, such as the dead twin daughters standing in a deserted hotel hallway in Kubrick/King’s The Shining, can have one jump in the seat the first time one sees the film. This sheaf kicks off brightly with Steve Nagy’s “The Hanged Man of Oz,” about a new figure discovered in the Judy Garland movie, a hanged man in the woods where the live trees are tricked into giving up their apples. And Dorothy and the Tin Man and Scarecrow, as well as the Wicked Witch, are not the characters you thought they were. Fun and inventive, yes, but horrifying? Not really. Kim Newman’s truly brilliant chunka kafka, “The Intervention,” opens with a man coming into his office and being faced with an AA–like intervention, enjoined by his family and officemates, all his keys taken from him, his computer codes and credit cards revoked, cell phone snicked in half. Humiliatingly, even his kids sign him away, in crayon, as he’s stripped naked and put into an ambulance. All of this—for what reason? In “Blake’s Angel,” by Janeen Welsh, the poet Blake Williams, suffering from poet’s block, buys a captured angel from a grimy angel-trader and takes it home to his grubby apartment for inspiration. Also on hand: Ray Bradbury, the late Cherry Wilder, Tim Waggoner, Gahan Wilson, Graham Joyce, and others.

Rapturous fantasy, few chills.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-765-30179-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2003

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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