Monday, January 19, 2015

REVIEW: The Lost Level by Brian Keene

Today we are going to have a look at a new novel from an author that I should have already had much more experience with: Brian Keene. His new book, The Lost Level, was already out for Kindle and comes out today in paperback. I can hardly think of a book more appropriate for review on this site.

The Lost Level is a pulp adventure novel in the vein of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Much like the Pellucidar series by Burroughs, The Lost Level concerns itself with a man who finds himself in a bizarre lost world. In The Lost Level, that man is Aaron Pace.

Pace is a man with an interest in the occult. This interest leads him to inter dimensional travel. However, that travel eventually leads him to The Lost Level, a dangerous place where the sun never sets and all manner of bizarre and threatening things await.

All manner is not hyperbole here. You've got dinosaurs. You've got robots. You've got dinosaurs fighting robots. You've got blades of grass that attack those who walk on the grass. You've got giant slugs. Keene's imagination seems limitless here.

That's really the strength of The Lost Level. Brian Keene has entirely succeeded in writing a fun, adventurous novel that keeps the pages turning and makes you want a sequel. Whatever issues the novel has are small compared to the sheer enjoyment you'll get out of this story. It'll remind you why you started reading pulp in the first place.

If "great horror writer doing a pulp adventure novel" appeals to you AT ALL, you need to make this book a priority. You'll love it.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

REVIEW: The Deepening Shade by Jake Hinkson

There are great short story writers. Jake Hinkson is one of those. There are also great novelists. Hinkson happens to be one of those too. It is a very rare thing for a writer to be equally comfortable in both the long and short forms but Jake Hinkson proves with his new collection, The Deepening Shade, that he is one of the best.

This volume contains everything great about crime fiction. I honestly, deeply love genre fiction but the best writers know that genres are tools to be used when you're gathering at the well of Story. Hinkson is a guy that has storytelling flowing in his veins. These are deep tales featuring complex characters dealing with complex themes that will haunt you after you've turned the final page. There isn't a single misstep here.

Additionally, I think Hinkson deals with the South in a way that is authentically his own. This is important. Most "Southern fiction" goes on the shelf next to O'Connor and Faulkner and Thomas Wolfe and Daniel Woodrell for marketing reasons, because their style apes one of these other writers. Not so with Hinkson. He deserves this place on the shelf because he's as honestly bold and unique a storyteller in the Southern tradition as there is.

Christian fundamentalism, of more than one stripe, is a recurring theme in this collection but Hinkson does not give easy answers. Indeed, he takes all of these deep concepts like God and love and hate and grief and he puts them in front of you for you to sort out. Reading The Deepening Shade is not a passive experience. Each one of these stories will plant its seed in your brain and leave it there to grow long after the stories themselves are done.

ADR Books has another winner with Hinkson who is one of the best crime writers alive, especially from the South. To miss out on this volume is to miss out on genius.