Spookathon 2019

Image result for trick or treating silhouette

Spookathon was a 7 day readathon to read books that meet a set of spooky themed challenges. Jump to my reading updates as it happened. Jumpy to my closing thoughts.

I have recently come across Booktube, which I will discuss when I make my end of month update. Long story short, it has opened my eyes to just how large book world is online. One of my recent encounters was with a video discussing this thing called Spookathon that I was interested in participating in. Essentially, its 7 days where a group of booktubers are going to try to read 5 books, one that fits each of these categories:

  • A thriller
  • A book with red on the cover
  • A book with a spooky word in the title
  • A book with a spooky setting
  • A book you don’t normally read

Can I actually do it?

I love this idea, so I want to think whether or not this is something I can do. By the end of this month, I think I may clock in at 10 books read in the last 2 months. That number along shocks me and makes me seriously wonder what I would be capable of achieving over 12 months. Still, that’s 5 in a month, on average. Could I actually read 5 in one week? I am not sure if I physically have the time, motivation aside. Last I check, I read ~10 pages in 30-40 minutes, of a mass paperback. Say 300 x 5, 1500, assume 10 per half an hour, and we are at 150 half hours or 75 hours, or 15 hours per book.

Actually, that isn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but I would be doing most of my books on audio anyway. Fledgling is about 12 hours, and 300 pages. I’m listening to that at 1.3 speed, knocking it down to 9 hours or so. Lets be conservative and say I can work with whatever speed gets me down to an average of 10 hours per book. 50 hours, one week. That isn’t impossible in theory. Even assuming I was a good grad student, worked 40 hours, a 90hr work week is a bit much, but people do it. Realistically, we are talking a 50-70hr work week if I were to succeed.

Step 2, check my schedule. The 14th is the Canadian Thanksgiving, and it just so happens to be the first day of the marathon. That is also the week of the Lab Midterms. That means I have to do grading that weekend. The way this class is set up, there are very few weeks where I have to grade, so this is bad timing. Still, it isn’t a deal breaker. It probably won’t even take up as much time as I would theoretically get from having monday off (as grad student, is it really off though?). All in all, it feels manageable, so lets get down to brass tacks.

Assume I read 2 hours in the morning (wake up, get ready, bike to school), no reading at school (conservative), ~1hr leaving and getting home. Lets say I leave at 5 (reasonable). I listen the entire time and continue when I get home until midnight. 7hrs, decent time for bed. That is 9 x 4 + 16 x 3 (assume read 8 to 12, no rest monday, and weekend). 36+48 = 84. Enough time. It is doable. Will I enjoy it? Will I be able to focus on the book? How much of this depends on the books I choose? These are all very relevant questions I don’t know the answer to, but suppose I can. Suppose my ability to get through books vastly exceeds my expectations. Imagine the books I can through for the next 4-6 decades of my life. 5 in a week? Then of course I can do 5 in a month; compare that to my 10 or so per year, the last few years. #lifegoals.

Okay, I’m doing this. So what am I going to read?

1) A Thriller: The Institute by Stephen King

Image result for the institute cover

I am not a big thriller fan, but I love horror. I could make an argument for horror fitting into thriller, but it feels like cheating if Goodreads doesn’t explicitly say Thriller. Lucky for me, The Institute is listed as both. In addition, I haven’t read many of Stephen Kings newest novels since 11/22/63 (which I’ve reread a lot). Scratch that, I read Under the Dome. I loved it at the time, but I think I saw it through rose colored glasses. I’ve come to recognize now King isn’t a god; not all of his books are worth reading. The mediocrity of Under the Dome has made me more hesitant to pick up his newest book. Whats more, I am trying to really diversify what I read. I don’t have the time for filler (not that all my selections or the cream of the crop despite how I try). I have heard some good things about this, but it can be hard to weed through all those readers who also see King through rose colored glasses. Even if this isn’t in Kings top 10, I know it ties into the King Universe rather well, so at least I’ll have that.

2) A Book With Red on the Cover: The Ancestors, by Brandon Massey, Tananarive Due, and L.A. Banks

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This is harder. I could easily and happily say IT by Stephen King. Red, creepy name, creepy place (Derry). It isn’t new, and it feels like cheating. I am not going to do another Stephen King, even if I haven’t read it. I read the Cabin at the End of the World, so that’s a no. One of the things I learned from Booktube is how bad I need to read Vicious, by V.E. Schwab, but this isn’t thriller or horror. It’s Spookathon for a reason.

I am looking to read The Ancestors, a collection of novellas by Brandon Massey, Tananarive Due, and L.A. Banks. This is one I found when looking for black horror writers, but I am considering using this for something I don’t usually read. Sure I am reading Due’s The Good House, but one book doesn’t make a pattern. It is, however, a book with a red cover. In the same line of thinking, there is The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi or Dark Dreams, a collection of short stories by black writers, edited by Brandon Massey. My biggest issue with these is that I selected these to push the boundary of what I read, and I fear it may take me time to get into them in a way that may slow me down, or worse, turn me off to them. Still, I am inclined to read one of Massey’s collections. Both are ~300pgs, so I tentatively plan for The Ancestors since it’s only 3 stories. Hopefully, it will be easier to get invested into 3 stories rather than a bunch of short stories (which I find I need to pace myself).

3) A Book With a Spooky Word in the Title: Summer of Night, Dan Simmons

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First off, let me say, this category is confusing or hard to figure out what fits. I am going with a word or phrase that is creepy or spooky. I googled words that are creepy, but it feels so arbitrary. Some titles have creepy phrases some don’t. Dark Dreams could work here, but like I said, I don’t want to go too far into experimental and risk losing energy. I already picked King, but a King like substitute might be Summer of Night, by Dan Simmons, book one of the Seasons of Horror series. Sure, I may be stretching the spookiness, but I think the phrase is ominous enough to justify it belonging here. Tthink of The Long Night described in GOT or Children of Night, in Dracula; night makes things spooky. The biggest reasons against this is it is 22hrs (600 pages!). Listing at 1.3 can get me to ~17hrs, which is a bit high, but doable. Some books I can only do 1.2 without being bothered, but even then its ~18hrs. I don’t want to rule it out just yet, but if I finish this list and find myself way over budget with my time then I will reconsider. The reason I want to do this is because I know its a well known horror series by an author I’ve never read. This hasn’t been a priority because I am really trying to cut back on the number of white guys I read especially since there are other authors I know who have books I want to read (King included). However, this a 7 day binge of 5 books. I think it evens out.

I do want to mention some back ups in case I need to reconsider this slot. Dark Dreams, obviously still an option, half the size of this one. Obviously, I could speed through it faster than Simmons. In addition to not wanting to lose steam, I really don’t want my first experience with all these authors be rushed or feel like an assignment. I want each of them to have a chance to impress me. The Devil in Silver, by Victor LaValle is a novel by a black man that I think I learned about in a bootube video. It is in my to be read (TBR) list, but I don’t remember a lot about it. It says it’s set in an insane asylum. Maybe that is better suited for the next category. I could do a classic. Lagoon, by Nnedi Okorafor is a fantasy, science fiction alien story. This isn’t a thriller or a horror novel, but there is something about an alien story that feels fitting for this type of readathon. A couple other options are Demon Theory (which is also an unusual book, i.e. better for #5) and Mongrels, both by Stephen Graham Jones. I am more likely to read Mongrels because its a more straight forward book.

4) A Book With a Spooky Setting: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Image result for something wicked this way comes book cover

The Devil in Silver, by Victor LaValle is a strong contender here, set in an asylum. If this were a strict set of rules I might pick it, but there is another I have been dying to read. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury about a satanic carnival that comes to town. It doesn’t fit as well, but I feel the carnival should work as a spook setting. I have never read this. I feel as if I can’t call myself a horror fan without adding this to my read list. Plus, I expect it will be a fun quick read (293 pages). Another option is We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson. This is a classic set in a haunted house. I’ve read Hill House, but not this one. My line about Something Wicked being essential definitely fits Jackson’s work as well. It is also very short. This may change, but I think I will just read Jackson’s story before the Spookathon. The Spookathon is actually taking care of a couple books I had lined up to read for Halloween which frees up my normal routine reading time (it’s more of a novella anyway).

5) A Book You Don’t Normally Read: White is for Witching, by Helen Oyeyemi

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I am going to try reading a physical book (or ebook) of White is for Witching, by Helen Oyeyemi because this is a fantasy, horror, paranormal book that I came across that I want to read that is sadly not on audio. That makes this book a perfect example of a book I don’t usually read. That is coupled with Oyeyemi being a young black woman horror/fantasy writer. Part of the reason I chose not to go with The Icarus Girl was because I knew I wanted to read this. Assuming I read at the same rate I mentioned above, this will take ~12hrs. That is manageable, I just won’t be able to multitask as well. I definitely want to start here, I think that Monday so I can really try and dig in. My follow up, will be Kindred, the graphic novel. I have read Kindred, but I recently bought the graphic novel and would love to read it. Needless to say, I don’t often (as in never have I ever) read a graphic novel. If all else fails, I go to Gone Girl. Your classic thriller which I am sure I will love. I just never read it, even as it is on my TBR because I don’t often go for strictly Thriller novels. I won’t be happy if that’s where I end up, but I want to kill it at this challenge which means I need to be prepared for bumps in the road.

I also want to plug Chesya Burke’s Let’s Play White which is a collection of short stories in fantasy, science fiction and horror. Burke is also a young black author. The book is nearly 50 pages shorter, but in the end, I am more intrigued by Oyeyemi’s book. I would like to try this collection out eventually too. I may give this a shot leading up to the Spookathon.

Preparing for whats to come

I got a copy of White is for Witching from bookoutlet.ca (thanks to @BooksandLala for constantly mentioning this bookstore). It is the paperback, which I prefer hardback. Plus this cover isn’t as nice as the one above. If I end up loving it, I’ll probably get it on hardback. The others are on audio, and I can get either on audible with existing credits or through other resources. I am also buying physical copies because I want a copy of what I read, especially if I get the audiobook from special sources.

  1. The Institute: 19 hrs or under 15 hrs at 1.3 speed
  2. The Ancestors: 9.5 hrs or ~7.5 hrs at ~1.3 speed
  3. Summer of Night: 22 hrs or 17 hrs at 1.3 speed
  4. Something Wicked This Way Comes: 9 hrs or ~7 hrs at 1.3 speed
  5. White is for Witching: ~12 hrs*

*assumes I have the endurance for reading a physical copy as I do for listening to an audiobook.

In total, this will take ~60 hrs hours if I am lucky. For the audiobooks, worst case I lose an hour because I need to back up to 1.2 normal speed, but at 1.3 speed I am saving ~10 hrs. If I can keep the strict schedule of continuous listening, I feel confident I can make it through the books. It leaves me 24 hrs to spare. Even if I take twice as long to finish White is for Witching, that leaves another 12 hours to spare (aka write, tweet, and follow others doing the challenge.


10/13/19 – One more day

It is nearly 3 am, and I’m up preparing for my blogs to come over the next week! I am so excited. In particular, I am excited to read White is for Witching. I just really hope I have the attention span to finish this in a week. I still haven’t finished Maya Angelou’s second autobiography when I should be. It’s all about time management. I think I am ready because since I set this up, I’ve got into listening at 1.8 x speeds. That means I am going to save a lot more time on the other books.

10/15/19 – Chug, Chug, Chugging along
10/17/19 – White is for Witching Done. Summer of Night almost there

I finished White is for Witching. I gave it 4.5/5 stars. I read this as a book I don’t normally read. It fit that category in several ways 1) not an audiobook, 2) considered literary and definitely confusing in structure, 3) a woman of color horror writer. I discuss this in my review, but I had an amazing experience reading a physical copy again, at least toward the end. I won’t lie, it felt like a chore at first. It was daunting. Large parts of it I narrated out loud to help keep myself focused. I am not sure if I have that kind of patience to keep that going. That said, I also appreciate that it just takes time.

If it is a good book, it’s time I might otherwise be spent watching TV or wasting time on Facebook. I am currently reading the second autobiography in Maya Angelou’s series via a physical book. I have been reading it for at least a month. I started with a chapter a day. Then I read it for pleasure for a couple hours one weekend. Then I just stopped for a couple weeks and it sat. I feel like I can do better. I enjoyed reading with a cup of coffee at Starbucks these past two nights. Perhaps I can dedicate a night each week for such a thing. At the very least, a book a month seems reasonable. If not for the joy of reading a physical book, then for the risk of missing hidden gems like White is for Witching that isn’t on audio.

I wish I had as many great things to say about Summer of Night. I’m nearly 2/3rds through the book with ~3 hrs left. It isn’t as emotionally satisfying as White is for Witching. I don’t feel all that invested, but there isn’t much left in any case. It is very long, and it makes me worried for King’s The Institute. I’m already feeling fatigued. Which sucks.

Updates 10/18/19

I finished Summer of Night and started The Institute and Ancestors. I’m over half way through the former and over 1/3 through the later. Luckily, the first story was the longest. It was also better than I expected based on reviews. The Institute still has over 4 hrs, add on ~5hr for Something Wicked and probably a couple more hours for Ancestors and that leaves me with ~12 hrs. My birthday being today, yay me, means I’m hanging with friends today and tomorrow. That will make this difficult, but with 2 days, I think I can make ~6hrs a day work. Even if I can’t, this is for fun! Who care is I have to spend an extra day to finish up.

I am enjoying this. Summer of Night was the only disappointment, and that’s mostly because it was so long and so “okay”. I think when this is done, I may begin some non Halloween stories. I’m ready for a chance, and a little eager to start my TBR for next month.

Update 10/19/19

I spent as much of Saturday as I could trying to get through Something Wicked this Way Comes. My birthday was on Friday, so I was busy at least part of each day this weekend. Luckily, I knew that was going to happen, so I stayed up until 4 AM Friday night to finish the Institute. Luckily, Stephen King is a master writer and I can speed through his work without any issues.

Finished 10/20/19

I finished Something Wicked This Way Comes, listening while I cleaned up after my Saturday night partying. Luckily, the intense ringing from the night before wasn’t so bad I couldn’t hear what was going on. I enjoyed it more today than the day before. I don’t know if that’

s the book or the fact that I was on the bus and at the mall while listening. It was a bit distracting. Today, though, I had the cleaning and laundry. Mindless tasks work so well as a way to focus on the story.

Dishes, laundry, earbuds in my ear! Such fun.

I took my time finishing the last story of The Ancestors. It was split into three stories, so I’ve been listening to one story in between each new book I read after Summer of Night. I finished it as I edited my TBR for November and the upcoming #buzzwordAthon 5.0.

Editing and planning while listening to the last story in The Ancestors.

I was definitely pushing my cognitive abilities here. I’m just so excited for next month and the books I will get to read. I wasn’t adding books. I was just figuring out which books I have on hand and cued up. I kept pausing it though because I kept wanting to watch a video or read good reads descriptions. I eventually finished it, spending my last 20-30 minutes (1/3) preparing some food. That’s it! It’s done.

Closing thoughts

I really enjoyed this even if I got a little fatigued. It gets me excited about books, even those I don’t read. There are 10-15 I want to read for the next readathon, but I know I can’t. This readathon gives me a reference point to plan around in the future because I definitely want to keep doing one every month. Its usually one week where my social life is more book centered. I think that’s reasonable. It also easily doubles my reading for the month, or if I find myself waning as I approach my comps, I might end up only reading during this point. That’s okay. I just want something interactive to keep me going!

I will try to continue the “read a physical book” during each readathon because I really enjoyed that. It does take up a lot more time. I read about 3-4 times slower than I listen. Still, I think it’s worth it. After all, White is for Witching was my only 5/5 star read. Imagine all the gems I’m missing because they aren’t on audio. Plus, I learned how much I enjoy reading at a coffee shop; I’d like to keep that up regularly. I could easily read one night every week for a few hours. I want to finish the last 30 pages or so of Maya Angelou’s second autobiography. I think I could still finish Kindred, the Graphic Novel. Granted, I’ve never read a graphic novel. I don’t know how long it will take or how much time I should admire the pictures. I’m betting on it being a quick read, but hey, I’ll learn as I go!

The Lottery and Other Stories, by Shirley Jackson ★★★★☆

Image result for shirley jackson the lottery and other stories
Introductory thoughts 10/10/19 (Jump to Table Contents)

I am reading this for Totathon 2019 as a “book” that I read and then watch the adaption of. AKA the Scary Movie challenge. I originally planned to read We Have Always Lived in the Castle, also by Shirley Jackson. Then I got ahead in my schedule. I decided to allow myself to deviate from the plan (oh no!) and read Jackson’s first autobiography, Life Among Savages. It made me want more Jackson. It was so well written and charming, but it also felt like a commentary on society intentionally or not. That left me wanting more. Of course, the Lottery is a commentary on society, and I wanted more of that.

I’m also not that excited by We Have Always Lived in the Castle, the book or the movie. I also have the impression that it isn’t that scary. I am trying to remember why I had that idea because as I research it, everyone calls it creepy. In any case, I went with this collection instead.

This is composed of 26 stories (see table of contents). That is a lot of stories. At roughly ~300 pages, this isn’t very long nor are many of these stories. It makes it easier to read. Unfortunately, trying to blog about it is hard. The formatting to discuss each story takes time. Then the content begins to blend together if I don’t stop in between every story. Of course, I am not going to do that; this isn’t high school. I will rate each story, and discuss those that stick out.

Update 10/12/19

I love this collection. Sure, they don’t all do as well as others, but this is probably the most consistent collection of stories I have read all year. This is a collection of deliciously disturbing and unsettling stories based almost entirely in mundane human circumstances. At this point, I have read most the stories (some twice), but I have few left to read. Signature among them is the Lottery for which this book gets its name. I am glad it is last. I expect it to work fantastically as a closure to this collection. It fits perfectly in this collection, and I could see plenty of readers making the mistake of stopping with it were it first (probably even with it last).

I am amazed at Jackson’s talent. Fresh off of Life Among Savages, I am finally beginning to understand why she was such a significant writer of her time. Even the less impacting stories are satisfying to read.

Finished 10/13/19

This collection is easily one of my favorites of the year. I think a lot of these stories say a lot about Jackson’s take on society. Some of them are a little hit and miss, but many of them are very short. On average, this story gets 3.74/5 stars. I don’t think that score gives this collection justice, especially since so many of them are a lot longer than others. That’s why I decided to calculate the rating based on how long each story is. Essentially, each story is multiplied by the percent of the whole the story is. It brings the score up to 4.05/5 stars. I still feel like the story’s overall impact on me deserves more. I’ll give it an even 4.25/5 stars.

PS: I’ve got a physical copy in the mail. I’ll post an Instagram picture when it arrives!

Table of Contents

  1. The Intoxicated (Part I) 
  2. The Daemon Lover ★★★★
  3. Like Mother Used to Make ★★★★
  4. Trial by Combat ☆☆ (2.5)
  5. The Villager ☆☆☆
  6. My Life with R. H. Macy ☆☆
  7. The Witch (Part II)  ☆☆ (3.5)
  8. The Renegade
  9. After You, My Dear Alphonse ☆☆ (3.25)
  10. Charles ☆ (3.5)
  11. Afternoon in Linen ☆ (4.25)
  12. Flower Garden ☆ (4.25)
  13. Dorothy and My Grandmother And the Sailors ☆☆ (3.25)
  14. Colloquy (Part III) ☆ (4.25)
  15. Elizabeth
  16. A Fine Old Firm ☆☆ (2.5)
  17. The Dummy ☆  (3.75)
  18. Seven Type of Ambiguity ☆ (4.25)
  19. Come Dance with Me in Ireland ☆☆ (3.25)
  20. Of Course (Part IV) 
  21. Pillar of Salt ☆☆ (3.5)
  22. Men with Their Big Shoes ☆☆
  23. The Tooth ☆☆
  24. Got a Letter from Jimmy ☆☆ (3.5)
  25. The Lottery
  26. Epilogue (Part V)

1. The Intoxicated ★★★★☆

I listened to this story twice. Not out love per say but because I forgot what it was about. It is a good story; I just read a lot at once. I would actually say my opinion of it went down the second time around. Its a story about a drunk man talking to a 17 year old girl about her essay on how the world will end. Originally, it felt like a commentary on men who think they know better than women. That is definitely there, but it also feels like a commentary on today’s (yesterday’s ?) youth and their exaggeration of things. The sad thing is this could be written today about climate change and the still ever present sexism in society. 4/5 stars. (table of contents)

2. The Daemon Lover ★★★★★

This was one of the longer stories, but I read it twice because I loved it. This is a story about a young woman who is preparing to get married. Today is her wedding day, and naturally, she is nervous and wants everything to go smoothly. That’s when she becomes unable to locate her husband to be. What follows, is a sad desperate attempt to find him and convince herself what she fears isn’t the case. This story was fantastic. It was human and so terrifyingly real. Jackson takes us on a journey that we can guess the end of, but it’s the path she takes to get us there that is so enthralling. I never savored the woman’s pain. I just appreciate the ability to experience such a real yet unsettling occurrence of a human being losing them-self in madness because reality is too much to take. 5/5 stars (table of contents)

3. Like Mother Used to Make ★★★★★

This is another story I read twice because I loved it. It’s about an OCD man who is obsessed with cleanliness. We meet him as he prepares for dinner with a woman who lives in his building. To his surprise, she seems to have invited a man she works with. She begins to take credit for his nice apartment, his fine cooking, and everything that he did, probably in part for her, to impress this other man. What does this man do in response? He rolls over and takes it in the most infuriating yet repeatable way possible. I’d like to think I am not as bad as him, but I understand the instinct at times to be agreeable, especially when it involves someone you want to like you. Even if it means losing your own self respect. 5/5 stars (table of contents)

8. The Renegade ★★★★★

This was another favorite story of mine. It’s a story about a dog who supposedly kills a bunch of chickens. There is no proof, at least not at first. All we have is an angry call from a neighbor complaining to the dog owner. Denial turns to apologies and attempts to repay the damages. Unfortunately, neighbor isn’t interested in payment. They want the dog put down.

The story of the dog quickly makes it way through town, and before long every person is playing sad and sympathetic. Although beneath the surface, there is air of sick satisfaction that people seem to be having with this idea of this dog being put down. The story make great use of the mob mentality of small town and how people like to relish in the pain of others. As if, the pain of others reflects somehow on the quality of their own life. It is disgusting, and I am here for it! 5/5 stars. (table of contents)

10. Charles ★★★★☆ (3.5)

This story was in Jackson’s Life Among Savages. It’s about a boy named Charles in Jackson’s son’s class who keeps getting into trouble. He’s “fresh” with the teacher; other times he does and says obscene things that too much to even say out loud. That is, until the end of the story when we learn the stories her son has been telling aren’t exactly true. I think it works better in this collection because there is less context, so the implications of the ending are broader. Is it all fabricated? Was Charles her son all alone? Or was it something more sinister and supernatural.

If you haven’t read the story, hopefully this is making senses because I am trying not to overtly spoil the story. Overall, the story reflects the imagination of children and how sometimes even an innocent mind can go to pretty dark places. I enjoyed it. 3.5/5 stars. (table of contents)

14. Colloquy ★★★★☆

This is one of the weirder stories. It’s about a woman who, for lack of a better word, is hysterical. She is going mad over the slightest of phrases. Things like “stock markets” or “inflation” are driving her insane with fear. It all felt too extreme to be real. I got the impression that the woman in the story was a caricature of what society expects women to be. It is as if they aren’t capable of discussing politics or dealing with worldly issues. Because it is so weird, I wonder if I’m reading into it, but I enjoyed it even if I’m wrong. 4.25/5 stars. (table of contents)

16. Elizabeth ★★★★★

This is definitely one of my top stories of the collection. Which, I am glad because it’s also the longest. This is a story about a women who works in publishing with a man who doesn’t respect her nor does anyone else. Whats more, the man is incompetent and incapable of handling problems. I found myself quickly siding with the woman, Elizabeth. That eventually changed as she becomes as much a part of the problem of women being mistreated and dismissed. I don’t know if Jackson intended this character to be unlikable; her treatment of this young pretty assistant who was hired for her looks comes with a tinge of satisfaction. Although, that sharp stinging attitude is misplaced. It isn’t the assistants fault that Liz’s business partner is a imbecile. Sure, I want Elizabeth to get the respect she deserves, but that doesn’t give her the right to continue this cycle of abuse. There are so many levels to this story, and I love it. 5/5 stars. (table of contents)

18. Seven Types of Ambiguity ★★★★☆ (4.25)

This is a story about a young boy who is an avid reader who helps an older man find several great books. The older man has lived a busy life that hasn’t allowed him the time to read. Now he is older; he can afford and has more time. The boy on the other hand, comes to this store to read what he can’t afford. I really liked this story because the man feels fake. Its as if he wants people to have this perception of him as a well read man. He has no real interest, nor is likely to read any of these large book hauls. He fails to appreciate the young boys passion and love for books.

In particular, there is one book the boy comes back to read over and over. After the boy has gone out of his way to help the man to become a better reader and find books he is likely to like, the man goes on to purchase the very book the boy has been reading during each of his visits to the book store. The reason I enjoyed this story so much is because I find the man very realistic. He is infuriating, and he represents whats wrong with so much of society. People are so self absorbed in perception that they don’t appreciate true passion. The man fails to realize the love the boy has for reading because if he did, he wouldn’t mindlessly purchase the book the boy has been avidly reading. I hate him, but I love the story. 4.25/5 stars. (table of contents)

21. Of Course ★★★★☆

Of course! That is obligatory remark to any sort of obvious statement or situation. Even when you don’t recognize something as such, perhaps you will resort to it so people won’t think you daft or unusual. That’s the case of main character here. She is moving or has a new neighbor (I forget), and she goes to introduce herself. She tries to be friendly; she invites her son to go to the movies with her child. But of course, this family doesn’t go to movies. They don’t watch TV. They don’t read newspapers. What an absurd concept! But of course!

She tries so hard to be welcoming and friendly, but in doing so our main character just goes along with every pompous and absurd thing her new neighbor spits out. It is insanity. At some point, you just have to accept these people are assholes, but that is not an option. Social niceties must be obeyed in this weird yet entirely real scenario. Real life and the expectations society puts on us is truly unnerving. 4.25/5 stars. (table of contents)

26. The Lottery ★★★★★

I’m not sure if this really deserves 5 stars. It isn’t my favorite, but it is a classic. I think part of it was the lack of a surprise made it have a slightly less jarring impact. It’s still interesting reading it knowing where it’s going because appreciate the subtle details you would likely overlook the first go around. That is, knowing the premise because I didn’t remember any hard details. It starts out very calm and slowly reveals the dark and twisted nature of the story. It’s unnerving and insane, but it’s presented as normal because it’s tradition. What I think many people may fail to see here though is that there are plenty of absurd traditions or beliefs that people abide by that could easily be seen as absurd to an outsider (e.g. think religious services or rituals). I love that I reread this the same summer-fall season as the release of Ari Aster’s new film Midsommar that shares a lot with this story in my opinion.

I definitely want to read this story again, and I’ll be watching the short film adaption of it for the Trick-or-Treatathon. It’s dated, but it’s short and I remember enjoying it (I think) in high school. 5/5 stars. (table of contents)

The Lottery 1969 adaption
Trailer for Midsommar.

Fearful Symmetries, by Ellen Datlow ★★★★☆

Start 8/9/2019

I hate posting so many partial reviews. I am going to post this once I am half way through it. This is another anthology of horror stories. Like The Devil and the Deep, this is edited by Ellen Daltow. It is 2014 winner of the Bram Stoker Award and the Shirley Jackson Award, so I am hopeful (again).

I don’t have much a guide on how to move forward. I am just going to go on a whim (and likely with the shortest ones first because they are the easiest).

Update 8/10/2019

It seems apparent that this anthology has a much clearer tone than Daltow’s Devil and the Deep. This is complemented by the narrator, Fleet Cooper. He knows exactly how to pace himself and just the right way to emphasize each situation. I really wish I would finish Devil and the Deep first, but this is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. I have yet to come across a story I didn’t love (3 so far).

Update 10/1/19

I took a bit of a break because I was getting a little burnt out, and I wanted to change it up. I am back, and I hope to finish this this week. My latest story was great and unnerving like several of these stories. This is, so far, a very effective collection.

Finished 10/2/19

I finally finished this collection. Honestly, I am ending it with a lower opinion than when I started. Don’t get me wrong. There are several stories in here you you need to read because they are amazing. There are others that are enjoyable, but I feel like I read most of my favorites early on. That left me with several stories that just weren’t as good. A lot of them are very effective. Most of them even do at least a little to ignite some fear or dread, but it is a bit of a roller coaster of very high high and some very low lows. The average score is 3.93/5 stars.

Table of Contents

  1. A Wish From a Bone” by Gemma Files ★★★★
  2. The Atlas of Hell” by Nathan Ballingrud ★★★★★
  3. The Witch Moth” by Bruce McAllister ★★★★
  4. Kaiju” by Gary McMahon ★★★★★
  5. Will The Real Psycho In This Story Please Stand Up?” by Pat Cadigan ★★★★
  6. In the Year of Omens” by Helen Marshall ★★★★
  7. The Four Darks” by Terry Dowling ★★★★
  8. The Spindly Man” by Stephen Graham Jones ★★★★★
  9. The Window” by Brian Evenson ★★★★★
  10. Mount Chary Galore” by Jeffrey Ford ★★★★★
  11. Ballad of an Echo Whisperer” by Caitlín R. Kiernan ★★★☆☆
  12. Suffer Little Children” by Robert Shearman ★★★★
  13. Power” by Michael Marshall Smith ★★☆☆☆
  14. Bridge of Sighs” by Kaaron Warren ☆☆☆
  15. the worms crawl in,” by Laird Barron ★★★★
  16. The Attic” by Catherine MacLeod ★★★★★
  17. Wendigo Nights” by Siobhan Carroll ★★★★
  18. Episode Three: On the Great Plains, In the Snow” by John Langan ☆☆☆
  19. Catching Flies” by Carole Johnstone ★★★★
  20. Shay Corsham Worsted” by Garth Nix ☆☆☆

Story Reviews

01 – “A Wish From a Bone” by Gemma Files ★★★★

Read 8/15/2019

This was a solid story. Really, I think it benefited from an amazing narration. I had a hard time getting into the story at first, but as soon as things get weird, the narrator knows just how to translate that, even if the writing itself isn’t doing that. Attention is key, particularly at the start of the story.

This story uses one of my favorite horror monsters, demons. I love satanic and demonic stories, so this story had a leg up there. Here, we follow a television crew on an archaeology expedition as they investigate an old Sumerian ruin. Things quickly turn weird as it becomes clear The Seven seek to return–ancient demons, or fallen angels who seek to destroy everything.

This story feels like classic horror with death, mutilation, and possession. As they have to deal with being overtaken by these demons, what can they do to stop this? Will they make it out alive, and is their death the only way to stop the return of the seven? It definitely reminded me of a Cabin in the Woods, so far was we consider sacrifices. Overall, it was good and satisfying, but the ending was sort of lackluster 4.5/5 stars, rounding down

02 – “The Atlas of Hell” by Nathan Ballingrud ★★★★★

Read 8/12/2019

LOVED this story. This is everything I want from a horror story. The Atlas of Hell gets its name from an apparent book that works as some sort of portal to hell through which you can retrieve desired items. We learn about it while following the owner of a book store. It begins with him being confronted by some big guy who acts as muscle for a mob like leader. It turns out our narrator has a dark history. What exactly, we don’t know. All we know is his services are required, much to his chagrin. There is no tiptoeing around it: this is real. Our narrator is all too familiar with the likes of this item they are in pursuit of. What unfolds as they go to retrieve it is a dark and deliciously disturbing tale.

The concept uses primal concepts of hell, demons, hate and sin. I love the atmosphere it creates. I am not a believer of such things, and there is something so intoxicating about the world in these types of stories. Part of me wonders if there is something wrong with me to enjoy it so much. In reality, this is just another escape. It is a distraction from the real horrors that we have to deal with. This type of story simplifies things. It narrows all our problems down to a black and white where evil stems from something else that is beyond our control. The reality is much more depressing. We have to live with the fact that the world is what we make it. Fantastic story 5/5 stars.

03 – “The Witch Moth” by Bruce McAllister ★★★★

Read 10/1/19

I think this was the last story I started to read before taking a break from this, and I am glad I did. I enjoyed this a lot more the second time I dug into it. I think the biggest flaw is there was a bit of confusion; I wasn’t sure if what was happening was what I thought had happened. This is a story about a couple brothers who live with their grandmother because something is wrong with their mother. It seems there are issues with mental illness here, but the idea is she is a witch who doesn’t know it. That results in her doing things she doesn’t know she’s doing. Couple that with her mental illness and you can get some pretty dark outcomes. It isn’t straight forward in this. The “witch moth” is somewhat confusing, but its role seems to come across. Despite the confusion, it is effective at evoking some fear. 4.25/5 stars

04 – “Kaiju” by Gary McMahon ★★★★★

Read 8/9/2019

This story is an example of what amazing storytelling can do. The term “Kaiju” refers to ancient Japanese creatures like Godzilla. In general, I wouldn’t consider myself a major fan of Godzilla type stories. Its a fine premise, but not one that I would go out of my way to experience. Nevertheless, I would consider this a near perfect story. From the start, the author sets a clear depressing and ominous tone. We don’t understand exactly what has happened, but we don’t need to. We understand the emotions these people are undergoing. The writer eventually makes his way to what is going on (in a way that Broken Record failed to do). All the way it was a disturbing experience. What’s amazing is we are experiencing the aftermath. We are learning the true horrors of the Kaiju by seeing its effect first hand. Will it return? Will we be safe? We really can’t know. Tragedy has struck and there is no telling if it might strike again. 5/5 stars.

05 – “Will The Real Psycho In This Story Please Stand Up?” by Pat Cadigan ★★★★

Read 10/1/19

This was a slow burn but thoroughly enjoyable. The story starts off like a retelling of Carrie. A boy in high school has to deal with constant bullying. The story isn’t very unnerving at the start. It feels like a constant series of misdirections. At one point I was ready to rate this as one of my least favorites. In fact, the build up was overdone. In the end, it pays off well enough. We find out who the real psycho is.

This will include spoils for the story. I liked how the psycho was the boy, an overly christian zealot who glorifies suffering. It reminds me of Christopher Hitchen’s take on Mother Teresa. I understand how people may struggle to really appreciate the unsettling nature of this fact, and Cadigan does a great job articulating how these biblical principles, when applied, are outright disturbing. I wish the story dug deeper into this idea. Regardless of the slow build, it pays off well enough in the end. 4/5 stars.

06 – “In the Year of Omens” by Helen Marshall ★★★☆☆

Read 10/2/19

This story is about a young girl who starts seeing omens that are followed by deaths of other people. The story was interesting, and the point of view was generally effective at conveying the darker tone. Other than that, not a lot stood out for me. 3.5/5 stars rounding down.

07 – “The Four Darks” by Terry Dowling ★★★★

Read Late 8/2019

I literally remember nothing about this story. I remember thinking how excellent the narrator was doing and wishing I cared more. I don’t know if I ought to give this another listen. I don’t know if this was the story’s fault or my own mindset going in. I think I ought to relisten, because a part of this process of reviews is to understand what makes a story good and by extension, what makes a story bad.

Reread 9/12/2019

I reread the story, and I am glad I did. This is a solid story. It isn’t my favorite, but it is hardly forgettable. The story follows a couple men, one a doctor at a mental institution (I think) and the other an old patient turned maintenance for the facility after his release. The doctor is introduced to a man who talks about darkness and evil. We come to learn that the doctor and patient seem to have something special about them. This leads them to realize the visitor was something evil that needed to be stopped. To be honest, I can see why I might have been confused. The story is a little convoluted, and the rules are not clear.

To me, it felt like a mashup of Stephen King works. We have this person who isn’t a person, instead they are an evil entity of some sort, like Pennywise/IT. Then we have our doctor and patient who seem to know things others don’t. They basically have a form of the Shine, the powers that Danny has in the Shining, hence the name, something that will be explored more in depth in the upcoming sequel film, Doctor Sleep. Then there is talk of evil and how it tends to gravitate to a certain place or in this case, certain people. This feels analogous to Derry and by extension Dallas as it is seen in 11/22/63.

I don’t know if these connections were intentional, but I find it an interesting variation. This wouldn’t be the first story (that I’ve read) in this anthology to use King for their story telling. In any case, it makes for an interesting story that feels ominous and creepy. Nevertheless, the story doesn’t offer anything particularly new, which makes it less effective than the other stories in this collection. 4/5 stars.

08 – “The Spindly Man” by Stephen Graham Jones ★★★★★

Read ~8/10/19

I think this was the only story I read twice because I loved it. Sure, Graham is cheating a bit by using my love of Stephen King, but who cares! This story is about a book club discussing the Stephen King story about the man in the black suit when a spindly man shows up uncannily similar to the man in black in the story. Not only do I love that I know this story (its a personal favorite of King’s), I love how dark Graham takes it.

Some might suggest King’s story is a hopeful one because a world with demons means theirs a world with angels. Of course, the skeptic knows that isn’t true. Any piece of your religion could be true and that is not proof of all of it being true. The fact that there are monsters does not necessitate the need for guardians, and that thought is so dark and terrifying. I absolutely love this story. It is by far my favorite because this story really gets to the heart of my thoughts on horror and being afraid.

There are a lot of people who don’t like horror, or when they experience it, they struggle with leftover fear. I don’t believe in the supernatural. but I am only human. Ever since Sixth Sense, I have had a fear of a little dead girl grabbing my foot from under my bed. Even before this, I remember having nightmares about the monster under the bed. To this day, I often get nervous when getting into bed. I experience similar feelings during other times but not as often. I enjoy the fear though. The fear proves I still have an imagination. What I refuse to do is let that control my life. In these moments, I force myself to act perfectly natural and reasonably. Not just because it isn’t justified, but because if these monsters exists, my running or jumping into bed won’t save me. If these monsters exists and want me, I have no chance. 5000/5 stars.

09 – “The Window” by Brian Evenson ★★★★★

Read 8/9/2019

I decided to read this story first for the sole reason that it was the shortest. That makes it easy to read without too much commitment while also giving me a feel for what is in store in this collection. I was not disappointed! This is another example of an author who sets a clear tone.

Like “Kaiju”, this is a retelling, but there is still fear. Fear that the narrator had in the moment that we can empathize with. Also, fear that would come after. This strange unreal experience may be a figment of his imagination. He doesn’t think so (I don’t think we are supposed to think that either), but is his survival really something to be happy about? He has now experienced something that most of us would prefer to think is fiction. He now lives in a world where his deepest fears might actually be real. For most people, the monsters go unnoticed, but as soon as we notice they are there, whose to say they won’t notice us too?

I was very happy with this story. My first reaction was to give it 4.5 stars, but I can’t do that without having something to criticize for which I have nothing. Maybe it wasn’t as horrific as I would have liked, but that is okay. It horror elements were there even if I wasn’t overcome with fright. 5/5 stars.

10 – “Mount Chary Galore” by Jeffrey Ford ★★★★★

Read 10/2/19

I was beginning to worry that I was getting burnt out on this collection with low review after low review. I am happy to say I loved this story. It does force me to ask what makes a good story? What role does plot play because this story stands out not for its plot which is lacking but for its overt weirdness. In what feels like a take on Hanzel and Gretel, a few kdis go to spy on an old lady. What happens is disturbing and weird in the best way possible. I absolutely loved it for its weirdness even if it left me somewhat confused. 4.75/5 stars.

11 – “Ballad of an Echo Whisperer” by Caitlín R. Kiernan ★★★☆☆

Read 10/1/19

This story was so-so. It was about a haunting or the idea of one. The main character starts to hear sounds that shouldn’t be. This story struggled to keep my interest, and it was lacking in the scares or dread. Not terrible, but not my favorite either. 3.25/5 stars.

12 – “Suffer Little Children” by Robert Shearman ★★★★

Read 10/2/19

This was another weird one. A young women gains a teaching job at what I think is a private school, but she struggles with insecurities about her ability to do the job. All of that is made worse when weird things begin to happen with the kids. I liked this story because I could relate to the main character feeling insecure and struggling to make the right decisions. 4.5/5 rounding down.

13 – “Power” by Michael Marshall Smith ★★★☆☆

Read 10/1/19

I really didn’t enjoy this story. The most horrific thing about this story is the toxic masculinity of the main character. It is about a man who has an inflated idea of his self worth, and in the end he gets whats coming to him. That’s pretty much it. It didn’t accomplish much of anything. 3/5 stars,.

14 – “Bridge of Sighs” by Kaaron Warren ★★☆☆☆

Read 10/2/19

Meh. This story was hardly the worst, but it relied on a premise that was weird in all the wrong ways. It is the story of a ghost hunter and photographer. The premise just feels dumb, and it didn’t work for me. 2/5 stars.

15 – “the worms crawl in,” by Laird Barron ★★★★

Read 10/1/19

This was an interesting story. It wasn’t the scariest, but it was one of the more intriguing tales. It is about a man who is killed but comes back. He is something. Some type of monster. I didn’t find the story that straightforward, but it reminded me of Beowulf. In particular, it reminded me of something I read in high school that told this story from Grendel’s Mother’s perspective. At the time, it made me question my Christianity and the meaning of sin when considering instinct. In any case, it makes for a nice twist on the story telling. The biggest flaw here was that it was confusing at times what exactly was happening or why. 3.75/5.

16 – “The Attic” by Catherine MacLeod ★★★★★

Read 8/10/2019

The biggest set back for this story was a bit of confusion that I had as I listened. The main set up seems clear: a women rides to no where as she escapes some dark past. The story flashes between where she was (and how she got there) to her current escape. Now that it’s finished, I see how it fits together. The author does a great job setting up clear tone of disturbing moments. We don’t know what is going on, but we certainly feel the fear felt by our narrator. She joined this rural town where the people are strange. It reminded me of Midsommar where a seemingly normal town has some seriously dark secrets.

There are still some questions left, but I don’t think it hurts the story for it. This is case of mystery befitting the situation. All that matters is we understand our main character and can feel the terror she seeks to escape. 4.5/5 stars rounding up.

17 – “Wendigo Nights” by Siobhan Carroll ★★★★

Read 10/2/19

I read this story twice because I forgot to write about it after. This was the last story I read of the anthology, and I liked it. We are reading about a team of people in Antarctica who find themselves under attack by their own team members. The story is told by a man who himself is just beginning to be overtaken by whatever this curse is. The story did a well enough job conveying the denial and fear of the man as well as the fear of those around him who understand whats going on even less than himself. Perhaps the most terrifying thing is that it forces you to attack those closest (emotionally) to you, and there is no real escaping the disease. Knowing is all it takes, and by reading this you are as damned as the characters in the story. I enjoy this sort type of story that tracks ones loss into madness. One might even say this is a fate worst than death. 4/5 stars.

18 – “Episode Three: On the Great Plains, In the Snow” by John Langan ★★☆☆☆

Read 10/2/19

This story was a mess. It felt more like a time travel story than a horror story. There are ghosts from different times on different plains. There are even dinosaurs. The idea is intriguing, but in the end it just doesn’t work. I can also think of better stories along the same line of thinking (e.g. Fish Night). I didn’t like it much, nor do I feel like it belongs in this collection. 2.5/5 stars, rounding down.

19 – “Catching Flies” by Carole Johnstone  ★★★★

Read 8/13/2019

This was another great story, but coming off the “Atlas of Hell,” it’s hard not to see this story as not as satisfying. Don’t get me wrong, I highly recommend this story. A young girl is investigated by some government entity after her mother is found dead. The story then becomes a slow reveal of what took place. Everything about the tone of the story is on point. It is creepy and well executed. My problem revolved around the reveal. The way the story is structured seems to suggest it was going in one direction, but as we get further along it seems as if that isn’t the case. The problem was I am not sure what the author wanted us to think, and I found my self overthinking it, unable to really appreciate the quality of the story telling as it unfolded.

I did a reviewed what I could find about the story online (it is hard to find a lot of discussion on individual short stories). It appears this story reappeared in Datlow’s, The Monstrous. Aptly named, it is a horror anthology of monsters. The question arises, are the monsters the flies, or are the flies merely there when the true monster is.

I may return to this one more time, but for now, I’d give it 4/5 stars.

20 – “Shay Corsham Worsted” by Garth Nix ★★☆☆☆

Read 10/1/2019

This story did not work for me. I got the premise because I read review on goodreads, but I really didn’t get the connection between the main character and Shay Corsham. I could reread this to try and follow better, but it had its chance and didn’t work. 2/5 stars.

The Devil and the Deep, by Ellen Datlow – ★★★★☆

Start 8/8/2019

I was hesitant to begin this anthology because as much as I love horror, I don’t have a particular fascination with the Sea/Ocean. I never was very fond of pirate stories or myths of the Kraken. Nevertheless, The Devil and the Deep won the Bram Stoker Award for best anthology last year, so I wanted to give it a shot. Like the Time Traveler’s Almanac, I won’t be reading this consecutively. Instead, I will listen to stories as I see fit. I will try to fit it in between other novels and not focus to0 much on finishing this quickly. There is a benefit to having short and concise stories to go to from time to time. I still want to take the time to discuss the story. It is much shorter than TTA, so I will do my best to go in depth(ish) for each story.

There aren’t a lot of reviews for this book, but I am going to go off the reviews I could find to help guide me through the stories. My discussions for each story are listed below or can be accessed via the Table of Contents.

Update 8/11/2019

I’ve made it through more than I expected this quickly (9/15 stories). There have been several disappointments in here, but there have also been a couple great ones with several okay ones thrown in. I am not ready to recommend this just yet. That said, I have been intentionally saving several of the supposed best stories for last. So far, the horror has been lacking, at least in the way I was hoping for, but most of the stories achieve a decent enough tone to fit partly into the horror genre.

Update 8/13/2019

I’ve read 11/15 stories, so I have nearly completed this anthology. I think I have a good idea of the over quality. The current average rating is ~4/5 stars. That doesn’t seem bad, yet there are so many disappointments in here. Then again, there are some good to great stories too. What’s more, I’ve intentionally saved what are likely to be the best for last, so chances are it will be ~4.5 stars when all is said and done (I hope). All in all, these are good stories, but they are better classified as weird, fantasy, and science fiction with horror elements tossed in at times.

Finished 9/4/2019

When all is said and done, this book comes away with an average score of 4.2/5 stars. I am disappointed that it didn’t rate higher because there are some great books in here, but in the end, the lows drag it down. This book really challenges what it means to be horror. Some of my ratings maybe biased by my own definition (one that inspires dread and/or terror). I just left Dragon Con where I watched a panel discuss this very topic, and they made a point about ambiguity in horror and how it can be effective. I can think of a lot of terrifying film monsters made less scary by understanding them (e.g. the Babadook, the ghosts in Murder House). This makes me want to reanalyze a few of the more ambiguous stories.

I don’t mind ambiguity, but I still expect some grounding in what I am reading. I also have to deal with the fact that sometimes I don’t register when listening to audiobooks. I noticed that for the Haunt, and I stopped and returned to it later. That helped. The same may be true for a few others in this anthology. All in all, I don’t think it is a bad buy, even if you just read some of these. If you are a fan of ocean/sea stories, then definitely this is for you. If you are a horror fan looking for pure horror, maybe avoid this, but if you want abstract horror then check it out.

Table of Contents

  1. Deadwater — Simon Bestwick ★★★☆☆
  2. Fodder’s Jig — Lee Thomas ★★★★★
  3. The Curious Allure of the Sea — Christopher Golden ★★★★★
  4. The Tryal Attract — Terry Dowling ★★★★
  5. The Whalers Song — Ray Cluley ★★★☆☆
  6. A Ship of the South Wind — Bradley Denton ★★★☆☆
  7. What My Mother Left Me — Alyssa Wong ★★★★★
  8. Broken Record — Stephen Graham Jones ★★★☆☆
  9. Saudade — Steve Rasnic Tem ★★★★★
  10. A Moment Before Breaking — A.C.Wise ★★★★
  11. Sister, Dearest Sister, Let Me Show to You the Sea — Seanan McGuire ★★★★★
  12. The Deep Sea Swell — John Langan ★★★★
  13. He Sings of Salt and Wormwood — Brian Hodge ★★★★
  14. Shit Happens — Michael Marshall Smith ★★★★★
  15. Haunt — Siobhan Carroll ★★★★

Story Reviews

01 – Deadwater — Simon Bestwick ★★★☆☆

Read 8/9/2019

This is not a strong start. Needless to say, I am glad I didn’t take the editors guidance on where to begin. The YouTuber seemed to like it, but I can’t say I did. Part of me wonders if I just wasn’t giving it enough attention. Perhaps I just didn’t appreciate it enough. Unfortunately, from where I’m sitting it feels like a story with a slow start that abruptly jumps to a climactic conclusion without sufficient build up. The problem was I didn’t understand why I should care about what’s happening or the characters involved. I get the gist. Bad things were done. Revenge or justice is going to be had, but all that is lost on me because the author did a poor job setting it up. It doesn’t matter if the concept is good (it isn’t that exceptional), you have to get us invested in the characters and make us care about what’s happening. 3/5 stars.

02 – Fodder’s Jig — Lee Thomas ★★★★★

In Buffy’s Once More With feeling, characters are forced to dance uncontrollably, with dire consequences. This is similar to what we see in Fodder’s Jig.

Read 8/11/2019

I loved this story. Some people may want to start this without knowing the premise, but I I don’t think knowing takes away here. The author uses suspense over surprise, and that may be why it excels so much. Right away, we are introduced to what is going on. We don’t really understand why or what, but we don’t need to. The fact that it’s happening and that he author is highlighting it, tells us something is up. Then, we leave it for the time being to return to the normal world.

This story alternates between the days/weeks/months leading up to the event and some point after the event. It might be intentional on the authors part or it might be an effect of listening rather than seeing it on paper, but these transitions were hard to spot at first. Moving back and forth not realizing whats happening. However, I quickly catch on.

This story is built on a great premise (highlight to read: Cthulhu infects people with a dance that entrances them and draws them to the ocean), but what makes it so great is that it revolves around good characters. A man of no particular wealth or stature becomes involved with a wealthy married man. Things progress and the two fall victim to the strange occurrences taking place.

I did not expect to love this as much as I did. The premise was never that interesting to me as a topic, but I know plenty of people who would disagree. Even if you don’t, its a great story. The most horrific thing about this is the suspense. Knowing it or something is coming but not truly understanding it. 5/5 stars.

03 – The Curious Allure of the Sea — Christopher Golden ★★★★★

Related image
The sea steals the souls of many. The Curious Allure of the Sea explores why so many people are drawn to such a dangerous entity that never stops.

Read 8/9/2019

Now this, I liked. From the start, the author makes it clear who the main character is and gives us a reason to be invested in them. Her father is dead. She gets a couple of tattoos to remember him by, one being his name and date of death, and another being a symbol of an item on his ship. You see, her father died at sea and there was no body to be found. Some time later, things begin to get weird. The symbol she got a tattoo of is acting strange.

I loved this story because the author did such an amazing job creating a disturbing and creepy atmosphere. I was finally feeling a bit of dread, and it was coupled with the majesty of the sea. When things begin to reach their climax, the main character panics unsure what to do. The sea called to her father, and now the sea calls to her. Is that what she wants? She doesn’t think so, but in the end, she returns to the sea regretting her decision.

That is the most I can say without spoiling it. I loved the story. It is all about the allure of the sea, as the title suggests. Even when the main character thinks she doesn’t want it, she quickly comes to regret it because, as disturbing as it is, the sea is where her father is. I don’t know if that makes sense, but know this. The story was fantastic. I loved it. 5/5 stars.

Update 8/11/2019

I think this story benefited from me reading it before Fodder’s Jig. Both share this basic idea that something around the sea calls people to it and we cannot resist. The Curious Allure of the Sea is great, but I can’t help but think fresh off of Fodder’s Jig, one may have a bit of let down.

04 – The Tryal Attract — Terry Dowling ★★★★

Read 8/10/2019

This was a strange story that was mostly effective. It revolves around this skull of a dead man that supposedly has some strange things about it. The story had a good tone that set up this atmosphere around this skull. Everything had the making of a good story, but in the end, there isn’t much here. Anticlimactic is probably the best way to describe it. 3.5/5 stars rounding up.

05 – The Whalers Song — Ray Cluley ★★★☆☆

Image result for whale hunting art
A depiction of whale hunting, as it relates to The Whalers Song.

Read 8/10/2019

This story did not work for me. It follows a group of whale hunters, exploring what life is like for them. There was nothing particularly interesting about the life, nor did the author create much of an ominous tone you’d expect from a horror story. The ending alluded to some hidden level of mystery about the whale songs. Maybe if the author had leaned more into that this story wouldn’t have been so disappointing. There just wasn’t anything to really love about this mediocre story. As a story, it’s fine I suppose just not an interesting topic or type of story telling (to me). 3/5 stars

06 – A Ship of the South Wind — Bradley Denton ★★★☆☆

Image result for kiksuya westworld
In A Ship of the South Wind, A native american boy and his father deal with racists in the wild west. Here is an image from Westworld, of a native american character featured in the story.

Read 8/9/2019

As far as I can tell, there are two main reasons that you would choose to read this anthology. You either have a love for horror or a love for the sea/ocean. To say this story brings either of these to the table is laughable. This is a perfectly fine story that is essentially an old western told from the perspective of two native Americans who come across a couple racists white people. If I am being generous, we can attribute horror to the racism of the story, but there isn’t much horror beyond that. I think about bigotry in horror stories like that of Stephen King, where racism could easily be a theme of the story, but there is more to make it horror themed; he uses the hate to show just how horrible it is. This story doesn’t seem to provide a lot of commentary or self reflection on the racism. So, why then is this story here? Why is an old western (that happens to have a minor character who used to be a captain of the sea) in a horror anthology of the ocean? It just doesn’t belong. The story itself is perfectly fine, but in the context of this anthology it is severely lacking. 3.5/5 stars rounding down.

07 – What My Mother Left Me — Alyssa Wong ★★

Read 8/16/2019

What My Mother Left Me feels like everything I would expect from what this anthology advertises. It is a mix of creepy, disturbing, and down right scary moments coupled with a weird ocean centered premise. The story starts with our main character grieving her mothers recent passing and her break up with her overly controlling boyfriend. She does that by getting away with her friend, to her old town or something connected to her family (I am not entirely sure).

This story works on multiple levels. The tone from the start is on point. I can’t help but think about the recent success of Hereditary or the Haunting of Hill House which centers around family drama. At the core, this is about family drama. From the start with her mothers death, to soon after when we learn about signs of mental (and physical) abuse of her mother by her father. Then the similarities of her father to her current boyfriend whose only goal is to control.

In the end, this becomes a story about independence and freedom. The sea is the freedom. Life on land is just a trap. That, and men can’t stand a woman who isn’t theirs to control. I like what Wong does here. It is ambitious and mostly effective. It is definitely worth reading, but I don’t think its highs are as high as some of the others in this anthology. 4.5/5 stars, rounding down.

08 – Broken Record — Stephen Graham Jones ★★★☆☆

Image result for cast away
In Broken Record, a man is stranded on an island like Tom Hanks in Cast Away. Needless to say, Jones takes the theme to a much darker place.

Read 8/8/2019

I don’t get it, or maybe I do. I can’t say I love the feeling of not knowing whether the story intended to leave you questioning or if I just dumbly missed something. A man is stranded on an island surrounded by the ocean. I believe this is about his slowly losing his mind, deliriously imagining he has exactly what he wants. That is to say, he has a list of items that he asked for in some contest he did as a kid. One of those things where you say what you would bring with you to an abandoned island. I am 99% sure it is him slowly dying. Still, I don’t quite get it, nor can I say I am very happy with it.

It is creepy. I will give it that. Fairly soon into the story the narrator read the thoughts of the man in the most unnerving and casual way possible. There was something off from the get go. That is why I have to believe it is a story about a man dying and losing his mind. The problem is he survived for 10-20 days (or was that in his head?), and is that possible without food? Without water? He had water, unless he didn’t. I honestly am left wondering what was real and what wasn’t. It is too much. There needs to be some basic foundation for the story to be grounded in, and this does not have that. I enjoyed the style just not the content. 3.5 stars, rounding down.

09 – Saudade — Steve Rasnic Tem

Image result for spring 2014
An image of the creature featured in Spring (2014) about a women who seeks the comfort of a man, but she isn’t exactly what she seems, very similar to Saudade.

Read 8/11/2019

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I would give it a light to medium level of “horror”. It’s about a man whose children send him on a dating cruise to spark a new relationship after several years of being a single man. While there, he meets an odd Brazilian woman. The tone of the story is very depressing, and that definitely lends itself to being a more effective horror story. It reminds me of the 2014 film, Spring which wasn’t very heavy in the horror. It featured a similarly exotic woman who is some kind of Lovecraftian monster. That’s basically whats happening here.

Overall, it was a great story, maybe not strictly horror, but its a great weird and out there story. 4.5/5 stars, rounding up.

10 – A Moment Before Breaking — A.C.Wise ★★★★

Image result for lovecraftian monster
Lovecraftian monsters like the one you see here are featured in, A Moment Before Breaking.

Read 8/8/2019

This is the first story I read. That is a big task to ask of the story. It is responsible to get me interested. Perhaps I should trust the editors judgment in the order, but either way I didn’t. The story begins (and is told) from the perspective of a young immigrant girl on a ship. I get the impression it is set in the past, but I later learn it is modern day (or near to it). I tend to prefer it that way. As the first story, I was skeptical coming in. I am happy to say it was pretty quick at gaining my interest. I became intrigued at what was going on. A sea “monster” or creature posses the young girl and she and it are one. This isn’t the exorcist. It is more of a collaborative relationship (either willingly on the monsters part or not it is unclear).

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the story, but I don’t know if it was exactly as horrific as I would like. It was much more dark fantasy. I suppose that is a special classification of Horror, but not exactly what I am looking for. Perhaps I am being unfair. It isn’t a bad story. It is creepy and disturbing. I debated giving it 4.5 half stars, but if I am being honest, I will be sorely disappointed if this is the best this horror anthology has to offer. It is a solid read, but I want better. 4.5/5 stars rounding down.

11 – Sister, Dearest Sister, Let Me Show to You the Sea — Seanan McGuire ★★★★★

In Sister, Dearest Sister, a deal with the devil of the sea must be made if our protagonist has any hope at survival in what is undeniably a twisted tale of the Little Mermaid .

Read 8/16/2019

This story was great. I intentionally saved it to listen to it with my sister because I knew it was a story that revolved around a sibling relationship. Needless to say, this story takes sibling river to a new level. The story starts with the older sibling submerged in water, dazed and confused. She realizes shes submerged unable to breathe or move. As the waves recede, she learns shes in a tide pool, able to breathe for now, the tide is rising. Her sister stands watching, explaining how she has drugged her sister. She wants her to die, and apparently as terrifyingly as possible.

I’m sure anyone with siblings can understand why a sibling may have a little animosity toward their kin, but the level of hatred our main antagonist has is dark and deliciously horrific. The story then becomes one of survival. Will she escape? Can she escape? All of these question rise and fall with the tide. It is very effective. I mentioned before in What My Mother Left Me, about how family drama makes for the best kind of horror drama.

Like, What My Mother Left Me, Sister Dearest Sister changes directions part way through, morphing from a chilling horror story into a weird dark ocean fantasy. Without spoiling it too much, the story becomes like a twisted Little Mermaid, where, like Arial, our protagonist is desperate to return to land. To do so, she has to make a deal with the monsters of the sea, but everything comes with a cost.

I loved this story. It is one of my favorites. 5/5 Stars.

12 – The Deep Sea Swell — John Langan ★★★★

Image result for scuba diver scooby doo
Lost souls haunt the small island featured in The Deep Sea Swell.

Read 8/12/2019 (unsure if this is the exact date)

We find ourselves on a small island with a couple visiting friends. The ferry ride over introduces us to our main characters, and with it we learn about some of their sea related fears. It also acts as clear foreshadowing of whats to come. You see, a large region of the nearby sea used to be above water, back before glacier melting. Whether the existing villages made it out is unclear. Needless to say, it appears to be a breeding grounds for hauntings.

I’m trying to be consistent in my rating scheme, but as I read more stories, it keeps getting more difficult. This story ticked all the right boxes. It was creepy, had horror elements, and revolved around the ocean. Still, I find myself distracted as I jump between the Devil and the Deep and Datlow’s other anthology, Fearful Symmetries. This story never quite reaches the level of dread that is consistently achieved in those stories. This story s consistent with “A Moment Before Breaking” and “He Sings of Salt and Wormwood,” not a bad story, but not everything I wish it was. 4.5/5 stars rounding down.

13 – He Sings of Salt and Wormwood — Brian Hodge ★★★★

Related image
An image of a scuba diver, like our main character in He Sings of Salt and Wormwood, who finds something that unsettles him.

Read 8/9/2019

This was a well told story. For a large chunk of it I didn’t get a horror vibe. However, it eventually came. For this one I feel as if I need to clarify, the build up was good. It wasn’t the constant dread I hope for. Although, it was still effective. We enter the mind of this surfer/diver, enveloped by this world where one has an intimate relationship with the sea. That doesn’t make it a bad story. It was a great story. I feel as though I am trapping myself, judging each story by the horrors it besets upon me, and it just isn’t that simple. We get the groundwork for an effective conclusion that was full of dread and confusion. In doing so, we once again appreciate the power and mystery of the sea. It works for what it is, but if I am being honest, it doesn’t deliver everything I want from a horror story. 4.5 stars, rounding down.

14 – Shit Happens — Michael Marshall Smith ★★★★★

A large portion of, Shit Happens, takes place in the room where it happens.

Read 8/15/2019, and again 8/16/2019

I absolutely loved this story. I think a large part of that was the surprise, so I’m not going to spoil the main reveal which is built up to for a large portion of the story. The story begins by introducing us to our protagonist. We learn he has a work conference he has to go to, and it is being held on a cruise ship this year (yay). Except, he has no interest at feigning interest in the lives of  people he barley knows, nor does he have any interest in telling the entire company that the long awaited project he is responsible for still is not completed. On the bright side, its a chance for him to get drunk on the company dime. A large portion of the story is dedicated to setting up the story and helping us connect and relate to our protagonist.

Soon, our protagonist is on the ship, and enjoying happy hour as he gets progressively drunk. As is natural, this inevitably leads him to the bathroom to relieve himself. While there, he hears load, grotesque and disturbing noises from a man in the stall. It turns out he has a bad case of the shits. Our protagonist can’t believe how horrendous the smell is; all he wants to do is finish and leave. Except, the decency within him forces him to ask the man if hes okay. As the story progresses, you can’t help but wonder where its going.

I thought the reveal was well done and surprising. I can understand why Datlow would put this so late in the anthology; this collection highlights the variety of monstrosities that can be thought up within the sea (even if I don’t care for all of them). What’s more, many of these stories have had questionable ties to horror, and part of me wonders if this is going to be an entirely mundane story. You’ll have to read it to find out if that is the case, but I assure you no matter what it is, its worth reading. This story is brilliantly charming and funny while also disturbing and grotesque–everything I could want from a horror story.

Lastly, you may read this and find the theme here isn’t all that original, but this story still stands out for two reasons. First, the writing is captivating and enjoyable. Two, the lack in originality around the theme is compensated by an original take on this type of story. There could have been so much more to this nearly 1hr long short story. The narrative we got could easily be a novel unto itself (I wish it was!), but it also drops off at what some people might call a cliff hanger. I don’t see it that way. This isn’t the story we usually associate with this type of theme. It is more of a prequel to the traditional type of narrative we get here. In that, it is tremendously effective. 5/5 stars, and maybe my favorite story.

15 – Haunt — Siobhan Carroll ★★★★

An artwork of a haunted ship.

Started reading 8/20/2019 (going to start over)

I started listening to this but ultimately stopped because I was in a car and falling asleep. I will have to listen to this when I’m being active. My first impressions aren’t great. For starters, this is probably my least favorite narrator (or this version of his narration). To be fair, I think this set in 18th century, and I am not a big fan of Victorian styled writing. I looked up the author, and she is an expert in British literature during this time. It makes sense that this story would have that type of style to it. Which means you should take this review with a grain of salt since it isn’t my cup of tea.

Read 9/4/2019

I am glad I postponed this story. It is not nearly as bad as I originally thought. What it is is different than the last few stories I have read. The style and setting are not my favorite, but with the right mindset, I was able to give it a better assessment.

This story is exactly what I would expect from the marketing blurb for this book: the story of a haunted ship (more or less). The author did a good job setting the story, even if it isn’t my preferred setting. The story itself is slow. I am sure we can all imagine a fast paced horror story upon a haunted ship, but the true horror of the story mirrors the horror of reality. Imagine being stranded in the middle of the sea and left to die. If it weren’t for a few sequences in this book, I might question whether the haunting was even real. That is because it is about the deterioration of hope and the loss of ones ability to control a situation. It is about being forced to know what is to come and having to reckon with that. Then, when all is said and done, it is all destined to happen again. 4/5 stars.

The Time Traveler’s Almanac, edited by Ann and Jeff by Vandermeer – An Ongoing Review


Introductory thoughts 3/19/2019

I came across this anthology of short stories on time travel, and I really couldn’t help but decide to give it a shot. It is a huge anthology with 65 different short stories. I may never get through all of it, but as I read, I will give my thoughts on it and try to review the stories as a go. However, I won’t be giving a detailed account of every story. This will mark more as a way for me to track as I read and express my thoughts when necessary.

Each story is detailed below, and hyperlinked in the Table of Contents.

Update 7/30/19

I have continued to listen to the occasional story. Most of them are great. If you are interested in hearing any, let me know. I’ve read ~17hrs according to my podcast app. The total book is 40+hrs.

Table of Contents

Introduction  • essay by Rian Johnson

Part I: Experiments

  1. Top Ten Tips for Time Travelers • essay by Charles Yu
  2. Death Ship • (1953) • short story by Richard Matheson
  3. Ripples in the Dirac Sea • (1988) • short story by Geoffrey A. Landis
  4. Needle in a Timestack • (1983) • short story by Robert Silverberg
  5. Another Story or A Fisherman of the Inland Sea • [Hainish] • (1994) • novelette by Ursula K. Le Guin (variant of Another Story)
  6. Hwang’s Billion Brilliant Daughters • (2010) • short story by Alice Sola Kim
  7. How the Future Got Better • (2010) • short story by Eric Schaller
  8. Pale Roses • [Tales from the End of Time • 1] • (1974) • novelette by Michael Moorcock
  9. The Gernsback Continuum • (1981) • short story by William Gibson
  10. The Threads of Time • (2004) • short story by C. J. Cherryh (variant of Threads of Time 1978)
  11. Triceratops Summer • (2005) • short story by Michael Swanwick
  12. The Most Important Thing in the World • (2011) • novelette by Steve Bein
  13. Himself in Anachron • [The Instrumentality of Mankind] • (2013) • short story by Genevieve Linebarger and Cordwainer Smith
  14. The Time Machine (excerpt) • [H. G. Wells’ Time Machine Universe] • (2013) • short fiction by H. G. Wells
  15. Young Zaphod Plays It Safe • [Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy] • (1986) • short story by Douglas Adams
  16. Time Travel in Theory and Practice • (2013) • essay by Stan Love

Part II: Reactionaries and Revolutionaries

  1. A Sound of Thunder • (1952) • short story by Ray Bradbury
  2. Vintage Season • (1946) • novelette by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore
  3. Thirty Seconds from Now • (2011) • short story by John Chu
  4. Forty, Counting Down • [Justin Kloster] • (1999) • novella by Harry Turtledove
  5. The Final Days • (1981) • short story by David Langford
  6. Fire Watch • [Time Travel] • (1982) • novelette by Connie Willis
  7. Noble Mold • [The Company Short Fiction] • (1997) • short story by Kage Baker
  8. Under Siege • (1985) • novelette by George R. R. Martin
  9. Where or When • (1991) • novelette by Steven Utley
  10. Time Gypsy • (1998) • novelette by Ellen Klages
  11. On the Watchtower at Plataea • (1988) • novelette by Garry Kilworth
  12. Alexia and Graham Bell • (1987) • short story by Rosaleen Love
  13. A Night on the Barbary Coast • [The Company Short Fiction] • (2003) • short story by Kage Baker
  14. This Tragic Glass • (2004) • novelette by Elizabeth Bear
  15. The Gulf of the Years • (2010) • short story by Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud (trans. of La gouffre des années 1987)
  16. Enoch Soames: A Memory of the Eighteen-Nineties • (1916) • novelette by Max Beerbohm
  17. Trousseau: Fashion for Time Travelers • essay by Genevieve Valentine (variant of Trousseau: Fashion for Time Travellers 2013)

Part III: Mazes and Traps

  1. The Clock That Went Backward • (2013) • short story by Edward Page Mitchell (variant of The Clock That Went Backwards 1881)
  2. Yesterday Was Monday • (1941) • short story by Theodore Sturgeon
  3. Is There Anybody There? • (2000) • novelette by Kim Newman
  4. Fish Night • (2013) • short story by Joe R. Lansdale [as by Joe Lansdale]
  5. The Lost Pilgrim • (2004) • novelette by Gene Wolfe
  6. Palindromic • (1997) • short story by Peter Crowther
  7. Augusta Prima • (2011) • short story by Karin Tidbeck (trans. of Augusta Prima 2009)
  8. Life Trap • (1979) • short story by Barrington J. Bayley
  9. Lost Continent • (2008) • novelette by Greg Egan
  10. The Mouse Ran Down • (2012) • short story by Adrian Tchaikovsky
  11. The Great Clock • (1966) • short story by Langdon Jones
  12. Traveller’s Rest • (1965) • short story by David I. Masson
  13. Delhi • (2004) • short story by Vandana Singh
  14. Come-From-Aways • (2009) • short story by Tony Pi
  15. Terminós • (2005) • short story by Dean Francis Alfar
  16. The Weed of Time • (1970) • short story by Norman Spinrad
  17. The Waitabits • (1955) • novelette by Eric Frank Russell
  18. Music for Time Travelers • essay by Jason Heller (variant of Music for Time Travellers 2013)

Part IV: Communiques

  1. What If • (1952) • short story by Isaac Asimov (variant of What If …)
  2. As Time Goes By • (1983) • short story by Tanith Lee
  3. At Dorado • (2002) • short story by Geoffrey A. Landis
  4. 3 RMS, Good View • (1990) • short story by Karen Haber
  5. Twenty-One, Counting Up • [Justin Kloster] • (1999) • novella by Harry Turtledove
  6. Loob • [Goster County] • (1979) • novelette by Bob Leman
  7. The House That Made the Sixteen Loops of Time • (2011) • short story by Tamsyn Muir
  8. Against the Lafayette Escadrille • (1972) • short story by Gene Wolfe
  9. Swing Time • (2007) • short story by Carrie Vaughn
  10. The Mask of the Rex • [Files of the Time Rangers] • (2002) • novelette by Richard Bowes
  11. Message in a Bottle • (2004) • short story by Nalo Hopkinson
  12. The Time Telephone • (2002) • short story by Adam Roberts
  13. Red Letter Day • (2010) • short story by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  14. Domine • (2007) • short story by Rjurik Davidson
  15. In the Tube • (1922) • short story by E. F. Benson
  16. Bad Timing • (1991) • short story by Molly Brown
  17. If Ever I Should Leave You • (1974) • short story by Pamela Sargent
  18. Palimpsest • (2009) • novella by Charles Stross

Story Overviews and Discussions

*I may give these a second try considering I don’t remember much about them.

Fish Night, Joe Lansdale, (★★★★)

Read before August 2019

There was one titled “Fish Night” that was recently adapted into a short film on Netflix’s new anthology series Love Death and Robots. I love it because it was history of the earth type story. Out in the Arizona desert, where the sea once covered the terrain, ancient ocean life dominated the region. Much of the life is now extinct, but what if past life we’re ghosts like all the story’s of humans after life. It tells the story of ancient life haunting the desert nights. Not only was it artistically beautiful, it was a really fun story that peeked my interest. 5/5 stars. From Part 3.

Come-From-Aways, Tony Pi, Rating: ()

Read before August 2019

There was another story about history (human history boo). It was told by an expert in linguistics of a character, also a linguist, who comes across a man whose dialect doesn’t match the times. From this, she deciphers he is a traveler of the past. The story touches on the problem of time traveling into the future, becoming a piece of history and leaving those you know and love. 3.5/5 stars, rounding down. From Part 3.

The Weed of Time, Norman Spinrad (★★★★★) and Life Trap, Barrington, J. Bayley (★★★★)

Read before August 2019

Another Fascinating story, the Weed of Time, was about a plant that gave the individuals the sight of all time in their life from conception to death. I don’t want to spoil the story, but it was much more of a tale of caution. Imagine knowing what was going to happen but trapped unable to change anything. There was a similar story, Life Trap, about a temple of monks who sought truth found truth they wish they never had. Life, as the story put it, was a cycle of living dying and being reborn as your younger self. The terrifying reality of it all was that you’d have no knowledge and as such would be unable to do anything to change it. On the surface, they seem like the inverse, but the main idea of being trapped in a cycle is there. 4.5/5 stars rounding up (The Weed of Time) and 4.5/5 stars rounding down (Life Trap). From Part 3.

Red Letter Day, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, (★★★★)

Read before August 2019

What could that possibly mean? “Red Letter Day.” Well that is the day your future self sends you a letter recollecting about your future. Think of it like a coming of age. At a certain point in your future you gain the right to write your younger self, around graduation of High School. In it, you can inform yourself on whether or not you are going on the right track. Naturally, I am sure you can think of a hundred problems with this, and of course, that is the premise of the story. I won’t ruin it any further than to say, it assumes the information of the future can change the past. As I have delved into a multiverse of time travel stories, I have grown sympathetic towards the idea that the past cannot be changed. Any attempts to change it make it the way you experience it in the first place. Nevertheless, that is not how this story handles it, but it still does it masterfully. I thoroughly enjoyed it. 5/5 stars. From Part 4.

The Time Telephone, Adam Roberts, (☆)

Read before August 2019

Again, another fun premise. This is a world where the information (telephones) can be sent to the past. It opens with a conversation between a mother and daughter, but it ventures off in an odd direction in the end. It felt like the mother and daughter were just to set up the premise, but I won’t go much deeper so as not to ruin the main plot. Just understand, there are limits to how far information can be sent back in time, and that should get your mind rolling as to the type of scenarios you might get from that. 3.5/5 stars, rounding up. From Part 1.

At Dorado, Geoffrey A. Landis, ()

Read before August 2019

This is a story about a world with a series of wormholes that act like intersections along a highway. Of course, there was more to it than that, but that’s the gist of it. It was a find story, nothing too exceptional. A wife or lover of a man, lives at one of these way stations (wormholes), and the man is a sort of traveler who has to go from station to station for work or something. 3.5/5 stars rounding down. From Part 4.

3 RMS, Good view, Karen Haber, (☆)

Read before August 2019

This is probably one of the better stories (but not the best of the best). It’s basically about the past (or future) being like a place to settle down/live/maybe vacation. You aren’t to alter the past, but you can live there. Think of it like working in the city but living in the suburbs. You choose a place and commute. Then it just deals with the realty of living in the past without altering it–inadvertently or for ethical reasons. 4/5 stars. From Part 4.

Twenty-One, Counting Up and Forty, Counting Down, Harry Turtledove, (★★★★)

Read before August 2019

These are two separate stories, each in a different section of this anthology. I wouldn’t say this was the best story I’ve read by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a solid story told from two different perspectives (told as if older self interacts with younger self and from a younger self being contacted by the olders self). Sort of like the Red Letter Day, this is about a man from the future trying to change mistakes he thinks his younger self has made.

The problem is, the way he goes about doing it feels contrived. The author is so desperate to tell a particular type of story, that he insists this is the only way for the older self to get what he wants. Furthermore, he fails to recognize the problem isn’t his younger self, its that his older self not willing to acknowledge his own flaws.

It is a fun story. Overall, I can’t help but feel it is limited by convoluted choices by the author made for plot purposes rather than a natural progression of the story. I don’t want to spoil anymore of the story, but I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that there are some serious problems around consent that the author never really addresses. 5/5 stars for both stories. From Part 4.

Is There Anybody There?, Kim Newman, (★★★★)

Read before August 2019

really really liked this story. It was one of my favorites. It was about a psychic from the past being contacted by an internet troll  from the future. At first you wonder if it is a spirit, but it turns out its not. I won’t ruin the story, but it is a very satisfying read. I say that as someone who is very much against the idea fof “psychics” because in the real life they’re frauds and hacks who harm people. 5/5 stars, and one of my favorites. From Part 3.

A Sound of Thunder, Ray Bradbury, (★★★★)

Read before August 2019

I write this as the Sound of Thunder is heard outside. Of course, the thunder of the story is not from any storm. This is a very good story about the implications of time travel. In particular, what would happen if you travel back 10s of millions of years? How fragile is the evolutionary tree that leads to us the other forms of life? A species isn’t defined by any one individual, but it raises the question, how important are they. This is fascinating story about time travel and biology. I wish it was more theoretical on the biology front, but it is still an amazing premise. It fills me with excitement wondering about the stories that could be told from this premise, or, perhaps more significant, the reality that is ingrained in this story. It is hard not to read this and ask fundamental question about the history of life on Earth and humans in particular. As a geologist and astrologist it is hard not to get lost in my imagination. Needless to say, this is highly recommended. 5/5 stars. From Part 2.

Lost Continent,” by, Greg Egan (★★★☆☆)

Read before August 2019

This is a story is told of a refugee who escaped his time to a world that was supposed to be free of the dangers of his time, but what he found was far less accepting. It is basically a story that mirrors the story of migrants today. It was particularly poignant with recent decisions by the Trump administration. 3/5 stars. From Part 3.

*”The Clock that Went Backward,” by  Edward Page Mitchell (★★★☆☆)

Read before August 2019

A guy and his friend come across this weird clock his aunt has. It can go into the past. From there, they do a bit of exploring. I enjoyed this. 3/5 stars. From Part 3.

How the Future Got Better,” by Eric Schaller (★★★☆☆)

Read before August 2019

A family is able to watch the future unfold over the television (see themselves watching TV, slightly in the future). I didn’t quite get the point of this story. 3/5 stars. From Part 1.

The Threads of Time,” by C.J. Cherryh (★★★★☆)

Read before August 2019

Here, travelers can move forward in time, to distance reaches of the future. However, strict paradox laws prevent them from going backwards, and a select few agents are put in place to enforce that law. This is a good story with a good overall arc. Although, I don’t think it stood out too much. 3.5/5 stars rounding up. From Part 1.

Triceratops Summer,” by Michael Swanwick (★★★★★

Read before August 2019

An MIT student messes up an experiment leading to the escape of dinosaurs from the past into the present. This was a lot more calm then your classic Jurassic Park type of story. It was more about mild annoyance and appreciation of and for the creatures. It is a good story. 5/5 stars. From Part 1.

The Lost Pilgrim,” by Gene Wolfe (★★☆☆☆) 

Read before August 2019

A traveler is sent back to do something that he forgets. I remember this because I remember much I disliked it. It is confusing and not very enjoyable. It seemed unnecessarily convoluted. 2.5/5 stars rounding down. From Part 3.

*”The Great Clock,” by Langdon Jones (★★★☆☆)

Read before August 2019

An old man takes care of an old clock related to time. I don’t remember any more details. 3/5 stars, but take it with a grain of salt. From Part 3.

*”Palindromic,” by Peter Crowther (★★★☆☆)

Read before August 2019

There are aliens. This is another one I really remember nothing about. 3/5 stars, but take it with a grain of salt. From Part 3.

*”Against the Lafayette Escadrille,” by Gene Wolfe (★★★☆☆)

Read before August 2019

Obviously, there is something to do with time travel. I am pretty sure I read this but don’t remember a thing. It is apparently in the Confederate eraRating: Meh (because I don’t remember anything) From Part 4.

The Final Days,” by David Langford (★★★☆☆)

Read before August 2019

This is about a nominee for president who had amazing confidence and poise because they had the benefit of knowing they were going to win. 3/5 stars. From Part 2.

The Gulf of the Years,” by Georges-Oliver  Chateaureynaud (★★★★☆)

Read before August 2019

A man travels to see his mother, on the day she died, I think? Its a bit morbid. Rating: Good, 4/5 stars. From Part 2.

Death Ship, Richard Matheson, (★★★★)

Read 8/15/2019 (and earlier in the summer)

I realized early on that I had already read this story. It is the first story of the entire anthology, so it seems I listened to it before I imported it into my podcast and forgot. It is a great story to reread. It was particularly great because even as I remembered reading it, I forgot how the story played out in the end. We follow a ship with a small crew set to find life on other planets. They land on a distant planet and find a crashed ship. On it: themselves, dead from the crash.

I can see why the Vandermeers would choose to have this story first. It forces us to think about the implications of time travel, or rather, it forces us to think about how the hell it would work. We follow the crew members as they struggle to understand 1) what is happening and 2) how to avoid the atrocity they are witnessing. I am a big proponent of past-future interconnection. That is my made up way of saying, even if we could go back in time, anything we do to change it would end up being a part of the events that causes it (or at least had an effect that did not change it). There are plenty examples of this, and I am pretty sure I’ve touched on this already.

This is the reality these crew members have to deal with. At least, that is the real horror from where I am sitting. Nevertheless, they act as though they can change it, but this becomes sort of a Pascal’s wager. If they’re wrong, and you can’t change anything, you lose nothing for believing it because it’s a helpless situation regardless, but if they’re right, you have everything to gain from believing. There are plenty of problems with Pascal’s wager when it comes to God, but I won’t get into that here. My point is, this is the dilemma they face.

Personally, I think I would shutdown, convinced it is hopeless. They don’t do that here, and its a thrill to watch it unfold. To be clear, things will not always go the way you expect. Even having read the story, the author surprised me on multiple occasions convincing me one thing then another and then another. Where it actually lands was something I didn’t even see coming. That is great story telling. 5/5 stars. From Part 1.