Category Archives: review

typicalreview – Truth and the Serpent by J. Rutledge

Have you ever imagined what life in the Garden of Eden was like for the snake? If you’ve ever wondered what it got up to after the fateful encounter with naked people and the fruit then J. Rutledge has your answers in “Truth and the Serpent”.

A shipwrecked man finds his way through a storm to a cave where he intends to seek shelter. Inside, there lies a massive serpent surrounded by untold riches with many tales to tell. Invited to stay awhile and listen, the man is regaled with stories of the old world and it isn’t long before he recognizes these stories and storyteller alike.

The serpent, in this case, is the forefather of dragonkind. A brilliant and very fun idea, so right off the top a reader’s mind would whirl with all dragon lore, half-forgotten woodcuts, and all manner of natural disaster blamed on dragons through early history. Now, it all somehow makes sense. When the dragon type creature here relays the first story of exile, it is hard to not be enchanted by the idea entirely. He runs through other stories up to the great exile and beyond, though using different names and a very breezy manner. Think of a long Sunday school lesson as taught by a barfly on a dreary afternoon, and it’s close to what being in a long conversation with the serpent from the Garden of Eden is like.

Christian or not, we know a lot of these stories by osmosis. Luckily, the author here retains a playful and blasphemous tone. Modernizing the feel entirely, the Serpent himself is more than ageless. All-knowing, and fairly well read, this creature also possesses a ribald sense of humour and much like the best jester, only learns from his mistakes half of the time.

Those who enjoy the dry jest of Monty Python or more comedic fantasy fare will enjoy this, especially if they have an interest in biblical times. The serpent himself has a taste for the here and now, so references like television shows, Clive Barker films, Oscar Wilde, political and philosophical figures are referenced by Rutledge heavily and often.

While written very well, the style can come across as loose at times. Between the serpent himself being a one-man vaudeville act, and wanting to know what the next story will be it does keep the reader turning pages, though some of the monologues get very long. The back and forth ceases to be engaging since the main character’s personality forces him to talk ‘at’ people as opposed to talk ‘with’ people. As a result, the relationship between the shipwrecked man and this divine creature is pushed to the recesses, making room for the grand fish tales. It is fitting as the parables retold here are in a similar style as the generally accepted versions though this time with a dark bent, a different point of view, curse words and very creative use of things an armchair theologian may amuse themselves with.

I would have to award this 3.5 stars, as this was an enjoyable concept that was a little top heavy for the idea. It’s not that these stories have been retold, and they are rarely told better than when in humour, but the girth of the book weighed down the mirth found within. It would make a good reading exercise for those with a solid base in comparative religion and can find humour in the premise of the snake who begat dragons living in a cave up until today from the start. An absurdist jaunt, “Truth and the Serpent” is not your typical Sunday school.

 


I have taken a position reviewing books from independent authors. While not all are horror, there is a thread of darkness through them regardless of genre. As with honest paid reviews, there will be personal reaction as well as comparative and critical analysis. If you are an author that would like me to review your work, contact me for rates and a summary of your novel, short story, or collection. 

typicalreview- The Taking of Peggy Martin by Karen Glista

Written in the first person, “The Taking of Peggy Martin” certainly snags attention as author Karen Glista drags you fast through the deep south. We meet the widowed Peggy, who turns out to be a well educated and God-fearing nurse. The more we learn about her, the darker she gets. From sleeplessness to self-harm, her psyche is haunted as they come. It is easy to feel for her being wracked with insomnia and enchanted by her stories of youth–her grandmother, the townsfolk and church–but knowing she’s hounded by the death of her husband. Soon the cracks start to show as her waking nightmares become all too real.

After a horrific incident at work in the halls of the mental asylum worms into her sleepless nights, we lose sight of the line between nurse and patient. She’s in need of help and unable to ask as trying to keep her life together takes too much time and energy. Then, she comes face to face with Morgan. A feral young man who is rumoured to be mute and wild after living alone in the Piney Wood Thicket following the mysterious disappearance of his entire family.

It’s doubly unnerving to read as we see through Peggy’s eyes and are privy to her unravelling thoughts, but unnerving in the best way. Then, everything gets unnaturally dark, and the forces behind her husband’s death and Morgan’s past entwine. This takes us into the bulk of the book where the story delves deep into horror and science fiction; something one would barely expect from the first quarter which reads like a regency drama set in the 50s.

So much purple prose is woven by Glista that some readers may need tinted glasses to get by. At times it works, being thrust deep into the heart of Texas, but some lines are far too flowery even for the sweetest rose. It persists, wonderfully, through the most vile scenes of gore and inhumanity that Peggy witnesses so the very colourful writing serves to break tension during rape, cannibalism, decapitations, eviscerations and buckets of gore. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was a welcome and refreshing mix. It’s really more of a tall glass of iced tea on a hot stormy afternoon… with a human eyeball bobbing around under the cubes and lemon wedge. There are so many colloquialisms and regional manners of speaking it would take some research by those not familiar with Texas to see if they are all actual slang and in common usage. Those who baulk at dialect being written out at every turn would find this trying, though Glista can thank the first quarter of her work for truly setting a tone and creating a space with rules so the reader is kind of tied to the horse as it were. And boy, can that horse jump.

The novel is listed as supernatural first and foremost then mystery, though considering the amount of gore and the nature of Peggy’s relationship with the other inhabitants of the Thicket, I’d have to stick it right into horror if not bizarro science-fiction. As a fan of the former I could rate this at three stars easily if not four for the latter. Fans of bizarro horror cult hit “The Gospel of Bucky Dennis: A Southern Gothic Horror Hymn” by J. R. Parks would adore this, and perhaps those who watched the current mini-series gem “Jordskott” but wanted it to be a little more racy and action-packed will get a lot out of “The Taking of Peggy Martin”. The only place where this loses points is having so much packed into the story that the pace varies wildly from a giddy trot to a breakneck race to get it all in–and the flowery terms alongside overused phrases. Where it wins, however, kept me sucked into the insane steeplechase this little widow finds herself on.

 

I have taken a position reviewing books from independent authors. While not all are horror, there is a thread of darkness through them regardless of genre. As with honest paid reviews, there will be personal reaction as well as comparative and critical analysis. If you are an author that would like me to review your work, contact me for rates and a summary of your novel, short story, or collection. 

typicalbooks 22 – Nightmares in the Sky – Stephen King – Booktube Review

Nightmares in the Sky is an essay by Stephen King contained in a wonderful coffee-table book. Within, find gargoyle photos taken by f-stop Fitzgerald. Not sure who truly took the photos as the pen name is so very literary I would guess it is a fellow author or agent. The essay is so very King, and those that enjoy his addressing the Constant Reader will like this addition to their collection. Found this in Pennsylvania in a used store in wonderful condition so thank you to whoever owned this beforehand!

Pick up a copy here https://goo.gl/AUWR27

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Suggest a book! I like violent and visceral horror. Comment here or at http://twitter.com/typicallydia or find my contact information here on nightface.ca.

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I cover books I have read that have taught me something about my own writing or were printed in an atypical way. Sometimes, I just have something to say about typicalbooks.

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All excerpts used for review purposes only, with all respective copyright retained by original owners.

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