Michael Patrick Hicks is fast becoming one of the first authors I think of when the topic of unflinching horror fiction comes up. Hicks routinely comes up with some of the nastiest ideas and delights in pushing the reader right up into the gore so that we may fully appreciate the slick, sticky monstrosities he has created.
The Resurrectionists takes place in post-Revolutionary War NYC during a time when grave robbing was common as doctors sought to understand human anatomy better. One sympathizes, as science often appeared insane in the early years of human understanding. However, the scientists and doctors at the center of The Resurrectionists are performing these dirty deeds less so that they may better understand humanity and more so that they can contact something that lurks beyond the veil of reality. After witnessing Lovecraftian creatures preying on the dead and dying on the fields of battle, these veteran doctors begin experiments on those raised from the grave, or those unfortunate and unloved that society will not miss. It’s cruel, unusual, and… has the potential to tear a hole between our world and the world of the Elder Gods.
As the series title may suggest, there is a combating force to this reckless evil: Salem Hawley, freed slave and military veteran, who enters the story after the Resurrectionists victimize the African American community on several occasions and law enforcement cannot even pretend to care.
If I have a complaint about The Resurrectionists, it’s that it leaves us too soon. Again, it’s the start of a series. But I wanted MORE. And NOW. Seriously, the whole book is good, but the finale takes it up a notch. It is a novella full of monster madness, cosmic horror, and human cruelty.
On that last note: Hicks does not shy away from human evils, whether physical, verbal, or social in nature. The book is full of evil men doing violent things to those who deserve better. And as it’s the story of a freed slave following a violent mystery in early America, racism also comes into play (but let’s be honest, when has racism not been in play in American history?). So on occasion it is not a very fun book. But nor should it be, in my opinion. Glossing over the ugliness of the time would’ve hurt the story and done a disservice to its victims (fictional though many of them may be in this case). Of Hicks’s work that I’ve read, he routinely puts some angry political commentary right into the gory body of his work. I’ve no idea if this follows his writing across all his works, but my appreciation of Hicks as a writer is that he is both things: genre political commentator and horror fiend. And, personally, I think the two sides of his fictional interests work hand in hand to make a better, more compelling whole.
The Resurrectionists is a historical horror tale with crazy gore, deep mythology, and complex characterization. Should appeal to old fans of Lovecraftian mythos and those just starting to get into that world of cosmic horror. Hicks is a take-no-prisoners horror author and The Resurrectionists is one of his most interesting works. I am very excited to read the continuing story of Salem Hawley in future books.
The book will be available on June 4th. Preorder today!
*I received an early copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
When we start writing a story, we're in love with an idea. And as the weeks/months go by, often times we start to lose that love.
'What if this isn't good enough? What if *I'm* not good enough?'
Do not despair. Self-doubt is natural. We must keep going. Keep digging.
My latest for Scriptophobic.
Most writing advice would suggest you follow a certain formula, as if the best stories are something you create in the lab. And look, there’s plenty of good movies that follow familiar formulas. Most can be viewed in the idea of a three act structure: the setup, the confrontation, and the resolution. Some prefer five acts: introduction of conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. But some of the best stories ever told are those that are cut right down the middle, with act structures that resolve and then start anew before the finale. Today at Scriptophobic, I’m going to talk about three films that are split in half and still tell a compelling story — maybe two stories.
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Big Egg is the first non-kaiju novel by author Raffael Coronelli. But fans of his kaiju works will find a lot of overlap in terms of themes and content. One of the things I'm frequently struck by in Coronelli's work is the author's belief (or a desire to believe) in a diverse group of people being accepting and doing the right thing in the end. For the kaiju novels, I made the comparison to famed Godzilla director Ishiro Honda, who repeatedly showed all of mankind coming together to defeat a common threat to the planet. With Big Egg, we still get that sense of hope, but there's an added underlying current of dread as well. Something wicked this way comes. And though it's never spelled out as a good vs. evil sort of novel, that's ultimately what this is; good people coming together to face a force of unknown evil.
In the sci-fi novel, we follow a small group of people who are stationed on a Mars colony. They share Mars with strange alien beings that we don't get along with. A violent mishap leads to even more strained relations with the Mars humans and aliens, but that soon takes a backseat to the happenings of Earth... The planet Earth, our homeworld, explodes into a million pieces and from the cracking planet comes forth a 'hatchling' of enormous size. It's an evil, hateful being that has birthed itself from the planet like a chick cracking its egg. And now this bouncing baby is on its way to Mars, looking to cause more destruction. The last remaining humans must try to mend fences with their Mars alien neighbors, while also questioning if the aliens had anything to do with the space giant, in an attempt to survive its coming arrival.
It's like Coronelli took a look at the space baby from 2001: A Space Odyssey and said, 'what if this guy was as big as a planet and a bit of an asshole?' and then let it go wild. The author also plays with some 'western in space' ideas as the chief law enforcement officer on Mars tries to rally her troops and unite a colony against a coming threat. But it's the hatchling that's my favorite thing about the book. Just looking in its eyes puts bad ideas in people's heads. It's an evil, hateful creature that defies reason -- and I found the driving ideas behind it truly unsettling in many chapters.
Big Egg is full of big new ideas. From the mech action, to alien colonists, to the giant evil space monsters, fans of science fiction will find a lot to like. In addition to the genre content, Big Egg offers some thoughts on tolerance, mental health, and getting to know another culture in order to improve a shared society. It's incredibly fun, while also sporting a dark side that keeps things from feeling too safe. Big Egg rates as my favorite Coronelli book so far. #Yeehaw
Fanfiction gets a bad wrap. And I get it. It’s full of weird sex, poor spelling, and a fervent love for a fictional universe that most of us probably only have a passing interest in. But it doesn’t quite deserve to be dismissed out of hand like a Tulsi Gabbard presidential run (there’s a reference that’ll age well). As with any other collection of work, there’s plenty of good mixed in with the bad. And ultimately, more than any other artform, most fanfiction is just not for you. I’m not going to try to convince you to give fanfiction a try, but I do hope to make a case for why we shouldn’t use it as the butt of their jokes.
I used to write and read Jurassic Park fanfiction. I can’t say whether what I wrote back then was good or bad, but writing it and being read was important for me as a growing writer. The readership was small, but readers gave useful notes on what did/didn’t work in my writing. I got better with each new piece of fanfiction. I made friends with other writers on the site (some of whom I remain friends with today) and it was always cool to impress the writers we admired most on the site with a new chapter or short story. It was like a very specific sort of writer’s group. And sure, most of the feedback rarely went beyond a ‘good job!’ comment but still, it was something. Writing can be lonely but writer friends can help with that. In writing, we’re all students, trying to learn the craft. A fanfiction writer either looks at their writing as a fun hobby or as the minor leagues for the next step. And there’s nothing wrong with either point of view. Both are useful. Both are healthy for a creative mind.
A devoted fanfiction writer must know their selected fandom inside and out. So when the writer fucks up on some piece of core mythos from the established universe, the readers will let them have it. And they should. Fanfiction is for the fans, after all. But the best fanfiction also plays with what’s been previously established, takes the universe into bold new places. This can be a good learning experience for fanfiction writers branching out into original fiction as they get a better grasp on how to meet and then upset genre expectations. You must know your genre before you can flip it on its head and do something original in its trappings.
While there’s typically no money to be made in fanfiction, that’s not always the case. Tie-in novelizations are big money bestsellers (especially Star Wars) and the popular trend of legacy sequels basically have young filmmakers making big budget fanfilms based on the movies that were popular when they were young (see: Creed, Blade Runner 2049, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens). Obviously, writing fanfiction online is not the doorway to writing fanfiction for a living -- there must be some in-between success that gets you that gig -- but I raise the point because while we may not read fanfiction online we do enjoy its cousins in the bookstores and multiplexes.
My main point I wish to make is: don’t shit on fanfiction. The readers enjoy it and the writers are learning their craft. And isn’t that what we’re all hoping to do with our writing anyway -- to entertain others and to improve our abilities?
This piece was also posted at Scriptophobic.
BODY HORROR GORE!
A SLOW CRAWL TO MADNESS!
THE CRUMBLING FOUNDATIONS OF OUR WORLD!
I wrote a thing about using different forms of decay to develop characters and enhance worldbuilding. Check it out, won't you?
In his book On Writing, Stephen King discusses his method for discovering the story as he writes it and why he is not a fan of outlining his books. King suggests that he can tell when a book came naturally to a writer versus being an outlined work. I admit I cannot pick up on this quality in the books I read, but then I am not the master that is Stephen King (though sometimes I wonder if I might be able to pick up on a King novel’s finale that clearly was not planned ahead of time). I respect King and read On Writing at an important time in my writing journey, so I took its lessons to heart. And while I still think highly of the book and return to it more often than any other book on writing fiction, I have distanced myself from the master’s stance on outlines.
Head on over to Scriptophobic to read my evolving stance on outlines, when to ignore the advice of masters, and why it's sometimes best to ignore your own outlines to create a better story.
Writer of horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy. Lover of fiction and film. Lifelong Godzilla fan. Reluctant blogger.
Blog notice: mostly this blog is for sharing my thoughts and talking about my books. From time to time I will also comment on books, films, music, sports, and/or videogames. During these times I may use images of the creative works under discussion. I'm posting the images under the "fair use" allowance, for purposes such as criticism, comments, reporting, teaching, and research. If you have any issue with images used on this blog, please contact me and the images will be removed.
I am not paid for my reviews and I do not take book review requests at this time.