Cal Kinsey is a young man that’s a bit out of his depth. See, he’s a rookie at DSI – that’s the Department of Supernatural Investigations – and though he looks to have a bright future at the agency, his first case is a humdinger with a fire spirit, multiple dead college students, and a blue demon with a big hammer. It’s gonna be a rough week.
The DSI is a government agency that polices and studies the things that go bump in the night. Think Men in Black or Hellboy, except more official and out in the open. The DSI’s true knowledge of events is still very need-to-know, and the general public doesn’t realize they regularly engage in firefights with demons, but they’re no secret hush-hush urban legend sort of deal. Admittedly I haven’t read a whole lot of urban fantasy, but I thought that approach to the fantasy worldbuilding was pretty unique.
Worldbuilding is a specialty for Clara Coulson (AKA Therin Knite, author of Othella and Echoes). She has a special talent for creating a live, breathing world on the page, with all the small details figured out. Beyond the DSI and their complicated role in our world, there’s also the Eververse, the place where all the demons, gods, and creepy crawlies come from. I would’ve liked more of the Eververse in Soul Breaker (the sections of the book concerning this alternate dimension are some of the book’s finest moments) but that seems to be something Coulson has in mind for next time.
By the end of the book, many parts of the mystery are left unsolved, many plot threads left hanging. So many questions are left unanswered. (Too many?) But the sequel is right around the corner, so one hopes that at least some of those questions will be answered soon enough.
Soul Breaker is the foundation for which a new series is being launched and I think it’s a pretty solid foundation. Coulson’s a pro at worldbuilding and it’s clear she has something big in mind for the world she’s created here. I liked Soul Breaker’s unique fantasy world and I liked the characters, especially the lead Cal Kinsey. Count me in for Book 2.
*I received an ebook copy of Soul Breaker in exchange for an honest review*
Though I’ve missed some of Clive Barker’s classic stories along the way, I still regard the author as one of the key voices that introduced me to horror fiction. Stephen King, like many other classic horror authors, has a familiarity to him. That’s not say that King can’t scare me – he does! – but I know Carrie, The Shining, and Christine well enough not to connect with the same dread that was felt by readers when those books first came out. Barker was different; he’s never safe, always different. His horror existed in this dark unspoken world. Barker’s directorial debut Hellraiser (based on his novella The Hellbound Heart) is so insane and disturbing that it’s a wonder how the thing even exists – something about Hellraiser seems wrong, like a flicker of Hell caught on film and released into the unsuspecting world to threaten and terrify.
While on the subject of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, I want to express how much I’d love for the author to return to the director’s chair. Hellraiser is undeniably his finest film but the crazy Lord of Illusions and the messy (but fun) Nightbreed both possess a level of strangeness rarely seen in other films. Barker has given horror cinema some of its boldest, most memorable images. He’s an author first and foremost, but his style translates to film well and I’d like to see him work in the art form again.
With The Scarlet Gospels, Barkers returns to his two most popular characters, the demon Pinhead and magician/private eye Harry D’Amour. This time around Pinhead has gone rogue as he seeks more power in the domain of Hell. Harry’s drawn into the mess when he stumbles upon the demon’s puzzle box. Harry would prefer to let the demon go his own way but Pinhead’s having none of it. The cruel demon comes for Harry’s friends and Harry has no choice but to follow after him, chasing Pinhead to Hell if necessary.
Admittedly it’s been a long time since I’ve read a Clive Barker novel. The author used to be one of the must-read writers of horror but after years of toying with other genres (including, surprisingly, books for young readers), the author’s name isn’t brought up with the same regularity it once was. That’s not to say he’s missed a step, though. Clive Barker is still the master of the unflinching, oh no PLEASE NO DON’T kind of horror. Really, sometimes you read his work and you worry about the guy – and then, because you enjoy his work, you end up worrying for yourself as well. The Scarlet Gospels isn’t only good, it’s the sort of book that makes you want to rush back, rediscover the author all over again. What Barker books have I missed? Can I read them all now, please?
The Scarlet Gospels is demonic horror in the vein of Hellraiser, however since it becomes a story of good vs. evil I think that fans of dark fantasy, urban fantasy, and all sorts of paranormal would get a kick out of it as well. Those curious readers unaware of what to expect from Barker are in for a surprise. The book puts its hooks in you within the first couple chapters and they only go deeper from there. It’s a helluva ride.
About the only thing I found a tad bit lacking about my time with The Scarlet Gospels was that the end lacks the same kind of punch found in earlier sections of the book. However, I think I could detect Barker leaving some breadcrumbs for future stories, so I cannot fault him for that. And even if this is the last we may see of Harry or Pinhead, Barker gave his greatest creations a fine sendoff.
My favorite madman of horror fiction has returned with a doozy of a book. The Scarlet Gospels is fantastic.
I tried getting my hands on this book years ago. At the time, it was long OOP and was going for prices north of $100. Well, it was hard to drop that kind of cash on a used book, so I decided to hold off. I’m glad I did. Now the book is in print again and going for far more reasonable prices.
Among Godzilla fans, August Ragone’s book on Eiji Tsuburaya is considered one of the best books in the English language ever written about the genre and the men who created it. If you don’t know who Eiji Tsuburaya is, he’s the grandfather of Japanese special effects, the man who’s credited for creating suitmation among other techniques. Along with director Ishiro Honda and producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, Tsuburaya helped bring Godzilla to the screen, thus creating the kaiju genre. He also created Ultraman, a superhero who fights kaiju on a weekly basis. The special effects wizard passed away in 1970 at the age of 68 but his legacy lives on in the imagination of fans and in the classic films he helped create.
Ragone’s book Master of Monsters is a great, exhaustive look at the life and work of Eiji Tsuburaya. Full of interesting info and hard-to-find photos (so many great photos!), it’s a well-written biography for an important figure in film. And I always feel like a book that draws more attention to an artist like Tsuburaya is something to celebrate – there will always be books about Scorsese, Welles, Chaplin, Harryhausen, and Hitchcock (as there should be!), but names like Tsuburaya deserve some recognition as well. For Godzilla fans wanting to know more about the series, you should be aware that this book has a laser focus on Tsuburaya, and does not continue to give much insight on the Godzilla films made after his death. Those looking to know more about one of the most important creators of their favorite genre will find lots to like and even more to learn, as Ragone gives info about Tsuburaya’s early beginnings, his rise to fame, and his charming techniques that brought monsters to life. Along with David Kalat’s A Critical History and Filmography of Toho’s Godzilla Series, August Ragone’s book Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters is one of my favorites on the subject of kaiju cinema.
I’m a self-published author. I hope to one day become a hybrid author – that’s where I self-pub some books and go to traditional publishers with others – but that’s the future. There are benefits and drawbacks to both types of publishing. Today I’m going to talk about one of the benefits of being my own publisher.
When you spend so much time working on something, it’s easy to be disappointed with the finished product. At least on some level, the author always feels that something could be better in their written work. I remember a quote from director David Fincher who said, "Films are never finished, they’re abandoned," and I believe that can apply to books, music, or basically any form of art. At some point the creator must say enough is enough. We cut the rope, watch our creation fly off on its own, and hope it’s lucky enough to have a soft landing.
My book Blood Child had a rough landing. I like certain parts of the book (the opening in Berlin, for example), but otherwise I consider it to be a disappointment. Others generally agree. And for a long time now, the book hasn’t been selling. In short, the existence of a book called Blood Child was doing me more harm than good.
So, I’m removing Blood Child from Kindle, Barnes & Noble, and other places where it had been for sale. This is one of the benefits of being my own publisher. If I don’t want a book out there, then I can take it down and stash it away.
I’ve long considered Blood Child to be the book that I shouldn’t have written. One of the key reasons is that there is some confusion about the reading order of the books in my dark fantasy series The End of the World and Some Other Things. Death’s Good Intentions is the big story, the one I really want people to read. The Man with the Devil’s Tongue is a nice little prologue to that story and is a free gateway into the series. Blood Child is yet another prologue, but one that’s totally unnecessary, and its existence just makes things that much more confusing. So, if you want to read more backstory about the characters featured in The End of the World and Some Other Things series, you can read Blood Child for free. Go to the book's page on this website for the download link. Blood Child exists now as an extra for curious readers. So, if after reading the other (superior) books in the series you still want to know more, give it a look! But don’t start with Blood Child. It’s been removed from online stores for a good reason.
I’m sure other authors have been in similar situations before. I don’t mean to suggest that this is what everyone should do with their disappointing books. For me and my book Blood Child, this feels like the right decision. I didn’t make the choice suddenly. Actually I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. I want this series to be a success because I quite like the world I’ve created. Blood Child was holding me back. No longer.
By the way, the sequel to Death’s Good Intentions is coming soon. It’s the most complex book in the series and I hope you dig it. Until then, consider reading The Man with the Devil’s Tongue (it’s free!) and Death’s Good Intentions (currently on sale for $0.99).
I hope everyone is having a good start to the New Year. 2016’s going to be busy for me, with lots of writing and new books published. I’m excited!
Until next time, take care and happy reading.
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.
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