In a Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu

First published in 1872, this remarkable collection of stories includes such classics as Green Tea and Carmilla.

Each of the five stories are purported to be the cases of Dr. Hesselius; a ‘metaphysical’ doctor who is willing to consider ghosts both as both real and as hallucinations. The reader’s doubt and anxiety is meant to clearly mimic that of each story’s protagonist and so create the atmosphere of mystery that is the supernatural experience.

My dear reader, it pains me to end the year with a negative review but I’m afraid that is the way it will have to be.

I was unable to finish In a Glass Darkly and actually had to stop reading it out of sheer aggravation. The prose is so very purple and lurid that there were several times I had to reread a passage simply to try and make sense out of it. And more often than not, not being able to. While I am aware that Victorian writing styles vary greatly from the writing styles of today, I have read my share of books from that era and enjoyed quite a few.

Unfortunately, In a Glass Darkly is not one of them.

I believe I can understand what Le Fanu was trying to accomplish; however the efforts fall short. There is simply too much for the reader to try and digest. I cannot recommend this one, my dear readers, unless you are looking for something to put you to sleep.


Alabaster by Caitlin R. Kiernan

An albino girl wanders the sun-scorched backroads of a south Georgia summer, following the bidding of an angel – or perhaps only voices in her head – searching out and slaying ancient monsters who have hidden themselves away in the lonely places of the world.

First introduced in Caitlin R. Kiernan’s second novel, Threshold, Dancy has gone on to be the unlikely heroine in several short stories and even a novella. Each story is a small piece of a larger fantasy narrative and in Alabaster they are finally gathered together in to a single volume.

I admit, dear reader, I wasn’t quite sure what I was picking up when I picked Alabaster up off the shelf in my local library. In truth I had been looking for another book by the same author and ended up getting this one instead. From what I understood (or thought I understood), Dancy was a minor character in one of Kiernan’s novels and this collection of short stories expand upon her background.

Having not read Threshold, I don’t know if I’m correct or not. I do know, however, that these stories presume that the reader has at least a passing knowledge of Dancy. And having no prior knowledge of the character, I found myself a bit lost.

Kiernan is an excellent author, that much I do know from reading these short stories. She is able to spin a believable yarn; to give the reader information while still leaving something to the imagination. She does have the occasional penchant for run on sentences, but I have yet to read an author who doesn’t.

Readers who have read Threshold and are familiar with Dancy will likely enjoy this collection. It gives glimpses in to her character and takes the reader on brief adventures. I’m sure I would have enjoyed this book more if I had read the first book in the series, but all in all I found it a nice read.


The Bone Mother by David Demchuk

On the Ukrainian/Romanian border lie three tiny neighboring villages. They are the final refuge for the mythical creatures that walk among us. With war on the horizon and the Night Police coming, these individuals have gathered for possibly the last time. They have come to tell their stories and to face their destinies.

The Bone Mother is a collection of short stories that puts me in to mind of the kinds of tales that one might hear told around the campfire. They are stories that set ones hair on end and make one look a little closer at the shadows. These are stories that are wonderfully creepy and speak to the scared child in all of us.

Demchuk has done an excellent job in creating a series of stories that are both creepy and captivating. Readers will recognize fairy tale characters such as the selkie and Baba Yaga, but will also meet new characters such as the Bone Mother.

The only quibble I had was the lack of an overall plot line. While the blurb on the back of the book makes mention of one, I could not recognize one while reading the book. Yes, a handful of the stories make mention of the Night Police but it only in passing and without great detail. Who are the Night Police and what do they want with these people? Where are they from? Who do they answer to? Answering, or at least expounding on the ideas surrounding the Night Police would have greatly helped, in my opinion.

Overall, I enjoyed The Bone Mother. While it is not for the faint of heart, readers who like a good campfire tale will likely enjoy this book. I cannot recommend to every reader, but I can recommend it to most. I hope to see more from Demchuk in the future as he shows a great deal of promise.

City by Clifford D. Simak

Countless millennia have passed since humankind abandoned the city – leaving first for the countryside and then for the stars. Left behind are their most loyal companions, dogs who have been granted the power of speech. Given this special gift centuries earlier, the dogs have become the keepers of human history; raising their pups on stories of what once was and waiting patiently for the day of the humans’ return.

Assisted by an ageless service robot by the name of Jenkins, the dogs live a life of peace and harmony with all of the animals around them. Yet while everything seems calm on the surface, danger is never far behind.

City by Clifford D. Simak is a series of stories that tell about man’s final years on Earth. Interspersed between each story is a kind of interlude or prelude, that gives small details about the next story and what current ‘scholars’ believe of it. The ‘scholars’ are of course the dogs that man had left behind and as so many years have passed, the knowledge of man has passed in to myth.

The stories themselves have a delightedly 50’s feel with mention of toggles, switches, and atomic power. This makes sense as the stories were originally written in the late 40’s to mid 50’s; the era of the space race and the beginning of the atomic age. There is also a nostalgic feel to several of the stories as both man and dog reminisce of an earlier age.

Readers who are fans of older sci-fi are bound to enjoy City. Written and published at a time when man had yet to even make it to the moon, the tales are a reminder that man has always been looking towards the stars.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. In Norse Mythology, he returns to the source by presenting his rendition of the great northern tales.

From Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerges the gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to dupe others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.

I have been a fan of Neil Gaiman for some time, and like him I was introduced to the original Norse mythos through the Marvel comics. When he announced he was working on a collection stories based on the original myths, I was understandably excited.

Unfortunately, as I began reading Norse Mythology I found myself more and more disappointed. Even though this claims to be a retelling, it is little more than that. Gaiman has not done anything new, has not added any unique twist that is often so familiar in his works.

Worded in an easy to understand manner, it will certainly appeal to a wide variety of readers. From young to young at heart, any can easily handle this book.

Hardcore Gaiman fans will definitely want to add this book to their collection. More casual fans will likely want to wait for the paperback.

Vampire in Love (and other stories) by Enrique Vila-Matas

An unsuspecting man receives a mysterious phone call from a lonely doctor, and upon visiting his home becomes privy to a secret…

An effeminate barber on the verge of death sees Heaven and falls in love with an innocent choirboy…

For the first time, a collection of stories by the esteemed Enrique Vila-Matas is made available in English. These stories span his remarkable career and have been chosen as among his best. Translated from their native Spanish, these tales are filled with Vila-Matas signature erudition and wit. Their aim; to leave the reader questioning the interrelation of art and life.

It is rare, dear reader, that I find myself struggling to finish a book; any book. And yet I found myself doing just that with Vampire in Love. Despite how small this book is and the fact that it is a collection of short stories, it was a fight for me to finish this book to write this review.

While there are many who enjoy Vila-Matas’ work, I found this collection of stories rather boring. It was very staid and stale and did little to capture my imagination. As I said before, I found it difficult to finish this collection simply because I found it so bland.

The translation of the stories was smooth and very well done. That is about the only good thing I can find to say about this book.

Readers familiar with Vila-Matas and his work will likely enjoy this collection of stories. More casual readers will do better to look elsewhere.