Sweetlings by Lucy Taylor isn’t sweet, but it is satisfying / Sweetlings de Lucy Taylor no es dulce, como su título, pero es satisfactorio

The winter of my discontent with reading material is over. I read “Sweetlings” by Lucy Taylor too fast the first time, but that’s just a sign of good horror. The second reading of this long form fiction nominee for the Bram Stoker Award was even better.

plate-15The world as we know it has already ended. Gone. Washed into the encroaching sea or submerged in inland lakes and swamps. Yet the transformation of the world is not over. Like a tide pool-stranded octopus, human existence on the remaining land is pretty dismal. Evolution seems to have kicked into high gear for all lifeforms, and the boundaries between the sea dwellers and the land dwellers is being erased.

We navigate this world through the eyes of Mir, a teenager who is among the first generation born after the inundation. She has adapted to the new world’s terms enough to keep going, sloughing off the old expectations imposed by civilization and adapting to the new world with the clear-eyed purpose of one who must eat or be eaten. Her mother is gone, having walked into the sea shortly before the story begins, and taking Mir’s baby brother with her. This is hardly remarkable in a settlement of survivors who disappear on a regular basis. Death is all around. All Mir has left is her father, a science teacher and amateur oceanographer, and her boyfriend Jersey, a teenager who has survived the demise of both his parents.

The touching gestures of attraction between Mir and Jersey are very well written–realistic without compromising the scope of the story to dawdle too long over young adult romance. As the scales tip toward the sea dwellers a little faster than Mir and Jersey are ready for, they strike out for the west and the promise of higher and drier land. Continue reading

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Final ballot announced for 2017 Bram Stoker Awards

The Horror Writers Association announces the final ballot for the Bram Stoker Awards, which will be presented March 3rd. Check this fantastic reading list for long and short fiction, plus take a look at the nominees in other categories here. Congratulations to one and all!

Superior Achievement in Long Fiction

Superior Achievement in Short Fiction

Updraft soars above the clouds without visible supports

Far behind the popular curve on this one, I just finished Updraft by Fran Wilde, which was published in 2015 as the first novel in the Bone Universe series. Cloudbound and Horizon are the subsequent titles. Updraft was an enjoyable read, well worth the investment of time, and deserving of its acclaim, but it was also an example of how young adult (YA) novels sometimes sketch the big picture with the thinnest of brushstrokes, and that may not be enough.

There is plenty to say about the novel’s character development and plot, which you can see in a review on Strange Horizons here, but world-building was its core strength. Survivors of some unnamed historic tragedy live high above the ground, above the clouds even, in towers made of living bone. There were key details, such the living tiers shaped like vertebrae in a spine; mostly invisible, tentacled monsters sail around the towers and eat people on occasion; and the challenges of navigating air currents while flying. All important aspects and engaging, but as a reader I felt the novel wasn’t fully fleshed out. We never learn– Continue reading