Category Archives: Ghost Story

Dead Silence by S. A. Barnes

Stars: 3 out of 5

This book had so much promise! Ghost ship in space! Damaged protagonist! Horror of the psychological and other kind! I couldn’t wait to start it. And for the first three quarters of the book it was really great. I honestly thought that this would be one of the best horror books I’d read in 2022… then the ending botched it all, at least for me.

Then again, I am not a fan of evil corporations doing evil things because they are evil. It’s been done to death by now in books, movies, and video games. Let the corporations rest. Find another villain for your stories. Thanks.

Also, this story was truly frightening as long as we didn’t know what really happened to the Aurora. I was terrified for our characters when they first boarded the ship and started exploring. The obvious signs of violence and the fact that we didn’t know what had cause everyone to go mad was really scary. The ending killed that, in my opinion. As soon as I knew what was behind everything, I didn’t care anymore. As I said, it’s one thing to watch a group of hapless people battle against an unknown entity, and another to see them battle against a corrupt space corporation. I’ve seen the second scenario too many times before.

I loved Claire though. She is a very relatable protagonist. I couldn’t help but root for her the more I learned about her past trauma. And since she has psychological issues of her own, she makes the perfect unreliable narrator here – we never know what is just in her head and what is affecting everybody else. And she doesn’t know it either, which adds to the angst. 

Unfortunately, the other characters were a lot less defined. In fact, most of them were just placeholders: the self-assured jerk, the innocent young girl, the nerdy hacker, the evil corporation goon, the entitled rich guy. I honestly couldn’t care less about any of them. 

I was also not sold on the burgeoning love story. I think it was shoe-horned into the main story just to make the reader care more about the characters. Well, it did the opposite to me. The whole courtship felt so forced that it turned me away from the characters. I think I rolled my eyes every time they interacted. It wasn’t needed. Claire had enough motivation trying to save her team without adding a love interest into the mix. 

Finally, I wasn’t a fan of the ending. It felt a little bit too convenient and didn’t fit with the rest of the story. I understand that the author wanted to give a HEA to the characters and an emotional payoff for the reader, but to me it felt flat. 

All in all, it was a good read for most part. I mean, I finished it in one day. But it could have been so much better. 

Goblin by Josh Malerman

 

Stars: 3 out of 5

This was a meh kind of book. It’s a series of short stories book ended by the story of a delivery driver bringing something terrifying to the city of Goblin. The short stories are related only by the location where they happen – the city of Goblin on the same particularly rainy day and night. 

I think that was one of the reasons the book was kinda meh to me. Yes, Goblin in itself is an interesting, if rather unhappy place. A place for the spirits. A place where humans were never supposed to settle and thrive. The short stories illustrate the eeriness of Goblin perfectly. Problem is, they don’t do much more than that. 

I read a book mostly for the characters and then for the worldbuilding. I notice that I tend to lose interest if I don’t have anybody to root for. If I don’t have a tour guide through the world the author is showing me. And that’s what happened here. Goblin is a fascinating place. Unfortunately, the people who live there are a lot less so.

We read stories of several different people who are not connected to each other, so it’s already hard to figure out why we should follow these characters or even care. Those stories are also not connected at all to the prolog, where a delivery driver is bringing something to Goblin. Something horrible… Well, Goblin already has plenty of horrible things. There is the Goblin police, the Witch of the North Woods, the owls, etc. So by the time that horrible thing finally reaches Goblin, it’s rather anticlimactic. It’s just another monster to add to a city already full of them. What’s the point?

Also, none of the stories we read about have any real resolutions, apart from the story of the man who was afraid of the ghosts. That one, we see to it’s logical conclusion. The rest of them leave is suspended in the air, without an explanation or a conclusion to them. I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to say.  And the arrival of this great terrible thing in the end isn’t enough to satisfyingly end any of those stories. 

In conclusion, it was an okay book to pass the time with, but I probably won’t remember what it is about in a month or so. This is the third book by this author I’ve read and found rather underwhelming, so I think I’m just not the intended audience here. A lot of people love these books, so your mileage might vary. 

PS: I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Nothing but Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

Stars: 2.5 out of 5

I have a hard time formulating my feelings towards this story. On one hand, it was a quick and easy read. The amount of research that went into the Japanese folklore and traditional housing was impressive, though I kept getting a lot of Fatal Frame vibes out of it. Which isn’t bad in itself, because that game scared the crap out of me.

On the other hand, the story itself is rather meh, at least to me. 

It’s a typical haunted house story where a group of friends decide to spend the night in a reputedly haunted house and bad things happen. Well, in this case, two of the friends want to get married in that particular haunted house, like starting your married life by drawing attention of a ghost is such a good idea.

So the premise has been done before. In fact, that’s like the classic of all slasher/horror movies – a group of friends in a confined space, getting offed one by one in horrible ways… Thankfully, this is a ghost story, not a slasher story, so the bloodshed won’t be as pronounced.

My problem with this story is that I hated all of the characters. They were horrible people both to themselves and to each other. Honestly, I had no clue how they could even call each other friends. It seemed like they all hated each other guts. Nothing in their behavior spoke of friendship. Of old resentments that have been left to fester? Yes. Of past infidelities that nobody speaks about but are still there, like a big elephant in the room? Certainly. Real friendship? Not a trace. 

So it doesn’t seem plausible, at least to me, that the protagonist would insist on staying in that house and would follow along with their crazy schemes. From the little background we get on her, I would have imagined that she would have high tailed out of there ASAP, just like their friend Lin suggests. That all “I’m staying because they are my friends” line isn’t plausible when you consider the relationship dynamics described in the book. That’s no friendship. That’s co-dependent abuse.

And because all of the protagonists were such horrible people, I couldn’t care less what happened to them, which also diminished the impact of the story for me. In fact, I’m rather disappointed that more of them didn’t die in that house. If none of them had walked out of there come morning, I would have cheered, actually.

I am beginning to think that this author just isn’t for me. She is great at creating interesting and frankly disturbing worlds and premises, but I simply can’t connect with her characters. I had that problem with the Rupert Wong series, and I have that problem with this novella as well.

PS: I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.